15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Senator BRAND brought up the report of the Public Works Committee on the’ proposed erection of a hospital at Darwin, Northern Territory.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the Senate whether the operation of the New South Wales starting-price legislation has had any effect on the volume of telegraphic business transacted at the Canberra Post Office? How many telegrams were received at Canberra during the week-end for tipping organizations, and does the Commonwealth Government propose to take any action to prevent these organizations from circumventing the New South Wales legislation ?
– I have been informed that a considerable volume of business was done at the- Canberra Post Office on Saturday last. Appropriate steps are being taken to fall into line with the New South Wales legislation, but it involves the amendment of a Canberra ordinance.
Profits and Holdings
– On Wednesday, the 28th September, Senator Clothier asked the Minister representing the Treasurer the following questions, upon notice -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers : -
Commonwealth Bank - Half to Bank Reserve Fund; half to National Debt finikin;.’Fund.
Note Issue Department - To Commonwealth Consolidated Revenue Fund.
Rural Credits Department - Half to Rural
Credits Development Fund; half to Rural Credits Department Reserve Fund.
Commonwealth Savings Bank - Half to Savings Bank Reserve Fund: hall” to National Debt Sinking Fund.
5 and6. Real commercial values could only be determined by actual sales.
. - by leave - read a statement which was made simultaneously in the House of Representatives by the Acting Leader of the House (Sir Earle Page) (vide page 388), laid on the table a copy of the Munich Agreement, and moved -
That the paper be printed.
– by leave - It, is satisfactory to the Opposition that the Government has seen fit to make, in this chamber, the statement which the Leader of the Senate (Senator A. J. McLachlan) has just read.
It is proper that the Parliament should be consulted at all times before this country is pledged to any act of major policy. The Opposition has always demanded this consultation, but, unfortunately, it has all too rarely been conceded. Too often the country has been committed behind the backs of the elected representatives of the people. I am sure that I am voicing the feeling of every honorable senator when I say how intensely relieved we all were when it was found last week that, almost at zero hour, war, which previously had seemed so imminent, . had been averted. War was averted by negotiation. Labourbelieves to-day, as it has alwaysbelieved, in peace by negotiation - not negotiation after the last cannon has roared forth its message of death, and bombs and gas have wreaked their frightful havoc upon innocent citizens, but before such things begin. Every war, irrespective of its duration, must end some day; and always, when that day comes, and the armistice is declared, the terms of settlement have to be arrived at by negotiation. When we look back over the sad years 1914 to 1918 and recall the unreasoning hatred engendered in the hearts of men, the fearful destruction of human life, of property, and of all decent human virtues and values ; when we think of the frightful harvest of death, disease and suffering which those years of travail bequeathed to the world; when we remember how mothers and sisters, wives and sweethearts waited in silent anguish for news of their loved ones, too many of whom were never to return, how can we feel other than the greatest relief and satisfaction that war has been averted? It is our fervent hope- I speak for every member of the Opposition - that this peace by negotiation in which we all rejoice may prove but the prelude to a new world order, a new era in which all national and international differences and difficulties may be solved, not by the always cruel and indecisive arbitrament of force, but by the saner, wiser and more Christian methods of the roundtable conference. Not every one will be satisfied with the details of the happenings in recent months. That is only to be expected; but one thing is certain, namely, that the whole world is happier to-day, that its people breathe more freely in the present and look forward more hopefully to the future, because war has been averted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
What stops have been taken to establish an aerodrome in the Riverina?
SenatorFOLL. - The Minister for Defence has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question : -
There are already many civil aerodromes established in theRiverina and it is, therefore, presumed that the honorable senator’s inquiry related to the site for a ‘projected new flying training school for the Royal Australian Air Force. Such a school, when established, would, for defence reasons, be located in the southeastern portion of Australia. Inspections have been made of various areas, including some in the Riverina.,but no decision has yet been reached.
Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has furnished the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Assent to the following bills re ported : -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1038.
Income Tax Bill 1938.
Supply Bill (No. 2) 1938-39.
Debate resumed from the 26th September(vide page 159), on motion by SenatorFoll -
That the papers be printed.
.- During this debate I shall endeavour to avoid discussing those subjects with which I dealt when speaking on the Supply Bill. I notice that the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) in his budget speech said -
In regard to employment in Australia, the average trade union unemployment percentage In 1030-37 was 10.C and in 1937-38 it was 8.5. A slight increase occurred in the last quarter of the financial year, the latest available figure being8.6 per cent.
Another important portion of the budget speech is that which refers to. the aggregate Australian public debt. Upon this subject the Treasurer stated -
The movement in the aggregate public debt of the Commonwealth and States since the Lyons Government assumed office in December, 1031, is as follows: -
Like the statement regarding unemployment, these figures allow the Government unctuously to declare that it alone has done this thing. The basis in this case also is wrong, and, therefore, the assumption of the Government also must be wrong. The Treasurer very carefully omitted to state that the Loan Council controls Commonwealth and State borrowings, and as the Commonwealth, through the Loan Council, has made itself entirely responsible for the money made available to the States; therefore, it cannot truthfully be said that the Commonwealth public debt has been reduced by £7,084,000. Of course, the argument used is that the indebtedness of the States has increased whilst that of the Commonwealth has decreased. The figures do not show the position correctly.
I again wish to refer to a matter which has an important bearing on a very vital part of Australia’s policy. The Treasurer stated -
The principal factor which contributed to the excess revenue was customs and excise revenue. The budget estimate for these revenue items was £44.500.000. mid the actual revenue £48,883.000, an increase of £3.883,000. Tlie difficulty of estimating customs and excise revenue is well known. The improvement over the estimate in iti) is case was due to circumstances which could not bc foreseen.
I point out that these allegedly- unforeseen circumstances occur year after year and always for the same reason. How much longer they are to remain unforeseen I do not know. The budget statement continues -
Internal conditions continued very buoyant during 1937-38, despite the decline of export prices. Imports for the year just closed amounted to £112,000,000 sterling, compared with £91,000,000 sterling for the previous year.
The tremendous decline of export prices is very sinister. It indicates that our trading position has gone to the bad to the amount of approximately “£21,500,000. I admit that we must import some commodities, as one honorable senator interjected during my speech on the Supply Bill. These include machinery and raw materials not procurable in Australia, but necessary for the development of our manufacturing industries; but after making full allowance for these goods, I point out that this ever-recurring under-estimate of revenue from imports means that the tariff covering these imports is not protecting Australian industries - that it is largely a revenue-producing tariff. No one will deny that this decline of £24,500,000 in our trade balance as compared with the previous year connotes a dastardly blow struck at Australian industries. “When I speak, of Australian industries, I do, not envisage only the manufacturers engaged in them, whatever their faults may be. If they do not pay regard to the interests of the consumers of the goods and services which they deliver, that is a matter which the National Parliament should resolve. It is competent for the Commonwealth Parliament to protect Australian consumers from predatory vested interests. Australian manufacturers are rendering a great service to this country, because they are fostering and developing those secondary industries that are so essential to the economic life of the nation. Therefore they are entitled to adequate protection. They are entitled also to know what is Australia’s policy and not to have it served to them piecemeal, as I some- times complain in respect of other items of policy, mainly through the daily newspapers. Our manufacturers are entitled to an assurance of a definite and continuous policy of rational protection for rational industries. They should not for ever have to depend on. the whim of a tariff ‘board or of some combination of overseas importers, or a wobbling and wavering government which does noi know how to maintain peace between a Country party which wants everything it imports at free-trade rates and to sell everything at protected rates, and the United Australia party which, unlike the Labour party, believes in a revenueproducing tariff rather than a protective tariff.
I turn now to offer some comments on the Government scheme of national insurance, which is dealt with in the budget statement. I notice that the Government proposes to spend £90,000 in payments to approved societies of ls. for every member enrolled. I suggest to those administering the national insurance policy - a. policy which is anathema to the Labour party and will, we believe, be very difficult to administer - that this proposal to spend £90,000 in paying to approved societies ls. for every member enrolled is not only a waste of public money, but is also a very unsatisfactory procedure. The Government should express to the National Insurance Commission its disapproval of this procedure; at least it should ask for further information in view of the “ statements which I am about to make. The allocation of public money to this extent and for this purpose is producing a very serious result. It is causing intense competition which, for its savagery, may be likened to the scalp hunting of the American Indians in the earlier years of colonization of the United States of America.
– The Indians were mihi in comparison with these people.
– The majority of these approved societies are either friendly societies or trade unions.
– I know that, and I hope Senator Foll does not think he has said anything that hits me in a tender spot, although I know he would do that with impunity. Organizations sucking registration as approved societies are issuing flamboyant advertisements in order to increase their membership. I have the greatest admiration for the voluntary work which friendly societies have done during the last half century, and done better probably than the National Insurance Commission will ever do. Trade unions also have had vast experience in administrative work, some of it of this very nature. But this does not alter the fact that these bodies, friendly societies and trade unions, are now out after one another’s scalps. Their efforts are not directed towards benefiting workers who will bc compulsorily insured after the 1st January next, but are merely aimed at getting the better of one another, and persuading Mr. Jones that the conditions of insurance offered by the body which they represent are superior to those offered by other organizations. This, of course, is impossible under the conditions of the act. If this savage competition is allowed to continue, nothing but disaster can result.
Another paragraph in the budget -speech is as follows: -
Last year. £200,000 was provided in grants to tlie States to assist them in providing technical training and securing skilled employment for youths. This year, the Government proposes to make provision for a further amount of £200,000 for the same purpose.
That means, not an additional grant, but ;i repetition of last year’s grant, and it seems to me that the amount is far too meagre.
– It says “ a further amount,” which, I take it, means £400,001) altogether.
– The honorable senator, in his loyalty to his Government, is regarding the matter through io.<e-co loured spectacles. I hope that he is correct in his reading of the paragraph, hut I fear that he is not. The Government has not acted logically in this matter. It proposes this year to grant £200,000 to the States to assist r hein in. providing technical training and securing skilled employment for youths. This suggests that there are youths for whom this employment is urgently necesary ; yet, at the same time, the Government is receiving thousands of applications from persons on the other side of the world who desire to migrate to Australia, and it is approving of the entrance into the Commonwealth of new workers from abroad. It may be contended that the unemployed youths in Australia have no work because they are not technically competent. If that be true, the Government is blameworthy. For the last six years, it has in policy speeches promised to introduce schemes to remove unemployment. But these promises were fraudulent, for the Government has done nothing to relieve the position of this lost legion of youths, and now it proposes to make available the meagre sum of £200,000. Not one of the migrants who are being brought hero should be admitted while good Australians have to cool their heels in enforced idleness. Whenever a migrant who needs a job is allowed to land in Australia, employment can be found for him only by the displacement of an Australian. There is no escape from that fact.
I desire to pay a tribute to the good work being done by the Canberra Tourist Bureau. The officer in charge has tha assistance of a typist, and both are exceedingly capable employees, but I hope that the Government will note the fact that a. tourist bureau worthy of Canberra cannot be conducted by such a small staff. Much more money than is now made available should be spent on this burea,u, because, if the staff were enlarged, very valuable work could be done in increasing the tourist trade of the Australian Capital Territory. It was stated in the Sydney Morning Herald that 50,000 persons visited Canberra over the holiday week-end. That is an over-estimate, of course. A more modest estimate was that the visitors numbered 20,000 and frantic appeals had to be made over the air for private individuals to take strangers into their homes, because the hotel and other accommodation was quite inadequate. It is astonishing that the Commonwealth Government, with all the’ revenue at its disposal, should issue such an appeal to private citizens. The Government should see that sufficient accommodation is provided in Canberra to house not. only visitors from the various States, but also the young public servants who desire to marry and reside in their own homes.
An allowance is provided in tlie Estimates for the Australian Travel Association, which does remarkably good work. In 1936-37, the Government made available to this body the sum of £15,000, and this year the proposed expenditure is £20,000. The association’s illustrated publication Walk About does credit to it; in fact, I have nothing but approval to express of the work of the association generally. I desire to know, however, what control the Government has over the expenditure of this £20,000. No association should be granted such a large sum without some measure of government supervision of its expenditure. Is the association called upon to submit particulars of its receipts and expenditure? Does it submit an annual report to the Minister?
I have received correspondence in regard to the payments made to superannuated members of the Commonwealth Public Service. On various occasions I have wished to raise this matter, but I have had no earlier opportunity to do so. In 1931, the financial emergency legislation imposed reductions of income upon all sections of the community. Ex-members of the Commonwealth Public Service, whose superannuation payments were reduced, have since had their payments restored to the original amounts, but no refund has been made of the sums deducted. The action taken in regard to those reductions was not on all fours with that in relation to other reductions made at that time. For instance, parliamentary allowances were reduced, and I expressed my objection in no uncertain terms. I told my electors that I had been swindled, and that I would not be happy until the money taken from me had been restored. A measure of restoration was asked for and obtained. The point I wish to make is that the Government made a contract with these superannuated public servants under which they became compulsory contributors to the superannuation fund on the understanding that when they retired at -a certain age, or under certain conditions, they would receive definite payments from the fund in accordance with the contract. For seven years those payments were reduced, although the payments originally agreed upon are now being made. These persons contend, and I think properly, that restoration should be made to them of the sums by which they were underpaid.
– What amount would be involved?
– If events in the international sphere had taken a certain turn last week, the Government would have made arrangements to spend a sum of money by comparison with which the amount *due to retired public servants would be a mere bagatelle. It is the job of the Government to find out how it can pay back to these persons the money stolen from them during the last seven years.
– No insurance company would be permitted to do what has been done.
– No. Certain insurance companies were acting in such a manner in connexion with industrial policies that prompt action was taken in Queensland to see that they did not get away with the loot.
Senator Brown and I had something to say recently about insurance societies. The . Australian Insurance J ournal published a scathing criticism, and declared that many false statements were made regarding these companies during the passage through the Parliament of the National Health and Pensions Insurance Bill. It further remarked that the worst offenders were Senators Brown and Collings. I immediately instructed my secretary to ask that a copy of the journal be forwarded to me. Friends had remarked to me, “ Surely you are not going to take that lying down “. My friend, Senator Brown, was absent in Darwin at the time, discharging his duties as a member of the Public Works Committee. When the copy of the journal reached me it contained a slip of paper stating, in effect. “ This is a statement we propose to issue next week in regard to the statement made in our issue of last week “. Of course, this journal had not thought of making any further statement until it received my telephone message asking for a copy of the paper. It went on to say not only that Senator Brown and I were the worst offenders, but also that it hoped we had offended innocently. That is what it hoped, but the suggestion was there that we had done it deliberately. I instructed ray lawyers to take the matter up. They wrote to the publishers and to the printers of this paper, and also to the secretary threatening action for damages if the statements were not immediately withdrawn. In reply, I received a sidetracking sort of letter in which it was said that the statement proposed to bo made would be ample as far as this journal was concerned, but it was not ample as far as I was concerned, and the owners have now agreed to publish a humble apology in half a dozen newspapers, including the Canberra Times, and to pay my costs in the matter. I mention this matter merely in passing, because of the interjection that no insurance company would be allowed to “get away” with an act of repudiation.
A statement prepared on behalf of the superannuated Commonwealth public servants affected by these reductions reads : -
In July, 1931, the Commonwealth Financial Emergency Act provided for the reduction of Commonwealth superannuation pensions and in October, 1033, these pensions were restored to their original levels. Not any refunds, however, were made o£ the amounts deducted from pension payments during the 28 months the reductions continued.
When the financial stability of the Government was completely restored and surpluses were disclosed in the annual balance-sheets, the Government was appealed to for refunds on the grounds that the withholding of amounts due to superannuated officers and widows was a breach of agreement by the Government after the officers concerned had fully and faithfully completed their contractual obligations in respect to the purchase of the pensions -which were subsequently reduced.
It will be seen that the contract in respect of superannuation differs from that applying to .the payments to members of Parliament inasmuch as we have not delivered the services for which reduced payment was made. These Commonwealth public servants have stood up to their contractual obligations, and now they present a strong case for further consideration of their claims.
Recently the Commonwealth Treasurer in reply to a communication referring to this matter stated “ it is not to be seen how these refunds could be accomplished without making similar restorations in the case of every other reduction imposed under the financial emergency legislation.”
That statement is a fallacy. An oldage pensioner had his pension reduced, but he had not paid anything directly into Commonwealth revenue in order to qualify for a pension. No reduction was made of something in respect of which he had made some payment. He was merely told that in future, for a term at any rate, his pension would be a smaller amount. Similarly we, as members of Parliament, had not completed the work we had contracted to do. We went on doing our work, but we had not completed our contract, and, therefore, there was nothing wrong contractually in the Government’s decision confirmed by Parliament that for the next twelve months or so we should not be paid as much as previously. The remainder of the statement reads -
It was pointed out to the Treasurer that the Government should bc guided by fairness and equity in respect to our claims rather than by political expediency and attention was drawn to some of the reasons set out in this statement, why refunds to superannuated officers should be made, but the Government refused to vary its decision, viz., that full restoration could not be allowed.
It seems unjust that the discrimination against retired public servants, as disclosed in this case, should be continued. The contention of the Government that we should consent to our incomes being reduced similarly with the incomes of other sections of the community during a depression, is unsound, because our incomes arc not increased in prosperous times, as arc the incomes of others affected by cost of living bases and trade expansion, &c. The Commonwealth Superannuation Act does not permit superannuated officers participating in “.prosperity loadings” provided by arbitration courts, and they, therefore, should not be called upon to accept “ depression unload.ings “ on the grounds that others who enjoy “ prosperity loadings “ are required to do so.
The Commonwealth financial emergency reduction of superannuation pensions was much more severe than the reductions provided for in the financial emergency legislation of any of the States. There is not any State superannuation scheme operating in Western Australia or Tasmania, but in other States where superannuation funds have been established exemptions were provided for as follows: -
In South Australia the first two units of superannuation pensions - £52 per annum - were exempted from reduction. In Victoria the first four units - £104 per annum - were exempted and in New South Wales no reductions of superannuation pensions were made.
Of the pensions which ‘ were reduced under the Financial Emergency Act, 00 per cent. were at the rate of £2 per week or less and widows’ pensions averaged 24s. per week, though many, of course, were considerably below that amount.
In almost every ease the percentage reduction of superannuation pensions was greater than that of old-age pensions and many superannuation pensions were reduced to an amount less than the reduced old-age pensions.
The reductions made in public servants’ salaries were relatively much less severe than the reductions in the majority of the superannuation pensions. In sections10 and 11 of the Financial Emergency Act, it is provided that- “ The annual salary of an adult male officer or employee or of a married male officer or employee, who is not an adult, shall not be reduced below one hundred and eighty two pounds per annum.” but reductions in superannuation pensions were made even when such pensions were as small as £26 per annum and in respect to children, £13 per annum.
Payments by public servants to the superannuation fund are compulsory and must be made even during periods of leave of absence without pay and section 81 of the Superannuation Act provides that the board may recover contributions under the act in any court of competent jurisdiction. There is not any section, however, which provides that retired officers or their widows and children can recover pensions under the act in any court of competent jurisdiction, and we are, therefore, compelled to submit cur claims to the court of. public opinion through its representatives in the Federal Parliament.
The failure of the Government to honour its contractual obligations in respect to the insurance scheme, represented by the Commonwealth Superannuation Act, raises the question as to what provision the Government proposes to make in its National Insurance scheme to ensure that those who contribute for a pension on some specified conditions, will receive the amount of pension agreed upon, when payments become due.
Although it is known that the Government is receiving many requests for participation in the distribution of the surplus from each year’s operations, it is thought that not any are more deserving of favorable consideration, than the appeal of retired public servants, whose pensions were sosubstantially reduced at. a time when employment for themselves and their children was practically unobtainable and when many were required to meet financial commitments, undertaken in the belief that their superannuation pensions were secure from interference.
This statement represents a very full and fair outline of the case for the superannuated Commonwealth public servants affected by these reductions, and I am very anxious that even at this late hour, they should be recouped the amounts taken from them over a period of 28 months.
– As banking legislation is included in the programme of the Government forecast in this budget, I draw the attention of honorable senators to the statement made by the Prime Minister of Great Britain, Mr. Chamberlain, in the House of Commons, regarding proposed financial assistance to Czechoslovakia. Mr. Chamber- lain said that realizing that economic chaos would follow the transfer of the Sudeten territory to Germany, his government was prepared to lend £30,000,000 to the government of Czechoslovakia ; the Bank of England would advance the money, and would be reimbursed by the British Government. I emphasize that this money will be the usual bank credit created out of nothing, and will be added to the national debt of Great Britain, on which the British taxpayer will haveto pay interest in perpetuity.
– I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on the budget he has presented on this occasion. It is very pleasing to note that he has realized the effect of public finance upon the private economy of the community. We have learned much from the depression. We realize now that, if business is to be kept on an even keel, the public finances must be so administered that money will be spent in times of depression and savings will be made in times of prosperity. The Commonwealth Government has pursued that course over the last few years. When the country has been reasonably prosperous, and employment has been about normal, it has taken the opportunity to repay as much as possible of its public debt. I now urge it to be on the alert for the first signs of recession, of which the first result will be a slump of the purchasing power of the community. Other countries have not administered their public finances so well as has Australia. This country has been kept on a very even keel during the last few years, a general upward tendency, both in employment and business generally, being evident.
I note with pleasure the Treasurer’s statement that -
TheBoard of the Commonwealth Bank is carefully watching business activities for any signs of recession. With tlie helpful cooperation of manufacturers and others, the Board is in a position to keep itself promptly and fully informed of current trends and, within the limits of sound finance, can be relied upon to use appropriate central banking measures to assist in counteracting or lessening a decline in activity.
The Government cannot but be seised of the possibility of a recession occurring in the near future. Present prospects in respect of the wheat harvest show a distinct possibility of the purchasing power of the farmers declining by about £9,000,000 during the current year. lt becomes imperative, therefore, that this Government should take such measures as are necessary to maintain the purchasing power of the farming community at or about its past level. It has already intimated that it will carry out. the unanimous decision of the Premiers Conference to take such action as is necessary to maintain a payable price for wheat. .1 suggest that, in that respect, something more will have to be done than the mere implementing of a home-consumption price. The statement by the Treasurer which .1 have just read reveals the intention of the Government, should the necessity arise, to take steps to enable the farmers during next year, and succeeding years, to receive a reasonable price.
– Seasonable price for wheat?
– For wheat, or any other commodity, the price of which shows a sharp decline in any one year. As I stated on a previous occasion, public finances should be managed in such a way as to maintain the purchasing power of the community upon a fairly even level, and this necessitates that governments shall do exactly what efficiently conducted businesses do in similar circumstances. In a commercial business, an efficient management builds up reserves in good years so as to maintain an even dividend over a period of bacl years. It saves in times of prosperity and spends in times of depression. I admit that it is difficult to forecast when a time of prosperity, or a time of depression, is ahead, hut certain danger signals are flying at the present time. A decline of the farmers’ purchasing power by something like £9,000,000 on account of the low price of wheat on the world’s markets would not only ruin our farmers but would also have the most serious repercussions upon the country storekeeper, the merchant and manufacturer,, and the business community generally.
– How does the honorable senator propose to increase the price ?
– It is possible to maintain a fair price for the farming community, and the Government has already undertaken to take such measures as are necessary to achieve that.
– Can the honorable senator state in a few words how it is to be done!
– It would take more than a few words to explain the proposal. For the information of the honorable senator I may say that the proposal is already in print.
– Can the honorable senator tell us the cause of prices declining ?
– I take it that the decline of the price of wheat is probably due to world over-production, together with the unsettling conditions overseas, which have caused a certain amount of nervousness in respect of purchasing for the future.
The Government is to be congratulated upon having achieved another surplus; not only has it steadily produced surpluses year after year, but it has also reduced its public debt. However, certain features of this budget are extremely dismal from the point of view of South Australia. Although I do not propose to adopt a parochial a ttitude in this chamber I recognize my responsibility as a senator. The Senate is the S feates’ ‘house ; in fact that was the name originally given to it. A senator’s responsibility first and foremost is to represent his State faithfully, and I regard my responsibility to South Australia as transcending my party allegiance; therefore, in respect of every piece of legislation introduced into this chamber I shall, whilst not forgetting my obligations as a member of a National Parliament, scrutinize it from the angle of its effect on the State I represent.
An examination of the budget almost makes one believe that South Australia has been selected for punishment. During the last two years the grant from the Commonwealth to that State. has been reduced by £500,000. Moreover, although
Commonwealth expenditure has increased in many directions, the amount expended on Commonwealth public works in South Australia during the last two years shows a reduction of over £100,000 as compared with the previous two years, whilst Commonwealth assistance to wheat-growers in that State was reduced by £400,000 in that period. In respect of those three items alone, the expenditure by the Commonwealth in South Australia shows a reduction of over £1,000,000 in comparison with the previous two years. The position would not be so bad if reductions of expenditure were necessary in every direction and in every State; but that is not the position, for, as I have pointed out, Commonwealth expenditure generally has increased tremendously during the last two years.
Another matter in “which South Australia is greatly interested is the subsidy on fertilizers. On Kangaroo Island and in the south-eastern portion of the State large areas of virgin country in high rainfall districts are being brought under cultivation. Considerable quantities of fertilizers are necessary to successful production. The decision of the Commonwealth Government to pay the subsidy in respect of only the first ten tons of fertilizer used, instead of the first twenty tons, as formerly, will seriously hamper the efforts of the pioneers who are opening up these districts. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that he approved of the altered basis of the subsidy, but if the honorable senator were to attempt to bring land in these new area under cultivation, he would realize that large quantities of fertilizers are essential.
– I did not say that I approved of the reduction; I said that I would not oppose it.
– Any person who undertook an impartial investigation of the conditions prevailing in South Australia and Western Australia, where virgin country is being brought under production, would realize that the alteration of the basis for the payment of the fertilizer subsidy is not justified.
In South Australia the belief that the smaller and weaker States do not receive justice from the Commonwealth Government is widely held. The com plaint is against all Commonwealth governments, both past and present. The secession movement in Western Australia was evidence of that sense of injustice. That does not mean, however, that the people in the weaker States have a parochial outlook. The electors of South Australia value federation as much as do the people in the eastern States, but they are of the opinion that, at times, the weight of numbers influences the expenditure of Commonwealth money to the detriment of the less thickly populated States of South Australia, Western Australia and Tasmania.
The Estimates indicate that £32,000 is to be expended by the Commonwealth in establishing at the University of Sydney, a Chair of Aeronautics, with a further £3,000 a year to cover maintenance, and also that the Government proposes to establish a professorship of meteorology at the Melbourne University. Whilst I do not criticize the expenditure of Commonwealth funds for such purposes, I point out that the proposals of the Government afford grounds for the complaint that the smaller States are overlooked in these matters. The Government has admitted that South Australia is the safest part of the Commonwealth from attack by an aggressor. One would think, therefore, that it would have established its munitions works in that State, instead of in places more exposed to attack. I do not criticize the amount of the proposed expenditure on. defence - indeed, if I did offer any criticism it would be that the amount is insufficient - nor do I baulk at the taxation which is necessary to finance the adequate defence of Australia ; but I am strongly of the opinion that these defence works should be established where they will be least likely to be attacked. Whenever the Commonwealth Government contemplates some new undertaking it seems to take for granted that Melbourne, Sydney or Newcastle will be the most suitable place for it. South Australia had an irresistible claim to have the Commonwealth aircraft factory established in its territory. Indeed, I have been reliably informed that the defence authorities recommended that the safest place for its erection was in South Australia, but that pressure was brought to bear to have the factory established in
Victoria. Any defence authority will readily admit that Spencer’s Gulf and St. Vincent’s Gulf, in South Australia, are the safest parts of Australia from a defence point of view. One would imagine that the wealthier States would be only too pleased to see the less fortunate States build up their own economy, so that they would not have to rely on grants from the Commonwealth. I admit that, in any federal system, some transfer from the Federal Government to the State governments is essential. Even in Great Britain, under a unified system, grants totalling millions of pounds are made by the central government to local governing bodies. The grants there vary according to the need, the basis being the same as that underlying grants by the Commonwealth to necessitous States. Our objective should be the building up of all the States to a uniform level.
SenatorFraser. - Does thehonorable senator believe in decentralization?
SenatorWILSON. - I am a strong believer in the decentralization of population and of industry, not only as between the various States of Australia, but also within the States themselves. The very policy of decentralization implies some transfer of finance from the federal authority to local governments. The existence of a Commonwealth Grants Commission provides the machinery for the making of such transfers. I submit that transfers should be necessary only for the marginal differences; that the object of the Commonwealth Parliament should be the building up of every State and of every part of every State, until finally, we achieved the state of affairs visualized by the framers of the Constitution, namely, that a subject of the Queen residing in one part of one State should not suffer any disability should he become a resident of another State. That was what the people were told was the spirit of the federation to which they were asked to agree. Every man, irrespective of the State in which he lived, or of the nature of his employment, or of the amount of his income, was to suffer no disability if he removed to another State. But has that ideal been reached? It has not. A man from South Australia may, by choosing to change his residence to a place over the border in Victoria, reduce his burden of taxation by one-half. Moreover, social services in some States are on a far higher scale than in other States. Honorable senators must not think that I am advocating unification. I believe that it would be disastrous to Australia in that it would have a tendency to centralize rather than to decentralize. At the same time, it is not beyond our power to provide a system of federal finance under which a citizen of the Commonwealth, in whatever part he may live, will have opportunities equal to those of citizens in other parts. We have the machinery, by means of Commonwealth grants, and a Commonwealth Government acting fairly towards all States, whereby equality of opportunity can be given to every citizen wherever he may reside. The tendency under the present system of federal finance is to build up wealth in certain States and to compensate others by doles.
– Is not the Government which the honorable senator supports responsible for that?
– The Government which I support has done a tremendous amount to provide equality of opportunity. It has done much more in that way than any previous government did.
– Then of what is the honorable senator complaining?
– Because it has not gone far enough. There are still inequalities as between the States, and it will be my endeavour to assist to remove them. Within the last fiveyears, 20,000 of South Australia’s natural population have migrated to the eastern States. To what will that lead? If the drift continues, a large proportion of our population will be concentrated on the eastern coast of the continent, while South Australia willbe practically empty. Commonwealth policy should be to decentralize. It should be the aim of this Government to strengthen the weaker States so that eventually they will be able to stand on their own feet. I trust that, in perhaps ten years, Western Australia, instead of being a weak State financially, will be one of the wealthiest and able to play its part in building up other States. Public finance should revolve in that way, the wealthier States building up the weaker States, and eventually provide equality of opportunity throughout the Commonwealth.
Although I may have been somewhat critical concerning certain aspects of the Government’s administration, I wish to make it clear that this Government has done more to help the less populous States than has any previous government. It has placed on the statute-book legislation to enable the system of Commonwealth grants to work satisfactorily. I support the Treasurer in respect of the budget, but I urge him to take particular notice of the stringent decrease of expenditure in South Australia, and realize that the Government is making it absolutely necessary for the Commonwealth Grants Commission to recommend increased grants in future. If, on the other hand, action were taken by this Government to increase the productivity ‘of the less populous States, future grants would tend to decrease rather than to increase.
The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) criticized the Treasurer for citing the percentage of unemployed trade unionists, as evidence of the state of unemployment in Australia. The honorable senator said that the union statistics are only a guide; but I remind him that no better guide is available. The last census confirmed those statistics by showing that the percentage of unemployed in the whole community is approximately the same as the percentage of unemployed trade unionists. I am quite sure that if the Leader of the Opposition were a member of a government he would use the statistics supplied by the union to prove whether unemployment was increasing or decreasing.
– I would, employ a iuotc reliable system.
– The Leader of the Opposition endeavoured to discount the Treasurer’s statement that the public debt of the Commonwealth has been reduced. His argument in that respect was unworthy of him. He claimed that as the Commonwealth is the final guarantor of all loans agreed to by the Loan Council, the whole of the debts of Australia are the debts of the Commonwealth, and that the public debt of the Commonwealth has not, in fact, been reduced by over £7,000,000. Surely these are the facts: The Commonwealth received certain moneys which it expended, and the States also received certain moneys which they expended.” New borrowings by the Commonwealth are less than the amount of old debt redeemed, so the Treasurer is correct in saying that the Commonwealth Government has reduced its public debt by over £7,000,000. The members of the Opposition may talk around this subject as much as they like, but they cannot distort the fact that within the last few years the Commonwealth Government has substantially reduced the national debt. The Leader of the Opposition also criticized the Treasurer for underestimating customs revenue. I should like to know whether the honorable senator can provide a formula for estimating more accurately the revenue from this source. He further asserted that the tariff is not sufficiently high to keep down the volume of imports. I presume that if the party to which the honorable senator belongs were in power it would introduce something in the nature of the Seullin prohibitory tariff.
Although there has been an adverse trade balance for the last twelve months we have to recall that over the last three years there has been a favorable balance, and that there is nothing in oar oversea.* credits to cause us concern at the moment. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that the danger signal is now up, and that if we are likely to have a big adverse trade balance in the near ‘ future the Government, will have to rectify the position.
The Leader of the Opposition also referred to the grant of £200,000 to the States for technical training purposes. The Commonwealth should make available such money as is necessary to provide full technical training for every youth who is unemployed, but I do not think that, the honorable senator has shown that such training is not available to all youths requiring it. One of the most pressing problems we have in Australia is the employment of those young men who during the depression years were unable to find work. Boys who left school at that time have, through no fault of their own, been unable either to get work or to receive normal technical training. Some of these young men are now 24 or 25 years of age, and are too old to receive technical training through the normal channels. Their prospects have been about as black as they could be; but the Government’s proposal to provide technical training has altered their whole outlook. In South Australia we have an excellent technical college in which youths are learning all kinds of mechanical work, bricklaying and building, and those who attend this college enter and leave the institution with smiling faces. The future now holds something for them. [ am opposed to stinting expenditure upon the proper technical training of any of our youths, who, unfortunately, missed their opportunity during the depression years. If the Leader of the Opposition can prove to me that any of these youths are unable to get proper training because of the lack of funds, I shall support him in any endeavour he may make to increase the amount. I must, however, disagree with the honorable senator with respect to migration. Ho suggests that Australia can support a population of only 6,000,000 persons.
– I did not say that; it, could support more under wise government.
– Australia can support a population much greater than 6,000,000. There is ample room for the right type of migrants. Our unemployment problem is due largely to lack of training facilities. There is practically no unemployment among skilled workers, for whom there is a strong demand in Australia. I am connected with several industries which are finding the greatest difficulty in securing competent artisans. We would be glad to give preference to Australians if they were available, but unfortunately they are not always obtainable. Training schools for the various technical trades are rendering good service in an attempt to eliminate this shortago, hut in some callings four years’ training is required to make a man 50 per .cent, or 75 per cent, efficient. The industrial development of Australia should not be retarded through lack of trained artisans. We should seize every opportunity to get the best type of immigrants.
– Would the honorable senator suggest the admission of Italians as technicians?
– I would not exclude migrants of any race. I believe in securing the best immigrants irrespective of racial considerations. At the present time, owing to the disturbed conditions in Europe, a considerable number of excellent Germans are anxious to secure admission to this country, I need hardly remind honorable senators that some of the best of our pioneers came from Germany, and many of their descendants fought on our side during the Great War. They are citizens whom we are proud to invite to our homes. Once again we have an opportunity to secure from that country some of the best types of migrants - persons who for political reasons wish to become citizens of free Australia rather than continue to live under conditions which are not acceptable to them. Why should we not avail ‘ ourselves of this opportunity?
– This Government is keeping them out. It is holding up applications from 6,000 Germans.
– Did the honorable senator say that there was a shortage of skilled labour in Australia?
– Yes, definitely.
– In what trades is there a shortage?
– In the shoe and clothing trades. I know of several jobs waiting for the right kind of workers in these trades.
– The engineering trades also report a tremendous shortage.
– That is true. There is also employment available in homes. We could place 500 domestic servants in South Australia to-morrow.
– At what wages?
– They would receive wages which, compared with what they receive in their own countries, would make them feel like bloated capitalists.
– That is the joke of the week !
– Recently, a visitor from Germany informed me that the Australian standard of living, compared with the standard in his country, was very high indeed. He even went so far as to say that, in his view, it was criminally high - a statement which, needless to add, I did not endorse. I should like to see our standard of living higher than it is, and improving all the time. No one will deny, however, that, compared with other countries, it is high. I repeat that plenty of employment is available in the various spheres and activities of our economic life, and we should avail ourselves of every opportunity to increase our population so that we may more effectively defend ourselves in time of need, and also provide a larger market for our products. It is well known that one person in employment provides work for several others - some people say four. Our most pressing need at the present time is a bigger population. Senator Collings severely criticized the Government for its failure to refund deductions from the pensions of superannuated public servants, under the emergency legislation passed by the Scullin Government. No government had the right to interfere with trust funds ; yet it was a Labour government, which, to use the words of Senator Collings, “ robbed the superannuation fund “.
– Backed by a Nationalist (Senate.
– I do not care by whom it was backed.
– Who introduced that legislation?
– It was introduced by the Scullin Labour Government. The necessary revenue could have been obtained from other sources, and such a proposal would have received the support of the Nationalist party.. Every one admits that in 1931 the finances of the Commonwealth were in such a chaotic state that drastic measures were necessary. I do not think that any fair-minded person blames the Scullin Government for having done what was essential to save Australia from bankruptcy, but we can criticize that Administration for the methods which it adopted. It should never have interfered with the superannuation trust fund which had been built up by the contributions of Commonwealth employees, subsidized by government payments. I am thankful that this Government has re-established the original position. It has not yet, however, made good the theft that took place as a result of legislation passed by the Scullin Government. Perhaps it is fitting that the Labour party should right the wrong perpetrated by a government which it supported. If ever a proposal is submitted to make full restoration of superannuation payments, I. shall support it.
In conclusion, I say that, on general lines, the Treasurer has introduced a masterly budget. The present time is extremely difficult and the Government feels that a tremendous increase of defence expenditure is necessary to ensure the safety of this country. In raising the revenue to meet that expenditure the Government has adopted a sound policy. It has endeavoured to distribute the burden according to ability to pay, and in spite of the severity of the taxes to be imposed, I think the budget has been received throughout Australia in a better spirit than on any previous occasion.
.- Unlike Senator Wilson I rise not to congratulate the Government for its budget proposals but to condemn it. I wish to deal particularly with its intention to raise £375,000 by an increase of the excise duty on tobacco. Like the National Insurance Act, which might more appropriately be named the National Impoverishment Act, this increase of excise duty is another instance of unsound Government policy. I also object to the sales tax legislation, the effect of which will be to reduce the purchasing power of wages and increase the cost of living.
In support of my contention that the purchasing power of wages will be reduced, I desire to quote briefly from an analysis prepared by the Bureau of Agricultural Economics, representing the United States Department of Agriculture, of the effects of the processing tax levied under the Agricultural Adjustment Act. At the conclusion of a very long reference to the effect of the tax- on tobacco the authority responsible for this very close analysis states : -
Although the evidence is not qualitatively conclusive it appears that a large part, if not all, of the tax was passed on to consumers. . . Since most of the large tobacco manufacturing companies produce a variety of products, it is possible that cigarette consumers bore part of the tax on other tobacco products as well as the tax on cigarettes. The fact that the increase in the margin for cigarettes was almost three times the average tax, and the fact that the demand curve for cigarettes appears to be comparatively inelastic lends support to this conclusion.
It is agreed by the ablest authorities, representing the United States Department of Agriculture, that the tax on tobacco is passed on to the wage earners. I desire now to cite the opinion of another authority, Alzada Comstock, Professor of Economics at Mount Holyoke College, South Hadley, Massachusetts. This distinguished lady is the author of “ State Taxation of Personal Incomes,” “ Taxation in the Modern State,” the article on “ Public Expenditures “ in the Encyclopaedia of the Social Sciences, and other articles on fiscal matters -
In general, economists believe that excises tend to be passed along to the final consumer, irrespective of the point at which they are collected by the Government. The tax on tobacco, for example, which is collected from the manufacturers, is undoubtedly paid in the main by the smokers themselves. But even in this instance, which is one of the simplest which canbe found, the opposition of the tobacco manufacturers to the tax indicates that they themselves do not always go wholly free. Even if the worst that happens to their profits is a loss of potential consumers, that factor itself is a business difficulty which affects the welfare of the industry. No excise on luxuries or semi-necessities is wholly free from this repercussion - that of causing smaller total sales of the product to which it is applied. As for excises on the actual necessities of life, they, of course, raise the cost of living. This in turn affects wages and ultimately other costs of production for related and unrelated industries, and, in fact, for all business enterprise.
Furthermore, excises behave differently in periods of rising prices and falling prices. In the first situation they are usually passed on to the consumer with ease; with such ease, in fact, that apparently a little extra item is often thrown in by the seller for the good luck of his business. In the second situation they are passed on to the consumer with difficulty, if at all; in which case business in a period of oncoming depression suffers an additional handicap. Again, excises are easily passed along when they affect equally all manufacturers or distributors in the field when the manufacture is going along steadily with a constant cost per unit made, and when there are no particular difficulties for either very large or very small producers. But this is a description of a state of order and stability in which we seldom find ourselves.
These are some of the problems over which students of taxation have struggled in trying to find the answer to the question: who pays an excise ? When all is said and done, however, the first generalization may be allowed to stand: excises are, in general, paid by the consumer, the common man, Mr. John Jones. For him they are a serious matter in the United States to-day. A labouring man may find that he cannot smoke as often as he used, because the price of his cigarettes is approximately double what it would be without the tax. Ho will not know exactly the amount of the tax, of course, but he will know that with the rising cost of food his cigarette outlay must be cut. It is hardly conceivable that the well-to-do and the rich are facing any decision of that kind.
I agree that the position is as claimed by the author of the statements which I have quoted. I contend, also, that the money required should be raised from profits and accumulated capital rather than from wages. When I say that, I have in mind the enormous profits of the big tobacco companies, which the present Government does not propose to interfere with in any way whatever. From the WildCat Monthly, of the 2nd April last, I quote the following figures showing the profits, dividends, and reserves of the British Tobacco Company (Australia) Limited from 1915 until 1937 -
These figures show the enormous profits which have been made by this company from 1915 to 1937. But the profits of this and similar companies the Government does not propose to tax, for,
Hltb.ou.gb. it estimates to raise an extra £375,000 by an additional tax on tobacco, the greater portion of the money will be paid by wage-earners. The purchasing power of wages will be reduced by at least that amount and, possibly, a greater amount. According to reliable authorities, the experience in America is that the purchasing power of wages is reduced to an extent even greater than the amount of the tax collected. During the debate on the Supply Bill, I stated that profits ave increasing whilst the purchasing power of wages is decreasing. In support of that contention, I quote from the Weekly Economic .Review, of the 26th August, 193S, issued by Philip Pring and Company, stock and sharebrokers, 27 Hunter Street, Sydney -
A survey of the results achieved by CO representative cum panics, whose profits are detailed on page 2 of this issue, indicates that aggregate profits increased from £0,017,21)9 to £<i,558,531, an increase of £541,2(i2, or 8.!) per cent. In the same period, actual paid capital of the companies concerned increased by £7,042,225 to £53,973,221, an increase of 15 per cent. The ratio of net profit to capital during 1930-37 was 12.8 per cent., whilst for the 1937-3S year the ratio of profit to capital was 12.1 per cent.
Reviewing the individual group of companies, it is noticeable that the biggest increases of profit occurred in heavy industries and organizations enjoying a virtual monopoly in the Commonwealth. The 1037-38 year was one of unparalleled expansion in the iron and steel industry. Production of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company was almost double that of the 1933-34 year and indications point to further expansion in that industry.
Disclosed banking profits were higher, enabling increased dividends to bo paid by a number of institutions, although the profit rate on shareholders’ funds was comparatively lower.
This, I suggest, is sufficient evidence that profits are increasing on an unprecedented scale. On the other hand, the army of permanent unemployed, is also increasing, particularly in New South Wales and Victoria.
I direct attention to another aspect of the position which has not yet been touched upon during this debate. Alzada Comstock, the authority whom I have just cited, points out that the tax leads to an increase of the cost of living. I have already indicated that an increase of the cost of living, under existing conditions, tends to increase unemployment. It does more ; it also increases crime. That great English historian, Buckle, in his History of Civilization, states that as the cost of living increases, the number of persons arrested for crime also increases. We found that, during depression years, the gaol population increased as men found more and more difficulty in earning a living. Although this book was written in 1857, its arguments remain unrefuted. The late Clarence Darrow, who, at the time of his death was the leading criminal lawyer of the United States of America, said in an address which he gave to prisoners in the Chicago County Gaol that if every man, woman and child in the world had a chance to make a decent, honest living, there would he no gaols, no lawyers and no courts; most, if not all. of the crimes for which people, were punished were property crimes. I prefer to call them economic crimes. Thus the taxation proposals of this Government, will not only reduce the purchasing power of wages, but will also increase unemployment and have the further effect of increasing economic crime. As honorable senators are aware, crimes against property are committed almost daily. Recently, we read of a major crime in Melbourne in which a director of a shoe company was shot dead and robbed of the amount he had drawn from the ‘bank for the payment of wages to his employees.
– The culprits in that case were not necessarily suffering from poverty.
– I do not say that they were. I am pointing out that the cumulative effect of reducing the purchasing power of wages is to make it more difficult for men and women to obtain jobs and earn an honest livelihood. In this instance, we have an illustration of the frustrated ego. Many men who are possessed of intelligence and initiative will not submit to being reduced to the level of paupers, but will be driven by economic circumstances to commit crimes, even in some instances going so far as to murder those who stand between thom and their objective. Governments which punish criminals have themselves, in many instances, been responsible for the crimes, because of their policy of reducing the purchasing power of wages.
– A big pay roll is the result of prosperity.
– The victims of the economic conditions to which I have directed attention do not have big pay rolls.If honorable senators opposite were to visit the goals regularly, as I have done, they would find that most of the inmates are young men who have never had a chance to become useful citizens, because they have not been given the opportunity to earn a decent livelihood. So long as such economic conditions prevail, young men will continue to grow up without having a chance to become good citizens. And while governments, which, on every possible occasion, pass the burden of taxation on to the shoulders of those least able to bear it are in power, there will be men and women who never get a chance.
– The Government has reduced taxes each year for seven years.
– But only to the wealthier sections of the community.
– Monopolies like the huge tobacco combine, make increased profits, pay bigger dividends, and add to their reserves year after year, but their profits are not to be taxed. This Government does not propose to impose an excess profits tax, as the British Government did during the war, when the nation was fighting for its very existence and money had to be found.
-Australia imposed a tax on excess profits during the war.
-I am pointing out that when the national existence is at stake, money is found. If Australia were involved in a war to-morrow, the Government would be compelled to tap the sources to which I have directed attention; but, because there is no war, thousands of men, women and children are allowed to live in semi-starvation. Honorable senators opposite congratulate the Government on that state of affairs ! I submit that men react to stimuli; they are affected by both their environment and their experience.
It is because we have in Australia semistarvation conditions that our gaol population is increasing. There are other stimuli which make some men and women the enemies of society for life. The policy of taxation followed by the present Government first makes men unemployable ; later many of them develop into hardened criminals. If crime is to be abolished, the incidence of taxation must be reversed; taxes must be made a charge against profits and accumulated capital rather than against wages.
The Government proposes to provide a paltry £200,000 for the training of the youth of this country. It does not propose to provide employment for them. As honorable senators must know, there are in Australia thousands of young men and women who have been partially trained in our technical schools, but are unable to obtain employment because the training has been inadequate. Moreover, there are not sufficient positions available for those who want them. Unless the Government is prepared to do more than it has done in the past, Australia will witness a revolt of youthsuch as has occurred in Germany and Italy, and of which signs are not wanting in England and the United States of America. Young men and women who have been denied the opportunity to earn a decent livelihood, many of them having been sent to gaol for economic crimes, will eventually organize and set up some form of dictatorship. These things must come to pass unless economic conditions are altered.
– Can the honorable senator give us an estimate of the number of unemployed youths in Australia ?
– Some time ago an unemployment council, appointed by the Dunstan Government in Victoria. invited youths who desired tobe trained in various occupations to submit applications. Speaking from memory, I think that between 6,000 and 7,000 applications were received.
SenatorWilson. - Are those youths now being trained?
– Not all of them. The proposed scheme of training, which would have provided employers with cheap labour by undermining the positions of men already in jobs, was not acceptable. Some of the applicants are, however, being trained -by the council in various technical schools.
The Commonwealth Government has not made any provision to meet the situation which has arisen in coal-mining districts as the result’ of production increasing in inverse ratio to the number of miners employed. The following figures have’ been ta’ken from the New South Wales Y ear-Book : -
The wages bill for 1937 includes £110,321 paid by miners for explosives. The annual production per capita of employees working underground in the New South Wales fields since 1931 to 1937 has been -
The statement that production has in-, creased with fewer workers is borne out by these figures which have been supplied by the New South Wales Mines Department.
– Does that refer only to the production of coal cutters or to the whole of the employees?
– To the whole of the employees. In view of those figures the miners arc justified in taking the stand that they have. We have frequently been asked why the coal-miners do not take their case to the Commonwealth Arbitration Court; but it is perfectly obvious that that court cannot make a searching inquiry into the industry such as is necessary if the miners are to receive justice.
– Are the Queensland coal-miners working under a Commonwealth or State award?
– I understand that the miners in Queensland and in Western Australia are working under a State award. In Victoria they are working under a wages board determination. Even if the New South Wales coalminers took their case to the Common’ wealth Arbitration Court, that court has not the power, nor the inclination to inquire into their case as fully as it should be inquired into if they are to receive justice.
– It has not the power?
– No, from this viewpoint, mainly : Wages are not assessed in accordance with the value of the work performed, but are based on the cost of living. Full recognition is not given to the value created by labour involved in producing commodities.
– The coal-miners’ award is much above an award based on the cost of living.
– It all depends on what is meant by the “ cost of living “. I know of no award that is in excess of the cost of living. I do not think that any award’ is sufficiently high to enable men and women with families to live under reasonably. decent conditions.
– Why is the coalminers’ award so much above the average award of the working-man, which is determined on a cost-of-living basis?
– Some awards provide higher rates of wages than others. Wages are determined largely by the extent to which the workers are organized. The wages of workers who are not organized, and who have no proper legal redress, are lower than those of workers who are properly organized. [Extension of lime granted.] If the coal-miners were organized to the same extent as are the members of the British Medical Association, they could also exercise their economic power to the same extent as the members of that association. They would then receive higher wages and work under better conditions than at present.
– An occupational consideration?
– If the coalminers would hew coal for sustenance, that is all that they would get; but as they are not willing to do so they receive greater consideration.
– Does the strength of an organization influence an arbitration judge?
– I contend that it does. Because the skilled men employed in the Commonwealth aircraft factory are well organized and could not be readily replaced they received a greater measure of justice than they would have otherwise received.
– The honorable senator thinks that a judge takes the strength of the organization into account?
– I believe that he does. A judge, like an ordinary employer, is influenced by the strength of an organization. If he is dealing with men who are organized and who cannot be replaced readily, he is more considerate than if he were dealing with unskilled labourers. The court awards wages in accordance with the cost of living.
– And the conditions of labour.
– Yes. The family of a labourer requires as much food, clothing and shelter as does the family of a mechanic, but because a labourer is more readily replaced, he is compelled to accept less than a mechanic.
– A mechanic is a skilled man.
– Yes, but if a mechanic would work for a labourer’s wages he would not be paid more. He receives more because he is able to enforce his demands.
– The court determines that he is worth more, because of the skill he possesses.
– The court bases an award not on what a man’s labour is worth, but on the cost of living. The coal-miners have asked for a conference at which their wages and conditions of labour could be fully inquired into. Such a conference would probably do more for the miners than a court could do or would be disposed to do.
– I am surprised that the Arbitration Court cannot make a full investigation of the dispute.
SenatorCAMERON.- Evidently the honorable senator has not paid much attention to Arbitration Court proceedings.
– Order ! The honorable senator must address the Chair.
– The request by the miners for a special tribunal is undeniable. If this Government desires anything approximating industrial peace it must provide special tribunals for special industries, because an Arbitration Court, even one which may be favorably disposed, cannot be expected to possess the same knowledge of particular industries as is possessed by a person who has made a special study of its conditions. As regards the mining industry, the only people capable of making a satisfactory determination with reference to wages and conditions, are the miners themselves and officials associated with that industry. If we had had a tribunal so constituted, the present unhappy position would not have arisen, and everybody concerned would have been better off.
asked why the price of wheat was declining, to the great injury of our wheat-growers, offered the opinion that the decline was due to overproduction and an unsettled market. I maintain that the price of wheat is declining, first because of the reduced labour time required to produce it, and secondly, because purchasing power which should be in the hands of the people is not available. Accordingly, the farmer finds himself in possession of wheat which he cannot sell. I would be very interested to learn exactly how the Government proposes to relieve the position. I should not be surprised if it attempted to do exactly what it has done with regard to the excise on tobacco - pass the burden on to the wage-earner. It would then be a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
– What is the alternative?
– The alternative is State control of the production and distribution of wheat through the medium of properly qualified boards which would safeguard the interests of the farmers. Under the present “catch as catch can” svstem of paying bounties here and bounties there, the position of the farmers will not be improved to any great extent. Senator Wilson spoke of the need for equality of opportunity in all States. There can be no equality of opportunity while the means to produce the necessary commodities by “which we live are privately owned. There can ‘be no equality, of opportunity while society is divided into two classes - “ the haves “ and the “ have-nots.” Nor can there be equality of opportunity whilst the present system of assessing wages is >n operation.
– There was no division of classes in the “New Australia “ socialistic experiment in .Paraguay
– It is impossible to establish a balanced economy in a state of isolation. The system must be applied generally, else it will not work.
– Surely the honorable senator does not class himself as one of the “ have nots “ 1 Opportunity has helped him.
– I am the political expression of the resentment of the “have nots,” and if I am a good prophet, the numbers on this side of the chamber will be considerably augmented as a result of an increase of that resentment following the legislation which the Government is pushing through at the present time. I repeat that there can be no equality of opportunity while there is in operation a system under which wages are assessed by courts, on the basis of the bare cost of living.
I agree with all that Senator Collings has said with respect to migration. Under existing conditions it is impossible to provide jobs for all those at present out of work in this country. Senator Wilson spoke of the scarcity of skilled artisans in certain trades. To give honorable senators some idea of the policy of this Government in this regard, I may mention that a few weeks ago, in company with the president and the organizer of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, and the president and secretary of the Australian Council of Trade Unions, I waited upon the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby). We pointed out to him - it was not denied then and has not since been denied - that in the Aviation
Ordnance Department at Point Cook, the Government has approximately 300 skilled engineers, who are not being employed in the work for which they were trained. They are being Te-trained to do work which is not quite so skilled. Mr. Roberts, the organizer of the Amalgamated Engineering Union, stated that it was not unusual for these skilled men to be employed as ordinary labourers.
Silling suspended from 6.15 to S p.m.
– If there is a genera] scarcity of skilled workers, the Government can easily improve the position by releasing some of the semiskilled workers employed by it in Defence establishments. Most of the skilled workers who are coming to Australia from overseas are foreigners who are sweated under conditions even worse than those which obtained in Victoria 30 years ago. Advantage is taken of their ignorance of the English language and of Australian industrial conditions. In and around Carlton a considerable number of them are employed as bakers and whiteworkers. Recently the secretary of the Clothing Trades Union endeavoured to gain admittance to one of the clothing factories to obtain first-hand information of the conditions under which the workers are cmployed, and he was viciously assaulted by the employer. Most of these employers are Jews. In order to obtain entry to these factories the secretary is now obliged to avail himself of police protection. Those who favour immigration under the conditions now operating do so because it ensures a supply of cheap labour, not because of a desire to assist refugees from overseas. It would not be a difficult matter to train thousands of young Australians under ideal conditions, but this is not done. On the contrary, every possible encouragement is given to the importation from overseas of skilled workers who can be employed at any rate of wage and under almost any conditions.
– There is no special award for migrants.
– I do not suggest that there is, but advantage should not be taken of migrants’ ignorance of the English language and of local industrial conditions. These workers arrive by almost every ship that comes to Australia., and, being unorganized, are at the mercy of the most unscrupulous employers. In Carlton, these employers are mostly Jews, whose establishments are kept in operation for seven days a week and for the full round of the clock.Reports have been made to the Melbourne Trades Hall that as soon as one group of workers get out of bed, their places are immediately occupied by other employees.
– What does the Labour party say to the Government of Victoria about that?
– It is doing all it possibly can, but it has not a majority in the Legislative Council in that State. All it can do under existing conditions is to make the facts known, but there is little hope of an improvement while antilabour politicians have a majority in the Legislative Council. As president of the Melbourne Working Men’s College, I am able to state that we cannot get sufficient money to provide accommodation and equipment for the training of young Australians who desire to become skilled workers. The Commonwealth Government controls the purse strings, and makes it impossible for us to do that.
– This Government is constantly receiving requests from Labour members themselves to permit the migration to Australia of foreigners who are related to persons already here.
– That is news to me. Such requests would be entirely contrary to the policy of the Labour party. We object to migration if the immigrants are to be used, as they are to-day, to undermine Australian conditions and to reduce Australian standards of living.
– Who is using them for that purpose?
– Employers who have mostly foreigners in their service. That is my answer to Senator Wilson, who supports migration.
.- I did not intend to speak at this stage until I heard Senator Cameron declare that it was necessary to train young people to enable them to become technically equipped for employment in the skilled trades. Who is preventing the training of the young people who missed their chance during the years of depression, and who is objecting to an increase of the number of apprentices in proportion to the number of skilled workers? The answer is “ The trade unions of Australia “.
– That is not a fact.
– The Government provides £200,000 to be divided between the States for the technical training of youths, but the States have met with nothing but opposition from the trade unions, who will not give these young people an opportunity to be trained. The scheme proposed was that they should be employed in the factories, the employers to pay them the wage they were actually worth until they became trained operatives, and the Government to make up the difference. The reason for the delay is th at the trade unions are blocking the proposal as much as possible. A year ago . Judge Beeby investigated the conditions in the iron and steel trade and found that there was a scarcity of engineers and of turners and fitters and machine men. He discovered that there had been a lag in the training of workers because, during the depression, the usual number of apprentices had not been employed. He said that more of them should be trained, and that, instead of the quota being one apprentice to three journeymen, the ratio should be increased to one to one for twelve months; but the unions will not. agree to allow the additional youths to be trained. I am a member of the Apprenticeship Commission in Victoria and I am aware of the strenuous opposition that has come from the trade unions in this regard. Honorable senators opposite talk with their tongues in their cheeks. Skilled workers are required in almost every engineering shop in Australia, but the unions are crying out against the training of youths.
– Because the employers want to use them to displace fullypaid workers.
– Nothing of the kind.
– The honorable senator would have six or even a. dozen apprentices to one journeyman, if he could.
– After receiving a certain amount of theoretical training young men must be employed in the factories to obtain practical knowledge. That is the only way they can become trained tradesmen. Trained men can get work in almost any part of Australia. The Government is not altogether blameless in this matter, because, often after men have had five years’ training in the factories ‘ and become expert mechanics, they are employed by the Royal Australian Air Force, with the result that the factories that trained them are deprived of their services. There is a good deal of truth in what Senator Cameron said about skilled men doing unskilled work in government establishments. I have in mind mechanics and others employed in the Air Force At Point Cook and Richmond apprentices are not taken on as they should be, and as is done by the Royal Air Force in Great Britain.
– The honorable senator represents a party that desires to reduce the cost of labour, and to use the boys for that purpose.
– Not at all. These boys work under awards.
– Yes, while they are boys.
– And when they become adults-
– They get the sack!
– ‘Surely the honorable senator does not mean that. He knows that in the engineering trade to-day the skilled man can get a job in almost any factory, and that the managements of factories are falling over one another in-their efforts to get skilled men.
– What about the making of radio parts? All the employees are children.
– I do not think all of them are children.
– The factories are like kindergartens.
– I do not agree with the honorable senator. After all, juvenile labour is allowed and allowable. If honorable senators opposite contend that a hoy should not. be allowed to earn his own living, or help his family, but should be forced to grow to manhood without learn ing any trade, they should openly say so. Do they contend that no boys or girls should be employed in industry at all, and that every one under 21 years of age should be obliged to walk the streets ? Is that the argument advanced by honorable senators opposite? I admit that there is something in what Senator Cameron has said concerning sweating conditions in certain factories at Carlton. His observations apply almost wholly to the clothing trade, and for some time efforts have been made to put a stop to these conditions. However, the Labour party is in power in Victoria.
– No, the Country party; the honorable senator should not tell lies.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - Order! The honorable senator must not make remarks of that kind.
– Have I not the right, Mr. President, to make some protest when another honorable senator deliberately tells an untruth?
– Order ! That remark is disorderly. The honorable senator will have an opportunity later to contradict any misstatement.
– On a point of order, Mr. President, is it not competent for me, under the Standing Orders, to draw your attention to a deliberate misstatement by another honorable senator? Senator Leckie has just said that the Labour party is in power in Victoria. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the fact that the Dunstan Government of Victoria is a Country party Government.
– Order ! The honorable senator is not in order in making a speech.
– I am asking a question, Mr. President.
– Order ! Interjections are disorderly.
– Ani I not allowed, Mr. President, to draw your attention to the fact that an honorable senator has made a gross misstatement of fact? The Labour party is not in power in Victoria, and I ask the honorable senator to withdraw his gross misstatement.
– The honorable senator has not raised a point of order.
– Every one knows that although Mr. Dunstan, the Leader of the Victorian Country party, is the Premier of Victoria, the Labour party is in power in. that State. If Senator Brown knew as much about Victorian affairs as he does of Queensland affairs he would know that to be a fact. I repeat that Senator Cameron is perfectly right in saying that sweating conditions exist in the clothing trade in Victoria and that this is mostly among Russian Jews and foreigners in Carlton. Neither the officials of the unions nor government inspectors have been able to grapple with this evil. At any rate, the fault docs not lie with the Commonwealth Government. This Government is doing its best to make good the misfortune of youths who missed their chance of learning a trade during the depression, but, as I have already said, the extension of training facilities in that respect has been delayed largely because of the opposition of the unions.
I agree with the contention of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings), that this Government should make restitution of the amounts by which the pensions of superannuated Commonwealth public servants were reduced under the financial emergency legislation. Those reductions were most iniquitous. These public servants paid their contributions to the superannuation fund, and they are entitled to receive the full amount that the Government contracted to pay to them. It should never have been taken away from them, and in reducing these particular pensions the Government undoubtedly broke ils contract with these public servants.
In respect of the budget proposals generally, I am most worried concerning the possibility of an adverse balance of trade at the end of this year. The Treasurer (Mr. Casey) has budgeted for a customs duty revenue of something like £46,000,000 for the year, but in the three months which have already elapsed the revenue received from that source has exceeded the estimate by approximately £383,000.
– Quite a substantial amount of that was due to clearing in anticipation of the budget proposals.
– In any case it looks as though the Treasurer’s estimate is going to be exceeded. Even if the revenue from this source be £1,000,000 or £2,000,000 less than the estimate the balance of trade is likely to be against us at the end of the year. Last year Australia had an adverse trade balance of approximately £12,000,000, but another £7,000,000 or £8,000,000 went overseas in dividends of life insurance companies, freights, and various other items.
– Does money go overseas ?
– Well, credits do. On this point, I recall Senator Darcey’s remarks this afternoon concerning the proposed British loan of £10,000,000 to Czechoslovakia. The honorable senator seems to think that the Government of Great Britain, instead of borrowing this money from the Bank of England, or guaranteeing it, should itself create credit to that amount. Why does not the honorable senator suggest that the Government of Czechoslovakia should create this amount of money for itself and not bother anybody else about it? Apparently that country does not believe that such money would be of any good.
– Would the honorable senator borrow £26,000,000, if he could get it for nothing ?
– The honorable senator seems to think that one can make money out of air. He says that it is merely a matter of creating credits. Czechoslovakia wants the money, so why does it not manufacture it as the honorable senator suggests?
Reverting to the problem of our trade balance, I suggest that the Government may have to take steps in this respect in the near future. If anyone should ask me what worries the manufacturers of Australia mo3t at the present time, I should reply, the low price of wheat, because the manufacturers realize that if their customers are not prosperous they themselves must suffer. That is their principal worry at the present moment, and they are more than ready to co-operate in any move designed to help the wheat-growers in maintaining their purchasing power.
– What does the honorable senator suggest should be done?
– I do not suggest anything. I suppose that most honorable senators have heard of the many schemes which have already been advanced for the stabilization of the wheat industry. Honorable senators have advanced two or three schemes of this kind, whilst three or four have emanated from members in another place. A further scheme advanced is known as the Simpson scheme, whilst vet another has the approval of the wheatgrowers of Australia. Between the whole of these schemes the growers do not seem to know exactly where they are, although the object of all the schemes is the very laudable one of endeavouring to raise the price of wheat. The growers should show more unanimity in respect of what they want. They should get together and devise a. scheme, not only in order to raise the price of wheat over a period of years, but also to do that whichSenator Cameron so strongly objects to, namely, make provision for reserves in times of prosperity to tide them over in had times.
– The growers have got together and have agreed upon a plan.
– And Senator Cameron opposes it.
– I did not say so.
– My advice to the wheat-growers is to put aside reserves in times of high prices, so that this fund may be drawn upon when the price is low. I am aware that that is one of the objects of the scheme sponsored by Senators Wilson and Uppill. I suggest that the growers ought to take up such a scheme in earnest, at least in part, if not in its entirety. Senator Cameron apparently believes that reserves are terrible things to have in business, that they merely go into a bank and are hidden away. Nothing of the kind occurs; reserves are used to provide new plant and machinery, and ultimately more employment. The business that does not put aside reserves is leaving itself open to the wolves of economic depression.
SenatorFraser. - The reserves are not always disclosed.
– But they are always there; they are invested in new plant or machinery or in extending the business in other ways, ultimately providing more work.
– Reserves are not expended unless the owners can thereby get a profit.
– They are always spent to try and make a profit; there is no other use for reserves. Why this hatred of profits?
– It is not a matter of hatred; we wish merely to direct attention to certain facts.
– In order to carry on a business the owner is obliged to make profits. If he fails to do so, he must close down his works, and throw people out of work. A business without reserves is extremely vulnerable, and at the first breath of opposition or adversity may fail, and the men dependent on its success for their daily bread will lose their employment. This opposition to reserves and this scorn of profit-making is arrant nonsense. Speaking from long experience in business. I repeat that reserves are not locked up in banks or owners’ safes, but are expended in plant and machinery and business extensions.
Some honorable senators object to the way in which the Government proposes to bridge the gap, as it were, between new expenditure and old expenditure. Before the necessity for increased expenditure on defence arose. I was hoping that the Postmaster-General (Senator A.J. McLachlan) would be able to give us some relief in respect of his department. I had hoped that he would have immortalized himself by making to the people some substantial concessions out of the golden hoard derived annually through the Post Office. However, at the moment, I am not asking for anything substantial, but only for a few minor concessions. I do not complain about the way in which the Government proposes to bridge the gap, for I agree with the proposed increase of the sales tax, as on a previous occasion I disagreed with its reduction. It does not appear to me to be possible to pass on to the consumer an increase of the tax by 1 per cent., especially when the article on which the tax is payable is sold for a few shillings. The increase will not, I think, make any difference to the prices charged for ordinaryevery-day requirements, but it will be felt by the purchasers of motor cars, of which about 80,000 are sold annually in Australia. If we assume that the average price of the cars sold is £400, the tax on each would be about £20, representing in the aggregate a considerable sum. The increase would also be noticeable in respect of large pieces of machinery and other costly articles. As an emergency measure, the sales tax is one of the best means of raising revenue. The chief objection to it is to the inconvenience of collection and the book-keeping necessary to record sales. When this tax was first imposed, it caused business men considerable inconvenience and annoyance. At times, the officials of the department were not as considerate to traders as they might have been. Their zeal was carried to ridiculous limits, and, therefore, I hope that the Government will take steps to ensure that those who pay this tax are not unduly harassed. Most traders do not want to evade their legitimate obligations, but they object to being annoyed unnecessarily. As an illustration of the operation of the sales tax, I instance the experience of lithographers who adopt the latest methods. Glass, which is subject to the sales tax, is used in the process. At a later stage, when the glass is made into a negative, a further tax is payable. The resulting print is also taxable. The acids and chemicals used in cleaning the glass for further use are also subject to the tax. The whole system is ridiculous, and causes unnecessary trouble and annoyance. I do not think that the small amount of revenue derived each year from this source is worththe annoyance that is caused. As I have said business men generally do not so much object to the tax itself as to the annoying and irritating practices associated with its collection. In my factory, it sometimes happens that a die or a cutting ring is damaged. Should the damage be so slight that the ring can he made fit for use again by grinding it on an emery wheel, no sales tax is payable; but, should the cutting of a new ring in the engineering shopbe necessary, sales tax has to be paid. Such anomalies should not exist, and I hope that some adjustment will be made.
– The discussion so far has been both interesting and. informative, particularly the remarks of hon orable senators on the subject of unemployment. Statements made by some honorable senators opposite suggest that the situation is not so serious in the eastern States as it is in Western Australia. I assure honorable senators that unemployment is a real problem in the western State, where many thousands of men and youths are unable to obtain work. My colleagues and I have received numerous communications from Western Australia asking us to bring under the notice of the Government the urgent need to improve conditions in that State. As the result of many years’ experience of the compilation of the figures furnished by the trade unions to the Statistician in respect to unemployment. I am convinced that the present methods do not give anything like accuracy. Those who are called upon to supply the figures to the Statistician are unable to devote the time necessary tosupply accurate information in relation to even the trade unionists throughout the Commonwealth. If the figures are tobe of any use as a guide to the Parliament, some better means of compiling them will have to be adopted. The existing system is too slipshod to give reliable results.
– The Statistician obtains the figures from the union secretaries.
– That is so, but the secretaries are busy men, whose time is taken up with more important matters. Or it may be that the figures, although correct when compiled, are not, up to date. Another complaint is that relief workers and men in receipt of sustenance are included among those in employment. I am not acquainted with the conditions under which such workers are employed in the eastern States, or how the Statistician regards them, but I do not think that such persons should be regarded as being in employment. Frequently, these workers live under the most wretched conditions in dwellings made of tins, or sacks, or old cases ; some of the shacks are so insecure that a strong wind will blow them over. Sustenance workers lose a good deal of time, and cannot be said to have either continuous employment or regular incomes. In my opinion, only those persons whose conditions of employment enable them to live decently should be included in the returns of persons in employment.
Last year £200,000 was made available by the Commonwealth to the States in connexion with the technical training of youths. Of that sum, £17,000 was allocated to Western Australia for vocational training and the employment of youths, but considerable time must elapse before the youths whose training was made possible under the scheme can be said to have qualified in the trades that they have chosen. Even when money is made avail.able for the training of youths, they have to be provided with subsistence during the period of training.
– In New South Wales the State Government provides a subsidy.
– As I have said, Western Australia was granted £17,000 for this purpose last year. That sum was not sufficient to cover living costs and accommodation for the men during the period of training.
– The State governments provide some assistance.
– Regards less of what the State authorities do, facilities are not available to provide vocational training to large numbers of persons.
– Last year some of the States did not draw their full quota of the grant.
– That may bo so. Provision had to be made for vocational training, and those coming from a distance had to be housed. In all probability accommodation was not available, and there was a hesitancy on the part of some of the States to draw the full amount of money to which they were entitled. An organization had also to be provided. In the interests of industry in Australia, the whole problem will have to be faced seriously. Our trouble appears to be that we have not sufficient technicians to assist to build up industry and that that side of our industrial life has been neglected for a number of years. Governments and employers have been satisfied to obtain skilled workers, so necessary in industry in Australia, from overseas, and they have succeeded in doing so while our own youths have been overlooked. Those who desire to see young Australians placed in industry are faced with such problems. It is not merely a matter of placing a few hundred thousand pounds on the Estimates; we must have organized co-operation between State governments and those intimately associated with the development of Australian industry. Placing sums of money on the Estimates and waiting for instrumentalities to collect such sums will not further the interests of Australian youths. Apart from the class of employees to whom I have referred, there is also a great army of persons in Australia who have no possible opportunity to receive vocational training. Thousands of young men and women in Australia have been denied the right to enter industry and to earn their living. Thousands in the different States are willing to take any class of work that is offering. In Western Australia there are young men who have had only intermittent or casual work since they left school. What is their outlook on life? What interest can they have in the future development of Australia? Up to the present they have been forced to look upon themselves as persons who have no place in society. They have to obey the laws like other citizens, but they are receiving nothing in return. This state of affairs has been allowed since 1929, when the financial and economic crash occurred. “When we bring such matters forward we are reminded that we should not embark upon any “ rash schemes “ in an endeavour to absorb these people. What is meant by “ rash schemes “ f I suppose it means employing unsound financial methods. Is there any need for me to remind honorable senators that the great financial and economic crash in 1929-30 occurred under what were considered to be orthodox and sound financial methods ? Such methods had been employed right up to the days of the depression, In these circumstances, surely it is desirable to bring about some alteration for the good of the whole community. Only last year it was feared that the price of gold would drop, and that fear sent a shudder through the financial- world, with the result that those in control of “ big business “ got together in London and quickly found a means whereby the price of gold could be stabilized. The representatives of big financial interests co-operated with the Chancellor of the Exchequer and also with the Governor of the Bank of England, and £250,000,000 of fiduciary money was made available to stabilize the price of gold in London. There was nothing new m that. A similar method of raising money was adopted during the Great “War when the issue of no less than £465,000,000 of new money was authorized, on the authority of the Chancellor-‘ of the Exchequer through the Bank of England, to finance that war. When it suits those in authority they are not “ sticklers “ for what is spoken of as sound financial method’s. We have been informed that during the last financial year there has been a big increase in the production of commodities in Australia. There is an excess of exportable goods; but for that fact the value of our overseas business would have decreased considerably. At the same time the price of gold has increased to £9 0s. Sd. an oz. Hence we have an inflation brought about by those in control of world finance. This also has deflated prices; that is the trouble in the wheat industry. I know that certain measures are under “ consideration at present with the object of stabilizing’ the price of wheat in Australia. A home consumption price and other schemes have been suggested, but the great trouble throughout the world to-day is that although the demand for wheat is just as great as it lias ever been, more bushels of wheat are required to buy an oz. of gold than were required previously. The inflated price of gold has upset world markets, yet, as a result of fear amongst a combination of international interests, pressure and power have been utilized to stabilize the price of gold. A few years ago the standard price of that commodity was £3 17s. lOd. an oz., but the price in London to-day is £9 0s. 8d. an oz.
– That is an advantage to Western Australia.
– Yes, in some respects, but when we are considering matters which vitally concern the great masses of the people, it is just as well to take a broad view, and not to focus our gaze on one particular State or industry. A few years ago the price of gold in London and in Australia was fixed at £3 17s. lOd. an oz., but to-day it is valued in Australian currency at £9 0s. 8d. That price has been brought about by manipulating and juggling markets, and in handling for profit the finances of the world which are controlled from one centre by international groups. It is useless to advocate any particular form of legislation to stabilize prices when we know that these forces are operating against us, more particularly in that part of the world where we hope to market our commodities. We can adopt measures of control that will be of temporary assistance, and we do so in the hope that conditions will improve.
Our financial position is not nearly so good, as the Treasurer would have us believe. If the financial position of Australia were as the Treasurer suggests, I believe that even this Government would have brought forward a more progressive works policy. A large volume of work could have been put in hand in the interests of the people; but the Government has declined to do so. Huge areas of country thirsting for water could be developed if water conservation schemes were provided. A comprehensive housing scheme could be introduced. No industry provides such a large volume of employment to all sections of the community as does the building industry, yet the Treasurer had very little to say concerning the Commonwealth housing scheme. The Commonwealth appears to be attempting to live in its own little water-tight compartment and to allow the States to struggle on as best they can. There is room for expansion of our works programme beyond that mentioned in the budget papers. During this debate there have been many references to the financial policy of the Scullin Government. We seem to be unable to get away from what that government did from 1929 to 1931. Even in the budget speech there appear comparative figures for the years 1931-32 and 1937-38, the purpose apparently being to regard the financial position of the Commonwealth in 1931-32 as the datum line.
– That, surely, is a fair comparison.
– I desire to go back a couple of years further. I am well aw.are that this reference -in the Treasurer’s budget speech is intended to persuade the people of Australia that a very material improvement has taken place during the last seven years in the finances of the country. But what precipitated that chaotic state of affairs that existed during the Scullin Government’s occupancy of the treasury bench? I have already told the Senate that the manipulators of so-called sound finance, working on orthodox lines, crashed world prices and were really responsible for the depression which caused so much distress in Australia. It will be recalled that Mr. Bruce, the then Prime Minister, sought a dissolution of Parliament in order to escape the financial obligations arising out of his government’s policy. At all events he desired an expression of opinion from the people, with the result that when the true position became known his government went out of office, and most unfortunately for the Labour party, a Labour Government under Mr. Scullin had to take up the burden. That administration was faced with an almost impossible task. The treasury was empty and when the Government introduced measures to increase the revenue it was blocked by a Senate constituted mainly of representatives of parties hostile to the Labour party. Thus a deadlock occurred, rendering it utterly impossible for the Government to give effect to Labour’s financial policy to meet the difficulties then existing.
Senator Leckie this afternoon expressed some concern about the present unfavorable trade balance. What may be said to-day could have been said with greater force in 1929-30,- when the adverse trade balance was approximately £90,000,000 and we all know what remedial measures were adopted by the Scullin Government to square the ledger. Some advantages accrued to Australian industries from its action. In fact, the legislation then introduced was the forerunner of other legislative proposals which, during the last few years, have been successful in building up Australian industries and bringing about economic recovery much quicker than had been anticipated.
Critics of the Labour government of 1929-31 should remember that it was not in office for very long. They should not forget, also, that its financial rehabilitation policy had the endorsement of the then Opposition led by the present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons), who had just left the Labour party. As he had been a member of the Scullin Government, and therefore a party to its efforts to improve the finances of the country, he must accept his share of responsibility for any errors that might have been made at that time. Let us recall the facts and see what happened then. The present Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) and the then Leader of this chamber (Senator Pearce) conferred with representatives of the. State govern ments and. agreed to urge the Scullin Government to introduce certain legislative proposals. To that extent they were co-operating with the Labour Ministry, and in fact were parties to the negotiations that led to the adoption of a policy of which many Government supporters now complain.
– The Premiers plan.
– Who sponsored and welcomed the Premiers plan? And who assisted those huge financial institutions so to use their power as to force the then Prime Minister to adopt the plan as part of the Government’s policy? Reference has been made to orthodox financial methods and the desirability of so-called sound finance. 1 remind the Senate that under existing financial systems, whenever a crisis occurs anywhere in the world the people in power will so manipulate and use their authority as to ensure the acceptance of proposals which they approve to stabilize currency and credit. Whether methods be orthodox or unorthodox is immaterial. Much has been said about the need for the availability of credit. The use of the word “ credit “ is becoming more general now than formally. May I suggest that the greatest giver of credit not only in Australia but in the world generally, is the worker? If he sells his services for only two hours a day he gives his employer credit for that period. If he works for a day or a week, he creates credit for his employer for that period. In the pastoral and raining industries credit is frequently given for a whole year. Under the existing financial system banking institutions and employers extract this credit from the “workers and utilize it for their own profit without paying interest to the worker beyond the bare award given by the Arbitration Court. Thus it will be seen that finance and the manipulation of credits are a very broad and complicated problem, and it is just as well to realize that there must be a change if we are going to do any good for the masses of the people in Australia. More especially must action be taken, and taken immediately, to assist those out of work, because there is no more dangerous element in any community than unemployed workers. Men will not for long continue to believe that they are misfits in the scheme of things. Australians believe that all should have equal opportunity to secure a livelihood for themselves and their dependants. They are also of the opinion that they should have homes to live in, and because they themselves are not supplied with sufficient worldly wealth to provide these homes, the obligation must be shouldered by society. Governments in Australia must give effect to a programme that will provide work and homes for the people. The fact that thousands of people in Australia to-day have no source of income and are living under the most squalid conditions, proves that we are not a completely happy community. _ Remedial measures must bc adopted, otherwise we cannot hope to have good and orderly government. What are we going to do about it? My suggestion is that the people themselves must wake up and look after their own interests. There must be an alteration in connexion with the Government of this country. The people can no longer afford to let those behind the newspapers do their thinking for them. They must realize their own responsibility in this matter. I am hopeful that in the near future there will be a. change for the better. I am not concerned whether the improvement is effected by this Government or a Labour administration. I am not so “ dyed in the wool “ a Labour man that I would deny those opposed to Labour an opportunity to bring about better conditions for the people.
We all desire to see an improvement effected as soon as possible, and I know it is the desire of those who sit with me on this side of the chamber to give the Government whatever assistance they can to that end. We want to see the people employed and housed properly ; we want, to see a happy community in which the children are receiving the education they deserve and the training necessary to fit them for employment.
– The motion now before the Senate gives honorable senators an opportunity to express their views on practically any subject, under the sun. lt is my intention to speak about several matters in which I am interested, and. I hope I shall not weary honorable senators.
The Treasurer, Mr. Casey, seems to be fearful of the future. He speaks about a business recession - the modern term for what in earlier years was called a depression. Throughout the world to-day there is a. tendency towards recession. But Mr. Casey tells us to be of good heart. He says that the situation is not so disquieting as we might imagine it to be. He declares that recent developments in America in the direction of economic recovery may have a splendid effect on the position in Australia. He says also that the Commonwealth Bank Board is watching carefully financial trends for any sign of a trade recession in Australia. Those of ne who have made a study of economics know that there are recurring periods of depression and prosperity. I see no point in Mr. Casey’s remarks, nor do I note any effort by the Government to offset the recurrence of a. trade depression. A Sydney newspaper, the Labor Daily, has been urging consistently that something must be done by the Government to counteract any trend towards a trade depression in Australia, but the Government goes on in the same old way and does nothing. In other countries, whether under democratic forms of govnrn.me.nt or dictatorships, thorough investigations are being made and definite steps are being taken to offset the recurrence of an economic slump. One writer says -
The economic situation is so critical that victory in the struggle which it involves can only go to those who will something new, something distinctive, and will it by the use of means which have some superior effectiveness over the mere augmentation of voting strength or representation in Parliament. We must bc armed with a capacity to overcome the impotence, the privations involved in the supposed automatic recurrence of the trade cycle.
He points out that the nations should not be content with the methods pursued in the early days of the development of capitalism, but should realize that industry must not bow the knee to finance and that governments must do something to mitigate the effects of recurring depressions. If war broke out Ave should no doubt act as a united nation, yet, in times of peace, the pious hope is expressed that events in the United States of America will have such an effect on Australia that this country will not suffer another depression. My criticism of the Government is that it has not done what it should in order to offset the approaching depression. It has got into a rut.
– The Treasurer states that depression is the result of a state of mind.
– That shows the state of mind of the Treasurer. Who but a lunatic would be foolish enough to suggest that a national campaign should be organized to induce the people to dope themselves with Coueism, saying “Day by day, in every way, we are getting richer, and overcoming our economic difficulties “ ? How futile it would be to imagine that by that means those difficulties would be surmounted !
It is necessary to do more than merely spend money for defence purposes. Admittedly such activities provide employment and circulate purchasing power. If it were not for war, and the fear of war, which results in the expenditure of millions of pounds, I am much afraid that our economic structure would soon- topple to the ground ; but, when there is no need for further armaments, what will take the place of this method of circulating purchasing power ? We on this side realize the need for public expenditure, and we wish to see the money used wisely. As a member of the Public Works Committee, I recently had the pleasure of taking a trip to Darwin, where I found that thousands of pounds will be wasted as the direct result of military control. I recently addressed a question to Senator Foll asking why the military authorities had taken over half of the town. No doubt some big “ brass hats “ had a map in front of them and drew a line through the most desirable part of Darwin to indicate the area required for officers’ quarters. ‘ For eighteen months the residents who occupy the heart of Darwin have been kept in suspense, not knowing whether to proceed with contemplated building improvements. They have had building material in readiness, but have considered it unwise to proceed with the work in view of the proposals of the Defence Department. Millions of pounds will be wasted in the next few years unless this Parliament keeps a watchful eye on the Government. It is computed that at least £150,000 will have to be paid to acquire the land to be set apart at Darwin for officers’ quarters, and, as there will probably be claims for goodwill, the total cost of acquiring the property may well amount to £250,000. Senator Foll in reply to my question said that, owing to the expansion of naval and military activities, a committee representative of the Defence Department, the Department of the Interior and the Northern Territory Administration had investigated the matter, and had made certain representations as to the action they considered desirable. I do not think that the Administrator (Mr. Abbott) had anything to do with this proposal; I believe that he would not consent to such a grossly unfair procedure. Plenty of land, for military purposes could have been obtained cheaply in the vicinity, without acquiring a site in the heart of the town.
Some people refer to “ Darwin the damned “ and others speak of the town as “Darwin the desirable”, but it has a long way to go before “ the damned “ becomes “ the desirable “. On arrival at Darwin I was ashamed to find that it did not contain the housing accommodation necessary for ‘ visitors. I can well imagine the surprise of visitors at the poor hotel accommodation at Darwin, after seeing the first-class hotels in Singapore. Passengers arriving by air would not- gain a favorable impression on being taken through “ Chinatown “’ and observing the undesirable conditions prevailing. The Government should see that visitors are properly accom- modated so that their first impression of Australia will be favorable. The members of the Public Works Committee visited the military garrison, and found the officers charming and hospitable. W e also went among the men and I must say that I did not like the position of their quarters which are close to the latrines. Honorable senators can imagine what that means in a hot climate like Darwin.
If the Northern Territory is to be developed, an attitude different from that displayed at the present time must be adopted. The territory has been regarded in the past as a white elephant, but I am glad that some effort is now being made to enable “this part of Australia to go ahead. Many of the residents maintain that one of the greatest drawbacks of the territory is the control exercised by Vestey’s, Bovril Estates and other companies which own land in thousands of square miles. Vestey’s own eleven stations of a total area of 24,993 square miles; Bovril Estates own two stations of a toal area of 12,211 square miles; whilst Connor, Doherty and Durack own three stations of a total area of 2,233 square miles. While these interests are doing very little to develop the Northern Territory, we find that 16,000 cattle are depastured on the relatively small station of Rosewood, which comprises 1,073 square miles. This property is a payable proposition, and it is the considered opinion of the majority of the residents of the Northern Territory that if the holdings of Vestey’s and the other big interests which I have mentioned were cut up, the development of the Northern Territory as a whole could be undertaken on a profitable basis. The Government should not ignore this opinion. It should immediately take steps to provide smaller holdings for the more intensive development of this part of the Commonwealth. This proposal, in fact, was made in the Payne-Fletcher Report, which pointed out that if the Northern Territory is to be advanced at all, it must be through the medium of smaller holdings.
I pay a tribute to the mining director in the Northern Territory. Mr. Hughes, who is doing excellent work. Proceeding on scientific lines instead of following the haphazard methods adopted in the past, he is dealing with the Northern Territory in districts, and is giving every encouragement to men who will do their jobs. As the result of their efforts we shall know very soon whether or not the mineral deposits which we believe to exist in the Northern Territory, do in fact exist. 1 also pay a tribute to the Government Botanist at Darwin, Mr. Mair. This official showed us through the Botanical Gardens at Darwin and explained what he was doing in the way of experiment. Conversing with him, I mentioned the good work that is being done by Mr. Bryce Henry in Queensland in the development of fat cattle and the provision of suitable grasses in the Tully district. Mr, Mair is doing similar work in the Northern Territory, experimenting with grasses that will thrive in that part of Australia, where the rainy season lasts for as long as six months. I mention these matters because several honorable senators have asked me for my opinion of the Northern Territory. It is no longer a white elephant; it has possibilities of expansion. However, I shall not say that Darwin, for many years to come, will be anything more than a government town. Its economy is based on government money. In passing, I suggest that all government officials at Darwin should be appointed from the Public Service, or should be required to pass the usual qualifying examination.
I understand that about 1,500 men will shortly be drafted to Darwin to reinforce the military, naval and air forces already there. This influx will be of great value, of course, to the local business people. It is also proposed to build a new gaol at Darwin. I shall not say too much about that proposal until the report of the Public Works Committee in respect of that project is presented, but at the moment I may go so far as to say that if I had my way I would blow up the present gaol immediately. It is certainly no credit to Darwin. It is further proposed to build a new hospital at Darwin and to provide a proper water supply. For the last 20 years the latter project has merely been talked about. Now the work is under way. and will be completed within two years. Despite this programme of development for the Northern Territory, I take this opportunity to warn any person thinking of going to Darwin in search of work, to keep away from that part of the Commonwealth until the work is actually started, because Darwin has been told for so many years of the good things which the Government proposed to do for it, but which never eventuated. It may be that many workers, if not warned, will go there looking for work, only to find that work is not available; in that event they will experience great difficulty in getting away from the place. I do not propose to deal with the aborigines, except to say that a lot of rubbish has been spoken about them. From my limited experience I cannot see that much good will result from the present practice of placing them in compounds. I understand that Mr. Francis, the chairman of the Public Works Committee, and another of my colleagues on that committee, Senator Cooper, will have something to say on this matter. I point out that Mr. Xavier Herbert, the author of Capricornia, and winner of the recent sesquicentenary prize of £250, who has lived among the aborigines for many years, is completely opposed to the present system. Many of the aborigines and half-castes in the Northern Territory are treated as slaves ; they are paid something like 5s. a week, which goes into a trust fund, out of which they are allowed 2s. to go to the pictures. Half-castes, particularly, resent this treatment. I understand that half-castes are employed under these conditions at the lazaret where wages ordinarily are double those paid in Darwin. I also believe that the Administrator has two or three half-castes working for him under these conditions. We cannot hope to develop the mentality of these people as long as we keep them down in this way. So far as labour conditions generally in Darwin are concerned, I understand that the basic wage is £4 13s. a week ; it should be at least £6 a week. As a matter of fact contractors who have tendered for works to be undertaken in the Northern Territory have informed the local union secretary, Mr. L. McDonald, that when the works are started labourers will be paid £6 n week. Workers who go to Darwin in the hot season deserve every penny of that wage. Personally, I would not live there, and I certainly would not take my family there. The population of the Northern Territory is growing gradually, hut after residence in the territory for two or three years many people depart, for the south. Young children there are healthy, hut after reaching the age of ten or twelve years their parents find it necessary for the preservation of their health to give them a change of climate. Keeping these disabilities in mind, wages for labour in the Northern Territory should be higher than are at present paid. The North Australian Workers Union is playing a splendid part in fighting for improved working conditions. One thing impressed upon me by union officials was that award conditions to be applied in the Northern Territory should be fixed by a person with knowledge of local conditions.
I pay a tribute to the officers and members of the local garrison. A searchlight display was given one night for the benefit of my colleagues and myself, but, frankly, I found that the equipment was far below first class. Like the radio equipment at Laverton where, as I pointed out on a previous occasion in this chamber, it was difficult for the ground staff to make contact with bombers overhead, these searchlights are obsolete. If we are to expend money on defence equipment, let us ensure that we get a decent return for it. In this respect, the Labour party contends that more money should be spent on the Air Force. I have here a very illuminating report which appeared in the Melbourne Herald, of the 3rd October, dealing with a review of Empire defence by British experts. It states - “There are now two main theatres of possible war - at home and in the Par East. Twelve battleships would be necessary in tin: Far East to assume control in the Pacific, which would leave one battleship for the defence of Britain,” lie writes. “ Thus. we are unable now, fir in the immediate future, to conduct a. naval campaign in the Pacific, oven if France agrees to protect Britain, which is an unthinkable proposition. This does not mean that we arc totally unable to assist Australia and New Zealand, but ‘we are unable to do so to tlie extent they have been led to expect. I do not support the prevalent conception of the Fleet steaming throughout the world, ready to deal crushing blows wherever it went. It is an idea encouraged by the Home Secretary (Sir Samuel Hoare) with talk of a ‘two hemispheres fleet*. “ The fact remains that the European theatre must always he the first consideration. TheBritish public would be correct in insistingthat the Fleet must remain in European waters . . . Australia’s present naval strategy presupposes command of the high seas, which appears so optimistic as to verge on unreality.
I recall that when the Government’s defence policy was debated in this chamber on a former occasion Senator Pearce and Senator Hardy declared that Australia needed a navy sufficiently strong to defend its trade routes. Yet wo have experts telling us that that verges on unreality.We said then that it was impossible for Australia to find sufficient money to build the warships necessary to defend this country and we contended that our main objective should be the building up of an efficient air force. The report in theMelbourne Herald continues -
The cruiser fleet on which Australia is spending a lot of money has no great usefulness, and would be helpless against battleships. … It might be an over-statement, but. it was correct in principle to say that the Australian Air Force would be able to overwhelm enemy transports. aircraftcarriers, and supply ships,and possibly to disable armed vessels.
Surely we should take notice of what these military experts say. Yet, for advocating these things on the hustings, mem- bers of the Labour party were abused.
– The biggest item of expense in the budget is in connexion with the Air Force.
-I am glad to notice that the advice of the Labour party has been accepted by the Government. 1 repeat that we on this side stand for the defence of Australia. Of course, there are in the Labour movement, as there are in the ranks of those who support the Government, some who style themselves pacifists. There are in every country persons who would not in any circumstances use a bayonet, or a. gun, or a. bomb, to destroy life. Some years ago. when I was in Canada.I read a number of extracts from a book entitled War, what for? The author, Kirkpatrick, visited Winnipeg while I was there. In the book to which I have referred, he stated-
War is the ignoble trick of slitting open the blood vessels of the excited working class to satisfy the honour and save the pride and business of crowned and uncrowned cowards of the ruling class. There never is a war and never canbe a war till the working men are willing to do the marching, the trench-digging and the actual lighting, bleeding and dying. And the working men are never willing to butcher and be butchered wholesale till influential but coarse-grained people of the capitalist class or highly-educated panderers to the capitalist class, craftily or ignorantly excite the humble toilersto thefiend’s stupid mood of savage hate.
First come the “ powerful editorials.” the “great speeches,” theeloquent sermons,” and ferocious prayers for war; then the file and drum; then the brain storm of the humble humbugged working men: then the recruiting; then the hand-waving and “ Good-bye, boys, good-bye, good-bye; “ then the butchering and the blood; then the tears and the taxes.
Listen, oh listen, you betrayed multitude of toil-damnedwar-blasted workers of all nations.
If the masters want blood, let them cut their own throats.
We don’t, want: other people’s blood and we refuse to waste our own.
Let those who want “great victories” go to the firing line and get: them.
If war is good enough to vote for or pray for. it is good enough to go to. up close where bayonets gleam, swords flash, rifles crash, fleshrips, blood spurts, bones snap, brains are dashed, up close where men toil, sweat, freeze, starve, kill, groan, scream, pray, laugh, howl, curse, go mad and die; up close where thefleshand blood of betrayed men andboys are ground and pounded into a red mush of mud by shrieking cannon balls, by the ironshod hoofs of galloping horses and the steel- bound wheels of rushing gun trucks. “What is war?”
They say “‘war is hell.”
Well then let those who want hell go to hell.
It might be well if Herr Hitler or Signor Mussolini were to read the book. To some people those might appear to be wild statements, but I realize that there is much truth in them. The Labour party believes that when a war is forced upon people, the necessity to defend themselves arises. We on this side do not believe in for ever turning the other cheek to the aggressor.’ Like a certain Quaker, we might suffer . one hit without retaliation, but not more. In the present condition of the world’s economic disintegration, nations are being compelled by circumstances to arm themselves in order to effect economic expansion.. It is all very well to be sentimental, but I ask these who accept the pacifist doctrine what would be the position of this country if another nation attempted to land on. its shores. Could we afford to turn the other cheek? Would we not have to arm and defend ourselves? Although I do not condone the Japanese action in China, we should try to understand the motives underlying it. Two babies are born in Japan every minute, which means an increase of the population by a million a year. That overpopulated country is so highly developed agriculturally that the average size of its farms is 2^ acres. Every inch of arable ground is cultivated. Previously, the people of Japan lived in a feudal state, but they were forced to adopt the capitalistic system of Western countries. In order to obtain credit to purchase the raw materials which their country does not produce, they are compelled to win world markets. As I have said, I do not condone Japanese actions in China, but I am a realist, and I know that it is the internal development of Japan which has forced it to expand. We might, of course, read a homily to the people of Jap.an, but a study of the history of the British Empire discloses that our hands are not clean of the blood of innocent people. We should do well to face facts. There is taking place in Europe an economic expansion which is forcing one of the great nations of the world to act in a certain way. Recently, at Munich, an agreement was signed which it is claimed will ensure peace in our time. It will be peace only for a time, foi’ there are at work forces which are driving tlie nations of Europe in a certain direction. . All the talk of peace, and the repetition of pious platitudes, will not eliminate the possibility of war in the near future, unless the nations, instead of seeking economic expansion and military aggrandisement, seek the welfare of their people and of tlie people of other nations. In the past there have been pacts and treaties, but almost before the ink on them was dry, the signatories appeared to have forgotten the obligations which they had contracted. A few years ago the Kellogg Pact which renounced war, and the Locarno Treaty were signed by the representatives of the leading nations of the world. Only a few days ago the Prime Minister of England, Mr. Chamberlain, a man of intellect and courage, whose motives I do not impugn, signed an agreement with Herr Hitler which we have been told will ensure peace in our time. We are all thankful that war has been averted, but I point out that not one action has been taken by the capitalistic governments of Europe to eliminate the causes of war. The Labour movement says that, sooner or later, the nations of the world, instead of seeking financial dominance, should organize in the interests of the people. There is a world of difference between producing for the welfare of the people and producing to give greater interest to investors. I have made it plain that the Labour party stands for the most efficient defence of Australia. If I were asked whether Australia is being efficiently defended, I would answer emphatically, “ No.” The Lyons Government should be impeached at the bar of public opinion for- its failure adequately to defend Australia. If war were to come to Australia to-morrow - and the possibility of war still remains - it would go hard with us, because this country is not adequately defended. I am not speaking for the sake of making political capital, for. I firmly believe that the defence of this land should be above party politics. The Minister for Defence said that “neither the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) nor anybody else can improve on what is being done for the Air Force at present “. According to a paragraph which appeared in the Ago on the 22nd June, 1938, the Minister said that “ the Royal Australian Air Force is one of the most up-to-date air forces in the world “. Doubtless honorable senators have studied carefully the report of Air Marshal Sir Edward Ellington on the Royal Australian Air Force. He stated amongst other things that our air force is weak. I refer honorable senators to the following extract from a leading article which appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald - the mouthpiece of the United Australia party and the Country party -
Sir Edward Ellington’s report in what it says and what it implies is a severe indictment of the administration of the Royal Aus tralian Air Force, lt substantiates past criticism of the conditions and control of military aviation and of the lack of cooperation between the air arm and civil a viation
We have also had the assurance from the Minister for Defence that every effort is being made to provide an effective air force for Australia. The Minister said that the Royal Australian Air Force is one of the most up to date in the world, but the investigation conducted by an expert from overseas discloses that there is no justification for the Minister’s contention. Previously I have spoken in this chamber of the loss of life that has resulted from allowing some of our pilots to fly machines that are not airworthy. I have referred to the death of young Fallon, and to the fact that he directed the attention of his father to the condition of the machine a few hours before his death.His father was anxious to give evidence before a public tribunal, but the Government refused to order an open inquiry. He wished to state the truth regarding the slaying of his son. The following statement appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald of the 21st September, 1938:-
Our most modern bomber, the Avro Anson, was inferior to many commercial aircraft. The Hawker Demon was hopelessly out of date; the Bulldog, Moth, and’ Wapiti types were now almost antique; in fact, all Australian defence aircraft were obsolete.
In view of that statement,I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether we have any modern aircraft in Australia? Is the Air Force equipped with obsolete machines? Are they equal to machines produced in other parts of the world? We are informed that some of the machines in the Royal Air Force can exceed a speed of over 400 miles an hour. There is not one plane in Australia that can exceed a speed of 300 miles; I doubt very much whether there is one that can travel even at that speed.
– We are securing more modern planes as fast as we can.
– That is not true.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes).- Order!
– I take exception to that statement.
– Apparently I am not permitted, under theStanding Orders, to use plain English.
– The honorable senator said that the statement I made was not true. I take strong exception to that remark, and ask that it be withdrawn.
– I ask Senator Brown to withdraw the remark to which exception has been taken.
– I withdraw it if it hurts the feelings of the Minister, but I say that the Government is not obtaining modern air planes from Great Britain, and it refuses to purchase them in the United States of America.
– The Ellington report did not condemn the aeroplanes we have in use.
– Sir Edward Ellington said that our Air Force is weak.
– He did not condemn the machines.
– I do not care what Sir Edward Ellington said; I am making the definite statement that our machines are obsolete. If the Minister representing the Minister for Defence can prove that the Government is procuring modern aeroplanes I shall he pleased. Not long ago Britain purchased 400 aircraft from the United States of America. How many aircrafthave we purchased from that country? Two hundred American Lockheed monoplanes will supplement and ultimately supplant the British Avro Anson monoplane at present used . for reconnaissance duties. It appears that Britain is lending us machines which it finds useless for its own defence. What type of machines are they? Are they modern machines? I submit that they are not. The report also stated that all service squadrons are below strength both in officers and in men; there is a deficiency of flight commanders and non-commissioned officers. Since 1932 twenty persons have been killed as a result of accidents in the Royal Australian Air Force, and several have been injured. The Government is not doing its duty by Australia. The Minister for Defence has admitted that the development of the AirForce is vital to the defenceof Australia. If we are to defend this country we must do so by the air arm, as it is impossible for Australia to find money to build the battleships necessary to defeat an enemy in the Pacific. I trust that the matters which I have mentioned will receive the close attention of the Minister, and that when he replies he will be able- to give to the Senate an assurance that steps are being taken adequately to defend Australia.
Debate (on motion by Senator LA v p’ adjourned.
DEFENCE Hoad at Bankstown.
Motion (by Senator A. J. MCLACHLAN) proposed -
That Lite Senate do huw adjourn.
.- During the debate on the Supply Bill last week I referred to Senator Amour’s complaint that the Defence Department is opposed to constructing a road through Bankstown and across Georges River to the Liverpool manoeuvre ground. My remarks on that occasion left the impression that the Honorable senator, who is a member of the Bankstown Council, was endeavouring to got. an unnecessary military road and bridge constructed to benefit that council at the expense of the Commonwealth Government. I have since learned that a bridge lias already been constructed over the river by the Bankstown Council out of its own funds and relief funds. I regretthat the. information at my disposal at the time was not up to date, and if I have hurt the feelings of the honorable senator T express regret.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
New Guinea A<-.l - Ordinance No. 43 of 10.18 Petroleum ( Prospecting ,ind Mining)
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointment - Department of the Treasury- W. C. Balmford
Northern Territory Acceptance Act >ind Northern Territory ( Administration ) Act - Crown Tenuis Ordinance- Reasons for resumption of reserve at Playford, Northern Territory.
Sent, of Government ( Administration ) At;t - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Australian Capita] Territory for the.’ year ended 30th June, 1038.
Senate adjourned at 10.10 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 October 1938, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1938/19381005_senate_15_157/>.