15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President. (Senator the Hon. P. j. Lynch) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board - Balancesheet, as at 28th February, 1937, and Liquidation Account for the year ended 28th February, 1937, of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard; certified to by the Auditor-General.
Tariff Board Act - Tariff Board - Annual Report for the year ended 30th June, 1937, together with schedule of recommendations.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations for the year ended 30th June, 1937.
River Murray Waters Act - River Murray Commission - Report for year 1936-37; together with statements furnished on behalf of the Governments of New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia in respect of gaugings and quantities of water diverted.
– Copies of the report of the directors, and the balance-sheet as at, the 30th June, 1937, of Commonwealth Oil Refineries Limited have been placed on the table in the Library.
-I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, whether the Government has received the report of the Tariff Board on the proposal to manufacture motor vehicles in Australia?
If so, when will it be made available to the Senate?
– The honorable senator was good enough to inform me that he proposed to ask this question, andI have ascertained that the Tariff Board has submitted a report to the Minister on the subject of the manufacture of motor vehicles in Australia. As further information on the subject is being obtained from the Tariff Board, it is not possible at present to indicate when the. report will be available to the Senate.
Statement by Senator Sir George Pearce.
– Has the attention of Ministers in the Senate been directed to a statement made recently by Senator Pearce that Commonwealth Ministers of to-day have to shoulder responsibilities and undergo a drain on strength and vitality compared with which the responsibilities of Federal Ministers 25 years ago were insignificant? If so, do Ministers intend to resign from their various company directorships in order to endure successfully the strain of ministerial office?
– I have not read the statement referred to by the honorable senator, but I fully endorse the remark regarding the present strain of ministerial office. As to the second portion of the honorable gentleman’s question, that is a matter for the individual judgment of each Minister, having in mind the state of his health.
– It will be made a matter of government policy some of these days.
– Can the Assistant Minister for Commerce give the Senate an assurance that the interests of Australian growers of citrus and other fruits will be safeguarded in any action taken in connexion with the suggested AngloAmerican trade agreement?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.I . give the honorable gentleman an assurance that the Government will properly safeguard the. interests of growers of citrus and other fruits in any trade negotiations with other countries.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
In connexion with the visit of the British rifle team fine at Fremantle in three weeks’ time, will the Minister for Defence ensure that an equitable allotment is made, through the Commonwealth Rifle Council, of the Government grant towards the entertainment expenses, instead of the whole amount being allotted to one particular State?
– The Minister for Defence has supplied the fol lowing answer : -
The grant made by the Commonwealth Government in connexion with thev isit of the British rifle team to Australia has not been allotted to one particular State. An amount of £747 13s. to cover the cost of rail, car and other fares of the team during their travels from State to State and to meet other expenditure incidental to the visit of the team to the various States has been made available to the Com mon wealth Council of Rifle . Associations.
Returned Soldier Telephone
Mechanics - Temporary Linesmen
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows: -
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That the days of meeting of. the Senate, unless otherwise ordered be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be 3 o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday and Thursday, and 11 o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That on all sitting days of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, government business shall take precedence of all other business on the noticepaper, except questions and formal motions, and except that general business take precedence of government business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m. ; and that unless otherwise ordered, genera] orders of the day take precedence of general notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at 4 o’clock p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not he open to debate; if the Senate be in committee at that hour, the Chairman shall in like manner put the question - That he do leave the Chair and report to the Senate: and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which question shall not be open to debate: Provided that if the Senate or the committee be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman shall not put the question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the business-paper for the next sitting day.
Motion (by Senator A. J. McLachlan) agreed to -
That during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Senate, or of a committee of the whole Senate, be suspended from 12.45 p.m. until 2. 15 p.m.. and from (1.15 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Motion (by Senator Foll) agreed to -
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to amend sections 22 and 39 of the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Act 1920- 1937.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
– I move-
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to: -
His Excellency the Governor-General -
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to Our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank YourExcellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
It is an honour to move in this Senate a motion affirming our loyalty to His Majesty the King. During the short period that His Majesty has occupied his exalted position, we have had ample evidence that the high ideals of service to the people and attention to duty that animated his late father, King George V., animate our present King. As a result of the recent election, some honorable senators who are now with us will not meet in this chamber after June next; but I am confident that those who will take their places will subscribe to these expressions of loyalty’ and respect which we now offer to his Majesty King George VI.
– They will speak for themselves.
– One of the most encouraging things associated with our parliamentary institutions is the way in which the people of Australia have followed the right course when confronted by important issues. I congratulate the
Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) on having been returned to lead a government for the third successive occasion, a record which will probably stand for a considerable period.
This chamber has sustained a severe los3 through the defeat of Senator Sir George Pearce, who was one of the original members of the Commonwealth Parliament, having been elected to the Senate in 1901. Since that time, he has energetically devoted himself to the service of his country, and his capacity is shown by the fact that for 25 years he has held ministerial office. The loss of his leadership in this chamber will be felt not only by ‘the Government, but also by every honorable senator. In attempting to account for his defeat, I can only think that the electors of “Western Australia are not in a position to realize his outstanding qualifications; otherwise they would have returned him to continue as one of their representatives in this chamber. Members of the Senate are in a better position to assess accurately the work of their colleagues than are the electors generally. Unfortunately, the service that public men render to their country is not always realized by the electors. I express the hope that Senator Sir George Pearce and Lady Pearce will, be spared for many years to enjoy that rest which he himself has said is necessary, and I am confident that, as time passes, the service that he has rendered to Australia will be more fully realized. The Senate will sustain a further great loss when you. Sir, cease to be a member of it. Both in the State Parliament and in the Senate yon have, for many years, represented the electors, and on more than one occasion have demonstrated a fearlessness of speech which is most commendable. Your conduct has been animated by high ideals during the whole of your parliamentary career, and I personally regret that the Senate is shortly to lose your services. A number of other honorable senators will also not mingle with .us here after next June. I shall make no invidious distinctions because each of them has, during his parliamentary career, endeavoured to serve his country to the limit of his capacity, and will leave this chamber with the satisfaction of knowing that much that he has set out to do has been accomplished. I congratulate those new senators who have already taken their places among us, and also those who will meet here after next June. I fee! confident that those high ideals which have guided honorable senators in the past will continue to inspire honorable senators in the future.
I congratulate those of our colleagues who have been elevated to ministerial rank. Senator A. J. McLachlan has succeeded to a most difficult position as the Leader of the Government in this chamber. I compliment him on his elevation, and trust that he and his new colleagues will receive from honorable senators generally the support to which they are entitled.
It is clear that, as a result of the elections, the Government has received a mandate to proceed with the policy enunciated during the election campaign. Generally, the result of the election must be regarded as satisfactory.
– Another such victory, and the present Government will be undone.
– A matter which, in my opinion, is worthy of consideration, is the difference between the treatment by the electors of candidates for Senate vacancies and the treatment of candidates for vacancies in the House of Representatives. I am aware that Australians generally have an inherent sporting instinct and a natural impulse to help the underdog, and it may he that the electors thought that those political parties not represented in the Government of the country had insufficient representation in this chamber. “Whatever be the reason for the change which will become effective next year, I submit that there is no evidence that during the last Parliament, members of this chamber acted on party lines; on the contrary: although the official Opposition consisted of only three honorable senators, there were several occasions on which Government proposals were defeated. That indicates clearly that honorable senators generally desired to act as the framers of the Constitution expected. Another possible explanation is that the electors were of the opinion that, at times, the Government had not given due consideration to the views expressed in this chamber. Possibly honorable senators enjoy a greater opportunity to gauge the needs and wishes of the States as a whole than domembers of the House of Representatives. Consequently they are entitled to express views covering a wider range of activities than those with which members of the House of Representatives are acquainted. Therefore, the Government would be well advised in the future to show a greater disposition to take the advice of the Senate than it has shown in the past. If the Government continues to bludgeon measures through this chamber, it will definitely bring discredit, not only on the Senate, hut also on itself.
– Surely it does not bludgeon measures through this chamber.
– Although I have not previously been a member of this chamber I can recall during my experience as a member of the House of Representatives a number of occasions on which requests made by the Senate were rejected in another place, so that eventually, the Government had its way. I again urge the Government to give greater consideration to any amendment or request which may be made by this chamber. In doing so it will bestow greater prestige on the Senate, whilst should it pursue the opposite policy, the usefulness and prestige of the Senate will definitely decline.
The main proposals presented to the electors during the recent campaign were in respect of security - national, industrial and social. As regards national security, the Government’s policy, particularly in respect of defence, is one that must commend itself to all sections of the community. Australia has been peculiarly fortunate in that throughout its history it has never been invaded, nor has it experienced armed civil conflict within its borders. It has been able to develop peacefully almost entirely under the protection of Great Britain. Since the war, however, the position of Great Britain in its relation to other powers has definitely deteriorated, in that its naval strength is relatively not so great to-day as it was in 1914. Consequently it is essential that Australia should endeavour to make the fullest contribution within its capacity towards assisting the Old Country, in regard to not only its own protection but also that of the Empire generally. To those people who sincerely desire to promote world peace I suggest that there is no greater influence working to prevent armed conflict than the power of the British Empire. The Empire’s authority in international affairs, however, is measured almost entirely by its capacity to support the measures it advocates. I believe that it is the wish of every Australian that we should contribute towards the strength of Great Britain in order that the British Commonwealth of Nations may exercise increasing influence in international affairs, an influence, which, I suggest, will invariably be directed towards the preservation of world peace. The defence policy of the Government, as announced during the election campaign, is one of co-operation with Great Britain, and the people of Australia, by their verdict at the polls, have said in no uncertain terms that they approve of that policy. I was extremely pleased to hear the Governor-General state that the Government intends to push ahead with its defence policy along the lines which it had previously announced to the Parliament and the country.
Industrial security can be attained in various ways. I suggest that this matter is vitally affected by our relations with foreign countries. One of the great needs of nations to-day is to live in greater amity, one with another. Trade and commerce exercise an important influence on international relations, and, consequently, I support entirely the Government’s proposal to press forward in its endeavour to make further agreements with foreign countries, not only for the preservation and extension of our markets, but also for the establishment of better international feeling. I feel sure that all honorable senators agree with the attitude adopted by the Government in respect of negotiations for an AngloAmerican agreement. The inability of certain countries to maintain standards of living to which they are entitled causes greater friction among nations than any other factor and consequently anything which can remove restrictions and clear the channels of trade will have a very desirable effect on international relations generally. I was also very pleased to notice that the Governor-General’s Speech included an assurance by the Government that before any agreement is completed, both the primary and secondary industries of this country will be consulted, in order that no injustice may be done to any section of industry in Australia. I know that my friends, the manufacturers, are very active in placing their views before the Government from time to time, and, no doubt, they will take every opportunity to impress their wishes upon the Government in the future. I am afraid, however, that in the past our primary industries have not been so well organized, and not so vocal as the secondary industries, and, consequently, their view has not always received due consideration. I recognize the need for a balanced economy in this country, and the need to establish certain industries for defence purposes, and to give them what might otherwise be an inordinate measure of protection. I fear, however, that unless great care is exercised, some industries may, on the plea of defence needs, be established and given an unjustified measure of protection. I direct the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the most stable industries in Australia, as shown by our experiences of the depression, through which we have nowpassed, are the primary industries. During the whole period of the depression these industries continued in production and, indeed, many of them actually increased production. They kept their workers employed during a very difficult period, thus relieving both State and Federal Governments of a very grave responsibility. In contrast to the successof the primary industries in this respect, our secondary industries were able to curtail production, and, in doing so, were responsible for a large proportion of the unemployment which .then occurred. Our secondary industries should be developed simultaneously with our primary industries. I welcome the assurance given that those representing all our important industries will have the right to express their view before any agree ments which may affect the stability of any primary or secondary industry are entered into.
In regard to social security, we are now entitled to say that we have regained pre-depression standards, and to consider conditions in this country as normal. I am not suggesting that present standards are as high as we may desire, or as may be ultimately possible, but using pre-depression standards as the basis of comparison, we- can now consider that conditions are normal. Indeed, we may safely assume that we are little above the pre-depression standard, particularly in respect of unemployment because, prior to the depression, the same provision was not made for the unemployed in this country as is made to-day, and consequently, the same incentive was not given to unemployed persons to register. Under the conditions that have prevailed in recent years, persons out of work naturally register to entitle them to relief and to other services. Our unemployment figures are, therefore, more complete to-day than they were in pre-depression days. The depression has, however, shown a very definite weakness in our social system, particularly in respect of unemployment and health. I believe that every honorable senator . feels that the introduction of an insurance scheme to provide certain social services, and dispense with the dole or charity is most desirable. I heartily support the proposal contained in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to introduce an insurance scheme concerning old-age and health, and as that is a sphere in which the Commonwealth can operate, there should be no delay in implementing such a scheme. The position in respect of unemployment is somewhat difficult because, the responsibility for these social services is carried by the States, and it would be unwise and unfair for the Commonwealth to superimpose a federal scheme on the States which already have very extensive social schemes, the cost of which is met by contributions from the people. A federal scheme would mean further collections from the same persons. The Government has already made overtures to the States with the idea of formulating a scheme to meet the common needs, but up to the present no finality has been reached. As a result of further negotiations, a satisfactory insurance scheme should be adopted.
During the recent election campaign considerable prominence was given to Australian banking and monetary policy. In the last two general elections, the members of the Labour party have sponsored very radical policies in respect of banking and monetary reform.
– It could hardly be called reform.
– The members of that party regarded it as reform. On both occasions the electors very definitely rejected the policy advocated by the Labour party. That does not however suggest that the people of Australia are opposed to the introduction of an improved system of hanking and currency control, but that they are not prepared to entrust the Labour party with the control of such an intricate and complex matter. The people are not opposed to any system which will give better results than the existing system. The last Government appointed a royal commission, which, after a very thorough investigation, reported against the nationalization of the hanking system, which was the most prominent of the Labour party’s proposals in respect of monetary reform. The members of the commission, with one exception, reported that nationalization would not be in the best interests of the country or the people. Consequently, the Government has a definite mandate to preserve our present banking system and to allow the Commonwealth Bank and the trading banks to provide the necessary banking services in this country. The Governmenthas decided to implement certain recommendations of the commission, and that relating to long- term mortgages has my support. I was pleased to find that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech contains an assurance that, a measure will he introduced to provide for the establishment of a branch of the Commonwealth Bank to render this service to the community.
Another matter of great importance, particularly to the less-populous States, is the Government’s proposal to reconstitute the Inter-State Commission. I acknow ledge the excellent work done by the Commonwealth Grants Commission during the time it has been in existence. It has had to handle some extremely difficult problems and it has done its best to find a solution of them. I am not suggesting, however, that the principles adopted by the commission are above criticism. When the commission was appointed it was understood that it would endeavour to arrive at a basis which would enable the various States to function as was envisaged at the inception of federation. Prior to federation there were inequalities between the standards of the various States, and it was held that the weaker States should be assisted with the object of enabling them to maintain a common Australian standard. Some States possessing greater resources are able to support higher standards, and it was intended that, so far as possible, all States should he placed on the same basis. The Commonwealth Grants Commission had to endeavour to achieve that objective. That being so, it is difficult to understand some of the methods adopted by the commission. It has definitely shown differentiation between claimant States and the other States. For instance, losses on loan works undertaken in claimant States have been used as a set off, while similar losses in the larger States have not been taken into account. Even if that aspect of the problem had been taken into account, I think the commission should have considered the existing problems in the various States, because in some of them the development of natural resources has been much easier and less costly than in others. I suggest, for instance, that in Western Australia and South Australia, the development of poorer lands proved much more costly than the lands in Victoria, New South Wales or Queensland. Consequently the loan expenditure per head of population in the more sparsely settled States of South Australia and Western Australia, was in excess of that incurred in the three eastern States, particularly in connexion with the conservation and reticulation of water, which is one of the principal needs of the people in rural areas. The expenidture on these services in South Australia, with a population of 500,000 or 600,000, approximated that incurred in Victoria, with a population of nearly 2,000,000. Consequently, it is not surprising that, in the circumstances, mistakes were made by those responsible for rural development in some of the claimant States. But even admitting that there should be some set-off for the losses made in this connexion, that would hardly reconcile the differentiation made by the commission between the States due to such losses. It is difficult to understand why the State showing the lowest loss of loan expenditure per head of population should be penalized to the greatest extent. These are matters which, I think, might well be taken into consideration by the proposed Interstate Commission. If there is justification for the view taken by the Commonwealth Grants Commission, the people should know of it, because, at the present time, there is considerable dissatisfaction in claimant States owing to the operation of such principles as were adopted by the commission. Furthermore, differentiation has been shown by the Commonwealth Grants Commission in respect of social services. In assessing the average of social services in Australia, the position in New South Wales was not taken into account. The commission arrived at its findings on the basis of the position in Victoria and Queensland, and, as a result, the claimant States were penalized to the extent of 6 per cent. ; that is to say, the commission took the view that the expenditure on social services in the claimant States should be 6 per cent, below that for Victoria and Queensland. When pressed to include the expenditure in New South Wales on social services, the commission increased the penalty on the claimant States to 10 per cent. It is difficult to understand the reason for this differentiation, but it seems to me that the commission fixed upon an arbitrary figure to deduct from the average of the social services in the three eastern States, and on that basis determined the standard for social services in the claimant States. However, I pay a tribute to the commission for the excellent work which it has done. Although we may not all agree with its findings, we are, I believe, in agreement that it is absolutely sincere and unprejudiced in its attitude to the problems of the various States.
I notice with interest the reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the subject of air transport, in connexion with which the Government has for some time been in negotiation with the various States. I regret that the proposal to vest full authority in the Commonwealth was defeated at the recent referendum, and I should like to know what action has been taken to ensure the making of regulations which shall apply uniformly throughout Australia. Flying is one of the most dangerous forms of transport. To minimize the risks, it is necessary for the Commonwealth and the State Governments to agree upon stringent regulations for the effective examination of all commercial pilots, to ensure the airworthiness of all machines, and to exercise complete control over all ground organization. I should like to know how far agreement in this direction has been achieved between the Commonwealth and the States, and what regulations have been proclaimed for the safety of the public. I know that the Government has been in consultation with the States in this matter, but I am not aware of the stage reached in the negotiations. Air services in Australia, are expanding very rapidly, and my fear is that unless prompt and effective action is taken by the Government, the public using our air services may be exposed to unnecessary danger.
– That is because air services are controlled by private enterprises.
– I believe that private enterprise should be allowed to function in the development of our air transport services, but under very definite safeguards, and I feel sure that security can be given to the people by co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. I have much pleasure in commending the motion to the Senate.
. - I congratulate Senator McBride on his initial effort in this chamber. We are happy to see the honorable gentleman in the Senate. Judging from the quality of his speech this afternoon, I feel sure that he will prove an acquisition and that, at all times, he will endeavour to keep the level of debate in the Senate upon that high, plane which we all desire to maintain. I regard it as a privilege, indeed an honour, to second the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply to the Speech which his Excellency the GovernorGeneral delivered in this chamber yesterday. I consider it a privilege because, as Senator McBride hinted, whenever the people of this country are tested, they always ring true. I believe that, whenever there is an honest difference of opinion as to the best course to be taken to ensure, as far as is humanly possible, the safety of the Commonwealth, they decide to take no risks. As regards the present world unrest, they take, I believe, the larger view, holding that in a solid front by the people of the British Commonwealth of Nations lies the greatest hope for peace and security in this unhappy world. As honorable senators are aware, I have on more than one occasion advocated in this chamber the cause of peace. But I have never deceived myself into believing that peace may be had by the waving of a magic wand, or by any short-cut. Peace must depend entirely upon understanding between the peoples of the various nations. I, therefore, congratulate the Government upon having placed, in the forefront of its legislative programme, a determination to continue to do what is possible to preserve world peace, and maintain friendly relations with all countries. T feel sure also that our friends in opposition will freely and sincerely give to the Government their fullest co-operation in endeavouring to achieve this objective. This morning many of us. were privileged to see a private screening of a notable film, entitled “ Victoria the Great,” which passed in review the principal events of the memorable reign of the late Queen Victoria. The commentary stated that that period was the most glorious in the history of the British Empire. That statement is probably correct, but we feel equally inspired when we call to mind what took place at the recent Imperial Conference, which was attended by representatives of all the self-governing dominions, colonies and dependencies of the British Empire, and when we remember the solemn declaration there made that in rearming the British Empire is pledged to a policy of non-aggression and defence only. Even if, as I said not long ago in this chamber, that might possibly be suspected to have been said with the tongue in the cheek, I again suggest that evidence is not lacking of the deep and real sincerity which lies behind that pledge. It is to be found in the history of what our British nation did after the Washington Conference, when it loyally scrapped its warships; not merely did it pare its navy down to the limit of safety, but also, as is generally agreed to-day by students of these matters among other peoples as well as our own, there was a period when Great Britain would’ have been absolutely as the mercy of an aggressor. So Great Britain showed its real sincerity, which I am afraid was not thoroughly appreciated. In certain quarters it was taken as a sign of weakness, and, therefore, Great Britain, against its will, and against the sentiment of its freedom-loving people, was forced to re-arm. We have given to the world the declaration which was recently reaffirmed by the vote of the Australian people, that we stand as solid to-day as ever, prepared not only to uphold our own liberties but also, so far as possible, to use our great influence in the cause of peace, and in the cause of justice for the weak throughout the world. Our people gave a right vote and a light verdict, and I invite our friends opposite - who were a little weak upon the subject of defence, and desired to bank more upon one particular arm, a policy which, we pointed out, might bring war to our shores for the first time, to co-operate heartily with us, as I feel sure they will, in doing all that Australia can do to ensure full co-operation with not only all the peoples of the British Empire, but also, by our influence., our will, and our actions, with the great republic of America, in the manner which has been more than hinted at in His Excellency’s Speech. I remember, about 40 years ago, when I was a boy at school, hearing Colonel Bell, then the Consul-General in Australia for the United States of America, deliver a lecture upon the destiny of the Anglo-Saxon race. I think f. have referred to this matter before in the Senate, but perhaps it will bear repetition, as it was prophetic. He said that, if the Anglo-Saxon people would, with determination, say to all the world: “ There shall be no war on that day war would cease. I feel more than gratified to find reference to this matter tc-day in His Excellency’s Speech.
I call the attention not only of the Senate, but also of the public of Australia, to the fact that the present Government is not unmindful of social services, and of ihe general welfare of the people of every class, without distinction. Of this His Excellency’s Speech, embodying the proposed policy of the Government in this new Parliament, gives full evidence. We find in it reference to an intention to introduce national health and pensions insurance, and unemployment insurance in consultation with the States; also to the problem of loans to workers, and relief for the poorer people during the Christmas period by the provision of £100,000 to create additional work for those unfortunates who find themselves in difficulties at the present time. We find in fact many indications of attention to the social welfare of the people. Even the aborigines are not forgotten. Perhaps I should not say “ even the aborigines “, because we should always, both mentally and in practice, put them in the foreground, since undoubtedly we owe much to them, and they have been a very much abused people.
– Because unfortunately they have no votes.
– I am afraid the honorable senator is right there. In relation to the report of the Royal Commission on Banking, I desire particularly to congratulate the Government upon its decision to establish, in the near future, as one of the first matters to be implemented, a mortgage bank. I urge it to take the fullest advice as to the nature of the mortgages to be offered to those who require help. One particular aspect has occurred to me. I remember that, in the earlier days of closer settlement in my own State, a number of government schemes were put forward providing for immediate payments, or at any rate fairly early payments, by the settler, part representing the repayment of a small portion of the capital and the other part interest. But under almost all those earlier government schemes there was the unhappy spectacle of the settler having to approach the Government from time to time with a request for the remission or suspension of his instalments of principal or interest. Side by side with those government schemes - and here my friends opposite must pardon me for referring to private enterprise - we had in the northern part of New South Wales one or two schemes which gave to the settler a free loan for the first few years of his term. The loan might have been perhaps only apparently free, but it had this effect, that when the settler went on to his new holding, and had to make all his heavy improvements; and buy agricultural machinery, it was to him a tremendous boon to be relieved of immediate payments in respect of principal or interest to the vendors. A number of large private subdivisions were sold on those terms, particularly in the Tamworth district of the New England electorate. Large and valuable properties were cut up in that fashion, and the settler had his purchase money lent to him by the vendors, almost free of interest, for a period, I think, of up to four or five years. I urge the Government to take into serious consideration that aspect of any long-term mortgage policy which ii desires to establish in connexion with this new branch of Commonwealth banking.
I cannot resume my seat without also touching upon the losses which have befallen the Senate as part of the fortunes of political war. It has, I suppose, often been said that the real object of human life should be that, when we lay it down, our friends should have the satisfaction of knowing that we have left that little part of the world in which we happened to function just a little better than we found it. That, at least, is the epitaph for which we all hope, and it applies particularly to political life. We find men who entered politics, as all of us do, with very high ideals, terminating their political lives after a very long term - -
– They have got the sack!
– That is not the way in which I should put it. I was thinking of our late leader, Senator
Pearce, and others who have given as devoted and unselfish service to their country as Senator Ashley doubtless hopes to give. I am sure that his remark hardly represents the spirit in which we should contemplate the end of the political career of those who have been taken from us. The last election brought about the end, or perhaps only the temporary suspension, of the political lives of a number of honorable senators. Whilst at all times we feel the loss of the companionship of those with whom we have worked as political friends or opponents in this chamber for, I hope, the welfare of the nation, yet, on this occasion, I am sure I can say, without presumption and without being charged with making invidious distinctions, that not merely the Senate, but also Australia as a whole, irrespective of diversities of political opinion, desires that the closing of a great political career such as that of the Eight Honorable Sir George Pearce should not pass unnoticed, but that tribute should be paid to a record so remarkable and unique as his. Senator Pearce has been, I understand, in public life for about 37 years. He is one of the few with us to-day who have been in this Parliament throughout the whole growth of this young Commonwealth. I believe he has actually served for about 25 years as a Minister of the Crown, a very wonderful record. He also has the unique distinction that, of all the war Ministers in the whole of the British Empire,he was the only one to survive. His deep storehouse of experience, and his readiness at all times to place it at the service of the Senate, will be deeply missed here. I believe he will go out with something greater than political victory, because the ideals with which he entered politics many years ago remain untarnished, and he will leave us with the greatest credit, and commanding the deepest respect of all who made contact with him. I believe that the people of this country, laying aside all political prejudices, will concur fully in this estimate of his worth. It is good to know that he retains to the full his mental and physical vigor. I believe that his mature and varied experience is still at the close of his political career as useful as ever to his country. And so I take what I hope my friends in this chamber will not regard as a liberty or a presumption on my part when, remembering the service that he has rendered to Australia, I turn to Senator Pearce, and say, “ Thank you, Sir George “.
To you also, Mr. President, I express, on behalf of the Senate, the sincerest goodwill. We have all admired your work here; you will take with you the sincere affection of all who know you. I have said that I do not wish to make invidious distinctions, but it is with feelings of sadness that I contemplate parting for a time from my leader, Senator Hardy. He, however, is still a young man, and I believe that later, with even a riper experience, he will again be found serving in the political life of this country. It is well to recollect that it was Charles Hardy, who, in the darkest hours of the depression, did something to call a halt to those fears which were ruining our people. To those other honorable senators who will not be with us after next June, we offer our best wishes. The fate which has befallen them may overtake any of us almost at any time. We hope that those of them who are so minded will return here later, and that in whatever position in life they are found after they leave here the habit of service common to parliamentarians, notwithstanding the sneers of some who decry us,will continue, no matter ‘how small or local the opportunity may be. His Excellency’s Speech gives such “promise of good government in the future that it is with feelings of the greatest satisfaction and pleasure that I second the motion so ably moved by my colleague from South Australia.
– I shall say a few words, not so much on the formal wording of the Address-in-Reply which will be presented to His Excellency the Governor-General later, as upon those remarks which have been made by the two gentlemen selected to move and second respectively the Address. I am never wanting in recognition of the service rendered to the community by public men in any capacity, but I am of the opinion that the eulogies that have been tendered to at least two of those of our number who will retire in June next are not in good taste. 1 believe that the time to say such things as we have in our minds regarding them and other honorable senators who will retire next June is when they make their final appearance among us before their departure. Things could be said then which would not in any way contravene good taste or cause even the suggestion of embarrassment.
– The honorable senator would say kind things of people after they arc dead.
– The suggestion behind these eulogies is that the newcoiners who will take the places of retiring senators will be less satisfactory.
– Nothing of the sort.
– The natural corollary to such statements is that J, or some other member of the Opposition, should rise in his place and give the history of those gentlemen who, after the 1st July next, will come among us. I do not propose to do that. Nor do I propose to say anything about the two gentlemen who have been specially mentioned to-day, except that both of thorn received their education and training in the Labour movement. It is because of that fact that they rendered valuable ‘service to their country in subsequent years. That is something which ought not to bc forgotten. Nor should we forget that, almost without exception, the great and distinguished leaders of Nationalist governments, from the inception of Australia to the present time, have been recruited from the ranks of the Labour party.
– That is why there is nothing left in the Labour party.
– We have become accustomed to interjections by Senator Dein . which are not worthy of our attention.
– It was a good shot.
– The Assistant Minister (Senator Allan MacDonald) may regard the interjection as being smart, but it is the smartness of the gutter. To any satisfaction which either he or Senator Dein may derive from such interjections he is entitled. I make my protest, nevertheless. In our utterances m this chamber we are .expected to approach to something like a measure of dignity.
Apparently, the honorable senator who moved the Address-in-Reply, like many other people, is astounded at the loyalty of Australians. Senator McBride does not come into this chamber as a parliamentary neophyte. Why government supporters should be so continually surprised at the loyalty of the people of Australia passes my understanding. There has never been any doubt in the mind of any one who has taken an intelligent interest in the growth of public opinion in Australia regarding the. loyalty of its people. Senator McBride was so surprised at such loyalty that he actually assumed a position which he had no right to assume. He ventured the opinion that the newcomers among us would be equally loyal. The suggestion is that the members of the Opposition are not as loyal as are members of the parties forming the composite Government. I remind Senator McBride that there is no need for any really loyal person to continually proclaim his loyalty from the housetops. The honorable senator went on to -conduct a post-mortem examination of the election, and he suggested a reason for the considerable change made by the electors in the representation in this chamber. Government supporters are not prepared to recognize that what has happened is merely the expression of the will of the Australian people through the ballot-box. That expression of their will .should be accepted without question ; there should be no post-mortem, and no argument.
– A post-mortem is being conducted in New South Wales.
- Senator Dein seems to delight in the unsavoury details of certain happenings in his own State. He glories in the revelations made in the autopsy room. The gruesome details of the political autopsy are as welcome to him as are the details of other postmortem examinations.
Senator McBride also said that Australians had sporting instincts and sympathy with the under-dog. He went on to say that he thought that that might be the reason for the overwhelming victory of the Labour party in the Senate; he thought that the people were sympathetic with the lone three members of the Opposition in this chamber. ‘ 1 believe that the Senate vote in every State is always a clearer indication of the real will of the people than is the vote recorded in support of candidates for the House of Representatives. I believe that the electors vote for Senate candidates on broad questions of principle and policy, and arc not deflected by personal considerations, such as their regard for a particular candidate who represents the more restricted area of a federal division for the House of Representatives.
– How does the honorable senator account for 148,000 informal votes for the Senate?
– If the honorable senator wishes to know my explanation of the many pleasant things which have occurred recently, I shall have to see him privately in my room, for this speech E wish to make in my own way.
– Why did the Labour party choose candidates with surnames beginning with “ A “?
– I may as well inform Senator Dein now that before the Opposition finishes its contribution to the Address-in-Reply he himself will get the castigation that is due to him because of that interjection. I remind the honorable senator that the Opposition in this chamber now consists of five members, instead of the three who constituted its forces here before the election. The honorable senators who have already swelled the ranks of the Opposition are as capable as is Senator Dein - and in saying that I do not flatter them.
I am not easily astounded at remarks made by enthusiastic Nationalists, but I was almost rendered speechless when Senator McBride said that the Government had received a clear mandate from the people. Had it not been for the unfortunate political accident which occurred in South Australia, the Government would have been in a minority in this chamber. I promise the Government - it is more a threat than a promise - that after the 1st July next its supporters will have to be more regular in their attendance than they have been in the past, or the Government will be defeated in this chamber. Some Government supporters who never fail to draw their parliamentary allowance are very frequently and continuously absent. Labour senators are professional politicians. Unlike almost every supporter of the Government in this chamber, they do not give attention to their senatorial duties as a kind of side line. While they are in Parliament, their parliamentary duties are their sole avocation and purpose. If, as Senator McBride claims, the Government has received a mandate from the people, I can assure the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) that he will have a hard job when he endeavours to implement that mandate in this chamber. In the capacity of a candid friend, Senator McBride admonished the Government that it should be more mindful of the Senate- in the future. The Government will be just as mindful of the Senate as the Senate is entitled to. If this chamber does not get the respect and consideration from the Government to which it is entitled, it is only because so many honorable senators are apathetic. If government supporters will get the same high conception of service and of their parliamentary duties as honorable members of the Opposition, there will be no lack of respect for this chamber. Senator McBride went on to say that the main issues outlined in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech could be classified under the heading “ Security - National, Social and Industrial “. He then proceeded to enlarge upon the fact that Australia must be ever ready to help the British Empire. I do not know what he means by that happy generalization. Has the honorable senator any knowledge of what is happening in international affairs to-day, or of what has been happening in international affairs, particularly so fur as Europe is concerned, during the last 25 years? If he has, what is it that he expects Australia to do in taking its part in the protection of the British Empire? Does he mean that, willy-nilly, Australia must automatically become involved, or be prepared to become involved, in any struggle which the British Government might feel inclined to undertake in order to protect its commercial interests in certain foreign countries in which Australia has no interests at the moment? If Australia had such interests, it would not be able to protect them. Does he mean that when Great Britain is in danger Australian men should do as they did before in a similar crisis? The answer to that question is written in Australian history, but that is different from pledging Australia at Imperial Conferences, and by implication in speeches in this chamber, to become involved automatically, in any game that is being played on the international chess board. In any case, the fate . of the Empire is not decided a,t Imperial conferences, it is decided by secret diplomacy and the negotiation of pacts, of which nobody knows anything until they have been concluded or disclosed when war is imminent. I make these remarks because it is time that in this chamber a stop were put to the repeated sneer that the Labour party has no sense of its obligations and responsibilities to the British Empire.
Senator McBride had something to say also concerning the pact about to be made between Great Britain and America. He added that he believed that the manufacturing interests .would, as usual, make themselves vocal in connexion with any such agreement, but he was not quite sure that the primary industries, or their representatives, would receive equal consideration with the secondary industries. Such a suggestion would’ come with good grace from a. member of the Opposition in this chamber. I hope however, that the Government will make a note of this comment by its candid friend. It is time that the Government of this country was actuated only by an Australian outlook and sentiment in respect of every one of these matters. I shall have a better opportunity later to debate the’ proposed Anglo-American agreement, but at the moment I emphasize that every preference given by Australia to the manufactured goods of another country means that some Australian workman at present employed will be thrown out of his job to face, with his family, all the horrors of unemployment. So long as the Government does not forget this fact ; so long as it has an Australian outlook, and ceases to wave flags in order to seduce the mentality of its supporters, things will be all right.
Senator McBride proceeded to deal with the matter of monetary reform. With all due respect to the honorable senator, I suggest that he is quite unfitted to debate this subject. For instance, be spoke of the intricacies of finance. That is a swindle and sophistry which has continually been “put over” the people in the past. There is nothing intricate whatever about finance; it is one of the simplest things in the world to-day. A banker sells and buys money and credit in exactly the same way, andwith exactly the same object, as a draper buys and sells calico and a grocer deals in sugar, namely, in order to. make a profit. Dealing with the report of the Royal Commission on Monetary and Banking Reform, Senator McBride said that he was glad to see that the Government was doing some of the things which the commission recommended. The Government is doing none of those things, nor does it foreshadow any intention of instituting any one of the fundamental reforms which the commission advocated. 1 suspect that the honorable senator has not read the commission’s report, otherwise he would not make such ill-digested comments on it. One thing the commission did recommend was that in future no individual, or combination of individuals, should be given a charter to establish a banking concern, except under licence from the Government so that the Government could control such operations. Summed up, the commission’s report means this: Realizing the tremendous power that private banking has acquired in Australia we recommend, not that such concerns should be wiped out in favour of the Labour party’s policy of nationalization, not that the Government should go the “ whole hog “ - because that is contrary to the Government’s policy - but that the Government should take measures to cripple the power of private banks for evil in the economic life of the nation. The commission’s report is a wholesale condemnation of private banking institutions. I propose, however, to deal more fully with this matter at a later opportunity.
Senator McBride also had something to say about aviation. ‘Civil aviation has been developed in Australia, probably to a greater extent, considering the vastness of our areas and the smallness of our population, than in any other country. Queensland, 1 believe, has been more successful in the development of civil aviation and its allied services, than has any other State of the Commonwealth. Even a thick and thin supporter of this composite Government, like Senator McBride, however, has reached the conviction that in this instance at any rate, private enterprise cannot be trusted where profits are concerned. Consequently, he suggests that certain things should be done in respect of the control of aviation in this country. It is a disgrace to the Government, that, in Australia, with a world war just over the threshold - if we are to take notice, not of newspaper reports, but of the facts as we are able to get them from the other side of the world - we have not yet got an aerodrome or landing ground anything like efficiently equipped for safety, let alone for use in the event of national emergency. Where it exists at all, the lighting of our aerodromes is out of date as are other technical and mechanical needs. Summing up developments in respect of aviation in. Australia, I say that the Government lias been most unwise in that it has allowed private enterprise to secure control of this wonderful potential arm of defence. Senator McBride senses the difficulty which may arise from such a development. I wish to know whether the honorable senator would hand over to private enterprise the lighting of our harbours, the mooring of our harbour buoys, and the establishment, maintenance and functioning of our lighthouses? Does he believe in private enterprise armies for the defence of this country? Of course he does not. So soon as the most earnest nationalist wakes up to the implication of these developments, and so soon as he realizes that his own personal safety is involved, he begins to see that the profit-maker cannot be trusted, and then he clamours for Government control. However, he keeps sneering at those who advocate Government control in respect of other equally important matters.
The honorable senator went on to congratulate the Government, and at this stage of his speech he made most extravagant statements, employing numerous superlatives. He said that the country had not only got back to normal, but had actually achieved abnormal prosperity. From the policy speech of the Prime Minister he quoted the following sentence: “We have climbed out of the valley of depression on to the sunlit hills of prosperity”. I wish to give the Senate very seriously and earnestly some evidence that there are still some sections of the community - the underdogs to whom Senator McBride referred - who have not got back to normal, and are not better off than they were in the depression, but are actually still . in the valley and shadows of economic degradation and poverty. I shall not exaggerate in respect of this matter ; I do not propose to quote evidence from Labour people or newspapers, but shall give evidence from the mouths of people who, in all probability, are supporters of this Government and who, for all I know, may be personal friends of Senator McBride. Describing conditions at Glebe, Sydney, during the period of the election campaign,, the Church Standard, a paper published in New South Wales, stated - “ A city of Dreadful Night “ - “ a dreary, depressing wilderness of slum hovels,” is how the Church Standard, in a recent editorial, describes property owned by the Church of England at Glebe, Sydney. “ A terrible Nemesis waits on a church and a community which complacently tolerate such crimes against humanity,” the article declares.
After referring at length to an inspection of the church property, the leader writer continues : - “We returned to town, sick with sim mc and indignation. By chance our eyes lighted on a list of anthems to bo sung at the Cathedral during July : ‘ The Lord is My Shepherd,’ From Thy Love as a Father.’ * Thou Will Keep Him in Perfect Peace.’ “The contrast cut into our minds like livid lightning fire - on the one hand, the welldressed, comfortably-housed church people singing soothing things about the Father’s loving care and the perfect peace which He gives to His elect; and, on the other- hand, leaking roofs, damp, musty rooms, and ugly dilapidated dwellings, in which the Father’s children ‘live like herded swine’.”
If Senator McBride is sufficiently interested, I can supply him with additional information on this subject. During the recent election campaign, Dr. John Dale, the Health Officer of the City of Melbourne, one of the largest cities in the Commonwealth, addressing a meeting of health inspectors who are primarily occupied in ensuring the purity of the food supplies of the people, said -
To hell with purity of food. What is important is that the public should get sufficient food of the right kind.
Ensuring its purity is a last century job. In thiscentury we know exactly how much, what kind, and when to give the food on which health is built.
With these foods we can build children into perfect physical specimens. We can produce these foods in abundance. The biggest job of health inspecting authorities is to see that everyone, especially children, gets his fill.
It is the responsibility of this Government to see that the conditions are such that every person has his fill. In November last, Bishop Johnson, in speaking to a motion moved by the Bishop of Wangaratta, said -
People who condemned the merciless slaughter of women and children in China and Spain must also condemn the conditions which degraded child life in Australia.
I urge upon the Governments the necessity of maintaining proper housing and feeding for the people, and that all slum conditions should be abolished as speedily as possible. In Australian capital cities men, women and children lived in wretched houses which were a disgrace to the country.
Notwithstanding these statements concerning the conditions existing in Australian capital cities, honorable senators opposite still assert that the depression has passed, and that a vast majority of the Australian people are living in comfort.
– The honorable senator should direct his remarks concerning the housing conditions in Sydney to the Labour council at Erskine.
– Apparently the honorable senator has information on the subject of housing in his own State which has not yet been brought to my notice. Giving evidence in connexion with the milk inquiry recently, Dr. E. H. Stephen said -
Milk consumption by families in suburban industrial areas is totally inadequate and tended to breed a C3 class population.
I have quoted only briefly from these statements in order to show Senator McBride and other honorable senators opposite how deplorable are the condi tions in some parts of Australia. They who believe that -
God’s in His Heaven -
All’s right with the world, have only to look beneath the surface to realize what is going on. We should deal with the realities of life. Only this morning I read a report in the Canberra Times, a portion of which reads -
The Minister for Health (Sir Kingsley Wood), moving the second reading of the Populations Statistics Bill, in the House of Commons, paid a tribute to the Australian and New Zealand information.
He drew attention to the alarming fall in the birth rate in Britain. He said that if it continued at the present rate, the population would fall to 35,000,000 in 1970 and 5,000.000 within a century.
The Minister said that Australians and New Zealanders, like the English, would be the first to resent unnecessary investigations, yet for years they had freely and fully answered questions for statistic purposes.
Mr. A. P. Herbert, who recently sponsored the Amending Divorce Legislation, challenged Sir Kingsley Wood to name any part of Australia or New Zealand where the people had been asked for the records of former marriage, particulars of former issue where the child was illegitimate or other questions attempting to incriminate the parents or likely to result in legal proceedings connected with bigamy, adultery and bastardy.
Sir Kingsley Wood asked for time to consider the question. He opined that, like birth control, the fear of war did not appear to be a substantial reason for the decline in the birth rate.
Even stud horses do not breed with the same alacrity if guns are fired around them, or heavy burdens are placed on their backs.
The primary cause of the decline of the birth-rate in Great Britain and in Australia is poverty. Birth control is practised because it has become an economic necessity. The burdens we have placed upon the backs of the people are too heavy for them to bear. When honorable senators opposite recognize that fact they will not be so glib, and they will not deal with pressing social and economic problems in the superficial way they do.
Senator Abbott said that he had the privilege this morning of witnessing the screening of a great picture. I too saw the picture and consider it a wonderful production. I am grateful to Mr. Stuart Doyle, the Australian representative of theR..K.O. Corporation, for giving to the members of this Parliament the opportunity to see the film in such comfortable circumstances. But I remind
Senator Abbott that some of the highlights of the picture were a condemnation of the policy which he supports, and an illumination of the policy to which the members of the Opposition have always subscribed. We were shown a chronological record of many important events in British history, not the least of which were the contributions made by the late Queen Victoria during her life. Mention was made of Magna Charta. Honorable senators opposite are the lineal descendants of those who opposed the principles of Magna Charta. Reference was also made to the failure of the potato crop in Ireland hundreds of years ago and the frightful famine which resulted, owing largely to the policy of the British Government, by which the whole of Ireland’s manufactures were destroyed - a policy which honorable senators opposite, had they been alive at that time, would have supported. We were also reminded of the Corn laws, in the fight for the repeal of which my father fought. Honorable senators opposite and those holding similar views always oppose any reform. Any advance has been gained -only after a bitter struggle. Fortunately, the British Constitution is sufficiently elastic and the monarchy sufficiently intelligent to enable reforms to be adopted. That is why tho British Government is the only stable government in Europe to-da.y. All these reforms were accomplished in the teeth of the opposition of persons who now have the temerity and political insolence to pillory members of .the Opposition. We were also reminded of the riots on Constitution Hill. The members of the Opposition were acquainted with all that was brought under our notice this morning. We are still carrying on the same fight, in the interests of the people, and we shall continue with renewed vigour after the 1st July. We also heard a reproduction of speeches by Cobden, Bright, Gladstone, Chamberlain and Disraeli. If those persons were in this chamber they would be in Opposition, because they could not support the policy of this Government. Senator Abbott also spoke of the wonderful work of the British Government in the matter of disarmament, but he was not gracious enough to give the Labour Government of Great
Britain and the late Mr. Arthur Henderson - ‘a Labour man - credit for the good work he did in that respect.
– Disarmament Avas due to a succession of events.
– Not one Nationalist leader supported disarmament.
– It was decided upon at the Washington Conference.
– We know what occurred at that conference. However honorable senators opposite may sneer and indict the Opposition, they cannot disregard the fact that recently there has been feverish expenditure upon rearmament. We are told that the depression has passed and that conditions are now prosperous. Conditions improved, not as a result of the policy of this Government, but owing to the increase of overseas prices for our primary products as a result of the fear of war, thus bringing about artificial prosperity.
– -If the Leader of the Opposition studies the position he will find, that recovery began before’ prices increased.
– I appreciate the interjection of the right honorable senator, and I suggest that he pass on the complete knowledge which he possesses on this subject to some of his colleagues who more seriously need it than I. Mr. Davidson, the general manager of tire Bank of New South Wales, said that governments must realize that the present prosperity is due entirely to money being expended in every country on rearmament. That expenditure, he said, is for the destruction of human life; not one penny of it is used for improving the conditions of the people. This expenditure must cease at some time, and we shall then be faced with a worse depression than that from which we have partly emerged. National governments should be preparing now to undertake public works, because private enterprise would .not be able to meet the slump which must come in 1938. This Government is piling up for itself a great deal of trouble, because it has to harmonize the disintegrating forces, which, under pressure, it has been obliged to include in their composite Ministry, some of which are to be seen on the ministerial bench this afternoon. In addition to this disturbing element, there is, on the horizon, another depression, compared with which the one from which we are just emerging was a Sunday school picnic. Notwithstanding the portents, the Government so far has done nothing to meet the threatened trouble. I say, definitely, that rearmament must cease, and dis-armament bc universally adopted, either as the outcome of agreement between governments of the Empire and other countries, or as a result of pressure exerted by the League of Nations. A continuance of the present maniacal and suicidal policy of rearmament will desolate the world economically, even if it does not lead to the outbreak of another world war. I therefore say that on the Government of the Commonwealth, as well as the governments of other countries, there devolves the tremendous responsibility of reversing present rearmament policies, and getting the people out of the mess in which they now find themselves.
– I hope that the dictators in Europe will read the honorable gentleman’s speech.
– I should be glad to think that they would read it; but I doubt that it would have much effect on them unless their powers of perception are greater than those of the honorable gentleman.
I turn now to some of the statements contained in the Speech delivered yesterday by the Governor-General. At the outset, I should like to make it clear that I do not hold His Excellency responsible for the trivialities and superfluities contained in it. With all respect, I assert that there is not one worthwhile statement in the . Speech from start to finish. I have already referred to the proposed trade treaty between Great Britain and the United States of America. When that proposal comes before us in concrete form I shall probably have an opportunity to refer to the Ottawa agreement. Honorable senators will recall that over and over again in this chamber I have declared that Ottawa was a failure, and that its principles could not stand.
– We did not believe the honorable senator.
– I know that. Government supporters never give heed to the words of wisdom from Opposition senators until it is too late. Had they accustomed themselves to mind our warnings, possibly they would not now be worrying about what will happen Avith sixteen Opposition senators in this chamber after June next. But that by the way.
I notice somewhat lengthy reference in the Governor-General’s Speech to the Empire air-mail service. Concern ing that proposal I would say that if there is one thing which this Government has bungled it is the proposed air-mail service between Australia and the Mother Country. Ministers have dilly-dallied and shifted their positions so frequently that one hardly knew, from day to day, what Avas happening. We were told that inquiries had been made; that the Government had experts on the job, and that negotiations had been entered into to start the service at’ an early date.
– Arrangements have now been made for it.
– I should like to know if the Minister responsible for the negotiations is proud of the position that has arisen. Not long ago we had the spectacle of that Minister declaring in the House of Representatives that he would never yield to the proposals put forward by the British Government; but not- withstanding all his protestations lie did yield. Now Ave are told that arrangements have been made to inaugurate the long-promised service. I am afraid, however, that there is a good deal of uncertainty about the immediate future. So far as Ave are able to gather, there is some possibility of a partial service - a makeshift arrangement - being inaugurated, pending consideration of the complete scheme. In the meantime if, unhappily, Avar should break out, the Common.wealth, in the absence of an effective Empire air mail service, W111 be exposed, possibly, to the direst Avar risks. I notice also that the Government states that negotiations are proceeding for an. air mail service to be established between Australia and New Zealand, thus forming a further link in the Empire service.
Another paragraph of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech refers to national insurance in. respect of health and pensions. Of that proposal I say deliberately that the Government, as at present constituted, has no intention whatever of bringing in a national health insurance scheme with any other motive but, one. Several honorable senators, some of whom. have been promoted recently - 1 aru not going to mention names, but there should be no trouble in identifying them - declared in this chamber that Australia could not much longer carry the burden of the existing pensions payments. Senator Duncan-Hughes is one of the protagonists of this attitude. He thinks that we ought to call a halt in our social legislation. I intend to tell the people that this Government has become interested in the national and health insurance merely for the purpose of lifting the financial burden from the shoulders of the well-to-do, and placing a heavier’ portion on those who are least able to bear taxation. I make this statement deliberately, because I know it to be true. I am not saying this with a desire to be unkind to present Senate Ministers. I admit that the new Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) is one of the kindest of men; he is so wonderfully softhearted in this chamber that at times he almost moves me to tears. I feel sure, however, that when he sits at the Cabinet table to consider national health and insurance schemes, he will be one of thosewho will decide to take a portion at least of the financial burden for social services from the shoulders of people who are well able to bear it, and place it on the shoulders of those who are not.
As to the Government’s proposals with regard to unemployment insurance I can only say that I do not understand how Ministers can “ get away “ with it. By this I mean not that I do not know how they “put it over” their supporters here and in the House of Representatives, but that I cannot understand how they can salve their consciences. At times I am tempted to think that when they leave the Cabinet room and retire to the quietude of their homes or hotels, they must ask themselves, “Now, what was it that I said to-day? Surely I ought to be ashamed of myself for having said what I did ? “
– We often think that of the honorable senator.
– I have no doubt that Senator Dein does sometimes have such thoughts about me. For my part [ always think that he always ought to be ashamed of what he says here. At all events, we are told that the Government intends to do something in connexion with this important subject. The Governor-General’s Speech declares -
Officers of the Commonwealth and State govern ments have made an exhaustive examination of various financial and administrative aspects of Unemployment Insurance.
Successive ministries have been examining this problem for the last twenty years. Now we learn that this Government is still making an “ exhaustive examination “ of the subject. I am wondering when the Ministers will be completely exhausted. The Speech goes on to state -
Having received a report on the results of this examination, my advisers will again approach the State governments with a view to arriving at a .satisfactory solution of this problem.
Apparently the Government is still in the negotiating stage. So far, it has done practically nothing, and the people are still waiting for unemployment insurance.
It is significant that the Speech contains ito reference to the Government’s determination to deal with the constitutional difficulties; no suggestion that the Government intends, in 1937, to give the Commonwealth a new suit of constitutional clothing to replace the one given to it by ‘ the people in 1900. Thenis not one word in the Speech of the Government’s intention to endeavour to secure transfer to the Commonwealth of some of the powers now vested in the different States. Ministers evidently are not prepared to take their courage in both hands, and tell the people of the constitutional difficulties with which wc are confronted, and how they propose to meet them.
Recently, we had the unhappy spectacle of a referendum debacle in connexion with which, unfortunately for my political reputation. I was supporting the Government. As a result of the vote on that occasion, the Commonwealth Govern- ment cannot move hand or foot to deal with many important problems affecting the people of the Commonwealth without “exhaustive” inquiries and negotiations with implacable State ministries. This being the position, it is lamentable that the GovernorGeneral’s Speech should contain all this “ twitter “ about national insurance and unemployment insurance. My intention now is to tell the people who are looking for this form of Commonwealth social legislation that they will certainly die in (he ditch unless constitutional reform is speeded up considerably.
The only reference in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech to monetary and banking reform is brief mention of its intention to establish a mortgage department of the Commonwealth Bank. Do not Ministers realize that the reason why people are in urgent need of relief from mortgage obligations is that banking and finance are in the hands of profit-making private institutions? Do they not realize that mortgagors, particularly our primary producers, are up to their ears in debt and misery? And do they not realizehow urgent is the need for positive action to remove the causes instead of tinkering with the effects? The Government’s proposal may give slight relief in some cases, but the majority of the people concerned will have to continue the daily grind from Sunday morning to Saturday night in order to carry on.
This paragraph in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech almost fires me with enthusiasm -
My advisers will submit proposals for the appointment of the Select Committee, representing both Houses of Parliament, to investigate and report on the method of electing the Senate.
I thought it would come. There was no need for crystal gazing or star gazing to divine the probable trend of Ministers’ thoughts. I knew that the debacle among Government Senate candidates would spur Ministers to do what the Prime Minister, in 1934, declared would be done, when 54 per cent, of the voters returned all of the eighteen Senate candidates, and the remaining 46 per cent, had no representation in this chamber. It is obvious that something ought to be done to rectify that position.
– The Prime Minister did not make that declaration during the 1934 election; he did make it in the recent campaign.
– I stand corrected; but I am certain that the Government would not now be making suggestions for Senate election reform if the recent appeal to the people had not resulted in the solid defeat of Government candidates. But I am not complaining.
– Why should the honorable senator complain?
– I am not complaining about the result of the recent Senate election. I do, however, object to the method of electing the Senate, though my reasons are not the same as those actuating the Government. I believe in compulsory voting. But if we compel an elector to go to the poll we have no right to force him to vote for candidates whom he does not wish to be elected. In my view the present system is wrong. I contend that if an elector votes for the three Senate candidates whom he wishes elected, and does not vote for those of whom he disapproves, his vote should not be declared invalid. Let me illustrate what I mean by citing my own experience. In order to make sure that my colleagues, Senators Courtice and Brown, not to mention myself, were returned to this chamber, I had not only to do the natural thing and mark my ballot-paper Brown 1, Collings 2, Courtice 3, but also to vote for other candidates whom I hate politically. If I had not voted the full ticket my vote would have been declared informal. I object to any voter being required to show preferences for candidates for whom he has no liking and no preference. The Government intends to appoint a committee representative ofboth Houses, and I presume all parties, to consider the present system. Before the committee is appointed the Government should arrange for a conference in Canberra of the chief returning officers of allStates, as well as divisional returning officers, in order that these experts may have an opportunity to evolve a more acceptable proposal than the present method of electing senators. I suggest that before any subjects are chosen for reference to the proposed committee, or, at any rate, before the committee sits at all, it should be given the advantage of the expert knowledge which those gentlemen undoubtedly have. I hope that suggestion to the Government will not fall on deaf ears.
Reference is made in the speech to migration. I warn the Government that two aspects of this subject should be taken immediately into consideration. Another shipload of Southern Europeans arrived in this country within the last seven or ten days. These people have been distributed fairly evenly over Australia; 50 of them, who do not speak one word of English, have gone to Queensland, and the Queensland. Government had no say in the matter at all. I warn the Commonwealth Government that it is doing the worst possible thing in setting up in this way, in different parts of Australia, communities which will never assimilate with the Australians surrounding them, but will remain apart, speaking their own language, having their own newspapers, and forcing Australian Governments to issue their proclamations in two or three languages. I say that that ought to stop instanter. Not another one of these people should be brought into this country. I wish to say further to the Government that we shall oppose - and in this we believe we have the people of Australia behind us - even one migrant being brought into this country who will need a job when he comes into it, until first every capable and willing Australian has a job. We are sure that, if the Government adopts that policy, it will not have to ask or plead for migrants. Rather will migrants of our own blood, aspirations and ideals, and sharing our belief in democratic institutions, pour into Australia. They will come here in thousands, once the Government can declare that in this country there is no need for an able and willing man to be unemployed.
Another paragraph in the speech is -
My Ministers have under consideration proposals for affording to the licensees of B class broadcasting stations a greater measure of security of tenure. Legislation on this matter will be submitted to Parliament.
With all respect, I remind the PostmasterGeneral that I have asked, in this chamber, for a record of the revenue of B class broadcasting stations, the names of the people who own them, the amounts they paid for their licences, and their tenure, and have been told in reply that it is impossible to obtain any particulars of their revenue. If the paragraph that I have quoted means that the Government intends to make the present condition of those licensees better than it is to-day, then a definite swindle is being perpetrated upon the listeners-in of this country. The B class stations are making thousands upon thousands of pounds of profit, and should never have been allowed to come under private commercial control. Most of the broadcasting services of this country, outside the national network, are now controlled by the great nationalist newspapers. We cannot, or should not, allow wireless and broadcasting to be other than a Government undertaking. Will we never profit by the experience and the conduct of other countries in this connexion? I suggest that the Postmaster-General should direct one of his officers to supply him with a summarized account of the situation in every other country. That information should be easily obtainable. I hope the matter will receive the consideration of the Government. I sincerely regret that I am unable to compliment the Government upon the Governor-General’s Speech, or the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply upon the remarks they made in submitting it to the. Senate.
. -Honorable senators will perhaps forgive me if, by comparison with the last speaker, I make my remarks in a minor key. The assembling of a new parliament must cause, in the not too insensitive member, a diversity of feelings. First, one’s thoughts turn to those colleagues to whom the electors have not been so kind as one would wish. Their impending departure will result,I am sure, in depriving this chamber of the’ benefit of their knowledge and counsel, and will leave honorable senators bereft of associates from whom little that was not kindly and helpful has emanated. In this, I disregard, as I must, the variations in political outlook as voiced by the parties represented in this chamber. In the second place, a contemplation of the prospective gaps in the ranks of the thirty and six is apt to remind one of his own possible fate should the electors be led into error, not necessarily as the result of one’s sins of commission or omission, but rather through the overpersuasiveness of some at present unknown aspirant for public service. Nevertheless, in this regard, I am assured by those of much wider worldly wisdom and experience than my own that it was ever thus, and that little is to be gained by indulging in vain regrets, for, though many are called, few are chosen. Before I leave the personal aspect of the elections, I should like to congratulate those who have been successful at the polls, and particularly to join with others in welcoming Senator Cunningham, a colleague of mine from Western Australia, who has had considerable j> rliamentary and ministerial experience, and will, I am sure, contribute much of value to our deliberations, and make his mark upon this assembly. 1 must, too, add my congratulations to the two senators who have been promoted to ministerial office, and express the hope that success will reward the ability and energy displayed by them in their willing efforts for the better government, of the country.
Passing on to other matters, the will of the people - and here I reiterate what has already been said by two previous speakers - as expressed through the ballot-box, may be accepted as an indication that the good work of the Lyons Government has met with approval, and that, consequently, it is desirable that it should proceed further along its set path, leading to security, internal peace, and development. No one may make a calm and dispassionate survey of Australia and its existing conditions, in comparison with the financial and industrial chaos of seven years ago, and fail to be genuinely astonished at the remarkable recovery that has been made. I need not cite figures. Every honorable senator knows that there are large stocks of useful groups on which to draw. But the improvement is sensed ; it is noticeable in the appearance of the people, in the smaller number of unemployed, in the savings bank deposits, in the increased patronage of amusements and the luxury trades, and the greater stability and resilience in the finances of the States. Apart from these telling factors, there is the beneficial advance in our external trade and relations, and, by no means least of all, the increased prestige of the nation in the eyes of the world, consequent upon the successful emergence from a great ordeal, and a conscientious observance of obligations despite a period of great stress. This result, as every one knows, has not been attained without considerable sacrifice and suffering on the part of the people.
In many respects, Australia is a most favoured country. To no small extent its geographical position leaves it free to work for its own ends. It has a congenial climate, great natural wealth, and a homogeneous people, fundamentally sound in politics, possessed of vision and progressive in ideals. Here is an excellent field for good government and all that that phrase may convey. Australia is deserving of it, and I am sure that honorable senators opposite desire this as much as we on this side do. If I may say so, and I hope to be believed, I am by no means opposed to Labour ideals, nor, I think, are many other honorable senators who move about the world with their eyes and ears open, for I am convinced that, during the last 80 years, the activity and entry into the legislatures of direct representatives of industry has had a most beneficial effect upon the social life of communities. This applies particularly to Australia, but, at the present stage, the prospects are brighter with a truly national party in power. My reason for this deduction is that, at ths moment, we are confronted with issues of great importance with which .Labour, as at present constituted, cannot successfully deal. If I may offer this criticism, the rank and file of labour, conspicuously active in the management of caucus, fails in comprehension of the larger things which are really important to the lives of the people, and gives more weight than is justified to matters of less degree, or domestic matters peculiar to its own organizations. It is not that we are entirely without such hindrances ourselves, but there is this compensation, that the supporters of the Government concede greater liberty of action to the leaders elected to guide and direct the affairs of the nation. One wishes well for the leaders of the party in opposition, but if a search is made through the records of the last dozen years or so, there will be found many indications of opportunities lost, and also opportunities marred. But, as I have said, we are, and I hope will remain, a progressive community. We are learning tolerance, and can cultivate understanding, without which no party can command the goodwill of the people and govern successfully.
As regards this chamber, there seems to be a desire for some alteration in the system of election of its members, or, alternatively, in the methods of voting at such elections; it is quite true, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that this desire’ has become peculiarly vocal recently. The last appeal to the people has furnished some extraordinary instances of confusion, or failure to understand what is required of an elector, and, therefore, one must welcome the proposal of the Prime Minister to take some action towards a clarification of the electoral system. At the same time, I do hope that the great value to the nation of the Senate will not be under-emphasized, but that it will, on the contrary, be even more clearly shown that the true interests and rights of the States can be promoted and conserved only by a refusal to allow any interference with the status and powers of the chamber especially provided in the Constitution for the States’ protection.
As to the immediate future, the task confronting the Government is no light one. Finance must, as always, need the strongest and most cunning guiding hand. The improvements of recent years should be maintained, and the tendency to increase expenditure curtailed. The forthcoming loan conversion may cause some temporary anxiety, but, our credit being what it is, the issue is beyond doubt. Revenue has been abundantly forthcoming, but merely as the result of taxation in various forms. Taxation is still a heavy burden upon every section of the people, and some relief beyond that already afforded by the Government is urgently necessary. At the same time I am not unmindful of the commitments of the Administration ; and those commitments are not lessened by the seemingly never-ending claims made by the States for more and more assistance.
It is gratifying to note the improvement of our export trade. From a rough survey of world conditions it would appear that the avenues for expansion lie in countries to the north of Australia, but cannot well be exploited because of the present disturbed conditions there.
The accepted policy of protection for our secondary industries ensures a continuance of their satisfactory development, but I again urge a constant and watchful regard for the interests of the smaller States upon which this policy does to some extent, react unfavorably, and even harshly. Here it might not be out of place to pay a tribute to the work of the Tariff Board. Its proceedings range over an extensive area, and one cannot justly withhold commendation because of the beneficial results achieved in many instances. So far as Western Australia is concerned, the primary industries must occupy an important place in my consideration. I am glad that improved prices and the promise of a good season have given much-needed encouragement to the sorely pressed farmers. Operations under the Farmers Debt Adjustment Act have been controlled by a board, which has secured excellent results in the utilization of the money made available for relief by this Parliament. Great benefit has also been derived from the concessions made in respect of the use of fertilizers. I hope that the fertilizer subsidy will be continued so that pastures may be further improved and grazing areas extended. It is natural to assume that there has been some investigation of tlie possibility of protecting producers against losses arising from droughts, floods, pests and other evils that beset their operations. The economic dislocation occasioned by these recurring afflictions is so far-reaching in its effects that the Government would be justified - indeed, it would be an essay in pure statesmanship - in taking any practicable measures to improve general conditions and ensure more stable prospects. The distress suffered by the wheat industry ls comparatively well known, as are also the measures authorized by this Parliament to alleviate it. I believe that the help afforded has been greatly appreciated, but I regret that the Government of Western Australia has v.ot done all that it might have done in the same direction.
But it is with the pastoral industry that I particularly wish to deal at the moment. Those who control it display a high standard of public ethics; they have refrained from unduly forcing upon the Government their claims for special consideration. By way of illustration, I shall relate what has happened in Western Australia as a result of the bad seasons of the last few years. The sheep shorn in the pastoral areas of Western Australia in 1935 numbered 5,448,677, and they produced a clip of 41,801,975 lb. of wool. The figures for 1936 were 3,558,295 sheep and a clip of 21,798,970 lb. of wool. The drought between the 1935 and 1936 shearings therefore accounted for a loss of 1,S90,372 sheep and 20,003,005 lb. of wool, representing respectively losses of 34.7 per cent, and 47.6 per cent. Those figures relate only to the pastoral areas. Moreover, since the 1936 shearing substantial losses, which it is impossible yet to estimate, have occurred. Even now, although bountiful rains have definitely broken the drought in a large portion of the pastoral areas of Western Australia, in other parts of the State, principally the Western Gascoyne district, south of Carnarvon, and portions of the Murchison and Eastern Goldfields, where the country is not in a position to withstand another dry summer, there is urgent need of good soaking rains. Whilst the figures which I have quoted cover the industry as a whole, there have been numerous individual cases in which the losses have been disastrous, amounting in many instances to as much as 90 per cent, of the flocks. The task of reconstructing the depleted flocks is a formidable one, and, even were finance available, it is impossible to see where sheep of the type required could be obtained. One of the most serious aspects of the problem is that many properties have not had lambs on them for three years, and, consequently, there are no young sheep coming on from which, to breed. Some time ago Senator Cooper related similar setbacks to the pastoral industry in Queensland. It would be interesting to know what action, if any, the Government contemplates to deal with this problem.
From what I have said it will be evident to honorable senators that the claim of Western Australia for special financial assistance is well founded. The pastoral industry of that State is most valuable to Australia, since it contributes largely to revenue, and provides employment in many directions radiating from the great stations in the northern parts of the State. It is, therefore, incumbent on any government to consider earnestly the provision of adequate protection to this, as well as other branches of primary production.
Coming now to the responsibilities and intentions of the Government in regard to other domestic . matters, I urge the early completion of the promised scheme of social insurance. The people are asking for it, and, indeed, are expecting it. I am somewhat surprised that the Opposition should disregard the natural pride and self-respect of the worker by advocating a non-contributory scheme.
Disregarding for the moment external affairs, the major issues confronting any Australian Government to-day are the pressing problems of the improvement of public health, the completion of a scheme of national insurance, and the satisfactory absorption of youth into its true position in the community. I admit that, to deal with these subjects successfully, the closest and friendliest cooperation between the Commonwealth and the States is necessary; but surely on no other points of policy in administration should agreement be easier or more cordial. I repeat that Australia is particularly favoured in many respects, and that, consequently, we should aim at the maximum of social security, thereby affording to succeeding generations opportunities as free as possible from handicaps. Probably ni.ist honorable senators, in their work as representatives of the people, have realised the need for a better atmosphere for the conduct of negotiations between the Commonwealth and State governments. I am confident that the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), and, indeed, all Ministers, realize this need, and will leave nothing undone to bring about the desired condition. In that connexion much is expected from the Inter-State Commission Bill when it emerges in statute form. Goodwill on both sides is a valuable asset; but, if State governments, through lack of candour, will thrust upon the Commonwealth Government at election time the blame for the shortcomings of their own administration, little improvement can be expected.
I congratulate the Prime Minister oh being returned to lead his Government for a further term. The election has shown that, apart from their attitudes towards a vital principle of national defence, the platforms of the political parties, as voiced by the general body of candidates, were not greatly different. Apparently the Opposition claimed that, had it been in power, it would have acted with greater expedition ; it would have achieved greater results, and would have spent more of the taxpayers’ money ; but its claim was not accepted by the electors - at any rate, not in its entirety - and to-day’s happy position is the result.
Despite the remarks of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), as to what constitutes good taste, I must express regret that, before long, the Parliament will lose the services of yourself, Mr. President, and of Senator Pearce. As a comparative newcomer to this chamber, I speak with diffidence; but any one looking back on your long record of labours for your State and the Commonwealth must realize that courage and integrity, combined with knowledge and eloquence - all of which qualities you, Mr. President, have proved that you possess - will have their just “recognition in the high regard in which your name will always be held by the people of your adopted country. Similarly, who can set bounds to the profit to the nation, or assess the merit and standard of the counsel and work of Senator Pearce in his 37 years of parliamentary life - the greater part of which has been spent as a member of the King’s Government in
Australia? From my personal experience and knowledge, I can speak of one phase of his work. I say that, as Minister for Defence during the whole period of the Great War, he carried a responsibility unequalled in the Empire since the days of the younger Pitt. He controlled a department which raised, equipped, transported overseas, and maintained in the field, forces greater than any force hitherto engaged in . the wars of Britain. The Australian Imperial Force knows, or knew, that whilst abroad it was fed, equipped, paid, and cared for, on a plane unequalled by any of the Allies. In return, the force, by its battle discipline and achievements, brought high renown to the Commonwealth, and at the same time reflected great credit upon its political administrator. I am sure that should you, Mr. President, and Senator Pearce again seek and gain the suffrages of the people, you will be warmly welcomed back to this chamber. On the other hand, should you desire rest and seclusion, then every one here will wish you many years of health, happiness and honour.
Debate (on motion by Senator Courtice) adjourned.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 28a I lay on the table my warrant nominating Senators J. Cunningham, A. K. Dein, C. W. Grant and J. B. Hayes a panel to act as Temporary Chairmen of Committees, when requested so to do by the Chairman of Committees, or when, the Chairman of Committees is absent.
– Pursuant to Standing Order 38 I lay on the table my warrant nominating the following senators to he a Committee of Disputed Returns and Qualifications ^Senators J. S. Collings, T. W. Crawford, W. G. Gibson, J. F. Guthrie, H. J. M. Payne, W. Plain and O. Uppill.
Senate adjourned at 5.53 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 1 December 1937, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1937/19371201_senate_15_155/>.