14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J.Lyncy) took the chair at 3 p.m. and read prayers.
– by leave - I desire to inform the Senate that the Country party senators, acting at the request of the United Parliamentary Country party, have appointed me as Leader of that party in the Senate.
The following papers were presented : -
War Service Homes Act -Report of the War Service Homes Commission, together with Statementsand Balance-sheet, year ended 30th June,1935.
Navigation Act -Regulations - Statutory Rules 1935, No. 88-No.89).
SenatorFOLL. - Has the PostmasterGeneral read the statement appearing in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that the accommodation at Darwin for passengers travelling to or from Great Britain by air is totally inadequate? If so, will he have inquiry made and, in view of the increasing traffic by air from overseas, take steps to have improved accommodation provided at Darwin?
– I did read a statement by Captain Johnson, the Controller of Civil Aviation, that the accommodation at Darwin airport was inadequate. I would, however, remind the honorable senator that civil aviation is under the control of the Minister for Defence, and I shall bring the matter under his notice.
Attitude of British Labour Party to Sanctions.
– -In view of the statement made last week by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) during the discussion on the ItaloAbyssinian dispute that only a small section of the British Labour party would support the application of sanctions by the League of Nations, has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been directed to the cabled report appearing in this morning’s Canberra Times that at a conference of the British Labour party, the application of sanctions by the League of Nations was supported by a majority of over 2,000,000 votes?
– I did read that statement, and I feel sure that it will interest Senator Collings.
– Does the Minister know how many members of the British Labour party attended that conference, and is . he aware that the decision to support sanctions was arrived at by card voting ?
– I do not know how many members of the British Labour party attended the conference, but I have no doubt that it was fully representative of that party.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. It may be assumed that the Commonwealth Grants Commission will present a further report in which it will submit recommendations to the Government as to the grants to claimant States for the financial year ending the 30th June, 1937, and that this report will come to hand in time to be considered in connexion with the budget for 1936-37.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answers: -
and 2. Assistance and concessions to rifle clubs -
The strength ofthe personnel of rifle clubs in each State on the 30th June, 1935, was as follows: -
Of this total 7,009 are members of regimental rifle clubs.
Notice of motion in the name of Senator Abbott relating to a common language read and discharged.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and sessional orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
[3.13].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to give effect to the proposal announced in the budget speech to make a partial restoration of salaries to members of the Public Service, and of the naval, military and air services, as well as of the allowances paid to members of Parliament and the salaries of Ministers. The restoration proposed will be at the rate of2½ per cent., calculated on thebasis of the salaries paid in 1930.
Salaries in the Public Service were reduced under the original financial emergency legislation by from 18 per cent. to 25 per cent. of the 1930 salary standard. In 1933 and 1934, restorations aggregating approximately 7½ per cent. were made. Their effect was to free salaries up to £388 per annum, based on the 1930 standard, from any reduction other than that occasioned by a variation of the cost of living. The further restoration of2½ per cent. now proposed will free salaries up to £485 per annum, based on the 1930 standard, from any reduction other than a cost-of-living reduction of £42. In other words, all public servants whose salary is £485 per annum or less will, when this bill becomes law, be paid in full, except for the cost-of-living reduction. With the passing of this bill, salaries from £486 to £1,000 per annum will be subject to a reduction at the rate of 10 per cent., less £6 ; on salaries from £1,001 to £2,000, the reduction will be 12½ per cent., less £6 ; whilst salaries over £2,000 will be reduced by 15 per cent., less £6. Clause 3, which gives effect to this proposal, has been drafted so as to avoid the use of the complex formula contained in previous acts of this description.
With the restoration now proposed, the reduction of total salaries for all the services combined, including the costofliving reduction, will average 11 per cent. below the 1930 standard.
Following the practice adopted on previous occasions, the salaries of the personnel of the naval, military and air forces will be adjusted by the Minister for Defence in such a way that the three defence services will, as nearly as possible, be placed on the same footing as members of the Public Service.
The Bill makes provision for the costofliving variations to be continued. Should the cost of living increase, all salaries will be increased in accordance with the usual public service practice; should the cost of living decrease, salaries will be reduced accordingly, with a proviso that any further reduction will first be absorbed by any existing financial emergency cut. An officer who is already suffering a reduction of salary in excess of the cost of living adjustment will not be subject to any further reduction.
Last year the cost-of-living index number increased sufficiently to justify an increase of £6 per annum to adult male members of the services, and of smaller amounts to females and juniors. The intention of the law in that connexion was clear ; but some doubt arose as to whether the precise wording of section 11a of the Financial Emergency Act covered the increase. The Government decided to pay the increases as from the 1st July, 1935, and to seek the necessary validation later in order to remove any doubts which might exist. Accordingly, a clause to validate ‘the cost-of-living increases has been inserted in the bill.
In the case of parliamentary allowances and salaries of Ministers, the bill provides for a restoration of 2½ per cent. When this restoration is made, the parliamentary allowance of a private member or senator will still be subject to a reduction of 15 per cent., and the salaries of Ministers to a reduction of 17½ per cent.
The restoration of 2½ per cent. involves certain consequential alterations in connexion with fees, allowances and so on which have been provided for by a clause in the bill. Further explanations of the various provisions will be made at the committee stage if necessary.
– The Opposition supports the bill because it believes that restoration should be made to public servants and others who suffered under the financial emergency legislation. It accepts as satisfactory, at the moment, the modicum of restoration proposed under the bill to members of Parliament and to Ministers; but it does not believe that there was any need to make only a partial restoration in either case or to the public servants. The Government has boasted that Australia has turned the corner, that prosperity has returned, that there are ever recurring surpluses and that private enterprise is doing its job well ; and if it were consistent it -would have restored to the full the amount taken away. It is regrettable that the Government should still refuse to restore in full to public servants the amounts by which salaries were reduced during a period of national emergency. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber take this opportunity to protest, because neither in this bill nor in the budget has provision been made to restore to invalid and old-age pensioners the amount of which they have been deprived. We are supporting the bill only because we believe that it does afford a measure of justice to those deserving it ; but, on the other hand, we have to realize that we cannot go on much longer tinkering with vital problems as we are to-day. It must be clear to honorable senators opposite that the time has arrived to consider seriously a comprehensive national scheme of insurance covering old age, invalidity, unemployment, and incapacity. Such a measure would dispense with the necessity to introduce piecemeal legislation of this nature, particularly in a country such as Australia, which is capable of producing all the necessaries of mankind.
– It was a pleasure to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) state that he is supporting this bill, but in doing so he did not give to the Government credit for what it has achieved during recent years. If the honorable senator studies the budget and the restoration made in numerous directions, he will find that there has been steady progress since the reductions were made by the Scullin Government in 1931 under the Financial Emergency Act. The Government does not profess to be able to produce to-day a condition of affairs comparable with 1928-29, but it is showing that by constructive proposals and economical administration it is gradually lifting the country out of the depression and bringing about a reasonable measure of prosperity. If the Leader of the Opposition is here next year, and I hope that he will be, he will again be able to congratulate the Government upon the fine performance which it will then have behind it. I support the bill.
Debate (on motion by Senator DuncanHughes) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 2nd October (vide page 408), on motion by Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce -
That the papers be printed.
– I am glad to have this opportunity to speak on the Estimates and budget-papers prior to the conclusion of the debate of the Financial Relief Bill 1935, the debate on which has just been adjourned. That measure covers a portion of the Government’s financial proposals, and it seems to me that the debate on it should follow the main debate on the budget. I do not propose to debate the Government’s financial proposals exhaustively. Senator Allan MacDonald went into detail last night, and we also had from my new colleague, Senator James McLachlan a very interesting speech, which shows that he will be an acquisition to the debating strength of the Senate. I congratulate the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) upon his first budget; it strikes me as having been admirably prepared. There are, of course, in this as in other similar documents a number of items which do not appeal to every one in the same way, but, if one casts one’s mind back three or four years, one can see the measure of improvement achieved and how much closer we are to a stabilization of our position than we were. That is a testimony to the work done by this Government and its predecessor.
It must be a matter of satisfaction to a large number of persons in Australia that we are at last moving towards a proper system of defence for Australia. I have spoken so often on the subject of defence, not only here but elsewhere, and I have so constantly emphasized how essential it is - none the less because there is a League of Nations - that we should be prepared to do something by our own. arms if occasion should arise, that it is a great satisfaction to see that our defences are being strengthened. I do not think that in this matter the Government has moved so quickly as it might have done, and it is certain that public opinion has been extremely dilatory; but one can now see throughout the country a realization of the fact that unarmed we can carry very little weight in the councils of the world. The prospective return of the military college to Duntroon is to me personally and to many other people a matter for profound satisfaction. During the comparatively few years that the military college was located there a real tradition was built up in Australia. That is realized by all who are familiar with Australia’s part in the war. Duntroon is admirably suited to the training of our soldiers and officers and it is close to the Federal Capital city, as it should be; indeed the college was here for many years before the seat of government was transferred to Canberra. The city of Sydney is not particularly suited to the training of officers and I welcome the proposal to re-establish the college in this quieter spot in the country.
With other honorable senators I regret that the Government has not seen its way clear to reduce taxation to a greater extent than is disclosed in this budget. I am convinced that the more taxation can be reduced the more will the community be benefited and unemployment relieved. I notice that the special income tax on property is to be reduced by one per cent. This is a very reasonable decision in view of the fact that a reduction from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent, was proposed two years ago, but at the last moment owing to the necessity to provide money for the wheat farmers, the remission was altered to 4 per cent. It seems to me that the two forms of taxation which affect people most and in respect of which there is a prior claim for remission are the land tax and the sales tax. The former is levied regardless of whether any income is being derived from the land or not and is to all intents and purposes a tax on property. The sales tax is irksome, because, apart from the financial ‘burden it imposes, it necessitates a very great deal of bookkeeping and causes irritation to a large number of business people. The land tax has always seemed to me to be a grossly unjust imposition. It is not a tax which affects the country people so much as the city dwellers. As a matter of fact, in the city there are two payers of Commonwealth land tax for every one in the country.
– What tax would the honorable senator impose in its place?
– HUGHES. - I would not impose any tax in its place. Adam Smith wrote, and it is true to-day, that the less the people are taxed the better for the people and for the whole community. In respect of the property tax, the sales tax and the ordinary income tax there is something on which to levy, but land tax, unless the hardship provisions are brought into operation - provisions which I have never liked - must be paid regardless of whether the land has earned anything or not.
In this budget the Government proposes to grant “ remissions of primage to rectify a number of anomalies relating to raw materials and capital and technical goods, of which more than two-thirds are British “, and honorable senators are informed that full details of the reductions are to be published by proclamation in the Commonwealth Gazette. The loss to the budget for the current year is estimated at £45,000. I ask the Leader of the Senate whether any arrangement has been entered into with the British Government for the variation or postponement of Article 14 of the Ottawa agreement which relates to primage.
– Article 14 is as follows: -
His Majesty’s Government in the Commonwealth of Australia undertake in so far as concerns goods the produce or manufacture of the United Kingdom:
to reduce or remove primage duty as soon as the finances of Australia will allow.
– We have done a good deal in that direction.
– I am coming to that. The Ottawa agreement was entered into in 1932 and operates for a term of five years, so that it will expire normally in 1937. We have only something like 22 months to run in which to carry out our obligations in respect of Article 14. We have undertaken to reduce or remove primage. I emphasize the word “ remove “. The obvious intention is to move towards a complete abolition of primage duty, and we undertook to remove it as soon as the finances of this country permitted. What has been done? In 1931-32, the year before the Ottawa agreement was signed, the Government received £3,600,000 in primage duty; in 1932-33, it received £4,500,000; in 1933-34, £4,000,000; in 1934-35 £4,200,000 ; and for 1935-36 the estimate is over £4,000,000.
– That is not all in respect of British imports; it covers high foreign imports as well.
– The figures do not show that. In view of the fact that an enormous amount of our imports come from Great Britain-
– Many of them are free now.
– Much of that revenue is due to the revival of trade.
– Can the Minister say how much of the primage collected relates to British goods ?
– If the honorable senator will examine the last two budgets he will see lists of British goods in respect of which primage has been either reduced or abolished.
– An enormous proportion of the goods imported into Australia is of British origin and I emphasize that collections of primage duty upon all goods amount to almost £400,000 more than in the year before the Ottawa agreement was signed. I should like to know the proportion of the primage duty paid on British goods to that paid on foreign goods. It is incredible that the major portion of . that £4,000,000 in primage duties which it is estimated will be received this year can be in respect of foreign goods. It is essential at a time when Australia is trying to sell to Britain its products, including beef, mutton, and lamb, that it should be careful to meet the obligation placed on it by the Ottawa agreement to remove British goods from the operation of the primage duty. Without hesitation and without having the figures in my possession, I contend that a great proportion of the amount expected from primage this year must come from duties levied on British goods. If that isso, the remission of a mere £45,000 - which again relates to foreign as well as British goods - cannot be regarded as an adequate discharge of the obligations of the Ottawa agreement.
– Will the honorable senator tell me the proportion of British goods which enter Australia at present duty free? It is about 55 per cent., and British goods represent about 42 per cent. of the total imports.
– Approximately half! I shall accept the honorable senator’s figures and base my argument upon them. The sum obtained from primage duty last year was £4,200,000, of which about £2,000,000 mast have related to British goods. The estimate for this year is a total collection of £4,000,000, so again nearly £2,000,000 will come from British goods. I ask the Minister to verify these figures, and if Australia’s position is found to be sound, no one will . be more pleased than I shall be; all I desire is that we shall honour our undertakings under the Ottawa agreement, but on the information we can get from the budget it appears that we are not doing that. The Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has budgeted for a surplus of over £1,000,000. In view of that, will it- not appear reasonable to the British people that we should remit some of the primage duty which at present they have to pay? After passing by that obligation of first importance, the Assistant Treasurer proposes to remit amounts of £90,000 and £25,000 in respect of the excise duties on tobacco and cigarettes respectively. Surely that is putting the cart before the horse. That my view is not completely wrong is clearly shown by the following report published in the Canberra Times of the 25th September : -
Strong protests from British commercial organizations were forecast yesterday in federal political circles as a result of the Commonwealth budgetary decision to reduce primage charges on United Kingdom goods by £45,000 during 1935-36.
Unless we honour our obligations under the Ottawa agreement, and give to Britain a fair deal, we cannot reasonably expect that we shall receive any special consideration when we are negotiating to sell to the United Kingdom the products that we must sell overseas, of all of which the Mother Country buys the largest quantity.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of quotas ?
– Certainly !
– The honorable senator would give all the consideration to Britain and none to Australia.
– I have no such thought. When the Ottawa agreement was made, Australia was unable to indicate any specific items on which it would give concessions to Great Britain, but the latter was able to make definite and detailed concessions, and accepted from Australia a general statement that it would do the fair thing. That is expressed in three or four articles of the agreement. Quite apart from my desire that Australia should act fairly to Great Britain I am deeply concerned that in our own interests we shall not, by attempting to gain any advantage and by reluctance to carry out the obligations we have assumed, lose our opportunity to increase our trade, as we should increase it, with the centre of the Empire.
One phrase appears in the budget which I do not like. It is “ inescapable obligations “. I suppose that most government obligations are inescapable in that they must be met on the due dates, but there are obligations which are not inescapable. For instance, there is the liability in respect of invalid and old-age pensions. It seems to me that we cannot have it both ways. If we continue increasing the amount of invalid and old-age pensions, as we have done in the past, and take to ourselves credit for doing this, we cannot, on the other hand, claim that our pensions bill is an inescapable obligation, because we accepted this commitment with our eyes open, knowing what it involved.
– Does not the honorable senator think that war pensions are an inescapable obligation?
– I have had that question put to me on other occasions, and I think that most honorable senators know what are my views upon it. I have always regarded war pensions as privileged pensions in the sense that those who receive them gave great service to their country.
– Have not invalid and old-age pensioners also given service to their country?
– Senator Collings has merely repeated the question which Senator Daly asked in this chamber two or three years ago. I wish to make it clear that I am not criticizing any of our invalid or old-age pensioners, nor am I suggesting that there are not, among them, many deserving people who, because of their unfortunate financial position, are obliged to make claims upon the Commonwealth. But no proof is sought that they have done any work for their country, whereas in the case of war pensioners the fact that they are in receipt of pensions is evidence that they volunteered to serve in defence of the Commonwealth and were accepted. Whether their service was good or bad is beside the point. They did satisfy a condition which is not required of applicants for invalid or old-age pensions. Therefore, if we point to our constantly mounting obligations in respect of these pensions, and if we take credit to ourselves for having increased the amounts payable, it is not quite reasonable that we should also urge that we have commitments which are inescapable.
– Does not the honorable senator think that invalid and oldage pensions will finally be merged in a national insurance scheme?
– I took part in a debate on that subject during my first year in this Parliament, in 1923. If the honorable senator cares to read my speech in the House of Representatives on that occasion, he will find that, after analysing the position at that time - our invalid and old-age pensions bill was then costing only £5,500,500 - I went on to point out that, because of the constantly increasing total sum payable in pensions, the Government eventually would be forced to introduce a national insurance scheme, under which individual members of the community would be expected to contribute to the building up of a fund, instead of being recipients of a grant by Parliament.
– Contribute ! Ah !
– In using the word “ grant “, I was careful not to employ the word which, evidently, the honorable gentleman was expecting to hear me use. It is far better for a man, during the earning period of his life, to contribute to a scheme, from which he will derive benefits, than to accept benefits from a fund to which he has made no direct contribution. Therefore, when Senator Hardy asks me if I do not think that eventually we shall be obliged to adopt a national insurance scheme, my reply is that I expressed this view on the floor of the House of Representatives and on public platforms throughout this country twelve years ago.
The last subject upon which I desire to speak is that mentioned by Senator Collings a few days ago. It is one in which we all are deeply interested, namely, the question whether it is better, in order to give employment to our people, that the Government should provide, by taxation, the money for what are known as developmental works, or whether it should remit more of the taxation burden on private enterprise and allow industry, as far as possible, to take its natural course. I do not wish that my observations, except perhaps on the subject of primage, should be taken as being critical of the Government. Having in mind the difficulties which this Government has encountered, and its natural desire to do something to relieve the difficulties of the unemployed. I think, on the whole, the Ministry has steered a sound course. Senator Collings. T imagine, holds the contrary view. He would have the Government spend money on public works, regardless of whether such undertakings were of any value to the nation.
Senator Collings. - I rise to a point of order. I object to the statement of Senator Duncan-Hughes that I advocate the spending of government money merely for the sake of spending it. I have never made any such suggestion.
– HUGHES.- In view of the honorable senator’s assurance I cheerfully withdraw the statement objected to. I am very pleased to hear the honorable senator say that he had no such thought in mind. But I put it to the Senate that if the Government did what he has advocated, and spent money on public relief works without regard to their utility, the effect would be what I have stated. That, I think, is a fair interpretation of the honorable senator’s remarks.
– It is grossly unfair.
– This Government proposes to spend millions of pounds on. the standardization of railway gaugesWhat about that?
– HUGHES. - I had intended to mention that proposed expenditure. Probably some honorable senators will recall the views which I expressed when opposing the bill to authorize the construction of the Red Hill to Port Augusta railway. I said then that although it would provide employment to workers, principally in my own State - I did not overlook that point - I did not think it was an undertaking which would be beneficial to Australia as a whole, and that it would be far better if the Government, by its financial policy, allowed money to BOW more freely through the channels of trade and industry. I am absolutely certain that this would be in the interests of our people generally. Honorable senators may be interested to learn what has been done in England in recent years. Great Britain, since the war, has adopted the course which I thought had the approval of Senator Collings - I now know that it has not - and during the last fifteen years lias expended no less a sum than £700,000,000 on what may be called developmental works.
– Is it not a guiding principle with central banking authorities that a vigorous public works programme should be adopted to lead the country out of depression?
Sena tor DUNCAN - HUGHES. - I am not prepared to say whether it is or not. If it is, then it appears to me to be a wrong principle. I propose to substantiate my view by quoting statements made by three of the leading men in Great Britain - Mr. Ramsay McDonald, a Labour member and until recently Prime Minister; Mr. Walter Runciman, President of the Board of Trade, formerly a Liberal ; and Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the present Chancellor of the Exchequer, a Conservative. The Annual Register, 1932, states-
On the second day of the debate [7th November - on unemployment] the Prime Minister (Mr. Ramsay MacDonald) indicated not, indeed, an actual policy from the side of the Government, but the manner in which it was approaching the problem. He began by ruling out definitely an extension of public relief works. This method, he said, had been given the fullest possible trial by the late Labour Government, and its results had been disappointing, since for the expenditure of every million pounds they had been able to keep not more than 4,000 men in work. In any case, the country could no longer afford to spend money on schemes the permanent value of which was doubtful. The one course open to thom, he thought, was to concentrate ail their powers of thought upon finding out how they could stimulate trade, so that the demand for labour would be a natural demand.
That statement puts the position in a nutshell.
– How can there be a natural demand with so much idle labour?
– HUGHES. - A natural demand for labour cannot be expected when approximately one-half of taxpayers’ incomes is absorbed by governmental demands and when the proceeds, as in Great Britain, are put into governmental relief works. I do not believe in governmental works. I do not wish to disparage governments, but I am confident that much better results may be expected from the expenditure of money by private individuals than by governments, and I venture to think that the majority of honorable senators are in agreement with me on this point.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that if there were no taxation there would be no unemployed?
– No ; but I think the honorable senator and many of his friends are inclined to overlook the fact that at no time in the history of Australia, so far as I am aware, has the proportion of unemployed fallen below 8 per cent. If we accepted their view, and did not allow the introduction of a single migrant while there was any unemployment in this country, we should never again receive any immigrants.
– I never said that.
Sena tor DUNCAN - HUGHES. - So.me qf us were born in this country - I was, and I yield to none in love of my native land - but our parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents were migrants. Is it reasonable that we, who were born in this country, or had come here from overseas, should now close thu door to other people who may wish to migrate to Australia? It is, I suggest, unfair to deny to them the privileges which we or our grandparents en joyed. But I return to my quotations. Mr. Neville Chamberlain, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, speaking in the House of Commons on the 16th February, 1933, said, as reported in the Annual Register -
It is the deliberate opinion of the Government that that policy .[providing unemployment by public works] has failed, and that we must have done with it once and for all, and that is an opinion held unanimously by the ‘Cabinet.
In the House of Commons, on the 26th July, 1933, Mr. Walter Runciman, the President of the Board of Trade, was quoted by Mr. Chamberlain as having said -
We terminated our schemes for dealing with the unemployed by way of capital expenditure on public works, and we shall not re-open those schemes no matter what may be done elsewhere. I say emphatically that, for our part, we are abandoning this policy once and for all.
– What - did Gladstone do in 1SS7 ?
– At that time I was not of sufficiently mature age to attend public meetings and hear Mr. Gladstone speak. He said a great many things, on a number of subjects; and he was not always right. Mr. Chamberlain stated that, since the war, Great Britain had expended £130,000,000 on roads and £120,000,000 on telephones. I think that I have made my contention clear, and I shall leave it at that.
In the world there are two schools of thought in regard to developmental works. One school says that the Government should provide the money to carry out public works, whether or not they will be reproductive, either immediately or eventually; the other school, to which I adhere, says that if money, trade, and commerce are allowed to follow a natural course better results will be obtained, and more people will be employed than if governments carry out these undertakings.
– Does the honorable senator believe in the expenditure of public money in the Old Country to abolish slums and provide better homes for the people ?
– Some years ago, when I was in London, I did what every dominion visitor ought to do for his own instruction. Guided by a resident of the district, I went to the Bethnal Green district of East London, where I learned that the slums were gradually disappearing, not so much as the result of any national policy, but rather because the area was required to meet the demand of London’s expanding trade. Where slums had previously existed, business premises were being erected, and the former residents were provided with new homes in the country where living conditions were much more suitable.
– I referred to the principle of spending public money in removing slums.
– The worst slums in Great Britain are to be found, not in London, but in Glasgow and Liverpool. Admittedly London has had a big problem in its slums ; but the trouble is gradually being overcome by the success of private enterprise.
SenatorFoll. - The municipalities of Great Britain have a definite programme of slum abolition.
– The money proposed to be expended in the construction of a railway from Port Augusta to Red Hill Gould be better employed elsewhere.
Senator James McLachlan referred to the necessity for a proper ground organization in connexion with our air mail services. The newspapers have contained many statements relating to air mail services, and from them we have learned of a proposal to establish a daily air mail between the principal cities of Australia. So far, no announcement has been made to the Senate of the Government’s intentions in this matter. I invite the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to take honorable senators into his confidence and let them know whether . the newspapers have correctly stated the intention of the Government.
– These matters will come up for discussion when the Estimates are before the Senate.
– It is most desirable that the ground organization in connexion with our air services should be improved; but I withhold judgment regarding the wisdom of establishing a daily air mail between cities which already have a fairly rapid train service. I hope that the statements appearing in our newspapers do not indicate that the Government proposes to establish its own fleet of air mail aeroplanes which might involve the country in loss.
– There is no suggestion that the Government should conduct the air mail services; whatever is done will be done on . the basis of subsidies, as hitherto.
– I am glad to hear that, for Australia has had a costly experience in the government control of railways.
– The railways have made Australia.
– I concede that the railways have played a great part in developing Australia; but the fact remains that they are gradually becoming out of date. The railways of Great Britain are controlled by private companies, which have to bear any losses, whereas in Australia the losses incurred have to be borne by the taxpayers. I know that in the early days of this country there were no private companies with sufficient funds to construct railways. I mentioned railways only in order to issue a warning as to the danger of governments undertaking air mail services.
– I am now able to inform the honorable senator that imports from Britain represent 53 per cent. of Australia’s total imports, and that of the £4,000,000 received last year as primage duty, about one-third was in respects of imports from Britain. There will be further remissions this year.
– That means that about £1,300,000 is attributable to British goods. There is still much to do before we have completely wiped out the primage duty, which the Government undertook to remove as soon as the state of the finances permitted.
– Generally, the budget gives evidence of progress. It certainly does so if the estimated revenue for 1935-36 is compared with that for 1931-32, when governments had to exercise the strictest economy in all directions. It may be that the revenue is increasing too rapidly, for since 1931-32 the receipts of the Government have increased by £4,000,000 per annum. Unfortunately, there is a tendency for governments to be more lavish with the pcople’3 money when revenue is buoyant than when times are hard. I remind the Senate that in 1931-32 Australia floated a big conversion loan, and that bond-holders were then compelled to accept a reduction of 22^ per cent, of their interest receipts. I imagine that overseas investors may be wondering what the Government intends to do in regard to further taxation. Last year the sales tux was reduced by 1 per cent., but notwithstanding that reduction, the return from that tax wis in excess of the receipts for the previous year. In my opinion, the sales tax should have been reduced by a further 1 per cent, this year. That tax is the cause of great dissatisfaction among business people, because it tends to separate buyers from sellers. Although it is estimated that the sales tax will place £8,850,000 in the Treasury this year, the effect of the tax is harmful, because it retards business progress.
When speaking of unemployment, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) did not tell as that in Australia to-day there are 451,000 factory hands employed, compared with 337,000 in 1931, and 450,482 in 1927 when employment was at its peak. Nor did he say that the improvement in respect of unemployment had been effected despite the fact that during the last five years 250,000 employable boys who had left Australian schools had come on the labour market. Even during peak periods of employment in any part of the world there is always a percentage of unemployable persons. During the peak period in 1927, when the total number of persons employed was 450,000, the unemployed numbered 38.641 or about 9 per cent. Many who have studied the budget regret that the Government has refused to reduce, by other than a paltry £500,000, the burden of £9,000,000 of emergency taxation imposed, most of which remains operative, as a reminder, I suppose, of the crisis from which we hope we are emerging. The retention of this additional taxation is one of the main obstacles to complete financial recovery.
Yesterday certain criticisms were levelled against the Australian Broad- casting Commission. I have taken an interest in broadcasting, and in wireless matters generally, ever since its introduction into Australia, in 1933 I endeavoured to obtain, through Major Conder, who was then the general manager of the commission, a better news service, particularly for those resident in country districts, but Major Conder informed me that the wireless news service was controlled and supplied by certain newspapers. I then endeavoured, through him and the managers of the broadcasting stations in Adelaide, to have the conditions improved, and I have also been hammering away at this subject since Mr. Cleary was appointed chairman of the commission. I have interviewed and written to that gentleman on several occasions requesting a better news service. I am pleased to learn that the matter has now been taken up with the managers of various stations, and that a better news system has been evolved which will be acceptable not only to those living near the cities, but also to those resident in country districts. I understand that instead of listeners hav~ ing a two or three minutes news session between 6 and 7 p.m., under the new arrangement which commenced this week they will ha’ve a comprehensive service lasting 20 minutes. The commission, under the chairmanship of Mr. Cleary, is doing good work. In the matter of musical items I believe that it is doing its utmost to provide the programmes which the people desire.
During my recent visit to the Northern Territory, when I travelled over 2,000 miles, I was struck by the outstanding optimism of the people in that part of Australia. I notice that in the budget, the expenditure proposed this year in the Northern Territory is only £20,000 more than was provided in the previous year. The proposed vote is quite inadequate to assist the development of such a vast territory. It would appear that the Government finds it impossible to govern the territory satisfactorily from Canberra, and I would suggest that immediaate consideration ‘be given to the establishment of a form of self-government. Last year Parliament passed a bill providing a form of self-government for the people of Norfolk Island, and as the residents of the Northern Territory are almost as far away from Canberra as are the people of Norfolk Island, they should receive similar consideration.
– The Northern Territory covers a vast area, whereas Norfolk Island is comparatively small.
– I realize that there is that difference. I have always felt that a great injustice was inflicted upon the people of the Northern Territory when the Government refused to allow its member in the House of Representatives to vote. I am not referring to present or past members of the Northern Territory, but merely suggesting that its representative, whoever he may be, should have a vote on national matters.
– If the member for the Northern Territory were given a vote would not the residents of the Federal Capital Territory also demand representation?
– There is no parallel, because the residents of the Federal Capital Territory can approach the Minister for the Interior or any other Minister whenever they desire.
– Would it be sufficient to allow the member for the Northern Territory to vote on Northern Territory matters only?
– Probably that would be sufficient, but problems which affect the whole of Australia also concern the Northern Territory. The representative of the Northern Territory has to travel long distances in order to keep in touch with the requirements of his constituents. I do not suggest that this Government is any more to blame than were previous governments because the Northern Territory, where large sums of money have been wasted, has always been neglected. In the matter of roads and water supplies a good deal still remains to be done. Numerous roads and tracks are used for transport purposes, but the crossings at watercourses are so unsatisfactory that the roads cannot be used at. all periods of the year. Many of the wells are in the same condition as they were when the Commonwealth assumed control of the territory. At Tennant’s Creek wo found that although the bucket used to draw water from a well had been in use for many years, and had holes half an inch in diameter in the bottom, another could not be obtained. I have a photograph showing the water pouring out of the bottom of the bucket. This, of course, is only a minor matter, but it indicates the extent to which the ordinary requirements of the people are overlooked.
The Commonwealth Government controls 750 miles of railway between Quorn and Alice Springs on the fringe of Central Australia. Some have advocated the continuance of the railway from Alice Springs to Birdum, but I believe that an extension to connect with Darwin is unnecessary. If the Government transport unit, which is providing a good service, were duplicated, it would be sufficient to carry all heavy transport. With the possibility of air services developing, it would be a waste of money to spend more on the extension of the railway northwards from Alice Springs. Something must be done immediately to maintain connexion between Tennant’s Creek and Alice Springs, and thereby assist the transport of goods to their natural outlet at Port Augusta, in South Australia. There are fifteen or sixteen watercourses between Alice Springs and Tennant’s Creek, the crossings on which are in a bad state of repair. Money should be expended immediately to provide a good track. A government battery is badly needed at Tennant’s Creek, where great development is taking place. When the Minister for the Interior was there, he stated that if private enterprise was unable to cope with the crushing of ore the Government would assist. The Government should establish batteries close to the ore supplies. About two years ago the Commonwealth Government assisted by the South Australian Government, placed a ten-head stamp battery al Mongalata. At Tennant’s Creek there is a privately-owned five-head battery, and a mill, but the Government should provide a battery.
– The supply of two batteries is contemplated.
– I understand that two private companies at Tennant’s Creek, which obtained water by boring near their holdings, have decided to erect batteries. These will assist mining operations., but will not be sufficient to deal with all the ore to be treated. Some miners are neglecting their claims, because they have no means to crush their ore. Assays taken from several of the claims show a return of over 2 oz. of gold to the ton, and many are producing crushings up to 5 and 6 oz. A recent report from the Rising Sun Mine shows that a return of 401 oz. of gold was obtained from a 70-ton crushing. The Government should assist in the matter of development, particularly when the price of gold is abnormally high. I realize that good work has been done in providing reliable water supplies. Mr. Freane, the water diviner, was sent to the Northern Territory; but, unfortunately, supplies were not obtained on the sites where he suggested that boring should he done. Three sources of supply have been found near Tennant’s Creek, and progress has been made as a result of private enterprise. Professor Cecil Madigan, who visited the Northern Territory on several occasions, stated recently that the wealth of the Northern Territory was a myth, that very little gold was to be found there and that the pastoral industry was on the wane. The gold returns from the Northern Territory show that Professor Cecil Madigan knows very little about the Territory. I am informed that on the average 400 or 500 oz. of gold is taken from the Tennant’s Creek field every week. The fact that two small batteries are each returning over 200 oz. of gold a week is sufficient to show that that field is worth developing. Dr. Woolnough, in his first report, stated that he was dubious as to whether the Tennant’s Creek field would yield good results. Recently, he is reported in the press to have said that though he believed that the deposits would not live beyond 300 feet he did not mean that the field would have a short life. He said that huge areas are to be found where new and profitable deposits exist; and the field would produce for years to come. He admitted that he had changed his views as a result of his second visit, regarding the best methods of prospecting in new uncovered deposits. We may assume, therefore, that although the field may not prove so rich as some optimists predicted, it is well worthy of development.
In regard to the pastoral industry in the Northern Territory, I discovered that some pastoralists did not know where their leases began or ended. A trigonometrical survey should be made in order that lessees may be able properly to define the boundaries of their leases. 1 heard of men having expended money in providing water supplies - in one case a homestead also had .been constructed - only to find afterwards that this work had been carried out on other men’s properties. The Government should see that the boundaries of the leases are properly determined. With regard to the provision of water supplies, I recommend the construction of a chain of bores running east and west from two different points to cross the present chain of bores and wells along the telegraph line. There is always a good season in some parts of the Northern Territory but, because of the lack of water, stock cannot be shifted from one area to another, and consequently are left without feed and die. If my suggestion were accepted and overstocking in good seasons were prevented, a large number of the stock that are lost each year would be saved.
I notice in the budget that the sum of £2,500 is provided for the mines branch in the Northern Territory, and for the development of mining only £600. I think the latter provision is altogether inadequate.
The Government is to be complimented upon not acceding to the proposal made by Mr. Chapman last year for the despatch of a large number of boys to work on the Granites gold-field. If ever there was a place to which boys should not be sent it is that field. There may be gold there, but the conditions under which the miners have to work are very bad. We learned from the boys employed that the shafts are not timbered below 16 feet. I have a sworn statement by one lad that on one occasion he had just left a spot where he had been drilling at the 80-ft. level when seven or eight tons of earth crashed down. I consider that the Government should appoint a mines inspector to watch operations on that field. Mr. Chapman knew nothing of mining before going to that area; he is without the aid of experienced miners, and employs only lads between the ages of 18 and 22 years. That state of affairs should not be permitted to continue. Boys should not be sent to The Granites. It is a place for experienced and hardened men. Chapman’s proposal emanated from a desire to exploit these boys by getting them to work for almost nothing. I found that many of them are in debt to him. Receiving only £2 15s. to £3 a week, they have to pay as much as 9d. per lb. for salt and ls. Id. per lb. for sugar. For all other stores they are charged at a commensurately high rate.
Recently I visited the laboratories of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research at Canberra, and was gratified to find that great success had attended the investigations of means to cope with blue mould in tobacco, and to overcome the blowfly pest. The Government should be proud of what its experts are accomplishing, and I urge it to assist as far as possible scientific research into problems affecting our great producing industries, and to encourage the development of mining while the present high price of gold continues.
.- Naturally, in any consideration of the budget honorable senators are interested in figures relating to the Estimates of revenue and expenditure for the year. I was very much impressed by the following reference in the speech of the Assistant Treasurer (Mr. Casey) to the special income tax on property: -
In the budget of 1933-34 it was proposed, in common with other taxation remissions, to make a reduction in the rate of this tax from 10 per cent, to 5 per cent.
This proposal was subsequently modified in order to help to provide revenue for wheatgrowers’ relief, and the tax was reduced to 6 per cent, instead of 5 per cent. The present tax is still recognized as a severe form of emergency taxation, on which relief should be given as soon as reasonable opportunity presents itself.
The Assistant Treasurer then stated that the reduction of this special tax from 6 per cent, to 5 per cent, would entail a loss of revenue amounting to £200,000. Last year the actual expenditure for the relief of wheat-growers and other primary producers was £4,324,056; for this year the estimate is £1,175.000. The wheat-growers and other primary producers, who were supposed to have got the benefit of the revenue derived from the property tax, are being penalized to the amount of £3,150,000. According to the Assistant Treasurer, the modification two years ago of the proposal in respect of the special tax on income from property was brought about in order to help to provide relief to primary producers. Is it not absurd that we should consider reducing this tax by only £200,000, when the Government is budgeting for the relief of wheat-growers to an amount that is £3,150,000 less than was expended last year? It could wipe out the whole of the tax, which is expected to yield only £1,200,000 and still give to the primary producers a great deal more than is proposed in the budget.
With regard to the broadcasting service, I understood the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) to say that the chairman of the Australian Broadcasting Commission had visited all the capital cities. So far as I am aware, he did not visit Hobart.
– He visited Hobart months ago.
– If he visted Hobart he kept very quiet. We should certainly have been- glad to see him in connexion with the Hobart studio. The commission purchased a property in Hobart as a site for a new studio, and pulled down a substantial building that was standing on it and was leased to a doctor. Ever since that block has been in such a neglected state as to constitute a disgrace to the city. The building which was pulled down would have lasted for many years, and if the commission did not intend to build a new broadcasting studio it could have received revenue from the old property.
I was interested to listen to the remarks of Senator Badman in regard to the broadcast news service. I do not know what sort of news service is broadcast in South Australia, but the service supplied by the Tasmanian stations is very poor, and consists generally of information concerning the extremes of temperature in Hobart, the prices realized at auction sales in that city, and a few other equally uninspiring items. Up to the time I left Hobart the news of the day broadcast from the Tasmanian stations was negligible. I hope that in the new year we shall have the new submarine telephone service in operation, and that the Tasmanian stations will be able to broadcast a news service of more value to the community generally.
I am in agreement with the proposal made in the budget to make a further restoration of the salaries of public servants, but I intend to oppose the increase of allowances to members. The Public Service consists of a fine body of men and women. The figures stated in the budget do not disclose the number of public servants of the Commonwealth, but I gather that there has been a tremendous increase during the present year. The budget speech discloses that Commonwealth employees were on the 1st July, 1935, being paid £1,450,000 per annum less than they would have been paid on the 1930 standard. What is the total estimated amount to be paid to the public servants this year as compared with last year? I think we shall find that it is substantially move, because in some departments the number of officers has increased considerably. I consider that the Public Service as a whole is underpaid, but I also believe that in some departments there are too many employees to do the work required. I would sooner see a smaller and a better paid Service. I do not consider that I am breaking confidences when I say that my remarks in this connexion are endorsed by a great many officers in the Public Service.
I should like to get some information from the Government as to the River Murray waters scheme which has been under construction for many years, and upon which the Commonwealth and the three States interested have spent millions of pounds. Tasmania has to bear its proportion of the Commonwealth contribution to the cost of this work. If it were of great value no objection would be raised, but up to the present it has been of advantage to nobody. Several reports which have been presented do not show a satisfactory state of affairs, and the Commonwealth Government should find our just to what it is committing itself. Year after year we continue spending money on this project until the total cost to date is four or five times the amount originally esti mated. The Government should do something to obtain an accurate estimate as to what it will actually cost to complete the work.
Last year when I spoke on Australia’s contributions to the League of Nations I was subjected to a good deal of criticism from all parts of Australia. People wrote to me commending the wonderful work of the League, and saying that Australia was privileged to be a member of that body. I have never objected to Australia’s membership of the League of Nations, though
I did, and still do, object to the amount of Australia’s contribution. Only recently other countries have begun to protest against the amounts of their contributions towards the upkeep of the League. In the Hobart Mercury of the 18th September, the following item appeared: -
The Australian High Commissioner (Mr. S. M. Bruce), one of the Australian delegates to the League of Nations Assembly,has protested against the fact that the League exceeded its budget by £2,500,000 between 1926 and 1934.
He said that Australia would not be a party to a one-sided alteration of staff contracts, but he urged the reduction of those salaries not paid under contract. He referred to the example of officers in most parts of the world in accepting voluntary reductions, and reiterated the necessity for a more equitable system of contributions. Australia was dissatisfied at having to bear a burden as a result of the non-payment of contributions by other members. It was an unjust system of assessments, and if it continued Australia would have to consider paying only her fair share instead of shouldering responsibilities of the non-paying members.
That supports what I said last year. Australia is being called upon to bear the cost of the contributions of defaulting members. I also said that the officers of the League had not suffered any reduction of their salaries following the financial crisis throughout the world, but, on the contrary, were getting higher salaries than ever before. In the Launceston
Examiner of the 19 th September appeared the following cablegram : -
Cut Demanded by France.
On the. ground that Prance and other countries were obliged to impose 10 per cent. cuts on thepublic services, the French Premier (M.
Laval) at a meeting to-day of the League of Nations Budget Committee, demanded that all League expenditure should be similarlyre- duced.
Dr. Hambro (Norway) who was a member of the Budget Supervisory Committee defended the expenditure of the League, and said that it was France who wanted the new palace, and it was a French architect who presided over the committee responsible for the design.
I was severely criticized when, on a previous occasion, I directed attention to this matter, but I still maintain that Australia should not have to send such large amounts of money to the League of Nations. It should pay no more than its fair share and should not have to make up for the default of nations which are enjoying all the privileges of League membership. Australia this year will have to contribute £4,000 more than last year. My complaints are borne out by the High Commissioner andalso by the Prime Minister, if he is correctly reported as having said that the costs of the League of Nations arc a great deal more than they should be, and that Australia should be relieved of some of the excessive expenditure.
– I desire to place in their proper setting the figures concerning primage duty which were quoted by Senator Duncan-Hughes. The Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) has stated already the proportion of foreign goods in comparison with British goods affected by primage. The percentages he mentioned cut down by one-third the figures given by the honorable senator. The first primage revenue mentioned ‘by the honorable gentleman was that for 1931-32, the financial year . before the Ottawa agreement was signed. Australian imports in that year fell to their lowest level in modern times. The nadir of the depression was in 1929-30, but the lag in imports did not show fully until 1931-32, when they totalled only £34,000,000. Imports in 1932- 33 amounted to £56,000,000; in 1933- 34, to £59,000,000; and in 1934-35, to £72,500,000. Even in the last year the increase from £59,000,000 to £72,500,000 involved a very great addition to the primage revenue. In almost every year since the primage duty was first imposed reductions and removals of articles from its operation have occurred in pursuance of the undertakings given in the Ottawa agreement by Australia to Great Britain. The most recent issue of . the Commonwealth Y ear-Book contains the following passage -
Further amendments removing or reducing primage duties were made on the following dates: 26th February, 1932; 1st September, 1932; Nth October, 1932- Nth November, 1932;8th March, 1933; and 5th October, 1933.
Many reductions have been made since, including the reduction of £45,000 this year. I think it right that the honorable senator’s figures should be shown in proper perspective.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dein) adjourned.
Motion (by Senator Sir George . Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn until 3 p.m. on Wednesday next.
[5.3]. - I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Government -has decided to appoint a royal commission to inquire into the monetary and hanking systems in Australia. The personnel of the royal commission will ‘be: -
Honorable Mr. Justice John Mellis Napier, a Judge of the Supreme Court of South Australia.
Mr. Edwin Vanderbord Nixon, chartered accountant, Melbourne, and late member of the Royal Commission on Taxation.
Professor Richard Charles Mills, Professor of Economics in the University of Sydney, and Dean of the. Faculty of Economics, and Chairman of the Professorial Board.
Honorable Joseph Benedict Chifley, formerly Minister for Defence of the Commonwealth of Australia.
Mr. Joseph Palmer Abbott, President of the Graziers’ Association of New South Wales, grazier, Murulla, Wingen, New South Wales.
The terms of reference of the royal commission will be as follows: -
To inquire into the monetary and banking systems at present in operation in Australia, and to report whether any, and if so, what alterations are desirable in the interests of the people of Australia as a whole, and the manner in which any such alterations shouldbe effected.
The Government has given very careful consideration to the selection of the personnel of the commission, and has been fortunate in securing the services of men of such high standing and wide experience.The personnel of the commission will, I am sure, command the confidence of the public and will ensure an impartial inquiry. The terms of reference have been made as wide as possible in order that the commission shall not be in any way restricted in its important task.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 5.5 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 3 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351003_senate_14_147/>.