2 October 1935

14th Parliament · 1st Session

The President (Senator the Hon.P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.

page 379


Petition by Western Australia.


– In view of the importance of the document and the public interest in the petition presented by the State of Western Australia, can the Leader of the Senate say if it is . the intention of the Government to have it printed?


– I assume that the paperis laid on the table of the Library because there is only one copy of it. The printing of parliamentary papers is a matter for the Printing Committee. I do not know whether papers laid on the table of the Library come within the purview of that committee.


– Such papers do not necessarily come within the purview of the Printing Committee.

page 379


The following papers were presented : -

Commonwealth Bank Act - Treasurer’s State ment of the Combined Accounts of the Commonwealth Bank of Australia and Commonwealth Savings Bank at 30th June, 1935, certified to by the Auditor-General.

Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act-

Ordinance No. 14 of1935) - Companies.

Building and Services Ordinance - Regulations amended (Canberra Electric Supply).

Fish Protection Ordinance - Regulations amended (2).

Motor Traffic Ordinance - Motor Oar Hire Regulations.

Motor Traffic Ordinance - Motor Omnibus Regulations.

Police Ordinance - Regulations amended.

Public Baths Ordinance - Regulations amended.

Stock Diseases Ordinance - Regulations.

Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -

No. 16 of” 1935. - Arms, Explosives and Munition Workers’ Federation of Australia.

No. 17 of 1935- Australian Third Division Telegraphists and Postal Clerks’ Union; Fourth Division Postmasters, Postal Clerks and Telegraphists Union; and Federated Public Service Assistants’ Association of Australia.

Science and Industry Endowment Act - Auditor-General’s Report on the Science and Industry Endowment Fund as at 30th June, 1930.

page 379


New Senator

Senator James Guy Dalley Arkins made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.

page 379



Senator GIBSON:

– Is the PostmasterGeneral in a position to supply any information relating to the installation of rural automatic telephone exchanges ?

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– I assume that the honorable senator desires to know the number in operation in country districts. We have already installed 26, five are in course of installation, 26 more are provided for in this year’s Estimates, and I contemplate an addition to that number.

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Employment of Returned Soldiers

Senator BRAND:

– Can the PostmasterGeneral furnish an answer to the question which I addressed to him on Thursday last, with reference to the number of returned soldiers temporarily employed as linesmen, conduit workers and mechanics, in The Postmaster-General’s Department in Victoria, and also the number of returned soldiers engaged to carry out flood damage repairs and work in connexion with the Victorian Centen ary celebrations?

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– The information required by the honorable senator calls for a great deal of investigation and the examination of a large number of records. Next week I expect to be in a position to supply an answer to his question.

page 380


Bill received from the House of Representatives.

Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.

Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George PeAlton) read a first .time..

Second Reading

Minister for External Affairs · Western Australia · UAP

[3.9]. - I move -

That thu bill be now read a second time.

By section 65 of the Constitution, it is enacted that until Parliament otherwise provides, the Ministers of State shall not exceed seven in number. The salaries of such Ministers are provided for in section 66 which appropriates, until such time as the Parliament otherwise provides, the sum of £12,000 a year. Honorable senators will realize that since that provision was made, there has been a tremendous expansion in the number of Commonwealth departments, the administrative functions of which have become much more complex. As a member of the Commonwealth Parliament since its inception, I am safe in saying that if a member of the first Commonwealth Ministry joined the present Government he would be dumbfounded at the extent and range of subjects dealt with to-day as compared with 1901. Parliament has made other provisions in regard to Ministers of State which are now embodied in the Ministers of State Act of 1917, as amended by the financial emergency legislation. To-day nine Commonwealth Ministers are controlling twelve departments, and under the bill it is proposed to increase that number to ten. I am sure honorable senators will appreciate the desirableness of ensuring that the departments are controlled by a sufficient number of Ministers, and will agree that, in the interests of efficiency, no less than in the interests of the general public, the number of Ministers should increase with the growth in the number of departments. At present some Ministers are in charge of as many as throb departments, and most Ministers are controlling branches of other departments. On previous occasions when the number of Ministers has been increased, parliamentary approval has been given to the additional allowance necessary, the amount in each instance being £1,650. On this occasion it is not intended to provide that amount; after allowing for the 20 per cent, reduction imposed by the financial emergency legislation, the amount will be £1,320. On the other hand, there will be a consequential saving of £185 under parliamentary allowances, as a Minister of State draws only £640 compared with £825 paid to an ordinary member. I invite honorable senators to study the position in the various States, and particularly to peruse the budget of the Tasmanian Government, the amount of money controlled by the eight Tasmanian Ministers, two of whom are Honorary Ministers, and the scope of their activities. In South Australia there are six Ministers, and in Western Australia nine, one of whom is «n Honorary Minister. In Queensland there are ten Ministers, as is now proposed for the Commonwealth. I ask honorable senators to study the Queensland ‘budget and compare it with the ramifications of a federal budget. In New South Wales there are thirteen Ministers, and one Assistant Minister, white in Victoria there are twelve Ministers, four of whom are without portfolios. Therefore, having regard to the number of Ministers in State governments, the Commonwealth cannot be charged with extravagance. Any one knowing the responsibilities of a Commonwealth Minister will not say that there are too many Ministers. The human frame is capable of standing only a certain amount of strain ; if it is subjected to excessive strain, it suffers a loss of energy and efficiency. There is no real economy in adopting a parsimonious policy in respect of those directing the affairs of the Commonwealth. I commend the bill to the favorable consideration of the Senate.

Debate (on motion by Senator COLLINGS ) adjourned.

page 381


Motion (by Senator Brennan) agreed to-

That leave he given to introduce a bill for an act to amend the Navigation Act 1912-1934 as amended by the Navigation Act 1935.

page 381


Second Reading

Senator BRENNAN:
Assistant Minister · Victoria · UAP

.- I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

As it has already been stated in a section of the press that this is a far-reaching measure, it is interesting to note that its main purpose is to embody the provisions of the British Official Secrets Act 1920 in the Commonwealth Crimes Act, but, in addition, provision is also made for several amendments of the Crimes Act that are considered to be desirable. The British Official Secrets Act of 1911 applied to the dominions, including Australia, but it was provided that its application to a dominion could be suspended by His Majesty on the passing of similar legislation in that dominion. In accordance with this proviso, the application of the British act of 1911 to Australia was suspended in November 1915, consequent upon the passing of the Commonwealth Crimes Act 1914, Part VII. of which relates to breaches of official secrecy. In 1920 a further act - the British Official Secrets Act - was passed by the Government of the United Kingdom. It added to and amended the British act of 1911. When forwarding a copy of the new act to the Australian Government, the Secretary of State stated that its main features were regarded by the Army Council “ as of the utmost importance from the point of view of defence The Army Council also stressed the importance of similar legislation being passed by the dominions, and the desirability of securing uniformity of policy in this respect throughout the Empire. It also emphasized that the new provisions included in the act of 1920 were a valuable addition to the defence of the State against modern methods of spying and kindred offences.

The Commonwealth has a special trust to discharge in this direction. The experience and information of the Defence

Departments in the United Kingdom in regard to such matters as the standardization of equipment, and the training and organization of the Empire’s forces are placed freely at the disposal of Australia and the other dominions, thus enabling them to take full advantage of the experimental work of the United Kingdom in respect of design and construction. It is therefore incumbent on the Commonwealth to ensure that the same safeguards against leakages of official secrets are taken here as are observed in the United Kingdom. Moreover, it is prejudicial to the public interest and the security of the State that secret information should appear in the newspapers, whilst premature disclosures are embarrassing to the Administration. The measure now before the Senate will establish additional safeguards in these respects.

The bill embodies the provisions of the British Official Secrets Act, subject to such modifications as are necessary to ensure conformity with other provisions of the Crimes Act and other Commonwealth laws affected. These provisions are contained in clause 2 and clauses 10 to 16.

I do not propose, at this stage, to explain in detail the various provisions of the bill, but the consideration of the measure will be facilitated if I outline briefly the scope of some of its principal clauses.

Definitions, as a rule, do not affect the principle underlying a bill; but this measure contains a definition of “ Superintendent of Police “ which is most important. Clause 13, which relates to search warrants, confers large powers on a superintendent of police, and it is thought necessary that the person entrusted with those powers should be clearly defined. Clauses 3 and 4 deal with the question of the disposal of forfeited articles. Section 9 of theCrimes Act relates to the seizure of forfeited articles by constables, but it often happens that seizures are effected by persons other than constables. In such cases it is doubtful whether section 9 applies, so in order to clear up this doubt it is proposed to amend sub-section (1) of that section by inserting in it after the word “ constable “ the words “ or any Commonwealth officer who is authorized in that behalf by a Minister of State “. The purpose of the amendment is to give to Commonwealth officers certain powers of seizure which previously were exercised only by officers of police. Certain articles may be seized by such officers and later may be condemned by a court of summary jurisdiction.

Senator Brown:

– Evidently the bill gives more power to Commonwealth “ pimps “.

Senator BRENNAN:

– The provision will operate mainly with respect to wireless broadcasting receiving sets. The powers of inspectors in this connexion will be more clearly defined.

Clause 5 deals with indeterminate sentences. This provision is, perhaps, a little alien to the general purpose of the measure; but it is inserted because certain difficulties in regard to indeterminate sentences have arisen as between the Commonwealth and some of the States. Under the Commonwealth law, before a person can be given an indeterminate sentence, he must previously have been convicted of serious offences on at least two occasions. Cases have arisen in which the judges have thought that it would have been desirable to impose an indeterminate sentence even though there had been no previous conviction of the person concerned. Provision to that effect is embodied in the Victorian law; it is now inserted in the Commonwealth law on the suggestion of the judges.

Senator Brown:

– Will the provision apply to youths?

Senator BRENNAN:

– Yes ; the aim is to give convicted youths a chance to reform while still young.

Another important provision relates to attempts to incite to mutiny. The present law imposes a term of imprisonment as punishment for inciting to mutiny; but as the offence may be committed by a body corporate, it is thought advisable to provide for a fine of £1,000 as well as imprisonment for life in the case of an individual.

Clause 6, which deals with this subject, reads -

Section twenty-five of the principal act is a mended -

by inserting in sub-section (1.), after the word “ Penalty “ the words “ One thousand pounds or “ ;

by inserting, after sub-section (1.), the following sub-section: - “ (1a.) Any person who publishes any book, periodical, pamphlet, handbill, poster or newspaper containing any matter of such a nature as to, or as to be likely to -

seduce any person serving in the King’s Forces from his duty and allegiance; or

incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to commit an act of mutiny, or any traitorous or mutinous act; or

incite any person serving in the King’s Forces to make or endeavour to make a mutinous assembly, shall be guilty of an indictable offence.

Two or three years ago a prosecution was launched against the publisher of a newspaper printed in Melbourne. He was charged with having “ knowingly “ incited the officers of the Royal Australian Navy to mutiny. The defence put forward on that occasion was that the publisher had no knowledge of the offence; and any one who has had experience of newspaper work will realize that that was probably true. Matter published in a newspaper as news or as editorial comment does not come under thepurview of the publisher. In. the case mentioned, the jury acquitted the publisher, and probably rightly so. Clause 6 is designed to meet such cases.

Another provision which is of importance is to be found in clause 7, which gives power to require information from any suspected person. The act of 1932 gave the Attorney-General power to require answers to questions put to certain persons, but subsequently - I do not know whether it was because this provision was considered to be too wide - an amendment was made in a crimes bill before the Senate in 1932, which had the effect of considerably modifying the law. That bill, however, was never passed. The section now being inserted by clause 7 provides for certain safeguards before questions may be administered, and as this is a matter which touches upon the policy of the criminal Jaw I direct the attention of honorable senators to the proposed now section 30ab, which reads as follows : - “30ab. - (1.) If a police, stipendiary or special magistrate is satisfied, by information upon oath laid before him by any person duly authorized by the Attorney-General,that any person has in his possession or custody any documents relating to an unlawful association, or has knowledge or information relating to such an association, the police, stipendiary or special magistrate, as the case may be, may, by writing under his hand, authorize any constable to serve upon . that person or, in the case of a corporation, upon a person holding a specified office in the corporation, a notice in writing requiring the person upon whom the notice is served to -

  1. answer questions submitted to him in writing ;
  2. furnish information either orally or in writing; and
  3. produce for inspection, or authorize in writing the production for inspection of, and the taking of copies of, any documents, relating to -
  4. any money, property or funds belonging to or held by or on hebalf of an unlawful association, or as to which there is reasonable cause to believe that they belong to or are held by or on behalf of an unlawful association :
  5. any payments made directly or in directly by, to, or on behalf of, an unlawful association, or as towhich there is reasonable cause to believe that they are so made; or (f)any transactions to which an unlawful association is or is reasonably believed to be a party. “ (2.) Any person who without just cause (proof whereof shall lie upon him) -
  6. refuses or fails to answer truly and fully any questions put to him in pursuance of this section;
  7. refuses or fails to furnish information required in pursuance of this section; or
  8. refuses or fails to allow the inspection or the taking of copies, of documents as required in pursuance of this section; or
  9. gives any information required in pursuance of this section which is false in any particular, shall be guilty of an offence.

Penalty: One hundred pounds or imprisonment for six months.”.

Clause 8 inserts a new section 30s providing that offenders under the part of the act to which it relates, shall not be prosecuted except by a person authorized in writing by the Attorney-General. There is some doubt as to- whether any person is entitled to prosecute in particular types of cases and that safeguard is proposed, subject to this proviso, which is redolent of the habeas corpus act - “ (2.)Nothing in this section shall prevent the discharging of the accused if proceedings are not continued within a reasonable time.”.

There is provision in clause 9 to meet a difficulty which sometimes occurs in the ordinary execution of the law relating to counterfeit coins. Proposed new section 62a provides that where any coin or other personal property found in the possession of a person convicted of an offence against this part of the act was obtained by him in exchange for any counterfeit coin, the court may order the return of the coin or goods to the person from whom it was obtained or may make such order with respect thereto as is just. In the past there has been no provision under which such an order could have been made.

Section 79 of the principal act is amended by adding two provisions with regard to the unlawful communication of secret information, and then follow a group of new sections, 81a to 81f. They are self-contained and self explanatory and do not require elaboration. Proposed new section81a contains several sub-sections regarding the unauthorized use of uniforms and passports, the making of false statements and the alteration of passports or certificates. Proposed new section81b deals with communications with foreign agents; such communications are themselves to be deemed to constitute evidence of the commission of certain offences. Proposed new section 81c deals with interference with officers of the police or members of His Majesty’s forces, and provides that any person who is in the vicinity of a prohibited place shall not obstruct any member of the police force or of the defence force, engaged on sentry duty. Proposed new section81d authorizes the Minister to require the production of telegrams from persons who control private telegraph or wireless stations. Power is also given, apart from the general power with which every court is vested, to hear cases incamera, where it is thought that the publication of the matter dealt with by the court may be detrimental to the safety of the Commonwealth.

Those are the main matters of principle dealt with by the bill.. It may be, as is usual when dealing with the defence of the realm, that some of the provisions will be thought to be rather more far-reaching than the provisions of the criminal law usually are. The bill follows the British Official Secrets Act of 1920, and contains some additional provisions which were considered necessary. I commend its provisions to the consideration of honorable senators in the belief that they should be incorporated in the law.

Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.

page 384

SUPPLY BILL (No. 2) . 1935-36


Debate resumed from 1st October (vide page 335), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -

That thebill be now rend afirst time.


– Yesterday I drew attention to the satisfactory growth of the population of Australia in comparison with that of the United States of America in the first 150 years after its settlement by Europeans. I wish to contradict certain statements sometimes spoken in public or appearing in the press about the population of Australia. These statements are made either unthinkingly or without a full appreciation of the facts and prove damaging to the Commonwealth. Although the area of this continent is 3,000,000 square miles the country itself does not constitute a paradise capable of supporting a huge population. In the next 100 years we may reasonably expect to increase our population to 40,000,000 or 50,000,000, but our resources will never enable us to become a second Europe with a population of 500,000,000, or to carry the enormous population that the United States of America will eventually have. If honorable senators are ever presented with the opportunity, I hope that they will rebuke any person whom they hear asserting that Australia has vast areas awaiting intense settlement by ambitious Europeans.

Some time ago I addressed a series of questions to Senator A. J. McLachlan relating to the possibility of the payment of secret commissions in the butter industry in States other than Queensland. A royal commission in the northern State found that at least £30,000 had been received in secret commissions by butter factory managers and directors. I endeavoured to secure an undertaking from Senator A. J. McLachlan, as MinisterinCharge of Development, that this matter would be experimentally probed. The honorable senator fended very admirably and led me through a number of mazes and I gained no information of importance for my pains. Despite my persistency he proved most elusive. Conceive of my surprise, after gaining the impression from the Minister that there were no wicked people in the butter industry outside of Queensland, when I discovered only a few months ago in the Melbourne Herald a short report of a meeting at which it was stated that the Victorian conference of butter factory managers and secretaries had approved of an inquiry by an officer of the Department of Agriculture into allegations that factory managers were receiving secret commissions. The same report announced also that inquiries were being instituted by the Minister for Agriculture to ascertain whether there was any justification for incurring the expense of the royal commission, for which a request had been made by those who made the allegations. At least two States other than Queensland are interested in the butter industry, which is of great importance to the Commonwealth. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce will furnish honorable senators with information regarding the outcome of the Victorian investigations.

SenatorBROWN (Queensland) [3.48]. - Knowing that the Government is most anxious to have this measure passed it is fortunate that I am of an accommodating nature and am always prepared to sit down when requested so to do. I do not wish to obstruct the progress of this bill, and shall confine my remarks to a few matters more or less urgent.

I followed Senator Poll’s remarks with keen attention and later I shall reply to many of the misstatements that he made. My sympathy goes out to Senator Poll, who- on a number of occasions, has been attacked by honorable senators sitting on the same side of the chamber as he does. Criticism of him by the Labour party is quite legitimate, but I regard criticism by members of his own political persuasion as being unfair. I commend you, Mr. President, for your strenuous opposition, when on the floor of the Senate, to a determined effort made by the Leader of the Senate to curtail the rights of members. We value highly the opportunity which the motion for the first reading of a Supply Bill affords us to speak frankly concerning subjects which, as you once said, may be nearest to our hearts. Unfortunately, this afternoon, as on so many previous occasions when supply bills have come before us, there is need for the rapid passage of the measure, so I must take advantage of another opportunity to speak on some of the subjects which I have in mind.

I was interested in Senator Brand’s maiden speech in the Senate yesterday. As one might have expected, the honorable senator spoke on the defence of Australia, a subject in which we are all interested, despite the gibes of some honorable senators opposite that, Labour is opposed to expenditure on defence. We are not opposed to the defence of Australia ; we believe that adequate measures should be taken to protect this country from aggression. But we do not see eye to eye with the Ministry on this important matter. We blame the Government for its failure to encourage the people of this country to become air-minded, and to that end we urge that the development of glider clubs should be encouraged.

Senator Hardy:

– The honorable senator’s idea of defence is to arm people with bows and arrows.

Senator BROWN:

– The humourist from Riverina - by some people regarded as the Cromwell of Riverina - is pleased to be satirical at the expense of the Labour party. As usual, his interjection is wide of the truth. The Labour party believes in the adoption of the most modern means for the defence of Australia. Holding this belief, we criticize the Government’s attitude towards glider clubs. Yesterday, when I asked the Leader of the Senate a question concerning the assistance given to glider clubs in Australia, I was informed that the sum of £600 had been set aside for distribution under certain conditions. As the result of the restrictions imposed on these clubs only a small proportion of the money made available has been expended. It may interest honorable senators to know that other countries are giving serious attention to the development of gliding clubs, the members of which are encouraged to take further training to qualify as reserve air pilots for defence purposes. Mr. StubbsWalker, the air correspondent of the London Daily Herald, has written an interesting article dealing with the training of members of gliding clubs in Russia - a country which is so often strongly criticized by Ministers and their supporters. Mr. Stubbs- Walker states -

There are more than 10 training centres on the same lines as the Moscow Air Club in different corners of the country, and hundreds of smaller bases are training 10,000 pilots every year.

Within three or four years, when the rather cumbersome organization of the Soviet is working completely, the number of pilots turned out every year will be more than doubled.

Already they have established thousands of gliding schools all over the country.

Official figures show that there were 40,000 trained gliding pilots in . Russia. By the end of this year there will be another 20,000.

These trained glider pilots make the first step towards aeroplane pilots. One of the rigid rules of the Soviet Government is that no one is allowed to touch a power-driven aeroplane until he has proved capable of flying a glider. 60,000 Pilots.

Th is enormous reserve of 60,000 could he turned into completely trained pilots within about three months, and their training would be on a scale considerably higher than that of the ordinary private aviator in Britain.

The normal training course lasts for a year, and the pupil puts in about 50 hours of actual flying.

Before he is allowed to fly an aeroplane, the pupil has a thorough course of navigation, ground training, theory of flight, a course of gliding, and instruction on the ground in “ Dummy “ aircraft.

He states further that, partly because of the preliminary experience of aeronau tics gained in gliding clubs, the actual cost of training an air pilot amounts to only £30. Apparently, the Soviet Government is not niggardly in its expenditure on gliding clubs. It realizes their value as organizations for the training of air pilots to serve the nation in time of war. Instead of criticizing Russia, Germany, and other countries this Government, if it believes in defence, should get busy and see that more adequate measures are taken for the training of air pilots in Australia. We contend that greater financial assistance to gliding clubs would be a step in the right direction.

Senator Hardy:

– If I move for an increase of the defence vote, will the honorable senator support me?

Senator BROWN:

– I shall support any amendment to increase the vote for gliding clubs. I understand that the Brisbane Gliding Club has met the requirements of the Defence Department as to personnel and organization, but members of that club inform me that gliding is really a costly business, and that tilley are not getting a great deal of encouragement. They have actually been chased off the flying field by the lessee of the land which, is owned by the Government, and when a glider is broken, owing to an accident, they are not always able to afford the money for repairs. They are also anxious that the Government should make provision for a hangar, thus obviating the necessity for dismantling their machines at the end of a day’s work. I have interviewed the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) in regard to this matter, and he has promised to do his best to make better provision in future for gliding clubs. I hope soon to have an assurance from the Minister that more encouragement will be given to members of these organizations throughout the Commonwealth.

Senator COOPER:

– I direct attention to the valuable medical services being carried out by the Australian Inland Mission in the northwestern portion of Queensland. This work is financed for the most part by private subscriptions, supplemented by a government grant of £300 a year. I hope that the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior will be able to persuade Cabinet to set aside a larger amount for this important work. The services commenced in May, 1928, with a Qantas aeroplane hired by the Inland Mission. The machine is kept in readiness at Cloncurry to answer calls that may come from, any part of north-western Queensland, an area larger than the State of New South Wales.

Senator E B Johnston:

– Is a pilot always in readiness?

Senator COOPER:

– Yes; a pilot employed by Qantas is on duty day and night. The area covered by this medical service extends 400 miles north-east of Cloncurry as far as Cape York Peninsula, 500 miles south as far as Birdsville on the South Australian border, and 600 miles to the north-west. As the country is sparsely populated, there is a lack of telephonic communication; so the Inland Mission has installed wireless transmitters at various centres. During the last three years the flying doctor of the Australian Inland Mission has travelled on an average 20,000 miles each year and has rendered efficient service to persons involved in accidents and those suffering from illness. Last years when a man engaged in mustering cattle was seriously injured in the Selwyn Ranges a message was despatched to Cloncurry and the doctor left immediately. He landed some miles from the scene of the accident, but eventually got the man into the plane and carried him to the Cloncurry Hospital where he recovered. Transport over that distance would have been impossible had not the services of this efficient officer been available. I realize that the flying doctor operating in the Northern Territory is under the control of the Department of the Interior, and that the Commonwealth Government is not responsible for the work of the officer operating in north-western Queensland, who is paid from private funds. I know from experience and from conversations during visits to Cloncurry that the mission is extremely short of funds and that an additional aeroplane is necessary. If one were available the ever present fear of accidents and illness, particularly amongst the women, would disappear. During heavy rains the roads are closed to ordinary means of transport, and it is impossible to obtain medical attention in any other way. Those living in the north-west feel that if the services of a flying doctor are always available their burdens will be lightened. I appeal to the Government to grant a larger sum to the Australian Inland Mission and thus increase the facilities now provided in the north-west of Queensland.

Senator PAYNE:

.- I take this opportunity to bring under the notice of the Government the position of growers of apples and pears. Those engaged in the production of these fruits have played a very important part in bringing about closer settlement, and people who know anything at all about the areas on which apples and pears are grown will realize that but for the production of these fruits the land would have remained, idle. Land in Tasmania now utilized for this purpose and which was previously unoccupied is closely settled. During the last few years, with the exception of 1934, those engaged in the industry have experienced considerable hardships. As prices were better last year a number of orchardists were able to show a small profit, but this unfortunately did not compensate for the losses of previous years. The Government has already assisted the industry, and I trust that as a result of the representations I am now making it will increase the assistance previously given and thus place the industry, which is of great importance to Australia, upon a sound foundation. The latest edition of the Commonwealth Year Book shows that for the financial year 1932-33 the returns from apples and pears exported exceeded those from the export of raisins and currants which are regarded as particularly suitable for production on small areas. The respective amounts were £2,214,128 and £2,I7S,772. If the apple-growers and the pear-growers are compelled to cease production some of the areas they now occupy will be abandoned and unemployment will increase. Some years ago the freight on fresh fruit from Australia to Great Britain was 2s. 6d. a case, but To-day it is bout 4s. 1-kl. made up of 3s. 6d. freight plus 18 per cent, exchange, while the prices realized are often far below those obtained, when the lower freights prevailed. (When the freight was low the industry became firmly established, but reduced prices and increases of freight have seriously affected the growers. From correspondence I have received I gather that representations Iki ve a lready been made, to the Government by the States Fruit Board of Tasmania, which has asked for a more liberal scale of assistance as a contribution towards the additional freight costs. Apples and pears are produced for export in Victoria, Tasmania, Western

Australia and New South Wales, and to a limited extent in Queensland, so the matter is of widespread importance. In order to ensure a reasonable export price growers have adopted a quota system which has thrown from 50 per cent, to 52 per cent, of their output of wholesome marketable fruit on the local market. If assistance were given in the direction suggested larger quantities could be exported and the necessity of disposing of large quantities on the local market would be obviated. Owing to the limited demand in the home market large quantities of good fruit are wasted. I have taken the earliest opportunity to ask the Government to consider the necessity for assisting this valuable industry, because if a definite and favorable pronouncement be made before Parliament rises, the growers will be encouraged to carry on. If they are assisted unemployment will be reduced in the States concerned. The pear industry has perhaps not been handicapped to the same extent as the apple industry, but it has been rendered less profitable owing to the introduction of a standardized fancy package which has to be utilized by exporters. Costs are thus increased by over 6d. a case. The orchardists having complied strictly with the conditions laid down naturally hope to receive a price which will enable them to continue producing profitably. I trust that the Minister will place this request before Cabinet so that assistance may be forthcoming this year.

Senator GRANT:

.- I direct the attention of the Government to the operation of the sales tax which seriously affects many persons in the community. In many instances the tax is grossly unfair, and the manner in which it is administered is unsatisfactory. I agree to some extent with honorable senators opposite that the sales tax, which was imposed for revenue purposes, falls particularly heavily upon the poorer section of the community. Some of the decisions given, against which there is no appeal, inflict great hardship upon the people. There appears to be no reason for the discrimination which results in some articles being subject to tax while others are exempt. The Commissioner of Taxes should not be given arbitrary powers. There should be a right of appeal against his rulings. The Commissioner never admits that a mistake has been made by his department; the blame is always placed on the taxpayer.

Our customs laws require amending. For instance, duty and primage has to be paid on the casks containing sprays used by orchardists, notwithstanding that when emptied of their contents the casks are of no further use and are immediately burned. If necessary the importers are prepared to destroy the casks under the supervision of officers of the department if granted relief from customs duty and primage iti respect of them. As these men are growing fruit for export, and have to accept world prices for their products, and cost of production should be kept as low as possible.

The Opposition says that the Government has remitted large sums to wealthy taxpayers while not relieving the burden on the poorer sections of the community, but it does not tell us that the Scullin Government compulsorily reduced the income of the big taxpayers by 22-J per cent, and, in addition, imposed the 10 per cent, super tax on them. Obviously, if a man’s income is reduced, the income tax payable by him becomes proportionately less. There has been no reduction in the income tax rates. I agree with the Opposition that a full restoration of salaries should be made to public servants, because they are thoroughly deserving, but I urge the Government to take steps to abolish the iniquitous super tax. The persons subject to that tax have had no restoration made to them.

Senator Duncan-Hughes:

– “What is the honorable senator’s opinion about the land tax?

Senator GRANT:

– It is worse even than the sales tax, and I should like to see it abolished.

Senator Collings:

– The honorable senator wants protection without paying for it.

Senator GRANT:

– No man should be taxed, except on his profits.

I trust the Government will do something to encourage the production of light metals, such as magnesium, in Australia. When in England a few years ago, I learned that although light metals arp essential to the manufacture of aircraft, such metals are not manufactured to any extent in the British Empire, but are purchased from either Germany or the United States of America. Australia has the raw materials and as the process of manufacture is not beyond the capacity of its people, it should manufacture these light metals for the whole of the Empire. There is an enormous demand for such metals at the present time. I urge the Government to have an investigation made into this subject by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

I hope that the discussions with the South Australian Government in relation to the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway will soon be brought to a satisfactory conclusion. If the State is not agreeable to the construction of the proposed railway, the Commonwealth should not attempt to force on it something which it does not want.

The amendment of the Navigation Act, to which His Majesty the King has recently notified his assent, has conferred a real benefit on Tasmania. I commend the Government for having introduced that measure.

The Government has done well to install a number of automatic telephone exchanges in country districts. These installations are an immense boon to country people, because they give a continuous service at very little expense apart from the first cost. I hope that the policy of providing country districts with automatic telephones will be continued.

Senator LECKIE:

.- The two greatest problems which have confronted this country since 1931 have been the relief of unemployment and the rehabilitation of our primary industries. Happily, most of the unemployment in this country due to the world depression is being gradually overcome; but the 7 per cent, or 8 per cent, of the population which, even in normal times, is out of work, should be provided for. This Parliament should devise means to help the unfortunate people concerned. During the depression, unemployment increased largely because our factories had no market for their products. The return to work of large numbers of factory employees has improved the position allround, for a factory working full time gives employment in other occupations also.

Notwithstanding that 64 per cent, of our primary products are consumed in this country, there is a tendency in some quarters to ignore the great value of the Australian home market. Australia would gain more from an extension of that market by 10 per cent, than from attempts to persuade people on the other side of the world to purchase our surplus production. “World conditions to-day are so different from what they were some years ago that our bargaining is now confined to those primary products which we grow but which other countries do not produce. Nearly every country in the world is paying subsidies to its primary producers and creating its own home market. We in Australia cannot complain of their action, because we fix a home price for our primary products.

Senator Gibson:

– Only foi- two of them.

Senator LECKIE:

– “We have fixed a home price for butter and dried fruits, and are about to do so for wheat and flour. Australian manufacturers have not objected to the fixing of home prices for our primary products, but it is not generally recognized t/hat such fixation of prices has affected the cost of living, and this in turn has necessitated the payment of higher wages, with the result that the wages bill of Australia has increased by more than £5,000,000 per annum. As I have said, the home market is the best market for the primary producers. If that market can be built up and fostered the troubles of the primary producers of this country will be largely solved. But this cannot be done now as easily as might have been possible ten years ago because countries on the other side of the world are encouraging their own people to produce as much as possible of their requirements of primary products.

Senator Grant has made some remarks about the sales tax. Possibly it will not be amiss if I, as a person actually affected by this tax, say a few words about it. I glory in the fact that as a manufacturer I am helping to create something and to give employment to a large number of men, but in the conduct of my business I am being charged double sales tax. There has been an agitation for some time for the removal of this impost on “ aids to manufacture “. I do not think that that is a good term to use, but it covers things that do not constitute the actual goods produced, but which have to be used in their manufacture. For instance, my own business involves a large amount of soldering work. Although no sales tax is imposed on the solder, tin plate and other materials used, it is imposed on the flux which evaporates into the air as the Bolder is floated on. In the same way sales tax is imposed on magnesia which is used for washing down the machines but which does not otherwise enter into the production of the article. Files, emery wheels and sand paper used in the production of dies are subject to the tax although they do not form part of the finished goods and are destroyed in the process of manufacture. Not only do I pay the tax on these goods, but the buyer to whom I sell the finished articles also has to pay rax. In my case the tax is only a small item; it would not amount to more than £15 or £20 a year, but a principle is involved. The double taxation of soda ash used in the woollen trade involves the payment, of many thousands of pounds. I have read a statement by the Assistant Treasurer that if the sales tax were remitted on “ aids to manufacture “ it would mean a loss of £1,500,000 of Commonwealth revenue, but as the total value of such aids to manufacturers would not amount to £1,500,000, the sales tax imposed on them would not be very large. Manufacturers are not going insolvent because of the imposition of this taxation, as they are able to pass it on ; but the point is that the consumer eventually pays double and sometimes treble tax.

I desire to know if it was the intention of the Government when it appointed the Broadcasting Commission that its members should personally interfere with the management of the undertaking, or was it intended that this responsibility should be left to the general manager and that the members of the commission should deal only with matters of finance and policy? For some months the members of the commission have been conducting the affairs of the undertaking without the services of a general manager and conducting them so badly that listeners generally are being forced to depend upon the B class stations for entertainment. The Broadcasting Commission is in receipt of an income in excess of £700,000 a year; there are 710,000 subscribers paying 2:1 s. a year for their licences.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– But the whole of the money does not go to the commission.

Senator LECKIE:

– It goes either to the Broadcasting Commission or to the Postmaster-General. Those 710,000 people have a right to expect first-class programmes to be broadcast through the National stations, but the programmes now being transmitted through the National stations are not so good as they should be. One reason for this is that the broadcasting is being conducted by well-intentioned amateurs instead of by a man trained specially for that particular work. As a consequence the whole of t the staffs of the A. class stations are in a state of turmoil, and their nerves have become disordered. I know of men who formerly occupied high positions in the service of the commission, but who have been glad to resign to take up jobs carrying considerably less remuneration. When I asked them why they did this they said that they were unable to stand the present administration any longer. They alleged that they were being continually interfered with in their work and that they were unable to get prompt decisions from the ( Commissioners on important points raised by them. I do not think that Parliament, when it passed the Australian Broadcasting Commission Bill, anticipated that the Commissioners would personally interfere with the actual conduct of the business. I hope that this state of affairs will be remedied as soon as possible by the appointment of a trained man to the position of manager. I have no desire to be regarded as being “ antihighbrow “ ; I am a lover of good music, but I say that it is possible to get too much of it. Good music plays upon the emotions probably more than anything else; like caviare, a little of it is nice, but too much is apt to bring about a liver complaint. Since the Commissioners have personally conducted the affairs of the commission we have had a surfeit of first class classical music. It is this aspect of our broadcasting programmes which is responsible for the increased public interest in the programmes of the B class stations. I hope that the PostmasterGeneral will take some notice of what I believe to be the consensus of opinion among listeners throughout Australia, namely, that there is room for considerable improvement in the programmes provided and that the deterioration of the entertainment is largely theresult of the failure of the commission to appoint a first class manager.

Senator Badman:

– The service is better than when Major Conder was in charge.

Senator LECKIE:

– I know nothing about Major Conder but people should be told why he resigned. I have been told that he was interfered with by members of the commission, and on the other hand I have been informed that he. resigned for no good reason.

Senator Collings:

Major Condershould have been sacked years before.

Senator LECKIE:

– I do not know thegentleman but it is unfair to the commission to have it said that he was dismissed unfairly, and again it may be unfair to him that people should, be saying that he was dismissed for no good reason. The commission has been too secretive about this matter; it should have made public the reason for MajorConder’s retirement from his position.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:
Postmaster-General · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT

“4.46” . - It would be unfortunate if the remarks made by Senator Leckie were allowed topass without an immediate answer. I would like the Senate to pass in quick review the history of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. The commission was created by the will of theParliament; it was endowed with absolute powers, subject to certain limitations in regard to the amount of money that might be expended by it without the sanction of the Minister. Within the terms of the act the powers of the commission are plenary. After its inception the undertaking was placed in the charge of Mr. Williams, an admirableman, who, unfortunately is now deceased. During his tenure of office his time was largely occupied by a struggle with a body known as the Australian Performing Bights Association. The first chairnian of the commission was Mr. Lloyd

Jones, and during his chairmanship Mr. Williams passed away. Mr. Lloyd Jones subsequently found it necessary to retire from the position of chairman. All this happened within a period of three years. Since the commission was appointed there has been no opportunity for it to function properly and to grip thoroughly the tasks entrusted to it. Parliament has said that there should be a commission to control wireless broadcasting. In my view that body should have an opportunity to do the things expected of it by the public of Australia and by this Parliament. This broadcasting organization is tremendous, extending from one end of the continent to the other. Its functions are many ; one of them is the formulation of programmes of entertainment. There are as many diverse opinions regarding the programmes over the air as there are musical critics, and their number in this country is legion. I receive hundreds of letters in regard to the programmes, but I say for the information of Senator Leckie that the number of complaining letters received within the last three months has been less than at any similar period since I have held my present office. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has to perform its functions in its own way. When, in the opinion of the Postmaster-General’s Department and of myself, it fails to discharge its duties, I shall recommend to Cabinet some change in the control. Until the commission has had a reasonable opportunity to fulfil its mission, however, honorable senators should refrain from criticizing it.

Senator Grant:

– Is not a period of three years long enough?

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– Those three years have brought many vicissitudes, notably changes in the personnel of the commission. The new chairman, Mr. Cleary, has to familiarize himself with all the ramifications of broadcasting, which are numerous. The commission encounters tremendous difficulties, and honorable senators with some knowledge of the musical world will appreciate that musicians in Australia are somewhat critical of each other, and that is putting it very mildly.

Senator Brown:

– Actually, they are as bad as politicians.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– I am afraid they are worse. The musical people whisper their grievances, whereas the politician blares them forth from the public platform. My desire is that a standard shall be set by the Australian Broadcasting Commission which all the B class stations will try to emulate. I do not intend to allow an unsatisfactory position to remain, but the commission should not be submitted to pin pricks regarding details of management. Recently, the chairman visited all States in order to better acquaint himself with their requirements. 1 shall refrain from discussing the internal management of the commission. It is the function of that body to decide who shall be retained or dismissed, and who shall dischargeone duty or another. On matters of minor importance I think it would ill become this Parliament to criticize the commis sion. When that body fails in the administration of major policy, then will be the time for the Postmaster-General to intervene and for Parliament to substitute some other form of control. One honorable senator said that not a firstclass programme had been broadcast during the last few months. Let me remind honorable senators of the Budapest String Quartet, whose magnificent interpretations of the classics distinguish them as being the finest group of musicians introduced to Australia. The quartet elevated the entire musical life of this country. I make this statement on the authority of keen musical critics, for personally I am familiar only with the skirl of the bagpipes. Honorable senators may rest assured that I shall keenly watch the operations of the commission, but I ask that it shall be given an opportunity to function as Parliament intended.

Senator ABBOTT:
New South Wales

– The remarks of Senator Leckie have prompted me to participate in this debate. The primary producers of this country realize, just as well as other sections of the community, the value of the home market to them. Anything that will stimulate that market in a healthy and legitimate manner will have their wholehearted support. But I feel obliged to sound another note, not in warning orprotest, but to define my own attitude. While we accept the platitude contained in

Adam Smith’s Wealth of Nations that the home market is always the best, we realize that that market has its limits, and I remind Senator Leckie, particularly in view of certain circulars which have been distributed among honorable senators during the past few days, that 97 per- cent, of the exportable wealth of Australia is the result of primary production. In other words, only 3 per cent, of the exportable wealth, which pays the country’s debts abroad, is traceable to the manufacturing industries. While primary producers are willing to pull their weight in order to create and stimulate a healthy home market, they strenuously protest against political acts, such as those for which a previous Parliament was responsible, which threaten to stop the outflow of primary products - the life stream of this nation. In order to extend protection against a comparatively small import valued at £50,000 in the interest of companies paying as much as 14 per cent, in dividends, the previous Parliament jeopardized a market for wheat and barley alone worth £2,000,000. Whilst as a representative of the primary producers I shall be ready to work loyally with the party with which the Country party is allied, I shall never support any action which will increase the gain of a few individuals or groups of individuals at the expense of the primary producers and to the prejudice of the nation generally.

My outlook is absolutely international ; the only means of encompassing peace and access to the markets of the world is through international understanding^ Later I propose to move a motion which will give honorable senators an opportunity to expound their views on this subject. Many years ago the late Andrew .”Fisher, whose name stands very high in the affectionate remembrance of the Australian people, informed Australians that it was time for them to think continentally. The time has arrived when not only Australians but the whole world should be told to think internationally.

Minister for External Affairs · Western Australia · UAP

[5.0]. - I ask honorable senators to excuse me if I do not reply to all the points that have been raised in this dis cussion. I feel strongly tempted to follow Senator Collings into the history of old-age pensions. On that subject I could relate a story quite different from his account, but 1 must deny myself that pleasure. Senator Collings has constantly advocated the restoration of pensions to 20s. a week. Let me inform the honorable senator that the purchasing value of the pension to-day is as high as it was when the payment was £1 weekly If honorable senators refer to the budget speech they will see that there are 273,938 old-age and invalid, pensioners on the rolls, representing an increase of 13,313 during the last 12 months The total pensions bill was £11,762,030, which was higher than at any stage since the introduction of the pension system The expenditure on this account during the present financial year is estimated to be £12,770,000. On those figures Senator Collings will have great difficulty in convincing people that pensioners are not being well treated.

Let me refer to another point in Senator Collings’ speech. He stated that not one person depending on work for his livelihood should be permitted to enter Australia so long as a single person in the Commonwealth is unemployed. In the most prosperous times in Australia some people have been out of work. Senator Collings’ statement, if carried to its logical conclusion, means that there will never be any more immigration to Australia. My own experience in this connexion may be worth recounting. As a young man I was among thousands of others who migrated from South Australia to Western Australia. .But there were unemployed in Perth then and according to Senator Collings’ reasoning, the people of Western Australia, at that time numbering only 40,000, should have denied ns the right to settle there until the unemployed had been removed from the labour market.

Senator Collings:

– I never suggested any such thing.

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.But the honorable senator actually said it. However, I must resist the temptation to follow that theme further. Senator Collings endeavoured to lure Commonwealth electors into more experiments with State enterprise. This generation of electors will never forget the Commonwealth Government’s experience with the Cockatoo Island dockyard, which showed a loss of £60,000 a year when conducted as a Commonwealth, enterprise, while the number of men employed there was steadily dwindling. The Government leased the dockyard to much despised, derided and abused private enterprise. The result is that the Government’s losses are at an end; it receives a rental for the dockyard; the employees receive good wages and work under the same conditions as previously; the concern itself pays a dividend; and the number of men employed there to-day is double the number employed under Commonwealth control.

Senator Brand mentioned the need for developing the market in New Zealand for Australian citrus fruits. That is still a subject of negotiation with the Government of the dominion.

Senator Cooper stressed the need for assistance to the air medical services being carried out by the Australian Inland Mission in north-western Queensland. I suggest that Queensland itself has a duty in this regard, and I remember that, not so long ago, the Commonwealth was severely rapped over the knuckles by State governments for interfering in health matters. “We were abruptly told by representatives of State governments - I do not doubt that Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland was among them - that the Commonwealth was too ready to interfere in matters which properly were the functions of State governments, and, in regard to health administration, we were told to “ keep off the grass “. As a result there was a conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers and a line of demarcation was drawn between Commonwealth and State functions. It was agreed that the health of the people was definitely the responsibility of State governments, but that the Commonwealth laboratories should be utilized for research. Therefere, the provision of health facilities for the people in north-western Queensland is definitely the responsibility of the Queensland Government. I understand that the district covered by the air medical services referred to by Senator Cooper is represented by a State Minis ter, so the needs of the Australian Inland Mission, as regards air transport, should be well known to the State Government. The Commonwealth provides the air medical services in the Northern Territory.

Senator Cooper:

– The air medical service, which is based on Cloncurry, attends to calls received from Northern Territory districts as distant as Daly

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.That is so, but whenever the Cloncurry service is availed of for residents in the Northern Territory the Department of the Interior pays for it on a mileage basis. I agree with Senator Cooper about the desirableness of an extension of this valuable service, and I submit that the State Government should do for the people in northwestern Queensland what the Commonwealth is doing in the Northern Territory. However, I shall bring his request under the notice of the Minister for the Interior.

I shall direct the attention of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page) to the remarks made by Senator Payne with regard to the export of apples and pears. Some assistance is provided for in this year’s Estimates, and we can discuss that matter when we are dealing with budget expenditure.

Senator Grant dealt with the operation of the sales tax and also the effect of Customs duties on primary industries. His representations will be brought under the notice of the responsible Ministers. The Minister in Charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) will, I am sure, bring to the notice of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research the suggestion that investigation should be made into the possibility of manufacturing light metals in Australia. The anomalies in the administration of the sales tax, mentioned by Senator Leckie, will be brought under the notice of the Assistant Treasurer.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a first time.

Second Reading

Minister for External Affairs · Western Australia · UAP

[5.8]. - I move -

That the bill be now read a second time.

With two exceptions to which I shall direct the attention of honorable senators, this Supply Bill is based on the budget provision for last year. It makes provision for a period of two months from the 1st October, 1935, and the amount appropriated is £4,531,540. Included in this amount are the following sums for ordinary services: -

The amounts included in this bill are for essential services and, together with the amounts appropriated in the last Supply Act, involve a rate of expenditure which is not greater than that provided for in the previous year’s appropriation or the current year’s Estimates.

In order to meet the additional expenditure in connexion with the increase of salaries consequent on the rise of the cost of living index figure, which operated from the 1st July, 1935, provision has been made in this bill for salaries at a higher rate than that covered by the appropriation of last year. There is also provision for increases of salary due to the restoration of salaries of public servants, particulars of which have already been announced in connexion with the budget proposals. Payment of the increases will not, however, be made until parliamentary sanction has been obtained.

In accordance with the usual practice, provision has been made for “refunds of revenue “ and “ advance to the Treasurer “, the amounts set down being £200,000 and £500,000 respectively. As honorable senators are aware, the latter provision is necessary to meet miscellaneous and unforeseen requirements, and also to permit of the carrying on of uncompleted works in progress at the 30th June, 1935. and other urgent and essential works. The advance is also required to cover payments of grants to the States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania, which, pending parliamentary authority, for which separate bills will be submitted, are being continued at the rate appropriated last year.

Except to the extent that I have already indicated, no provision is made in this Supply Bill for any new expenditure or for any departure from existing policy.

The Estimates for the current year have already been tabled and honorable senators will have full opportunity later to consider in detail all items covered by this Supply Bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time.

In committee:

Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.


Senator BROWN:

– I shall be obliged if the Minister in Charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) will inform me whether any provision has been made for scientific investigation of road-making processes. This is a matter of much interest to Queensland, where distances are great, and road-making is a. costly business. I understand that experiments have been carried out in New South Wales for the surfacing of roads by what is commonly called a baking process, and I should like to know if the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research has given any attention to this matter. Roads through the black soil plains of Queensland are excellent in fine weather, but immediately rain falls they become almost impassable. It has occurred to me that if scientific investigations of the ingredients of that soil were made, it might be possible to discover a process which would enable roadsthat would be passable in all weathers tobe constructed at considerably less cost than at present.

Senator Dein:

– Successful experiments have been carried out in certain parts of New South Wales.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:
Minister in Charge of Development · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT

– The investigation suggested by Senator Brown is somewhat outside the functions of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. A few years ago, the Development Branch conducted experiments in the Northern Territory with the result that what may be described as a baking process was introduced for road construction in certains areas there. I understand that it proved satisfactory. There is no provision in the Estimates this year for an investigation on the lines suggested by the honorable senator, but I shall ascertain definitely what was the result of the previous experiments carried out in the Northern Territory by the Development Branch, and let the honorable gentleman know.

Schedule agreed to.

Preamble and title agreed to.

Bill reported without, requests; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

page 395


Second Reading

Debate resumed (vide page 380).


– Having had an opportunity to study this bill, the second reading of which the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) moved earlier this afternoon, I am obliged to state that I do not appreciate the Minister’s statements concerning its intentions and effect. He said that increased Ministerial duties justified the appointment of an additional Minister, but as the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) is now performing the work of the Treasurer, and, I think, very efficiently, this proposal will not afford any relief. I have no objection to the Government rewarding that gentleman for the ability he has shown by promoting him to portfolio rank, but the volume of work will not be decreased hy altering the status of one Minister. The only effect of the Government’s proposal will be to leave the Prime Minister without a portfolio, because it is not suggested that the right honorable gentleman is to undertake additional work when Mr. Casey is appointed Treasurer. Perhaps it would be unkind to refer to the fact that for months past there has

Deen so little work for Ministers to do that several of them have spent months in travelling to all parts of the globe. Perhaps in time we. shall obtain details concerning these jaunts, their cost, and the value to Australia of the investigations upon which they have been engaged. Although I have always objected to long recesses, I do not suggest that Cabinet does not meet while Parliament is not sitting. Cabinet has met from time to time, and one meeting was even held in Perth. I do not think that it has yet met in Brisbane, but perhaps that is something iu store for the people of Queensland. It is obvious that an additional Minister is being appointed, not because of the pressure of business, but in order to reward Mr. Casey. I am not quarrelling with the Government on that account, because I realize that his services deserve some recognition. During the last election campaign members of the Government made numerous promises to the electors, one of which was that immediate steps would be taken to solve the problem of unemployment. The Government also proposed to appoint a. Minister to deal with employment, and we should all have been pleased had a new department under the direction of a full-time Minister been established for that purpose. Instead of Sir Frederick Stewart joining the Cabinet in that capacity, as was expected, he was given the position of a glorified under-secretary. He is now on the other side of the world carrying out certain investigations in an honorary capacity, which is somewhat unusual. Economy will not be effected by the adoption of the proposal contained in this bill, and I object to such unnecessary expenditure, particularly at a time when money could be expended in other directions. When the Lyons Government first assumed office, the salaries of Ministers remained at the statutory amount, but four Assistant Ministers were paid out of the ministerial pool. To-day five Assistant Ministers are paid from that pool. The bill provides for the retention of four Assistant Ministers; but, as an additional £1,320 is now to be added to the ministerial pool each Minister will, apart from the partial restoration proposed under another measure, receive an additional £100 annually. The extra amount which it is proposed to pay Ministers is not extravagant, because a labourer is, in my opinion, always worthy of his hire. The allowances paid to Ministers and members are not unduly high, but I protest against the Leader of the Senate supporting this bill with ‘reasons which will not bear a close analysis. The Government will still consist of the same number of Ministers, but an Assistant Minister is to be elevated to full ministerial rank. In 1931, when another government was in office, the present Leader of the Senate said that, in the interests of economy, Australia should not have ministerial representation at the disarmament conference. Senator Abbott has a motion on the notice-paper, the object of which is to bring about a better understanding between nations; but apparently the Minister, who objected to Australia being represented at the disarmament conference, does not consider that desirable. It is essential that the people should know that an analysis of the bill discloses that the reasons given by the Government for its introduction are not the real ones. If it we’re desired to relieve Ministers of additional work we should have been asked to appropriate sufficient only to cover the difference between the salary of an Assistant Minister and that of a Minister with a portfolio. It has been introduced to increase the amount available in the ministerial pool, so that a larger emolument may be paid to every Minister. If money is available, it should be expended in restoring pensions to£l a week, and in making a full restoration of public servants’ salaries. I am prepared to accept the measure of restoration of the allowances to public servants and members of Parliament which the Government proposes to make. I oppose the bill.

South Australia

– I cannot agree that Senator Collings possesses the analytical faculty to any great extent or that Ministers who have been overseas recently can fairly be accused of joy-riding at the expense of the taxpayers. One does not require to be a Minister to know something of the difficult nature of their mission, or to experience a sense of relief at not having had to share their task.

Senator Collings:

– They had large staffs to assist thorn.


– In discussing this bill I do not propose to indulge in personalities. That Mr. Casey is the Minister whom it is intended to promote has very little to do with the subject before us. Thepoint is that it is desired that the Assistant Treasurer shall, in future, have the full portfolio of Treasurer, and be paid in accordance with the responsible nature of his duties, and there is no provision in the existing law by which that can be done.

When this bill was introduced into the House of Representatives I endeavoured to ascertain what payments had been made to Ministers in the past. It may be news, even to Senator Collings, that under the Constitution Act provision was made for the payment of £12,000 per annum among seven Ministers. The amount now proposed to be paid to ten Ministers is £13,560 per annum, or £1,560 more than was provided 35 years ago. Obviously, if the slightly increased sum now proposed to be paid is divided between a greater number of Ministers, each will receive less than was paid when this Parliament was established. The amount set aside for the salaries of Ministers was increased to £15,300 per annum in 1917. but in 1931 it was reduced to £11,857 10s. with a further reduction to £10,710 in 1932. The amount was restored up to £12,240 in 1933. The slightly increased amount now proposed for the remuneration of Ministers does not take into consideration the increasedcost of living since 1901, and a number of other factors.

Senator Sampson:

– Are not the Whips paid out of the amount provided for Ministers ?

Senator Foll:

– The Whips are very much underpaid.

Senator DUNCAN:

– HUGHES.- I wish that the Government would declare openly the amount paid to every Minister, Assistant Minister and Honorary Minister as well as to each Whip. I can see no reason whatever why the amount paid to each person who shares in the amount provided for Ministers should be withheld from the general public. Secrecy in such matters gives rise to curiosity and causes unnecessary, and sometimes adverse, comment. There may be reasons, which I cannot imagine, for the present practice; but, in my opinion, the result of disclosing information of this kind would be to emphasize that certain Ministers are very much underpaid.

Let us contrast the treatment of private members of this Parliamentwith that accorded to Ministers. Thefirst Parliament contained 111 members, each of whom was paid £400 per annum, or a total of £44,400. A proposal -which will be brought before the Senate in a few days will seek to appropriate the sum of £94,350 for the payment of members. Is Senator Collings consistent in objecting to an increase of £1,560 in 35 years to Ministers when he himself is sharing in an annual increase of nearly £50,000? Undoubtedly, Ministers have been called upon to perform greatly increased work during recent years. Some of us who believe that the Commonwealth has invaded provinces which it was not intended to occupy may not entirely approve of the reasons for that additional work. Certain fields of taxation which were entered by the Commonwealth in times of emergency have not since been vacated. The Constitution reserved to the States the control of the health of the people, but the Commonwealth has entered into competition with the States in this connexion because of its control of quarantine and the power of its purse. Moreover, activities which were unknown 35 years ago are now under Commonwealth control. So far as I understand the legal position, the Commonwealth has no power to deal with aviation or wireless matters ; but it is operating in those fields.

Another reason why the work of Ministers has become greater is the tendency to indulge in socialistic enterprises. Legislation, in which our party has not been the prime mover, has been passed on the assumption, that governments are better able to control certain industries than are those who have grown up in them.


– All the territories have been added to the Commonwealth since 1901.


– Yes, and they too have added to ministerial responsibilities. Whether or not we like socialistic legislation, such legislation is in existence, and, in addition, numerous ordinances and regulations have to be administered. In considering the salaries of Ministers, we must have regard to their prestige. A cheeseparing policy in connexion with the directors of an important concern is never wise. Many business men are paid a great deal more for their services than this country pays its Prime Minister ; and the money is paid to them, not for a few years, but for many. Having regard to the altered conditions since 1901, and the increased responsibility of Ministers, which makes it desirable that they should go overseas from time to time in order to keep in touch with world affairs, and possibly thereby prevent wars, I am of the opinion that the proposed increase of payments to Ministers is more than justified. It should be remembered that whereas the allowances of private, members will still be subject to a reduction of 15 per cent., Ministers are in a worse position, the reduction in their case being 17£ per cent. I shall support the bill.

Senator HARDY:
New South Wales

– I support the remarks of Senator Duncan-Hughes, particularly the suggestion that instead of the present method of pooling the allowances of Ministers of State, the Government should consider the desirability of making available to the general public information concerning the actual salaries paid to full Ministers, honorary Ministers, and ministerial whips. If that were done, the people would be able to assess the various executive positions at their true worth. Like Senator Duncan-Hughes, I have taken out certain facts; though many of my facts are parallel with his, the honorable senator has not attempted to compare the salaries paid to executives in Australia with those paid in a country of comparable resources. I find that in Canada the Prime Minister, under a statute of 1923, receives a total remuneration of 15,000 dollars a year. That dominion, whose problems are very similar to our own, has found it necessary to have a cabinet of not merely ten Ministers, but eighteen full executives and three assistants. Not only the total remuneration, of the Canadian Cabinet, but also the specific amount paid to each Minister is disclosed. According to the 1934 figures the total amount provided in Canada was not £15,000 or £13,000, but £42,000. But immediately it is proposed to recognize our executives by a slightly increased remuneration the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) attempts to decry their worth. I say frankly that the Prime Minister of this country, whatever his political creed, is shamefully underpaid. When we consider what Ministei’3 holding a portfolio have to give up in commercial life, and the tremendous strain imposed on them by their official duties, we must recognize that they, too, are inadequately paid. Compare their positions with that of a well-known general manager of a certain bank. Is he paid £1,500 or £1,600 a year, with the prospect of being booted out of office at the end of three years? No, that institution recognizes his worth by paying him £5,000 or £6,000 a year. Contrast the position of a Cabinet Minister with that of the man in charge of the Ford interests in Australia. Does that man receive £1,500 or £1,800 a year? No, he is paid £5,000 a year. The executives of big organizations and commercial concerns in Australia receive three or four times the amount paid to Ministers of the Commonwealth. When Ministers accept office they have to put aside all prospect of reward from commerciallife and accept all the insecurity associated with politics. Instead of voting merely £13,000 for ministerial allowances, we should double the amount. I cordially support the bill.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.

Bill read a third time.

Sitting suspended from 5.57 to8 p.m.

page 398


Debate resumed from the 26th September (vide page 223), on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce -

That the papers be printed.


– I propose to offer brief criticisms of several aspects of the budget. The speech of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), in my opinion, lacked warmth, and when honorable senators study the budget I believe that they will share my belief in his restraint. There are many good features about the budget, but, to say the least of it, I view it in its entirety with feelings akin to those that some honorable senators would experience should they hear a rendering on the favorite musical instrument of the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) - -thebagpipes. This budget will go down in the annals of the Commonwealth as the “ Ca’canny budget “, because it contains a wide strain of conservatism in respect of what are termed the total taxation adjustments andthe details of the estimated revenue. During the last six years the Commonwealth and State Governments have passed through an anxious time, and that they should continue to exhibit a depression complex is not a matter for wonder. My opinion is that the worst of the depression is over. Sometimes after we have gone through a disagreeable experience a good hard push will completely rid us ofthe last of its effects. If the Government, in bringing down this budget, had given a slightly sterner push it might have dispelled the depression complex altogether. Special points to which I shall allude are the comparative statistics of revenue during the past few years, and the estimated returns for the current financial year. So much is lacking in the Estimates that my term, the “ Ca’canny budget “, is justified.

In the opulent State of New South Wales, the Government Statistician, Mr. Waites, has compiled returns which are indicative of the progress that Australia is making towards recovery. The statistics show that Australia is definitely on the up-grade financially. Employment has increased, factory output is higher, the registration of motor vehicles is rapidly approaching the peak level of 1930, the Stock Exchange is buoyant, and railways and tramways are improving their earnings - that is the inspiring record of the return to better times in New South Wales. This cheerful document gives a panorama of the economic life of the State, revealing in practically every activity progressive improvement during the last twelve months. The improvement epitomized represents an increase of work by 21.2 per cent. Mr. Waites states -

In the middle of August, 1935, the number of employees was 312,476 ascompared with 287,271 for the corresponding period of the previous year, and 257,672 in July, 1933.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– Do those figures relate to Australia or to New South Wales only?

Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.These statistics refer to New South Wales, but they illustrate the general trend throughout Australia. The Statistician proceeds -

The number of motor vehicles registered now is approaching the maximum level reached in March, 1930. At August, 1931, there were 160,000 cars and 50,073 lorries and vans The weekly average number of new cars registered was 336 in August, 1935, compared with 201 and 111 on the same dates in 1934 and 1033 respectively.

The building trade, always a reliable barometer, reveals similar progress. The value of city and suburban building permits granted in August last was £78S,943, as against £596,583 in August, 1934. The average monthly value for the first eight months of the current year was £793,000, as compared with £439,000 and £242,000 in the corresponding periods of 1934 and 1933 respectively.

Mr. “Waites proceeds then to deal with bank clearings, which are 84 per cent, of the pre-depression average. “Wholesale trade has increased, and the retail sales were 11.1 per cent, higher than in July of last year. The railway figures in every department disclose an improvement on last year, and the same optimistic tale can be told of gas and electricity concerns and stock exchange business generally. Another extract from Mr. “Waites’ report reads -

The tremendous increase in building activities can be gauged from the following comparison: - 1932 - Total figures for the State, £2,657,359; 1933, £4,362,114; 1935, £8,306,870.

The vice-president of the Master Builders Association, Mr. James “Wall, when commenting on the Government Statistician’s report, mentioned that the brickyards are back to the output of the old days. This is one of the most reliable indications of improved economic conditions. The brickyards have almost reached their maximum output, and few plasterers and bricklayers are out of work. Mr. “Wall added -

Perhaps the reserve of skilled men was never «s low as at present owing to the restriction in the appointment of apprentices during the depression years.

Turning to the exports, I find again another large increase in the business of New South Wales. It is estimated that in the first quarter of 1935-36 ships will have brought imports to New South Wales of a value of £9,131,000 and loaded exports worth £7,245,630. These figures are respectively £700,000 and £1,200,000 above those for the corresponding period of last year which was regarded as being phenomenal. The value of hides and skins sent abroad has in creased considerably. That is conclusive proof of the better conditions obtaining in New South Wales.

In contrast to this cheerful testimony, the budget strikes a dismal note, which is unwarranted in view of the facts previously mentioned. The only department displaying any optimism at all is that of the Postmaster-General’s, which estimates an increase of revenue. The other departments apparently labour under the impression that Australia is going backwards instead of forward. The Premier of Western Australia (Mr. P. Collier) characterized the budget which he introduced several weeks ago as an effort which might be termed restrained optimism. He predicted that Western Australia would continue to make progress, and in his confidence, abolished as from the 1st January, 1936, the reductions made in civil service salaries under the financial emergency legislation. In contrast to this restrained optimism in Western Australia, the Commonwealth Government is restoring a trifling 2-J- per cent, of the amounts by which the salaries of the Federal Public Service had been reduced. This restoration is a mere bagatelle, and reveals, not restrained optimism, but rather suppressed optimism. I shall allude to several items in the budget-papers to illustrate my argument. The tables relating to customs taxation, shows that the revenue estimated from vehicles for 1935-36 is £1,250,000 as against £1,335,657 received last year, and £657,000 in 1933-34, which was admittedly a bad year indeed. How these figures are compiled, I do not know, but they do not reflect optimism regarding the importation of motor vehicles during the next twelve months. In respect of ales, spirits and beverages, the estimated increase of revenue is a paltry £11,000. The receipts last year were £1,0S9,000, and the estimate for the current year is £1,100,000. In my opinion the firm market for our wool overseas, the hardening in wheat prices, and the more or less satisfactory values for other exportable products do not justify this pessimism - rather the opposite. The estimate of revenue from tobacco and manufactures thereof actually shows a reduction as compared with the receipts last year; possibly the remission of tobacco duties accounts for this. Nevertheless, having regard to the fact that the depression is being left behind, the estimate is undoubtedly conservative. That criticism applies also to the estimates in respect of drugs and chemicals. The customs revenue from hides, leather and rubber, presumably the bulk of this item represents rubber, as the importation of hides and raw leather must be limited, is expected to show a falling off of £10,000. The Estimates as a whole do not constitute an enthusiastic budget.

The Government proposes to reduce by a further 1 per cent, the special tax on income from property, That tax should be abolished entirely. The proposed further sales tax exemptions, amounting to £150,000, might very well be increased, thus relieving taxpayers of an onerous burden which they have been carrying since the depression.

I was very pleased to learn that the Commonwealth grant to Western Australia this year had been increased by £200,000. When submitting his budget for the current year, the State Premier based his figures on the receipt, from the Commonwealth, of £600,000, the amount received last year, and budgeted for a deficit of £255,000, so the additional sum will be most welcome and should enable him to almost balance his accounts. The Premier is, indeed, fortunate, and lias, I think, well earned the sobriquet of “Phillip the Fortunate,” which was bestowed upon him in the State Parliament on another occasion when he made an announcement that gave general satisfaction. I compliment the Government upon its treatment of the State which I assist to represent in this chamber, and I hope that it will be possible, next year, still further to increase the grant.

During the parliamentary recess I visited the north-west of Western Australia, making the journey by steamer owing to the lack of rail communication and the unsatisfactory means of land transport, and travelled as far north as the latitude of Cairns, in Queensland. In my interviews with local residents, I learned that there was much dissatisfaction with the present air mail services. I, therefore, hope that the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J’. McLach-

Ian) will give careful attention to the requests which have come before him in connexion with this matter. The excellent shipping and rail facilities on the Queensland coast have aided the development of the fertile lands of the northern littoral, but the same progress cannot very well be expected in the north-west of Western Australia, because the climatic and other conditions are not comparable. The people there depend very largely upon the efficiency of the air transport and mail services, and I had ample evidence of the necessity for a definite improvement in this respect, especially since the inauguration of the flying doctor service in the north-western portion of that State. The air mail services might very well be duplicated as far north as Broome. At present the mail from the north-west arrives in Perth on Saturday at midday and the returning plane leaves Perth early on Sunday morning, so that merchants and others who may be commissioned to supply various commodities are unable to execute their orders until the. following week. The postal facilities in the north-west are also far from satisfactory on account of the trying climatic conditions under which the people there are living.

During the recess I also paid my first visit to Queensland, and was greatly impressed by the fertility of the soil and the stage of development that had been reached in the northern part of that State due largely to bountiful rains, good rivers and sea ports. The north-west of Western Australia suffers by comparison because, unfortunately, it possesses about, half a dozen streams which flow for only a few weeks every year. When asked by the people of North Queensland what I thought of their country, I had no hesitation in telling them that I thought they were extremely fortunate, and added that all Queenslanders should look with a kindly eye upon fellow Australians who were struggling to make a living under trying conditions in the semitropical climate of North- Western Australia.

Senator Brown yesterday quoted with obvious pride the employment position in Queensland, and spoke in laudatory terms of the State Labour Government. I agree with the honorable senator that Queensland is in a fortunate position, but I must add that during my visit to that State I discovered that Government supporters lost no opportunity to tell every visitor of the outstanding virtues of their Government. I would, therefore, suggest that Senator Brown and his Queensland colleagues should not, in their references to the position in the northern State, give undue credit to successive Labour governments which have reigned there. A benign Providence has done much for Queensland. My observations convinced me that the State has developed so satisfactorily, not because it has for so many years been controlled by Labour, but in spite of that fact. I suggest also that Queensland owes no inconsiderable part of its success as a primary-producing State to the patience of taxpayers in other States. From my own State, for instance, we are being inundated with requests from responsible, municipal and other local governing bodies to do all in our power to abolish the sugar agreement. Thus it might be as well if our Queensland friends in this chamber took heed of what is being said in other States concerning Queensland’s major industry.

I hope that the Postmaster-General will give earnest consideration to my representations with reference to the postal facilities in the north-western portion of my State, and do what is possible to improve the air mail service.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:
Postmaster-General · SOUTH AUSTRALIA · NAT

– I am pleased to know that one of the many clansmen who were recently returned to Parliament, this evening became vocal.

I promised the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) this afternoon that I would not ignore his representations relating to the production of oil in Australia. Honorable senators will, I believe, acknowledge that the Government has shown its sincerity in this matter, because for some considerable time it has been engaged in an examination of a number of proposals that have been placed before it. It is generally agreed that, in order to ensure the security of this country in times of emergency, no effort should be spared to make

Australia independent of foreign supplies of oil. I do not propose to debate at length the statement by Senator Collings that the Government’s desire is to encourage private enterprise to engage in the business of oil production, but I remind him that when the Scullin Government set aside a certain sum of money for the development of oil from shale in New South Wales, it limited the amount to be expended and stipulated that when the preliminary examinations had proved the feasibility of the scheme, it should be handed over to private enterprise.

There are three sources of possible supply of oil in Australia. I do not desire to deal with the history of flow oil investigations. It will be sufficient to say that we have spent a considerable amount of money in conjunction with State governments on a pound for pound basis in assisting various enterprises to examine likely prospects in various parts of Australia. We have also enlisted the support of Sir John Cadman, chairman of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company, which is a partner of the Commonwealth in Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited. Sir John Cadman realizes the need for Australia to be independent of foreign supplies, and some time ago placed at our disposal the services of two distinguished geologists, one of whom is still making an examination of prospects in this country. As to the possibility of securing flow oil, encouraging results have been obtained at Lakes Entrance in Victoria. We realize the transcendent importance to Australia of the production of oil to meet the nation’s need in time of emergency, and we have done everything that could be expected of any government to make Australia independent of foreign supplies. In the House of Representatives this afternoon, the Prime Minister stated that the Government had decided to provide a further incentive to oil production by exempting petrol derived from Australian coal or shale from excise duty for a period of five years.

Yesterday Senator Foll addressed a question to me relating to some recent experiments in the production of synthetic petrol as reported in the newspapers of yesterday’s date, and I informed him that the information in the hands of the Government indicated that there was nothing in this process. However, I have given the honorable gentleman an undertaking that the Commonwealth Fuel Adviser will be asked for a report upon the subject.

Two practical schemes for the production of oil in Australia have been engaging the attention of the Government. One is known as the Newnes shale oil project, which was initiated by the Scullin Government a few years ago. Any honorable senator who thinks that the Government can solve such a complex problem as the extraction of oil from coal or shale by merely forming a company, and without the assistance of experts, is mistaken. During 1933 a most exhaustive examination was conducted by the most highly skilled officers of the Commonwealth Government and of the Government of New South Wales, and their report was closely examined by Mr. Vincent, acting for the New South Wales Government, and by myself, as the representative of the Commonwealth Government. After conferring with the Premier of New South Wales, we came to the conclusion that there were certain factors, particularly in connexion with the cracking, which needed further investigation, and which are too technical for me to attempt to explain at this juncture. Having grappled with the problem for some years, I understand some of its complexities; but I should not like to be asked to explain them. The Government, however. decided to send on a second visit to the United States of America, Mr. Rogers, the Commonwealth fuel expert, an Australian who had been abroad, and who had been assisted by the science endowment fund. The Government expects to receive his report shortly. Any practical person visiting the Newnes Valley, and seeing the huge deposits of shale, which yields 100 gallons of oil to the ton, would naturally say that something should be done. I have spent several strenuous years on this problem, and after conferring with Sir John Cadman, I suggested that he should, visit the Newnes and other shale deposits which I mentioned. Having made an inspection, he said that the problem was far too complex for him to solve. He offered, however, to send to Australia at the expense of his company two gentlemen skilled in the mining, handling and cracking of Scottish shales. These gentlemen, Messrs. Crichton and Conacher, spent a considerable time, not only in the Newnes Valley, but also in the Latrobe field in Tasmania, and on other fields in New South Wales. The Government was anxious to ascertain the yields from the Newnes deposits and those in the Capertee Valley adjoining. Having regard to certain variations in the figures supplied, I forwarded the report of Mr. Crichton and Mr. Conacher to the Newnes Committee for its comments. I understand that honorable senators have seen the report of the Newnes Committee, and I feel that the estimated costs for social services at the Newnes field, which total £107,000, are excessive. I do not think that the miners expect the standard of comfort which the Newnes Committee contemplated and which Mr. Crichton and Mr. Conacher accepted in their calculations. The suggestion was to establish a corporation with a capital of £600,000, and a recommendation of the Newnes Committee was that the Federal Government should, on the production of petrol, waive excise amounting to £115,000 per annum, and also contribute £150,000 with the Government of New South Wales, which was to provide half of the capital, in order to safeguard the interests of the taxpayers. The report of Messrs. Crichton and Conacher is now in the hands of the Newnes Committee, and at an early date it is proposed again to take up the matter with the New South Wales Government. Honorable senators opposite who may be under the impression that the Government is not doing anything should remember that we have been making sure of our ground before proceeding further, because, if we fail on this occasion, production of oil from Newnes shale will be doomed for half a century.

There is a third process to which I desire to make a brief reference. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) thinks that there is some magic in the words “low temperature carbon- ization “. But I may explain that under that process one ton of coal would produce only five gallons of oil. The yields from Greta coal - and these are better than are obtained in England - would be: - Coke 14 cwt., tar 32 gallons, gas 35 thermes, and petrol 5 gallons a ton. It will therefore be seen that fairly large quantities of coke, tar and gaswould be produced for which there is only a limited market. When the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was speaking on the subject I asked, by interjection, the purpose for which tar could be used and he said for road construction.

Senator Collings:

– I said that it was used in road making.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– The honorable senator proceeded to say that a tremendous quantity of the tar which the gas companies produced is used for that purpose, but I understand that such companies are finding it exceedingly difficult to dispose of the unadulterated tar which they produce as it is quite unsuitable for binding roads. Does the honorable senator know that the tar disposed of by gas companies is not produced by the low temperature carbonization but by the high temperature carbonization process? While tar is used to a limited extent for road making, that recovered under the low temperature carbonization process could not be used for the purpose he suggested. Mr. Rogers states that -

The tar to which Senator Collings refers is produced by the high temperature carbonization process. The spirit derived from this process is known as benzol the yield being about three gallons to the ton as compared with five gallons of petrol by the low temperature carbonization process. Tar produced in this way from Australian coal is not, however, very suitable for road making. It lacks binding qualities and has to be mixed in the proportions of about 50-50 with imported bitumen. In fact the gas companies of Victoria have great difficulty in disposing of their product.

I have examined the reports of Sir DavidRivett after his visit to Germany. The representative of the Commonwealth Government who visited Mittagong, as Senator Collings mentioned, was a layman who was naturally attracted by the process of short circuiting the cracking of petrol. Mr. Rogers, who has conducted a further examination, has submitted a report to the Government to the effect that further de velopment will have to be undertaken before he can express a definite opinion on the process, and a copy of the report has been despatched to the interested parties. Investigations are also being made by Dr. Kurth, of the Tasmanian University, whose knowledge of the subject is second only to that of Mr. Rogers. After these two authorities had conferred for a few hours they informed me thatFrench scientists had experimented with the same process 70 years ago. We must walk warily in these matters. As I understand theposition, there is no market for the products of low temperature carbonization of coal.

Senator Collings:

– I did not confine myself to that process.

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– The other process mentioned appears to be uneconomic. As in these matters we must be guided by our expert officers, I shall read from a report on the hydrogenation process furnished to me by Mr. Rogers -

Hydrogenation as applied to coal is a process in which the raw material is induced to combine with gaseous hydrogen under conditions of high temperature and pressure.In successive stages the coal is progressively converted into a heavy oil, lighter oils, and finally petrol. In the first stage, powdered coal is admixed with heavy oil to form a paste which can be pumped. In contact with hydrogen at a temperature of 430 degrees Centigrade and a pressure of 250 atmospheres, the coal is reduced to a heavy liquid, part of which is returned to the paste mixers. The remainder passes forward to the second stage converters, in which it is reduced under similar conditions to a light oil. The third and last section of the plant treats the light oil in the vapour phase, converting it completely into motospirit.

Of the original coal substance, some 00 per cent, is ultimately recovered as petrol, 10 per cent, reappears as water and ammonia, and 20 per cent, approximately is converted into gas, which may be used as the source of the hydrogen required for the process. In addition to the coal actually hydrogenated, considerable quantities are consumed in raising steam, generating power, and heating furnaces for the operation of the plant. The yield of finished petrol is rather less than 25 per cent, by weight of the coal used for all purposes, or approximately 80 gallons per ton. Each ton of coal treated produces about 200 gallons of petrol, but about another ton and a half of coal per ton of coal treated is used for power and heat requirements, &c, so that 21/2 tons are required for the purposes of treatment to yield about 200 gallons.

The type of coal preferred for conversion into motor spirit by this method is that commonly used for gas making. Such coals give the highest yield of petrol with the minimum consumption of hydrogen. Coal’ from the Greta seam in New South Wales is admirably suited to the purpose. Brown coals also can be hydrogenated, but it is still uncertain whether the low cost of this raw material is sufficient to compensate for the inferior yields and increased operating expenses.

The plant erected by Imperial Chemical Industries at Billingham-on-Tees has a capacity of 45,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum, which will be produced mainly from Durham coal, but partly from creosote and tar.

While Mr. Rogers was in England conferring with the Scottish shale oil experts, lie had an opportunity to examine the works at Billingham-on-Tees in the early stages of their construction ; but so rapid was the advance made by science that before the building was completed radical changes had to be made in it. The report continues -

Foi- several years now, Germany has been producing about 30 million gallons of motor spirit annually by the hydrogenation of brown coal tars and petroleum residues. More recently, brown coal itself has been used as the raw material for the process, and it is now understood that the output of the plant is to be increased fourfold in the near future.

Hydrogenated spirit prepared from coal and tar requires practically no refining, and is of excellent quality. The process is sufficiently flexible to permit the production of petrol to any reasonable specification. The equipment and machinery employed are of a special nature and highly expensive. In order that overhead costs may be kept within bounds, a large output is essential. It is considered in England that the capacity of the smallest possible economic plant is 45,000,000 gallons of petrol per annum, consuming about 000,000 tons of coal for all purposes.

The cost of constructing the plant in Aus tralia would be about from £8,000.000 to £10,000,000 (Aust.), and on present indications it is thought that the cost of production of petrol would be about ls. Id. per gallon. Imperial Chemical Industries is hoping to produce at Billingham-on-Tees at about 7d. per gallon. The difference between this figure and that quoted in regard to Australia is made up by increased capital and working costs.

On the basis of the Newnes Committee’s report, the production of petrol from shale would give direct employment to only about 421 men, whereas under the hydrogenation process it is estimated that direct employment would be provided for 3,500 workers, in addition to about 1,000 coal-miners. Those in charge of the ex- periments at Billingham-onTees will not be in a position to give a considered report for some time. Imperial Chemical Industries has placed at the disposal of the Commonwealth Government all the information in its possession, and, in addition, has allowed our technicians to examine its plant. It is also watching developments in Australia in order to learn what may be possible here in the future. One of the directors of the company is now in Australia, and I hope to confer with him shortly. I suggest that Australia would be wise to await the result of the experiments being conducted elsewhere, and I warn honorable senators not to accept too readily the information contained in cabled advices from other countries. Statements that large quantities of petrol or crude oil obtained by the new process have been supplied to the British Navy and other users have been published from time to time, whereas these products have in fact been obtained from tar. The results of the experiments which have been conducted do not justify the heavy expense of setting up in Australia plant to extract oil from coal. Only persons skilled in the production of oil by various methods can hope to handle propositions of this kind successfully.

Senator Arkins:

– Is it not a fact that the Imperial Chemical Industries has begun the erection of a second plant in Great Britain?

Senator A J McLACHLAN:

– No* ; but the plant at Billingham-on-Tees has been altered on more than one occasion in an effort to keep pace with the advance of science. Although Australia would not be justified in incurring heavy expenditure in installing expensive plant at this juncture, it appears to me that in this or some similar process lies the hope of the Australian coal-raining industry. I assure honorable senators that developments are being carefully watched by the Government, and those engaged in experimental work in Australia have been encouraged by the promise of relief from excise duty if they produce petrol on a commercial basis from coal. More than that I cannot say now. What the future holds for Newnes or for those interested in the hydrogenation process it is impossible to say at this stage.


– I compliment the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) not only on the information contained in the budget, but also on the able and lucid manner in which he presented the Government’s financial proposals for the current financial year. Lite other budgets, the one before us is merely an estimate, and the figures are subject to adjustment because of varying seasonal conditions, and the fluctuations of the flow of trade within Australia and with other countries. The budget is welcome in that it indicates a return to prosperity; nevertheless, it has not received the unanimous endorsement of all political parties. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) has designated it “ a rich man’s budget “, and has inferred that the supporters of the Government should be well satisfied with it. The chief criticism of the budget by persons outside Parliament is that it does not provide the relief from taxation that was expected. The task of estimating a nation’s revenue and expenditure is not easy, especially at the present time, when conditions throughout the world are so unsettled. During the Great War, practically every European nation contracted financial obligations which have not yet been discharged, and consequently it has been faced with the difficult task of meeting its obligations and of keeping its own people employed. Nations have tried to become as self-supporting as possible. The result is that a primary-producing country like Australia, finds that many of the markets which at one time were open to it are now either closed or greatly restricted.

In order to secure the necessary finance to carry on its activities, a Government must either borrow money or impose taxation. So long as the people of a country demand from its Government social services and public works, so long will taxation be imposed. In order to remain solvent a country must limit its expenditure to its receipts. Therefore, in the imposition of taxation the Government is very much guided by the demands of the people. In considering the budget, honorable senators naturally deal with those items with which they are most conversant, or which particularly affect the

State which they represent.. The first item in this budget that looms very large to any representative of South Australia is that relating to the Port Augusta to Red Hill railway. This proposal is the outcome of an agreement made in 1925 between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of South Australia. Whether there is reason to doubt the legality of the agreement I do not know. The Commonwealth Government is quite satisfied that it has a right to construct the railway, but, on the other hand, the Government of South Australia is equally confident that it has a case to place before the High Court to prevent the Commonwealth from going on with that work. I offer no opinion as to the legality of the agreement, but I point out that the conditions which operated in 1925 are somewhat different from those of the present day. It is unnecessary for me to remind honorable senators that in 1925 when the agreement was signed money was just about as plentiful as it is scarce to-day. About that time we had in South Australia a premier who said “What is a million pounds “ ? That was indicative of the spirit of the people everywhere. At that period we had gained some experience of railway matters, for South Australia had just expended £11,000,000 to rehabilitate its railway system. But apart from the fact that money was then plentiful, I think honorable senators will agree that methods and means of transportation have changed a good deal since 1925. To-day we have air transport and motor transport to an extent that was unthinkable in 1925. The figures I am about to quote will, I think, give some indication of what I mean. They show that the East- West railway does not warrant any new expenditure upon it at the present time; in fact, expenditure on maintenance work is all that can be expected. In 1929, the number of passengers on that line was 31,109; in 1930, traffic dropped to 26,650 ; in 1933, it went down to 13,905; and in 1934, to 13,820. That gives a very clear indication that methods of transportation are altering; probably on account of the depression people were not travelling to such an extent as formerly, but those who did travel used a different mode of transport to and from Western Australia. During the last six months, the proposed railway between Port Augusta and Bed Hill has been a highly controversial subject, and we have heard different arguments put forward as to why the line should be built. Of course, when the agreement came before the South Australian Parliament in 1925 there was only one cry - “ Standardization of all railways “ ; we were to have only one gauge, and the conversion to 4-f I. 8½-ins. was to be effected at a cost of £21,000,000. If the standardization of the line between Brisbane and Perth were contemplated the sensible thing would be to start at one end and carry the work right through to the other end, and not to start in the middle. The need for speeding up transport has also been mentioned. It has been said that if the Bed Hill line were completed and some work were carried out on the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, approximately nineteen and a half hours would be saved on. the journey between Adelaide and Perth, five and a half hours being saved on the proposed new section between Adelaide and Port Augusta and the balance on the East- West line. Relief of unemployment is another reason advanced in support of this proposal. If the purposes be employment of the workless and quicker transportation, would not the Commonwealth Government be better advised to carry out the necessary work on that section of the line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie in order to save twelve hours in travelling time, instead of proposing to spend this money to save five and a half hours over another section of the line? Plenty of work remains to be done between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and if undertaken it would employ more men for probably a longer period than would the conversion of the Red Hill section. The Commonwealth Commissioner for Railways in 1934 said that he intended to lift 3,000 or 4,000 sleepers which constituted a menace to passenger traffic. Since then only about half of those sleepers has been lifted, and now we are told that that is all the work that can be done for the time being. There are about 2,500,000 sleepers on that line, the majority of which have been laid for nearly twenty years, and it can be readily understood that the bulk of them are ready for lifting. A great portion of this line is still unballasted. If it is a matter of speeding up transport and of providing employment, obviously the better course would be to give attention to that portion of the line for the time being.

Another point is that South Australia does not require this railway; its construction would be of no advantage to that State at the present juncture. Within a distance of 45 miles due east from Port Wakefield, which is situated about 60 miles north-west .of Adelaide, five lines of railway are crossed, four of which run practically parallel with each other. It is one of these lines which the Commonwealth Government proposes to extend. No advantage could accrue to the State from the continuation of any of these lines, because at the present time they are well serving the whole of the surrounding districts.

Reasons of defence have also been urged in support of the construction of this line. I do not claim to know very much about defence, but the military value of any railway construction policy must always be taken into account. I maintain, without fear of contradiction, that if Australia requires a line for defence purposes it is not one running along the coast-line and therefore open to attack from the sea, but rather one commencing at Sydney and running right through the centre of the continent to Perth. South Australia has too many lines of railways, and it does not want this additional one. Some time ago that State expended £11,000,000 on the rehabilitation of its railways, and the interest on that cost is helping to keep the community poor. The construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway will rob the existing lines in South Australia of revenue amounting to about £60,000 a year. If the Commonwealth persists in building this line, it should be prepared to compensate South Australia for the resultant loss incurred on State railways. A further opportunity will be given to discuss this subject when the budget is under discussion, and when other honorable senators have expressed their opinions I may have more to say on the subject.

Another matter to which I wish to draw attention is the provision in the budget of £100,000 for “ground organization preliminary to development of air mail services.” At this juncture I am not going to commit myself to the establishment of air mail services between the capital cities; but I say that this is a matter of sufficient importance to be placed before this Senate in order that it may be fully debated, and honorable senators given an opportunity to express their views thereon. Such a proposal should not be introduced merely as an item in the budget. If we accept this method, we shall be practically giving to this or any other government the right to establish air mail services between the capital cities at any cost. Part of this expenditure is to be for defence, and to that I do not object. I am of opinion that we cannot do too much in the way of improving our air force. In future wars, whether here or abroad, the air force will probably prove a determining factor.

I desire now to deal with the Commonwealth grants to be made to the various States. This year the Government proposes to hand to South Australia an amount of £1,500,000. I do not complain of that ; in fact, I think the Government is to be commended for having adopted the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission. It is regrettable that Parliament does not see fit to adopt more of the reports of commissions which it appoints. Only one thing justifies the appointment of a commission for any purpose, and that is the intention to accept and act upon its report. On this occasion the Government has adopted the report of the Commonwealth Grants Commission, and South Australia appreciates the further measure of justice that it is to receive. South Australians do not for a moment thank the Commonwealth for giving them this money; they believe that it belongs to them. All the money handed to South Australia by the Commonwealth is money to which the State is entitled, and would have received had the federal compact been complied with as it was prior to 1910. But we would like to see these grants fixed for several years ahead. If that were done State Treasurers would know how to budget for the future.

A matter which was brought up this afternoon by Senator Cooper is well worthy of the consideration of the Government. Through the efforts of the Australian Inland Mission, Birdsville has been connected with Cloncurry, where the flying doctor has his head-quarters. This gives to the people of Birdsvilledirect communication by telegraph or telephone with every centre of the Commonwealth. The Inland Mission is a private organization, but its operations are not limited to one State. From Queensland its activities extend to South Australia. Birdsville is only a short distance over the Queensland border from South Australia. The Inland Mission not only attends to tl] e spiritual needs of the people but is also mindful of their physical disabilities. The enterprise has established a line of hospitals to serve practically the whole of the back country. There are hospitals at Maree, Beltana and Innaminca, to name only three. Four or five years ago I visited them and to see them is to realize what a wonderful work they are performing in the back country. Every possible encouragement should be given to the mission. The establishment of the hospitals and the aerial medical service has given security to human life, and men are now prepared to take their wives and families out to the back-blocks knowing that if the worst comes to the worst they will not be entirely isolated from medical assistance. Instead of giving the Inland Mission only £300 a year the Government should increase the grant to £1,000. No one would begrudge such a practical recognition and appreciation of this effort to develop the vast interior of Australia.

According to Senator Collings, the budget makes no provision for the unemployed. I admit that there is not so much in it as he would have liked to see, and if the country’s finances could bear it I would prefer that greater provision be made for the unfortunate people out of -work. Honorable senators supporting the Government are quite as sincerely concerned for the unemployed as are the members of the Opposition. In my opinion the budget is refreshing even on the subject of unemployment. Since 1932 the unemployment total has been reduced by 14 per cent, which is no mean achievement. As we have accomplished this record in three difficult years, we should be able to make even better progress in the ensuing years. The great majority of the people who are being re-employed are returning through the channels of approved trade and industry, which is the right and proper avenue. Everybody detests even the word “ dole “. The dole is a drain on revenue and is humiliating to the recipients. But I would prefer that the dole be continued rather than that the Government should borrow large sums of money to be expended on non-reproductive works that will keep the country poor indefinitely. With sane Government and practical legislation, we shall undoubtedly experience improved conditions in the near future.

Debate (on motion by Senator DuncanHughes) adjourned.

page 408


Assistance to Wheat-Growers

Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -

That the Senate do now adjourn.

Western Australia

– I desire to remind the Leader of the Senate of a deputation which waited upon the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) during the recent visit of the Federal Cabinet to Perth. The deputation, which represented the northeastern wheat districts, included delegates from all the local governing bodies. The deputation had asked permission towait on the Federal Ministry as a whole, in order to bring under the notice of Ministers the alarming crop prospects in that area and to request that a substantial measure of relief be granted. The districts represented are important centres in the Western Australian wheat belt and include Dowerin, Wyalkatchem, Trayning, Koorda, Mount Marshall, Nungarin, and Mukinbudin. Through these districts runs a railway line, constructed under the provisions of the Migration Agreement. The line starts at Amery, so called after the then Secretary of State for the Colonies, and proceeds north and east. Formerly it terminated at Kulja, but was later extended to Bonnie Rock. Under the terms of the Migration Agreement, the Imperial Government bears one-third of the interest on the cost of the work for a number of years, while the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments bear the remainder of the interest. The spectre of drought has stalked through that portion of the wheat belt as a result of the lateness of the season, Subsequent to the deputation waiting on Mr. Casey, I travelled through the district, and the crops over considerable areas showed tardy growth, being at least two months later than usual. In the middle of August many of the crops stood an inch high, which ordinarily is the average growth in June. This deputation requested Commonwealth assistance, including fodder, sustenance, seed wheat, and drought relief in the event of their worst fears being realized. The members of the deputation considered that they had good grounds for seeking this assistance, because of the Commonwealth being a party to the Migration Agreement, and also because of the election promises of the Government for comprehensive rural rehabilitation. Mr. Casey received the deputation withhis customary courtesy and thoroughness, and promised to place the detailed representations before Cabinet. For weeks settlers received no response and only when we sent a telegram to the Government was an answer received. I am sorry to say that it was unfavorable. The Federal Government offered no additional assistance. The Government showed no practical appreciation of the farmers’ position and no desire to accept any of the responsibility. This afternoon I received the following telegrams on the subject: From the Nungarin Roads Board -

A large proportion of the crops in district will not be stripped. We urge you to stress to the Federal Government the necessity for the provision of a substantial grant for the drought-stricken north-eastern wheat belt to relieve the distress there.

From the Mount Marshall Roads Board -

We urge you to stress the Federal Government the necessity for substantial grant to the drought-stricken north-eastern wheat belt to relieve the distress there. We estimate that 90 per cent, of the crops will not be stripped.

I may add that those roads boards cover very large areas.

Senator Sir George Pearce:

– Is this assistance required in respect of last year’s harvest or the coming harvest?


– The assistance is required immediately and is in respect of the coming harvest which, unfortunately will range from very poor crops to complete failures in these districts on account of the had season. From the Mukinbudin Boad Board, I have received this telegram -

The crop outlook in this district is hopeless. Hay and seed wheat is practically nil and probably 80 per cent, of the harvesters will not bo used. We urge you to seek a special grant for the relief of the drought area.

These telegrams amply demonstrate that the settlers believe that the Federal Government, as a party to the scheme for the settlement of the district, should bear some of the responsibilities in the present adversity.

Senator Hardy:

– The settlers apparently have no confidence in the State Labour Government.


– From the point of view of assistance, settlers usually receive more from the ministrations of even the worst State government than from the treatment of the best Commonwealth Government. The Western Australian State Government is already assisting but its resources are limited. The Common wealth Government has done nothing. Mr. T. H. Powell, president of the Wheat-growers Federation of Western Australia is in Canberra, and after the dinner adjournment he handed to me the following telegram, which he received from the Bonnie Rock-Yangning branch : -

Crop position in the north-eastern wheat belt of this State is hopeless. Press urgently for a special federal grant to this State for purposes of relief. The prospects for hay and seed wheat are nil.

Mr. Powell informed me that there is almost a complete failure of crops throughout this extensive wheat-growing area which stretches for distances up to 150 miles.

I urge the Government to provide the special relief immediately, and to recognize its responsibility as a party to the migration agreement.

Senator Grant:

– Does the State Government propose to grant any assistance ?


– It is doing so but the position has become more acute since I left Western Australia a fortnight ago. At the last elections the Country party advocated a policy of rural rehabilitation. Dr. Earle Page’s speech set out distinctly that settlers who needed assistance to re-establish themselves on the land should receive it. The policy speech delivered by Senator Pearce at Jamestown, South Australia, which was published as a ministerial utterance, promised comprehensive rural relief and assistance in practical forms. Senator Pearce even mentioned certain directions in which this assistance could be given, but nothing has been done beyond a limited grant for debt adjustment. The Government should give the settlers full assistance and honour their election pledges for rural rehabilitation. The need of these settlers is urgent. The telegrams which I have read show that they hold the Commonwealth Government responsible for their present position because the Commonwealth assisted to open up the areas upon which they settled, and under an agreement with the British Government became responsible for one-third of the interest on the capital cost of the railway line from Amery through Kulja to Bonnie Rock. The Government’s policy of rehabilitation will be ineffective if it does not meet this case.

Senator HARDY:
New South Wales

– I listened with interest to the case presented by Senator Johnston on behalf of the settlers in the north-eastern wheat belt of Western Australia, and I shall be equally interested to hear what the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) has to say about the position of the Commonwealth Government. If the view put by Senator Johnston is to prevail, it would appear that the Commonwealth must accept a heritage in respect of every other project topromote rural development with which it has been associated. Senator Johnston has emphasized that the settlers in the north-eastern wheat areas of his State are in dire distress, owing to drought conditions, and he has told us that as they took up their present areas under the migration agreement to which the Commonwealth Government, the State governments and the Government of the United Kingdom were parties, an obligation rests on the Commonwealth to get them out of their present difficulties. May I remind

Senator Johnston that a considerable portion of New South Wales also has been developed indirectly through Commonwealth expenditure on roads, and that many settlers are in a bad way owing to unfavorable seasonal conditions ; so perhaps with equal justice I could claim assistance on their behalf. But in my interpretation of Commonwealth and State jurisdictions I have always taken the view that the Commonwealth should be responsible for matters of national concern while State governments should deal with purely domestic affairs. Irrespective of political differences, we ali sympathize with the settlers in the north-eastern wheat belt of Western Australia, and I am sure we would all be glad to help them if we could. But is not the State Labour Government doing something? So far, I have heard no mention of an appeal being made to it for assistance. I am not, for one moment, criticizing Senator Johnston for bringing to the notice of the Senate the desperate plight of wheat-growers in his State. All I wish to do is to impress upon him and other honorable senators the fact that the functions of Commonwealth and State governments should be clearly denned.

Minister for External Affairs · Western Australia · UAP

[9.35]. - On the 24th September. Senator Johnston addressed a question to me with reference to a request made in Perth by a deputation to the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) by local governing bodies in the north-eastern wheat districts of Western Australia that special assistance be given to the growers on account of the adverse seasonal conditions. Senator Johnston asked what action, if any, the Government intended to take in the matter. In reply, I informed him that the Assistant Treasurer had supplied the following answer: -

Following the representations of the deputation concerned, the matter was taken up by the Commonwealth with the Western Australian Government. In the first place, inquiries were made to see if there would be any surplus of the acreage or bushel provision which could be used to supplement the hardship grant.

Unfortunately, it was found that there would he no such surplus available. It was then ascertained that there were certain small unexpended balances oE previous relief payments to Western Australia and the Commonwealth Government approved of these balances being made available for hardship cases. The Commonwealth Government regrets that it finds itself unable to approve special payments for any particular wheat district over and above the amounts provided by Parliament for relief to wheat-growers as a whole.

Honorable senators will recall that the amount of money voted for the relief of wheat-growers last year was £4,042,000. A portion of the sum was made available on a bushel basis, and a portion on an acreage basis. After claims had been met, there was a surplus of £573,250, which was divided up among the wheatgrowing States to meet cases of hardship, and I believe that the amount made available to Western Australia was £137,000. That sum was distributed through the agency of the Agricultural Bank, which was in a position to determine what districts were entitled to this form of assistance. We are not lacking in sympathy for these unfortunate farmers, who are in their present position through no fault of their own, and it cannot be said that the Commonwealth Government has been unmindful of cases of hardship among the wheat-growers.

Senator E B Johnston:

– Could that money be utilized to assist people who are suffering through the failure of this year’s harvest?

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.No. It was intended for assistance in respect of last season’s crop. No Commonwealth Government could accept Senator Johnston’s view that because the Commonwealth assisted a State government in some way in furtherance of its land settlement schemes, it therefore inherited an obligation to come to the assistance of those settlers for all time. Western Australia is not the only State that has received assistance from the Commonwealth and British Governments under the migration agreement of a few years ago. In New South Wales certain works were undertaken with a view to promoting land settlement. Is it to be said that because the Commonwealth cooperated with the Government of New South Wales in connexion with those schemes it must accept responsibility for the future welfare of settlers? Assistance also was given to the Government of South Australia, which carried out a number of works, some under the migration agreement, and some under a special grant made by the Commonwealth Government, notably the TodRiver water scheme, which made possible an extension of land settlement on Eyre Peninsula. Because of its association with the Government of South Australia in respect of those works is it to be assumed that the Commonwealth is obliged to give relief to settlers in that district, should future seasonal conditions he unfavorable? I do not think that any honorable senator will accept this view. As many honorable senators are, no doubt, aware, there will be a conference of Commonwealth and State representatives in Canberra onFriday, with a view to arranging a definite basis for the wheat policy for this year, and it is hoped that there will be an agreement to fix a home consumption price for wheat.

Senator E B Johnston:

– A home consumption price will not help farmers who have no wheat.


– I was about to make the same observation. Whether there is to be co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States in a proposal to aid farmers who may not be assisted by a home consumption price will, I imagine, be one of the subjects for discussion at that conference. At this junctureI cannot say what will be the attitude of the Government, but I repeat that the facts show that it has not been unmindful of the plight of wheatgrowers in the various States.

Question resolved in the affirmative.

Senate adjourned at9.42 p.m.

Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 2 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <>.