14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act - Report of the Repatriation Commission for the year ended 30th June, 1934.
Bankruptcy Act - Sixth Annual Report, by the Attorney-General, for period 1st August, 1933, to 31st July, 1934.
Norfolk Island - Report for year ended 30th June, 1934.
Trade Agreement between Belgium and AustraliaStatement by the Minister for Trade and Customs, together with Notes exchanged with the Consul-General for Belgium in Australia.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 32 of 1934 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia.
No. 33 of 1934 - Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association.
No. 34 of 1 934 - Fourth Division Officers Association of the Trade and Customs Department.
No. 35 of 1934 - Amalgamated Postal Workers Union of Australia
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Govemor-General in Council - Financial year 1933-34 - Dated 28th November, 1934.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens Funds Act - Fourteenth Annual Report, 1st July, 1933, to 30th June, 1934.
Commonwealth Public Service Act -
Appointment - Department of Commerce - F. R. Miller.
List of Permanent Officers of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department (excluding the Central Staff) in the Commonwealth Public Service ason 30th June, 1934.
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934, No. 149.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1934. No. 142.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 14 - Licensing of Boats.
No.15 - Crown Lands (No. 2).
Northern Territory Acceptance Act and Northern Territory (Administration) Act-
Ordinance No. 22 of 1934 - Pearling.
Health Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Public Service Ordinance - Regulations amended.
Papua Act - Ordinances of 1934 -
No. 12- Pearl, Pearl-shell and Bêchedemer.
No. 13 - Native Plantations.
No. 14 - Public Service (LieutenantGovernor’s Travelling Allowance).
No. 15 - Mining.
Quarantine Act - Regulations amended -
Statutory Rules 1934, No. 145- No. 147.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the Annual Report of the Tariff Board for the year 1933-34. The report is complete, but in the annexure,which contains a summary of the recommendations made by the Tariff Board, certain recommendations relating to tariff revision matters not finally considered by the Government have been omitted.
Senator McLACHLAN laid on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects. -
Distributor Arms for distributing High Tension Current to Sparking Plugs.
Handworked Inflators of all kinds.
Iron and Steel Tubes or Pipes not more than three inches internal diameter; Iron and Steel Boiler Tubes.
Iron and Steel Wire other than of No. 15 or finer gauge (Imperial standard wire gauge ) .
Kitchenware; and material for the manufacture of Pot Mits; and Pot Mits.
Nickel-plated Wristlet Watches and
Nickel-plated cases therefor.
Shackle Bolts, Pins and Assemblies; Spring Hangers; King Pins; Tie Rod Pins; Tie Rod Ball Pins; Tie Rod Ball Studs: and U-Bolts for Motor Vehicles.
Sheep, Cattle, and Horse Washes, in liquid or powder form; Insecticides and Disinfectants, &c. ; Preparations being Formaldehyde or containing Formaldehyde, &c.
Sulphate of Ammonia..
Tartaric Acid, Creamof Tartar, Cream of Tartar Substitutes, Phosphate of Soda and Sodium Potassium Tartrate.
X-Ray Apparatus and Accessories.
Zincand Spelter, viz., Bars, Blocks, Ingots, Scrap; Sheets, plain; Circles or Ingots, bored or unbored, for Cyanide Gold Process; Zinc Dust; ‘ Zinc Tubing.
– In view of the near approach of Christmas, and the alleged generosity of the Government to certain classes of the community, I ask the Leader of the Senate if the Government intends to give to invalid and oldage pensioners an extra pound or two during the festive season? As the pension has not been restored to ?1 a week, will the Government consider the giving of an extra sum at Christmas?
– The question asked by the honorable senator deals with government policy, which he will be entitled to mention in the discussion on the Appropriation Bill. I may, however, say that the Government and Parliament have not been ungenerous to invalid and old-age pensioners. The expenditure on pensions this year will amount to ?12,000,000, the highest on record.
Cost of “ Case for Union
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following questions, upon notice: -
– The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: - 1, 2, 3, and 4. A conference on this subject was held on the 3rd and 4th December between Commonwealth and State Ministers under the chairmanship of the Minister for Commerce. Subject to ratification by the governments, agreement wasreached regarding the basis of a plan for rural rehabilitation. The conference had available to it the experiences of the special organizations set up by the States, which have been in close contact for many months with the problem of farmers’ indebtedness. The detailed formulation of the scheme is a matter for the State Government, which will submit proposals for the approval of the Commonwealth Government. There will be no delay in considering schemes submitted by the States.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence the following question, upon notice : -
What arrangements have been made for the carrying on of the air mail service between Wyndham and Ord River, Western Australia?
– Tho Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer: -
Arrangements were made with the MacRobertson-Miller Aviation Company to operate a service between Ord River and Wyndham as a temporary measure pending tho re-invitation of tenders and award of a full-term contract for the service. The temporary service was inaugurated on the 6th October last, and is being maintained to a weekly frequency.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Commonwealth Government is responsible for the section of the England-Australia air service only as far as Singapore. The Australian section is intended to be operated normally by D.H.86 aircraft, to a four-day time table between Singapore and the eastern Australian terminals. With the introduction of more extensive night flying, which cannot be undertaken until bettor ground facilities are provided, it should be possible to operate the Australian section in three days, or perhaps even less. The section from Singapore to London is under the -control of the United Kingdom Government, and I am unable to say what acceleration will be brought about on this section, although I understand the matter is receiving the careful consideration of the United Kingdom Government.
asked the Leader of the Government in (lie Senate, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Defence has supplied the following replies: -
asked the Leader of the Government in the Senate, upon notice- -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Commonwealth asked all States to submit programmes of public works in connexion with its -policy of co-operation with the States in order to. relieve the unemployment situation. In a schedule just received from the Acting Premier of Western. Australia as preliminary advice it is suggested that the provision of a dock at Fremantle is a necessity. All the proposals will receive the most careful consideration.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
If all nations that have an adverse trade balance with Australia used their powers of persuasion to bring about equality of trade with this country, what would be the economic effect upon Australia?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : -
The honorable senator’s question is based on a contingency which may never arise, and any attempt at an answer would only be of a speculative character.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : - ,
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The right honorable the Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
[3.19]. - I move -
That bo much of the Standing and Sessional Orders be suspended as would prevent the bill being passed through all ita stages without delay.
This is the annual Appropriation Bill which embodies the Estimates for the financial year ending the 30th June next. It is, of course, competent for honorable senators to debate the first and second readings of this bill, and also to discuss the various items in the schedules when it is in committee. I ask the Senate to agree to this motion so that the discussion may be proceeded with to-day. I understand that honorable senators generally are in accord with the desire to complete the transaction of business this week. The main business to be dealt with during this portion of the session is the relief to be afforded to the wheat industry in connexion with which three bills are now before the House of Representatives. As they are all money bills they could not be introduced in this chamber, and the Senate will wish to be sitting in order to discuss them as soon as they have been passed by another place. The reason why there has been little work available for the Senate is that nearly all the legislation to be dealt with before the new calendar year consists of money bills, which cannot be introduced in this chamber. Consequently, there was a somewhat lop-sided distribution of the work in the early part of the session.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed - .
That the bill be now read a first time.
– Although Parliament has been in session for about two months, the Senate has sat on only a few days, and now there appears to be a general desire that Parliament shall rise this week for the Christmas recess. These happenings give strength to the contention that the Senate is a useless chamber.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - The honorable senator must not disparage the Senate.
– -The amendment of the Constitution, with a view to dispensing with the Senate, which is said to be a useless appendage to the legislative machinery, is a subject which is agitating the public mind.
On page 38 of the Estimates, the defence expenditure for this year is set down as £4,187,040, an increase of £664,220 over that of last year. According to information published in the public press, it would appear that the policy of the Government is to expend a considerable proportion of the defence vote in the purchase of a warship, to be built outside Australia. As a layman, I doubt the wisdom of that intention; 1 should prefer that the money be spent in developing the air arm of our defence force. In my opinion, the building of warships is more or less useless, because they are not nearly such effective units of defence as are well-equipped aeroplanes. Irealize that Great Britain depends for foodstuffs on countries in various parts of the world, and that, consequently, the Empire must have a navy to protect the trade routes and ensure adequate supplies of foodstuffs for those situated at the heart of the Empire; but I submit that the provision of warships to protect those trade routes is more a matter for the people of Groat Britain than for us, even though Australia isan exporting country. From a defence point of view, we in Australia are primarily concerned with defending our shores against any aggressor. I am a man of peace, and my party believes in preserving peace among the nations; but I realize that the day may come when Australia will be forced to defend those principles which its people hold dear. For instance, the White Australia principle is a part of the creed of every true Australian ; and I believe that in its defence Australians would fight to the last ditch. The difficulty is to decide what constitutes the best defence for Australia, because the experts attached to the various arms of the defence force cannot agree in this matter. Those representing the Navy claim that the Navy is indispensable; experts attached to the land forces are equally vigorous in their claims on behalf of the arm they represent ; while those in the Air Force claim that future battles will be fought in the air, and that., consequently, that arm should be given first consideration. As a layman, I express the view that Australia’s expenditure on defence should be directed to the development of our Air Force. Some years ago, when a previous government proposed to purchase a couple of cruisers, I said that the money would be better expended in developing our Air Force. So far as I can see, those vessels did nothing for Australia; indeed, it took them all their time to stagger out to this country. My opinion has not changed during the years that have passed. On the contrary, the views that I expressed then have been consolidated, and I am more than over convinced that our defence vote should be expended in the development of an effective air force.
I see no particular provision for public works, and I should like to know from the Minister what is in the mind of the Government with regard to absorbing the unemployed. Up to three or four years ago, there was in existence a public works committee of this Parliament, which did wonderful service for the Commonwealth by inquiring into all expenditure proposed for public works, but thisbody was abolished during the depression in the interests of economy, because there were no public works to be put into operation and no money to be spent. Every honorable senator knows the state of the labour market, and the tremendous desire of the people to alter the present disastrous condition of affairs. So far as I can gather, the Government has no trouble whatever in getting all the money it wants, and the people arc wondering why it has not put forward proposals for public works which could absorb quite a number of the great army of unemployed that is wandering around Australia to-day. It may bo that the Government is depending upon the States to put forward pointers, and is prepared, if the States furnish a plan, to find the money necessary to enable them to carry out the work, but I think, and I believe the country agrees with me, that there is ample scope now for the Government to get busy of its own accord. At the time of the general election, the people hoped that, so soon as the turmoil of the contest was over, the Government would bestir itself in an earnest effort to provide work for the unemployed, but three months have passed, and very little is being done. So far as I can see, the Government has made no provision for an adequate works programme, and if all that we hear is true, Parliament is to rise at the end of this week for two months without any serious attempt being made to put the unemployed to work.
SenatorDUNN(New South Wales) [3.35]. - The only criticism I have to offer relates to defence. Provision is made for a new cruiser to be built overseas at a cost of £1,675,000, which, at the present rate of exchange, is equivalent to £2,100,000 in Australian money. When that vessel comes to Australia, its motive power will be generated by the burning of imported oil. Yet statistics show that in the northern, western and southern divisions of the State of New South Wales alone there are 10,000 miners unemployed- With the march of invention throughout the world, an increasing proportion of machinery is being driven by oil fuels. Before tho war, Messrs. John Fell and Company, a private firm in New South Wales, proved by actual experience that that State was in the happy position of being able to produce all the raw oil required to generate the power necessary to drive existing plants. I am reluctant to record my vote for the passing of Estimates which will have the result of using oil, imported from cheap labour countries, to drive the new cruiser, when I know that 10,000 miners in my own State are unemployed. Only a few months before the general election, the Prime Minister, on a visit to Kurri Kurri, a coalproducing centre in New South Wales, received a deputation representing young men under 20 years of age, many of whom, according to their spokesmen, had gained the leaving certificate at the Maitland High School, the Newcastle High School, and other centres of education, but none of whom had been able to find work since leaving school at the age of sixteen or seventeen. These young men were also confronted with the unhappy spectacle of their sisters having to grow up with no prospect of practising the domestic arts which they learned at school. Young men and women are left as so much junk, ‘as it were, in the coal mining districts of New South Wales. Alongside the tragedy of unemployed youth is the sad spectacle of 10,000 adults - many of them the parents of workless children - living on the dole. The Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) led the youthful leaders of the deputation to which I have referred, to believe that the Government would do everything in its power for the general development of the coal-fields of New South’ Wales by encouraging the extraction of oil from coal and shale, but the only step which the Government took in this direction was to invite to Australia Sir John Cadman, an expert from overseas, to inquire into this matter. This man is one of the chief controllers of commercial interests in natural oil wells in various parts of the world; he represents vested interests in the commercial production of raw oil. He toured New South Wales and other States to investigate our shale deposits, and he had the impertinence to give an adverse report on this matter to the Government of the day. It was to be expected that he would do so because the interests he represents could not be served by the development of oil shale in the Newnes Valley, or by the extraction of oil from coal in Australia by the hydrogenation process. Now honorable senators are asked to support the expenditure of £2,000,000 on a cruiser, which, we know, will have to consume as fuel oil drawn from overseas wells. About 1,800 men were employed by John Fell and Company when that company was operating in the Newnes Valley in the production of raw oil from shale; allowing for the dependants of these men, the operations at Newnes supported a big settlement. To-day the Newnes Valley is an industrial cemetery; it is practically dead, and the few inhabitants now remaining in that district are dependent on kerosene, candles and .acetylene gas for the lighting of their homes, and small business places. So bad are economic condition in that district that the proprietor of the only hotel in the locality cannot pay rent for his premises. Similar economic conditions prevail at the present time in all the mining districts on the south coast, at Helensburgh, Wollongong and Wonga Willy, and around Newcastle, Baerami, Cessnock, Kurri Kurri, Weston and Greta. Young women in Greta and other mining settlements near Newcastle and Cessnock may be seen playing tennis in bare feet, because they are unable to buy footwear. This is a shocking state of affairs, particularly when we recall that a few weeks ago amidst pomp and splendour and the waving of flags we welcomed, as was our duty, one of the princes of the British Royal Family - His Royal Highness the Duke of Gloucester, who, himself, saw fit to praise our Australian youth. Yet at the time he made his tour through Australia fellow citizens of these young men and women were suffering in circumstances which I have mentioned; young women on these coal-fields, in order to obtain a little recreation on the tennis courts, were forced to play in bare feet.
– Hear, hear !
– They prefer to play barefooted. Some of the champions play without shoes.
– The honorable senator should be ashamed to say hear, hear, to such things. I defy him to go to the coal-fields and express such sentiments to these women, daughters of the miners. The honorable senator was well described by Senator Brown as a troglodyte. Senator Payne should be kicked out of this chamber.
– Mr. President, I rise to a point of order. Is it permissible for an honorable senator to remark that another honorable senator should be kicked out of this chamber? I do not know whether the honorable senator himself would attempt to take such an action. I certainly defy him to try to kick me out. Is the use of such an expression in order?
– Senator Payne having objected to the honorable senator’s remarks, he must withdraw them.
– I withdraw what I have said about kicking the honorable senator out of the chamber, and say that he ought to be driven out of the Senate by the people of Tasmania. I know that I have no power personally to do this, but if he will meet me outside he will see what will happen.
– SenatorDunn must not indulge in threats against another honorable senator. I ask him to withdraw that statement.
– I withdraw it. For many years the condition of our coalminers has been most desperate because of the effect of the general depression on their industry. It was hoped that some relief would be afforded by the extraction of oil from coal by the hydrogenation process, but the adverse opinion expressed recently by Sir John Cadman, who was induced by the Government to visit this country, has, figuratively, thrown a blanket over the project so that the outlook for New South Wales coal-miners is, if anything, worse than ever. Senator Brown, this afternoon, in a question addressed to the Leader of the Senate on behalf of invalid and old-age pensioners, mentioned the approach of the festive season as one reason why further assistance should be given to pensioners by the Government. AH honorable senators appreciate that Christmas is rapidly approaching. Because of our Christian beliefs there is, or should be, a general desire to make things easier for the many thousands of men and women who have been living on the dole in New South Wales for the last four years. For this reason I cannot support the proposed expenditure of £2,000,000 for the purchase of a cruiser from Great Britain. The money should be expended in Australia to give employment to Australian workmen. When the Leader of the Senate was the Minister for Defence in the Fisher Government he took a very prominent part in the negotiations for the acquisition by the Commonwealth from the Government of New South Wales of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, where, subsequently, thousands of skilled Australian artisans found employment on the building of warships for the Australian Navy. The cruisers Adelaide, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as the aeroplane carrier, Albatross, and a number of torpedo boat destroyers were constructed at that dockyard. Because of an alteration in government policy, naval shipbuilding there was discontinued some years ago, and thousands of Australian workmen, skilled in the craft of building warships, are now to be found in the ranks of the unemployed in New South Wales. If any honorable senator cares to visit the various relief camps, he will see hundreds of skilled workmen pushing wheelbarrows, or otherwise engaged on various relief jobs.
The setback given to the proposal to extract oil from coal or shale has also been a severe blow to the district of Latrobe in Tasmania, where there are immense deposits of shale with as high an oil content as the deposits at Baerami and Newnes in New South Wales.
– The oil content of the shale at Latrobe is not one-half that of the Newnes shale.
– My recollection of the figures which I have read is that the shale deposits at Latrobe are of greater value than Scottish shale.
– Yes; but the Scottish shale has a comparatively low oil content.
– Although the Latrobe shale may not be so good as the deposits at Newnes or Baerami, what the honorable senator has said does not detract from its value te Australia, and if I were in authority I should not allow one penny piece of Australian currency to leave this country in payment for petrol or oil fuel from the United States of America. I have nothing in common with the go-getters of that country, which ref uses to trade with us. We spend millions of pounds annually on the purchase of American oil which will probably be used for the propelling machinery of the new Australian cruiser that is being purchased in the Mother Country. , I appeal to the Government to take definite steps to ensure the production in Australia from coal and shale of all our requirements of oil and petrol. Everyone knows that the interests of all the great oil companies operating in the United States of America, Mexcio, Mesopotamia, Dutch East Indies and elsewhere, are more or less interwoven, and that the struggle for supremacy often leads to the destruction of human life. We have in Australia immense deposits of oil-bearing coal and shale which should be utilized in the interests of the Commonwealth and give employment to the many thousands of coal-miners who are living on the dole in New South Wales. We boast frequently of our wonderful heritage and all that we fought for in the great war. The letters of the late Sir John Monash, the distinguished Australian military leader, now appearing in the Sydney and Melbourne newspapers, show that, despite the sacrifices made in the interests of democracy, the position of a great number of people in this country is extremely desperate. The outlook for the younger generation is strikingly depicted by that master cartoonist, Mr. Tom Glover, who, in a cartoon published recently, pictured a young Australian youth with a leaving certificate in his hand but with no work to do.
I agree with Senator Barnes that some portion at least of the proposed expenditure on defence could be put to better use by inducing Australians to become more air-minded. Those of us who have reached middle age realize the urgent need for giving more opportunities to the younger generation. The young people of to-day regard their parents as oldfashioned. Notwithstanding the changing conditions not only in Australia, but also throughout the world, honorable senators on this side of the chamber, who, during the last election campaign, promised the electors that they would do everything in their power to assist in providing employment, are asked to authorize the expenditure of £2,000,000 on a cruiser to be purchased overseas which, in about twelve months’ time, will be little better than “ junk “. Having served for a period in the Royal Australian Navy, I know that modern war vessels become obsolete shortly after they are placed in commission. Had the money which is being utilized in this way been expended in developing aviation in Australia, more beneficial results would have been achieved. We have been informed by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, Mr. Ulm, whom we still hope will be rescued, Mr. Scott, Mr. Black and Major Roscoe Turner, who hails from the United States of America that Australia is one of the best countries for the efficient and economic development of aviation. Moreover, that money could have been expended economically in developing the shale deposits in New South Wales and in Tasmania and in that way Australia could have been made independent of other sources of supply of fuel oil. I take this opportunity to place on record the fact that I do not propose to assist in authorizing the expenditure of £2,000,000 on a cruiser which should have been built in Australia.
– Nothing is to be appropriated for a new cruiser under these Estimates; that money was voted by Parliament before the last general elections.
– While I am anxious to assist the Leader of the Government (Senator Pearce) and other honorable senators representing distant States to return to their homes in time to participate in the usual Christmas festivities, I think it only right that honorable senators should avail themselves of this opportunity to discuss public questions, and, more particularly, the items of the proposed expenditure embodied in the schedules of this bill. When I last spoke at some length in this chamber, I said that the number of unemployed in Australia was roughly 300,000, and Senator Sampson, who, I am glad to see, is present at the moment, asked me where I obtained that figure. I informed the honorable senator that when the Scullin Government was in power, it was taunted with the fact that there were over 400,000 unemployed, and that we were told subsequently, that as the result of the activities of the Government, or should we say the last three governments that have held office, the number had been reduced by 25 per cent., and therefore on a moderate estimate, the number then unemployed must have been about 300,000. Shortly after that statement had been recorded in Hansard, the census figures were published, and I w.as astonished to find that in New South Wales alone, in which two-fifths of the population of the Commonwealth reside, and which has been under the control of an anti-Labour Government for two and a half years, the number of unemployed was 222,000. Figures in respect of three other States were given, and the total for the four States was 460,000. It is therefore safe to assume that, on the basis of the New South Wales figures, the total number of unemployed in Australia is considerably over 500,000, which shows that my estimate was not excessive.
– That is not a fair basis, because there is a higher percentage of unemployment in New South Wales than in any of the other States. For instance, Queensland has a much lower percentage than New South Wales
– The Minister is somewhat astray, as the figures supplied by the census returns just published, and which embraced New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria, and, I think, South Australia, totalled 460,000. When the figures from the other two States are included the number will be well over 500,000. Therefore, in my desire not to overstate the case, I under-estimated the number by at least 200,000. I am sure that all honorable senators wish Australia to return to those happy conditions which prevailed in 1928, when the percentage of unemployment was low. Under the capitalist system, there is always likely to be a large number of unemployed. We have conducted many socialistic experiments in Australia; but the people generally do not believe that conditions can be altered overnight. As the unemployment figures published in the census returns disclose a woeful state of affairs in Australia, we should utilize every opportunity to address ourselves to the subject of unemployment in an endeavour to assist those needing work, which should be available to every able man in a partially-developed country such as Australia. It is nearly three months since the present Parliament was elected ; but we have not yet been asked to consider any of those important problems to which our political opponents gave such prominence during the last election campaign. We are now approaching Christmas, and by the time Parliament re-assembles next year, five months will have elapsed since the elections were held. The figures supplied in the census returns do not represent the actual number of persons unemployed.
– They are farcical.
– Yes. It is- 1 not the duty of representatives of industrial organizations to compile statistics for the use of the Government. Their time is taken up largely in collecting the dues of unionists, fighting cases of industrial organizations in the courts, and generally assisting their parliamentary representatives to give effect to the Labour party’s policy. If we remain silent when many pressing problems await solution, years may elapse before anything is done to assist the unemployed. The present Government is undoubtedly a rich man’s government. I have before me a document marked “ Private and confidential “ - it cannot be confidential, as I understand that copies have been supplied to others, and probably to every member of this Parliament - in which it is stated that in 1928-29 the receipts from the federal land tax totalled £2,988,885, and that in 1934-35, after certain remissions had been made to wealthy taxpayers, they were only £1,200,000. When remissions of federal land tax were under consideration in this chamber, it was claimed by Senator Massy-Greene that reduced taxation would result in those engaged in private enterprise providing additional employment. The Government has not disclosed the total amount represented by these remissions, but it must be between £5,000,000 and £6,000,000. Now we are informed that the federated taxpayers associations of Australia have unanimously agreed to arrange a deputation to the Prime Minister to urge on the Commonwealth Government the abolition of the federal land tax. When the tax was imposed by the Fisher Government in 1910, it received the whole-hearted support of tho present Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce). I agree with the compiler of this document that the legislation imposing the federal land tax was one of the best measures ever introduced into this Parliament, in that it was designed to break up big estates into areas suitable for closer settlement, thereby increasing the population, which all will admit is most desirable from a defence point of view. The first essential of defence is ample man power; and anything which tends to increase the population is of value from a defence point of view. Viewed in that light, big cattle or sheep runs are not of much value. The document proceeds -
Federal land tax was introduced by the Fisher Government in 1910, and since the inception, land to the approximate conservative value of £150,000,000 has disappeared from the taxable sphere, due to the subdivision of large estates. This can be claimed as of very great advantage to the taxpayer and settler, especially when compared with the tragic methods adopted by State governments under closer settlement schemes, which have caused the writing off of several millions of pounds from the taxpayers’ consolidated funds.
Originally country lands paid far the greater proportion of the tax, but, owing to the incidence of the tax forcing subdivision, the position now is that approximately 65 per cent, of the tax is paid by the owners of city lands.
The federal land tax was instrumental in breaking up huge country estates as there is an exemption for properties of unimproved value of under £5,000, with the result that most of the tax now collected comes from city properties held, for the most part, by wealthy people.
When we hear the abolition of the tax advocated, it is well to remember that lue amount received annually from that source represents the interest on a loan of approximately £40,000,000 at 3 per cent. It needs little imagination to visualize the benefit which the farmers of this country would derive from a loan of that magnitude. I understand that the Government has in mind a scheme of rural rehabilitation. Those whose income consists of salaries and wages are expected to view that plan cheerfully, and not to complain of the remissions of taxation to wealthy people who, particularly during the war period and until 1928, had a fat time. The statement which has been supplied to members of Parliament points out that the taxation remissions made by the Government have already led to the reaggregation of large estates. These are held principally by absentees, who would like Australia to be merely a ground for exploitation by investors whose income derived in Australia would be spent in other countries.
– Absentee land-owners will not get much profit while the exchange rate remains as it is.
– It is true that exchange is a big factor. Between Australia and England it is about 25 per cent., and between this country and the United States of America 50 per cent.; or even 60 per cent.
– The honorable senator said that absentee landowners were drawing large sums of money from Australia. I submit that that is not so at the present time.
– The honorable senator will not deny that many absentee land-owners have made huge fortunes out of their Australian holdings.
– I want money to come to Australia, and am prepared to allow absentees to make a reasonable profit on their investments here.
– Sufficient money has come into Australia to exploit the whole country. There is not much land in Australia capable of carrying sheep or cattle which has not been taken up, largely by British investing companies. The remissions of taxation have not relieved the unemployment situation, for there are still over 500,000 persons unemployed in Australia. While considering the claims of those government employees whose salaries and wages are covered by this appropriation bill, we must not overlook those less fortunate in the ranks of the unemployed.
– My remarks must necessarily be brief, since circumstances appear to require the Senate to deal with this Appropriation Bill and a number of other important measures within four days. In such short time, effective consideration cannot be given to the proposals which will come before us, and we shall have to take them largely on trust. Although I, personally, do not lack faith in the Government, I submit that it is in the best interests of all concerned that honorable senators should be fully informed on all phases of the legislative proposals submitted for their consideration before registering their decision in regard to them.
I view with favour the genuine efforts being put forward to improve Australia’s trade with other countries. The recentlycompleted agreement with Belgium will be of great value to Western Australia, which in the ten years 1923-32 exported to that country beef valued at £1,075,860, in addition to regular shipments of hides and tallow. The improved trade which must result from the new agreement will put fresh heart into the people of the north-west of that State. In my opinion, the agreement represents a real advance towards the effective development of that territory.
– It may be that the secessionists will now recall their deputation.
– I urge that greater provision be made for lighthouses and other navigation aids on the north-west coast.
– Has the honorable senator any information to give to the Senate regarding the allegation of poaching by Asiatics on the north-west coast of Australia?
– I know nothing about that subject other than what I have read in the press.
It is to be regretted that there is no mention in the budget of further reductions in taxation. I, with other honor able senators, realize, of course, that the present commitments of the Government are very heavy and that the claims of the unemployed and the wheat industry must undoubtedly take precedence over other matters. The sales tax is especially burdensome to people in business and the measures taken to collect it inflict a further load upon the community and undoubtedly greatly increase the hardship and the cost to the man who pays the tax itself. The incidence of the income tax to a very large extent deters the influx of capital from overseas. Quite recently a case was brought under my notice of a property in Western Australia which was offered to a possible buyer in the United Kingdom. This property was likely to provide an income of £5,000 annually, but the prospective buyer discovered after investigation that he would be liable under Federal and State laws to taxes to the amount of £2,503, or just over 50 per cent., which brought the deal down to a mere 3 per cent, proposition. In such circumstances we cannot expect to attract very much capital from abroad. Senator MacDonald touched upon that subject just now, as also did Senator Duncan-Hughes by way of comment.
I should like to commend the Government for its endeavours to cope with the problem of the wheat industry. Much depends upon its maintenance, because it and wool and gold provide the wealth upon which this country must depend, and does depend, for its future prosperity. Although it is said that royal commissions are sometimes fruitless, I do think the royal commission on wheat and its allied industries is to be congratulated on the manner in which it is conducting its investigations and submitting its reports. The result in print will, I am sure, be a great public document upon which governments can safely rely when framing complementary measures in future.
I endorse the suggestion to exploit further the gold-mining industry. For this, the great auriferous belt in Western Australia affords almost unlimited opportunity. Metallurgical research has made such great advances in recent years that it is hardly necessary to give primary attention in that direction. It should be devoted to opening and prospecting new areas, rather than concentrated upon laboratory work. For this, geological knowledge is of the first importance, and I urge that the greatest possible use be made of local staffs, such as that of the Kalgoorlie School of Mines, the members of which are qualified and highly competent, and in close daily touch with every phase of geological research and mining development upon almost the whole of that auriferous belt. I know of the help that has already been given in many directions by that staff and its operations, and I suggest that generous encouragement to further effort would be a just reward, and would be appreciated by the community as well as by the officers concerned.
In the House of Representatives a proposal has been mooted to review the war service homes system. I admit that there are circumstances which justify such a proceeding, but I invite attention to the splendid manner in which the majority of the commission’s clients have observed their contracts. A reduction of interest is due where conversion loans have been so satisfactorily launched, and would be much appreciated by those clients who have so well stood up to their undertakings. I am not in favour of a. comprehensive devaluation of war service homes. I think it would be unbusinesslike, and I do not think the country could afford it, but I put forward a plea for greater consideration in special cases, such as that of the man on a pension, who, by reason of the possession of it, is denied a share in the Government relief work arranged from time to time. Try as he may, this man is unable to keep up the payments on his home. His task is a most difficult one. I submit that such cases do justify and merit special consideration, and that it is within the power and scope of the commission to meet them as they deserve.
Upon the subject of unemployment and relief work under the Commonwealth schemes, I desire to bring under notice the frequency of complaints in regard to the refusal of the Federal Government to provide money for the repair of the roads leading to the Swanbourne rifle range and the Maylands aerodrome, both places being in Western Australia. It is true that these roads are largely used also by the public residing there, or other people having business in those neighbourhoods, and any one can understand the hesitation of the Commonwealth Government to spend money in such circumstances. On© might logically expect that, if it accepted this responsibility, it sh]ould go even further and agree to undertake the maintenance of roads leading to all post offices, but I do suggest that, of the grant for special works in the States for the relief of unemployment, some portion might be set aside for those two urgent works without in any way admitting a primary responsibility or liability.
I hope that the expenditure entailed in the re-organization, arming, and equipment of the defence forces, will be disbursed under the supervision of only th-3 most highly qualified and trained officers. At present several of the higher offices of the army are vacant. These should be filled by men with the necessary training and experience of war. Efficient defence measures mean adequate preparations to meet an attack; an attack postulates war-like operations, and warlike operations are a most serious and involved business. It will be disastrous to hove our forces directed by men trained only in an office, no matter what their rank or title. In the past - and I say this with knowledge - we have had captains in our navy who have never commanded a ship, and brigadier-generals in our army who have never commanded a battalion or a regiment, or even, in one case that I know of, a platoon. Only recently I observed in the press a statement relating to one gentleman who held a high appointment abroad. He went abroad on some administrative job, and it was stated that he was in France and Belgium, and saw the whole thing through with the Australian Imperial Force. No doubt hp values the credit which he thereby attained, but. there are other ways of looking at the matter. I am not exaggerating in making these statements. I am merely emphasizing the need for the Minister for Defence to seek skilled and unbiased advice before making these appointments. Nobody understands this better than the present Leader of the
Seriate, and I regret that he has left the Defence Department. When Sir Ian Hamilton was hero early in 1914 for the purpose of reporting on the progress of the then new scheme, he pointed out certain tendencies and dangers. He prophesied that the pay department administration would break down immediately war broke out. It did, as most of us know to our cost, so that there is some advantage to bc gained in securing the best possible advice. It would be to the advantage of everybody if that advice were sought and acted upon.
Upon the subject of finance generally, 1 do not wish to say much at ‘this stage. Conditions are improving; certainly not as rapidly as we would like, but a large sum is to be expended on works and development in several directions. I suggest again that the reduction of unemployment is of first importance to all of us, and when this problem has been success.fully coped with, we shall have the satisfaction of knowing that the optimism that many of us possess at the present time has been very fully justified.
– Senator Collett has raised the usual to ry cry “ reduce taxation.” He and those who think with him say, “ If only wc can cut down taxation, the country will be better off.” They, however, never tell us in what direction they propose to act. On this bill honorable senators will have an opportunity to move for the reduction of expenditure in any department they choose, although I understand that it does not matter whether or not any such motion is carried, because the Senate has no power over money bills. At the same time, it would be edifying to members on this side of the chamber if those who arc continually talking of solving our economic problems by reducing taxation will only tell us in what direction they will reduce it. It is questionable whether the more reduction of taxation will improve to any great extent the economic situation or solve the problem of unemployment, t notice that Senator Johnston smiles somewhat satirically at my remarks. What taxes would he reduce?
– The land tax, the income, tax, and the sales tax.
– This bill is brought before us to enable us to pass an expenditure of many millions of pounds for the purpose of carrying on the government of tho country. I shall be glad if Senator Johnston will, during the debate, indicate what particular item of expenditure he would cut out. Senator Dunn has indicated his opposition to expenditure on defence. Senator Johnston would reduce the income tax and other taxes. If he succeeds in doing that, the amount of money available for some departments must be reduced. It will be necessary to economize in some direction. Senator MacDonald accuses me of being Utopian, but I claim to be a realist, and being a realist I want to know in what way Senator J ohnston and others propose to solve our problems merely by reducing various forms of taxation. In using such arguments, honorable senators should state definitely what reductions of expenditure they propose should be made, and iii which departments the reductions should be applied. If departments are compelled to economize to the extent of reducing the salaries of their officers, a corresponding reduction in the general purchasing power of the community must result. Does Senator Johnston or Senator Duncan-Hughes, for instance, advocate that wc should reduce our own salaries and tho cost of parliamentary government generally? A large majority of honorable senators has declared iii favour of the continuance of the present parliamentary allowance.
– We voted on that matter last year.
– I can understand the view of the honorable senator. If I were in his happy circumstances, my outlook, too, would probably be influenced by my economic situation. Dealing with the cost of government, Truth of the 9th December makes what, I believe, are extravagant statements; but, in support of its claim that Australia is extravagantly governed, it cites specific figures. It shows that the total cost of government in the Commonwealth to-day amounts to £1,154)000. It gives the particular items under various headings to show how that total is arrived at. The GovernorGeneral’s salary iB given as £8,900, whilst the total salaries of. all Governors in
Australia amount to £21,600 per annum, and those of Lieutenant-Governors to £4,750. Secretaries’ salaries are shown to cost £1,348, whilst the total salaries of Governor-General, Governors and Lieutenant-Governors and their officials, including secretaries, clerks, orderlies, messengers, stewards, and the cost of . residences, amount to £56,530. When honorable senators suggest that taxation should be reduced, they should say, for instance, whether they are in favour of reducing the cost of GovernorsGeneral and State Governors and the other items of expenditure I have enumerated. I hope Senator Johnston and other loyal senators will tell us whether” they think a reduction of this expenditure should be made in order to enable us to reduce taxation.
– They would not favour that; they would rather reduce pensions.
– Yes. When I asked the Loader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) to-day whether pensioners might expect a slight increase in their allowances as a Christmas gift, he pointed out that the Government was already expending £12,000,000 a year on pensions. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber do not advocate reducing the wages of any person. If a man receives £1,000 a ye nr, and gives value for his money, he is entitled to that income, “and if democracy insists that it must have Governors-General and Governors and other such officials, and is willing to pay for them, then let democracy have them. The point I emphasize is that a reduction of taxation connotes reduced expenditure, and honorable senators on the opposite side of this chamber should state definitely how taxation should be reduced, and what expenditure should be curtailed. The argument continually advanced by honorable senators opposite that, if taxation is reduced, the country will go ahead economically, is futile, unless they show definitely in what direction our present costs can be curtailed in order to enable taxation to be lowered. Truth shows that the total cost of parliamentary government in 1927-28 amounted to £1,276,415, and that in 1931-32 the cost had declined to £1,154,865. In the latter year, this cost represented an expenditure of 3s. 6d. per capita of the population. The total expenditure of the different States under various heads of government, including 30s. 4d. for education, 29s. Id. for hospitals and charity, 15s. 3d. for law, order and public safety, 9s. 2d. for land and surveys, and 17s. lOd. for general government, amounted to 101s. 8d. for each person in Australia. Claiming that the cost of government is excessive, Truth supports its argument by detailed information. Honorable senators, when claiming that taxation bo reduced, should be similarly explicit, and state definitely in what direction our present costs should be cut down. They should back up their arguments with concrete instances, in order to convince us how, by reducing taxation, our economic condition generally can be bettered. Honorable senators on die other side of this chamber are prone to talk generalitiesFor instance, Senator Duncan-Hughes spoke of money coming into the country and other honorable senators have, from time to time,, expressed fear of money . going out of the country. Economists tell us that money does not leave or come into a country.
– It went out of New South Wales into Victoria, when the Lang Government was in office.
– I am dealing not with the internal economy of Australia but with the monetary relations of Australia with outside countries. Honorable senators reveal a wrong conception of world economies- when they talk of money leaving one country or going into another. Their arguments are too often based on a false premise.
– If the honorable senator wanted to send money to England to-day what would it cost him ?
– Men who have made a life time study of political economy tell us that money does not leave a country or go into another country.
– But our precious economists never agree on such subjects.
– In our discussions, an understanding of basic facts is essential. Senator Sampson has asked what it would cost to send money to England. I contend that no money leaves Australia and goes to England. Money is not shipped from one country to another. We merely send goods abroad to create credits that will satisfy our external obligations. If Senator Sampson understood that fact he would view the subject of trade in relation to our economic problems from a different angle. Only when we accurately appreciate the facts of the economic situation shall we be able to evolve a solution of our problems. To-day I asked in the Senate - “ If all nations that have an adverse trade balance with Australia - used their powers of persuasion to bringabout equality of trade with this country what would be the economic effect upon Australia?” I asked that question in all sincerity but was told flippantly that a reply to such a question could only be speculative. I realize the falseness of the conception which honorable senators and thousands of people outside this chamber have of trade. This false conception is evidenced when people speak of a certain country buying from us only half as much as we buy from it, and of other countries buying from us twice as much as we buy from them.- The inference is that the economic stability of a country depends on an equal exchange of goods between it and foreign countries. Senator Collett used such an argument- when he inferred that the Belgian treaty was one of the actions of this Government which would help us to solve our economic problems. If an Australian glass company sells 7,500,000 square feet of sheet glass, that quantity is merely exchanged for so many other commodities and services in Australia. What difference does it make if the exchange is between two industries in this country instead of between Australia and Belgium? If, instead of selling in Australia, 7,500,000 feet of Australian glass, we sell only 4,500,000 feet, and accept from Belgium or from some other country, goods in exchange for glass that was formerly manufactured in Australia, the net result will be that some of the persons employed in the manufacture of that commodity in this country will have lost their purchasing power.
– Does the honorable senator expect Belgium to buy Australian primary products if we buy nothing from that country?
– That is not the question at issue. Let me repeat that if we reduce the sale within our borders of Australian goods in order to exchange them for goods produced in other conntries, we shall not he solving our economic problem, because by reducing the volume of Australian commodities to be exchanged for other goods produced in Australia, we shall be reducing the purchasing power of Australian citizens.
– The position will be improved if, by that course, we can ensure the sale of primary products that cannot find a market in Australia.
– Does not the honorable senator realize that a reduction of the volume of local trade means the unemployment of a number of Australian workmen whose purchasing power will be destroyed ? If the exchange in Australia of £1,000,000 worth of goods produced in this country is reduced by, Bay, £500,000, the manufacturers affected, having no buyers, will dismiss employees and thus disorganize the Australian market for other producers.
– I would agree with the honorable senator if we could sell the whole of our primary products locally.
– I am endeavouring to show that trade is merely the exchange of commodities for commodities. Thus it follows that if the opportunity to exchange goods is taken from one section within Australia and given to producers in another country, we shall not improve our position, because we will not increase the number of jobs available in Australia.
– If, as the result of trade agreements, we increase the sale of Australian primary products, we shall be required to produce more and in that way will increase the volume of work in primary production.
– Surely the honorable senator realizes that if the volume of goods exchanged internally is reduced, certain producers must cease production. This will mean no dividends for investors, wholesale dismissals of employees, and a loss of purchasing power. Consequently, the demand for Australian commodities within Australia will be reduced. The honorable senator has suggested that we shall overcome our present difficulty if we increase the volume of work available in primary production. I put it to him, however, that the situation must be viewed as a whole, and that the acceptance of his theory will not have that happy result. I am afraid that in all the blather about trade agreements with other countries, supporters of the Government are not inclined to get down to bedrock in order to understand the existing economic situation. Of what value to Australia would an increased sale of our primary products be if the opening of one avenue for the exchange of commodities meant the closing of another? The recent conference between representatives of the Commonwealth and New Zealand Governments is a striking illustration of the truth of my argument. It had been suggested that New Zealand would take more of our citrus fruits if, in return, Australia opened its doors to the sale of New Zealand potatoes. That conference was a splendid example of the intelligence that is exhibited by the Government of this country. The representatives of the Commonwealth said to New Zealand : “ If you take our citrus fruits, we will take your potatoes “. But that proposal immediately caused resentment in Tasmania, which said, in effect, that if any agreement were made along those lines, Tasmania would be against it. Tasmanian interests were sufficiently strong with the Prime Minister to prevent the agreement from being ratified.
– No ; Victorian potato-growers were also concerned.
– Tasmanian interests emphasized that if the sale of New Zealand potatoes were allowed in Australia, the market for Tasmanian potatoes would be affected.
– The honorable senator has imputed unworthy motives to the Prime Minister. I must ask him to withdraw that statement.
– All that I meant was that the Prime Minister was susceptible to the agitation coming from his own State.
– The honorable gentleman implied that improper influence had been brought to bear on the Prime Minister by the representatives of Tasmania.
– I submit, Mr. President, that I did not impute unworthy motives to the Prime Minister. I do say, however, that the right honorable gentleman was influenced when he realized that an agreement with New Zealand along the lines indicated would jeopardize the interests of Tasmanian potato-growers. That was my point, and I respectfully submit that what I said did not imply unworthy motives on the part of the Prime Minister. If in respect of a similar agreement the interests of Queensland were likely to be jeopardized, I should expect the representatives of that State to lodge their protest, and, if necessary, put up a fight for tho people whom they represent.
– The honorable senator implied that the Prime Minister, being amenable to the influence of the representatives of Tasmania, was not mindful of the interests of the other States of the Commonwealth. This being so, I must insist on his withdrawal of the reference to the Prime Minister.
– I fail to see why I should be forced to withdraw something which I did not say. I did not make any unworthy insinuation or impugn the character of the Prime Minister in any way. If you want to prevent me from speaking I can resume my seat.
– The statement made by the honorable gentleman implied that, owing to the opposition of Tasmanian representatives, the Prime Minister was improperly influenced.
– So he was.
– I did not mention the representatives of Tasmania.
– If the honorable senator refuses to withdraw his statement, I shall be forced to name him.
– On. a point of order, Mr. President-
– Does the honorable senator intend to withdraw what he said?
– Do you, sir, intend to listen to my point of order? I refuse to withdraw the statement about which you have complained, because I did not impute unworthy motives to the Prime Minister.
– As the honorable senator has declined to withdraw the statement, I name him, and call upon the Leader of the Senate to take the necessary action under the Standing Orders to uphold the authority of the Chair.
– Who has taken exception to the statement?
– You, Mr. President, should not set yourself up to be another Mussolini. Be fair.
– The naming of the honorable senator has cast a very unpleasant duty upon me as the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Before submitting the motion which, under the Standing Orders I am required to make, ,1 appeal to Senator Brown to reconsider his position. The President, I remind him, is appointed by the Senate to preside over our deliberations, and while we may not always agree with his rulings and decisions, there is an obligation upon us to accept them, even though we may be smarting under a sense of injustice. Whilst I accept the honorable senator’s assurance that he did not intend to impute unworthy motives to the Prime Minister, the interpretation of bis statement is the responsibility of the President. I therefore suggest that the honorable senator conform to the Standing Orders by withdrawing the statement to which the President has objected.
– It is only fair that 1 should say that the President misunderstood what I had said. Apparently he was under the impression that I had said that certain members representing Tasmania approached the Prime Minister in connexion with the negotiations for a trade agreement with New Zealand. I said nothing of the kind. What I said was that the Prime Minister had been influenced by the agitation on behalf of Tasmanian potato-growers. By that I did not intend to impute unworthy motives. However, I suppose I must withdraw the statement.
– The honorable gentleman, having complied with the Standing Orders, may proceed.
– The President having intervened so effectively it is incumbent upon me now to make my position quite clear. What I meant was that if, in negotiations for trade treaties with other countries there was likelihood of Australian industries being jeopardized, the people concerned would be fully justified in approaching their representatives with a view to representations being made in the right quarter. That, I suggest, is what was done on behalf of the potatogrowers of Tasmania and I see nothing wrong in it.
What has happened in connexion with chose attempts to make trade treaties merely discloses the impossibility of solving the economic problems of any country by the exchange of commodities, because, as I have shown, a reduction in the volume of goods exchanged internally, following a trade agreement with another country, means a lessening of employment internally, and to that extent a loss of purchasing power by the people directly concerned. Can any honorable senator show me how unemployment in Australia will be lessened by increasing the opportunities for the sale in this country of New Zealand potatoes, if by that arrangement there is a reduction in the volume of Tasmanian potatoes marketed? If we are to have a proper understanding of this complex problem, we must consider its basic causes. A superficial examination will not suffice.
I now wish to refer to a statement made by Senator Pearce some weeks ago, (hat there is plenty of credit available in Australia if the people would only utilize it, and that the money expended on public works does not produce income. We know that there is a plethora of credit, and that if we wish to borrow and can show the manager of a bank or any other financial institution that we can use the money or credit to advantage, credit can be obtained. But under our present economic system the avenues are not open to the use of the credit which is so plentiful. Employment should be provided by expending money on works of national importance, which would raise Australia to a higher economic plane. It is always essential to study these problems from a national view-point. We should utilize whatever credits or money we can obtain, so that at the end of a certain period, Australia would bc able to carry on national works in the interests of the whole community. Senator Pearce, who said that money expended on public works does not produce income, should realize that, as expenditure of that nature would assist Australia to produce more plentifully with less energy, it would be justified. In discussing such subjects as unemployment, it is essential to get down to fundamentals. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have shown the utter stupidity of the Government’s so-called solutions of our economic problems. The decided weakness of the Government is shown by its inability to remedy any of our economic ills. Although the deplorable position of the Australian wheatgrowers has been before this and the preceding Government for the last two years, this Government merely proposes a further bounty to the wheat industry. Why does not the Cabinet, which is supposed to consist of intelligent men, get down to foot causes, and place industry on a firm basis? Instead of providing palliatives and pottering about while the position becomes more acute, it should be studying fundamental causes.
I deplore the fact that under our present system of government honorable senators, after being absent for weeks, should be called together, and in a few days be expected to deal hurriedly with legislation that should take weeks to c6nsid.Gr, It is the fault of the Government. The position has been explained to some extent by the Minister, who said that, as most of the business of the session consisted of money bills which cannot be initiated in this chamber, it was impossible to furnish work for the Senate to do earlier in the session. Prominence has been given to the matter through the newspapers by public men interested in parliamentary government, who have attacked the Government for placing this chamber in such an invidious position. To-day senators, who are being attacked from One end of the country to the other, are being told that this chamber is an excrescence on the system of parliamentary government.
– The honorable senator is not entitled to refer to this chamber in that way.
– The word “excrescence “ means a useless or troublesome outgrowth - something that can be dispensed with. If, sir, you ask that that word be withdrawn, I withdraw it; but I shall say that, owing to the mismanagement of the Government, the people are beginning to think that the Senate is redundant.
– In voting as they did at the last general election, the electors did not show their contempt for the Senate.
– The honorable senator does not view the matter in the the same way as I do. Voting for the Senate and for the House of Representatives is compulsory, and I am showing that, in treating this chamber as it has, the Government has degraded it in the eyes of the people, who feel that if it were dispensed with they would not be any. worse off.
– The members of the honorable senator’s party, who favour the abolition of the Senate, were defeated at the elections.
– The honorable senator’s statement may create a false impression. The abolition of the Senate was not an issue before the people at the last general election ; it was not mentioned from one end of Australia to the other. The Labour party Senate candidates were not returned because the electors were misled by honorable senators opposite and those whom they represent.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I said that the Labour party favours the abolition of this chamber, and not one of its candidates was returned at the last elections. In reply to that statement, Senator Brown said that the abolition of the Senate was not before the people and that it was not mentioned from one end of Australia to the other. That is incorrect, because it is on record in the newspapers that the subject was raised in Adelaide, when Mr. Scullin replied that the policy of the Labour party includes the abolition of the Senate. I spoke on the subject during the election campaign. As the honorable senator’s statement is inaccurate, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– As Senator Duncan-Hughes contends that the statement made by Senator Brown is inaccurate, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– May I say a few words–
– Is the honorable senator going to withdraw the statement - Yes or no?
– This is grossly unfair. Mr. Seullin may have said that the policy of the Labour party includes the abolition of the Senate, but as a matter of policy that matter was not placed before the people of Australia at the last general elections. If I am to be treated in this way I may as well walk out of the chamber.
.- Senator MacDonald quoted from a document which he said was marked, “ Private and confidential,” concerning the federal land tax. (^Quorum formed.] Originally the federal land tax was introduced with the object of bursting up large estates, but its effect in that direction has not been a complete success, as the tax is imposed on valuable city properties. For years, the business section of the community has been suffering from the imposition of a tax which, far from assisting the development of the country, has retarded its progress. Remissions of taxation must inevitably lead to further employment. With few exceptions private individuals with money are more likely to solve industrial problems than are governments by the expenditure of a similar sum. Many of the suggestions contained in the document which Senator MacDonald quoted are unsound.
I agree with Senator Barnes that at the last election the people gave to the present Government a mandate to find employment for those out of work. To the full extent of its ability the Government is prepared to find employment for those seeking it, and its efforts in that direction would have been more successful had not its proposals been baulked by the tactics of the Opposition. A good deal is made of the delay on the part of the Government in giving effect to its promises to the electors ; but those who have criticized it have ignored the obstructive tactics of the Opposition. In tho House of Representatives futile amendments have been discussed for hours, and the time of the country wasted, and we have had similar experiences in this chamber.
– In the meantime the workers have gone hungry.
– The Government is prepared to help those who earnestly seek work.
– Does the honorable senator mean the Government now in office, or that of last week, or that of, say, eight weeks ago?
– The Government . as at present constituted, and as constituted during recent weeks, is anxious to find work for those seeking it. It received a mandate from the electors to find employment for the people; and I hope that that mandate will be carried out.
– We hope so too.
– It will be carried out only if some of the legislation now on the statute-book is repealed. Thousands of lads in this country have never had a chance, because of the existence of restrictive laws and the operation of arbitration awards. These youths have as much right to employment as men have. Who are we, men of mature years, to say to lads of sixteen years of age, who in five years’ time will have the rights and responsibilities of manhood, that they shall not have an opportunity to develop? The laws of the country deny them that right by restricting juvenile employment in various ways, as, for instance, when they stipulate that, irrespective of experience or ability, every lad must be paid a certain wage according to his age. Thousands of boys are not capable of earning award rates. Last week, when in Melbourne, I met a widow who was working as a housemaid in a boarding establishment. She told me that two of her six children were boys, aged sixteen and eighteen years respectively,who had never had a chance because, whenever they sought employment, they were told that already the proportion of juvenile employees allowed” by the law was engaged. She said, moreover, that a boy of eighteen years, must be paid a certain wage although he may not be so experienced as a lad of fifteen who had been working for twelve months. What chance have such lads? Are they never to bo allowed to develop into men, or to become the home-builders of the future? If they are denied employment now, what will be the outlook of this country in a few years’ time? Before the problem of finding employment for the youths of this country can be solved, it may be necessary to relegate to the waste-paper basket many of the cherished ideas now embodied in the laws of this country.
– The honorable senator favours the amendment of the Navigation Act so that coloured labour may be employed on vessels trading along the Australian coast. His intelligence is so limited that he is aiming at black labour in this country.
– I am aiming at awakening the public conscience, and I shall awaken it. There are many problems before us which can be solved only by all parties getting together and determining to find a way out.
– Bring Hitler over.
– We shall never overcome our difficulties so long as the Opposition is determined to obstruct. I hope that the day will arrive when Senator MacDonald, and other honorable senators opposite, will join with the Government in seeking a solution of the problems confronting this country. Surely the honorable senator does not believe that all the virtues are possessed by the Opposition! Proposals for the relief of the poorer sections of the community have frequently been opposed by every member of the Opposition, merely because a Government supporter brought them forward. So long as such tactics are followed, we shall not make progress. I am prepared to work in co-operation with Senator MacDonald. Senator Barnes, Senator Rae, Senator Dunn, or, indeed, any one who is prepared to give of his best to find a way
Out of our present difficulties.
On the 28th November, Senator Brown moved that six weeks’ leave of absence be granted to Senator Rae on account of urgent private business. The motion received the support of every honorable senator, and the leave asked for was granted accordingly. I was astonished to read the following paragraph in the Melbourne Age of the 5th December: -
Landing without hindrance, Mr. W. H. Nugent, the national organizer in Australia of the movement against war and fascism, and SenatorRae, a prominent member of the movement, arrived at Wellington by the Marama to-day.
Supporters of the movement cheered them on their arrival. Mr. Nugent stated that he and Senator Rae had come to advocate international peace, and would probably speak in various parts of the country.
Last Sunday night, at the West Melbourne stadium, I attended a gathering organized to welcome Herr Kisch and Mr. Griffin. At that meeting Senator Rae was eulogized for the work he was doing on behalf of the organization represented by Herr Kisch and Mr. Griffin. I thought then, as I do now, that it was extraordinary that leave of absence should be granted to Senator Rae to enable him to engage in work similar to that being undertaken by two men who have been declared prohibited immigrants.
– I shall not weary the Senate by giving details of the speeches delivered by leaders of the Communist party and so-called anti-war organizations at the meeting referred to. In addition to Herr Kisch and Mr. Griffin, the speakers included a lady, who, I understand, is a professor at the Melbourne University. With one or two exceptions the speeches could have left no other impression than that the speakers desired to sow hatred between class and class. I mention this meeting, because I now want to refer to some of the literature which has been circulated throughout Australia recently. I ask the Minister to cause investigations to be made in order to ascertain whether the existing law is not sufficient to prevent the circulation of such propaganda. I have in my hand a copy of the Workers’
Voice, a newspaper published in Melbourne, which contains the Communist programme in full. At the meeting which I attended at theWest Melbourne stadium the soviet system of government, as in operation in Russia, was advocated for Australia. Speakers there urged that all our cherished ideals should be dragged in the dust, and replaced by Soviet rule such as obtains in Russia. In fact, one man, who has aspired to membership of this Parliament, went so far as to say that the Soviet Union of Russia had eliminated more vice during the fourteen years of its existence than Christianity had in 1934 years. That is the kind of stuff upon which gatherings of that kind are fed. The “ Liberation Program of Soviet Power “ appears in full in this circular, which was distributed freely during the last election campaign. The following five items are significant: -
I quote this as a sample of the ordinary propaganda that is allowed to be circulated, notwithstanding our laws. This kind of literature was current years ago, but the name of the authority or of the publisher was not attached to it. This pamphlet has the name of the authority and the name of the printer on it, and, so far as I can see, there is no possible loophole by which the people who authorize and publish these things can escape if the law is put in motion. This particular production is authorized by J. Brew, Campaign Director, Communist party, 182 Exhibition-street, Melbourne, and printed by Starlight Press,. 553 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne. That is the literature of the Communist party. I turn now to the stuff circulated fey the anti-war party. I have here a green, leaflet authorized and issued by the “League of Youth Against War and Fascism, The Youth Section of the Victorian Council against War and Fascism, “ Bourke House, Bourke-street, Melbourne. It is significant that this also is printed by Starlight Press print, 553 Elizabeth-street, Melbourne. It was distributed by the hundred, and possibly by the thousand, among the people who assembled at the sacred gathering for the dedication of the Shrine at Melbourne. Upon it there is a picture of the Shrine resting on the back of an enormous crocodile which is shedding tears; four civilians and a man in military uniform also are shedding tears. That is the kind of propaganda that is being carried on in Australia to-day. Here were mourners by the scores of thousands, and men who were not mourning, because they had not lost relatives, but were there as a sacred duty to pay tribute to those that fought and died for us, and a dastardly thing like this was circulated among them by the so-called anti-war party, which is part and parcel of the same organization that had the “Liberation Program of Soviet Power “ pamphlet printed.
– Is that what Senator Rae is attending?
– Senator Rae, according to the newspapers and according to what I heard stated at the stadium last Sunday, is on the same mission to New Zealand as that on which Herr Kisch is engaged in Australia.
– That has nothing to do with the communist propaganda.
– I do not say that it has.
– Then do not try to link him up with it.
– Senator Bae is a member of the Friends of the Soviet Union of Australia, as ho has stated publicly more than once, and that is linked up with the anti-war movement by the imprints on these two pamphlets.
– He is not here to defend himself.
– I am not attacking him, but I ask why leave of absence can be granted on the ground of urgent private business to a senator who is engaged in a mission of this character. Surely that is not urgent private business. Honorable senators will remember that the object of clause 7 , of the “ Liberation Program of Soviet Power.” ;from which I have just quoted, is “ To conclude a fraternal alliance with the Soviet Union and Soviet China, arm all toilers, and create a mighty revolutionary Bed army “. Bead that in conjunction with the anti-war movement, whose main object is to destroy the defence forces of Australia! Thousands of well-meaning men and women have joined up because they have -a horror of war, as we all have, and we can imagine the Communist party laughing up their sleeves to think they have ensnared them into an anti-war movement, whose object is to eliminate our defence forces, and whose active members look upon anything of a military character with horror. If they succeed in destroying our defence forces, and if all the armed toilers form a mighty revolutionary Red army, what an opportunity will be offered to those who circulate stuff of that kind ! It is just as well for the public to know what is going on. It is more than a coincidence that literature representing those two organizations; which are supposed to have nothing in common, issues from the same printing press. The green pamphlet against war is addressed to the youth of Australia, and this is portion of it:
Armistice Day: The day on which the warmongers utilize the sanctity of the heroic dead of 1014-18 to arouse the emotions of the youth. This day is used as a day on which they dedicate a shrine to the memory of those who fought and died in a war that was represented as a war to end war. The capitalists who to-day are shedding crocodile tears over the brave dead arc the same people who arc leading the drive for another world war.
I need read no more. That is quite sufficient to show me, at any rate, that it is time for right thin-king men and women to awaken to the seriousness of the position. None of us want war, but none of us in this chamber, so far as I can see, wants Soviet rule to displace Constitutional rule. It is high time for all those who believe in maintaining the best interests of the community, even if they do not agree with my political views, to take a stand against this kind of propaganda, because unfortunately the movement is growing fast, judging by the gathering, estimated to contain 10,000 people, which I attended on Sunday night. Whenever reference was made there to the abolition of the capitalistic class, and the breaking down of British Constitutional law, it was received by the crowd with cheers,
– I suppose there were many there like yourself who were not cheering. . .
– Thank God, there were some.
– You get to some funny places on Sundays.
– I go because I always believe in hearing at first hand rather than accepting reports from the pre3s or other sources. Following that principle, I have attended many extraordinary gatherings in Australia. I do not apologize for bringing these matters before the Senate, because they are of sufficient importance to warrant serious consideration. We should do all we can to make the people of the Commonwealth realize that we have a Constitution of which we ought to be proud. I believe the majority of them do realize it already. There are many difficulties to face and perhaps many faults to be found with the administration of our laws, but that does not justify talk of revolution. We are living in a country that has more blessings to the square foot than any other country in the world has to the square yard, and we should be proud of the fact. If I could only take some of those individuals who cheered the treasonable utterances at that gathering on Sunday night, to other parts of the world to see the conditions under which other people live, and contrast them with our own, they would come back not only able to wear bats two sizes smaller than when they went away, but convinced that there is no country like Australia, and no Constitution equal to that under which Australia has been built up. They would then be prepared not only to maintain that Constitution, but also to make it stronger and stronger, as they realized more and more clearly what a blessed country they live in.
– I feel almost ashamed to attempt any remarks this week upon any subject in this chamber. The year is nearly ended and very little business has been done here. The Leader of the Senate attempted to camouflage the position this afternoon by explaining that in moving the contingent notice of motion on the notice-paper, he had no intention of rushing measures through or preventing anyone from saying what he wanted. We were told that on the first reading of this bill we could speak on any subject, but the Minister knows that there is no possible chance of our doing, in the time at our disposal this week, the work which we are paid by the taxpayers to do, even if we utilize every second of it and go without” meals and sleep until the Government decides that Parliament shall adjourn. The last thing in my mind is to belittle this chamber. I believe in our Parliamentary institutions, and our British form of Constitutional government. I know of nothing better anywhere in the world to-day, but, as I have often said, I am almost ashamed to rise and say anything. Nothing that anybody can do, not even the meeting at the Stadium which the assistant censor, Senator Payne, attended last Sunday night, will bring our Parliamentary institutions so speedily into disrepute as will the fact, which is being made so painfully obvious to the taxpayers, that we in this chamber are not giving anything like an equivalent service for the salaries that we draw. Personally, I take my job here seriously. This Appropriation bill is handed to us to-day, and it is my duty to know the details of every item of expenditure contained in it, so that I may be able honestly and genuinely to criticize them if I think necessary. I am not competent to criticize some of the details, which have been entrusted to specially selected experts in the departments to prepare, but I should be able to go back to my constituents and tell them, in a general way, what these millions of pounds are required for, and justify my vote. However, at the time at my disposal, I am unable to do that. We on this side of the chamber give as much attention, if not a great deal more, as members of other parties to our parliamentary work. To such an extent do we recognize that it is impossible to do our job here this week or at any other time because of the way the business of this chamber is brought on, or not brought on, that we are seriously considering whether we are not merely allowing ourselves to be used as puppets in the hands of those who control the conduct of business in the House of Representatives; and whether it would not be more honest towards the people who sent us here if we walked out of this chamber and refused to take any part in the farcical procedure, which we know will be the rule from now on till the end of the week. However, I suppose that is not really the right attitude to take; it would perhaps be better to stay here and do our work as efficiently as the limited opportunities afforded to us will permit.
I sympathize a good deal with the remarks made by Senator Brown when he was attempting the impossible task of persuading honorable senators opposite to focus their attention, for once at any rate, on the fundamental aspects of the problems that are confronting the people to-day, not only in Australia but also the world over. He was trying to persuade honorable senators to get away from the futilities and purilities to which we have become so accustomed in this chamber. He was contending that we cannot get over our present difficulties by Tweedledum and Tweedledee methods, and was urging honorable senators opposite to exhibit at least a kindergarten glimmer of intelligence when dealing with our major problems. It waB impossible for him to get them to see anything in his arguments. His failure in that respect was due, not to any wilful intention on their part not to see his point, but to their utter incapacity to understand the position. So long have honorable gentlemen opposite been trained in a school of wrong thinking that they would now rather do anything than attempt to get to the root causes of our troubles. It is an utter impossibility to get them to deal with the fundamental aspects of the nation’s problems.
Senator Collett suggested that taxation should be reduced. Not only in this Parliament, but in every State Parliament is the cry continually raised that taxation should be reduced, hut I never knew of a Parliament in which certain members did not demand reduction of taxation whilst, at the same time waiting on ministerial doormats every day throughout their political careers trying to secure increased expenditure in the interests of their constituents. We cannot have it both ways ; we cannot reduce taxation and, at the same time, increase government expenditure. But the incidence of taxation can be altered, and we on this side of the chamber contend that that should be done. We ask that taxation shall be so arranged as to fall most heavily on the shoulders of those best able to bear it, and be lifted off the shoulders of those least able to bear it. For honorable senators - and’ they do not belong to this side of the chamber - to demand reduction of taxation when behind the scenes they are continually demanding increased expenditure in their own electorates is, to say the least illogical.
Senator Duncan-Hughes claimed that, because the Labour party stands for the abolition of all second chambers, the defeat of Labour candidates for tho Senate at the last election was evidence that the people endorsed the contrary view. I am sure Senator Duncan-Hughes knows better than that; he knows that if we had a government in this country with the necessary political courage to go to the people and ask them to abolish six of our seven Parliaments, there would be no request to which the people of this country would so readily agree. Public opinion is in favour of the abolition of State parliaments and the elimination of duplication, with its conflict of awards and laws and the frightful amount of unnecessary expenditure .now incurred.
– I think nearly every State in Australia would insist on keeping its Parliament.
– I do not suggest that State parliaments themselves would agree to be wiped out. But there is no question upon which the people of Australia are so united as on the necessity for the unification and simplification of government and the abolition of competing governments. However, that will remain only a matter of opinion until some government has the political courage to .refer the issue to the people. If such a step were taken, then this chamber and the House of Representatives would become positive necessities.
I am amused when people claim to see wonderful results disclosed in election returns. I understand that the number of informal votes cast in Tasmania in the last election was larger than the number of primary votes which placed Senator Grant at the top of the poll. Such a result indicates that there is something wrong with the electoral system or with the intelligence of Tasmanian electors. The electors of Queensland, on the contrary, were so intelligent that the number of informal votes cast in that State was the lowest for the Commonwealth. No doubt Senator Foll will contend that the result proved that the vote in Queensland was a highly intelligent one.
If Senator Payne will not think me presumptuous, I shall give him a little advice with regard to the impassioned outburst which he made about the circulation of certain nefarious literature. The honorable senator did not have to go to the Stadium last Sunday to know that such literature was in circulation, and he did not have to wait until this afternoon to tell the Government that long ago it should have been dealing effectively with subversive activities. But Senator Payne does not grow eloquent until he can direct his arguments against the dispossessed section of the people. I have no sympathy with subversive organizations of any political colour, but if an inquisitorial examination is to be held into the reasons which prompted honorable senators to ask for leave of absence for Senator Bae, and that honorable gentleman is to be pilloried in his absence because he got leave on the ground of urgent private business, I am resolved that no honorable senator shall in future get leave of absence without a similar inquisition being held into the reasons for his application before instead of after such leave is granted. Senator Payne, like our censors, is guilty of a very serious mistake. The best way to advertise a film or a book is to have it censored.
– The censor is appointedto prevent the exhibition of indecent productions.
– If he censored indecent films, half the American films now shown in this country would never be released.
Sitting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– Apparently Senator Payne and I have something in common concerning this business of censorship. I imagine, however, that the honorable gentleman would not like to see it enforced to the extent approved by me in respect of certain things, while, on the other hand he would like to see it very rigidly enforced in connexion with all literature and activity in advocacy of the policy to which he is opposed.
– That is not so.
– Nevertheless, by his references this afternoon he gave much greater publicity than would otherwise have been given to the propaganda to which he objects so strenuously. No one can deny that censorship in Australia is directed mainly against those things which are comparatively innocent, and that it disregards matters which all too frequently introduce a very undesirable element into the life of the community. For example, we have had the censorship of such books as Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, a publication that has had wide circulation in the Mother Country.
– It was in the Parliamentary Library for nine months before it was censored.
– I understand that is so, and that it was read by a number of members, but was withdrawn before others who wished to read it had an opportunity to do so. The most recent, example of childish censorship is the banning of the film Evensong, a picture that has been screened in other parts of the world without any complaints about its implications. From a review of the production which I have read, the objec tion of the Australian censor is not at all understandable. I know, of course, that the reason alleged is that it is taken to be a reflection on the late Dame Nellie Melba. This ground for objection is childish in the extreme. I understand that the picture might, with equal justice, be applied to any public character suddenly faced with a reversal of public appreciation. The time is opportune for a review of the censorship. Surely the people of Australia may be trusted to decide for themselves what they should read or see. It is remarkable that while a picture such as Evensong has been banned other films which have no central thought worth while, and no redeeming feature - pictures which obviously pander to the morbid and sensual tastes of the community - are screened nightly in cinema theatres throughout Australia.
May I say, in all sincerity, and with all respect to Senator Payne, that we should be careful not to allow our personal antipathies - I suppose I have as many as most people, but I do try to keep them in subjection - to cloud our judgment of public issues and blind us to the real facts? I offer this thought because this afternoon Senator Payne was not at all charitable to the people of another nation simply because he had read in some of the literature which had been issued by the Communist party in Australia statements which I am sure were distasteful to all honorable senators. We should not, however, lose sight of the fact that a great economic and social experiment is being carried out in Russia, the population of which is probably greater than that of the most of the English speaking countries put together, though we may be sure that, by some, the purpose of those experiments will be grossly misrepresented. I am not for a moment suggesting that Russian methods would be either desirable or successful in Australia. I content myself with the statement that the methods adopted in that country were the only ones that could have been employed in the circumstances, and we should not be intolerant of the views held by its people.
In the Sydney Morning Heraldof today’s date there appears a telegram, which I commend to Senator Payne, because that honorable gentleman said this afternoon that if we could only get the people of Australia to understand the pernicious propaganda that the alleged Communists - I use the word “ alleged “ advisedly - were putting out, the good sense of the people of Australia would cause them to suppress both the teachers and their doctrines. The telegram from Melbourne was to the following effect: -
Mr. J. P. Blakie Webster, chairman of Mount Isa Limited-
The gentleman named is personally - known to me - who arrived from London to-day in the
Strathnaver - said that trade privileges were being granted to Soviet Russia so “that Soviet products were being marketed in
England at the rate of ?10,000,000 yearly, while the Soviet was buying British manufactures at the rate of only ?3,000,000. Practically the whole of the British imports from
Russia could be supplied by the dominions, a large proportion by Australia.
I ask Ministers not to forget that signifi- cant statement when they are talking so freely about the silken ties that bind the Empire. Government supporters this afternoon sneered at my colleague, Senator Brown, when he advised them not to close their minds against what was being done in other parts of the world in connexion with trade matters, and when he pointed to the harm that might have been done to the interests of Tasmanian potatogrowers if, in return for the admission to New Zealand of citrus fruits grown hi “New South Wales, potatoes from the dominion were allowed to be marketed in Australia. He suggested that an agreement of this sort would not lead to the millennium. The telegram which I have just quoted shows that the Mother Country will not give preference to dominion goods if, by an agreement with Soviet Russia, it can secure a market for British products in that country. Capitalism knows no country and no law. 1 1 will sweat the producers of any ^country in the interests of profits. In conclusion, I suggest that Senator Payne and his friends should endeavour to keep an open mind with regard te what is going on in the world so as to bring a more enlightened judgment to bear on the problems which beset Australia, to the solution of which we are supposed to give our attention.
.- I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Senate several subjects which have been given a good deal of prominence in the press during the last few weeks. The first of these is the proposal of the Commonwealth Government to consider the advisableness of expending ?17,000,000 on the unification of the Australian railway gauges. As every honorable senator is aware, a certain amount of inconvenience is now caused at the various breaks of gauge throughout the Commonwealth to railway passengers and those transporting goods and live-stock; admittedly, the breaks of gauge entail a good deal of unnecessary expense and loss of time, but one naturally wonders whether there are not many other ways in which such a large sum could be utilized with greater benefit to the Australian people. Had the Queensland ‘Government, in the first instance, adopted 4ft. 8?in. as its standard gauge, the railway system in that State would be less extensive than it is to-day. Governments could not possibly have provided sufficient fun’ds to lay down the same mileage in wider gauge, thus involving additional expenditure on the tracks, rolling stock, and maintenance. There are in Queensland thousands of miles of the 3ft. 6in. railway of light construction, built to serve centres far removed from the coast. Such lines would not have been built had the wider gauge been adopted. Many of those which are now showing a small surplus, would, if converted, show a tremendous deficit. There are many other ways in which such a 3uni could be spent, particularly in opening up country which at present is undeveloped. In Queensland, there ave large areas behind the sugar cane country at Ingham, Mackay and Cairns, where the expenditure of a few thousand pounds on roads would be of great benefit to settlers, and would bring a far greater return to Australia than would a wider railway gauge. It is necessary to expend money on developmental works to provide employment, but it is more essential to open up the scrub country in Queensland than it is to provide a standard gauge. At present there is no break of gauge between Adelaide and Albury or between Sydney and Brisbane, and where there are breaks in our railway system no great inconvenience is caused. If the Government wishes to undertake additional railway development, why does it not assist in connecting Bourke with the railway line from Darwin?
– Or complete the North-South railway.
– I do not mind in which direction the money is expended so long as it is of real benefit to Australia. If this proposal were adopted it would not be of advantage to Tasmania where the service at present is considered satisfactory. In these circumstances, I trust that the Government will give further consideration to the matter before involving the country in a heavy, unnecessary and uneconomic expenditure.
I understand that the Government proposes to make £403,000 available to the State governments to assist the goldmining industry, the effective development of which may play a tremendous part in getting us out of some of our present financial difficulties. As the demand for gold js unlimited, and the industry in Australia is now booming, it should not need assistance. When the payment of a gold bounty was first agreed to, gold was about one-half of its present price; but the expenditure of such a large amount on an industry which is now flourishing does not seem to be justified. Men engaged in growing maize are in a serious position owing to the low price of that product.
– Gold is the one commodity which is worth exporting.
– And there is never over-production.
– That is so; but the industry is doing well as a result of the high prices prevailing, while other industries are in the doldrums. The wheatgrowers who are to receive further financial assistance are in trouble, and the growers of citrus fruits and tobacco are also in great difficulties. There does not appear to be any good reason why the gold-mining industry should receive such a substantial subsidy, while those engaged in less profitable undertakings do not receive any help. State legislation is needed to protect the public against “ dud “ gold-mining enterprises, and thus ensure that the money subscribed shall be used in developing genuine shows instead of those controlled by “ go-getters “.
It has been stated recently that £8,000 was provided by the Commonwealth Government to guarantee the expenses of the flight of Mr. Ulm and his companions from the United States of America to Australia. With other honorable senators, I still hope that these brave aviators will be rescued. I fail to understand, however, why the Government should have subsidized such a flight, particularly as the trip across the Pacific has already been accomplished on two occasions by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, on one of which he was accompanied by Mr. Ulm. The first Pacific flight was regarded as the world’s greatest aviation feat, but the recent attempt of Mr. Ulm could not be regarded as a pioneer flight. No organization attempting to conduct an air service would think of using land machines on a flight of such long distances over water. I am surprised that the Government should have guaranteed £8,000 for this purpose, and that Parliament did not have the opportunity to discuss the wisdom or otherwise of such a payment.
Prior to the depression, a public works committee and a public accounts committee were engaged when necessary in conducting inquiries into proposed public works, and certain phases of government finance, but when it became necessary through economic circumstances to reduce expenditure, they were suspended. The comparatively small amount involved in maintaining those two committees was saved over and over again, as a result of the adoption of their recommendations, particularly in connexion with public works. It was my privilege to be a member of the Public Works Committee for some years, and at another time I was chairman of the Public Accounts Committee. A study of the investigations conducted by these committees will reveal considerable savings of public expenditure. In regard to the Public Accounts Committee, not the least important consideration was the knowledge that it could at any time institute an inquiry into departmental expenditure. That, in itself, frequently proved a deterrent to extravagance. Now that the Government is again embarking on a public works programme, these committees should be reinstated. Should it be contended that the previous committees were top heavy, in that they contained too many members, the Government could re-institute them with five members on each. In making these suggestions I have no axe to grind, for I should not be a candidate for either committee, if re-constituted. But, knowing what I do of the savings effected by these committees in the past I urge that they be again brought into existence. In connexion with this building, for instance, as well as other public works in the Federal Capital Territory, the cost of the Public Works Committee was saved many times over. One inquiry into wooden ships saved Australia between £50,000 and £00,000. Honorable senators will recollect that in connexion with the Australian Commonwealth line of steamers considerable savings resulted from the adoption of the recommendations of the Public Accounts Committee that the vessels be sold. I am confident that the savings which would be effected by these committees, if re-constituted, would more than compensate for the costs incurred.
The announcement that negotiations with representatives of New Zealand for a trade agreement with that dominion had broken down came as a shock to many of us, particularly as there was an overwhelming consensus of public opinion, both in Australia and New Zealand in favour of such an arrangement. I understand that negotiations are about to be revived, and, therefore, at this stage I shall do no more than express the hope that on this occasion agreement will be reached, and a trade arrangement between the two dominions effected. Early this year I visited New Zealand where I found a general desire to obtain citrus fruits from Australia. That desire coincides with the need for an outlet for our fruits, and it seems a pity that both growers and consumers have so far been denied an arrangement which would be to their mutual advantage.
Yesterday I discussed with a prominent business man who has just returned from an extensive trip through China, the possibilities of trade with that country. He told me that great changes were taking place in China, and that within a very short time a more stable form of government will exist there, and that the banditry and piracy which have existed for so many years will soon come to an end as a result of strong action by the Chinese themselves. The cessation of the periodical outbreaks of disorder which have retarded China’s development is causing the Chinese to contemplate the manufacture of more of their requirements, particularly clothing. The adoption by the Chinese of western attire offers an opportunity to the Australian wool industry. I am advised that large orders have been placed by Chinese merchants with British manufacturers of machinery for the manufacture of textiles, and that mills for the production of woollen goods are being erected throughout China. The Government of China is establishing a police force to maintain civil law, and for the clothing of that body alone large quantities of woollens will be necessary, particularly in the colder parts of the country. At present the Chinese are buying cheap products in a semi-manufactured state, Germany being a big supplier of such goods. I hope that the Department of Commerce will take notice of the evolution now taking place in China, and not allow a repetition of our experience with Java and the Federated Malay States, where we lost a great opportunity some years ago. In those countries to-day goods which should be obtained from Australia are being bought from the United States of America and Germany. My friend assured me that China offers an outlet for the disposal of Australian wool and woollen goods, and I hope that this opportunity will not be lost to Australia.
[8.39].- We have had an interesting discussion, during which many subjects have been mentioned ; but I hope that honorable senators will not expect me to roam over the whole field traversed by those who have spoken. Among the statements to which I wish to reply are those in criticism of the increased expenditure on defence. I shall not go lengthily into the matters raised, because I have circulated among honorable senators an explanatory statement prepared by the direction of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill). On page 3 the following paragraph appears : -
On pages 4 and 5 are set out the proposed additions to the defence of Australia under the three services - navy, army, and air force - and on pages 15 and 16 there appears an explanation of the additional expenditure proposed in connexion with the munitions supply branch. Generally, the increases proposed provide for such additions to our navy as will moke it a greater guarantee of the maintenance of our sea communications. The Government’s proposals include the rearmament of fixed defences at vital points, particularly to cover war bases, dockyards, and harbours of refuge and of assembly for convoys carrying our goods to and from the markets of the world. They provide, also, for a more effective air force, by the addition of modern land ‘planes and sea ‘planes, as well as for a more effective and more mobile .arm. to protect defended ports against raids. It is also proposed to make additions to the munitions establishment, whereby we shall be able to make in Australia cordite of a character not at present made here, and equip ourselves with certain other defence material not now available in Australia. These proposals are part of a connected plan extending over three years. For the first time in the history of this Parliament financial provision is made for a connected plan covering all three services. I hope that this is a beginning of a continuous defence policy, which is impossible of accomplishment so long as we are dependent on annual estimates. Too frequently in the past plans have had to be dropped because of insufficiency of funds, the change resulting in the loss of the expenditure already incurred.
– There has never previously been any continuity of policy.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is not quite correct, for from 1910 until some years after the war there was a connected policy, although its scope was not so wide as that of the present proposals. This policy has been carefully thought out after taking the advice of the best naval, military and air brains that the Empire possesses, as well as of our own experts. It has been weighed, criticized and questioned from every possible angle, and it does, I think, represent a well-thought out cohesive practical plan of defence that is within the capacity of Australia financially to maintain. After all, it is of no use for us to enter into ambitious schemes of defence, if we cannot find the money to keep them going. I suggest to Senator Barnes, who seemed to think that we should concentrate more on the air and less on the navy, that that point has not been overlooked. It has been thought of, and we have had the advice of those who have seen all three services in use in actual war. The honorable senator said to-day a thing which is typical of some criticism that is at times directed at the defence policy, and seems to indicate that the matter has not been fully thought out. That is, that the defence of sea communications should be left to the government of the United Kingdom because it has a greater stake in their maintenance than we have. That is a fallacy. As a matter of fact, the exports from Australia to the rest of the world are infinitely greater than the exports of Great Britain to Australia. If we are to adopt that view of defence, which, I suggest, is very narrow and rather foolish, that a country should look after only that part of trade within an Empire that benefits itself, then from that standpoint Great Britain has less at stake in the trade with Australia than Australia has in its overseas trade wilh the rest of the world, including Great Britain. Our trade with the rest of the world, including the British nations, is more than our trade merely with Great Britain. The view put forward by the honorable senator is therefore, I suggest, a mistaken one. The facts show that we have an obligation as a self-respecting people to do what we can to provide for the effective defence of our sea communications. Another fallacy which is often repeated outside crept into the honorable senator’s speech. He seemed to think that we can effectively defend our overseas trade by aerial defence. The distance at which a land plane - a bomber - can operate effectively from the coast is, after all, extremely limited. A bomber has to go out to sea, drop its bombs on the enemy,- and then return - if it is lucky enough to return - for a further supply. That shows how limited is the area which it can cover. To repel enemy cruisers the only aeroplane which is effective is the bomber. A fighter is of no effect against a cruiser. The object of the fighter is to attack the enemy bombers and to keep them from attacking the cities. Therefore, the only plane that can be considered in defence of Australian coastal trade is the bomber. Honorable senators can imagine the immense expenditure that would be required to provide st fleet of bombers sufficiently large to protect even our coastal trade.
– Many bombers could be bought with the price of one cruiser.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Yes, but the wastage in the air force is much . greater than the wastage in the navy. The plane has a shorter life, its engine has a shorter life, and experience in actual warfare showed that the wastage both in material and men was enormous.
– But aeroplanes have improved greatly since the war.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Still there is no reason to think that the wastage will be any less. The greater the speed the greater the wastage, but in any case the area within which a defensive air force can operate for the protection of sea-borne trade is very limited. For the protection of sea communications, the land bomber is absolutely useless. It cannot patrol the sea routes. The experience of the last war showed that to meet the submarine menace sea trade has to be carried in convoys. If we were menaced by an enemy we should have domain tain our trade, otherwise we should perish, and in order to maintain our trade, we must adopt the convoy system. A bomber can be no protection to a marine convoy proceeding over thousands of miles of ocean. The only effective protection for a convoy is light cruisers and destroyers to guard against submarines and attacks from the air. Another factor is the aeroplane carrier which does extend the radius of air defence or air attack, but by the very nature of its construction it is a cargo ship, and its range and speed arn limited. It is also very vulnerable, because it is slow and cannot carry heavy armament. If it is used to carry aeroplanes out to sea it must itself have naval protection. Therefore, we always return to this conclusion, that we cannot have effective defence of our sea trade or our sea communications or even our coastal trade without some naval force. I do appeal to those who think, because they read a sensational story of something done by the air force, that therefore we can do away with the navy and army, and put all our eggs in the One basket of air defence, to look at and study the actual facts. The truth is that the air service has created a situation very much like that created by the introduction of tho rifle. It becomes an additional arm, and not able to take the place of other arms, but supplementary to them. In future wars, if ever there should be any, which God forbid, it will be found that these three forces will act in combination either in. attack on Australia or in defence of Australia. “We shall have to provide the three and provide means by which they can act in common. This plan has been drawn up with that as its basis. No matter what may be the political future, whatever government may be in office, I hope we shall carry on something like a connected defence policy, and that defence will not be made the sport of party politics, but rather that all parties will join in assuring a continuous, connected and common-sense policy to make the best possible contribution for the effective protection of our country.
Unemployment was also mentioned by Senator Barnes. Some honorable senators were a little uncharitable to the Government with regard to the speed at which further and additional action to relieve unemployment is being carried out. Before the election, certain action was taken by the Government and afterwards approved by Parliament for the expenditure of money through the States for the relief of unemployment. What was promised at the election was that the Government, if returned to power, would adopt an additional policy by which the Commonwealth itself would come into the field as a definite factor for tackling the problem of unemployment. It was indicated that the three lines that would be followed were: Firstly, the investigation of works which the Commonwealth could undertake, and which would be a definite contribution towards a permanent solution of the unemployment evil; secondly, conferences with the States to ascertain what works of a joint character could be undertaken, by which the Commonwealth and the States could carry out certain undertakings which would be a definite contribution ; and, thirdly, that the whole plan of this public works policy should be worked out on the basis of undertaking works which would not be of a mere temporary relief character, but would be a substantial contribution towards the economic well-being of Australia, and at the same time take off the labour market large numbers of men who were now unemployed. No sooner was the Government returned to power than steps to that end were initiated. Mr. Stewart, who has not seen his way to join the Government, was asked by the Prime Minister to take this matter up as the active agent of the Government, to put himself into touch with each State, to confer with the State governments to explain our attitude and proposals to them, and set the policy going. An immediate contribution of £176,000 was made by the Com- monwealth to enable additional work to be provided before Christmas, whilst these plans were being worked out. Considerable progress has been made; Mr. Stewart has had the opportunity to consult with some of the State governments, and other governments at a distance which he was not able to meet personally were telegraphed to some time ago, and asked to prepare their schedules. I think that now we have schedules from practically all the Governments. In answer to a question put by Senator Johnston, I indicated that there had just been received from Western Australia a schedule in which a work particularly advocated by him was mentioned. I think, therefore, it can be said that the Commonwealth has lost no time, but of course new proposals, involving heavy financial commitments, must not be accepted lightly. We must examine them, and discuss them with the States and see that there is justification for them. Money is not so plentiful that it can be simply thrown out. If we are to tackle this question seriously and properly, we must see that the works have some economic value. There has been too great a disposition to say, “ Do this, it will give work to the unemployed anyhow.” That argument has been accepted a3 a justification for almost anything. I do not think it is wise, nor do I feel that honorable senators would like to see it adopted. Senator Dunn spent much time in criticizing the expenditure on the new cruiser. I tried several times to tell him that no money is provided for the cruiser in this bill. The money for it was voted by the Parliament before the election. The honorable senator spoke of the Newnes shale project and the Cockatoo Island Dockyard. To both the Government applied the test of economics. If ever anything has justified the action of the Government, it is the success that the Cockatoo Island Dockyard has been achieving since it was leased to private enterprise. The Newnes shale matter is still being dealt with, but economic principles must govern that proposition also. It is not economic simply to put people to work shifting sand. If the industry of distilling oil from shale is to be opened up we must be satisfied that it has some economic justification.
– We have been inquiring into it for three years now.
– That is so, but a great deal of information has been obtained and many things have been demonstrated to be unsafe and uneconomic. Let us hope that we shall be able yet to come to an arrangement by which this asset may be put to economic use. I shall bring Senator Collett’s remarks concerning war service homes, the Maylands aerodrome, and the Swanbourne rifle range under the notice of the Ministers concerned.
So far as the circulation of Communistic literature is concerned, I assure Senator Payne that this Government is desirous of defending the Commonwealth against the inroads of Communism because of its revolutionary and anti-social character. But to deal effectively with the publication and circulation of this literature is not quite so easy as the honorable gentleman seems to think. As Senator Collings pointed out, we have to be careful that we do not go too far and interfere with that freedom of speech that should be allowed in a democracy. Listening carefully to the extracts read by the honorable senator from the published platform of the Communist party, I noticed that the most objectionable clause in it is very cunningly worded. The act dealing with unlawful associations defines as offenders those who advocate the overthrow of the established government by force. Although the platform refers to the proletariat army it carefully omits any reference to the overthrow of the government by force. Although we have no doubt what is in the minds of the framers of that platform it is not sufficient for a prosecutor to tell a judge and jury what he thinks certain words mean. The prosecution must prove that the words in question mean that the offenders are instigating the overthrow of government by force. Literature of this kind is brought under the notice of the Attorney-General’s Department from time to time. There have been prosecutions in connexion with such matters, but it is most difficult to prosecute successfully without leaving ourselves open to the charge that we are interfering with the legitimate expression of opinion.
In reply to Senator Foil’s remarks on the unification of railway gauges, I assure the Senate that nobody has put forward the proposal that the whole of the railway gauges of Australia should be unified. All schemes that have been advanced have omitted the railways of Tasmania, and no proposal now under consideration contemplates the unification of the gauges of all railways on the mainland. I invite honorable senators to read the somewhat old but valuable report of the royal commission which investigated the unification of railway gauges some years ago. That report is very applicable to our railway problem to-day. The commission divided its consideration of this matter into two sections. First, there was the proposal that the whole of the railway gauges of the mainland should be unified, but even then the railways of Tasmania were excluded. The commission expressed the opinion that so comprehensive a scheme was beyond the financial capacity of the Commonwealth. In the second section, of its report the commission dealt with the unification of railways between the capital cities and it is this proposal which is now engaging the attention of the Government. I remind Senator Foll that the State he represents was the most enthusiastic advocate of this recommendation of the commission and that Queensland was the first State to take advantage of it. Further, it is extraordinary that the only part of that commission’s report to which effect has been given is the recommendation for the’ construction of the railway between Brisbane, Grafton and Sydney.
– And Queensland has lost a lot of money over that railway.
– Queensland is glad to have that railway.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Queensland loss is borne partly by the State and partly by the Commonwealth. There is little doubt that if the Commonwealth had not come into the scheme Queensland and Hew South Wales would eventually have constructed the line, in which event they alone would have had to bear the loss. It is somewhat ungenerous for an honorable senator, representing a State which has obtained the benefit of a unification of gauges, to contend now that no more work of this character should be undertaken.
– Parliament was in such a hurry in dealing with that work that it passed the bill without even securing a proper estimate of the cost involved.
– I do not agree with that statement; it may be true of the attention given to the measure in the House of which the honorable senator was then a member, but such criticism does not apply to the Senate. The proposal to proceed with the work of unifying the railway gauges it now put forward as typical of schemes in which the Commonwealth and the States can co-operate. So far this proposal has not been adopted. It is to be fully examined at a conference to be held early next year, at which will also be considered other schemes in which the Commonwealth and State governments might co-operate. If, as a result of such deliberations it is proposed that action be taken, Parliament will be fully informed before the Commonwealth is committed to any expenditure.
– Does the Government propose to spend millions of pounds on this work?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. The proposal put forward by the Government to assist the gold industry - another matter raised by Senator Foll - does not mean that money will be spent to assist mines that are already operating ona payable basis. The real proposal is to assist in the production of gold by other mines and to encourage the discovery of further deposits of gold. It is obvious that if the world wants gold, and is prepared to pay a premium for it, it would be far better for the Government to encourage the production of this metal than to increase the growing of such a commodity as, for instance, maize. I assure Senator Foll, however, that maizegrowers who are in difficulty have not been forgotten by the Government, and that their claims for assistance will be dealt with under the rural rehabilitation plan. That assistance, however, will not be extended with the idea of increasing the production of a commodity for which there is not a profitable market. The aim of the Government is to produce more gold because the world wants gold ; therefore, the more gold we can produce the better will become our economic position.
With respect to the guarantee of £8,000 given by this Government in connexion with Ulm’s trans-Pacific flight, the view taken by the Government was that, following the letting of a contract for an air mail service from Great Britain to Australia through the Malayan Archipelago and India and the inauguration of this service, it would become necessary in the near future - and this necessity still exists - to establish a commercial airway service from Australia to England via New Zealand and Canada. Mr. Ulm has rendered a great service to Australian aviation.
– We all admit that.
– He has been one of our most reliable pilots, and he has displayed sound business sense in all his ventures. He waited on the Prime Minister, to whom he put the proposal that he would pioneer a service on commercial lines which would demonstrate the possibilities of establishing a permanent commercial service across the Pacific.
– Had not Sir Charles Kingsford Smith already demonstated that?
– No; Sir Charles’s trans-Pacific flight no more demonstrated that a service on a commercial basis was practicable on that route than the first flight from England to Australia demonstrated the possibilities of a commercial service between the two countries. The first trans-Pacific flight made by Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, in which Mr. Ulm also was associated, was a wonderful performance, and gave a great impetus to international aviation. Although that flight rendered a distinct service to aviation, it was not considered at the time as a pioneering commercial flight on that route. Mr. Ulm put the whole of his proposals before the Government, and convinced it that his flight would be something more than a mere attempt to break records. He satisfied the Government that if his venture succeeded it would bring nearer the time when it would be possible to inaugurate a trans-Pacific commercial service. All he asked -was that the Government should .guarantee an amount of ‘£8,000, the guarantee to become operative in the event of his flight proving a failure. Unfortunately, it has failed, and I am sure all honorable senators deplore that failure at such a cost, because the passing of so eminent an aviator has been a distinct loss to Australian and Empire aviation. The Government will make available to honorable senators full details of the conditions under which this guarantee was given. Originally it was Mie intention of the Government to introduce a bill early next year to secure the sanction of Parliament to this guarantee. It was never intended that tho guarantee or the conditions of it should be kept secret. We were legally advised at the time that the Government could not give this guarantee without securing parliamentary sanction.
– The trouble to-day ia that there are so many things of this nature being done of which Parliament knows nothing.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I reiterate that it was always the intention of the Government to seek parliamentary sanction to this guarantee as soon as possible. In the agreement with the Commonwealth Bank that fact is mentioned.
– Did the Government grant Sir Charles Kingsford Smith any money for his recent flight from Australia to America?
– No. The suggestion made by Senator Foll that the Public Works and Public Accounts Committee should be revived will be brought under the notice of the Government. In his speech, the honorable gentleman also mentioned the Now Zealand trade negotiations, and at the time I asked him not to proceed with a discussion of that subject. I- did so because to-night in Sydney these negotiations have been resumed, and I think it would be unfortunate if anything were said in debate which might interfere with the course of the conversations. The Government is anxious to bring the discussions to a successful conclusion. I assure honorable senators it has done all in its power to achieve that aim, and I hope and believe that the negotiations will now prove successful.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a first time.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [9.14]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The whole of the facts.and figures relevant to this measure were given to honorable senators when the motion for the printing of the budget-papers was moved. This bill is to appropriate supplies for the services of the year ending the 30th June, 1935. Parliament has already passed Supply for the earlier part of the year amounting to £11,898,205, and this bill is to authorize Supply amounting to £10,618,212 for the balance of the year. The whole of the amount of £22,516,417 will be appropriated as outlined on page 3 of the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator
Senate adjourned at 9.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 11 December 1934, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1934/19341211_senate_14_145/>.