14th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon.P. J. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Seat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Ordinances of 1935 -
No. . 17 - City Area Leases (No. 2).
No.18 - Mortgagors’ Interest Seduction.
Senator A. J. MCLACHLAN tabled reports and recommendations by the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Air Compressors of the Reciprocating and Rotary Types having a displacement of 200 cubic feet and over per minute.
Bottles, Flasks, Jars, &c, and Thermometers; and Empty Glass Tube3 up to and including 3 drams fluid capacity.
Brass, Britannia Metal,Bronze, German Silver, Gilding Metal, Nickel Silver, Phosphor Tin, Yellow Metal and other Nonferrous Alloys not elsewhere included in the Customs Tariff.
Carbon Manufactures of all kinds, including Carbon Blocks.
Gears for Motor Vehicles other than Railway and Tramway Vehicles, viz.: - Crown Wheels and Pinions, Transmission Gears, Differential Gears, Worms and Worni Wheels, Internal Tooth Gears, Jack Shaft Pinions and Flywheel Starter Bands.
Gentlemen’s Hunting Pocket Watch Cases and Gentlemen’s Open Face Pocket Watch Cases; and Wristlet Watches and Cases therefor except Nickel-Plated, Nickel Alloy, Chromium-Plated and Steel.
Packings, viz.: - Engine and Machinery Gland, Piston and Plunger, consisting principally of Woven Fabric and Rubber vulcanized together without Metal.
Perambulators and Go-carts and Bodies therefor; Wheels and Parts (excepting Parts of Malleable Cast Iron) of Wheels for Perambulators and Go-carts.
– On the 23th November, Senator Badman asked the
Minister representing the Minister for Commerce the following question, upon notice: -
Has the South Australian Premier (Mr. Butler) promised the Commonwealth Government that he will introduce legislation in the South Australian Parliament which will be complementary to the bill concerning the home consumption price for wheat which the Federal Government has introduced in the Federal Parliament?
The Minister for Commerce now supplies the following answer : -
Yes. The Premier of South Australia has informed the Commonwealth Government of his intention to bring down legislation to give effect to the decisions reached at the meeting of the Australian Agricultural Council in October last.
asked the. Minister representing the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
-The AttorneyGeneral supplies the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
With reference to the Treasurer’s recent statement that invalid and old-age pensioners arc permitted to earn “ a few shillings a week “, will the Minister define the exact amount such pensioners are permitted to earn without reduction of their pensions?
– The Treasurer supplies the following answer : -
In order to qualify for an invalid pension a person must be totally and permanently incapacitated for work. Obviously, if a pensioner is able to work, although he may not be able to earn sufficient to make him ineligible for a pension under the income provisions of the law, he is not incapacitated for work. Cases arise, however, where an invalid pensioner receives a nominal amount for performing light services and the pension is not cancelled. It is not possible to state the amount which is allowed to be received under these conditions. It depends entirely on the nature of the service rendered and the circumstances under which the payment is made.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce supplies the following answers : -
Parks and Gardens Branch
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Minister for the Interior supplies the following answers: - 1 and 2. A departmental inquiry is at present being conducted.
asked the Minister in Charge of Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce supplies the following answers : -
Enlistments - Per Capita Cost
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Based on the number of enlistments in Australia of men and women for service overseas during the Great War, what is the total expenditure to 30th June last, per capita of such enlistments, from Commonwealth public funds on account of the settlement of soldiers on the land, and the operations of (a) the War Gratuity Act, (b) the War Service Homes Acts, (c) the Repatriation Acts?
– The information is being obtained and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
Bill read a third time.
Order of the day - Estimates and Budget Papers 1935-36, resumption of debate, on motion by Senator Sir George Pearce - “ That the papers be printed “ - read and discharged.
Message received from the House of Representatives intimating that it had agreed to the amendment made by the Senate in this bill.
[11.8].- I move-
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is introduced in order to make a minor amendment to the Removal of Prisoners (Territories) Act 1923 which provides the machinery for the removal, where necessary, of prisoners from any of the territories of the Commonwealth. While the act is general in its application, its necessity arose owing to difficulties experienced in dealing with white prisoners in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea. It was found by the Administrator of that Territory that it was inadvisable to confine white persons in gaol in New Guinea for lengthy periods, for health ‘reasons and because there is no employment which white persons can be given without the white population losing prestige in the eyes of the natives. Subsequent to the passing of the principal act, arrangements were made with the Governments of Queensland and New South Wales for prisoners from a territory to be received into gaols in those States and to undergo the sentences imposed upon them by the courts of the territories. The cost of maintaining a prisoner while in custody in Australia is paid by the Administration of the territory from which the prisoner is removed. Section 8 of the act provides that if the GovernorGeneral or the Governor of a State to which a prisoner is removed, requires a prisoner to be returned for discharge to the territory from which he was removed, the prisoner is to be returned to that territory at the expiration of his sentence for discharge. The section provides further that in any other case, a prisoner, when discharged at the expiration of his sentence shall, on application made in such manner and within the time prescribed, be entitled to be sent free of cost to the territory from which he was removed. Regulations have been made under the act, requiring an application by a prisoner for a free passage to the territory to be lodged within fourteen days of his discharge. Most of the white residents of New Guinea were, prior to going to the territory, residents of Australia, and arrangements have been made with the Government of New South Wales for prisoners from the territory who were born in New South Wales or who were resident in that State for some time before going to the territory, to be discharged in the State at the expiration of their sentences. In the case of prisoners who were born in other States or who were resident for lengthy periods in those States prior to going to the territory, such prisoners are, at the expiration of their sentences, discharged in New South Wales and the cost of their transport to the States in which they formerly resided are paid by the Administration.
Provision is made in the law of New Guinea for the deportation from the territory of persons convicted of certain offences, and if a deportation order is issued against a prisoner who is transferred to Australia to serve his sentence and that prisoner claims a free passage to the territory after discharge in Australia, the Administration is put to the expense of a passage of the prisoner to the territory and of a passage from the territory when the deportation order is put into execution immediately after the prisoner’s return to the territory. It is not considered that a person against whom a deportation order has been issued, should be entitled to a free passage to the territory, and this bill is to prevent such persons from having the right of a return passage.
Question resolved in the affirmative. Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate ; report adopted.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) put -
That so much of the Standing and Sessional Orders bc suspended as would prevent the bill being . passed through all its stages without delay.
The Senate divided. (President - Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch.)
Majority . . 20
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the bill be now read a first time.
– The Opposition objected to the suspension of the Standing Orders not out of any desire to be freakish, but to register once again our absolute displeasure at the manner in which the business of this Parliament, particularly so far as this chamber is concerned, is conducted. For years we have registered this protest in season and out of season. I know that honorable senators are anxious to go to their homes for the Christmas and New Year vacation. “We share that desire, but we strongly object to the fact that after members of this Parliament in both Houses have been kept cooling their heels month after month awaiting legislation the Government towards the end of the session displays indecent and unseemly haste to put through a pile of legislation within a few days. We are now being asked to pass this measure through all its stages in one day.
– Not in one day.
– Well, without delay, and that means that the Government desires to get the bill through without giving us a decent opportunity to discuss the expenditure of millions of pounds.
– Honorable senators may have as much time as they desire to discuss this measure.
– Well then I hope no tears will be shed by honorable senators opposite when we occupy the full time allowed to us under the Standing Orders. In spite of the kindly interjection of the Leader of the Government, the fact remains that both in this chamber and in the House of Representatives legislation is being crammed into the last few weeks of the session.
– The Senate did not sit at all last week.
– I shall always insist that honorable senators are not paid their parliamentary allowance for fun by the taxpayers of this country. If the business which comes before this chamber does not warrant reasonable attention, then we are taking our parliamentary allowance under false pretences. There is no need for me to reiterate that I do not think our present allowance is adequate; that is beside the point. Honorable senators accept this allowance to do a certain job, but we cannot do that work properly, because the Government does not give us an opportunity to do it. No honorable senator can take up a bill in the morning and on the same day advance reasonable arguments, either in support of or against it. I believe that no member of Parliament should have any other job ; if ever I became dictator of Australia I would see that an adequate salary was paid to members of Parliament, and then would not allow them to have the slightest financial interest outside their parliamentary allowance. Then I would demand that honorable senators attend all the sittings of this chamber. Some honorable senators on the parliamentary pay-sheet rarely put in an appearance here. In fact, we hardly recognize some of them when they do turn up. I am referring, not to honorable senators who are absent owing to ill health, but to those who are in the best of health, but absent themselves in order to attend to greater financial interests outside. Those honorable senators regard their parliamentary positions as a mere side line. I am not alone in this attitude. A few days ago the Melbourne Age had something to say regarding this matter. Before reading an extract from that paper, I emphasize that, if I have one conviction more definite than any other, it is that, despite all the criticism of our method of doing our job in Parliament, our position under the British Constitution and our free parliamentary institutions give to us the best form of government that the world has yet conceived. For this reason I am jealous of the reputation of this chamber. But apparently honorable senators are expected to be merely an echo of the . House of Representatives; when a bill is transmitted to this chamber we are expected to say, “Yes, sir,” and leave it go. As a matter of fact, if it were not for the activity of the Opposition, despite our numerical weakness, and, I may add, the frequent speeches of Senator Johnston, who has a way of voicing his protest, members of this chamber would constitute a happy family, and there would be no need for us to come here at all; we could attend to our work by correspondence. On this matter the Melbourne Age said -
A Parliament freely elected and a Government responsible topeople and Parliament are the institutions democracies have chosen for the achievement of their purposes. A free and efficient Parliament is entirely excellent as an ideal. But in its operation the institution has developed defects which, if uncorrected, may depreciate it in public esteem. Within recent years many of Parliament’s powers have become concentrated in the Cabinet; one consequence is that some groups of Ministers seem unequal to their responsibilities. Australians may discern confirmatory evidence in the past record and contemporary actions of their National Government. Legislativeprogress at Canberra continues slow; the administrative spirit seems lethargic. Ministers do not appear to have any of the zest they might have been expected to exhibit after five months’ recess. Last Thursday members of the House of Representatives set themselves to discuss general business, with the nature of which Ministers had had abundant opportunity to make themselves familiar. Concerning several items, however, the Government made no effort to present considered argument; it relied upon the passing of motions of adjournment.On two occasions, indeed, a responsible Minister intimated that he had not had time to study the questions. From that source, therefore, neither Parliament nor nation could hope for either, constructive or corrective guidance. To demonstrations of Ministerial apathy have now to be added confessions of Ministerial ignorance.
I admit that a Cabinet, as a kind of executive committee, is essential to our system of Government, but it should not be left to that Cabinet virtually to do the job; and then throw down its decisions before members of Parliament without giving us time to give to them the fullest consideration. The article in the Age continued -
The Federal Parliament itself hopes to rise for the Christmas recess next week, not to resume again probably until March. Having been in session for two months, it will rest from its labours for three months. And yet there is a series of extensive Tariff schedules being carried forward by a recurrent validating . process, one from December, 1934; another from March, 1935; another is anticipated when the Government proposes postponement of a full Tariff discussion until March, 1936. Over an even more extended period the Government has displayed similar inactivity with respect to the continuing gross injustice being done to Australian shipping by the encroachments of foreign subsidized competition.
To that the Opposition says “Hear, hear !”
Both on commercial and national grounds it is essential that Australia should be steadily creating for herself the asset of a vigorous mercantile marine. It is vain to hope that that canbe done as long as the Government puts forth no effort to make competitive conditions more equitable. America’s heavily subsidized liners continue to despoil out interDominion trade, while their own far-flung coast line is kept a close preserve. The Government’s excuses for its inaction have never been impressive. But even the last of these vanished when it was intimated that Britain had no objection to the voyage between New Zealand and Australia toeing declared a coastal one. The intimation from important shipping companies that unless some defence is provided British passenger and mail steamers between Australia and San Francisco will be withdrawn elicits from the Federal Government nothing more than vague mention of some future conference to which competing interests will , be invited. Meantime Ministerial refusal to take the simple, feasible step of applying to America’s subsidized shipping conditions parallel to those America has herself so long imposed is absolutely indefensible.
The accumulation of national business which is receiving little or no attention should make plain to the Government that its first duty is to supply dynamic to the slow-moving legislative machinery. Ministers are so frequently and for such lon” periods absent from their departments at Canberra that their inability to participate intelligently in Parliamentary debate can be understood.
– Who is the author of that article?
– I have quoted from an editorial in the Melbourne Age of four days ago.
The Opposition is not satisfied with the answers supplied by Ministers to questions asked by its members. I, personally, feel very strongly on this matter. I shall not reflect on the questions asked by supporters of the Government, but I invite honorable senators to look at the Journals of the Senate and see the nature of the questions which members of the Opposition put to Ministers. Not any of those questions is likely to entail a lot of expense, or a great amount of research, in order to obtain the information desired. Questions put by members on this side of the chamber are always simple and to the point, and refer to matters of immediate public interest, so that intelligent and straightforward answers ought to be given to them. Unfortunately, such answers are not always supplied. During the last few days, I have asked a number of questions to which I have received most unsatisfactory replies. The latest example was supplied this morning in the answer given to a question of which I gave notice yesterday. I asked whether a departmental inquiry was being held by the Department of the Interior in relation to its parks and gardens branch and, in reply, I was informed that an inquiry was still proceeding. I am not in a position to say that the inquiry is not proceeding, but I am able to say that those who gave evidence at that inquiry, and were guaranteed immunity from victimization if they did so, are now being treated in such a manner as to make it clear that, if victimization has not already been resorted to, the way is being prepared for it.’ Within a week or so, Parliament will adjourn, and yet I am fobbed off with the curt statement that an inquiry is still proceeding. I do not suggest that the reply to my question is not accurate, but I desired to know the nature of the inquiry and I claim that the Minister could have given to me that information, even if he had not been prepared to say what the result of the inquiry was, because matters connected with it had not been finally dealt with.
Another question which I asked recently had reference to the ceremony of swearing-in the Governor-General elect. In reply to my question, I was told definitely that the subject had been fully considered by Cabinet, which had decided that the ceremony should take place in Melbourne. That answer was unsatisfactory to me, and, in my opinion, it should be unsatisfactory to every honorable senator. Australia has established its national capital at Canberra, and yet a national ceremony such as is the installation of its Governor-General, is to take place in another city. The miserable and paltry and, I believe, untruthful, excuse for holding the ceremony in Melbourne, as stated in the newspapers, is that the Governor-General elect is already well acquainted with New South Wales, but desires to become familiar with the other States, particularly Victoria and Tasmania. We are told that the Government has decided to hold the ceremony in Melbourne so that, immediately thereafter, His Excellency may proceed to Tasmania. Portion of my question was deleted because, presumably, the President considered that it contained an expression of opinion. I do not object to that, for I have no desire to be obstructive; but I do not think that the rejection of part of my question was fair to the Senate. My question originally asked why the desire of the Governor-General elect to go to Tasmania should be considered when that State can be reached from Canberra by him as easily as by members of Parliament. There is nothing to prevent the swearing-in ceremony from taking place at the national capital. His Excellency could get away from Canberra in comfort and with expedition immediately after the termination of the ceremony. I am expected to be satisfied with the ridiculous answer given to my question. I am not satisfied with it, and I register my emphatic protest against this ceremony and, indeed, any national function such as a meeting of Cabinet or of the ‘Commonwealth ‘Bank Board, or of the Loan Council or of a conference of the Premiers, being held away from the national capital. That I am not alone in that opinion is made clear by a leading article which appeared in this morning’s Canberra Times -
The reiteration by the Minister for External Affairs (Senator Pearce) of the intention of the Government to adhere to its decision to hold the ceremony for the swearing-in of the Governor-General elect in Melbourne instead of at the Seat of Government marks determination to pursue a course that is unjustified by considerations of constitutional propriety and national sentiment. The announced intention is the more regrettable since no adequate explanation of its decision has been given by the Government. Such excuses as nave been offered have been unconvincing.
It is not untimely to recall that there would be no question of where the ceremony would be held if Canberra had been completed to the stage that the Government had represented ten years ago. Thus, Government neglect of its responsibilities in Canberra in the past is a contributing factor to its persistent intention of ignoring the Seat of Government in connexion with the swearing-in of the GovernorGeneral. The holding of the ceremony in Melbourne occasions distaste in the Seat of Government and in many other places where national sentiment overrides narrow state viewpoints. The decision of the Government in connexion with the ceremony is a mistake and the persistence with the proposal is a reflection on the Government’s regard for Ulft Commonwealth Seat of Government.
– At that time 1 was not a member of the Senate, but had I been, I certainly should have asked a question on the subject, although, no doubt, I should have been given an answer as unsatisfactory as that given to me a few days ago.
– What government was in office when the present Governor-General was sworn in?
– The honorable senator who has asked that question knows the answer as well as I do. Interjections of this kind are intended to be smart, but their smartness is the smartness of ignorance. A wrong action by a Nationalist government is not made right because a Labour government did a similar thing on another occasion. The Opposition in the Senate is guided by certain basic principles and it is not to be diverted from the path that it considers to be right because somewhere else a Labour Government does something which does not conform to those principles. I should like honorable senators to realize that they cannot trap mc, or my colleagues, by interjections of that sort, which, however smart, do not get anywhere.
I am aware that at a later stage 1 shall have an opportunity to deal with some of the subjects to which I hav& referred this morning. I’ shall certainly have more to say regarding the swearingin of the Governor-General elect when the appropriate occasion arrives.
The retiring Auditor-General has had a good deal to say regarding the accountancy methods adopted by the present Government. I listened with a great deal of interest to the statement made yesterday on this subject by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) and now confess that I found myself in entire agreement with him. But there is another phase of the Auditor-General’s report with which I cannot agree. On the contrary, I register my most emphatic protest against the way in which he has reflected on invalid and old-age pensioners. I shall not go into details, because the whole subject has already been well ventilated in the House of Representatives and because I am sure that every honorable senator knows my views on this subject; but in my opinion, it is not right that any official appointed by the Government, and paid out of the public purse, should cast aspersions on any section of the community. In this chamber a year ago, I asked why the Auditor-General’s Department had not been transferred to Canberra, and I said that if I had the power, I would give the Auditor-General 24 hours in which to come here. I was informed in reply that the AuditorGeneral had never refused to come to Canberra. Yet responsible newspapers in the country have definitely stated during the last week or two that this is the man, who had successfully defied the Cabinet to bring him to Canberra. I remind honorable senators that I had to be satisfied with the answer to my question that he had not refused to come here. Yesterday in the House of Representatives the Government announced that it would not withhold the sum of £1,538 proposed to be paid to the Auditor-General on his retirement in lieu of furlough. The Labour party for which I speak does not advocate a breach of contract with an individual, but I maintain that this man who has had the effrontery - a mild term to use, considering the circumstances - to slander the old-age and invalid pensioners does not deserve such consideration. Occupying a wonderful position, he has drawn a princely salary and is about to receive £1,538 as furlough pay. I maintain that the Government should have, by withholding this money from him, marked its disapproval of his conduct and of the infamous slanders which he uttered against people who pioneered this country, made Australia worth living in, and laid the foundations for providing the means to pay members of Parliament their allowances and to work in comfort in these palatial surroundings. This highly-paid official, having attacked persons unable to. protect themselves, now shelters within the coward’s castle of immunity from political interference. In future an AuditorGeneral, judge or any other official should not be given an opportunity to declare himself immune from political control. Parliament should have the right to impeach this man and remove him from office without any further payment from the Treasury.
During the debate on the amending Crimes Bill, members of the Opposition were informed that they occupied a position of splendid isolation when they ventured to oppose the measure. When I said that our attitude was widely supported I was held up to derision by honorable senators supporting the Government.
– They do not read the newspapers.
– Not with a view to digesting the contents as we do. I stated that unions throughout the Commonwealth were passing resolutions condemning this legislation and that some of the greatest legal luminaries in the country had personally written to me to compliment me on my stand. Judging from the smiles of smug satisfaction on the countenances of honorable senators, I assumed that they were doubtful of the accuracy of that statement. I have just received a telegram from the secretary of the Clerks Union, Brisbane, which has a membership exceeding 6,000 persons. It reads -
Have forwarded Lyons, Menzies protest amendment Crimes Act stating proposals inequitable unreasonable. Regards
Sanders, Clerks Union.
– Is that gentleman a legal luminary?
– I expected such an interjection from the rogue elephant of politics in this chamber. Senator Allan MacDonald is a genial gentleman, but he has a habit of prancing about this chamber and taking the attention of Ministers from their work; when he is not distracting Ministers he is in conversation with undersecretaries. I resent this latest ebullition of the boyhood humour which is peculiar to him; he should have grown out of it by this time. I did not assert that Mr. Sanders is a legal luminary; he is the secretary of the Clerks Union, which has a membership of more than 6,000 persons.
I object to the unseemly haste which invariably characterizes the end of a session. Probably the Leader of the Senate will inform me, when he replies, that the Opposition has spoken too much. If it did not cost too much to obtain the information, I would like to know how many columns of Hansard the Opposition has filled this session as compared with the space occupied by the 10 per cent, of other senators who support the Government by voice as well as by vote. I exclude Senator Johnston from that 10 per cent. Less than 10 per cent, of honorable senators who support the Government in this chamber ever have anything to say, if the others break their silence, their remarks are brief and, I add with all respect, more or less unintelligible. But when that 10 per cent, of the ministerial senators devote themselves to serious business their speeches occupy far more space in Hansard than do those of members of the Opposition. I am not complaining about that; our objective is not to talk to Hansard but to give expression to the basic principles of the Labour movement, which, in our opinion, are worthy of mature consideration. If the Leader of the Senate should inform us that, irrespective of how often
Parliament sits, this unseemly haste invariably occurs at the end of a session, I shall not be satisfied with that answer. No excuse can be offered by the Government for keeping this Parliament in recess for five months, meeting for two months, and again going into recess for three months. Like any other honorable senator, I am anxious to enjoy my Christmas holidays, but if the Leader of the Senate had informed us last night : “ You cannot have your Christmas holidays but must remain here until the legislation awaiting consideration has been adequately dealt with “, the three members of the Opposition would have cancelled any arrangements they had made and would have replied, “ Let us get on with the job “.
– Heroes ! heroes !
– So far as we are concerned, there is nothing heroic about that attitude. From various platforms in Queensland we have told the people that they should object to their representatives drawing allowances which they do not earn.
– Mock heroics!
– That interjection comes with bad grace from Senator Abbott. Recently, when submitting a motion to the Senate, he moved me, as no other honorable senator on the other side of this chamber could possibly move me, and I would have been guilty of an assault on my conscience if I had interjected, “ Mock heroics “ when listening to his sentiments. Still, the interjection leaves me smiling. I realize that Senator Pearce, when he gave the lead to Senator Abbott with the interjection of “ Heroics “ was not actuated by an .unkindly motive. He canes us at times, but we realize that such chastisement is his task, and we are prepared to submit to it. We squeal and protest, but we ask him and other honorable senators to take our squeals and protests in the spirit of absolute sincerity in which they are offered.
– In view of the comparatively small number of days on which the Senate has sat this session, and particularly in view of the fact that the Senate did not sit at all last week, I regret that the Government has found it necessary to suspend the Standing Orders to enable a more speedy consideration of the annual Appropriation Bill, which contains no fewer than 254 pages and involves an expenditure of £23,759,770. I cannot refrain from drawing a comparison between the haste with which legislation is approved and Standing Orders are suspended in the Senate today, with a very different attitude that was taken when the Scullin Government was in office; at that time practically every line of every bill and every item of expenditure were most carefully scrutinized and weighed. The Senate might well spend more time than is proposed now in examining the expenditure of nearly £24,000,000. Yesterday, when I was addressing the chamber on the subject of excessive taxation imposed by this government, which like previous governments in the Commonwealth, every year takes more money out of the pockets of the taxpayers, I was limited largely by the fact that, under the Standing Orders, my remarks had to be confined to income taxation. Although some small exemptions from sales tax and a small reduction of one rate of tax have been granted by the Government this year, the Commonwealth is actually taking more money from the pockets of the taxpayers year by year. The estimated returns from taxes for this year have only once in the history of federation been exceeded. The terrific scale of federal taxation, both direct and indirect, constitutes a burden on Australian industry which it is no longer able to bear. It was hoped that the inclusion of representatives of the Country party in the Ministry would at least bring about that repeal of excessive emergency taxation, which is essential to the recovery of industry and the restoration of men in employment. Yesterday, I quoted remarks from Dr. Earle Page’s policy speech, with which I cordially agreed, in which he said that the Country party particularly favoured the abolition of the whole of the emergency taxation. To-day his party shares the responsibility of government; therefore, it behoves him and his colleagues to proceed to the abolition of these taxes. If the Government will do that it will receive liberal sup- port, not only from the majority of honorable senators, but also from the electors who, having in mind the promises that taxation would be substantially reduced, enthusiastically returned the Government to power fifteen months ago. Up to date this year very few concessions in the direction of reducing taxation have been granted. The Government is actually collecting over £14,000,000 from emergency taxation, which was imposed by the Scullin Government during the depth of the depression and which, of course, was accepted as necessary by a majority of honorable senators, despite the fact that they were notassociated with that Government. If they had witheld their support, the emergency legislation would not have become law. This year it is estimated that the Government will collect £8,850,000 from the sales tax, which was a purely emergency measure.
– That is equal to the amount which the retiring
Auditor-General said the Government has in various trust funds.
– Apparently this enormous collection of £14,000,000 from emergency taxes is deemed necessary, despite Mr. Cerutty’s statement that, on the 30th June last0 the Government had £8,000,000 to the credit of its various trust funds, thus more than providing for the present financial requirements of the Commonwealth; and this sum represents taxes collected during depression years.
It is amazing that the Government should collect so much from primage duties. The amount estimated for this year is £4,079,000, being £400,000 in excess of the amount received from this source in 1931-32, when the rates were higher and the range wider than it is to-day. The following table shows how the burden of taxation has increased during the last five years, despite reductions of rates that have been made from time to time by successive governments : -
I shall be very much surprised if the estimated surplus is not very greatly exceeded, in view of a statement made by Mr. Manning, the Attorney-General of New South Wale3, in the Legislative Council last week,, that, as a result of the discussion between the Premier of New South Wales and Federal Ministers during the preceding week-end, the wheat bill, to implement the Federal Government’s policy for the assistance of wheat-growers, would not operate for this harvest. Mr. Manning’s statement was inconsistent with answers given by Ministers to some questions which I have addressed to them in this chamber. I have examined the Hansard report of the debate in the New South Wales Parliament, and I discovered that, whilst the bill, as introduced, was made applicable to the 1935 harvest, it was decided as the result of a discussion between Mr. Stevens, the Premier of New South Wales, and Commonwealth Ministers, that the relief should not be available until next year. I have read press statements that the Federal Government feared that it would not be able to apply its wheat legislation to this year’s harvest, because the Governments of Western Australia and South Australia had not introduced the necessary complementary measures. Mr. Collier, the Premier of Western Australia, who attended the Loan Council meeting in Melbourne, returned to Perth on the 19th November, the day on which Mr. Manning made hia statement in the New South Wales Parliament that it had been decided that the wheat legislation for New South Wales would not operate during this harvest. Two days later Mr. Manning moved an amendment to make the legislation operative for the 1936 harvest, instead of, as originally intended, for this year’s harvest.
– That was because there was a row on in the party rooms.
– I do not know about that; but the Government of Western Australia should not be blamed for inaction. I have not yet had a satisfactory explanation of the reasons which actuated the New South Wales Government in amending its bill to make its provisions apply to next year’s harvest.
– The major reason was the inactivity of the State Governments of Western Australia and South Australia.
– The honorable senator may say that, but I am not satisfied that that statement is fair or accurate, because, as I have explained, Mr. Manning made his statement on the day that Mr. Collier arrived in Perth after attending the meeting of the Loan Council in Melbourne.
– The honorable senator has ignored the announcement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), subsequent to Mr. Manning’s statement, and he should know that statements of Commonwealth policy are made by the Prime Minister, not by a State Minister.
– I have not ignored the Prime Minister’s statement, but I am surprised that, before members of this Parliament heard anything about it, Mr. Manning was in a position to announce that the flour tax would be continued. The Prime Minister declared that it was the intention of the Commonwealth Government to assist the wheat industry this year, and, in view of recent developments, I should like to know definitely what form that assistance is to take. Also, what measure of assistance the
Government proposes to give to wheatfarmers, who are in such distress as the result of partial drought conditions. I do not overlook what the Prime Minister has said; but I am unable to reconcile his statement with that made by Mr. Manning.
– Who is the mouthpiece for the Commonwealth Government ?
– The Prime Minister should be.
– Well, the Prime Minister made his statement of Commonwealth policy subsequent to the statement made by Mr. Manning.
– The position of the wheat-farmers has been very much confused by the action of the New South Wales Government in making its wheat legislation apply to the harvest of 1936 instead of this year. I have asked for information, but so far I have not had a satisfactory explanation of the Federal Government’s change of policy in this matter. No one knows what its policy will be for this harvest, and no provision has been made for any assistance to the industry.
The figures which I have quoted show that the total estimated to be received from income tax this year is only about £S00,000 below the amount which, the retiring Auditor-General states, has been placed in various trust funds, and is available for expenditure by the Government without any further parliamentary authorization. Over £1,000,000 is estimated to be received this year from the land tax, despite the definite promise made by the Prime Minister to an influential deputation which waited upon him, that this levy would be removed so soon as Commonwealth finances made it possible. I give the Government credit for having reduced the super tax on income from property by 50 per cent., but I think it should be entirely abolished. Despite the fact that the Auditor-General reported recently that £8,000,000 is held in the trust fund, and that no provision is made in the Estimates for a renewal of the payment of £4,000,000 paid to the wheat-growers last year, the Government proposes to collect from the Australian taxpayers this year no less than £59,050,000. The excessive burden of the taxes imposed is illustrated by the figures disclosed in the Commonwealth and State budgets for the year 1934-35. During that financial year the collections were -
Although the production of Australia last year was valued at £355,000,000 the huge amount of nearly £94,000,000 was collected in taxes. The tax collections of all Australian governments during 1934-35 exceeded all previous records. Notwithstanding all the pious talk of tax remissions the various governments in the Commonwealth are now collecting a larger amount in taxes than has ever been collected previously. While the amount of federal taxes collected does not constitute a record in the history of the Commonwealth, it is a burden that could be justified only during a boom period. The present high rate cannot be justified at present, particularly when primary and secondary producers are striving to emerge from the devastating effects of the depression. If their efforts are to be assisted and not hindered the deadweight load of taxes must be lightened. A serious factor which is apparent in the national finances is the tendency to allow revenue to mount higher and higher each year. The Commonwealth taxation figures for the last five years in round figures are -
That, of course, represents only federal taxes.For the present financial year taxes amounting to £59,000,000 are estimated to be collected. No provision whatever has been made in the Estimates for a grant to the wheat-growers, who last year were paid £4,000,000. I again ask whether the Government proposes to provide for the payment of a similar amount this year. If that amount is not to be paid during this financial year why has the amount of taxes to be collected not been reduced by £4,000,000 instead of it being increased to a total of £59,000,000? These figures should be compared with a modest amount of £11,000,000 collected in taxes in 1910-11. Beyond minor fluctuations federal taxes have increased steadily from year to year, and it would appear that unless a firm stand is taken the peak has not yet been reached. With the exception of the entertainments tax no field of taxation entered by the Commonwealth has ever been vacated. A depressing fact is that over £14,000,000 in the form of emergency taxes alone is to be taken from the pockets of Australian taxpayers. By merciless taxation the Commonwealth Government has, during the last four years, accumulated surpluses aggregating £6,873,474. Emergency taxation imposed in the darkest days of the depression still continues at the same exorbitant rates, and £8,000,000, representing taxes collected years before they were required has been placed into a trust fund for later use. It is interesting to note that the taxes collected during the last financial year exceeded the estimate by no less than £4,904,524. After making allowance for meagre remissions of sales tax, and the property tax, it is proposed to collect a further £300,000 in emergency taxes during the present financial year. It is only natural that, with improvement in business conditions generally, revenue from taxation will continue to increase if the old rates are retained. In these circumstances, the Government cannot claim any credit because taxes have not been increased, and, in view of the increasing receipts from other taxes, little credit is to be gained from making infinitesimal reductions. Figures quoted in the British House of Commons early this year gave the per capita burden of taxation in various countries for 1935 as follows -
During the same year, Commonwealth taxes amounted to £8 9s. 6d. per capita, while Commonwealth and State taxation combined amounted to £13 13s.1d. per capita. These comparisons reflect very little credit upon Australia. In a young country it is urgently necessary that as much of the national wealth as is possible should be left in the hands of private enterprise and the people generally for developmental expansion and to provide employment. The expenditure of various governments has become such a burden that it is unreasonable to expect the people to carry it with any degree of willingness. While citizens are prepared to bear their fair share of the legitimate costs of government, they insist that those costs shall not be any greater than they can reasonably afford to meet. Are the needs of the Government to be placed before those of the people? During the last few years, taxpayers have been forced to reduce drastically their expenditure and to practice the most rigid economies. Should not the same policy be adopted by Parliament? The Auditor-General, in his latest report, stated “ Private enterprise is dominated by two questions: - First, is it necessary? Second, can we afford it ?” Parliament must decide these questions before this bill is passed. The magnitude of public expenditure is staggering when it is realized that, during 1933-34, the latest year for which complete figures are available, the aggregate expenditure of Federal and State Governments and local governing authorities amounted to £237,354,000, equivalent to £650,285 a day or £451 a minute. The whole of this sum has to be provided by taxpayers.
– How much of that is Commonwealth expenditure and how much State expenditure ?
– I shall give the figures in detail. The details of this expenditure are: -
These figures have been extracted from Finance Bulletin No. 25 prepared by the Commonwealth Statistician. The amount for local government expenditure is not complete, as it does not include loan expenditure by many authorities such as water and sewerage boards. The evils of exorbitant taxation are twofold: first, it reduces the spending power of the people as a whole; and secondly, it destroys the wealth from which future production, and incidentally future taxation must come. Funds that might have been invested in factories, industrial undertakings, the development and improvement of country properties, the working of new gold-mines, and in other activities productive of widespread employment, have gone, and still are going, through, taxation, into the bottomless pit of wasteful governmental expenditure. Overseas investors and our own citizens to-day hesitate to finance enterprises in- Australia owing to the huge burden of taxation and the discriminating taxes levied upon the whole of the taxpayers. I am informed that there is substantial British capital available for investment in Australian country lands and in Western Australian gold-mining enterprises, so soon as the onerous Federal Land Tax is abolished and federal income taxes are reduced. It is in the national interest that overseas investors and our own people should be encouraged to invest in Australia; thus the development of both public and private resources would be encouraged. Under present conditions there is little to induce an investor to bring, his capital to Australia -and many of our. own citizens, because of the heavy taxation on industry, prefer to invest in Government bonds instead of in the development of primary and secondary industries. In his Canons of Taxation, published more than 100 years ago, Adam Smith said -
The purpose for which any tax is to be raised ought to be clearly of more advantage to the community than the money would be if not collected.
How many of our taxes to-day could measure up to this standard?
– Hughes. - The secondary industries ought to be renamed the primary industries.
Senator E. B. JOHNSTON They certainly receive the first consideration from the Federal Government in its tariff policy, whilst the great primary industries have to bear the main burden of tariffs and other forms of taxation. Experience has shown that, in the final analysis, economic recovery can be achieved only through private enterprise. The improved business conditions apparent to-day indicate that industry is recovering despite the handicap of excessive taxation. That this improvement could be greatly accelerated by relieving industry and the people generally of the severest of the present taxation burdens is beyond dispute. Seduction of taxation has always resulted in an expansion of industry out of all proportion to the loss to the public revenue. The time has come when the emergency taxes imposed during the years of depression must be removed. Freedom from these taxes would add greatly to the’ spending power of the whole community, would leave more wealth in the hands of industry to provide for future expansion, and would engender that further confidence which is needed to achieve complete economic rehabilitation. Continued imposition of the existing huge taxes will inevitably react to the detriment of the whole community.
– I endorse the protest by the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) against the AuditorGeneral’s allegation of intemperance among old-age pensioners. I take exception to the conclusions which he drew from the fact that the takings of hotel proprietors are higher on days on which pensions are paid. Such statements are similar to reports which were habitually published in a section of the Western Australian press concerning various police court cases. Very often a person against whom a conviction was recorded was specifically described as a returned soldier. There was no reason why that distinction should have been emphasized. The Returned Soldiers League in Western Australia took exception to such reports, and about the same time a similar protest was made by the Rabbi of Western Australia when the accused in a police court prosecution was described in a certain newspaper as a Jew. There is no good reason for such distinctions being made in respect of culprits brought before a police court. It would be just as logical to emphasize that a certain culprit is a member of some prominent organization. I do not believe that old-age pen sioners as a body are any more intenperate in their habits than is the average Australian citizen. For that reason, I condemn the remarks of the AuditorGeneral in this respect. I would like to have taken him with me on a tour which I made some years ago before the boom in gold-mining to some outposts situated many miles north of Kalgoorlie, and in the Kanowna-Kurnalpi areas, and shown him there a large number of oldage pensioners who, although approaching 70 years of age, were still scratching for a few specks of gold. Nowhere else in Australia could one meet men of a better type. I am always prepared to take off my hat to the old-age pensioners in recognition of the pioneering work they have done in the backblocks of Australia.
I do not agree with the remarks made by the Leader of the Opposition concerning the attendance of honorable senators in this chamber, in support of which he read an editorial from the Melbourne Age. Yesterday I had occasion to criticize that journal because of its narrow-minded references to the financially weaker States. The comment read by the Leader of the Opposition is not the first criticism in the same strain published by the Age. To judge honorable senators fairly in this matter I suggest that a comparison be made of the number of sitting -days of the Senate with the number of sitting days of upper chambers in the different States. Such a comparison will clearly indicate that honorable senators have no need to hang their heads in shame. In making its caustic references to the Senate on this matter, the Melbourne Age shut its eyes to causes for similar comment nearer its own door. I propose to give the official attendances of members of the various Legislative Councils throughout Australia. Taking Victoria first, we find that during the last five years the average annual number of sittings of the Legislative Council was 40. The figures for the individual years were -
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.During 1932 the Ottawa Conference was held, and was attended by a number of senior members of the Commonwealth Government whose absence from Australia affected the sittings of the Commonwealth Parliament. The Victorian Legislative Council was not affected in the same way by that conference, which everyone will admit was of great importance to Australia and the Empire generally.
The average sittings of the legislative councils of the several States for the last five years were - Victoria, 40£ days; Western Australia, 56£ days ; South Australia, 41 days; and New South Wales, 58 days. The average of the Senate for four years was 60J sitting days. The period to which those figures relate includes the disastrous regime of the Lang administration, when the Legislative Council of New South Wales was more busy than usual in trying to keep Mr. Lang and his Government in check. But, after all, the number of sitting days is not of such importance as is the work performed. Judged according to this standard, the record of the Senate is one of which it has good reason to be proud. Had it not been for the Senate, the Commonwealth Bank would not be in its present unasailable position.
– Nonsense !
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD Had not the Senate intervened, the Commonwealth Bank would now be under political control.
– It is under political control now.
– I was not a member of the Senate when this chamber took steps to prevent a most undesirable state of affairs that was threatened in connexion with the Commonwealth Bank; but, like many other Australian citizens, I followed with interest the determined and successful efforts of the Senate to keep our monetary system free from political control. For the present satisfactory state of affairs this chamber was wholly responsible. The Senate is content to be judged according to the value of the work it performs, rather than on the number of its sittings. When making comparisons with other legislative chambers, the fact must be remembered that a House of 36 members is able to dispose of its business much more expeditiously than is a House of 76 members, unless, of course, our ability and usefulness is to be measured by the yardstick of verbosity. The stock of verbosity is less in a House of fewer members, so that to suggest that the Senate should meet more frequently merely because another branch of the legislature has more sitting days is only to suggest unnecessary additional expense to be borne by the taxpayers of the country. Had it not been for the verbosity . of members of the House of Representatives, the Senate might have met last week to perform useful business in the interests of the Commonwealth.
In the press and elsewhere reference is frequently made to alien nations. Last night we listened to an intelligent and thoughtful address on Japan by Senator Payne, and heard at first-hand a number of important facts regarding this near neighbour in the Pacific. Senator Payne urged that greater care should be taken not to do or say anything which might hurt the feelings of other peoples. He urged that all should discourage outbursts of temper, or the use of extravagant language, when referring to the proposals of other nations. Similar advice was given by the exAttorneyGeneral of the Commonwealth (Sir John Latham) on his return from Japan and other eastern countries which he visited a year or so ago. I hope that that good advice will be taken to heart, not only by public men, but also by those in control of the various newspapers and journals published in this country. The latest issue of the Bulletin contains on the front page, an alleged cartoon depicting a hideous looking Japanese soldier attempting to kill a defenceless Chinaman while the League of Nations, represented by a policeman, pays attention to a schoolboy quarrel between Italy and Abyssinia. The art displayed in the cartoon is in keeping with its alleged wit. It is to be regretted that such publications should be widely distributed throughout Australia, and even find their way to Japan, for nothing is more calculated to arouse unfriendly feeling among our Japanese neighbours than an offensive cartoon such as that to which I have referred.
– The Japanese will not lose any sleep over it.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.That may be; but the whole thing is stupid, and only tends to create ill-feeling between nations whose relations should be of the friendliest character. I candidly admit that many of the cartoons in the Bulletin have given me pleasure; but Australian journals do a disservice to this country and the cause of peace by senselessly publishing matter which, to say the least, is irritating to others.
It is difficult in a discussion of the Estimates to point to any item of expenditure and say that it ought to be reduced. As a representative of Western Australia, I feel constrained to say that that State has received favorable treatment from the Commonwealth during the last two or three years. I do not know whether Senator Johnston meant that pensions should be cut down when he spoke of federal extravagance.
– The honorable senator knows that I meant nothing of the kind.
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.When liabilities arising out of the war, including soldiers’ pensions and repatriation, together with old-age pensions and other obligations, are met, the bulk of the Commonwealth revenue is absorbed.
– Perhaps Senator Johnston means that the grant to Western Australia should be taken away.
– I know Senator Johnston much better than to believe him capable of suggesting such a thing. It is difficult to discover where the alleged federal extravagances could bc avoided, and I, for one, when perusing the Estimates in the brief period that they have been available to us, failed to see where these so-called extravagances could be reduced. Like Senator Johnston, I hope that the grant payable to Western Australia will be increased; but, if the Government listens to the Melbourne Age, there is a ‘grave danger of that grant being decreased, because a mere suggestion from one quarter may give rise to a train of thought which will prove very disastrous to the financially-weaker States, not only Western Australia, but also South Australia and Tasmania. The age was formerly a very important journal and in taking a leading part in the public life of the Commonwealth did good work for the nation, but when it stoops to cheap criticism of the financially-weaker States, I and many others deplore its fall from grace, lt ill becomes the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) to quote comments in that paper in support of his criticisms, not only of the Senate, but also of many other matters. I suggest that the honorable senator should go to more reliable sources when seeking material with which to fortify his criticism of ministerial supporters. I hope that the Government will favorably receive requests from the financially-weaker States. To-day I received a letter from the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), in which the right honorable gentleman stated that his Government at all times is prepared to hear representations from the weaker States when they are experiencing a financial or economic difficulty. I am sure that the Prime Minister will be ready to accede to any reasonable requests from the States. I support the bill.
– I rise to support my leader (Senator Collings), whose criticisms of the Government were well founded. Much public criticism has been levelled at the haste with which the Government is endeavouring to force legislation through both Houses of this Parliament. Undoubtedly, the Senate has come in for much criticism, and it is only right and fair that honorable senators should do their best to uphold the prestige of the chamber in the eyes of the people. Especially is this necessary in these days, when dictatorships are being established, and when, in the various countries of the world, parliamentary institutions are being degraded in the opinion of the public, and destroyed. Even now, a movement is in progress in France - the home of a liberty-loving people - for the abolition of the parliamentary system. The Commonwealth Government has been subject to criticism, not only from the Labour party, but from its own supporters. I propose to read an extract from the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth, by
Quick and Garran, to support my contention that we should abstain from taking any action likely to degrade the Senate in the eyes of the people -
The Senate is one of the most conspicuous, and unquestionably the most important, of all the federal features of the Constitution, using the word federal in the sense of linking together and uniting a number of co-equal political communities, under a common system of government. The Senate is not merely a branch of a bi-cameral Parliament; it is not merely a second chamber of revision and review representing the sober second thought of the nation, such as the House of Lords is supposed to bc; it is that, but something more than that. It is the chamber in which the States, considered as separate entities, and corporate parts of the Commonwealth, are represented. They are so represented for the purpose of enabling them to maintain and protect their constitutional rights against attempted invasions, and to give them every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances.
Hence the Senate is intended to fill an important role in the legislature of this country. The Labour party considers that it is grossly improper and derogatory to the Senate for the Government to proceed in the way it has done recently in endeavouring hurriedly to force legislation through Parliament. When the Senate does not meet for many months, people who are not aware of the duties performed by honorable senators in the recess, come to the conclusion that, after all, the parliamentary institution has become impotent, and some form of dictatorship exists in Australia. Undoubtedly, good grounds exist for this opinion. The Labour party believes in the abolition of the Senate, but we recognize also that, while the- Commonwealth is governed under the present constitution, we must uphold the Senate. This chamber should perform its duties to the full, and in no way should its functions be restricted. I realize that the Labour party has criticized the Senate in the past; we shall continue to criticize it until the present abuses are discontinued.
– Does the honorable senator desire to abolish the Senate ?
– The platform of the Labour party includes the abolition of this chamber; but, while the present federal system is retained, the party is keenly desirous of preserving the com plete rights of the Senate intact, and does not wish them to be usurped by the Government or private individuals.
– Would the honorable senator like to 3ee this chamber abolished immediately ?
– No. The Labour party has fostered the idea of a unitary form of government. We believe in unification, and when the people are prepared to introduce this system the Senatewill be abolished. But while the federal system continues with large and smaller States in existence, the Senate must enjoy its full rights, and no member of the Government should endeavour to weaken the chamber in the eyes of the people.
– The honorable senator believes that under the present system the Senate should exist.
– I have already explained my attitude. Under the present federal system it is important that the Senate should function. But the Labour party, in advocating the abolition of the Senate, maintains that a unified form of government should be introduced. At present the Senate has become like the vermiform appendix in the. human body which, doctors state, is not of much use The Senate is not exercising its rights and powers as it should. Senators arc becoming too indifferent. I have contended that this chamber should spend more time in discussing the major problems of Australia and the world, in order to reach sensible and reasonable conclusions in regard to them. But, unfortunately, there always seems to be a desire on the part of the Government to seek the haven of recess as soon as possible. Why is this haste necessary ? Why should the Senate be a party to the mechanization of legislation in order .that legislators may get away from Canberra as rapidly as possible? I regret that the Senate is fast becoming a rubber stamp to register approval of the actions of the House of Representatives.
– Order ! The honorable senator has no right to refer to this chamber as a rubber stamp.
– In the way that the Senate is constituted, with 33 members representing the Government parties and only three representing the Opposition, despite the fact that 46 per cent, of the people voted against the Government, I contend that it is merely a “ say-so “ house to the other chamber. Legislation put before us by the Government is readily agreed to by the majority of honorable senators, because, forsooth, they represent the same parties as are in the majority in the House of Representatives.
– But the electors have made it so.
– No. It is the electoral system that has made it so. Under the existing system, 49 per cent, of the voters of Australia may support the Labour party at the poll, but not one Labour supporter may be returned to this chamber.
– Would the honorable senator support proportional representation?
– At this juncture I do not propose to enter into a disquisition on electoral methods. I am stating plain facts. As a result of the methods adopted by the tory party, hundreds of thousands of electors are not represented as they should be in the Senate. Of course, I make haste to add that they are ably represented by three of us, but it is hardly fair to place the whole burden of the Opposition on three pairs of shoulders. Nevertheless, we have accepted our responsibilities, and will discharge them to the best of our ability. Under a system of proportional representation, the Labour party might have had fourteen or sixteen ‘representatives in this chamber.
– But the present members of the Opposition would not be present to represent Queensland.
– I advocate a system of voting which will make it possible for the people to be better represented than under the present stupid method.
– What does the honorable senator propose?
– The honorable senator is utterly stupid in making such interjections. I have explained my attitude clearly-
– On a point of order, Mr. President, I desire to know whether Senator Brown is in order in referring to Senator Dein as being utterly stupid.
– The expression is not parliamentary; so I ask the honorable senator not to use those words again.
– In deference to you, Mr. President, I shall not use them again. Those honorable senators who have been giving me their attention will know that I am not advocating the adoption of proportional representation. I am merely directing attention to the fact that, whilst 46 per cent, of the people recorded their votes against the Government candidates at the last election, 33 of the 36 members of this chamber are Government supporters. If that is not plain enough for the honorable senator I shall be forced to ignore him. ‘Senator Allan MacDonald appears to have a “ set “ on the Melbourne Age.
– Not at all.
– He does not regard that journal with very kindly feelings. Apparently he has the impression that its policy is too close to that of the Labour party. I cannot say whether that is so, because I rarely read it. But I do read the Brisbane Telegraph, which, as honorable senators know, strongly supports this Government, and I find that it also believes that the action of the Ministry in rushing legislation through in order to close the Parliament is not in the best interests of the legislature. This is what that journal says -
Many of the best friends of the Federal Government are among the numerous critics of the manner in which the work of the present session is being handled. Particularly, there is disapproval of the proposal to rush a number of important measures through the Parliament in order that it may rise by December 0 for the “ Christmas Vacation “, which will be extended to long after Christmas. Only by the application of the guillotine, which is correctly described as “ the gag “ can the Government hope to complete the programme in the time stated, and this accompanied by exhaustive sittings. This is not the way in which the important work of the legislature should be performed.
As I have observed, the Telegraph is opposed to Labour’s policy. For that I do not blame it, because I do not deny the right of any person or newspaper to oppose Labour. The Telegraph goes on to say -
It is very difficult to understand why there should be a particular wish to wind up the Hession by December 6, or by any date that involves haste. The “ gag “ at all times should be used sparingly. It is intended not to facilitate the operation of the Government nf the day so much as to terminate absolute obstruction, and only in such conditions should it be applied. We make a protest on behalf of the small Labour Opposition at Canberra, just as we have spoken for the small Nationalist Opposition in Queensland; but we take also the broader view that the work of any parliament is of such vital consequence that it should be performed with the greatestcare, in a leisurely manner rather than a rapid one; and that time and opportunity should be afforded to all the members, not only to thoroughly understand the measures before them, but also to freely discuss them from all angles.
Most honorable senators will agree with that statement. It cannot be denied that members of the House of Representatives have been deprived of the opportunity to speak about matters of vital importance to their constituents, owing to the action of the Government in limiting the time allowed for the consideration of the Estimates. Mr. Riordan, the honorable member for Kennedy, has placed in my hand a pile of letters from constituents complaining of the unsatisfactory postal facilities in various parts of his division. He informed me that the time allowed for the consideration of the Estimates of the Postmaster-General’s Department was so limited that he was unable to bring the matters complained of under the notice of the Minister representing the PostmasterGeneral. Accordingly, he handed the letters to me with the request that I should do so when the Appropriation Bill was being discussed in this chamber.
The action of the department in curtailing country postal services is grossly unfair to rural interests. In some districts mail services which were conducted twice a week have been reduced to once weekly ; in others where there was a mail once a fortnight, there is now a mail only once a month.
– Why does not the honorable senator deal with some of the complaints instead of reading long newspaper reports?
– If Senator McLeay had been listening to me he would have known that I have been directing the attention of the PostmasterGeneral to these matters, and I have been complaining that, because of the use of the guillotine in the House of
Representatives, Mr. Riordan and other representatives of country electorates were denied the opportunity to air grievances which had been brought to their notice by their constituents. In this chamber, also, we are becoming accustomed to the application of the gag, but apparently Senator McLeay and his friends are satisfied; they do not object if honorable senators on this side are prevented from speaking. 1 warn him, however, that before many years have passed, the people of this country will have something to say about the manner’ in which this Government is conducting the business in this Parliament. They are watching the passage of legislation, and because of propaganda that is being disseminated here and in other countries, there is increasing dissatisfaction with existing parliamentary institutions and governments which ignore the rights of the people. Unless I misread the signs of the times, the day of reckoning is not far distant.
– The attitude of the Opposition in this Parliament was responsible for the action taken by the Government a week ago.
– The Opposition acted in the only way open to it in order to let the people know what was being done by this Government.
– The Opposition has wasted time.
– If honorable senators on this side spoke for ten hours on this bill we 4 could not be accused of wasting time, because of the importance of the proposals contained in it. We should have full opportunity to deal with the Estimates of the various government departments. Only the other day the Government applied the gag in this chamber.
– It was about time, too.
– I have always been willing to listen to what government supporters have had to say, and on only one occasion - the incident concerning Senator Johnston - did I offer objection to an honorable senator’s request for leave to speak. On that occasion, I acted in a spirit of levity, for which I tendered my apology to Senator Johnston, because I frankly admit that he has at all times done his best to uphold the rights of the Senate. Whether or not we agree with all that he says we must, I think, “hand” it to him, as we were accustomed to applaud Sir Hal Colebatch, for his efforts to maintain the rights of the Senate in the interests of the smaller States.
– Apparently the door is being opened for Senator Johnston to walk in.
– The Leader of the Senate would probably accept such an invitation if there were a portfolio on the premises.
– The Labour party would not have the honorable senator. The motion for the first reading of this bill ‘ gives every honorable senator the right to speak for one hour and a half, and to discuss a wide range of subjects.
SenatorFoll. - But the honorable gentleman should stop flirting with Senator Johnston.
– I am merely expressing my appreciation of his efforts at all times, despite opposition from any section in this chamber not excepting members of the Country party, to speak on behalf of Western Australia.
– We all do that; Senator Johnston is not singular in that respect.
– I freely admit that, but Senator Allan MacDonald is in a somewhat different position; he speaks with friends all around him, whereas Senator Johnston is practically alone. Having foresworn allegiance to the Country party leader in this chamber he, like the late Lord Roseberry, ploughs his lonely furrow, and I must say that he is making a very good job of it.
– It is to be hoped that he does not sow his wild oats in that furrow !
– Apparently government supporters think that everything which it does is perfectly in order. I have criticized it for its undue haste in passing the Estimates through the House of Representatives, and I have urged the need for the Senate to give more adequate consideration to the Government’s proposals in order to disarm criticism of this chamber.
The third matter to which I direct attention is in relation to the decision of the Government to provide further accommodation for the GovernorGeneral elect. We are led to believe that it contemplates building two residences for Sir Alexander Hore-Ruthven - one in Melbourne and another in Sydney.
– “ Led to believe “ ; that commits the honorable senator to nothing.
– Being something of a bush lawyer I was, naturally, careful to use that phrase. Members of the House of Representatives have informed me that they have endeavoured to obtain information from Ministers in that chamber as to whether the Government intends to erect or acquire official residences for the Governor-General in Melbourne and in Sydney. As that question has not yet been answered, I should like a definite reply from the Leader of the Senate. We have nothing to say against the GovernorGeneral designate, but it would appear that because there is a desire on the part of certain ladies and gentlemen who love to hang around the collarbone of such dignatories from other parts of the world, official residences for the GovernorGeneral are to be acquired in the two capital cities mentioned. The present Governor-General, who is a good Australian, appears to be satisfied with the official residence in Canberra and we should be informed if additional expenditure is to be incurred for his successor. This subject is of particular interest to honorable senators on this side of the chamber, because, on several occasions, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and I have directed the attention of the Government to the slums which exist in this beautiful city. If the Government has money available, it should eliminate these eyesores in Canberra. If it is proposed to acquire palatial residences in Sydney and Melbourne, why should not similar residences be acquired in Brisbane and Perth?
– Admiralty House, Sydney, which has been mentioned, was used for many years as the Sydney residence of the GovernorGeneral.
– Is it proposed to reopen that establishment? Many years ago, there was a strong agitation against the acquisition of residences for the
Governor-General in certain capital cities, and it was thought that, when the Seat of Government was transferred to Canberra, one would be sufficient. According to Hansard of the 30th December, 1904, page 8301, ex-Senator Keating said -
Why should the Commonwealth provide him with a house at an expense of £3,000 a year for the rare occasions when he. visites New South Wales? Wo should take a general stand against this expenditure, and determine that there shall be only one Governor-General’s establishment, known as the Government House of the Commonwealth, and situated where the Seat of Government is. While -the Scat of Government remains temporarily in Victoria, the Commonwealth Government House should be. in Melbourne, and when a Federal Territory is chosen in New South Wales, and the Seat of Government is fixed there, .the Commonwealth Government House should be there, and there only.
On the 25th November, 1905, Hansard, page 5825, Senator Givens moved -
That the House of Representatives be requested to reduce the item “ Sydney Government House” £2,585 by £2,000.
In support of that motion, the honorable senator said -
The proper place- of the official residence of the- Governor-General is. Melbourne, because, for the time being, it is the Seat of Government. Ultimately, of course, his official residence will be at the Federal Capital. When it is established, shall we be expected to maintain a separate establishment for His Excellency in Melbourne and Sydney, while we ignore other States capitals? It would be ridiculous to single out two States to be favoured in that way.
Speaking on the same subject, the late Sir Josiah Symon is reported in Hansard of the 28th November, 1905, page 5815, as having said -
I think, however,, that he ought to move a request to leave out the whole of the vote. . . .
I wish, without elaborately arguing the matter, to give one reason why I think we ought not to continue this extravagance. . . .
I do say, nevertheless, that it is extravagant to continue a second Government House at the public expense when - I will not say whether justly or not - the country is exclaiming against heavy Commonwealth expenditure. There is no necessity whatever for it. There is no more reason why we should have a second vice-regal palace constantly maintained than that we should have other official residences for His Excellency in Brisbane or in Adelaide. I should be sorry in a way to curtail expenditure that was requisite for maintaining official dignity; but I do not think that this expenditure is necessary. What is it for ? It is a mere piece of arrant humbug.
In many parts of Australia, the workers are compelled to live in shacks, and if money is available for additional viceregal residences, a definite attempt should be made by the Government to provide houses for those who at present are living under deplorable conditions.- In travelling from Sydney to Brisbane, one cannot help noticing a number of shacks made of bags and scraps of tin in the vicinity of Casino.
– They are a disgrace to any country.
– They are, and should be removed as speedily as possible. Such eyesores on the landscape are a disgrace to Australia.
Dealing with the. subject of finance, I have said that the remission of taxes does not necessarily mean that additional employment will be provided. Earlier in this week I explained that if taxes remitted were paid into a bank and the money were not re-issued there would not necessarily be more employment than at present. I have also contended that the banks have certain power to issue credits which, after all,, are as good as money. I read an article in the August circular published by the Bank of New South Wales, dealing, with credit and economic recovery.. One. passage read -
At the present time bank deposits in Australia are tending to. increase slowly, because trading banks’ advances are expanding slowly from the low level to which the lack of willing borrowers had driven them during the depression. As advances expand, most of the money comes back to the bank in the form’ of new deposits, although a little additional cas] is required for pocket money by the public,, for till money by the shops, &c. Such expansion of advances as we have had in Australia since 1932 represents a movement towards recovery, and is generally recognized as evidence of our progress. But we have not yet reached normal employment. The latest trade union returns still show some 18 per cent, unemployed-
Senator Gibson, who is keenly interested in finance and dilates on the trials of mortgagees and mortgagors should study the contents of this interesting circular, which does not say that the remission of taxes has any bearing upon th© subject of employment. The article states that as recovery continues bank advances increase. It shows that whether the Government does or- does not remit property taxes, the hanks -will meet economic development with an expansion of credit. The articles continued - whereas in the nine years preceding 1929 the average was 8 per cent. This suggests that recovery, if not interrupted, has still a considerable distance to go. As recovery continues, so will the expansion of bank advances, and as bank advances expand, deposits, too, will rise. The banks can only allow deposits to expand without hindrance, so long as they hold sufficient liquid assets (cash and treasurybills) . . .
– What are liquid assets ? We have a lot to thank the banks for.
– I am not condemning the trading banks, but am merely quoting from the monthly circular published by the Bank of New South Wales on the financial and economic problems of Australia. This article supports the belief of honorable senators in opposition that the expansion of credit does not depend entirely upon the remission of taxes.
– The rate of interest is an important factor.
– I am asked what are liquid assets. According to this article they consist of “ cash and treasurybills “. I understand that the governments of this country have financed their deficits by means of treasury-bills, and that these treasury-bills go into the bank and become liquid assets, and, according to the writer of this article, are as good as gold. This pamphlet is dated the 19th August, 1935.
– Why should not the banks accept treasurybills? They are security for overdrafts.
– A few years ago in this country we had a fair amount of gold in the banks and credit was issued in a certain ratio to the value of the gold reserve. Later, the bulk of the gold was shipped to the Old Country and very little of it remains in Australia to form the basis for the issue of credits ; in its place we have a certain number of treasury-bills.
– The honorable senator is mixing up two things. Previously, the cover for the bank notes was a certain percentage of gold, but that has been altered to a cer tain percentage of sterling and gold, treasury-bills are in an entirely differentcategory. They are taken up by the private banks.
– I understand the point made by the right honorable senator. I am emphasizing, however, that a few years ago it was strongly maintained that a country was in jeopardy financially, if, in the vaults of the banks, there was not gold in a certain proportion to the value of notes issued. We sent the bulk of our gold abroad, taking up a certain amount of sterling as security in the Old Country. To-day, that gold is no longer held by Australian banks as backing for the issue of credit. The writer of the article which I am quoting says that the backing for the issue of credittoday in Australia is cash and treasurybills, and he argues against the funding of treasury-bills because if that were done the basis of credit would be seriously affected. Funding would result in limiting the amount of cheap money which Senator Gibson contends, is so necessary to the prosperity of industry.
– The banks can invest current accounts in treasury-bills and get cash for those treasury-bills at any time .they wish.
– I am aware of that. But they are not changed into cash; they are held by the banks as credit and security. That is pointed out in this pamphlet issued by the Bank of New South Wales. I am dealing with the matter of taxation, and I am putting forward what, in my opinion, is a reasonable argument to refute the contention put forward by Senator Gibson that remissions of taxes result in a reduction of rents and in additional money being made available to provide employment. I am showing that such a development is contingent not upon the remission of taxes, but upon the issue of credit by the banks.
– It is a contributory factor.
– Arguments advanced by honorable senators opposite gave one the impression that the sole solution of this problem was the remission of taxes, especially taxes on income from property.
– It was claimed that the greater the remission of taxes, the greater would be the decrease of unemployment.
– The writer of this article says to those who advocate any proposal for the funding of treasurybills
Those who advocate any measures such as funding of treasury-bills to reduce the banks’ liquid resources must show that, despite the reduction they propose, it will still be possible for the banks to finance recovery up to the point necessary to reduce unemployment to normal.
That statement also shows that limitations would be placed upon the hanking system of Australia if treasury-bills were funded. Such a step, it is claimed, would restrict the issue of credit which is so necessary for industrial recovery, and for the employment of our people. Dealing with the matter of interest rates, the writer of this article says -
In addition to the above considerations, funding of treasury-bills tends to harden interests rates through the psychological effect upon the investor.
That statement answers the argument advanced by Senator Gibson. Instead of being eager to relieve the wealthy class of this country by remitting taxes Senator Gibson should turn his attention to the banking system, which has power to issue sufficient credit for the development of Australia, even though the Government has to take some of that money for the purpose of carrying on its activities.
– The honorable senator is confusing two entirely different points.
– I shall be very glad if some honorable senator will show me where I am wrong. The statement which I have quoted demonstrates the tremendous power held by the banking system in any country to control what is practically the life stream of the community, by issuing and cancelling credit.
– Which would the honorable senator prefer, 50 one-pound notes or £50 worth of credit?
– I would be very pleased if any bank would give me credit for £50 and at the same time give me £50 in notes. I should then have both the credit and the notes.
– The honorable senator said a while ago that they were both the same thing.
– I did not. I said that the issue of credit and the spending of money for practical purposes, such as buying and selling and transferring commodities, amount to the same thing. I know there is a difference between owning a certain amount of money in one’s own right, and the borrowing of money. But to-day the capitalistic system is dependent upon borrowing. Our governments, like private individuals, borrow. They continue to borrow year by year and then have to borrow money to pay back previous loans ; with the result that the public debt is constantly increasing. The Bank of New South Wales’ circular publishes an article headed “Fallacies regarding the lack of purchasing power “ by Professor Gustav Cassel, in which the writer contends that there is no real lack of purchasing power physically, but there is such a lack from a monetary point of view. He states that a monetary problem of this nature, is capable of a monetary solution. In that respect he differs from honorable senators opposite who imagine that these problems can be solved by reducing taxes. Such ideas are held by the troglodytes of every community. This writer says - “ . . . . nothing in the economic structure necessarily leads to a lack of purchasing power in relation to the total actual production. In dealing with various disturbances as a matter of practical politics, we shall gain the advantage that difficulties of a monetary character will be met with monetary measures. It should be particularly observed that any shortage of means of payment, at any rate in theory, can be remedied by the banks by ci eating additional means of payment, thus by a certain monetary policy.”
Professor Cassel says that the banks can find the money by adopting a certain monetary policy, and in this pamphlet the Bank of New South Wales says that the policy of the Loan Council in funding treasury-bills runs contrary to the best interests of the people because, by that policy, treasury-bills upon which the issue of credit is based, are taken out of circulation. I take it that the Bank of New South Wales would be very pleased if Senator Gibson would show it where it is wrong in this respect.
– “Would the honorable senator admit that he is an inflationist?
– I shall not make such an admission; it might place me in a false light. I agree with Professors Soddy, Gustav Cassel and Keynes and other prominent economists that every issue of credit by the banks is a form of inflation. Any one who has studied financial problems knows that to be so. This money or credit is issued before the goods which will be purchased by it are created. But that issue gives an impetus to industry, and later the goods are created. Even though the credit is issued before the goods are created, it must effect the price of other commodities; therefore inflation results from the system which honorable senators opposite uphold. Thus it ill-becomes Senator Allan MacDonald and other honorable senators to try to deride me as an inflationist, when the financial system which they uphold and of which they speak so highly, is in itself inflationary.
– We deride not the honorable senator, but the policy of his party on this matter.
– The policy of the Labour party is that we should utilize all our powers for the production and distribution of the greatest quantity of wealth possible. If we have the wealth, the men and the materials, it should be possible to devise a financial system which will be completely effective. That is my party’s view, but honorable senators opposite put the cart before the horse and say that although we have the wealth and the men and materials, we cannot fully utilize these things because the present financial system is not sufficiently elastic to enable us to do so. The utter stupidity and futility of that view will be shown in the future, when historians look back upon this age, in which men, presumably intelligent, could find money with which to slaughter one another, whereas in times of peace their only contribution to the economic thought of the community was an advocacy of reduced taxation of property. The poverty of intellect displayed by some honorable senators opposite is appalling.
The Labour party has been accused of a lack of enthusiasm for a defence policy.
– The Labour party contains a lot of humbugs.
– My withers are unwrung by the honorable senator’s interjection, because I recognize the quality of the brain behind it. We on this side are anxious to do the best for ‘the defence of Australia, and if those who do not agree with our policy call us humbugs, I suppose that we shall have to put up with it.
– The Labour party is a set of humbugs.
– If the honorable senator is not careful, I shall demonstrate that I am not a pacificist. Unlike some members of the community, I am not prepared to take lying down anything that might be said. I am not a humbug, and am speaking seriously of the policy of the Labour party in regard to defence. The Labour party believes that Australia should be defended, and that public money must be expended on’ defence; but it contends that the present Government has wasted a good deal of money in giving effect to its defence policy. The geographical position of Australia is such that its defence is a less difficult problem than is the defence of, say, France, Germany, Czechoslovakia or any other European country. Military leaders admit that the defence of Australia need not necessarily follow the lines adopted by European countries, and that the expenditure need not be so great as in those war-threatened countries of Europe, which almost daily expect an outbreak of hostilities. The Labour party advocates a more progressive air policy than is now in operation. In this connexion, I again plead for greater encouragement of gliding clubs. When I mentioned this subject a few weeks ago, a number of honorable senators sitting opposite smiled; but, since then, the Minister for Defence (Mr. Parkhill) has indicated that a sum of money will be made available next year to assist in the establishment of gliding clubs. In no better way can the young men of Australia be trained to become air-minded. Much of the money set down for the reestablishment of the Royal Military College at Duntroon would be better expended in encouraging suitable young men to join the air force.
– - Is the encouragement of gliding the objective of the Labour party’s defence policy?
– The Labour party believes in expending money on training that is calculated to do most for the defence of Australia. Senators Brand and Cox, with their military experience, will agree that, because of Australia’s geographical position, everything possible should be done to encourage our young men to become air-minded. The establishment of gliding clubs would do much in that direction. The total cost of the Royal Military College from 1910-11 to 1929-30 was £1,122,000. The lowest number of cadets in training in any year during that period was 35, the greatest number being 144. The lowest number of instructors, tutors, officials, and other paid employees during that period was 45, in 1911. In no other year was the number lower than 88. At one time it reached 164. The number of cadets in training at the college in 1911 was 41, for whose training 45 instructors were employed, at a total cost of about £11,665. The average annual cost of each cadet was £284, and it will be seen that the number of instructors was approximately the same as the number of cadets.
– Those figures are quite incorrect.
– They were given to me in good faith, and have been taken from Hansard of the 4th July, 1930, page 3721.
– That does not necessarily mean that they are correct.
– Surely politicians do not lie! In 1921 the college had 81 cadets in training, and the cost of the 164 instructors was approximately £62,000. In the following year the number of cadets fell to 45, and the instructors to 126, the cost of training being about £48,000. In 1930 a staff of 98 instructors was employed, at a cost of £48,000, to train 66 cadets. The average annual cost of each cadet was £720, there being approximately three instructors for every two cadets. As the period of training was four years, the average cost of training a cadet amounted to nearly £3,000. If those figures are not correct, the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) will no doubt indicate where they are wrong.
– They have been corrected several times, but the honorable senator still persists in quoting them.
– I am criticizing the Government for extravagant expenditure in certain directions, while neglecting opportunities to encourage airmindedness among Australian young men. The Labour party is in favour of the effective defence of Australia, but it is opposed to the militarization of the people of this country. It would not object to unemployed young men being given an opportunity to join the military forces, at decent rates of pay, so long as they were free to leave at any time to engage in industrial pursuits. Unfortunately, the economic system under which we live precludes the possibility of Australia’s man-power being utilized to the fullest extent. Under a sound economic system every person in the community could be well-fed and well-clothed, and those not required in industry could be trained in the naval, military or air force. The Labour party is strongly opposed to the building up of a military force which would exercise control over the rest of the people. It will do its utmost to prevent the growth of that state of mind in which those who participate in the defence of the country are opposed to those engaged in industry. In making these comments, I have been guided by the highest motives, and a desire to place before honorable senators the views of the Labour party in regard to a number of subjects. I hope that any honorable senator who may see fit to criticize my remarks will do so in the same patriotic spirit.
– One advantage about a debate of this nature is that an opportunity is afforded from time to time to vary or even change the subject. I propose to deal with several matters in which the electors of Western Australia are interested.
The financial policy of the Government as announced by the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in the House of Representatives has been referred to as being disappoint- ing. I do not entirely agree with that view, although I admit that the policy does not contain all that we might have reasonably hoped for; but in that, perhaps, a wise precaution has been exercised. When our ship of finance was torpedoed a few years ago, the situation called for a government that was able to effect the requisite repairs. The saying of the hull was due entirely to the action of the Scullin Government which was then in power. The Government which succeeded it was entrusted with the duty of effecting repairs to the ship and with prudently testing the new fabric and machinery before committing it to any speed. That has been and is still being done. The ship is now gathering way and the adherence of the Government to the policy which brought the Lyons Ministry into power has certainly restored confidence and a considerable measure of our former prosperity. One wishes that the improvement were even more rapid, but it is recognized that outside factors have been a deterrent, and until they are further influenced in our favour, the ideal cannot be gained. We may extract some comfort from the figures that have been placed before us in the budget and other papers. They reveal that unemployment, a3 compared with 1932, has been so reduced as to be approaching the 50 per cent, mark of improvement. The building industry last year showed an advance of over 50 per cent, on the previous year, and in the same period factories absorbed no less than 45,000 additional hands. On the financial side, recent loan conversions have resulted in the saving of interest and exchange of nearly £3,000,000 a year while the interest hill per capita is now ls. 3d. less than it was thirteen years ago. Nor has the Commonwealth public debt been disregarded ; it is being steadily, if slowly, reduced. Despite the advantages gained, I join with honorable senators of all shades of political opinion in deploring that so many workless still remain in our midst, to whose assistance the community should be able to contribute. Particularly am I concerned for the younger generation. Appeals on their behalf have been made, but nothing concrete has been achieved. In the last financial year this Parliament voted a sum of £100,000 for afforestation in Western Australia, conditional on a proportion of it being devoted to absorbing some of the unemployed youth. Most unfortunately, the Commonwealth Government seems to have agreed to this proportion being diverted to some other channel, on the ground that it could not be usefully employed as had been proposed.
– The States declared that they could not procure sufficient youths.
– That declaration from the States will bear investigation. I am sorry that the original intention with regard to this money was not pressed.
The position of the taxpayers might be justifiably described as distressful; I make this statement despite what has been said by members of the Opposition. A large number of the heavy impositions resulting from the depression still remain with us. Under the financial emergency legislation, those engaged in business, trade and commerce have grievances approaching in gravity that of the unemployed. We have been told that with their aid the governments of Australia were able last year to establish a record in the financial history of the country. The collections of taxes amounted to over £93,500,000. Just imagine! That sum was extracted from less than 7,000,000 people! I ask honorable senators to judge of its effect in retarding business or the extension of factories, industrial undertakings and other enterprises productive of widespread employment. Government expenditure is not always reproductive - this we know - and the withholding of so much capital from its natural outlet must further postpone the condition of prosperity that is so desirable. To use words which were recently conveyed to me and which doubtless other honorable senators have also read -
It is not so much a question whether governments can afford to remit taxation, but rather whether they can afford not to do bo.
To hark back for a moment, the same principle applies in regard to the taking of measures for the reduction of unemployment. I am not suggesting that these matters have not been considered by the Government, but I would urge the administration to grant further relief wherever and whenever possible.
I not only commend the basis of the Government’s budget, hut I also congratulate the administration itself on its evident intention to observe the policy which it announced prior to the last elections. For instance, agreements designed to create and improve overseas trade are being sought, and the tariff schedules are receiving the attention which they so sorely need, and which is so desired by many honorable senators. The difficult problem of rehabilitating the farming industry has been investigated, and a policy has been agreed upon for the fixation of a homeconsumption price for wheat. This was unanimously endorsed by representatives of all the States, and is to be the subject for early consideration by this and the State Parliaments. In themselves these are indeed advantageous achievements
I welcome the decision of the Government to conduct an inquiry into the banking and monetary systems. The activities of the apostles of Douglas Social Credit, and the election propaganda of the Labour party rather shook the faith of some persons in the rectitude and usefulness of our well-tried financial institutions.
– Shook them to their foundations!
– The result of this inquiry will, I am sure, completely restore the confidence of the public. I trust that the findings of the royal commission will be conveyed to the people in some graphic or readily understood form. If that be done, the effect would negate any further attempt to undermine the foundations of the structure of public and private credit.
I believe that the relations between the Commonwealth and the States have perceptibly improved recently, and for this better understanding there was plenty of room. The Commonwealth is a federation, and recent co-operation between it and the units is causing this to be appreciated. A glance at the figures relating to last year’s expenditure reveals that of the revenue of £67,000,000 all but £4,500,000 was devoted to the interests of the States or to directions that inextricably concern the populations of the States. To administer the Commonwealth itself, therefore, cost the taxpayers of Australia only £4,500,000. Suggestions have been made that, in order to increase State revenues the Commonwealth should forsake entirely the field of direct taxation. I have yet to be convinced that such a step would be beneficial, and that it would not have the effect of indirectly increasing costs to the producer and the consumer who are already overburdened with a variety and multiplicity of loads.
The Government is proceeding with its plans for the modernization and expansion of the defence system, and satisfactory developments are indicated. Recent occurrences abroad have amply demonstrated the wisdom of providing increased guarantees for our protection and ability to assume a full share of responsibility in the Empire scheme. Greater facilities should be devised for the more effective education and training of officers of the citizen land forces. Existing opportunities for acquiring a knowledge of their duties - even peace-time duties - are far too few. Command implies leadership: effective leadership is based on sound training and on knowledge and experience of men, weapons, equipment, material and terrain, together with that of their proper conservation and uses. In many of the officers holding appointments, such knowledge and experience is not so conspicuous as is desirable. The fault cannot be attributed to the officers. The drastic restriction of the votes for training purposes has closed many useful avenues of instruction, and the too hasty retirement of tried officers who served in the late war has removed a most valuable and helpful element. Some arrangement should be made whereby the plan originally advocated by General Sir Edward Hutton could be revived. This provided for the sending abroad of citizen force officers for six months’ association with a unit during the training season in India, or Great Britain. It operated prior to 1914, and the subsequent record in the Great War of those officers who had the benefit of this training fully justified the experiment. Such a scheme should be revived or developed. If this be impracticable a suitable substitute would be the attachment of officers to a school of instruction or permanent unit in Australia. The period of tuition should not be less than three months.
I commend the Government for its decision to re-establish the Royal Military College at Duntroon. It is wrong to condemn this institution because of its initial cost. The justification for its existence can only be assessed on its ultimate value. For whatever money has been expended on the college an adequate return has been received, and it can be discovered in the services rendered during the war by its graduates. Equivalent service continues to-day. In another five years, I suggest, the principal appointments connected with our land defence forces will be held by graduates who received their first military instruction in that college. One of the original objects in establishing a college was to produce officers who could fill such positions, and we are approaching the time when that objective will be realized.
Every member of this Parliament must be, and I feel sure is, deeply concerned with the problems connected with the settlement and development of Northern Australia. I favour a continuance of the attention hitherto given to their solution. The position is by no means hopeless. In my opinion, adequate communications are a first essential. In the wireless broadcasting and aerial services already functioning we have some useful elements which are capable of much greater development. Same re-organization of the mail time-table between Daly Waters and Perth is imperative. At present, many benefits are denied to those residing between these termini. At the present time I do not advocate railway construction. It would be much more advantageous to devise and gradually carry out a system of trunk roads which would facilitate the movements of stock and carriage of goods as well as encourage visits from more settled districts.
Then there is an issue which, in th, interests of sound, national finance and of the taxpayers and all members of the community should be dealt with without delay. I refer to the institution of some form of national insurance against old age, invalidity, sickness and unemployment. We hear many references to the ever-increasing burden on the people due to the payments made to old-age and invalid pensioners. In this connexion I wish to repeat what I said on a former occasion in this chamber, namely, that the time cannot be far distant when a choice will have to be made between fewer pensioners at the present rate of pensions and more pensioners at a lower rate. At present Australia has no definite plan foi” dealing with the contingencies of life, and there is imposed the natural consequence of unnecessary hardship, allied to which there is much suffering, to say nothing of overlapping or redundant functions and economic waste. Disabilities for which comprehensive legislative provision could be made are at present costing the community, directly and indirectly, enormous sums of money. Lack of co-ordination in the efforts of contributing authorities has unnecessarily increased the burden. In Australia we have rightly set ourselves a high standard of living. Our social services are constantly expanding. Racially and geographically, we are fortunately placed. In order to retain these advantages for all sections of the community, we should conserve our assets to the utmost. I trust that the Government will act, and act quickly in this direction. If a workable and effective scheme is placed before Parliament by the Government, it will for ever find a worthy place in the records of human affairs.
I have already mentioned the improvement of the relations between the States and the Commonwealth. In order to maintain this improvement and strengthen even further the ties of amity and promote .efficient co-operation, I urge the Government to give effect to its promise to re-appoint the interstate commission. The preliminary work done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission is a most valuable contribution towards a complete understanding of the working of the Constitution, and with this as a basis a policy could be evolved that would make the interstate commission a body to which every State could refer its federal problems with every confidence.
– The motion for the first reading of the Appropriation Bill enables honorable senators to discuss many subjects. If we had not been fully seised of this fact before the commencement of the debate, it would have been borne in upon us by the observations of many honorable senators who have preceded me. I was interested in the statement made by Senator Johnston this morning. The honorable senator indulged in what I may term a tirade against execessive taxation which, he claimed, had been levied upon the people by the Commonwealth Government. Unfortunately he dealt with only one side of the national ledger - the taxation side - and omitted to mention in what respect expenditure could be reduced without interfering with important features of Government policy. While the Government has commitments which it cannot avoid, it must necessarily obtain the money from one of two sources - borrowing or the levying of taxes.
The Opposition has complained that the Government is attempting to rush this legislation through with undue haste. Those who hold this view argue that if the Senate had not wasted valuable time earlier in the session, it would not now be necessary to suspend the Standing and Sessional Orders to expedite the passage of this bill, which involves the expenditure “ of many millions of pounds. I do not subscribe to this view. The Appropriation Bill may be regarded aa a synopsis of all the legislation which this Parliament has had under consideration and passed since the commencement of the session. For example, when Senator Johnston this morning spoke of what he termed the excessive taxation which had been levied on the people, he overlooked the fact that yesterday afternoon the Senate dealt with an important feature of the Government’s financial policy - the Income Tax Bill - and he had the opportunity then to say what he said this morning and also the opportunity to submit amendments to the Government’s taxation proposals.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) this morning, in the course of a long speech, read numerous extracts from the Melbourne Age newspaper belittling the Senate, and, I regret to say, the honorable senator appeared to endorse what the Age said.
– Of course he did.
– Much may be said in defence of the Senate, and I consider it is a pity that senators do not more often take advantage of the opportunity to demonstrate to the people that the Senate is equal in importance to the House of Representatives. In this connexion I may be permitted to quote briefly the opinion of Quick and Garran as set out in the Annotated Constitution of the Australian Commonwealth. Their authority to speak on this subject is unchallengable. They say -
The Senate is one of the most conspicuous, and unquestionably the most important, of all the federal features of the Constitution, using the word “ federal “ in the sense of linking together and uniting a number of co-equal, political communities under a common system of government. The Senate is not merely a branch of a bi-cameral Parliament, it is not merely a second chamber of revision and review representing the sober, second thought of the nation, such as’ the House of Lords is supposed to be; it is that, but it is something more than that. It is the chamber in -which the States, considered as separate entities and corporate parts of the Commonwealth, are represented. They are so represented for the purpose of enabling them to maintain and protect their Constitutional rights against attempted invasions, and to give them every facility for the advocacy of their peculiar and special interests, as well as for the ventilation and consideration of their grievances.
The Senate, in the past, has proved itself of immense value, but human nature being what it is, the people are prone to forget the services which this chamber has rendered to the nation. It is only now and then that the Senate, by insistence upon its right9 as a legislative chamber co-equal with the House of Representatives emphasizes its position under the Constitution. On three occasions during last 35 years the action of the Senate has saved Australia. The first occasion was in 1914, when a constitutional crisis had developed. The Senate asserted its authority in opposition to the wishes of the House of Representatives, which threatened that, if the Senate persisted in its attitude, there would be a double dissolution. The threat had no effect upon the Senate, however, and eventually the double dissolution took place. At the subsequent general election, the people of Australia endorsed the attitude of the Senate in every par- ticular. The second occasion on which the /Senate came to the rescue of Australia was in 1917, when the country was weary of war, and there was a grave danger that a policy of peaceatanyprice would be accepted. If it had not been for the Senate on that occasion, Australia would, I believe, have withdrawn from further participation in the war. I give every credit to Andrew Fisher, who, at the beginning of the war, promised that Australia would give every man and every shilling to the prosecution of the war until victory should be attained. It was proper that, as part of the great British Empire, Australia should stand by the Mother Country in time of crisis, but it was the action of the Senate in 1917 which kept Australia in the war. The third occasion was in 1931, when the financial crisis developed. We all know the direction in which the country was tending at that time, and no one knows it better than the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce). It was this branch of the legislature which, on that occasion, cried “ Halt ! “. It was this chamber which upset those financial schemes which, had they been put into effect, would have robbed us of the respect of the rest of the world, and deprived us of our reputation as a country which honours its bond. The Senate showed on those three occasions that it was the watchdog of our national honour. It has performed its duty unflinchingly in the past, and I am sure that it will continue to do so in the future should occasion arise. I once heard a man say that the Senate in Australia was very much like the British Navy, unobtrusive when it was not wanted, but always ready to perform its duty in time of need. I thought the comparison a very apt one. During the years prior to 1914, although we all claimed to bo Britishers, and loyal subjects of the King, very few of us knew much about the British Navy. We could not say where it was, or what it was doing, but when the war clouds loomed in 1914, the Navy sprang into activity, and became a most important factor in achieving victory. When peace returned in 1918, the Navy slipped back into obscurity and little was seen of it until just recently, when once more the international situation became threatening. In the same way the Senate, I am sure, can be relied upon to act when need arises. It would, I am convinced, be a mistake to abolish this branch of the legislature.
– I was interested to hear the speech of Senator Johnston to-day, in which he castigated this Government - indeed, all governments, I believe, but particularly the Federal Government - for allegedly collecting vast sums in taxation, and then wasting the money. When one looks at the matter dispassionately, however, one realizes that most of the revenue collected, with the exception of what is used to pay interest overseas, goes back to the people who contributed it, being disbursed in payments for various services. I suggest to the honorable senator that he should not indulge in a mere tirade of destructive criticism, but should put something constructive before the Senate. What does he suggest the Government should do? Does he suggest that we should abolish social services, that we should cut out invalid and old-age pensions? Is he in favour of abolishing war pensions, or of refusing treatment for sick or disabled members of the Australian Imperial Forces? Does he suggest that the Commonwealth should cease making grants to various industries, secondary and primary, or to State governments to assist their finances? The honorable senator suggested, so far as I could understand, that most of the revenue collected was poured down a sink, with the exception of about £8,000,000, which was stored away in the vaults. I do not know whether he has the idea that there is £8,000,000 lying in the cellars of this building. If so, I should like to know where it is. When he accuses the Government of extravagance it is only right that he should point out how savings may be effected. If the honorable senator analysed the national expenditure he would see that most of it is unavoidable. Unless he can suggest an alternative policy to that which the Government is pursuing, his criticism is unjustified and in bad taste. I was unable to learn from listening to him how one item of expenditure might be reduced or avoided.
Until the honorable senator can offer some constructive suggestion, lie should remain silent. An alternative proposal could be submitted to him. If he claims that vast sums of money are raised by the Commonwealth, and that taxation is unnecessarily heavy, would he favour Western Australia foregoing the grant it receives from the Commonwealth Government in order that expenditure might be reduced?
I listened with great interest to Senator Brown when he spoke this afternoon on the subject of defence. He said that the Australian Labour party believes in a defence policy, and that Australia should be defended. I am glad to have that admission from the honorable senator. He also said that the party to which he belongs supports a defence system different from that in operation today. He contends that some of the money expended on defence is wasted, and I am inclined to agree with him in respect of certain items. I do not admit, however, that there is any great waste, in view of the limited sum available to the Defence Department. I believe that in some directions the Government could obtain better value for the money it expends. He also regretted that the Government does not encourage gliding clubs, on which further money, he says, should be expended in order to inculcate airmindedness in our youth who, after experience, might eventually become members of the Air Force. I disagree, however, with the honorable senator when he quotes figures concerning the cost of maintaining the Royal Military College at Duntroon. In my opinion, and in the opinion of competent authorities, it was an error of judgment, and a costly mistake, to remove the college from Duntroon to the old barracks at Paddington,, which are entirely unsuitable. The figures he quoted are inaccurate.
– -They have been corrected in the House of Representatives.
– Yes. They gave an entirely false impression of the position. If we believe that we should have an army, a properly equipped military college at Duntroon is an absolute necessity. It is impossible to assess the value that Duntroon was or is to the
Australian Military Forces. The first batch of 36 cadets who had graduated at the outbreak of war passed into the Australian Imperial Force. I knew quite a number of these young officers. Honorable senators who visit the old church of St. John’s in Canberra, just across the plain, will see the beautiful brass tablet on the walls of that building, bearing the names of the Duntroon cadets, many of whom were mere boys and personal friends of mine, who gave their lives on Gallipoli or in France. I think that I am correct in saying that 19 of the 36 gave their lives for their country.
– General Birdwood said in a letter to me that they were worth their weight in gold.
– As a regimental officer in the fourth brigade, I say that it is impossible to assess- the value of the military college which ha3 a great tradition, and is something of which we should be proud. The record of Duntroon in competitions with other military colleges throughout the Empire i3 most extraordinary. It shows what young Australians under training are capable of doing when they put their minds to the important task before them. Noncommissioned officers and regimental officers of the Australian Imperial Force were sent to the various army schools in France, and almost without exception the Australian officers or non-commissioned officers were at the top of the class. When we have such material at our disposal there is not much to worry about in the matter of defence. Senator Brown said that he fears the militarization of the people. He feels that there is an element of risk, and that there is something of which they have reason to be afraid. That is easily understood. The fear of the military is of old standing. I remind Senator Brown that the remedy lies in a citizen soldiery; let the citizens of the country themselves be the soldiers. It is interesting to go back to the times of the Greeks and the Romans. In Greece the heavily armed infantrymen, the hoplites, were members of a citizen force. They were not members of a regular or professional army, but citizens of the Greek republics. The day came when these citizens through sloth or easy living forsook their training, which kept them fit, and reliance had to he placed upon mercenaries. After that the republics fell, and the tyrants used the army for their own purposes. Citizen soldier? provide the safeguards of a democracy. They have a vote and the welfare of the country is bound up with their strength, as in return for the privilege of a vote, they are prepared to fight and defend the country. I can well understand Senator Brown’s inbred fear of the military. His mind doubtless goes back to the old days of riots and strikes when the “ red coats “ were turned out. They were a professional army, and simply did the job they were paid to do. In Australia, we have not had a professional army since the clays when a few foot regiments garrisoned this country. We are not likely to have such an army again because we cannot afford it, and, furthermore, as Senator Brown quite rightly contends, our people have an inherent repugnance to a professional soldiery. That repugnance is instinctive in most Englishmen; a professional soldiery is abhorrent to their ideas of liberty and freedom. The solution of our defence problem, however and I point this out particularly to members of the Labour party, lies in the establishment of an adequate and efficient citizen soldiery. Such a system to be truly democratic and just and fair would have to be established through universal training, under which rich and poor, and high and low, with no exception, would fulfil their obligations to fit themselves by training to protect this country.
Clause 51(6) of the Constitution of the Commonwealth reads -
Tlie naval and military defence of the Commonwealth and of the several States, and the control of the forces to execute and maintain the laws of the Commonwealth.
I propose briefly to examine the present position with regard to the defence of the Commonwealth. Because we British have always been peacefully inclined, the man who preaches the doctrine of preparedness for war is commonly regarded oy many people as meddlesome and a nuisance. Moreover, history demonstrates the fact that after every great war there is a general tendency to believe that trouble will not come again in thi same generation, and that, therefore, things military can take care of themselves. Further, we have the League of Nations, although some may think that those who rely on its effectiveness are &a removed from cold hard fact as is my honorable friend Senator Collings, who believes in the wonderful power of talk, talk, and yet more talk to keep Australia inviolate.
– I did not say that.
– That is the inference I have drawn from the many dissertations which the honorable senator has made on this subject. The Estimates for the current year, on paper at least, provide for the strengthening and expansion of every arm of the services. It is proposed to expend £7,352,000 this year, which is a great advance on the expenditure last year, but I am disquieted, for no steps are being taken to increase the numbers of men in training on the army side. Thus, I believe that we shall not get full value for this expenditure. Since November, 1929, we have turned our backs on the principles laid down by the late Lord Kitchener, in his Memorandum on the Defence of Australia dated the 10th February, 1910, which holds good to-day more than ever. Kitchener pointed out that the British Navy might be engaged in a distant theatre of war and unable to render immediate aid to Australia in its day of emergency. He laid it down that - lt becomes the duty of all self -governing dominions to provide a military force adequate not only to deal promptly with any attempt at invasion, hut also to insure local safety and public confidence until British superiority at sea has been demonstrated and comprehensively asserted.
The citizen military force planned by Lord Kitchener was not only to defend Australia against external aggression, but was also to “ insure local safety “. The great field marshal evidently foresaw such a situation, as was recently foreshadowed by a speaker in Sydney, who urged the people “ to turn any imperial war into a revolution “.
The scheme, which was adopted by the Government on Kitchener’s recommendation as being “necessary, adequate, and effective “, involved the creation of a citizen army with a peace strength of 80,000 trained soldiers, including 84 battalions of infantry - i.e., 21 brigades of four battalions each - 28 regiments of light horse, 49 four-gun field batteries, 7 signal companies and 14 companies of field engineers, with heavy and howitzer batteries. He very definitely warned the Australian Government that an efficient national force could be produced only by the patient work of years, and that “ any divergence from the policy decided on may, and probably will, lead to chaos and useless expenditure of money”. It may be said that, in stating that truth, Kitchener foresaw the fatal decision which, in November, 1929, Mr. Scullin made at the dictation of an ignorant labour caucus, to suspend the compulsory training provisions of the Defence Act, upon which the whole of the Kitchener plan depended for its efficiency. That decision was made in a hurry, and undoubtedly led to chaos and confusion in the defence forces. I speak with certainty, because I was a battalion commander at the time. It has also involved the useless expenditure of quite a large sum since that date. Kitchener’s plan was designed to provide Australia with a citizen military force that would enable this country to bear the first onset of an enemy’s attack, and hold up the forces of the aggressor until the British Navy could come to its assistance. I submit that the soundness of Kitchener’s strategical principles is not invalidated by the instruments of warfare that have been developed since he wrote that memorandum in 1910. Two of those new instruments of warfare are, aircraft, which was practically unknown in 1910, and fast long-range cruisers. These have accelerated the speed with which an attack may be launched, and have made it more imperative than was the case when Kitchener visited Australia for the Commonwealth to possess a force capable of holding up the first assault of an enemy. In truth, the need for the possession of such a force is more pressing to-day than it was in 1910, because, I submit, the political conditions have undergone a change for the worse. The Anglo-Japanese alliance was in existence in 1910 and up to 1921. Its termination has created an entirely different situation for the Commonwealth. In the years 1914 to 1918, thanks to that alliance, it was possible for Australia to denude itself of a very large proportion of its fighting males and transport them to the battlefields of the old world. Today, however, the defence of Australia itself must be the first care of the military personnel. The following. view was expressed by Sir George Pearce, then Minister for Defence, in an outline of the policy of the Government which he gave in the course of an address that he delivered to members of the Millions Club in Sydney, in September, 1933 -
Our navy is designed to police our trade routes and oppose minor raids, but if the cooperation of the main British fleet is not available should an enemy attempt a largescale attack or invasion of our shores, then it is on the army and the manhood of the mass that we must depend to drive off the invader.
A few days later the announcement appeared in the press that the Government would probably reintroduce the system of compulsory military training in the following year. That was a vain hope.
– I invite the honorable senator to put the question to the people and see where he will get.
– I am not afraid of the people; on the contrary, I want to protect them. To be afraid to do the right thing because one may be defeated at the next elections, is a cowardly doctrine to espouse. The honorable senator would probably take refuge in a hollow log until his attacker pulled him out and turned him into a slave. As he is approaching the “ sere and yellow “, his worth as a slave would probably be accounted as insufficient to warrant keeping him alive, and he would be knocked on the head. Fear of the mob ; fear of the vote - what a splendid doctrine! It implies that we must not expound the principle that the assumption of responsibilities goes hand in hand with the enjoyment of rights and privileges; that a man who is not prepared to take up arms in defence of his country when it is attacked is not worthy to be entrusted with the exercise of the franchise. I do not preach the doctrine of military domination or cast-iron tyrannous discipline. I want Australia to be a free country. But I do desire that its manhood shall be men in every sense of the term, men who, when the time comes - as come it surely will if we do not fill our empty spaces - will stand up straight, clean, and true in defence of their women and children. It is a poor dog that will not fight for its own bone. Selfpreservation is inherent in animals as well as in men and even a wolf bitch will give her life for her pup. Members of the animal kingdom are always prepared to engage in a “ scrap “. If a nation is not prepared to “scrap”, it deserves to go down. Right through the pages of history, for as far back as one cares to look, it will be found that a nation that would not stand up to its obligations, that would not fight and strive, has inevitably had to make way for a more heroic, a more virile, race. The re-introduction of compulsory military training was a vain hope, for Part XII. of the Defence Act remains a dead letter, notwithstanding the ghastly failure that voluntary enlistment has proved to be over the last six years. Many men had given a good deal of time and thought voluntarily to the service of their country - and in a humble way I was one of them - and, when universal training was swept away in 1929, they did their level best to induce men to join the voluntary force, and so maintain its strength. The minimum establishment was only 35,000 men; but we have never approached that number, notwithstanding the various inducements offered. Senator Plain will remember that the Melbourne Scottish Regiment was permitted to wear kilts in order to stimulate recruiting among Scotsmen. With all respect to Senator Plain and his fellow Scotsmen, I submit that that uniform is not an Australian dress. The uniform of the Australian soldier is well-known in Europe, Palestine, and elsewhere., and is feared and respected by all.
Apart from other considerations, the voluntary system is manifestly unfair and undemocratic. Why should men be asked to give up their time in the service of the slacker, the shirker, and the worthless? The underlying principle of the Kitchener scheme - a scheme eminently suited to the needs of Australia - was its democratic nature. It meant that a reserve of trained, or partially-trained, men would be built up patiently year by year, until, as time passed, - the position gradually improved. With a voluntary system that cannot be done, because everything is left to chance, and the whim of die moment. Since the shameful abandonment of the Kitchener scheme, our military defence force has been a sham and a delusion. It consists of a militia of barely 27,000 men, scattered over a continent, and, for all practical purposes, has little fighting value. The prospect of increasing that force . to its meagre establishment of 35,000 men by voluntary enlistment is nil. All the expedients that have been tried during the last six years have failed. Similar expedients, if adopted in the future, will fail also. But, even if it were possible, by voluntary enlistment, to get 35,000 men in training, it would fail, for under such an antiquated and unfair system, no reserves are being built up, whereas under the Kitchener scheme 15,000 men who had complied with Part XII. of the Defence Act, and completed their training, passed into the reserve every year. That scheme was economical, practicable, and eminently suitable to the needs of a democracy like ours. Australia could not afford, and did not want,, a standing army. There is in Australians an ingrained hatred of any agency which might be used to attack our liberty. Democracy can flourish only when every man is a citizen soldier and can fight. There is no danger of a tyrant capturing the army and using it for his own purposes when the army consists of a citizen soldiery. The men themselves will see to that. When the citizens of Rome gave up arms and depended on hired mercenaries, the Republic fell, Rome came under the power of the Caesars, and tryanny was rampant. And so it has been throughout the ages. No system could be -more democratic than that upon which Australia embarked in 1911. A man who claims to be a citizen must accept the duty to serve in his country’s defence, and pass through that training which will make its armies strong enough to protect it. Every citizen, whether rich or poor, humble or exalted, has an equal obligation to serve. He cannot buy himself out. The period of service under the Kitchener scheme was only seven years. That scheme meant that many more men would receive the essential training in the use of weapons than is possible under any voluntary system, and thus a formidable reserve would be built up. If we except the ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force, whose fighting value is now slight, Australia has no reserve army. Without the removal of the unwise suspension hastily imposed by the Scullin Government, when it was suffering from myopia, the creation of an Australian citizen army is impossible. That is my considered judgment, after having been in close association with the military forces of this country for over 30 years. After six years’ trial of the unfair voluntary system the Government must know that that is so. Why, then, does it not act?
– It does not act because the employers will not stand for. compulsory military training.
– A citizen army could be made possible in a few minutes by the issue of an ordinance from the Executive Council.
– The boss will not let the heroes go into training.
– Australia has an obligation to itself, to Britain and also to the League of Nations, of which it is a member, to provide for its own defence. Not until that obligation has been fully satisfied can Australia contribute any force to fight the battles of the League elsewhere. The duty to defend Australia rests with the Government and the manhood of this country. Iu the address which Senator Sir George Pearce delivered to the Millions Club in Sydney two years ago, he said that it was “ on the army and the manhood of the mass that we most depend.” If that be so the outlook is dark and gloomy indeed for the army, if such it may be called, is the merest skeleton and the manhood of the mass is untrained and undisciplined and would be quite useless as a fighting force. I tremble to think what would happen to the manhood of the mass if this country were attacked. That the bulk of them would attempt to fight I do not doubt, because I know my fellow Australians. But I have seen what happens to undisciplined hordes which come into conflict with disciplined forces a iv1 I shiver to think of the bloody and horrible shambles that would follow. The greater the pluck and bravery of the undisciplined forces, the more hideous and frightful would be the slaughter. It would be a criminal and wicked thing to send untrained men into action, but that is what would happen if this country were attacked. To talk about the manhood of the mass, and the fighting age of our men is the uttermost nonsense and fatuous piffle. If it came to war, untrained, undisciplined and unorganized forces would be in a hopeless position.
The means to alter this state of affairs is in our own hands. The Kitchener scheme of universal training proved its efficacy in the stress of war. It was tested and not found to be wanting. It is the veriest nonsense to affirm, as do so many pacifists, that a country like Australia, which produces foodstuffs and raw materials in abundance for clothing and munitions, and is the home of more than 2,000,000 men of fighting age, could, not be successfully defended against an aggressor if suitable measures were adopted to provide weapons for, and impart military training - and teach true discipline to, its manhood. These things could be done. Suitable measures could undoubtedly be taken successfully to defend Australia. I conceive it to be the duty of the Commonwealth Government, irrespective of its political views, to undertake this responsibility. The first duty of any Commonwealth Government is to take adequate measures for the- defence of the country. If the people were told the truth, that without universal military training an adequate and effective army for the defence of Australia is impossible, they would respond. They have responded previously when a call has been made upon their loyalty, and they would do so again; but they must be told the truth. What are they being told to-day? What does the press “dish up “ to the people day after day in the form of war news? The “piffle” which has been published in the last seven or eight weeks under the guise of war news is an insult to our intelligence. It is “ utter tripe “.
The question is: Are we prepared to face the issue? Do the people of Australia wish to make provision for the defence of this country in case an aggressor should attack it ? Are they content that probably the richest plum on the tree should be left there to be shaken down by anyone who has the strength to do it? If our people are told the truth, I have no fear of the result. They will, I am sure, stand up to the obligations of their citizenship, and be prepared to do what they may reasonably be expected to do for the defence of this country. Is it such a nauseous dose - such a frightful medicine - that they are asked to swallow? The only thing for us to do, if we expect to be regarded as a self-respecting people, capable of defending ourselves, is to take adequate measures for our own protection. If we do not do so, who else will bo likely to do it for us? It is our obligation and duty, as well as our proud privilege, to take the necessary action for the defence of this country. Any nation or civilized community which falls below the level of self-sacrifice and idealism and becomes dead to the necessity for defending itself, is finished and will inevitably be replaced by a more heroic people.
I have been told, on some occasions, that the great distances of this country and its extraordinarily long coast-line, make it beyond our capacity to provide for its defence, but the problem is not so intricate and difficult as many would lead us to believe it to be. I remember that 60,000 farmers withstood the whole might of the British Empire for two years and nine months, and even at the end of that time were not entirely defeated. This country can be defended. It would be a most perilous undertaking for any nation to attempt to invade and subjugate Australia if we provided means for our own defence and trained our manhood in the use of them. I have tried sometimes, as I have studied the history of the last war and other wars, to visualize what would have happened in Belgium had certain measures been possible for its protection when the Germans invaded it in 1914. We know that in both Europe and America about the time of the outbreak of the war, a great problem was facing the governments of various countries as to how to deal with motor bandits. I have tried to visualize the effect upon the invading German armies if, as their hosts had marched into
Belgium and the north of France in the early days of the war in 1914, there had been available a force of 15,000 or 20,000 more or less untrained civilians who were expert in the use of the rifle and machine gun and they tad had at their disposal 4,000 or 5,000 motor cars. They could very effectively have torn into the flanks of the invading hordes and harassed them by sharp-shooting and bursts of machine gun fire. I do not say that they would have defeated the invaders, but at least they would have hampered them and by causing large detachments to be detailed to deal with the menace would have reduced the rate of advance. Hence one method for the defence of Australia may be found in machines - six-wheeled cross-country motor lorries, not to mention ordinary motor cars and machine guns; but that presupposes adequate and ample fuel supplies. However, methods of warfare are constantly changing; nobody can say what form the war of the future will take. But I do submit that the mettle of our people ensures that Australia can be defended. To say that Australians cannot defend their own land, and that they have not the pluck and that when trouble occurs they will make for the hills and hide in hollow logs is to libel our people. I would sooner be a little dog in a gutter, or dead, than submit to such a cowardly doctrine. Has the spirit of the pioneers, our fathers, departed? Of course not. In the absence of a small standing army, which we do not need and, in any case, cannot afford, we should give our people a chance to, defend themselves when the occasion inevitably arises, as it inevitably must arise. ‘ The pressure of the population of other countries and other factors will bring a challenge to us sooner or later and I desire to be sure that my sons will have a fighting chance. I do not want them to be led to the slaughter like a flock of sheep. This opportunity can only be created by the re-introduction of Part XII. of the Defence Act. I urge the Government, with all the force and sincerity I possess, to’ do that. Otherwise, as Senator Brown has said, large sums of money will be wasted, and we shall not be getting value for our expenditure.
Senator J. V. MacDONALD (Queensland [5.12]. - I had not intended to discuss matters of defence, but having listened to the long and interesting statement on that subject by Senator Sampson, I propose to make a few observations. Perhaps I can throw a bouquet at Senator Sampson without fear of disturbing the equanimity of other military gentlemen in this House. He is the most interesting senator to listen to on matters of defence. He has made a study of it and has practical experience to support his theories.
– They are facts, too !
– Some are facts and some are not, according to my experience. Twenty-three years ago I took up a responsible position in the Labour movement and was required to advocate the Labour policy of compulsory training. Some people, particularly pacifists who had come to Australia from the Old Country and who viewed with horror what they termed the inculcation in the juvenile mind of warlike ideas, strongly disagreed with me. I support the view expressed by Senator Sampson that Australia must be defended. No matter how much we may wish for the practical demonstration of true Christian ideals, this world still contains many bad people, and we must be able to give as much as we are required to take. At the same time it is a melancholy fact that the day eventually comes when the greatest of fighting races - probably the British is the greatest fighting race of the world at present - sink into oblivion. History ‘for thousands of years is one continual story of the rise and fall of empires. We must be sobered by that fact when considering the necessity for defending ourselves. Quite a substantial body in the Labour movement to-day favours a system of compulsory training. I belong to that section, and for a very good reason. Many years ago, when I was attacked for my advocacy of compulsory training which was then the orthodox policy of the Labour party, I used to retort that my studies of history had demonstrated to me that compulsory training was a thoroughly sound principle. The masses of the people 50 years ago went in constant dread of a standing army, which constituted a very great danger, because it created a military caste. I was pleased to hear Senator Sampson say that he did not favour a military caste, and I would be thoroughly ashamed to hear any Australian speak otherwise. The Labour party represents the masses and so we should be in favour of making every man a soldier, not for offence and wars of conquest, but to defend his hearth and home. Another reason for this policy lies in the fact that tyrants come from within the borders of a country as well as from without, and the masses may be obliged to defend themselves from an autocrat, a despot of the Mussolini type. I have always adopted that stand, because my knowledge of history taught me that a universallytrained population is better for the country than a military caste. My experience covers several countries - Australia, New Zealand and the Old Country - and in the latter I saw impressive evidence of what a standing army means. In my opinion a universallytrained population is necessary for the preservation of democracy. Admittedly the Labour movement no longer holds this idea, and I have accepted the change because it is not vital. After the last “ war to end war,” many men became convinced that the world-wide experience of the horrors of war would prevent a recrudescence of such a catastrophe in Europe within a hundred years. The general attitude throughout Australia, as a result of this idea, was that the Government could substantially reduce expenditure for defence purposes. Senator Sampson castigated the Scullin Government for having made heavy cuts in defence expenditure, but I would remind him of the fact that it was confronted with a gap of £20,000,000 between income and expenditure, and savings had to be made. The Defence Department suffered severely as the result of those savings, but the step had to be taken, as, if expenditure had not been reduced substantially, Australia would not have been able to “ pay the butcher and the baker”. The depression in Australia was brought about to a large extent by the fact that Britain refused to continue to lend Australia money at the rate of £30,000,000 a year, and other countries refused to maintain purchases of our goods. Towards meeting the situation universal training was abolished.
– The congress of the Returned Sailors and Soldiers’ Imperial League of Australia the other day turned down a motion for the reintroduction of compulsory military training. That is a point which Senator Sampson should bear in mind.
– That is so, but I venture the suggestion that if there was assurance that war would not come to Australia, a meeting representative of Government supporters in this chamber would also reject a similar motion. From a study of history, I am convinced that a system of universal training is the best for any country. An important step towards the adequate defence of Australia would be taken by increasing the population of the Northern Territory, but I should point out that for the defence of a country a satisfied population is necessary. The country which is worth fighting for and dying for, is the country in which the people are satisfied.
– Is not Australia worth dying for?
– Thousands of Australian men thought so in the last war ; but Australia could be made mote worthy of sacrifice by its people than at present. I shall proceed to make that point. As Senator Collings has stated, there are hundreds of thousands of men in this country who cannot get a job. Senator Collett read figures in support of his claim that the employment conditions in one State had improved by 50 per cent, since the depression began. Admittedly, there has been improvement, but it cannot be denied that 300,000 Australian men, women, youths, and girls are workless to-day. For most of my life I have been fortunate enough to have work, but I have suffered unemployment, and know that it is a desolate condition. “We cannot all be farmers, like Senator Cooper, or barristers, like the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan). Nor can we all be shopkeepers. Napoleon once described England as a race of shop keepers, but he was not correct. Some people have to use the pick, the shovel, the axe, and the hammer. They are wage-earners. They are sometimes described as wage slaves, but I object to the term; in Australia we have no slavery. I claim, however, that if the Commonwealth were an organized State there would be no such thing as inconstant employment. Jobs would be found for every man and woman to suit individual capacities. If such a state of affairs were brought about we should have a satisfied population, and the best means for defence that could be imagined. The Irish rebellion was due to a dissatisfied population in Ireland. It might have had even more dangerous consequences for Britain, when it was engaged in European war, than did occur. A satisfied national element in Ireland possibly would have averted the Irish rebellion, but also present in the country was a dissatisfied labour element, international in outlook, and not caring about the racial side of the war. Its dissatisfaction lay against the economic aspect. The rebellion forced Britain to send to Ireland troops to keep the peace, but had the Irish people been thoroughly satisfied with their economic conditions, the troops need not have been diverted from Europe at a time when the allied forces were in dire peril of defeat.
– Does the honorable senator know of any country where complete satisfaction reigns?
– Perfection is impossible of achievement, but to a very much greater extent than exists to-day, harmony could be achieved in this country. In the opinion of many martial-minded persons Senator Collings is an extremist, but if contentment were brought to the people, there would not be very many of his type. The necessity for the. school of thought represented by him would disappear.
More people are wanted in Australia. The Labour party is accused often of being opposed to increasing Australia’s population, but the charge is false.
– Hear, hear!
– Members of the Labour party want to see the population of Australia increased greatly, but not so that the 300,000 unemployed will be increased by other Australians. We should like to see people brought here and settled in useful occupations, creating wealth, but not ousting from employment Australian men and women who are in work at the present time.
I have received a letter from, the Camooweal Railway Extension League asking honorable senators to oppose the leasing of large areas in the north-eastern part of the Northern Territory. The secretary, in a covering note, says - 30th October, 1935.
Senator J. V. MacDonald,
Chartered Company Northern Territory.
I am directed to inform you that I have addresseda letter, on the above subject, to Mr. G. W. Martens and Mr. D. Riordan, the North Queensland members in the House of Representatives, and to enclose with this a copy of the letter for your information with the request that you may see your way to protect the Commonwealth from the locking up of such a valuable extensive area and delaying a closer settlement scheme which is the objective of the several governments in Australia, and of such very great importance to the country.
North Queensland is particularly affected for the reason that the area referred tois adjacent to our northern western country, for which we look for closer settlement and development.
Commending the foregoing to your active co-operation and protection.
Two or three years ago a scheme was ‘ under consideration for the purpose of inducing chartered companies from overseas to take up a large area of country in the Northern Territory. This Parliament was asked to sanction the scheme, and practically to relinquish all control over the area. No doubt the idea was dropped because of the criticism which it aroused.
– No. The plan was not carried out because no chartered company was willing to take up the land.
– The hostile criticism which was aroused probably led to the abandonment of the proposal. The interested parties inquired as to the Labour party’s attitude to it, and were informed that the party was entirely opposed to it. The land which it was proposed to lease comprised approximately 100,000 square miles, or about six times the area of Tasmania.
– The honorable senator can inform interested parties that land is available to them at low rentals if they are prepared to take it up.
– Possibly the land that would be offered to them would be regarded as worthless. I am reminded of the reply given by Mussolini when he was recently offered certain territory on the borders of Abyssinia. He said - “ First I am offered Danakil, a desert of rock, and now I am asked to take Ogaden, a desert of sand “. Statements are made in foreign countries from time to time to the effect that the Australians are a selfish people because, although their population is less than 7,000,000, they have huge areas of undeveloped lands which are flowing with milk and honey. It is of importance to us that these false reports should be contradicted in the Parliament and through the press, and that it should be made clear that the large unoccupied areas in northern Australia are mostly unsuitable for closer settlement. The Secretary of the Camooweal Railway Extension League states -
It is noticed that representations have been made to the Federal Government to lease the entire north-east portion of the Northern Territory, approximating 100,000 square miles, which the company proposes to develop, establishing meat works at Vanderline Island.
My league strongly protests against locking up such an extensive area of country in the proposed scheme, and urge that consideration bc given to suitable subdivision, into smaller holdings, to encourage closer settlement, for sheep to meet the growing demand for merino wool. The experience in Queensland on every occasion when such country is thrown open for selection, hundreds apply.
It appears that endeavour has beebmade to set out that the main object of the company is to demonstrate that the Northern Territory can be developed by private enterprise. This sounds very well, but this private enterprise is linked up with the entire financial responsibility of the Commonwealth Government, the parties taking no risk. The borrowing of £1,000,000, the existing lessees whose leases are running out more or less, to have the leases renewed for a period of 60 years, free of all rents, rates, taxes and other government charges, &c, at the expiration of which the Government is also required to pay the assessed values of the assets created by the company; all development carried out and paid for by tlie Government also to be handed over to the company.
Tlie nut position would mean a heavy subsidy to thu cattle grazier and the erection of additional experimental works for treatment. The proposal may bc likened to the failure at Wyndham, which it is understood has, up to the present, resulted in a financial loss of £1,000,000 with . a negligible floating population.
I hope that before any attempt is made to hand over to private’ interests large areas in the Northern Territory, the Parliament will be afforded an opportunity to consider the proposal. Some people argue that, to be properly developed, the northern portion of Australia must be populated by coloured people, but they are more dangerous to Australia than coloured people. Our experience in Northern Queensland, where there is a large population of white people engaged in profitable production, gives the lie direct to this false contention.
Recently, we had a discussion in this chamber concerning members of unlawful associations, but I think it was proved to the satisfaction of most honorable senators that there are no such organizations in this country. It is true that there is a number of Communists, some of them are to be found in Queensland where they give a certain amount of trouble to the Labour party, particularly during an election campaign. The Government allows them to stand as candidates believing, no doubt, that when the results of polls are announced, it will collect the £25 which each candidate has to deposit with the returning officer as a guarantee of good faith.
– The Opposition would not help us to pass the Crimes Bill.
– Honorable senators on this side might have adopted a different attitude if the Government could have shown the necessity for that legislation. As I have said, Communists cause a good deal of trouble to Labour candidates during elections. I was in the unfortunate position on one occasion of having, as my opponent, a Communist who, I had reason to believe, was put up by the United Australia party because of the damage which he would do to my chance of election. This man was supposed to have come from Mexico where he was reputed to have led a wild life as a gunman, and he endeavoured to persuade the electors that he was the only genuine Labour man offering. As it happened, I was defeated by only about 100 votes. He did the job and ensured the return of a good solid Nationalist candidate.
I repeat that the most effective defence measures which we can adopt is to encourage the settlement of a greater white population in our tropical areas. Sir Raphael Cilento, the Director of Tropical Hygiene, ha3 established that under proper living conditions the white race suffers no appreciable deterioration in the tropics. About six months ago, in a lecture delivered at the Australian Institute of Anatomy, in Canberra, he pointed out that there was a greater proportion of white population living in the Australian tropics than in any other tropical country, and that white men and women of the second and third generation could live there without any deterioration to their physical or mental fitness, or their fertility. What we require there for the defence of that portion of the ‘continent is satisfied homogeneous white population. But this objective will not be achieved by chartered companies with liberty to employ coloured labour at low rates of wages in order that they may show a profit on their undertaking.
There has been some reference, in the course of this debate, to the position occupied by the Senate in the passing of our legislation. Senator Brown, I understand, quoted the opinion of Sir Robert Garran, one of the authors of tho Annotated Constitution, in support of hi3 view that the Senate has co-equal powers with the House of Representatives, and that it is in fact, independent of the other branch of the legislature. I agree with that opinion, but I am afraid that, in practice this chamber has been shorn of a great deal of its legislative functions and now is too much, under subjection to the House of Representatives.
– In what way?
– We are expected to accept legislation which is thrown at us at any time it is thought fit -by another place. If we exercise our right to criticize any of the Government’s proposals, the Leader of the
Senate (Senator Pearce) at once feels aggrieved. He was quite sour this afternoon when Senator Sampson rose to air his views on the subject of defence.
– The honorable senator is digressing from the subjectmatter of the bill.
– I always understood that on the motion for the first reading of the Appropriation Bill, honorable senators were allowed a great deal of latitude, and I think that most of the speakers who preceded me to-day have exercised that right. I had intended to speak at some length this morning on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and budgetpapers, but the Leader of the Senate submitted a motion which had the effect of discharging that order of the day. Therefore, I am obliged to take this opportunity to say what I had intended to say when the debate on the Estimates and budget-papers was resumed. The practice is to allow honorable senators a considerable amount of latitude in this debate, and I recall the smile with which the Leader of the Senate invited Senator ‘Collings to “ spread “ himself when he rose to take part in this discussion. The Labour party is opposed on principle to the bi-cameral system of parliamentary government, and the system of initiative and referendum were instituted there would be nothing wrong with wiping out the second legislative chamber. It is necessary to provide some means for the direct expression of the will of the people. The Athenian democracy was the real one, because all the citizens gathered in one meeting place, listened to the speeches, and then recorded their decision. In my opinion, there can be no true democracy unless all the adult people are able to meet in one place and there make their decision.When the people have to elect representatives who, in their turn, elect leaders, the problem of delegated power comes in, and we know as a fact that a person to whom power is delegated very often does not do as he is told. Whether he be an ignorant member of an “ ignorant Labour caucus “, as one honorable senator on the Government bench suggested to-day, whether he be a determined individual with a mind of his own, or whether he has a corrupt interest in subverting the wishes of democracy, the fact is that, once the power of the people is delegated, strange things happen. The trouble with the upper houses of the State parliaments in Australia was that they were, for the most part, nominated. In Victoria, the system is worse still, because there the members of the upper house can be elected only upon a property qualification. I confess that I am somewhat suspicious of Victorian Labour men when I see that they still submit to the conditions under which the Legislative Council is constituted.
– How does the honorable senator propose to get rid of the council ?
– I cannot see any way of getting rid of it short of revolution, much as I dislike strife of any kind. The Senate, however, is different from those State upper houses, because, in the first place, its members are elected upon a simple adult franchise. In New South Wales, every senator represents over 1,000,000 citizens. Therefore, each senator is deserving of more respect than is any individual member of the House of Representatives. Wo cannot ignore the fact that there are such things as State rights. Those who arc deeply imbued with the unitarian idea say that Australia should be. regarded as one political whole, but the fact is that State divisions do exist, as also do State jealousies. The devil of State rights is a pretty live one when any one twists his tail. I repeat that we as a Labour party are prepared to abolish the Senate, and I endorse the Labour party’s policy in that regard, although I recognize that certain risks are involved. I believe, however, that those risks would be minimized or removed if the system of initiative and referendum were instituted. It should bo made possible for a certain number of electors - a varying number according to the growth of population - to demand a referendum upon any particular issue. There is nothing like the audacity of the elected person unless some control is exercised over him. In the meantime, however, it is our duty to stand up for the rights of the Senate. In regard to the important measure now before us, what would the people say if Senator J ohnston and Senator Sampson, for instance, and other members of the Senate did not stand up and put their views before the Senate? If members of the Opposition were silent the Senate would practically close down. This chamber should have greater powers than it now possesses. So far as I can understand, the members of the Ministry are elected by supporters of the Government in both houses, and, as the number of members in the House of Representatives is much greater than in this chamber, our ministerial representation is decided for us by the members of another place. I also understand that you, Mr. President, and the Chairman of Committees are elected at a joint meeting of the supporters of the Government in both houses. In these circumstances the members of the House of Representatives, being greater in number, dominate the situation.
– I may correct the honorable senator by saying that I am not under the domination of honorable members of the House of Representatives.
– I made the remark in an interrogatory manner. I understood that the President of this chamber is selected at a meeting of the supporters of the Government in both Houses. The presiding officers in this chamber should be selected by the members of the Senate, who are more conversant with the important work undertaken in this branch of the legislature than are the members of the House of Representatives, who seldom visit the Senate.
– The process of electing the presiding officers is not mentioned in the bill.
– I understood that, on the first reading of a money bill, honorable senators are entitled to discuss subjects other than those mentioned in the bill. Under the party system the powers of the Senate are so whittled down that we arc asked to pass a measure appropriating over £12,000,000 in one day.
– Not in one day.
– Judging by the reception honorable senators in opposition have received on rising to speak, it would appear that the Government wished to dispose of the bill to-day.
– I have no intention of disposing of the secondreading to-day.
– V. MacDONALD- As it is the practice of the Senate to rise at 4 o’clock on a Friday, this is the worst day on which the Government should wish to proceed with the bill.
– We shall rise so soon as the honorable senator runs down.
– I am not yet wound up. I ask leave to continue my remarks.
– No. The . honorable senator is obviously wasting time.
– I resent the statement of the Minister.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) in order in stating that Senator J. V. MacDonald is obviously wasting time?
- Senator J. V. MacDonald should be more interested in the remark of the Minister than the honorable senator.
– I withdraw the remark.
– If the Leader of the Senate saw the notes that I have prepared he would not say that I am wasting time. I know that some members of my own party regard this chamber as an appendage of the other chamber, and that we only wait for the bones thrown to us, which we are expected to dispose of as quickly as possible.
– The honorable senator should not disparage the institution of which he is a member, as in doing so he disparages himself.
– I am not doing that. I am seeking to increase its importance.
The Government should consider some system under which the voting strength of Australia could be more effectively represented in this chamber and so make the debating strength of the parties more proportionate. Without going into the subject at length, I should say that a majority vote, for any party in a State should entitle that party to two out of three seats contested at an election. The minority vote thus carrying one seat.
– What does the honorable senator call the minority ?
– For instance, the Communists may start by voting for the Communist candidate, and give their preferences to the Labour candidates in the proportion of two to one. Only when the candidates with the smallest number of votes are eliminated do the effective votes become apparent, and these are divided between the candidates of the two major parties. Of these two parties the one receiving the smaller number of votes would be the minority party. I suggest that my proposal is practicable, and would overcome our present difficulties. Small sectional candidates may object to it, but broadly speaking, the election should be fought as between the policy of the Government and the policy of the Opposition, or,should so tremendous a land-slide in public opinion occur to warrant it, on the policy also of any other party which may be considered as a major party. I understand that the Government intends to introduce an electoral bill before the next federal election. If it does so, I hope it will take the opportunity to do something along the lines I have suggested. A large body of public opinion is in favour of the proposal I have described. It would go a long way to removing the farce which was witnessed in 1919-22 when the Labour party was represented in this chamber by only one honorable senator. On another occasion the Opposition in this chamber, when it consisted of members of the party now in power, was composed of only five out of 36 senators. Thus this is not a party matter.
– Does the honorable senator believe that such a proposal would be approved by the Senate?
– I think so. After all most of us realize that wo are here, as it were, only for to-day. The Leader of the Government, for instance, has seen, so many good and true men pass on from this Senate in the 34 years he has been an honorable senator, that at times he must grow melancholy.
I desire also to direct attention to another matter whichI claim to be of the greatest importance to the electors of Australia as a whole. Perhaps my two colleagues will not accept my remarks on this point wholeheartedly, but no doubt they will agree with me in principle. Under the present system the position of groups of party candidates on the ballotpaper is decided on the basis of alphabetical sequence. This should not bo so. Senators McLeay, Allan MacDonald, James McLachlan and E. B. Johnston who have just emerged successfully from an election fray, despite the fact that in alphabetical order their names appeared some distance down the ballot-paper, may not agree with me, but the worst instance in this respect was afforded in Tasmania, where the elected candidates had to survive all sorts of cross voting. Senator J. B. Hayes will bear me out in that statement. Owing to this system, many people in Queensland to-day, and I suppose it is much the same in other States, have a fixed idea that the position of their names at the top of the ballot-paper guarantees candidates from 20,000 to 30,000 votes. I do not think the advantage is as great, as that, but it constitutes a travesty on our preferential voting system, when it is possible for such things to happen.
– What is the honorable senator’s opinion in respect of a circular ballot-paper?
– It would certainly be better than the present method. It is a fixed idea that parties must secure candidates whose names start with one of the first letters of the alphabet, and this leads to special picking based on the first letter in a candidate’s name.
– Was there any picking in the case of Senators Crawford, Foll and myself at the last election? The three of us were previously members of this Senate.
– I would not say that there was any picking in that case.
– The honorable senator could demonstrate his point better possibly by referring to his party’s choice when the three members of the present Opposition were elected.
– I am referring to this matter in a general way, but am quite ready to do as the honorable senator suggests. Before the next election I may have to face a party ballot, and be defeated because of the fact that many good Labour people believe that the party will not have a chance at the polls unless its candidates, because of the initial letter in their surnames, gain for them the top place on the ballotpaper. They might, for instance, prefer to pick three men, each of whose names begin with “ A “. I have brought these matters before the Senate in all seriousness. I point out that our opportunities to discuss such matters are very limited. This Opposition has not got a reputation for moving the adjournment of the Senate in order to discuss certain matters which they cannot fully debate under, ordinary circumstances. This matter will have to be faced. The position of two or three Ministers in the Senate is similar to that which I am supposed . to occupy. Farcical circumstances are developing, and unless steps are taken to rectify the position we whose names begin with a letter that is low in the alphabet will bc changing them with the idea of improving our chances of being elected, as Mr. Seabrook, of Tasmania, did when he had his name changed to Ceabrook. An article in a reputable Sydney newspaper, contributed by a gentleman who describes himself as “ A Barrister “, commences with the following humorous anecdote -
A story is told of a new boy at Sunday school who was being tested in Ms knowledge of catechism by a devout teacher. He waa asked his name, and the reply was “ Clarence Claude Percy “. The next question, of course was “who gave you those names?” and the dignified teacher, expecting the prayer-book reply about godfathers and godmothers being responsible, was horrified to hear the justifiable outburst, “ Wouldn’t I just like to know ? “.
Many of us whose names begin with a letter from D to Z would very much like to know who gave them to us. However it is assuring to know that a name may be changed fairly easily. His Majesty the King has changed his name. One. method is by deed poll, ‘registered at a Supreme Court or the RegistrarGeneral’s Department.
– On a point of order, I ask whether the Standing Orders have been suspended so far as the adjournment for dinner is’ concerned.
– The Standing Orders are suspended at present.
– Are we not to have dinner to-night?
– By the grace of Senator J. V. MacDonald.
– I resent that remark, following as it does upon the allegation of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) that I was wasting time. If Senator Johnston must have his dinner let him go to it. The Minister has refused to grant me leave to continue my remarks. For weeks I have been preparing notes so that I might mako a contribution to this debate, and I have pertinent matters to place before the Senate. I also stood down this afternoon when Senator Sampson and other Government supporters wished to speak. The article from which I have quoted mentions methods by which a name may be changed, and then goes on to say -
But even the above methods are not necessary if a man desires to change Iiia name. Ho can merely tell his friends or advertise the fact, and that is all that is required.
When I attended school the scholars were taught something of the geography of Denmark as well as Australia and other countries. My teacher thought it remarkable, and mentioned the fact to us, that the only town in tlie world which began with two A’s was Aarhus, in Denmark. I should not be astonished if a number of political candidates changed their name to Aaron so as to be placed at the top of the ballot-paper. Aarhus might also be usefully employed.
I pass now to the matter of unemployment. No measure should be discussed without reference being made to that fearful curse, which constitutes a challenge not only to our democracy but also to the high state of civilization which we are supposed to have reached. There are other ways of improving the situation apart from loans and grants to the States for the temporary absorption of some of the unemployed. Considerable relief would be afforded by the establishment of a plant for the extraction of oil from coal. This is a matter to which the Minister in charge of Development (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has given quite a lot of attention. I bring to the notice of the Government the following paragraph from a letter sent to the Brisbane Daily Sandard by a returned soldier.’ -
Welcome news of the success of Imperial Chemical Industries’ plant at Billingham, Durham, has recently reached . Australia, and in view of our potentialities in this respect we can be forgiven for asking if this wonderful avenue will remain unexplored.
Billingham, after six months’ activity, can already absorb the output of 1950 miners. Translated into Australian terms this would moan in Queensland or Victoria an increase of nearly 100 per cent. ; to Western Australia and Tasmania, with their respective figures of 782 and 371 miners, anundreamed of expansion; to New South Wales a return to its palmiest days of export and bunker tonnage which the advent of the oil-driven and motor ships has robbed her of.
Every nerve should be strained to make unnecessary the importation of foreign oil. Senator Sampson spoke for a long period in regard to defence. In the Italo-Abyssinian dispute the latest example of what is termed French hesitancy is in relation to its support of the attitude of Great Britain concerning oil supplies for Italy. It is feared that if oil is placed on the list to which sanctions apply, Italy will regard that as an act of war. One of the greatest problems confronting Australia is the provision of adequate supplies of oil fuel. I therefore ask the Minister to do his utmost to make Australia independent of outside supplies of this necessary commodity. In various parts of the Commonwealth large deposits of coal are known to exist - there are said to be 443,000,000 tons of coal at Blair Athol, in, Queensland - and if these could be converted into oil not only would the defence of this country be made more secure but also the problem of unemployment would be nearer to a solution. As in the case of the experiments, with chilled beef, the experiments at Billingham-on-Tees are not conclusive, but the success which has attended them gives rise to the hope that a wonderful new era with great prospects for more employment and prosperity in Australia is about to be ushered in.
Debate (on motion by Senator Foll) adjourned.
– The sessional Order provides that at 4 p.m. on Fridays I shall put the question “ That the Senate do now adjourn “. Although that hour has passed, I now put the question.
Question resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till Tuesday next at 3 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– When honorable senators were asked to sit until 6 o’clock they willingly agreed to do so. I should like to know why the sitting has continued until 6.30 o’clock.
[6.35]. - in reply - The sitting was extended beyond 6 o’clock in order to enable Senator J. V. MacDonald to conclude his speech.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 6.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 29 November 1935, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1935/19351129_senate_14_148/>.