14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Issue of Booklet
– I ask the PostmasterGerieral if it is a fact that the Broadcasting Commission is advertising, through the national stations., for sale at1s., copies of a book on cricket which it. has compiled? If so, and in view of the fact that the commission pays no taxes, and the Government’s policy is to encourage private enterprise, so as to increase the volume of employment, does he consider that this form of competition by a public utility with private booksellers, publishers and distributors is in accordance with the letter and spirit of the charter of the commission?
– Although I shall ask the honorable senator to give notice of his question, I think I am right in saying that the compilation and sale of a booklet of the kind mentioned is within the powers of the commission.
. - by leave -When speaking yesterday of the alleged decision of the meeting called to consider the leadership of Country party members in this chamber, I did not feel at liberty to refer to the proceedings at that meeting, because I had no reason then to believe that Senator Hardy would do other than accept my statement, express regret that he had been unfortunate in the use of the term “ leader of the Country party in the Senate,” state that he had merely been appointed to act as the representative of Country party senators in regard toformal matters affecting procedure - a position occupied for some years by Senator Carroll-and say that there had been no intention or desire to force leadership on Country party senators who, in the past, have always enjoyed complete freedom of action and speech in the Senate. If Senator Hardy had done the manly thing, the incident would have been ended. It is regrettable that, instead of adopting this course, he gave honorable senators an inaccurate report of the proceedings at two party meetings. Both his statements were seriously inaccurate; but, if they were accepted, no further proof would bo required of the danger of party decisions to our free parliamentary institutions.
His statement yesterday compels me to give the facts. In the first place, Senator Hardy told us that, at a meeting of Country party members of the Senate and the House of Representatives, it had been decided to elect a leader of the Country party in the Senate. If this statement were correct, such action would betoken a measure of party dictation which, so far as I know, does not exist in the constitution of any political party in. the Commonwealth. Honorable senators who would accept the decisions of a meeting of other honorable senators, let alone a meeting at which they were outnumbered by nearly three to one, would, in my opinion, be unworthy of their position a3 trustees and guardians of the rights of the States and the liberties of the people.
Happily, the charge which Senator Hardy has made against the Country party in this connexion is entirely false. It is true that a Country party member for New South Wales suggested that such an appointment should be made, but Dr. Earle Page, with that wisdom, knowledge and good sense which have distinguished his whole political career, said that the matter had nothing to do with the House of Representatives, and refused to permit discussion on the subject. I hurl back at Senator Hardy his statement that political domination of the nature suggested by him is possible in the Country party, or that Country party senators have, in my knowledge, accepted dictation from their fellow senators, or from the members of the House of Representatives, who outnumber us more than two to one.
Senator Hardy’s next, and equally serious, inaccuracies relate to a meeting of Country party senators held last Thursday. it was the first separate meeting of the Country party senators which had been held since I have been a member of this chamber, and after this experience I should think the experiment is not likely to be repeated, because the meeting proved to be a complete failure.
We discussed a letter which my colleague, Senator Carroll, had sent to each Country party senator, strongly opposing the suggestion to appoint a leader. It was pointed out that the Senate existed for the protection of State rights, and that members of our party necessarily held entirely divergent views on many subjects of public importance. The impossibility of reconciling the views of all Country party senators under one leadership in regard to such matters as the sugar embargo and the tariff was instanced. This view was adopted by. the meeting, which unanimously decided not to appoint a leader, as there was no necessity for the creation of such a position.
For many years Senator Carroll had been authorized to act for the Country party in the Senate as the channel of communication with Ministers in connexion with the more formal business of this chamber, and it was decided to adhere to that practice. Senator Carroll was absent through ill health, so Senator Hardy was elected to act in that capacity in future. He and I were the only candidates ; but I emphasize that the position has never been that of leader of the Country party senators. Had I been elected, I should never have regarded myself as being more than a channel of communication between Ministers and my colleagues in regard to formal matters. Nor would I have made any announcement of the appointment in the Senate, believing that the occasion did not warrant it. Had senators of the Country party decided to elect a leader in a non-party House, I would not have been a candidate, and would have withdrawn from the meeting. Senator Hardy’s election implied no interference with the freedom of speech or action which Country party senators have enjoyed for a decade, untrammelled by any obligation to follow a party leader or act other than as their consciences might, dictate. After the election. Senator
Hardy stated the exact terms in which he proposed to advise the Senate that he would be the representative of the Country party in this chamber in regard to formal matters in the future. That detailed statement did not suggest that he had been elected to the leadership of the Country party in the Senate, but was merely an intimation that a state of affairs which had existed for ten years would be continued. The statement was approved by the senators present; but three hours later Senator Hardy made an entirely different, and wholly unauthorized, announcement in this chamber that he had been appointed leader of the Country party in the Senate. In my long experience of public affairs I know of no precedent for a statement approved in specific terms at a party meeting having been altered bv the person to whom its publication had been entrusted, and an entirely different announcement made. I shall not further comment, on Senator Hardy’s action, except to say that in the interests of justice, the truth should be disclosed, however unpleasant it may be. To keep silent would be to condone Senator Hardy’s action, and permit him to appoint himself as the leader of the Country party in the Senate, when, in fact, the party decided to continue without a leader. Were I to allow such an action to pass unchallenged, I should be recreant to my trust as a member of this assembly.
I desire to define my attitude in clear and unmistakable terms. Like every other senator, I am here as the representative of the people of my State, pledged to them to place their interests before any party or other consideration. I exercise my vote as I think will best serve the interests of Western Australia. In the performance of my public duties I do not require, and will not accept, leadership from any senator. I accept the full responsibility for my words and actions. So long as I remain a. member of the National Parliament I shall never permit any other senator to profess to express my views. I believe that that is the attitude of a large majority of honorable senators. For over ten years Country party senators have sat in this chamber without having appointed a leader to speak for them. I follow no leader, and require no leadership as to how my vote
Senator W. B. Johnston. shall be exercised. Indeed, no honorable senator with an atom of selfrespect, or the faintest conception of his responsibility, would accept leadership of this nature. I resent Senator Hardy’s attempt to force party domination and caucus methods ou his colleagues. For any honorable senator to attempt to make the Senate a playground in which Country party senators play the game of follow-my-leader, with the “ Cromwell of the Riverina “ as the leader, would be to attempt to degrade the Senate. Are Country party senators so deficient in their knowledge of national affairs that they need the guidance and leadership of Senator Hardy or any other senator? Have they no minds of their own? In any case, against whom is the party to be led? Is it to be led against the three senators of the Labour party, or against the composite Government, which includes a number of Country party Ministers? Perhaps the sudden attempt to organize the Country party is due to a desire to assist the Government to retain the embargo on the importation of sugar, because that is the only legislative proposal of the Government that the Senate is likely to reject. I advise my colleague, Senator Badman, to be careful about this leadership joke. Or it may be that an attempt is being made to dissuade me from advocating secession by Western Australia and drawing attention to the disabilities of Western Australia under federation.
– The honorable senator’s remarks are outside the scope of the leave granted to him.
– I am not one who can accept leadership in a non-party Senate; nor can I be gagged. I stand for free speech and action as a free representative of the people in this National Parliament. I shall allow no cabal sitting behind closed doors to tell me -whom I shall follow, so long as I am entrusted with the privilege of speaking here for the people of a great State. The people of Western Australia are free and independent, and they expect their representatives to speak freely and act independently. During the 25 years that I have had the privilege of sitting as a free and independent representative of the people, I have exercised my vote in State and Commonwealth Parliaments according to my own unfettered judgment, bound only by my pledges to the electors and my sense of right and wrong. So long as I am privileged to remain here that is the only course for me to follow. I cannot conceive of any other course being acceptable to any honorable senator with a sense of the responsibility associated with the moulding of the destiny of the Commonwealth.
– by leave - I, too, wish to make a statement. During my life I ‘ hav:tried to live honorably and decently. On one occasion, as a matter of honour, I resigned my position in the State Parliament as the representative of my native district. I hope that while I am a member of the Senate I shall never be suspected of any underhand action. In fairness to myself and those other honorable senators who were present at the meeting of the Country party to which Senator Johnston has referred, I feel it incumbent on me to say that Senator Hardy has not made any statement that he was not fully authorized to make. The members of the party present at the meeting authorized the statement made by Senator Hardy, and I now affirm its truth.
– Can the Leader of the Senate make available to honorable senators and to members of the House of Representatives, a copy of the statement made by the Italian delegate to the League of Nations, giving reasons for the action Italy is faking in Abyssinia, together with the reply of the Abyssinian delegate?
– I cannot answer the honorable senator’s question offhand. I shall make inquiries to see if it is practicable, at reasonable cost, to do as the honorable senator suggests.
– Has the Minister in charge of Development received a report, on the grain alcohol industry in Australia, and, if so, will he table the report in the Senate?
- Mr. Rogers, the Commonwealth Fuel Advise!1, has submitted a report on the subjectIf sufficient copies are available, the report will be tabled in the “Senate; otherwise a copy will be placed in the Library for the information of honorable senators.
LETTER Carriers’ Uniforms.
– Has the PostmasterGeneral a reply to the question I asked prior to the last recess regarding the supply of uniforms to letter carriers?
– An exhaustive report on the subject is available in my office in the Senate, where the honorable senator may peruse it.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) has supplied the following answers : -
Motion (by Senator Foll) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be granted to Senator Guthrie on account of ill health.
Debate resumed from the 9 th October, vide page 540 (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– There is little, if anything, in this measure which honorable senators on this side of the chamber are likely to oppose. I regret, however, that in the allocation of funds to various departments nothing has been provided to improve the unsatisfactory conditions, to which I have previously directed attention, at Molonglo and the Causeway, Canberra. These settlements are a discredit to the Federal Capital Territory, and I ask Ministers in this chamber to use their influence with the Government to see that an adequate amount is placed at the disposal of the Department of the Interior to provide more suitable accommodation for the people now living there. Honorable senators who are not acquainted with the condition of affairs should visit these settlements to see how discreditable they are to Canberra.
Apparently no provision has been made to improve the disgracefulconditions existing at the Brisbane Post Office. I do not know how old the building is; but I think I am safe in saying that it is as old as I am, and I have had very many years of service. The building, which is in a state of disrepair, is surrounded by structures noble in design and of excellent construction, should be remodelled or a new building should be erected. Those who have seen it must have been impressed with its disgraceful condition. According to a statement of the Deputy Director of Posts and Telegraphs in Queensland, it is not proposed to remodel or rebuild it, because of the opinions held by some as to what should be done in the neighbourhood.
– A new building is required.
– A new building is urgently required. I shall refrain from dealing at length with the accommodation provided in Brisbane for federal members, because I have been advised unofficially that in the building nowbeing erected in Anzac Square, and which will be ready for occupation shortly, reservations have been made for the accommodation of federal members. I am ashamed of the accommodation provided in Brisbane. There is no privacy, andinvalid and old-age pensioners have to climb a badly lighted semi-spirai staircase on the steps of which the lead sheets are badly worn. At times, persons interviewing a federal member have narrowly avoided serious accidents.
– How many rooms are at the disposal of Queensland representatives in Brisbane?
– Probably four which can be used by members. There are also two rooms used for the housing of books and newspapers, but these form a kind of “no man’s land,” because honorable senators deciding to use them at any time are liable to discover that a member of the House of Representatives, who rarely visits the city, has installed himself in them.
– In Adelaide there is only one room for the members of both Houses.
– I claim that representatives of Queensland should have accommodation in Brisbane for the transaction of their official business as good as that provided in other cities.
– The accommodation in Adelaide is not so good as that in. Brisbane.
– That is not my responsibility. How honorable senators from South Australia can retain their self-respect with the limited accommodation made available to them in Adelaide passes my understanding. If the accommodation in Adelaide is the worst, that in Brisbane is the next worst.
I notice a large increase of the proposed vote for the Defence Department. I am not going to criticize that increase. It is the job of this Government guided. I presume, by its experts to attend to this matter, and apparently it has decided that the extra funds for this department are essential to the defence of this country. I point out, however, that eminent authorities, not only in Australia, but also from overseas, differ very widely as to whether this money is being spent in the wisest way. The policy of the Australian Labour party is to provide for the adequate defence of Australia. I am not sure that the money proposed to be allocated for this purpose will be spent in the most effective way to ensure that Australia will be adequately defended. However, we are told that while doctors differ, mere laymen must not express an opinion. Perhaps that dictum applies in this instance, but it is the Government’s .job to deal with this matter, and I presume it is doing so in an intelligent manner.
For some time past there has been an agitation by citizens of Cairns, North Queensland, for the erection of a new customs house there. I have made inquiries with respect to this matter, but I have failed to secure any definite information as to the intentions of the Government* I believe that a sum was allocated for this work in the Estimates last year, but, judging by the reply to a question which I asked, the money was not expended for reasons of economy. I ask the Leader of the Senate to inform us whether anything has been done in connexion with this proposal, or whether the Government proposes to undertake it in the near future. I understand that the experts of the department concerned are of the opinion that it would be entirely uneconomic to attempt to improve the existing customs house at Cairns, and that nothing short of a new building will meet the city’s requirements in that respect.
– Unlike the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), I do not intend to confine my remarks on this measure to the material facts embodied in the bill, but shall submit some thoughts concerning the policy incorporated in it. It is immaterial whether these public works are to be financed out of revenue or out of loan money. The fact remains that a vigorous public works policy has been formulated, and is being carried out, by this Government. I was particularly interested in a speech made on this subject last week by Senator Duncan-Hughes, and I propose to reply in detail to the opinions which the honorable senator expressed. Critics of public works programmes, whether initiated by the Commonwealth Government or by State governments, are divided into two groups - first, those who, irrespective of political creed, believe that the Government is not spending enough money on public works; and, secondly, those who claim that the Government is spending far too much in that direction. I propose to analyse the views of both these groups.
When Senator Duncan-Hughes was speaking last week, I asked him whether it was not a guiding principle with central banking authorities that a vigorous public works programme should be adopted by governments to help to lift a country out of a depression. The honorable senator replied that he was not prepared to say whether or not that was so, but that, if it were so, it appeared to him to be a wrong principle. It is quite evident that the honorable senator believes that it is wrong for any government to adopt a policy of public works in an endeavour to help the community in a time of economic stress The honorable senator then went on -
I propose to substantiate my view by quoting statements made by three of the leading men in Great Britain … 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 tha.n 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 them, he thought, was to concentrate all their powers of thought upon finding out how .they could stimulate trade, so that the demand for labour would be a natural demand.
It is obvious to honorable senators that Senator Duncan-Hughes submitted this statement as evidence that England had abandoned the policy of undertaking public works as a means of lifting the country out of economic stress. When Senator Brown asked him how such a demand could exist with so much labour idle, Senator Duncan-Hughes replied -
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.
He continued - 1 do not believe in governmental works. I do “ot wish to disparage governments, but I am confident that much better results maj 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 ou this point.
I have quoted Senator Duncan-Hughes’s statements in detail because I wish to deal with three of his contentions - first, that Britain has abandoned a public works policy as a means of lifting that country out of the depression; secondly, that he does not believe in governmental works; and, thirdly, that he advocates reduced taxation as a means of solving the economic problems confronting this country.
I ask honorable senators to consider the class of public works proposed by the Commonwealth Government. Honorable senators will agree with the general principle that public works which are likely to be remunerative or reproductive may justifiably be undertaken. But a good deal of uncertainty exists regarding what are actually remunerative or reproductive works. It could be claimed that it was a good policy for a government to lay through a desert a railway which would have practically no economic value, but might have a tremendous national value for defence purposes. That would be a remunerative work. Or again it could be maintained that if a government spent money on a community park where children could play and in consequence grow into more virile citizens than they otherwise would have been, such expenditure, while not reproductive in terms of accountancy, could be defended for national reasons. Quite frankly I admit that if the term must be expressed in £ : s. : d., I am not entirely clear in my mind as to what constitutes a reproductive work. I inquired of the Chief Librarian whether any commissions or boards of inquiry had ever attempted to define reproductive works, and he was obliged to confess that to his knowledge no definition exists.
Now I submit that any honorable senator who advocated a public works programme in 192S would of necessity have made a speech entirely different from that which he would make in support of a similar policy to-day. Why, I ask, should there be any difference? The explanation lies in the fact that in 192S unemployment was probably at its lowest ebb, being about S per cent. Any programme of public works sponsored by a government at that time naturally took employment from private enterprise. In other words, most government activities merely duplicated those of private enterprise, and the two competed sharply in the labour market. Besides drawing men from the ranks of private enterprise, public works in 1928 also diverted capital which otherwise would have been available for industry. This was reflected in the high interest rates offered on government loans. To-day, the position is very different. When the depression commenced, the Government launched a vigorous public works programme designed to give work to the unemployed, having realized that private industry had failed to absorb its full quota of the labour available. In addition, the funds used by private enterprise in normal periods had been transferred to a large degree to fixed deposits in the banks simply because private capital could not find any attractive field for investment. In a debate on this measure, therefore, we have to bear in mind the different circumstances in normal times and abnormal times. I favour, and will at all times support, a vigorous governmental policy of public works, always providing that such activity does not take away employment from, or compete in the same field as, private enterprise. The objective of such works is not to hinder but to facilitate the recovery of private enterprise. The opening up of stone quarries, the financing of irrigation works to accelerate citrus production, or works to assist men to engage in market gardening would give employment to some individuals, but would definitely throw others out of work. Therefore it is essential, in any public works programme, the type of work to be undertaken should be carefully selected in order to achieve the dual objective of getting men back into employment and at the same time assisting private enterprise. The works proposed in this bill can be justified by that test. If honorable senators check up the works itemized in this measure, they will find that the Government is following a policy that, over the past two or three years, has proved to be sound. Works which do not compete with private enterprise, such as the improvement of aerodromes, the provision of water supplies and sewerage, and building subsidies, are all means by which employment can be provided and private enterprise assisted, thus helping to lift the country out of the depression. Senator Duncan-Hughes stated that Britain is abandoning the policy of public works as a means of coping with the unemployment evil. I have endeavoured to check up the loan expenditure in Britain, and I find that, so far from decreasing, it is practically the same to-day as it was last year. Surely there is no analogy between a public works programme formulated for the needs of a country like Australia, which has tremendous economic potentialities and scope for development, and a policy for an old and comparatively welldeveloped country like Great Britain. Where an Australian government may find that it is absolutely essential to adopt n developmental programme, the British Government may take the directly opposite view. Wc control our own destiny, and is there any reason why we should slavishly follow the economic policy of Great Britain? Of course, there is not! We did not follow it when we increased the rate of foreign exchange. We have for all practical purposes established a currency of our own, though I admit that it is linked with sterling. If the Government of the United Kingdom did see fit to abandon its public works policy, should that be regarded as an indication that Australian governments should follow suit?
– Does the honorable senator know of any country with a central banking system which has emerged from the difficulties of the last few years better than the United Kingdom has done?
– I remind the honorable senator that there is an essential difference between central banking in England and central banking as we know it in Australia. I honestly believe tha, our position would be much sounder if, under our semi-developed system of central banking, the Commonwealth Bank exercised effective control of the open market by buying or selling securities as dictated by the rise or fall of the economic barometer. We should then have some measure of protection against the sudden onset of a depression or the effects of a sudden fall of world prices. But these observations are, I fear, somewhat of a digression. My purpose, at the moment, is to direct attention to some figures which I have taken out in connexion with expenditure on governmental works from revenue and loan respectively. This bill contains provision for an expenditure on works of £3,352,000. An examination of the figures for earlier years will show that the margin between the amount provided for this year and the expenditure in 192S-29 is very great indeed. I do not for one moment suggest that expenditure in 1928-29 was entirely economical, or entirely justified ; the point I wish to make is that at a particular stage in a general recovery it is unwise for a government to abandon expenditure on public works, and to rely as Senator Duncan-Hughes would urge, upon a policy of tax remission for the absorption of .our unemployed. In J92S-29 the Commonwealth expenditure on public works from loan and revenue amounted to £8,100,000, in 1929-30 it had fallen to £5,400,000, in 1930-31 to £2,000,000, and in 1931-32 to £1,000,000. In the following year it rose to £1,300,000, and last year it was £2.000,000. Having regard to the classes of works that are proposed, and, also. I trust, the submission that I have made, there is good reason for satisfaction that this year the expenditure will be £3,352,000. It is still more gratifying to know that whilst the Commonwealth Government is becoming increasingly active in this direction, State governments also are doing their share along these lines to absorb the remaining unemployed. Aggregate figures relating to expenditure from loan and revenue by the various State governments for works and services show that in 1928-29 ,the amount expended was £31,500,000, in 1929-30 it was £24,200,000 in 1930-31 it was £12,100,000, in 1931-32 it was only £5,800,000. In 1932-33, coinciding with the slight increase of Commonwealth expenditure, it rose to £9,700,000, and for this year the provision is £14,300,000.
– The decline of expenditure by the States a few years ago was due to the fact that State governments were in financial difficulties.
– That is so. Senator Duncan-Hughes has told us that he does not believe in governmental works; that his remedy for the unemployed evil is a substantial reduction of taxation on private enterprise. In other words, his economic creed, if I interpret it correctly, is the abandonment of governmental expenditure, and a re-adjustment of the taxes on industry, so that private employers may provide increased employment.
– It is impossible for any government to abandon entirely its expenditure on public works. I never made any such suggestion.
– I was referring to the general tenor of the honorable senator’s remarks.
– No doubt; but the correction which I make is an important point.
– I have no desire to misinterpret in any way the views enunciated by the honorable gentleman. Whilst all honorable senators will agree that the employment position to-day is much more satisfactory than it was in 1931-32, we must not forget that 17.9 per cent, of our people are still without work.
– That is only 10 per cent, above the normal figure.
– I know it is, but with that large percentage of our citizens unemployed we cannot flatter ourselves that we are dealing with the problem on a completely satisfactory basis.
Whenever I examine figures dealing with unemployment, I have some doubt as to their strict accuracy, though I do not question the source of the information. I allude to the figures contained in the budget and compiled by the Commonwealth or State statisticians, from information supplied by trade unions. It is well known that during the depression there was a considerable decline of the membership of trade unions, and also that a large number of youths have come on to the labour market in the last few years, and are presumably listed as n’on-unionists Despite some measure of doubt as to the accuracy of the statistics we must, I think, accept 17.9 per cent., as the true proportion of our unemployed.
– Those figures would include persons partially employed but registered with trade unions as unemployed. .
– I admit that, but I hope that the honorable senator does not suggest that 17.9 per cent, of unemployed represents the normal conditions in industry in Australia. The seriousness of the position calls for a continuance of public works programmes by all governments, and all deflationary interests should be avoided.
Intimately related to the problem of unemployment is the cash position of the Australian trading banks which, I submit, are an accurate barometer of the rate of recovery. The latest figures taken from the Insurance and Banking Record show that the cash reserves of the trading banks - the amount on deposit with the Commonwealth Bank, plus the amount held by the banks in negotiable securities - have been reduced by approximately £15,000,000, and that advances have increased by about £16,500,000. It might be argued, on these figures that there is encouraging evidence in the financial and economic structure of the Commonwealth’s recovery. No doubt the figures do disclose this upward trend, but they also suggest that the banks may soon experience considerable difficulty in financing the rate of recovery. I am aware that the Grover nment, through its various departments, is carefully watching the barometer of progress, possibly with a- view to supplying the necessary stimulus in the event of any showingup becoming evident, because it is unreasonable to assume that our rate of recovery from the depression will be unaccompanied by temporary checks. I submit that but for the substantial advance of about 20 per cent, in the export prices for our primary products, we should probably have experienced a setback this year.
Another useful financial and economic barometer that is deserving of close scrutiny is the position of public companies. I have examined the figures for 96 companies, covering the six months ended the 30th June, 1934, and find that the average increase of the number of men on the aggregate pay-roll was about 15 per cent. For the first half of this year the average increase was 13 per cent. A further analysis of the latter period under review shows that while for the first three months the rate of increase was as high as 15 per cent., during the last three months it fell to 9 per cent. As the lower average for this year indicates a slower rate of recovery, I submit it is the duty of the Government to analyse carefully the activities of all financial and trading institutions in order that any action deemed necessary to prevent a serious recession in the rate of progress may be taken. A vigorous public works policy designed to help private industry is the immediate answer to signs of recession in our economic welfare.
– What was the nature of ‘the companies which the honorable senator examined?
– They were general industrial companies.
– Evidently the honorable senator now believes in Labour’s policy.
– No ; but I am glad to know that the honorable senator believes in a policy which I am advocating.
– A vigorous public works policy has always been on the platform of the Labour party.
– Labour’s policy always has been to carry out works which compete with private enterprise. Only a few days ago the Leader of the Opposition extolled the virtues of private enterprise in Queensland; but when he was questioned about the State saw-mills and cattle stations, he was discreetly silent. Tt is well known that the public works policy of the Labour party has for its ultimate objective the breaking down of private enterprise. That is not the policy contained in this bill-
Towards the end of his speech Senator Duncan-Hughes said -
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. 1 am of the opinion that the more taxation can be reduced, the more will the community be benefited and unemployment relieved.
I am sure that the majority of honorable senators cordially support that view, always providing that such action is practicable. Desiring information as to the minimum reduction of taxation that would be required to achieve this desirable end, I paid a visit a few days ago to an eminent taxation expert and asked for his opinion, adding that my own views on the subject were somewhat confused. I asked whether an immediate reduction of taxation by, say, £20,000,000, would put private industry on its feet and enable it to completely absorb the unemployed, but I reminded him that there was a very great difference between governmental functions of the day and those of ten or twenty years ago. Ideas regarding the responsibilities of governments have been in process of evolution - it may be in the direction of what Senator Brown broadly names socialism - and the need to regulate private enterprise infinitely more than in the past is now recognized.
– By assisting it with millions of pounds.
– That is not so. The budget contains many items of expenditure from which there is no escape unless our whole social structure be rebuilt or re-organized. The proposed expenditure in connexion with war services, for instance, is inescapable, and that is one obstacle to a reduction of taxation. Similarly, the large sums proposed to be paid to the. States, and the expenditure contemplated in connexion with pensions, interest and defence are obligations which must be met. The expenditure over which the Government has real control is a comparatively insignificant amount, and so long as the present structure remains, it is only in respect of that sum that a reduction of taxation is possible. It may be said that the company tax could be further reduced. But what would ‘happen if that were clone? The revenue sacrificed would have to be raised from another source. Some would claim that the reduction would enable companies to offer more employment.
That would be so, if the amount not paid as taxes were expended in providing further capital equipment made in Australia, and in promoting trade. A lot would depend on the nature of the expenditure. But if, on the other hand, the money were used to pay the company’s indebtedness, it would not have any immediate effect in providing employment. It may also be argued that relief from taxation, if directed towards the payment of indebtedness, would increase the deposits in the banks, thereby increasing the amount available for advances; but what guarantee would there be that the money so paid out would be spread over the community as effectively as if it were expended by the Government in providing work for the unemployed?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that the banks are less capable of spending the money wisely than the Government is?
– No. I am speaking of the economic effect. A vigorous public works programme, providing the types of works are carefully selected, must ultimately prove of more advantage to the community than an immediate reduction of taxation.
– If a remission of taxation enabled a company to reduce its indebtedness, surely it must be for the good of the community.
– Yes, provided that the amount by which its indebtedness is reduced goes back into private enterprise in such a way that it will provide employment as quickly as would a vigorous policy of public works.
– The directors of a company capable of carrying on successfully would see to that.
– Not necessarily. 1 submit that if a company received a remission of taxation amounting to £1,000 it would render a greater service to the community, so far as the relief of unemployment is concerned, by expending that money on works in which the ratio of labour to materials was high, than by purchasing one machine which may provide work for only one man.
In conclusion, I approve of the works programme contained in this bill, because
I believe that it is the duty of a government to regulate its works programme according to the unemployment position. I cannot see how a drastic curtailment of public works can do other than seriously affect the position in regard to employment. In the last three years governments have held the scales evenly between private enterprise and public works expenditure. As Australia progresses towards recovery, so will it be possible to curtail governmental undertakings designed to promote employment; but if, on the other hand, the improvement is not maintained, and progress is retarded, a vigorous policy of public works will again have to be undertaken.
.- This bill contains proposals for the expenditure of large sums of money on public works which have not been given that careful scrutiny to which proposed works were subjected when the Public Works Committee was in existence. It provides for the expenditure in the Federal Capital Territory of £67,540 on architectural services and £74,460 on engineering services. Since the Public Works Committee was suspended, millions of pounds have been passed by Parliament for expenditure on works which have not been scrutinized by any committee, with the result that Parliament has not had before it any evidence by which it could judge whether or not savings could be made. For some years you, Mr. President, were a member of the Public Works Committee, as I was for three years. The cost of that committee was small; indeed, the total amount paid to its members was about £2,000 per annum, with a further sum to cover the salaries of a small staff. My experience as a member of that committee enables me to say that its careful investigation of proposed public works resulted in the saving of many thousands of pounds. I submit that, with the recovery that has taken place during the last few years, and the more vigorous public works programme now contemplated, the re-establishment of the Public Works Committee is amply justified. It may be that, the committee as previously constituted was too large; but if nine members is thought to be too many, the committee when, re-constituted could be smaller. I make this suggestion solely in the public interest, as I am not personally concerned.
Speaking in the Senate a few days ago, Senator Duncan-Hughes attributed the abolition of slums in Great Britain to the expansion of private enterprise. He said that slum dwellings were being demolished to make way for new warehouses and business premises. I agree with the honorable senator that the Government can best contribute to the stability of the community by assisting private enterprise so that it can provide work for those willing and able to perform it. The slum clearance scheme now being undertaken in Great Britain is of such magnitude that it could not be financed by private enterprise. Generally speaking, such works are carried out by municipalities which raise loans of from £2,000,000 to £4,000,000; these loans are usually oversubscribed. When the authorities determine that buildings in a specified area are unfit for human habitation, the land is resumed and modern workmen’s cottage.* are erected. The members of the Empire Parliamentary Delegation saw what is being accomplished in this direction. Knowing the interest which Senator Duncan-Hughes takes in this subject, I am sure that he would be gratified to see what various municipalities in Great Britain are doing in the removal of slum areas.
– Is such w carried out by contract or by day labour?
– Most municipalities have their own public works departments, but private contractors have the right to tender for any contemplated work. The departments have to provide for the same costs as private contractors, and if a private tender is lower than the estimate submitted by the department, it is accepted. During an inspection, I saw reconstruction being carried out in one area by private contractors, and in another by a municipal works department. The financing of such schemes must necessarily be undertaken by a municipality because the capital required could not be raised by private enterprise.
– My statement was in reply to an interjection. I had not made a full survey of the situation.
– I realize that, and I do not wish to misrepresent the honorable senator. Prior to our departure from Great Britain, the British Government made a loan of £20,000,000 available to the London Transport Board for the extension of transport facilities in Greater London. Such a large amount could not have been raised by any private concern. I agree with Senator Hardy that governmental or semi-governmental bodies should raise the money necessary to carry out public works of such magnitude. Senator Collings suggests that h. view of the opinions I am expressing I should join the Labour party, but, as Senator Hardy has mentioned, we believe that the Government should intervene only when finance cannot be provided by private interests. We do not believe in governments being interested financially in small retail trading concerns, as was a Labour government in Queensland, which purchased a trawler to catch a few fish, and opened State butchers’ shops. I agree with Senator Hardy that when money cannot be raised by private contractors public works must be undertaken by governments. If a Labour government embarked upon an extensive homeconstruction policy, it would establish factories, and attempt to manufacture window frames, baths, taps, &c, in competition with persons who have been engaged in the business for years. I do not wish to delay the passage of the bill; but, in view of the large amount which the Government proposes to expend this financial year on public works, particularly in extending the accommodation for Commonwealth departments, the Public Works Committee should be reconstituted. I know from experience that unnecessary expenditure on public works has been avoided as a result of the investigations conducted by that body. I trust that the Government will give this matter its early attention.
. -Apparently Senator Hardy and Senator Foll are beginning to realize that there is a good deal in the Labour party’s policy regarding public works. The Labour movement has met with the bitter antagonism of the supporters of private enterprise; but some honorable senators opposite now believe that it is time to make a change. A few days ago, Senator Foll stated that large public work? in Great Britain are no longer being carried out to stabilize private enterprise, yet now he says that millions of pounds are being expended by governmental and semi-governmental bodies in clearing slum areas.
– I did not say that those works are not being carried out by private enterprise.
– The inference was that social enterprise is being cast aside, and that the Old Country is finding its salvation in the efficacy of private, enterprise. Senator Hardy proved that a public works policy is essential to private enterprise.
– The difference between our policy and that of the Labour party is that ours is administered sanely.
– Members of tks honorable senator’s party now share the responsibilities of government, and, by force of circumstances, the Government is giving effect to a policy which wo have advocated for years.
– Cannot private enterprise carry out public works?
– Private enterprise has been a dynamic force in developing the capitalist system; but a stage has been reached when it is found that a public works policy is necessary to assist the country’s development. The Labour party uses the forces at its command for the benefit of the community rather than in the interest of private concerns.
– Governments carry out public works every year.
– The representations of Labour supporters and the conditions resulting from the economic and financial depression have forced the Government to undertake public works. Senator Hardy suggested that a public works policy is necessary in order to diminish the opportunities of private interests to exploit the people.
– Will the honorable senator state the amount spent by the Scullin Government on public works?
– I have not the figures before me. The public works policy of this Government is not what it appears to be on paper. According to the budget papers £8,640,000 is to be expended, but an examination of the figures discloses that £3,000,000 of that amount is set aside for the adjustment of the farmers’ debts. In answer to a question yesterday, I was informed that only £10,000 of that amount has been expended. The adoption of an extensive public works policy would assist in absorbing the 17.9 per cent, of persons at present unemployed, and for whom private enterprise cannot find work. The Government wishes us to believe that it is expending huge sums of money on a public works policy, but, with the exception of £3,000,000 to be expended on additions, provision is made only for ordinary routine work.
– If private enterprise built a post office would such a work be public or private enterprise?
– It would provide work, especially if it were a new post office in the Valley, Brisbane, or in Queen-street, Brisbane. If the Government cannot construct such a building then let private enterprise do the work, and through such work purchasing power will be distributed.
Honorable senators on this side, I suggest, have demonstrated to Senator Foll and other honorable senators opposite that a Labour government has done splendid work in Queensland. Members of my party realize that all the forces of private enterprise are pitted against any efforts by governments to undertake public works programmes, and against any system which seeks to substitute social ownership for a system of which private ownership is the main feature. We know that in this and every capitalist country private enterprise always endeavours to prevent the development of the socialistic objectives of the Labour party because such development would mean a diminution of the profits of private enterprise. At the same time private enterprise holds that governments should be allowed to carry out works which do not promise profits, and that whenever private enterprise fails to make a profit, governments should come to its assis- tance. Governmental support of private enterprise is endorsed by some honorable senators and by many members of the House of Representatives. Only a few months ago this Parliament passed a bill to provide £12,000,000 for the adjust: ment of the debts of farmers. I do not oppose any action on the part of the Government to assist the farming community, but I claim that it is evidence that even this Government recognizes that it must undertake what may be termed socialistic measures when a section of the community has failed under circumstances over which those concerned had no control. No honorable senator can deny that public social activity is increasing and that private enterprise more and more is inclined to rest upon such a policy. That cannot be denied. Even Senator Hardy’s friend, Mr. Davidson, general manager of the Bank of New South Wales, has stated repeatedly in his circulars that it is necessary that the governments of all capitalistic countries should spend money in order to increase and widen purchasing power in their respective communities. Senator Hardy has supported that view; he is a student of Mr. Davidson’s pamphlets. Every one who has read them knows that Mr. Davidson, who is more far-seeing than the members of this Government, recognizes the need for the expenditure of government money in order to save institutions that are representative of private enterprise.
– Can the honorable senator point to one work embodied in this measure that will compete with private enterprise?
– I do not need to do so. I am pointing out that the policy of the Government is to safeguard the profit-making section of the community. The present percentage of unemployed will remain at 17 per cent, so long as private enterprise is safeguarded as this Government is doing. We claim that it is necessary to absorb that 17 per cent, of unemployed in industry and that this can be done only by a more intensive development of public enterprises.
– The honorable senator suggests that governmental works ought to absorb the 17 per cent, of unemployed.
– I claim that through the exercise of socialistic economic functions by the State, 17 per cent, of unemployed which private enterprise cannot absorb will be restored to employment. To any student of economics that must be clear. Despite the efforts which are being made in various countries, it has been found impossible for private enterprise to absorb all the unemployed. We find proof of this in America, where President Roosevelt has had to come to the rescue with a national recovery plan; in England, where there are still 2,000,000 unemployed; in France, where unemployment is increasing; in Germany, where, under the dictatorship of Hitler, the unemployment problem is becoming more serious ; and in Italy, which has had to resort to war as a solution of its economic troubles. Senator Foll gave us the impression that the unemployment problem had been solved in the United Kingdom. In reply to an interjection by me he admitted that many miners are still unemployed. Official statistics published in Great Britain show that there are still 2,000,000 unemployed there. According to the Statist governmental assistance to the British agricultural industry amounts to £45,000,000 a. year. How can Senator Foll or any other honorable senator claim that in the Old Country private enterprise has solved the problem of unemployment, when the agricultural industry in Britain, through grants and indirect relief, receives assistance which, is equal to 15s. a week for every person engaged in the industry? Yet, purblind and stupid, some honorable senators persist in saying that private enterprise must be depended upon to cure the evil of unemployment. The tendency to-day is to spend more and more money in order to keep private enterprise on its feet, and to ensure, in the main, that the capitalist class gets its pound of flesh by way of profit. But for government enterprise and assistance, the present system of banking and interestmongering would have gone by the board long ago. That has been admitted by one of the leading bankers in Australia.
We senators who sit in Opposition contend that the amount of money proposed to be voted for public work? is insufficient. Despite statements that we are now ascending the upward path, and that the sun of prosperity is rising, and other such “ guiver “, this Government will not replace in industry those seventeen out of every 100 persons who are out of work to-day. Senator Hardy has given us information, concerning the amount of money spent on public works by the Bruce-Page Government. I am informed that 100,000 persons were engaged on public works during the regime of that Government. If that was so, we may estimate that another 100,000 per.sons found employment in various other economic channels. Thus 200,000 persons were given employment as the result of a strong public works policy, which involved the borrowing of large sums of money overseas.
– It may have had an opposite effect.
– I am dealing with its real effect. The number of unemployed was less at that time than it is to-day.
– Those public works may have drawn employees from other activities.
– That may have been the case, but I remind the honorable senator that any private enterprise in Australia or elsewhere could readily overcome any shortage of labour. At no time in recent years has there been a dearth of labour except during the Great War. The proposed expenditure of £3,000,000 on necessary works and additional services will find employment for a few people at least. To that extent we welcome this hill, because, under the present economic system, a public works policy seems to be the only way of restoring purchasing power to the workers. Some day another system may be devised to achieve that purpose. The policy of instituting public works as a means of overcoming unemployment has been dealt with by the International Labour Office at Geneva, the director of which, Mr. Butler, whom I quoted a few days ago, has this to say on the matter -
Such works must, if they are to be successful, be associated with a general expansionist monetary policy. They should be undertaken on a large scale, and should be financed by loans rather than by taxation.
This statement supports the argument advanced by Senator Hardy, who appears to be a new evangel of Davidson or Douglas, I do not know which. Two years ago in this chamber, I provoked the smiles of some honorable senators, when I claimed that the reduction of taxes would not necessarily mean an increase of employment; I said that much would depend on whether the money, when it went back to the banks, was released again and distributed in wages.
– If the money went back to the banks, it would again be returned to industry.
– Not necessarily. That is where the honorable senator’s education is lacking and the prevalence of such an idea is one of the main reasons why Australia is in trouble to-day. The honorable senator apparently is of the opinion that, a* soon as the money goes back to the hanks, it. is returned to industry. That idea is fallacious. I have no doubt that Senator Hardy can enlighten his colleague on that point. Senator Hardy realizes the existence of such factors as a depression, the calling in of overdrafts, and the reducing of the volume of money poured into the com.munity in order to save the interests of investors and those who control the banking system. Surely Senator Herbert Hays, knowing of those factors and the part they play in such a problem, cannot claim that because money goes back to the banks it is always- returned to industry, and that no difference whatever results in general economic conditions. That is the contention of dunderheads and blockheads.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Senator Sampson). - Such language is unparliamentary.
– It may be unparliamentary, but it expresses my views on this point.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT.- The honorable senator’s remark is a little crude.
– I am a crude fellow; and I am not always able to express myself in polite parliamentary language. If, after my explanation and the lucid statement of Senator Hardy, Senator Herbert Hays fails to understand what has been said, something must be lacking in his imagination. I hope Senator Hardy agrees with me–
– I do not.
– Then I think Senator Hardy is within the same category as Senator Herbert Hays. I am quoting from his own statements. In common with the new director of Mount Isa, Senator Foll, he believes in the reduction of company taxation, but he said that if a company were granted remissions amounting to £1,000, that money, instead of being expended, might be used to reduce the company’s indebtedness to the bank, which would not necessarily use it for promoting employment. I am gratified to know that the Labour party has in the honorable senator a convert, and that our ranks will shortly be strengthened by his inclusion.
The Labour party, while commending the Government for spending more money on public and essential works, considers that this policy does not go far enough. I am pleased that certain honorable senators who are not members of the Labour party gave a rhetorical and critical trouncing to Senator DuncanHughes. Senator Hardy, in a reasoned, sensible statement, smashed Senator Duncan-Hughes’s arguments to smithereens.
The proposed defence works will be of interest to Senator Brand. The Labour party believes in adequate measures for the defence of Australia. Opinions differ as to what are adequate methods of defence. Senators on the other side of the chamber who have had a military training doubtless hold very definite opinions on this subject. On matters of detail - -whether it is better to spend money on gunboats or aeroplanes - they may differ, but they do seriously believe that Australia should spend many millions of pounds to defend itself. Latterday events prove to right thinking people that we should earmark a certain amount of money to provide for our protection. As to what constitutes defence there are many varying views. The advanced pacifist, for instance, considers that the defence of a country oan be accomplished only by educating the people not to go to war. The Quaker believes in the Christian doctrine of non-resistance, even to the extent that if he were smitten on one cheek he would turn the other cheek. Perhaps I may digress here (to recall an incident that befell a Quaker of my acquaintance who, having turned first one cheek and then the other, considered that he had fulfilled the letter of his faith and promptly attacked his aggressor. I shall not presume to enter into any learned disquisition upon what constitutes adequate defence, because I have no knowledge of the subject other than that it involves the provision of aeroplanes, warships, munitions, and military equipment. But I ask those who advocate adequate defence measures to consider the circumstances of Worth Queensland. Will the Government state whether or not it is true that Australia has been divided into certain military, naval and air force zones? For my own satisfaction I would like to know whether Cooktown, the ghost town of the north, which was once prosperous with 14,000 inhabitants, is included in any such zone. If it is not and the Government does not propose to spend any more money on the defences at Cooktown I shall be able so to inform the citizens there. Cooktown would make an admirable air base, and I understand that £500 was allocated from the grant for the relief of unemployment towards the construction of an aerodrome at that port. The citizens are now requesting the expenditure of an additional £1,000, in order to help place Cooktown on a proper basis as a unit in the defence of Northern Queensland. I am not a military authority, but as the mouthpiece of my constituents, I bring to the notice of the Government the following letter from a citizen of Cooktown : -
All of this work has occurred over a period of eighteen months. A council of twelve men, with the chairman, all devoted to public interest, have so administered an area of 52,000 square miles as to keep its finances sound and its progress continuous over that period. But the cry is for more population.
Senator Payne, who speaks so ably upon the decline of the natural increase of the population, should be interested in that portion.
This is the greatest shire council to my knowledge in the world. These people are merely asking for au additional £1,000 or £1,500 to complete the work that has already been done.
Roughly 3,000 people holding an area only slightly smaller than the British Isles, is highly provocative to neighbouring countries whose people are frustrated through lack of land, lt is not a mare’s nest, nor an item in a sensational Sunday newspaper, to repeat the story of a miner with his gold-bearing ore on the beach ready for shipment and the advent of the Japanese sampan whose crew stole the ore ostensibly for ballast. The whole thing happening within 150 miles of Cooktown! True, a slight incident, but surely a straw in the wind! Nor is it a scare when one hears of educated Japanese - they come to Cooktown on the luggers - sneering at Australian land hogs.
Captain Scott, the winner of the air race, said in a series of articles appearing in the Courier-Mail, that in the event of war in the Jjost, Thursday Island would be the attacking centre, and Cooktown the defending centre for Queensland. We are only a few hours run by air from New Guinea, and the modern highpower plane can reach Brisbane from Cooktown in one day. It is important then to bring under notice the paradox of our isolation and our contact with busy centres.
I hope that the Government will take cognizance of this letter and either frankly and fearlessly declare that Cooktown is outside the naval, military or aerial zone, and is to be neglected, or that the town comes within one of the districts and will be strengthened. The Government which believes in the defence of Australia, and which is prepared to support Great Britain to the last man and the last shilling in the dispute which is now disturbing Europe, should not allow this appeal to go unheeded. It should recognize that if Australia is to be protected, the northern gate must not be left wide open to the invader.
– In supporting the second reading of this bill I commend the Government for making provision for the expenditure of £3,000,000, and generally approve of the detailed works set out in the schedule. I find myself much in accord with the views expressed by Senator DuncanHughes on the general principle of expenditure by governments on public works. The honorable senator did not state that governments should abandon public works, and leave employment wholly to private enterprise. As a matter of fact, every honorable senator knows that the Commonwealth and State Governments each year introduce bills providing for public works, as in their opinion are within their financial capacity.
– They must do so.
– Of course. The question at issue is - How far is the Government justified in a general policy of expending money on public works ? I refer particularly to the Commonwealth Government in competition with the States. In recent years a financial crisis - the greatest in history - overtook the world and it affected Australia no less than any other country. In such a period of national emergency it is the duty of the Government to see that its citizens are provided with employment. This Government, and also the preceding Administration, recognized its responsibility, and incurred substantial expenditure to assist in the absorption of the unemployed. This policy was put into effect in various ways, including the allocation of sums of money to State governments and municipalities for the carrying out of useful public works.
Senator Brown would have us believe that government expenditure on public works, regardless of whether they are productive or otherwise, is the one way out of our financial difficulties.
– I did not say that. I do not advocate that policy.
– The honorable senator may not have expressed his opinion in the exact words which I have used; but that, at all events, was the substance of his remarks. He strongly urged the Government to embark upon a vigorous public works policy, and made no qualifications as to whether such works should be revenue-producing or a permanent asset. He declared that only in this way could we expect to absorb the remaining 17 per cent, of unemployed people. While he was speaking, I reminded the honorable gentleman that, even in normal years, the number of unemployed in Australia averages about 9 per cent.
– That is evidence that private enterprise cannot absorb in industry all the people who are willing to work.
– It is fair to assume that a fair proportion of the 9 per cent, of persons listed as workless are really unemployable. Because of the seasonal nature of primary, as well as of some secondary industries, the percentage of the unemployed is not likely to fall below the figure stated. The Arbitration Court takes cognizance of the seasonal nature of a number of industries, and, as in the case of cane-cutting in Queensland, frequently awards to employees in those industries the equivalent of twelve months’ pay for a shorter period of regular employment. Our major primary industry, wheatgrowing, is also a seasonal occupation, and gives intermittent employment. It is extremely difficult for all wheat-growers to obtain sufficient labour to havest their crops. The vastness of this continent increases the difficulty of relieving unemployment in some industries. If, for example, a large public work, giving employment to 2,000 or 3,000 men, is undertaken in Queensland, it will not attract any appreciable number of men who may be unemployed in Melbourne, but will draw its labour from the unemployed in Queensland. and from the men already working in industries in the locality. To this extent some public works become competitive with existing industries for the labour available. The Commonwealth should entrust the carrying out of public works to State governments or municipalities. Local authorities have available all the necessary plant and machinery, and, possessing a better knowledge of the bona fides of the unemployed in their respective localities, may be trusted to distribute the work more to the satisfaction of those seeking employment than could be expected if work were undertaken by the Commonwealth Government itself. A continuous policy is much more likely to be effective in absorbing the unemployed. A programme of public works, spread -over a number of years, would give permanent employment to a large number of men who, in the course of time, would become skilled in their various occupations, whereas heavyexpenditure on public works spread over a short period would be a disturbing factor in the labour market.
– Would the honorable senator support a proposal that the Commonwealth Government should make available larger amounts to the States for public works?
– I would prefer that State governments or municipalities should be entrusted with the carrying out of most Commonwealth public works, thus obviating the duplication of controlling authorities and plant. No government should take from the pockets of the people mere money than is required for the carrying on of its functions. Governments should not budget for surpluses. They should leave in the pockets of the people as much money as possible so that private industry may be encouraged to increase the volume of employment.
Although I may not be strictly in ardor in directing the attention of the
Postmaster-General to the need for reestablishing the shipping service to Kins; Island, I take this opportunity to mention the matter in the hope that something may be done in the near future. A regular shipping service was very much appreciated by the people living on King Island. Since the best passenger boat ceased running some years ago, their only means of transportation is by air. It may be argued that the maintenance of shipping services is the responsibility of the Tasmanian Government; but I submit that as there is a fair number of residents on the island, the Commonwealth should give heed to their representations and see what can be done to re-establish the service. I support the second reading of the bill.
– I am sure that Senator Brown does not expect the Government to disclose the plan of operations for the effective defence of Australia, but I can assure him that the strategic importance of northern Queensland has not been overlooked. I am pleased to notice that provision has been made in this year’s Estimates for the re-establishment of the Royal Military College at Duntroon. The original buildings, constructed in 1910, were of a temporary nature, resembling seaside shacks; but during the war years there was no time to erect permanent buildings. Then came the depression, and the buildings fell into disrepair. The Scullin Government could not face the cost of a new college - no one expected it to do so - and in the interests of economy, rather than of efficiency, the college was transferred to the Victoria Barracks, Paddington.
– That was false economy.
– For five years the college authorities have attempted to carry on at Victoria Barracks, but the place has not proved satisfactory. No great difficulty has been experienced in regard to the elementary training of the future staff officers, but field exercises, so important in the education of these cadets has been restricted owing to the lack of suitable open country in the vicinity. Whatever the requirements of Australian defence may be in war, it is imperative that the efficiency and strength of our skeleton permanent staff corps, as well as officer-instructors, shall be unimpaired. From the Royal Military College must come the personnel to replace officers who leave the service from various causes. I hope that on the return of the Royal Military College to Duntroon, it will be properly equipped, and that thereafter it will be continued as a. place of which Australians may be proud, instead of being an object of ridicule and regarded as a subject for neglect.
Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES (South
Australia) [5.22]. - As my name has been brought into this discussion a good deal, I propose to demonstrate to Senator Brown that I have not been completely overwhelmed, at any rate physically, by what has been said. I did not have a great deal to say by way of criticism of the Government in connexion with this bill. On the contrary, I went out of my way to say that, in view of the temptation to spend money, it had, on the whole, acted reasonably. At no time did I suggest that governmental works should not be carried out. I merely urged that no unnecessary work should be undertaken. There is a tendency for governments tn undertake works which are not absolutelyessential. Senator Hardy refrained from giving the Senate a definition of reproductive works. I would gladly have heard his definition, for it has been said that practically everything is a matter of definition. I have not the mental facility of the late Lord Rosebery, who, on one occasion, when asked for a definition of memory, is said to have answered, “ Memory is that feeling which spreads over us when we hear our friends’ new stories.” The word “ reproductive ‘’, when used in such circumstances as those under consideration, is usually regarded in a monetary sense ; a work is held to be reproductive if it pays interest on the money expended. I agree with Senator Hardy that a playground might in one sense be reproductive, but except at Canberra or Port Darwin, or it may be at Alice Springs where there is not one, the subject of playgrounds does not come into our calculations. Outside the territories under Commonwealth control, the construction of playgrounds is essentially work for the States. That the Commonwealth Government is not the only Australian government which undertakes public works needs emphasizing. Expenditure incurred in constructing a playground may be justified on the’ ground that it is useful in building up a healthy community; but that can be said with even greater truth of certain expenditure on defence. Training with a defence unit may have great value, and produce excellent citizens, but I have not heard defence expenditure described as reproductive. That is largely because itdoes not show a return in terms of £ s. d. ; it may be difficult to prove that it pays interest on the money expended.
Senator Hardy spoke of a central banking system. In the United States of America, which has a central banking system, there has been a great expenditure of money on large schemes ; but I do not advocate that Australia should follow the example set by that country. In my opinion the policy in operation there will not bear comparison with the more moderate policy * adopted in England; it has yet to be proved.
– The Swedish central banking system has proved to be a most successful experiment.
– That may be. The experiment tried in the United States of America has meant the expenditure of enormous sums of money. Of course, that country is immensely rich and has great recuperative powers.
– Private enterprise has failed in the United States of America.
– Australia would be well advised to see the results of the American experiment before it attempts similar experiments. The figures quoted by Senator Hardy indicate a growing tendency towards an inflated expenditure on non-essential public works. For that reason I agree with Senator Foll that the Public Works Committee should be restored. While it existed that committee saved Australia many thousands of pounds. I do not speak impetuously on the point; but, after some consideration of the matter, I favour the restoration of the committee.
.- The schedule of works contained in this bill cannot be classed as works undertaken chiefly to provide employment. They appear to be either very necessary new works or works which have been delayed because of lack of funds.
– That is so.
– The programme submitted by the Government will involve the expenditure of more money than this bill seeks to appropriate, because some of the works will extend over several years. It would appear that Queensland is being treated generously. The sum of £53,000 is set down for this year in connexion with the erection of Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, and a further expenditure of £95,000 is contemplated. It would appear that post office works will not take so large a proportion of the total expenditure as in previous years, for only about one-half instead of three-quarters of the total will come under the control of the PostmasterGeneral !
For the acquisition of a small arms ammunition factory at Footscray, and machinery and plant for the manufacture of munitions, the sum of £46,653 is proposed to be expended this year, with o further expenditure later. I do not object to that expenditure, but I desire to sound a warning regarding the tendency of these establishments to compete with private enterprise. Instead of spending vast sums of money in establishing munition factories, the Government should consult the various chambers of manufactures throughout Australia, with a view to manufacturers installing machines and training men in the manufacture of munitions. In that way it would be possible to manufacture economically much large quantities of munitions than by concentrating the work in one or two munition factories. lt would also avoid unfair competition with private enterprise.
For the Royal Air Force £362,650 is set aside to provide land plane and seaplane equipment and plant, including spare parts, machinery, tools, ordnance and engineering supplies and ammunition. I do not object to this proposed expenditure because I realize that our defence may be largely in the air, and the greater the expenditure on this arm the greater will be our in.surance against danger. I wish, however, to direct the attention of the Government to the fact that if the expenditure is to be effective the members of the Air Force must be placed on a much more satisfactory footing than at present. I understand that the members of the Air Force, who join the service at an average age of 20 years, have to retire at 45, thus having a working life of only 25 years. Deferred pay amounting to £200 or £250 is made available to. them at the end of 25 years’ service, but provision should be made to transfer them to some other ‘branch of the service when they reach the retiring age. We cannot expect the members of the Air Force to be content in the knowledge that when they are 45 - -the age when a business man may be said to have reached his prime - they will be compelled to engage in work for which they are quite unfitted. Air service equipment is essential for the safety of Australia; but I urge the Government to extend more sympathetic treatment to the personnel of the Royal Air Force.
– I support the remarks of Senator Foll and Senator Duncan-Hughes regarding the reconstitution of the Public Works Committee. I was a member of a public works committee in South Australia for some years, and I am positive its cost was returned to the Government fourfold. Senator Hardy quoted figures showing that in 1928 the Commonwealth expended about £8,000,000 on public works. In subsequent years that amount was reduced to £5,000,000, £2,000,000 and £1,000,000 respectively. Last year the expenditure was £2,000,000 and this year it is to be as shown in the budget papers now before honorable senators. If it were necessary to disband the committee because the expenditure on Government works was small, now that the expenditure has increased to such an extent it would appear to be only fair to re-constitute the committee.
In connexion with public works generally the Government should keep in mind two considerations - first, that the utilities provided are necessary - I would prefer something more practical than Senator Hardy suggested - and, secondly, that they will be reproductive. “When speaking on the Estimates and budget papers, I said that men should be employed on reproductive works, and that we should not expend money on undertakings which may be detrimental to the country’s interests. The two principal items of expenditure provided in thebill relate to defence and postal buildings. I have already made it clear that I have not an intimate knowledge of defence matters, but with other honorable senators I realize that provision must be made for the effective defence of Australia. In such matters I am prepared to be guided, not only by those who had experience in the Great
War from 1914 to 1918, but also by those who have a sound theoretical knowledge of the subject. I believe that those who formulate our defence policy will assure to Australia more than a modicum of safety, and I am prepared to support them.
I should now like to deal briefly with postal matters, some of which may appear trivial to the Government, but which are of great importance to those concerned. I sincerely trust that improved mail facilities will be provided to persons in outback districts. Pioneers who for the time being have left behind most of the amenities which make life worth living should have better mail services than are now provided. Many in the back country are suffering much inconvenience owing to the lack of even a weekly mail, and, if their claims were given more consideration, they would be grateful. Another matter which has caused considerable inconvenience in South Australia is the withdrawal of railway postal vans in which mails were sorted and delivered at the stations as a train proceeded on its journey. If a person wishes to communicate by letter with another living 10 miles away, the letter has to go to a capital city, perhaps 100 or 150 miles distant, where it is sorted before it is returned to the addressee. Instead of the letter being received within a couple of hours it may not be delivered until the next morning. If the old system were reverted to it would be a great convenience, not only to the people of South Australia, but also to many in other States. I trust that the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) will give to the matter favorable consideration.
[5.44]. - I thank honorable senators for the friendly manner in which this, bill has been received. I remind SenatorCollings, who said that no provision had been made for improved housing conditions in Canberra, that under “ Architectural services “ £67,540 is provided. The item may be misleading, but an analysis of the figures will show that £38,400 of this amount is for the erection of wooden cottages, which must improve housing conditions generally in Canberra. I understand that some of these cottages will replace the less serviceable houses to which the honorable senator referred.
The new Commonwealth offices in. Brisbane are expected to be available for occupation in March, 1936. In them provision has been made for the accommodation of federal members. The cost of furnishing the federal members rooms in Brisbane is provided for in another portion of the bill. A sum of £6,000 is to be made available from loan funds for a new customs house at Cairns. That amount was appropriated during the last financial year under an unemployment relief measure.
– Will the work be proceeded with?
– Yes. I listened with a great deal of interest to the remarks of the leader of the Country party in the Senate (Senator Hardy), in regard to public work policies.With much that he said I find myself in general agreement. Public works policies must be prudent; but, as was stated by the honorable senator, there is a difference between a public works policy such as we support, and a policy supported by the members of the Labour party.
Some interesting speeches have been delivered by honorable senators in connexion with the proposal of Senator Foll that the Public Works Committee should be reconstituted. I would be the last to deprecate the good work done by that committee at a time when the Government was spending large sums of money on important works; but, while the debate was proceeding, I looked through the works covered by this bill, and I found that few of them would come under review by the committee. The act provides that only works the estimated cost of which exceeds £25,000 shall be referred to the committee. The act also provided that defence works and works of a like character may be exempt by order in council. When the committee was in existence defence works concerning which publicity was inadvisable were always exempt from inquiry. As Minister for Defence at the time, I realized the advisableness of information on important details being withheld. Defence works, such as the construction of air force barracks at Laverton, which were not of a confidential character, were investigated. A large portion of the defence expenditure proposed in this bill is of an extremely confidential character, and would not be referred to such a committee. I am sure that neither Senator Foll, nor any of those who support the appointment of such a committee, would suggest that the erection of a battery at North Head should be inquired into by a works committee. Provision is also made for the expenditure of £53,000 on Commonwealth offices in Brisbane, but that work has already been reported upon by the Public Works Committee. Glancing at the totals of various items of expenditure proposed in the bill, one might think that many of these would be referred to the Public Works Committee if now in existence. But take, for instance, the river Murray waters scheme, under which certain works arc being constructed under an agreement between three States and the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth’s share of the expenditure on these works for this year will be £120,000. In the ordinary course of events, these works would not have been referred to the Public Works Committee for the simple reason that they are of a technical character, and agreement regarding them has been reached between the engineers representing the three State governments and the Commonwealth Government, and endorsed by the commission as a whole.
– They are part of a progressive plan.
– That is so. If these works were referred to the Public Works Committee, whom would that committee call to give evidence? Obviously, it would first seek the advice of those engineers who had already recommended the scheme. The committee would not desire to hear evidence from any other engineer, unacquainted with the general scheme., which has been evolving over a period of years. Another item is the completion of oil fuel storage at Darwin, for which £34,000 is allocated. This work involves the installation of more tanks at Darwin, and is merely an extension of the original installation, which was exempted from report by the committee. Then there is the installation of oil fuel storage at Sydney, at an estimated cost, for this year, of £70,000. This work is also of a confidential character, and would certainly be exempted by the Minister for Defence from examination by the committee. Practically every item of proposed expenditure for the Defence Department exceeding £25,000 is of a confidential character, and would not be referred to the committee for investigation under any circumstances. The total of £36,000 ‘ allocated to the Repatriation Department is made up of scores of items of constructional additions and improvements to existing hospitals, offices and other buildings controlled by that department. Most of these items involve the expenditure of £2,000 or £3,000. With respect to the proposed expenditure of £60,000 on the ballasting of the transcontinental railway, surely no honorable senator would suggest that the committee, if it were reconstituted, should be despatched to the railway to inquire whether the ballasting was necessary, or advisable, or whether the ballast pits were situated at the most economical places !
-hughes. - The Public Works Committee had plenty to do when it existed previously.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.Of the total expenditure, the greatest part, amounting to £1,650,000, will be in the Postmaster-General’s Department ; but, when the items are examined, we find that very few of them individually involve more than £25,000. Three broadcasting stations are to be constructed at a total cost of £36,000, but Parliament has set up a commission, to which it has ‘ entrusted -the management of public broadcasting, and the commission decides upon the sites for its stations; the Postmaster-General’s responsibility is to provide the stations. Would honorable senators refer work of this “nature to a public works committee, and thus have three bodies - the Breadcasting Commission, experts of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, and the Public Works Committee - investigating it ‘ I hardly think so. In another class of expenditure provided for in this measure are telephone exchanges. I take this opportunity to say that in the past the Public Works Committee, when dealing with such matters, did not quite walk the chalk line. It was rather foolish to have the Public Works Committee travelling about the country to report on every proposal to construct a telephone exchange simply because the estimated expenditure involved on each exceeded £25,000. All of these exchanges were constructed on similar lines.
– The Public Works Committee of which I was a member effectuated reductions of the estimated costs of two telephone exchanges.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.When these exchanges were first being constructed it was reasonable to have these proposals investigated by the Public Works Committee, which I admit accomplished good work at that time by selecting the best type of exchange. Once the most serviceable type had been chosen, however, and the class of building decided, the only matter remaining for determination was the site of new exchanges. I fail to see why the com mittee should have made inquiries into the cost of construction of every one of these exchanges which were’ all of the one type. In making such unnecessary investigations the committee failed badly.
– It is only fair to state on behalf of the committee that no matter how much work it had to do its expenditure could not exceed a certain figure.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.I am aware of that fact, but the suggestion is that the committee should be reconstituted to investigate proposals for which expenditure is being allocated in this measure. There is no justification for that. Would any honorable senator say that the committee should be reconstituted, for instance, to inquire into the cost of construction of telephone exchanges of the same type as those already adopted upon the recommendation of the previous Works Committee after it had made a full investigation?
– Large works at Canberra are planned in this measure.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The total of £74,000 for works to be carried out in Canberra is made up of scores of items, and the individual cost of none will exceed £25,000. Certainly the aggregate cost of the 70 new cottages will be greater than that amount, but this involves a group of structures of varying types.
I have carefully examined every class of expenditure involved in this measure and I have failed to find any proposed work which would require an investigation by a Public Works Committee. Therefore, so far as this measure is concerned, there is no justification for the reconstitution of the Public Works Committee. I am not suggesting that for this reason the Government has rejected the idea of reconstituting the committee. That proposal is on the agenda for consideration by Cabinet, and the Government believes that when expenditure is proposed for certain works which would justify an investigation by such a body, the committee should be reconstituted.
Senator Brown invariably tries in a laborious way to tell us what really is the defence policy of the Labour party. He has taken this opportunity to repeat his attempt.
– He cannot tell us that because the Labour party has no defence policy.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE Senator Brown claims that the policy is adequate defence “. The attitude adopted by Senator Brown and his colleagues on this matter reminds me of Russell Lowell’s satirical line - “ I do believe in freedom’s laws, as far away as Paris is.”
Senator Brown desires that a naval base be established at Cooktown. Though I was Minister for Defence for many years I heard nothing of such a proposal.
– I did not suggest the establishment of a naval base at Cooktown. I said that Cooktown should be regarded as a defence base in the north.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.What use would a naval base be without a navy?
– My contention was that in considering defence measures with respect to the far north the claims of Cooktown should be considered. I did not suggest that a naval base should be constructed there. I pointed out that money had already been expended on the establishment of an aerodrome there and I asked whether further defence measures were to be undertaken at that centre.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.In accordance with modern ideas of defence a port is not fortified unless it is a port of refuge, refuel, refit or repair for a navy. A port is not fortified simply to protect the buildings in it. If such were the case every port in Australia would need to be fortified. Senator Brown has suggested that Cooktown should be equipped as a possible naval base, apparently for refuelling. He must therefore believe in Australia having a navy. Yet the members of the Labour party contend that no member of the Australian defence forces should serve outside Australia. Therefore none of our naval ships should go beyond the threemile limit; if it did so the fundamental policy of the Labour party that under no circumstances whatever must an Aus tralian serve outside Australia as a member of a fighting unit would be violated. I suggest that members of the Labour party should re-consider their defence policy, because their constant talk of “ adequate defence “ without any explanations only irritates their listeners.
– Hughes. - Apparently they have reconsidered their views in that respect within the last few years.
– I listened with interest to what Senator Brand said about the return of the military college to Duntroon. I understand that the new buildings to be constructed for the college will be of a permanent character. When the establishment of the college was first proposed, General Bridges, who was to be the first commandant was asked to advise the Government as to the class of ‘buildings to be constructed. General Bridges realized the impossibility of forseeing the future expansion and development of the Australian Military Forces. While he would have liked to have seen a permanent building erected, he appreciated that development in years to come might necessitate the remodelling of the entire layout. A lecture-room designed to accommodate a certain number of cadets might be erected adjacent to another structure. Later, when it became necessary to increase the area of the lecture-room, one building would have to be demolished to allow the other to be extended. Therefore, General Bridges preferred to have some of the buildings permanent and others temporary. Subsequent events showed how sound was his advice. The new college buildings will be planned on more uptodate lines.
I can allay Senator Leckie’s fears that the munition factories at Maribyrnong may unduly compete with private enterprise. That competition has been very much reduced since the Scullin Government left office. Apparently that Government sought to make the factories the genesis of State socialism. It is not pretended for one moment that these factories will be able to supply all the munitions that Australia will require in the event of war, but it is essential, as the late war demonstrated, to have a corps of experts to instruct citizens in the method of making munitions and also to advise on ways to convert certain manufacturing plants to these purposes. Such a corps must be trained in peace time, and consequently the individuals must have something to do to occupy themselves. They can be employed at jobs similar to those they would have to do in time of war. The policy of the Government is that there shall be a minimum of interference with private enterprise. The Maribyrnong factories are making materials that are not manufactured by private enterprise in Australia. Little interference or unfair competition with private enterprise can be charged against these establishments.
The remarks of Senator Leckie regarding the employment of retiring members of the air force will be brought to the notice of the .Minister for Defence.
Senator James McLachlan dealt with postal matters, and I am sure that the Postmaster-General will supply in committee the information that he seeks.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a. second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
– There is an item of £115,000 for expenditure under the War Service Homes Act. Does that provide for new homes and additions to homes, and, if so, what amount will be expended in Western Australia?
[6.11]. - With the unexpended balance of £10,614 of the funds made available under the act, the amount provided is increased to £125,614. The allocations are: (a) To provide extra, accommodation, sewerage and discharge of amounts owing in respect of sewerage already installed £45,600. (Z>) To unemployed purchasers for the supply of paint, &c, for the purpose of renovating homes occupied - £6,950. (c) For the erection of homes and discharge of onerous mortgages £73,064. Total, £125,614.
It is anticipated that the sums in (a) and (b) will satisfy waiting applications and those likely to be received during 1935-36. As to (c) the total of loans applied for at the 30th June, 1935, amounted to £202,155. The provision of £73,064 will not satisfy all applications and at the 30th June, 1936 the balance of unsatisfied applications will total £129,091, assuming that all are successful, which does not appear at all likely. It is anticipated that after making an allowance for applications refused because of unsuitable proposals, the balance of £129,091 will be reduced to £110,000.
– Will the Minister furnish some particulars about the item for the purchase of a vessel for the development of the fisheries industry? The item appeared in the Estimates two years ago and again last year.
. Some considerable time ago the development branch of the Prime Minister’s Department embarked on a survey of the possibilities of Australian fisheries. It was resolved that the operations should be confined to an examination of pelagic or surface swimming fish on the Australian coast; trawling would not be undertaken. The type of vessel was decided upon on advice received from England, and two classes of nets were to be used. The Government proceeded with the plans and specifications of a vessel capable of using a drift net as well as a purseine net, but tests disclosed that this would involve an element of difficulty. Therefore it was decided to employ the purseine net only. Plans and specifications had to be altered and they are now being considered by Australian contractors, for the Government has decided to have the vessel built in this country.
Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.
– I shall be obliged if the Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral will furnish the committee with some details of the alterations being carried out to the High Court at Melbourne, at an estimated cost this year of £4,525.
– Honorable senators may perhaps remember the complaints that were made by the justices of the High Court some time ago concerning the nature of the accommodation provided in Melbourne. During extremely hot weather they were forced to leave the building, and had to depend upon the courtesy of the Supreme Court of Victoria for suitable rooms in which to transact High Court business. Last year the sum of £19,505 was made available under the Loan (Unemployment Relief) Act. The total estimated cost of alterations to the building, including the addition of another story, was £24,030. The following contracts were let: - Alterations to building, W. C. Burney and Sons, £21,210; steel frames for windows, Trevor Building Equipment Company, £530; heating and ventilating,. Frencham and Wylie, £674; toilet partitions, &c, Australian Metal Products Company, -£233 ; electric copper glazing, T. S. Gill and Son, £231 ; making a total of £22,878. The electrical installation, costing £1,25,0, and minor alterations, £298, were carried out by departmental labour. The sum of £4,525, appearing in this schedule, is additional to the amount made available last year. The court has been remodelled, after consultation with the justices, to provide additional accommodation for the High Court, as well as rooms for the Bankruptcy Court and the judge in bankruptcy. I understand that the work is now practically completed.
.- I notice, under the Department of the Interior, an item of £120,000 for expenditure under the River Murray Waters Act 1915-1933. I take it that this is part of the £480,000 to be expended by the respective governments during the presentyear. Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior say whether it is proposed to construct a barrage at the mouth of the river Murray in South Australia, what works are being carried out at the Hume Weir, and whether consideration has been given to the recommendation of the commission which in 1929 investigated the cost of the river Murray waters scheme?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [8.7]. - Following the report of the River Murray Commission in 1929, there was a revision of the entire scheme, resulting in the elimination of some of the proposed locks. The schedule makes provision for an expenditure on the New
South Wales side of the Hume Weir of £36,000, of which amount £10,000 is for construction and £26,000 for land resumption. On the Victorian side £5,000 will be expended for construction, £2,000 for roads and railway deviations, and £60,000 for land resumption. In South Australia, in addition to £2,000 for weir and lock No. 7, there is provision for £130,000 for barrages in th« vicinity of the Murray mouth.
– Under the Department of Defence there is provision for land-plane and sea-plane equipment and plant, &c. As the Senate has not yet had any statement with regard to these works, perhaps the Minister will be good enough now to furnish some particulars of the proposed expenditure. I understand tha.t the item includes part of the contemplated expenditure of nearly £100,000 for ground organization preliminary to development of air mail services.
– The sum of £100,000 has been set aside by Cabinet for the purpose of providing the necessary facilities to speed up interstate mail services. As this work has to be carried out in cc-operation with the Department of Civil Aviation, £50,000 has been allocated to that branch. Portion of the amount is included in the item to which Senator Duncan-Hughes has referred. Other amounts will be sot aside from time to time when required. The proposal has not yet been fully developed, because the Controller of Civil Aviation has just returned from overseas, where he made exhaustive inquiries into the most modern methods of transport by air. My department also has an officer abroad inquiring into radio communications with aeroplanes, also modern lighting systems and methods for control of aeroplanes. As night flying is visualized, his inquiries include the lighting of aerodromes, to ensure the safety of passengers and mails. It is estimated that during the current year the expenditure under these heads will not exceed £50,000. Precise details cannot, at this stage, be given, but I may add that even if the larger scheme cannot be implemented, the work which will be done will be of very great value in connexion with the development of overseas and internal air mail services.
.- Can the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior furnish any information with regard to the item, £6,500 under the Department of Commerce for buildings, works and sites?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [S.14]. - The provision includes an amount of £6,000 to cover the proportion of the cost to be borne by the Commonwealth of erecting shelters for waterside workers in Melbourne. The balance of the provision is required to complete the erection of a cottage at Darwin for the accommodation of a lighthouse mechanic and his family.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) in a position to give particulars of items 1, 2, 3 and 5 of division number 26 covering telephone and telegraph services and buildings, works and sites? Will the expenditure proposed improve communications generally in rural areas?
– Provision has been made for the improvement of road mail services. During the depression, many services were cither suspended or curtailed, and it is intended to restore all of them except those which are entirely uneconomic.
The sum of £1,032,500 is provided for telephone exchange services. The Government does not regard some of the existing telephone services as satisfactory because of the” restricted number of hours during which the offices are open, and for that reason additional automatic exchanges are being provided.
Under item 5 “Buildings, Works and Sites additions and alterations will be made to the post offices at Bayswater, Boyanup, Capel, Cottesloe, Harvey, Leederville, and Onslow, and line sheds will be constructed at Lake Grace, Manjimup and Quairading, Western Australia. The major new public works in that State include a broadcasting station and quarters at Wagin, and telephone exchanges at Victoria Park and Maylands. Alterations will be made to the post offices at Kalgoorlie and Wiluna, and provision is also made for an additional broadcasting station.
– The Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has told us that Brisbane is not to be provided with a new general post office this year. Business people in the vicinity of the Valley post office, Brisbane, complain that it is inadequate for the requirements of the district. I should like to know whether provision is made for a new building to be erected there.
– The agitation for improved postal facilities at Fortitude Valley has continued for a number of years. As soon as possible, I propose to visit Queensland, which is the only State I have not visited since I became PostmasterGeneral. Queensland will be generously treated under these proposals. At Oakey post office, a footpath will be constructed, and at the Brisbane General Post Office, a telephone pay station will be provided. Additions will be made to the Goondiwindi post office; garages and line sheds will be constructed at various places, and a number of rural automatic telephone exchanges will be erected. A broadcasting station and quarters near Townsville will be constructed at an estimated cost of £5,028; a new post office, costing £5,765, will be built at Ayr; £1,000 is set down towards the cost of a new post office at Bowen; Quilpie is to have a new post office costing £2,040; and the remodelling of the Cairns post office at an estimated cost of £7,500 is also provided for. Another broadcasting station and quarters will take £9,920; additions to the Emerald telephone exchange will require £500; and £1,000 has been set apart for a new post office at Pomona.
.- Can the Postmaster-General say what sites have been selected for national broadcasting services for which £103,000 is included in the schedule?
– The stations in respect of which this money will be expended are situated at Wagin and Kalgoorlie, Western Aus- tralia; the Horsham district of Victoria; near Dubbo and in the Northern Rivers district of New South “Wales; and Townsville, Queensland.
– Is provision made for removing the existing “ A “ class stations ?
– Is provision made in these Estimates for a broadcasting station in the “Western district of Queensland?
– No; but the matter is under consideration.
– Is the policy of extending country telephone lines to be continued, and, if so, will subscribers, in addition to paying half the cost of such extensions, be required to pay rental for their telephones ?
– That question does not arise in connexion with, these Estimates. I can say, however, that country districts are being well catered for in regard to telephones.
– Do these Estimates cover the transfer of the, “ A “ class broadcasting studio from its present unsatisfactory position at the corner of Milligan-street, Perth, to the new site chosen in Mill-street?
– The Broadcasting Commission has- informed me unofficially that out of its own funds, it intends to proceed with the transfer of the existing “ A “ class studio in Perth to another site in Mill-street. There has been some delay in connexion with a sewer easement, but that has now been overcome. Plans have been prepared and tenders called, and I expect that the work will soon be commenced. These Estimates do notcover the expenditure.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
Senator J. V. MacDONALD (Queens whether, in connexion with the calling of tenders for a new vessel for use in the fisheries industry, a time limit has been provided; if so, what period hasbeen allowed ?
– The local builders are now engaged in considering plans and specifications prepared in the light of information received from England and Canada. The Government desires to adopt the suggestions which have been made with a view to avoiding a repetition of its experience with theEndeavour. Later the specifications will be submitted to a special committee, and the Government will be guided by its recommendations and the capacity of the various docks. I understand that approximately six months will be required to complete the construction of the vessel.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce) read a first time.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
.- I direct the attention of the Senate to the unsatisfactory nature of the answers I received to a series of questions which I submitted to-day to the Minister representing the Prime Minister. The first question read: -
In view of the success of the Fairbridge Farm School in Western Australia, and the apparent necessity for a substantial increase of the population of the Commonwealth, has the Government considered the advisability of establishing in various parts of the Commonwealth similar farm schools as a definite aid to such increase?
The answer I received read -
The matter of assistance in the establishment of farm schools on the lines of the Fairbridge Farm School of Western Australia is one which primarily concerns the governments of the States. The question of the financial co-operation with the Government of any State which may grant assistance towards the establishment of a farm school of this kind will receive consideration should occasion arise.
The second question “was -
Has the Government approached the British Government to ascertain what financial assistance would be forthcoming if such a scheme were established?
The answer was “ No “. The third question was - li not, will the Government give early consideration to the feasibility and practicability of something being done in this direction ?
The reply received was “ see answer to No. 1.” The suggestion contained in these answers is that the population of Australia is a subject in which the Commonwealth Government is not particularly interested. Yet the increase of the population is of more concern to the Commonwealth Government than to any State government. Recently I read that one Commonwealth department is’ interesting itself in the health of the nation. If the health of the people is of importance from a Commonwealth view-point, surely the diminution of population should not be disregarded. Statistics disclose the dangerous position into which we are drifting. It is appalling to find that Australia, far removed as it is from the homeland, upon which we have to depend for our defence, is unable to maintain its population. It is a lamentable fact that whilst from 1921 to 1933 the population of Australia has increased by over 1,000,000, the natural increase during the same period has fallen from 84,000 to 52,000 annually. Those who have travelled in over-populated countries must, have realized that we cannot hope to hold this country indefinitely unless it3 population increases. I suggested that, without imperilling in any way the working class community of Australia, a move should be made almost immediately to assist Great Britain to provide for those children who, confined as many of them are to restricted areas, may never have a chance in life. The gentleman after whom the farm-school in Western Australia is named had a vision; anr], with the assistance of a few other Oxford graduates, determined to make it his life work to rescue some of the boys and girls of Britain from their sordid surroundings and transport them to some portion of the British dominions where they could lead a more useful life. The British Government and certain individuals contributed materially to the success of the scheme.
– And also the Western Australian people.
– And tha Commonwealth Government.
– Yes. I believe that the right honorable the Prime Minister was in earnest when, shortly after his return from abroad, he said that the increase of our population is of vital concern to the Commonwealth.
– The honorable senator should know that it is not customary to state matters of Government policy in reply to questions.
– I realize that. T am anxious to ascertain whether the Government has endeavoured to secure the co-operation of the States in the establishment of farm schools. I trust that the Government will realize the gravity of the situation, and take the first step to assist this desirable project.
– There are many Australian boys and girls awaiting similar opportunities.
– That is quite apart from the subject I am discussing. I shall always be willing to promote any scheme to help Australian children. At the moment I am stressing the necessity to increase our population. I trust that the Government will make a statement on this subject at an early date.
[8.43]. - When replies are given to questions which invite a statement of Government policy, an honorable senator is usually informed that it is not the practice to make statements of policy by way of reply to questions. Obviously the honorable senator who is seeking a statement of policy has assumed from the reply received that the Commonwealth is not interested in the subject raised.
– I did not mean to suggest that.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Commonwealth Government is giving practical support to the Fairbridge
Farm School, and the answer given concerning the establishment of similar farms is accurate, as such matters obviously concern only State governments which control agricultural departments. Farm schools, such as the Fairbridge Farm School, must obviously be established on the initiative of the States. The Commonwealth Government does not own land. The Government is not unmindful of the present State of Australia’s population, but, obviously, it cannot state matters of policy in reply to questions. I cannot make a statement at this juncture, but I hope to be able to do so at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.45 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 October 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351010_senate_14_147/>.