14th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. P. j. Lynch) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– I ask the Leader of the Senate the following questions with reference to his attack on the press yesterday: -
– Order ! The latter part of the question is frivolous.
– In the first place, the question contains an inaccuracy. I made no attack on the press, but simply related facts. In the second place, I made no proposals either for a press censorship or for any of the other restrictions suggested by the honorable senator’s question. I merely said that if the misrepresentation to which 1 took exception were continued, Parliament would have to take steps to protect itself against it. The whole of the honor able senator’s question is founded on his lively and somewhat wicked imagination.
Presentation of Report
– Can the Leader of the Government in the Senate advise honorable senators as to when they may expect the report of the Monetary and Banking Commission?
– I understand that the Acting Prime Minister has been informed that this report will be available a few weeks hence.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the press report of this morning is correct, that the Postal Department has this year returned a surplus amounting to several millions of pounds? If so, is it the intention of the honorable gentleman to recommend to his colleagues in the Cabinet that penny postage be restored in Australia?
– The latter portion of the question involves a matter of policy with which Cabinet must deal ; I can make no statement regarding it. The press must possess the faculty of pre-vision if it is able to state what surplus has been made this year by the Postal Department.
Time Table - Red Hill Deviation
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
When will an improvement be made in the tri-weekly railway service from Perth to the eastern States, to obviate two of the three weekly trains leaving on consecutive days, namely, Friday and Saturday?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer : -
When agreement has been reached by the railway administrations of Western Australia and South Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What saving will be made in the time spent travelling between Perth and Melbourne or Perth and Canberra, by the adoption of the Red Hill deviation next month?
– The Minister for the Interior has supplied the following answer
The saving in time will be dependent on the negotiations now in train between the Commonwealth and States’ Railways Commissioners. When new locomotives now being constructed are available it is expected that time-tables will be introduced permitting for arrival in Melbourne a day earlier than at present.
Darwin-Perth Route - Sydney and Rabaul
asked the PostmasterGeneral upon notice -
– I have seen the press report referred to in the first portion of the honorable senator’s question. No consideration has been given to the matter by the Government. When it is considered, a full statement will be made upon it.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– As the conduct of this contract falls within the control of the Civil Aviation Department, I have had to make arrangements to obtain a reply from that department. I shall give it to the honorable senator later.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
For the beautification of our country roads, the protection of bird life, and the prevention of soil erosion, will he take action to have all trees lopped near telephone lines instead of destroying them?
– The cutting of trees adjacent to telephone lines is restricted to such timber as can be regarded as an interference to communication services. Where lopping of limbs would suffice to prevent the likelihood of interference, removal of the trees is not permitted, and officers of the department have been given strict instructions that no unnecessary cutting or lopping is to be carried out.
– That has not been the case in the past.
Decisions of Conference
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether consideration has been given to the decisions of the conference of the Australian Teachers’ Federation held recently in Melbourne to the effect (1) , that education should be consummated on a national basis; (2) that a grant of loan money to be used in the direction of relief of unemployment, while most welcome, is not all that is essential: (3) that education shallbe a charge upon the Commonwealth as well as State Budgets, and that the Commonwealth subsidize education?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
Representations were recently made by the Australian Teachers’ Federation urging that the matter of financial assistance for education be accepted as a Commonwealth as well as a State responsibility. The Federation was informed that the Commonwealth Government could not see its way to assume financial responsibility for grants for the purpose of education
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Is it the intention of the Government to intervene in the proceedings before the High
Court regarding the validity of the Commonwealth Bankruptcy Act, consequent upon the restraining order issued against the Judge in Bankruptcy by Mr. Justice Evattin Sydney on Friday last?
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied me with the following answer : -
The proceedings arose out of a prosecution under the Bankruptcy Act initiated by the Commonwealth. No question of intervention by the Commonwealth therefore arises.
Conventions Ratified by Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Senator SIR GEORGE PEARCE.The Acting Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Ten. 2. (i) Minimum age for admission of children for employment at sea, 1920.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Has the Government given consideration to the desirableness of appointing a Commonwealth price fixing official, in order to protect those who will benefit under the recent basic wage increase granted by the Commonwealth
Arbitration Court from threatened exploitation by a raising of prices of necessary commodities ?
– The Acting Prime Minister has supplied me with the following answer : -
The matter of price fixing is one which docs not fall within the province of the Commonwealth.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
No precise quota is fixed at the beginning of a season to govern the mutton andlamb exports for thatseason. From time to time during the season the Commonwealth Government consults with the British Government regarding supplies, having regard to the nature of the season. During the season October, 1936, to September, 1937, the United Kingdom imports from Australia will amount to approximately 1,900,000 cwts. As in all previous seasons,. Australia is in the position this season of being able to export the entire surplus production of mutton and lamb. It is anticipated that a similar position will exist during next season.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer: -
The following were the prices of wool during the period July to December, 1930, when Japanese buyers were not competing in the Australian sales, together with similarinfor- mationfor the corresponding period of the preceding two years: -
Peters ham - Melbourne.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Message received from the House of Representatives acquainting the Senate t hatithad agreed to the resumption of the consideration of this bill, the proceed- ings on which had been interrupted by t he prorogation of Parliament.
[11.14]. - I move -
That the hill be now read a third time
I called “ not formal “ to this Order of theDay so that I might be enabled to draw attention. to still further misrepresentation in the Canberra Times this morning in regard to Senator Johnston’s proposed amendment. When I first raised this question of misrepresentation, by leave, I mentioned that, in the Canberra Times of that morning, I had been reported as follows: -
Senator Sir George Pearce, leader of the Government, in reply to Senator Johnston, explained that if the Commonwealth railway was brought under the same provisions as providedfor interstate railways, and the commission found that the Commonwealth railway was giving unfair preference or discrimination, they would have the anomaly, if Senator Johnston’s amendment was carried, of the Attorney-General having to prosecute himself before the High Court to carry out the board’s finding. For that reason, the Commonwealth railway had been excluded from the provisions.
I went on to say -
That is entirely contrary to what I did say, although the preliminary part of the report is correct. According to an uncorrected Hansard proof of my speech, I said -
For that reason, Part IV. of this measure cannot be applied to the CommomveaJth Railways. I assured Senator Johnston, however, when he was speaking, that the Commonwealth Railways do come within the province of this bill, andI now give Senator Allan MacDonald and Senator Marwick the sameassurance..
I pointed out that they came under clause 18, from which I then quoted.
The newspaper in question did not publish that correction, and I again raised the matter yesterday and called attention to the fact that when its first misrepresentation was corrected in the Senate, it took no notice of the correction. What makes this matter all the more strange is this : Yesterday evening a young gentleman called on me and said that he represented the Canberra Times, and, producducing a Hansard proof, asked me if that was the matter which, I complained, had been omitted from the Canberra Times report. I told him that it was. He then said that he had been instructed to express regret that the newspaper had not published the correction, and explained that its representative had been out of the press gallery when the matter was raised, but had arranged with another gentleman - a Mr. Lennard - to advise him if anything occurred that he. should know, Unfortunately, that gentleman had not brought the matter to his notice. He said, “ We propose to put this correction in to-morrow’s issue “. Judge of my astonishment when I read in to-day’s issue the following alleged report of my correction : -
During the debate in the Senate on the Interstate Commission Bill, the Leader of the Senate **(Senator Pearce)** was reported to have said that if the Commonwealth railways were brought under the provisions of the bill- not under the provisions of Part IV. at all- and the commission found that the Commonwealth Railways were giving unfair preference, they would have the anomaly, if an amendment by **Senator Johnston** was carried, of the Attorney-General having to prosecute himself before the High Court to carry out the board's finding.
This is how they put the error right -
Sir George Pearce actually said that Part14. of the measure could not be applied to the Commonwealth Railways, and he assured Senator Johnston that the Commonwealth Railways did not come under the province of the bill.
– Neither they do.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE The correction is exactly opposite to what I said. What I actually did was to assure Senators Johnston, Allan MacDonald and Marwick that the Commonwealth railways did come within the province of the bill and to draw their attention to clause 18. This latest occurrence almost makes one despair of getting a correct report.
– I am surprised at these repeated, paltry and puny corrections, and the attacks that the right honorable the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) makes against the press in relation to this bill. It is perfectly clear, of course, why he is making these attacks. He knows that some Western Australian members of the Senate were probably misled. He knows that the Commonwealth railways do not . come under Part
SenatorFoll. - No ; it is not.
– If the Minister wants to put the matter right, I invite him to recommit the bill and accept the amendments I moved on the subjects - amendments, which you, Mr. President, came down from your high position in the Chair to support so vigorously. I advise the Government to reconsider the matter and accept the advice which you, Mr. President, and I gave to it in order to put this matter right. At present, the eastern States annually send something like £10,000,000 worth of goods to Western Australia.
– Will the honorable gentleman specify the items?
– The honorable senator knows them, or if he does not he may look them up. The products of the factories of the Eastern States - produce, potatoes and onions - are sent to Western Australia from the Eastern States whenever there is a glut on the eastern markets.
– We do not send £10,000,000 worth of potatoes and onions.
– No, they are only two small items. The eastern States send the products of their factories to Western Australia and use that State as. a dumping ground.
– Do they send them by rail?
– Only to Kalgoorlie, which is the finest market in Australia. Eastern products are carried to the metropolitan and coastal markets by steamers charging low sea freights, and are sent to the Western Australian market by the East-west railway at freight rates which, I am advised, do little more than pay for axle grease. Those charges are absolutely unprofitable and do not obtain on any other railway in the Commonwealth. Yet the one railway which offends against the Constitution by charging differential and preferential railway freights to the detriment of western industries is the railway which this national Parliament refuses to bring under Part IV. of the bill, Part IV. being put there entirely to prevent unjust discriminatory railway freights for the protection of the other four mainland States of the Commonwealth. The whole attitude of the Minister in this matter is unjust to the State which he and I represent. I suggest that the reason why he is rushing forward day after day with these deliberate attacks on the press is because he is frightened that the real position caused by the defeat of my amendments might be clearly understood in Western Australia. In the paltry and puny attacks on the press made yesterday by the Leader of the Senate, the right honorable gentleman magnified things and made mountains out of molehills. Such attacks on our free institution, the press, are unworthy of the National Parliament.
– All sorts of things are unworthy of the national Parliament, but I do not think that Senator Johnston has outlined them as I should if I were called upon to do so. The honorable senator has a tendency, I am afraid, to accuse his fellow senators, and even his fellow representatives from Western Australia, of acting against the interest? of that State. It has become so much a habit with him that I feel confident that it carries no weight either in this chamber or in that State.
– The honorable senator will be gone in a couple of months. Good-bye, Senator Brennan!
– If I should be gone in a couple of months, as the honorable senator seems to think I will, there will be some consolation in the fact that I shall not have to listen so constantly to Senator Johnston’s tale of grievances. It is well that it should be put on record again that the honorable senator, no doubt as the result of his incapacity to understand the bill, misrepresents the position.
– Why does not the Government bring the Commonwealth railways under Part IV.?
– Because it is not necessary to do so. Clause 18(1) of the bill sets out: -
The commission shall inquire into and report to the Governor-General upon (a) any anomalies, preferences, or discriminations alleged to exist in relation to interstate commerce.
Senator Johnston alleges that the freight rates on the Trans-Australian line discriminate against Western Australia. If they do they are specifically provided for in those words. There is no doubt that the Inter-State Commission is in this bill givenexpress power to deal with the complaint made by Senator Johnston. And there still remains section 99 of the Constitution -
The Commonwealth shall not by any law or regulation of trade, commerce or revenue, give preference to one State or any part thereof over another State or any part thereof.
The honorable senator’s complaint that the Commonwealth railways by some act are giving preference to some States over another State is therefore specifically provided against by that section. The honorable senator does not seem to grasp the fact, which was pointed out by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) when this measure was first placed before the Senate, that any part of it must be read in conjunction with existing laws. The honorable senator has not grasped the fact that section 102 still remains in the Constitution, and it is not within the competence of the High Court or any other body to add to or detract from the Constitution. Its duty is only to interpret it. The prohibition against the Commonwealth making any law or regulation which favours one State against another is much more definite than any prohibition addressed- to. the States. Section 102 of the Constitution states : -
The Parliament may by any law with respect to trade or commerce forbid, as to railways, any preference or discrimination by any State or by any authority constituted under a State, if such preference or discrimination is undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State; due regard being had to the financial responsibilities incurred by any State in connection with the construction and maintenance of its railways.
This is the part to which I invite the honorable senator to direct his attention : -
But no preference or discrimination shall, within the meaning of this section,’ be taken to be undue and unreasonable, or unjust to any State, unless so adjudged by the InterState Commission.
The Inter-State. Commission mentioned in section 102 of the Constitution is the same Inter-State Commission as is proposed in the bill now under consideration. Therefore, the position will be, under this legislation, if and when it becomes law, that the Inter-State Commission may inquire as to whether or not any discrimination as between the States is unjust to any one State. The InterState Commission will then report to Parliament; not before that report is made can the Parliament act. But, if the commission finds that discrimination has been practised, this Parliament, which controls the Commonwealth railways, may intervene and set right the grievance. It should be realized, however, that Parliament cannot constitutionally intervene in such a matter under section 102 until the subject has been referred to, and reported upon, by the Inter-State Commission. It is almost increditable that the honorable senator should fail to grasp the facts which are clearly set out in the Constitution and in clause 18 of thebill. But in view of the fact that he has persisted in putting his own views on record - whether for his own good or for the good of the country, I leave honorable senators to judge - I have thought it necessary to put on records the legal facts of the situation.
– I do not propose to discuss the provisions of the bill, or to cover any of the ground which has been traversed by Senator E. B. Johnston. I merely desire to say that as a representative of Western Australia, I have not in any way been misled by the statement of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce).
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In committee: Consideration resumed from the 29th June (vide page 674).
Clauses 2, 3 and 4 agreed to.
Proposed vote, £37,710.
.- Can the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) inform me whether under any of the. headings con- tained in this part of the schedule, provision is made to arrest the encroachment upon the accommodation of Parliament House provided for honorable senators and honorable members for the purpose of effectively doing their business? I mentioned this matter in the course of my speech on the Address-in-Reply, and I do not desire to elaborate the situation, other than to stress the fact that congestion in every part of this building is becoming more and more intense, with the result that we are often unable to secure a room in which to write letters or converse in privacy. On account of various devices and subterfuges the members of this legislature are gradually being deprived of accommodation in the building and, as a consequence, arc unable properly to do their work. Theencroachment is apparently due to the fact that the Government is not pre pared to proceed with the proper development of this capital city by providing secretariats in which departmental officers can do their work in suitable and comfortable surroundings. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will heed my emphatic request in this connexion.
[11.38].- I shall take note of the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition. The allotment of accommodation in Parliament House is controlled by the President, the Speaker, and the House Committee; but there is a close liaison between the officials of the Parliament and the Government. I shall ensure that the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition are brought under the notice of the. Government.
– I take this opportunity to place on record my generous appreciation of the splendid manner in which the Parliamentary Library is controlled. During my term as an honorable senator, I have on several occasions noticed a number of little innovations in the library which add to its usefulness and interest. The parliamentary librarian is to be complimented upon the manner in which he administers his department; in my opinion, this library is conducted as well as any of which I have knowledge. Apparently the librarian is an official who devotes a tremendous amount of thought to his job. Recently he was appointed to the Book Censorship Board, and I hope that his additional duties in this respect will not interfere with his administration of his department. I did not know whether he desired this latest appointment, or, for that matter, whether, owing to the trials and troubles that it brings, he deserves” it. It is a peculiar office owing to the fact that the appreciation of the public is seldom bestowed upon the censors. A good deal of unfortunate criticism is made in connexion with the censorship, which nevertheless, is a heavy responsibility upon those to whom it is entrusted. I consider that the parliamentary librarian will capably discharge his duties.
I invite honorable senators to note the remarkable mass of literature which comes to the Parliamentary Library from overseas. The principal source of supply is that wonderful country, the United States of America. I remind honorable senators that the library of Congress is the largest in the world, and the volumes on its shelves run into some millions; the annual additions are even larger than the actual store of books kept in the Commonwealth Parliamentary Library. The Government Printery of the United States of America is the largest of its kind in the world, and honorable senators will see some of its remarkable output in the basement of this building. At the present time, the Parliamentary Library receives considerable quantities of literature from the United States of America and the League of Nations, which are the two most up-to-date sources of literature in the English language. Unfortunately, owing to lack of funds, this literature cannot be tabulated or, if necessary, bound in volumes; I should like the Government to provide a sum of money to enable this work to be done. The literature emanating from the United States of America is up-to-date and dynamic in character, and is a compilation of what the world is producing in matters of legislation and administration. I have found the staff of the library to be ever courteous and obliging, and I like to place on record my appreciation of such attributes when I find them.
– I desire to supple- ment the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) in regard to the encroachment on the accommodation provided for honorable senators and honorable members in this building. Parliament House is becoming a real secretariat, and it is high time that the Government took steps to place another building at the disposal of those officials whose business is now largely conducted in this House. The House Committee should make a general inspection of the whole building for the purpose of ascertaining who are at present occupying many of the rooms to the exclusion of honorable senators and honorable members. On the Senate side it will be found’ that comparatively little space has been left for the convenience of honorable senators themselves; in fact some of the rooms in question are occupied by private members of the House of Representatives. It is most unfair, and I hope that the House Committee, the President and Mr. Speaker will take the matter up. I also hope that every member of this Senate will stand behind the President in whateveraction he thinks it necessary to take. I suggest that, as the Labour party is now a united body once more, members of the Lang party should cease to occupy those rooms which were placed at their disposal, and the library should take them over again. At the present time, the library is occupying all the rooms along one side of the Senate. However, the members of the Lang party are not the only offenders.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £79,720.
– I desire to protest against the action of the Government in reducing the fertilizer subsidy from 15s. to 10s. a ton. This is a matter of vital importance to those throughout Australia who are engaged in a small way in primary production. I understand that requests for assistance under this provision became so numerous that the Government, desiring to keep expenditure down, reduced the amount of the subsidy.
– The matter which the honorable senator is discussing does not come under any item now before the committee.
– I know that, but we are considering a vote for the encouragement of plant industry, and that is the purpose of the’ fertilizer subsidy. The reduction of this subsidy has been a hardship to many of our most reputable small farmers who have been battling for years against all sorts of difficulties while carrying on an industry which is of the greatest use to Australia. It must be obvious to honorable senators that these small farmers are the very men whom we should most encourage. We want small land-holders, preferably men who own their farms, and as many of them as we can get. It has been suggested that the Government might reasonably consider limiting the amount of assistancewhich any one person may receive by way of subsidy. I think the suggestion an admirable one, as it should then be possible to keep the subsidy at the original rate of . 15s. a ton. It has been found that -the -application of the right kind of fertilizer in suitable quantities has been most helpful. This season has been a most prolific one in Tasmania ; there has been not only an increase of quantity, but also an improvement of quality, which has never previously been excelled, and seldom equalled. That is largely due to the use of more fertilizer of the right type, a practice which has been made possible by the Commonwealth subsidy. Unfortunately, although production has increased, prices have been unusually low, with the result that the farmers have not been able to recover the cost of production. That consideration should induce the Government to restore the subsidy to the original 15s., and it would probably not be necessary to increase the aggregate expenditure if the amount receivable by any one person were limited.
– What limit does the honorable senator suggest?
– I do not suggest any limit; that is a matter for inquiry.
-I point out that the item under discussion relates to scientific and industrial research, and the subject being discussed by the honorable senator does not come under that heading.
SenatorPAYNE - I certainly approve of the proposed expenditure, because I recognize that the more we can do to encourage scientific investigation of these matters the better.
Item 13 provides for the expenditure of£2,500on research and demonstration in connexionwith the apple and pear industry. Last year., the sum of£20,000 was set aside for the encouragement of this industry in Australia, and I should like to knowhow much of that amount has been expended, and what work has been done. If the Minister can furnish some details of the work carried out by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, it will be of interest to those engaged in the industry. It is impossible to over-em phasize the importance of this industry to Tasmania. It has enabled closer settlement to be carried out to a greater extent than would . be possible with any other industry. Is the department satisfied that the expenditure was justified? I believe that it is, but no information is available.
– I should like to see the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research formulate a scheme to enable the lay thinker and innovator to register his discoveries in science, or matters closely allied to it.
– The honorable senator would open the. door to all the cranks in the country.
– I know that that is the objection usually raised, but surely it should be possible to sift the grain from the chaff. The history of science is filled with mistakes of scientific and academic men who have scorned the suggestions of intelligent and inquiring laymen. There were frequent examples of this during the war, and one that comes to my mind is the story told by Sir Phillip Gibbs of the young man who invented the incendiary bullet. He was only a bicycle mechanic, and for twelve months he kept bringing his invention under the notice of the War Office. When he was questioned regarding the principle of his invention, all he was able to say was, “‘Dynamite, dynamite!” Ultimately, because of his persistence, the young man received a hearing, and nine months after his first approach to the War Office that body learned from him that if a small quantity of dynamite were placed on a certain part of a bullet, it would explode immediately it touched the lightest fabric, such as silk. That discovery solved the Zeppelin menace over England, and was one of the determining factors in the war. More than likely, the War Office authorities regarded him as a “crank”, and, tapping their foreheads, declared that he was mad. The same thing occurred in connexion with the discovery of the army tank by de Mole.
– I hope that the honorable senator intends to connect his remarks with some item before the Chair.
– I intend to do so. I mention these instances in support of my contention that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should investigate claims made by nonacademic inventors. De Mole invented the army tank in 1912-13, but it was not until 1918 that the papers were taken out of the pigeon-holes; and then the invention was credited to some other person. History provides abundant evidence of the contributions to science by nonacademic men, and, therefore, I urge that the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research be empowered to deal with persons who claim to have made discoveries, with a view to applying their ideas to the good of the community. Some of the inventions which are now in every-day use were, at first, thought to be impracticable.
– The honorable senator must connect his remarks with some item of expenditure in the bill.
– Last week I referred to the practice of rugging sheep, an idea which would have been regarded as absurd a few years ago.
– The rugging of sheep has been practised for twelve years.
– If Senator Guthrie were here, he would disabuse the mind of Senator James McLachlan regarding the time when the rugging of sheep was first practised in Australia. Sir Frederick McMasters and Senator Guthrie are pioneers in this connexion. The “ crank “ has always been laughed at, hut much of the progress of the world is due to him. Most of the inventions which have revolutionized the world have been the outcome of discoveries by “ cranks “ I should like to see the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research undertake the investigations which I have suggested.
– In the Government’s slow march towards self-sufficiency and economic nationalism it undertook, some time ago, to make an. investigation into pelagic fishing, and to that end ordered a vessel to be constructed according to special plans imported from England. I should like to know if any of the money set aside for the purpose has yet been paid to the captain and crew of the vessel.
I have received a number of complaints of poor radio reception from people liv ing in north-west Queensland.I should like to know what progress has-been made with radio research particularly in relation to the elimination of static andthe overcoming of blind spots.
The bill provides for an expenditure of £840, on “research in connexion with the gold-mining industry”. Does this sum cover payment to prospectors along the lines adopted by Queensland ?
Another item is “ unforeseen and urgent investigations, £350,” and under “ miscellaneous “ . a similar sum is set down. Last year I urged that some of this money should be expended on a scientific investigation of unemployment. In my opinion, an investigation along these lines is one of the most urgent matters confronting this country, and the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research is the appropriate body to undertake the task. Better results would accrue from an investigation by a scientific body than are likely to be obtained from a committee consisting of a number of customs officers, trade union leaders, employers, and representatives of the Consumers’ League, as was suggested by the Prime Minister some time ago. The scope of the activities of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research could well be broadened, and its officers shouldbe entrusted with investigations along the lines that I have suggested
.- I wish to referto Item 3- “Entomology, £3,120”, In New South Wales, and probably in theother States also, the grasshopper pest has. caused much damage to pastures whichsettlercan illafford to spare. There was quite a storm in New South Wales recently when it was suggested that certain birds , should be imported into Australia for sporting purposes. The outcry against the proposal had no effect on the State government, but I am glad that the Commonwealth Government realized the seriousness of the situation, and prevented the importation of birds which. . might become a menace to grain crops. Many remedies to deal with the grasshopper plague have been suggested, but none of the so-called remedies has proved effective, and the trouble is becoming more serious every year. Various pastures protection boards have advised the use of arsenical sprays, but little has been achieved by their use, partly because it is difficult to obtain proper co-operation by private landholders, and also because of the menace of large areas of Crown lands. Some years ago, when rabbits were a serious nuisance, land-holders resorted to poisoning; but they have since realized that they made a tragic mistake, because, in addition to rabbits, numbers of birds were destroyed, and the balance of nature being upset, insect pests and the blowfly scourge created new problems. Not only birds, but also a number of the natural enemies of the rabbits, such as native cats, tiger cats and iguanas were destroyed. Australia proceeded along sound lines when it introduced the Cactoblastis to cope with the prickly pear menace. The Cactoblastis, which is a natural enemy of the prickly pear, has saved from destruction millions of acres of land. I suggest that a world-wide inquiry be inaugurated by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. with a view to ascertaining what insectivorous birds could, with advantage, be brought to Australia to deal with the insect pests which are causing so much destruction. Steps should be taken along the lines suggested in order to restore the balance of nature which,” through our ignorance and inexperience, has been destroyed.
– Provision is made in this proposed vote for the payment of £6,850, being a portion of the subsidy paid in connexion with the shipping and mail service to the Pacific Islands. Having recently visited Papua and the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, I direct the attention of the Government to the policy of the company controlling the service towards passengers, many o’f whom are tourists. I do not suggest that the ships are uncomfortable or that the accommodation provided is inadequate, but on the trip to the Mandated Territory cargo is given preference over passengers, who do not receive sufficient consideration. I am not making a personal complaint, because I was proceeding to Salamaua where I joined an aeroplane for “Wau. Many of the passengers on the ship, however, were travelling solely for pleasure, in order to see for the first time the tropical beauty and the native life of the islands. In these circumstances it is time that shipping companies displayed more consideration for the passengers, and if they did so the tourist traffic to the islands would develop tremendously. At present some of the vessels arrive at night, and amidst the general din caused by the cries of the natives and the working of winches the cargo is discharged to enable the ship to sail as early as possible, which sometimes is before daylight. This makes it impracticable for the passengers to do any sight-seeing, or even to get a night’s rest. The natives make a tremendous noise while working, and it is undesirable to stop them, because, when they are most noisy they are most busy. I travelled by the Macdhui, which reached Rabaul, the capital of the Mandated Territory, on Saturday afternoon. As it is unusual to discharge vessels after midday on Saturdays, special permission was given to work that afternoon and on Sunday to enable the ship to leave by midday on Sunday. The passengers, many of whom were visiting New Guinea for the first time, had little or no opportunity to see Rabaul. Doubtless the master of the vessel was acting under instructions to get the ship away as quickly as possible. The passengers had a similar experience at Salamaua. I was informed that four passengers on the vessel, who were doing the round trip, were anxious to visit Wau to see the gold-fields and the beauty of the coun-try in the vicinity. The information concerning the movement of the ship was so meagre that on their return to Lae they found that the ship had left, and they were compelled to remain there five days. Generally, little consideration is extended to passengers, many of whom make a trip solely for pleasure. The vessels trading to New Guinea are always laden to the Plimsol] line, and consequently must be making huge profits. Some of the older vessels like the Mon,toro must have earned their weight in gold -during the time they have been on the run. Having regard to the fact that posters and advertisements are published to attract tourists to the Pacific Islands, it seems unreasonable that passengers should not be afforded an opportunity to see the beauties of .the Pacific, because the shipping companies devote so much attention to cargo. Perhaps when a further subsidy is being arranged, the Government will see if more consideration cannot be extended to passengers whose fares must contribute largely to the income of the company. I am sure that Senator Payne, who has made frequent visits to the Mandated Territory, will be able to support the complaint I have made in this respect.
– The point raised by Senator Payne concerning the fertilizers subsidy will be brought under the notice of the Minister for Commerce (Dr. Earle Page), but I remind the honorable senator that no item in this bill has relation to the subsidy itself. In the opinion of i hose engaged in the production of apples and pears and the officers in charge of the work, money is being expended in connexion with cultural methods and the eradication of disease to the best possible advantage. The preservation of fruit and the production of qualities best suited for the overseas market are receiving the closest attention, and, generally speaking, the department is acquiring information which will be of great benefit to growers. The matter raised by Senator Arkins concerning the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research will receive the closest attention. The report of the Committee on Secondary Industries, of which Sir George Julius is Chairman, is now under consideration by a sub-committee of the Cabinet,’ and the attitude of Cabinet will be declared at an early date. I assure Senator Brown that-the wages of -the crew of the fishing vessel mentioned are not included, as the crew has not yet been engaged. A young Australian captain, who has been selected is now undergoing a course of training in Canada in order to become familiar with the latest netting practice. The fishing vessel was to be delivered at the end of next month, but owing to a shortage of steel, the contractor - the Melbourne Harbour Trust - has been unable to give delivery as early as was expected. It is hoped that the vessel will be able to undergo its trial in October, but in the meanwhile Dr. Thompson is preparing a plan of operations based on a survey of the coast. Senator Brown also asked whether provision is made in the bill for a subsidy to mining prospectors. The money to be appropriated is to enable further investigations to be made into the treatment of refractory ores. Already the gold-mining industry has benefited tremendously by the investigations conducted into the treatment of such ores. A Radio Research Board, consisting of Professor Laby, Professor Madden and other highly trained individuals has been appointed, and its work will undoubtedly be of great benefit. The shortcomings mentioned by the honorable senator will, I predict, soon be overcome. The grasshopper pest, of which Senator Abbott spoke, is a world-wide problem. Investigations have been made concerning the origin of this pest and the best methods to eradicate it. Apparently the gravel beds along the banks of watercourses are the breeding, or hatching, ground of the hordes of grasshoppers that eventually descend upon the paddocks of the graziers and wheat-fields of the fanners in various parts of the country. We shall never cope with this problem by poison attacks or kerosene burning. Such methods are suggestive of trying to sweep back the ocean with a broom. We must go to the root of the trouble. A scientist under the direction of Dr. Nicholson is now looking into the subject. The suggestion of the honorable member that consideration should be given to the releasing of birds of a suitable kind is rather interesting. I shall have it looked into if sufficient funds are made available for the purpose.
[12.32].- The complaint of Senator Foll concerning the Pacific Islands shipping and mail services rather surprised me and I shall have inquiries made if the honorable gentleman wil] give me full particulars. The reason for my surprise is that when I was in New Guinea, I found similar cause for complaint. I took the matter up with Burns Philp and Company Limited, and gave specific instances that I had seen of unfair treatment of passengers in the interest of cargo handling. I was subsequently informed that the company had taken action to remove the cause for such complaints.
– We were atRabaul from 12 o’clock Saturday to 12 o’clock Sunday.
– If the honorable senator will give me full particulars that will justify me in making representations to the company, I shall certainly do so.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Proposed vote, £2,110.
– I take this opportunity to express my sincere pleasure at the work being done through this department. I appreciate particularly the information supplied by the department through the publications it makes available to honorable senators.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of the Treasury.
Proposed vote, £131,630.
– Yesterday, through the courtesy of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce), certain information was made available to me concerning the reclassification of officers of the Public Service in various departments in the several States. I have not had time to examine this thoroughly in detail, but it appears to me that the officers of the Pensions Department have not been fairly treated. I notice that in Victoria, Queensland and Western Australia, the heads of the branches of that department are not only paid a lower salary than the heads of branches of other departments, hut are also listed for increases of salary so small as to be almost insulting. The same thing applies to the officers of the department in other States. How is it that such a state of affairs prevails? I do not wish to read all the details in the reply furnished to me but some of. the contrasts are remarkable. For instance, the head of the Pensions Branch in Victoria, who was formerly on a salary range of £708-£780, now has a range of £732- £804. The increase is only £24 a year. The corresponding officer in Queensland was on a salary range of £584-£612 and his remuneration has been increased to £608-£636. The increase is less than 10s. a week. In Western Australia the corresponding officer was formerly on a salary range of £600-£660 and his new range is £636-£708. The difference in this instance is somewhat greater, but still very small in comparison with the salary of the heads of branches of other departments. I notice, for example, that the PublicService Inspector in New South Wales, who formerly had a salary range of £950-£l,100, now has a range of £1,050-£1,200. Such an increase can be appreciated. Why are the increases to the officers of the Pensions Department so small? I wish it to be distinctly understood that I do not object to the increases. I desire higher, not lower, salaries to be paid. The more people we have who receive good wages and salaries the better I shall be pleased. I should like to know, though, why the officers of the Pensions Department have been selected for what seems to me to be mean if not offensive increments.
[12.49]. - I do not think that Parliament is the place for a discussion of the classifications or the increases that have been provided for officers of the Public Service. The Public Service Board, which is responsible for the reclassification, does its work carefully and systematically. It is not simply a case of musical chairs. Because one officer goes up other officers do not necessarily doso. The board, through its inspectors and the machinery which it has evolved, makes a thorough examination of the work done by each department and by each officer. After making careful comparisons of the work the board assesses its relative value. The investigation which resulted in the reclassification to which the honorable senator has referred was done thoroughly and occupied several months, and the Government has accepted theboard’s recommendations. I suggest to Senator Collings that it is far better to deal with the reclassification of the Public Service in this way than to try to deal with it in the Parliament.
– I do not wish to do that. I wish to know why the Pensions Department seems to be the Cinderella department.
– I assure the honorable senator that the board gives careful consideration to the nature of the work done and compares the responsibilities of the officers of different departments. The skill required and the relative efficiency are all brought under review. If the officers of the Pensions Department think that they have been unfairly treated they may apply for a reclassification.
– Officers have done so on numerous occasions.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE.The board acts impartially and, in the circumstances, Parliament would be unjustified in disturbing its findings.
– I agree with the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition. Is it not a fact that the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs is receiving £4,000 a year? I believe he formerly received £5,000.
– What has that got to do with the item under discussion ?
– I take it that I have the right to make a comparison of this kind?
– The honorable senator must be aware that the salary of the Director-General of Posts and Telegraphs can have nothing to do with the salaries of officers of the Pensions Department.
– I was simply citing it by way -of comparison.
– The honorable senator is definitely out of order. He must discuss the item before the Chair.
– The trouble is that I do not come from Tasmania.
– Order ! That remark is offensive to the Chair and must be -withdrawn.
– I withdraw it. The officers of the Pensions Department are called upon to perform very arduous duties, and the circumstances referred to by the Leader of the Opposition merit careful consideration.
Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, Attorney-General’s Department, £32,520, agreed to.
Department of the Interior.
Proposed vote, £73,750.
– Can the Minister state what is the present position in regard to the Forestry School? Disquieting rumours are abroad to the effect that the school has been, or is about to be, closed down. Even if heroic measures have to be taken, I sincerely hope that the Government will do everything in its power to prevent such a thing happening. The Forestry School constitutes one of the most important phases of Commonwealth activity, not only in Canberra, but also generally. “Will the Minister tell us exactly what is the position in this regard?
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External Affairs) [2.17]. - I share the views just expressed by Senator Collings. I frequently discuss the Forestry School with the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) and my recollection of the last conversation is that the outlook is much more hopeful than it was previously, and that one or two States, which previously had indicated they did not intend to send students to the school, had altered that decision; therefore the school is to be continued for the present. The Government itself is earnestly desirous that it shall be continued, as it believes that the school plays a very valuable part in our national economy.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Proposed vote, £950,900.
– At the beginning of the depression the work of certain officers of the Defence Force was rationed and deductions were made from their pay. I should like to know whether those amounts have been restored.
[2.20]. - I cannot speak definitely on the matter, but my impression is that no restorations were made. The position of those officers, however, was somewhat different from that of public servants; the latter suffered a percentage reduction of salaries, whereas the military officers involved were stood off and received no pay during the period in which they did not work. In those circumstances the only restoration that could be made would be to pay these men for the period during which they were not working. Representations on the subject were made when I was Minister for Defence, and one of the objections raised by the department to this proposal was that at the time the officers were stood off they were informed that they were free to take other work during their idle periods. That, of course, was rather an empty offer, because work of any kind was scarce at that time. I shall have enquiries made in regard to this matter, and later supply the information asked for by the honorable senator.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Department of Trade and Customs, £99,970; Department of Health, £20,880; Department of Commerce, £71,420; Miscellaneous services, £104,710.; and War Services, £171,030- agreed to.
Part II. - Business Undertakings.
Proposed vole. Commonwealth Railways, £81,700.
.- Although the matter is not of great importance, I draw the attention of the ^1 mister to the inconvenience caused to passengers travelling from Western Australia on the east-west railway by reason of the fact that no provision is made on the train for the supply of alcoholic beverages. Travellers are unable to secure such liquors to drink with’ their meals although such are obtainable on all other interstate trains with buffet cars. Consequently, many of them secure, a supply of liquor, for which they pay exorbitant prices at the local hotel, before the train leaves Kalgoorlie. This liquor is handed over to members of the train sta** who put it on ice, and later serve it as though it were being sold on the train. It would be a far more commonsense arrangement if the railway authorities catered for passengers desiring to purchase liquor on the train, even if only to be consumed at meal-time.
– Would the honorable senator suggest that passengers should then be prevented from bringing their own supplies on to the train?
– I should not prevent that from being done, because any one is entitled to what he likes provided he does not interfere with anybody else. I point out, further, that numerous overseas tourists who land at Perth travel by the transcontinental railway to the eastern States, and, not knowing that the train is “ dry “ do not take the precaution of securing their supplies beforehand at Kalgoorlie. Apart from considering the convenience of passengers in this respect, I suggest that my proposal should find favour with the railway authorities as a source of revenue.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia- Minister for External Affairs) [2.26]. - I undertake to bring the remarks of the honorable senator to the notice of the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson). There was a time when liquor was sold on the transcontinental railway, but the practice was discontinued, when Mr. O’Malley was the Minister in control of Commonwealthrailways. One of the reasons for making the change was that this railway diner’s from almost any other railway in that it does not pass through any populated areas and there is no policeman stationed along the line between Kalgoorlie and Port Augusta. I realize-thar people like the honorable senator would not abuse intoxicating liquors, hut, unfortunately, there - are some individuals who would, especially when travelling on holiday. If such an individual were- given facilities to indulge in intoxicatingliquor on the transcontinental railway,, and became objectionable, and even assaulted another passenger, he would for two days be beyond police discipline. That was one of the reasons why the saleof liquor on this train was discontinued. However, I am not aware that this is really a hardship, to travellers. It is pretty generally known that those whowant a glass of liquor with their meals can take it on to the train, and, I assurethe honorable senator, they need not pay exorbitant prices, because they can buy their supplies at Perth or Adelaide.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vole, £1,996,640.
. - Reverting to a matter on which I spoke last night, I ask the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) whether revenue saved in respect of mail services in country districts could not be applied in providing other facilities, such as telephonic communication in those districts?
– I listened with interest to the observations of Senator Cooper on the first reading of this bill. He dealt with two matters, one of which I shall have to consider carefully. Tenders are called from time to time for the mail contracts to which he has referred to-day. It is true that a much, higher price is paid for the conveyance of mail matter now than some years ago, when this service was regarded merely as an adjunct to another business. The honorable senator has suggested that, because of the profits of the post office, extra money should be made available to provide services in the country, which would represent a loss to the department. The Post Office Act does not allow, and I am sure the Treasury would not permit, such an interesting method of bookkeeping to prevail in the department. It may sound harsh to those who know that money has been saved by the department, but we have to look at these matters hi the light of the law, the practice of the Treasury, and the opinions of the Auditor-General. I cannot hold out hope of the honorable senator’s suggestion being complied with.
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General to the abolition of travelling post offices in connexion with the railways. The matter is of interest to Tasmania, as well as to other States. Some years ago, when general retrenchment was being effected, the people of Tasmania were deprived of the great convenience of the travelling post office, the cost of which in the aggregate was small, by comparison with the benefit which it conferred on the community. Is it to be taken that this convenience has been permanently removed, or may we look forward to its restoration in the near future? It was enjoyed for many years, the result being that the mails from small post offices near the railway lines were given quick despatch; but, since this convenience has been taken away, mails have been delayed, in some cases for a whole day. I urge the Minister to give serious consideration to the early restoration of this valuable service, which has been of definite convenience to private and business people alike.
Another matter which I have raised before is the position of unofficial postmasters and postmistresses, who, I contend, should participate in some way in the increase of the basic wage. The Postmaster-General said in reply to a question asked by me yesterday that the salaries were fixed at an amount in advance of the basic wage; and are based on the volume of business done, but the volume shown in the returns is not a true index to the value of the service rendered by them to the public. These officers work for long hours, for they frequently are called upon to transact business with the public long after the closingtime of ordinary post offices. If one of these officials desires a holiday, he has to procure a substitute approved by the department, and pay such person from his own allowance during his absence. It seems to me that an increase of salary should be made to the allowance postmasters and postmistresses on a percentage basis, having regard to the amount of postal business transacted by them. There are thousands of unofficial post offices, which render valuable service to the people; but, the majority of the men and women in charge of them are inadequately remunerated.
A request has been made from time to time for the establishment of a telephone service along the new west coast road in Tasmania, which was built largely from the Federal Aid Roads Fund. For about
SO miles there is practically no population along the road, although it carries heavy traffic. I .urge the Minister to grant the request- from Tasmania foi- a telephone service from Queenstown following the route of the West Coast-road.
– A deputation of senators and other representatives from Tasmania waited on me yesterday with reference to this road. I am having the matter reviewed to see whether there is justification for the provision of the desired service. It has been represented to me that the number of people using the road has increased, and that settlement along it is growing.
Honorable senators should bear in mind that the relations between unofficial postmasters and the department are different from those between other postal employees and the department. The former tender for their work, applications being invited from time to time on a fixed basis. Honorable senators who think that the department is doing a measure of injustice to these men should understand that when this basis was originally laid down by the department, the basic wage for this purpose was higher than that now in operation. An additional allowance was made on the ground of the skill required for this work, and the extra responsibility imposed on these officials. Speaking from memory, the allowance was from £24 to £26 a year. According to the time employed in the work and the quantity of postal matter dealt with, the rate is fixed. In the light of the representations made by the honorable senator, I shall further consider the matter to see whether any injustice is being done to these officers, but I point out that, in every case where a vacancy has arisen, the department has been besieged by local applicants for the position. The job is not regarded as a full-time one, but as incidental to the ordinary business of the postmaster.
– In many cases, it is a full-time job.
– Here and there it may be. If the honorable senator knew the remuneration received, in cases where these postmasters are fully employed, he would see that it is, indeed, satisfactory to the recipients.
I understand that the decision to abolish travelling post offices was come to before the depression. They were found to be a very expensive method of distributing mails. I asked what had been substituted for them, and was told that, upon their discontinuance some years ago, the mail changes between places previously served by them were now effected by means of a large mail bag with a number of receptacles in it bearing the names of particular towns, so that the correspondence could be immediately sorted where the volume of mail matter was light. The department is strongly opposed to the re-introduction of the travelling post office. My objective is to give service to the people, and, if on inquiry, it is found that any delay such as has been suggested is occurring, I shall see that action is taken to prevent it, either in the way recommended by Senator Herbert Hays, or by intensification of the large bag service. If the honorable senator brings instances of delay under my notice, privately, I shall see that steps are taken to prevent it.
– I remind the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that much inconvenience is caused to citizens of country towns who wish to communicate by letter with friends or business firms living in a town situated on a railway line 20 or 30 miles distant. A letter posted early in the morning is taken by the train to the city where it is sorted and returned the following morning to the addressee. Prior to the discontinuance of the travelling postal van on passenger trains, letters posted at country stations were sorted en route, and delivered to the addressee immediately following the arrival of the train. The discontinuance of the travelling post office is forcing country people to use the telephone or telegraph if they wish to communicate with friends or business people in nearby towns. They would therefore welcome the restoration of the postal van on passenger trains. Unofficial postmasters and postmistresses in many country towns complain that, ‘ although the volume of business which they transact is nearly sufficient to warrant the office being regarded as an official post office, their remuneration is totally inadequate. I hope that the Minister will consider favorably their request for an adjustment of salaries.
.- Some time ago, I directed a question to the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) with reference to the unsatisfactory telephone service in Melbourne Central Exchange, which has not yet been converted to the automatic system.
I suppose it would be too much to expect such a well-managed department to hurry . up. and improve the service. I, for my sins, or perhaps for my many virtues, happen to be a subscriber of’ Central Exchange, Melbourne, and I have an intimate knowledge of the annoyance caused by cross-line conversations, wrong numbers, and delays. If the automatic system is not to be installed at an early date, the Minister might at least see if the existing service can be made more efficient. I am sure that if he would cause inquiries to be made he would learn how seriously the business community of Melbourne is inconvenienced by the service now given by the antiquated central exchange there.
– About two years ago, I brought to the notice of the PostmasterGeneral (Senator A. J. McLachlan) the need for restoring the travelling postal van on country passenger trains, about which Senator Badman has just spoken. L have never been able to ascertain why the vans were taken off the trains, but I presume that it was on the ground that the service was not paying. Its discontinuance has caused inconvenience to many people living in country districts, as no doubt the Postmaster-General himself is aware. Since he has invited us to bring specific instances of this inconvenience under his notice, I may state that a letter posted, at 9 a.m. at Owen, in South Australia, to an addressee at Hamley Bridge, about 17 miles distant by rail, is taken past Hamley Bridge by train to Adelaide where it is sorted, and returned to Hamley Bridge the following morning. It should be possible for the Postal Department to devise some system by which correspondence between adjacent country towns could be delivered on the day of posting. I hope that appropriate action will be taken to this end.
– I have received many complaints of delay in the delivery of correspondence between country towns and, although I know that some inconvenience is caused, I am advised that there is good reason for some of the apparent anomalies. I assure honorable senators that every specific complaint is examined and, if possible, rectified. From time to time deputations have waited upon me to complain of the delays in the delivery of correspondence between small country towns and the metropolitan area and, as a result, arrangements have been made for the despatch of mails by service motor cars which . ply between Adelaide and a number of country centres as far as Mannum on the Murray River, to the great convenience of the business community.
I am sorry that Senator Leckie has some fault to find with the Melbourne Central Exchange, for I assure the honorable gentleman that, although I had complaints of other services, none has come to me with reference to the Central Exchange at Melbourne. However, I shall have inquiries made and see what can be done to improve the service.
.- For some considerable time, residents of South Burnie have been endeavouring to persuade the department to instal a public -telephone for their use. I had occasion a little while ago ‘to approach the Deputy-Director of Posts and Telegraphs, whom I always find a most courteous and sympathetic officer. South Burnie is a rapidly expanding portion of a very important town in the northwest of mv State. At least 200 homes are erected there. Many of them are a mile from the central post office. Huge works are being constructed there for the manufacture of paper pulp and it is anticipated that in twelve months or two years the number of houses in South Burnie will be doubled; yet there is no provision for a public telephone. The reason, I understand, is that the estimated revenue will not reach the sum required, namely, £16 a year. There is urgent need for a public telephone there, and I hope that the Minister will have inquiries made to see if the request can be granted. As the Postal Department is yielding a handsome revenue to the Government, the people living in South Burnie feel that they are entitled to some of the advantages which accrue to the community in general from the operations of the department. I hope that the Minister will get in touch with the local authorities and see if it is possible to overcome the present objection to the installation, of a public telephone at South Burnie. The cost of installation would be small, and the booth could be erected in a place where it would be under the protection of a local resident shopkeeper.
– I shall have the request made by Senator Payne examined by departmental experts. There is some provision in the regulations that new services, such as a public telephone, should show a stated minimum revenue.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes - Northern Territory, £41,210; Federal Capital Territory, £52,690 ; Papua, £7,300 ; Norfolk Island, £1,000; Refunds of Revenue, £350,000; Advance to the Treasurer, £1,500,000 - agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and Title agreed to.
Bill reported without requests; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Report No. 1 of the Printing Committee brought up by Senator J. B. Hayes, and - by leave - adopted.
[3.4]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The object of this bill is to appropriate out of the Consolidated Revenue fund, for the purposes of the relevant trust account known as the invalid and oldage pensions fund, a sum of £15,000,000 for invalid and old-age pensions. It is customary to ask Parliament to provide, from the Consolidated Revenue fund, the amount of approximately one year’s expenditure to enable the fortnightly payments of these pensions to proceed without interruption. The last provision for this purpose was made in October of last year, when a sum of £12,000,000 was appropriated. The annual rate of expenditure on invalid and old-age pensions has been progressively increasing, and in the financial year 1936-37, which concludes to-day, it will be within a relatively few ‘pounds of £14,000,000; in 1937-38 a larger sum will be required owing partly to the fact that there will be 27 pension pay. days in that year, and partly to the natural increase of the number of pensions over recent years. The total amount appropriated by Parliament for invalid and old-age pensions up to the present time is £195,250,000, and the actual expenditure to the 31st May of this year has been £190,910,000, which left as at that date a balance of £4,340,000 to meet future expenditure. Honorable senators will, therefore, see that by this appropriation ample provision is being made for the regular payment of the invalid and old-age pensions. The provisions of the measure are not connected with rates or conditions under which pensions are payable; but are concerned solely with the total amount of money required for this social service. Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1937, No. 70.
New Guinea Act - Ordinance No. 11 of 1937 - Licences.
Papua Act - .Ordinance No. 2 of 1937 - Bank Holidays.
– I lay on the table reports and recommendations of the Tariff Board on the following subjects : -
Crochet Hooks manufactured from casein. celluloid and similar materials. Cycle Tubing; Wrought Iron and Steel
Fruit Juices n.e.i. and Fruit Syrups, nonspirituous.
Iron and Steel Galvanized Telescopic Flush Pipes of1¼ or1½ inches internal diameter.
Non-spirituous preparations, viz.: - Flavouring Essences, Extracts and Ethers, including Culinary Essences; Fruit Aromas.
Oilmen’s Stores, n.e.i., being Groceries, including Soap Dyes and Condition Foods, n.e.i.; food for birds (excepting Canary Seed and mixtures containing Canary Seed) in packages for retail sale; goods put up for household use, n.e.i.; goods n.e.i. put up for retail sale.
Spirits for the manufacture of Scents, Toilet Preparations and Essences - Excise Tariff Item 2(l).
Spirituous Preparations (non-medicinal), viz. : - Essences, Extracts, Fruit Ethers, Aromas and Flavours. Lime Juice and other Fruit Juices and Fruit Syrups, Spirituous Preparations n.e.i.
Textile Boot and Shoe Linings imitating Leather.
– by leave- Honorable senators will remember that last night I referred to Senator Dein a case of particular hardship concerning an unemployed young man in New South Wales, and Senator Dein immediately undertook to get in touch with him with a view to having him placed in employment. By a strange coincidence I received from this young man to-day a telegram stating that after a fruitless search for work lasting many months he had been given a job, starting this morning, with a city firm. I am happy to be able to announce that, but I thank Senator Dein for his good intentions.
Sitting suspended from 3.10 to 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Sir George Pearce) agreed to -
That the Senate at its rising adjourn till to-morrow at 10 a.m.
Proceedings in Parliament: Newspaper Reports - Air Mail Service to Rabaul - Patrol of Northern Waters.
Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (Western Australia - Minister for External
That the Senate do now adjourn.
I have received a letter from Mr. R. B. Leonard, the Canberra representative of the SunNews-Pitorial, which reads -
June 30, 1.937.
Senator the Eight Honorable Sir George
Minister for External Affairs,
Dear Sir George,
In the Senate this morning during an exchange of views regarding alleged misrepresentation by a section of the press you stated inter alia: .
A young gentleman called on me, and said that he represented the Canberra Times … He explained that its representative had been out of the press gallery when the matter was raised, but had arranged with another gentleman - a Mr. Lennard - to advise him if anything occurred. Unfortunately, that gentleman had not brought the matter to his notice. This statement, I submit, suggests that Mr. Leunard was responsible for the omission of a statement by you from the Canberra Times report.
As political representative of the Sun Pictorial, I wish to make it perfectly clear that I was not the Mr. Lennard responsible. He was a visiting newspaperman with whom I have no association whatever.
I desire to make this explanation in case mention of the name may have created a wrong impression in the minds of other senators who know me.
At an earlier hour Senator Collings asked the Postmaster-General -
Has a contract been made for the air mail service between Sydney and Rabaul ?
If so, who were the successful tenderers?
What is the amount payable under such contract?
The Postmaster-General has obtained the following information from the Acting Minister for Defence: -
W. R. Carpenter & Company, Sydney.
Is. a mile or £13,114 per annum.
.- In his speech on the Supply Bill yesterday, Senator J. V. MacDonald, referring to the pearl shell industry in Northern Australian waters, said -
Apparently the encroachment of the Japanese has arisen (because of our neglect of those waters. From time to time we have heard complaints that Japanese have not only poached in our waters but have also come ashore and conducted themselves with our aboriginal women in a manner which we should not permit in any circumstances. These incidents are happening from year to year but the Government apparently is prepared more or less to ignore them.
That is an extraordinary statement by an honorable senator who professes to keep np to date with happenings which concern Australia. I am amazed that, in these difficult days, an honorable senator should go out of his way to make provocative statements against the subjects of a country with which Australia desires to be on the most friendly terms. Had the honorable, senator kept up to date with his reading he would have known that the charges which he repeated in his speech were refuted in the press some time ago. The Government which I support is not unaware of the reports which have been circulated, nor has it been inactive in dealing with complaints regarding happenings in Northern Australian waters. As an earnest of its intentions the Minister for the Interior (Mr. Paterson) proposes to leave tomorrow on a special mission to the Northern Territory. Unfortunately, the honorable senator’s speech did not end with recriminations against the Government; he charged another nation with poaching in Australian waters and the crews of its vessels with crimes against aboriginal women. I have searched the files of various newspapers to ascertain what has been published in this connexion, and I now quote from the Melbourne Herald, of the 21st June -
Captain Haultain’s statement .to the Administrator that he was convinced Japanese employed on local pearling luggers, and not those from overseas, were largely responsible for interference with native women is borne out by the fact that on its way to Baucant Bay the Larrakia surprised several Darwin luggers in contact with aborigines. On one of these vessels he found an aboriginal girl no more than twelve years old. The crew of the lugger made an effort to smuggle the girl out of sight when the patrol boat approached. There had been apparently other native girls aboard, a number of aborigines were camped on shore nearby; the girls had been traded by their parents. A serious view is taken of the report by the Administrator, and it is almost certain to cause a hitch in preparations for .the establishment of watering bases in Arnhem Land. It is claimed that where local pearlers asked for the bases and pleaded that the regulations of the ordinance destroyed all their privileges, they gave an assurance that there would be no interference with the aborigines.
The report is headed “Darwin, 21st June “ and evidently was communicated to the Herald by telegraph. That report makes it clear that the offending luggers are registered in Australia. The Melbourne Argus of the same date contained the following paragraph on this subject :-
The Rev. T. Theodor Webb, who recently returned from missionary -work in Arnhem Land, made an appeal at Wesley Church yesterday afternoon for better protection of aborigines. “ The Darwin pearling industry, as it is conducted at present, is a disgrace to Australia he said. “ The welfare of the Arnhem Land aborigines is threatened not by illegal Japanese pearling luggers so much as the crews of Australian-owned vessels. These vessels are manned by indentured Asiatics - Japanese and Malays - and it is these men who have been guilty of interference with aboriginal women. Their crimes mean not only the degradation of these women, but the breaking down of the whole social system under which the aborigines live. The luggers have left disease and death behind them “.
I do not know Mr. Webb, but I have, made inquiries concerning him, and I find that he has had a long experience in Arnhem Land, and that his reputation is such that any statement by him regarding the aborigines there can be regarded as authentic. He has the welfare of the natives at heart - indeed, that is the reason for his living among them. Mr. Webb makes it clear that Australian pearling luggers manned chiefly by Malays and Japanese - not Japanese pearling luggers - are the cause of the trouble.
– The honorable senator condemned Japan.
– He did nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator said that the crews of Japanese luggers were guilty of poaching and crimes against aboriginal women. Public men should be more careful in the statements that they make, particularly when the actions of the subjects of another nation are criticized. Especially at a time like the present, I am not content to stand idly by when such statements against another nation are made. Surely the honorable senator realizes that the owners of the luggers are responsible for the actions of the members of their crews. The offending luggers are registered in Australia. I remind Senator J. V. MacDonald of the old adage that “People who live in glass houses should not throw stones “. The Government is determined that the ordinances controlling the pearling industry in Australian waters shall be observed, not only in the spirit, but also the letter. Senator J. V. MacDonald should be more careful and, so far as he is able, refrain from such utterances until he is sure that his information is correct. I know that the Government is anxious that the aborigines shall receive fair treatment from the white people, and especially from employers, who should be responsible for the action of their employees.
– Apparently, Senator Payne has adopted the role of Leader of the Sena te, and he should be on the Min.isterial bench. He thinks it necessary to challenge the accuracy of statements I made yesterday. Obviously, the honorable senator did not hear the whole of my speech, and therefore has been guilty of serious misrepresentation. “When I mentioned this subject yesterday, I cited two reliable authorities, Captain Frank Hurley, who is well known in Australia-
– On what date did that gentleman make a statement?
– An article appeared in the Brisbane Telegraph on Monday of this week; therefore my information is up-to-date.
– Captain Hurley has not been there recently.
– He has. The other authority was Mr. J. Brand, the owner of a pearling lugger at Thursday Island. Had the honorable senator read the whole of my speech, he would know that the information I gave was based on statements made by two reputable men. These gentlemen gave some startling facts which were new to me, and I suggested that the governmental authorities could well inquire into the position. Senator Payne may he right in saying that a majority of the luggers are owned by Australians, but. they are manned by Japanese crews or half-castes. As my remarks were based on paragraphs which appeared in recent issues of the Brisbane Telegraph and the Sydney Daily Telegraph, both reputable papers, the honorable senator must have heard my reference to Captain Hurley.
– I dealt only with the portion of the honorable senator’s speech which I read.
– The crews of pearling luggers owned and manned by Japanese have been guilty of interfering with native women. The statements made by the men I hav« mentioned are to the effect that 1,500 aliens are working on vessels in northern waters, a fact which I do not think is contained in any official document. There was no provocation to Japan in anything I said.
– The vessels alleged to be poaching are owned by Australians.
– If Senator. Payne and other honorable senators interested will read the whole of my speech on this subject, they will realize that I made a fair statement of the position.
– I regret that Senator Payne has shown such a lamentable lack of mental stability as to accuse Senator J. V. MacDonald of making statements which he did not make.
– I rise to a point of order. I quoted Senator J. V. MacDonald’s statement from Hansard. As Senator Brown’s statement is untrue, I ask that it be withdrawn.
– I withdraw anything that is untrue. Senator Payne said that Senator J. V. MacDonald had made an attack on Japan - a friendly nation. It is the height of absurdity to suggest that to- direct attention to something that has been going on. for years is to make an attack upon Japan or any other nation. Japan does not condone the criminal action of any of its people. For several years articles and paragraphs have appeared in reputable Australian newspapers concerning the activities of certain nationals in the north. I have in my office an article which appeared in the Brisbane Courier a few months ago, which states that certain foreigners searching for pearls or trochus-shell in northern waters were met by aborigines, who allowed some of their women to be taken off. Surely, Senator Payne would not suggest that the Brisbane Courier, which published that, statement, made a violent attack upon Japan! Similar statements have been published in Smith’s Weekly and other newspapers, and the Commonwealth Government has been asked to protect the interests of native women. The honorable senator did not attack Japan, but merely directed mention to what is actually happening. Question resolved- in the affirmative.
Senate adjourned at 8.28 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 30 June 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19370630_senate_14_153/>.