15th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Minister for the Interior aware that the unfortunate Lascars, who recently went on strike in Sydney,were on the wharf four days and nights without food? Does he know that the reason why they struck was that, although six months’ wages were due to them, they could not collect the munificent sum of twenty-six shillings a month, and that no provision had been made to ensure them against war risks?
– The Lascars left their ship. The circumstances surrounding the case are not fully known to me, but they are now prohibited migrants, and the law will have to take its course. They will be arrested as prohibited migrants, and will be sent back to their own country.
– Has the Leader of the Senate any statement to make regarding the matter of rates of military pay?
– According to the press this morning, the Government intends to grant half postal and parcels rates to men in military camps and to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. Will the -Minister representing the Postmaster-General state whether the Government proposes to introduce a bill to give effect to that concession, and docs it also intend to grant to these men half telephone rates, which would not necessitate legislative action?
– It is a fact that the Government has decided to grant to men in military camps and to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force half postal and parcels rates. The honorable senator’s question regarding a reduction of telephone rates will be brought under the notice of the PostmasterGeneral for consideration.
– Is the Minister for Commerce aware of the fact that the restrictions placed upon imports will have the effect of putting out of employment in the next few months, in Sydney alone, at least 5,000 men in the furniture upholstering trade ?
– I do not think that those figures are correct.
– On the 29 th November last, Senator Keane asked me whether steps would be taken effectively to advertise the fact that work is not obtainable at the munitions factories at Maribyrnong. I am now in a position to inform the honorable senator that it is not correct to say that work is not available at the munitions establishments at Maribyrnong. There are, in fact, vacancies for skilled tradesmen such as toolmakers, gaugemakers, toolsetters, &c. ; vacancies also occur from time to time for semi-skilled and unskilled workers. All of these vacancies are normally filled from the register of applicants maintained at the Supply and Development Department’s employment office, which is situated at room 17, first floor, 475 Collins-street, Melbourne, During the last three months over 2,000 men and women have been engaged through the employment office for work at the munitions establishments at Maribyrnong and Footscray. The honorable senator’s purpose might be served if publicity were given to the fact that the employment bureau associated with these factories is conducted in an office in Melbourne. Apparently, persons in search of employment are calling at the factories, which is not the correct procedure. I shall ask my colleague, the Acting Minister for Supply and Development, to give publicity to the fact that there is an employment bureau in the city.
– I lay on the table of the Senate the following paper : -
Copy of notes exchanged on the 21st August, 1039, between His Majesty’s Governments in the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia, and New Zealand and the Government of India on the one hand and the Government of the Netherlands on the other hand, regarding the reciprocal recognition of documents of identity for aircraft personnel.
The agreement embodied in the exchange of notes becameeffective on the date of signature of the notes.
– Will the Leader, of the Senate state at what stage the Senate will have an opportunity to discuss the Canadian Air Agreement?
– An opportunity to discuss the general policy in connexion with the air scheme will be afforded at the appropriate time.
asked the Minister representing the Attorney-General, upon notice: -
– The AttorneyGeneral has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Leader of the Government in the . Senate, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained, and will be furnished to the honorable senator at as early a date as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : - 1 and 2. The work provided on the unemployment relief programme for the Rathmines seaplane base has already been commenced.
Alterations to “ Yarralumla “ House
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
The work is not yet. complete ‘ and these figures do not represent the final cost. The additional cost on alterations will be small. The final cost of furnishings, 4c, cannotbe given until articles and materials purchased in Great Britain come to hand and the account.” are received. 3.No. The site indicated for the Governor-
General’s residence in the Griffin plan was altered in the Statutory Plan during the regime of the Federal Capital Commission, when it was moved to the ridge west of the present temporary Westlake settlement.
The suggestion to use “Yarralumla” as a vice-regal residence was made by the Federal Capital Advisory Committee in its report of the 18th July, 1921, in accordance with the general policy adopted at the time to provide for the transfer of the Seat of Government as economically as possible and postpone the execution of works of a monumental character until a later stage.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Pollings) adjourned.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) read a first time.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 1st December, (vide page 1926), on motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As mentioned by the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) in his second-reading speech, this bill has been introduced for only one purpose, and as the Opposition is in agreement with that purpose it will not delay the passage of the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1926), on. motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the Opposition is in agreement with the only proposal contained in this bill, it sees no occasion to debate the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1927), on motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As this bill, like those with which the Senate has just dealt, contains provisions in respect of wages and conditions of employment of which the Opposition approves, we on this side will not debate it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 (Short title). [Quorum formed.]
Clause agreed to.
Clause 2 agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported from committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1927), on motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is the last of a series of measures dealing with the rates of pay and conditions of employment in certain assisted industries, with which the Opposition is in agreement. It will not oppose the measure.
– I am particularly pleased that the act is being amended in the manner proposed. Senators may remember that when the Newsprinting Paper Bounty Bill was before this chamber some time ago I pressed very strongly for the inclusion of such a provision as the Government has now brought forward. I trust that in future all similar bounty bills will include a similar clause in order to protect the employees against any breach of the awards by the employers.
– Was not a similar clause inserted in all bounty bills?
– in reply - A similar provision was in all bounty bills until 1938 ; but as there was some doubt as to its validity it was not embodied in subsequent bills. The Government having been assured as to its validity has now re-introduced it to meet a need which has been advocated from time to time.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages, without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1929), on motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) stated in moving the second reading of the bill it is merely to ratify an agreement with a favoured nation ; and, as the Opposition believes that the Government should enter into as many of these agreements as can be arranged for the benefit of Australia, the Opposition supports the measure.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (vide page 1929)., on motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill, which is to ratify a trade agreement between the Commonwealth and Newfoundland, is in the same category as the measure which the Senate has just passed. Will the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) give the Senate some information concerning the countries from which newsprint is now imported, and the quantity produced and used annually in this country? Will this agreement operate to the detriment of those already engaged in the industry in Australia, and those who may be establishing plants for the production of newsprint ? I understand that there is likely to be a shrinkage of imports from the usual sources, and that it may be an advantage to obtain supplies from other countries. . As supplies through the ordinary channels may be restricted, and there may also be difficulty in obtaining shipping for such supplies as are available, this agreement may be very desirable. But I should like to be quite sure of the position, because the Opposition is determined at all times to protect Commonwealth industries and to foster the establishment of additional industries as opportunity offers.
– in reply - Owing to the limited facilities available, and to other causes associated with the war, . it may be extremely, difficult for Australia to obtain its normal supplies of newsprint. This agreement will probably ease the situation to a degree. I am not in a position at the moment to give to the Leader of the Opposition the details concerning production and use in Australia; but I am having inquiries made and hope to be able to supply the information later. The position of the industry in Australia was fully considered before entering into this agreement, ‘ which will not jeopardize Australian production in any way.
– Do I understand that the British Government is satisfied that this agreement should be entered into?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Debate resumed from the 1st December (ride page 1934), on’ motion by Senator McBride -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– This bill is of considerable importance to an Australian industry, because it goes some distance along the road on which we of the Opposition consider progress should be made. (Quorum formed.”] To the degree that it is a step in the right direction for the protection of an important industry, the Opposition approves of the bill; but because, in 011 1 opinion, it falls short of what w* consider to be necessary for the encouragement of shipbuilding in Australia, we hope to see it very much improved before it leaves this chamber. As I am not the compendium of all the wisdom on this side of the chamber - it might be a different matter if I were sitting among honorable senators opposite - I propose to ask my deputy, Senator Keane, who is much better qualified to do so than I arn, to take this bill in hand.
.- The only fault I have to find in this bill is that clause 5 limits the assistance to this most important industry to £50,000. The war has placed us in a disastrous position in regard to the shipment of our primary products overseas. The commandeering of merchant ships by the Admiralty for use as auxiliaries to the Navy has brought’. a.bou’t, a shortage of ships necessary totransport essential primary products to- the Old Country, not only from Australia, but also from other British dominions. In view of this, I should have imagined that the Government would have gone a little further and have offered in this bill some inducement for the construction of vessels of a. larger type in Australia. We have ample supplies of the necessary raw materials and skilled workmen capable of fashioning those raw materials into ships. If our resources were developed in this direction we could do much to ease the position in relation to the scarcity of shipping, at least in Australian waters. I do not regard the proposed bounty as sufficient to attract the investment of capital for the establishment of new shipbuilding yards, or for the extension of existing yards. Protests have frequently been made regarding tie inadequacy of the facilities provided at the shipbuilding yards at Williamstown, in Victoria. I have no doubt that those facilities could be extensively increased if the Government were prepared to offer a substantial bounty for the construction of vessels in Australia.
– By private ^enterprise ?
Senator ALLAN MacDONALD.Private enterprise should be given every encouragement to expand this important industry. I always frown on the. usurpation by governments of work which should be undertaken by private individuals. In my opinion no government should engage in industry; it should concentrate solely on its important work of governing the people. A substantial bounty should be offered to private individuals who are prepared to invest their money in this industry, not only because of the great employment which it is capable of offering, but also because the exigencies of the war have resulted in the depletion of our mercantile marine. Australia is now able to produce steel plates suitable for the construction of Vessels second to none in the world. “When I paid a visit to Port Kembla only a few months ago I saw steel ready for export to the Old Country. I was informed that similar Australian steel was being landed in England at slightly under the price then being asked for British steel. The fact that the Australian steel industry has so progressed as to be able to enter into competition with similar industries in other parts of the world makes us feel proud of our Australian industrial organizations and our Australian workmen. I deplore the fact that the Government has not seen its way clear to increase the bounty on ships to such a degree as to give a great impetus to the shipbuilding industry in Australia.
.- This bill at least goes a little way along the road towards making Australia selfreliant in the all-important matter of shipbuilding. It is all the more welcome “when it is remembered that quite recently a pronouncement was -made by the Government that negotiations were proceeding with the British Government for the early opening of Australian shipbuilding yards for the construction of vessels for use even by the Old Country. I believe that no bill which nas been introduced in this Senate during the present session has had greater implications than that which we are now discussing. So far our attention during the present period of the session has been confined to the desirability of granting bounties to this or that industry and to listening to descriptions of out war activities and war expenditure, matters which, after nil, are not of intense interest to the majority of the workers of this onn try. The development of the shipbuilding industry will provide an avenue of employment second to none. We have the materials and the organisations necessary for the development of this important industry. To see what Australian enterprise and organization, -can’ do we have only to remember the tremendous expansion of firms such as General Motors-Holdens Limited, which only 2£ years ago established its plant in Victoria at a cost of £800,000. In the first year of its operations the company made a profit of £1,000,000. and in the second year £600,000, and all the time it paid the highest wages and observed award conditions. Another organization which has done exceedingly well in the short time since it was first established is the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation. I understand that the corporation’s plant at Fisherman’s Bend is now turning out one Wirraway aeroplane every week. The workmen in our various railway workshops have demonstrated their ability to construct something nearly as intricate as a ship ; they have turned out streamlined air-conditioned trains such as the Spirit of Progress and those intricate S engines and 36 engines of high haulage capacity which are used on the New South Wales Railways. It may be found that, for the expansion of the shipbuilding industry in Australia, some overseas financial help will be necessary. We have, however, existing shipbuilding yards at Garden Island. Williamstown and other places round the coast which are capable of tremendous expansion. Everything should be done to improve the facilities provided by them. If this war should last for some years, as I am afraid it will, we shall be forced to depend largely on our own efforts for the building of vessels to carry Australia’s primary products overseas to replace those destroyed by enemy action. We cannot expect too much from the great shipbuilding yards in the United Kingdom, because of their vulnerability to enemy aircraft. I do not propose to deal at length with Senator Allan MacDonald’s comment that the shortage of vessels for the shipment of our primary products overseas would penalize our producers - indeed I agree with his remarks on that point - -Find I do not wish to introduce a discordant note into the debate but T must say that it is a pity that the Government which the honorable senator supports did not think likewise when . it gave away the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. That line would be of inestimable value at the present time. The running losses are not a fair indication of the services which it rendered to this country. It is futile for honorable senators opposite to say that it lost so many millions of pounds. As Senator Gibson knows, the primary producers’ organizations, not the Labour party, claimed in 1925 that through those vessels from £5,000,000 to £7,000,000 in freight was saved to the primary producers of this country.When the vessels were given away, freight charges were increased to the detriment of our primary producers.
– Surely the honorable senator does not blame the Menzies Government for the disposal of that line?
– This Government isa full-blooded successor to the BrucePage Government, and has the same outlook on matters of this kind.
– A loss of £500,000 a year was overcome when that line was sold.
– But the main point to be considered is that through that line the primary producers of this country were saved up to £7,000,000 in freight. In any case the vessels were given away, and they have not even been paid for.
– They have been partly paid for.
– And the man who was responsible for the mess was given a rest because he mixed his master’s money with his own. However, he was a customer, . not of ours, but of a government of the same political complexion as this Government.
In the present crisis we cannot rely on the old country to build ships for us. I hope the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited which, with the aid of a tremendous amount of Government help in the form of subsidies, and with the help of wonderful workmen, has proved so successful, will not send its orders overseas when it wants new ships to transport its ore around the coast of this country. but will decide to have them built in Australia. When that company purchased two vessels abroad last year we were told that it would have cost twice as much to build them here. I do not agree with that statement. In any case I hope that this company, which this year made a profit of £3,500,000, will remember tha claims of Australian workmen, many of whom are unemployed, when it next contemplates acquiring new ships. I believe that in the present crisis the company will realize that it must rely solely on this country, which has the material and the men to build the ships it requires.
This measure originated in a report of the Tariff Board.As I said when I sat behind the Scullin Government in the House of Representatives, I do not admit the right of the Tariff Board to dominate this Parliament. The Labour party realizes that the board is the proper authority, possessing the requisite skill, to conduct unbiased inquiries in matters referred to it, but no decision of the board should represent the last word to be said upon any matter. In this instance the board says that the proposed bounty shall be confined to ships up to 1,500 tons, the bounty shall not exceed £50,000 a year, and this assistance shall be spread over a period of three years.
– That is only the opinion of the Tariff Board.
– And the Government has accepted its opinion holus bolus. The Lyons Government set the bad example of accepting, blindly and absolutely, the decisions of the Tariff Board. One result of that policy is that many industries find it difficult to obtain assistance. Owing to their own fault in many eases, probably, some industries fail to obtain as fair a hearing from the board as they are entitled to. I admit that the board is not wholly to blame in that connexion. However, stricter provision should be made for review by Parliament of the decisions of the board.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that at present the Tariff Board’s decisions are not subjectto review by Parliament?
– The recommendations of the board have been absolutely included in this measure. For instance, the following statement appeared in the press yesterday: -
Details of the bounty proposal are contained in a recommendation of the Tariff Board which has been accepted by the Ministry. The recommendation is as follows: -
The payment of a bounty on iron or steel vessels (other than war vessels) over 100 tons but not exceeding 1,500 tons gross register.
The rate of bounty to be £12 10s. per ton on vessels over 100 tons but not exceeding 750 tons. Such rate to be gradually reduced so that on vessels of 1,500 tons gross register the rate would be £10 per ton.
Bounty payments he limited to £50,000 per annum.
That machinery, boilers and auxiliaries required in the construction in Australia of vessels eligible for bounty be admitted free of duty from the United Kingdom and at 15 per cent, from foreign sources.
That the duties on vessels of the type eligible for bounty be fixed at Free (British Preferential Tariff), 15 per cent. (General Tariff).
That the matter be reviewed by the Tariff Board after the bounty has been in operation for a period of three years.
Honorable senators may say that that statement is innocuous, and may ask what is wrong with limiting the period of assistance to three years. I suggest that conditions have materially altered even since the board furnished its report. It is now obvious that British shipping will be seriously reduced owing to the activity of the enemy at sea. Not only the primary producers, but also shippers generally, will feel the effect of these restrictions. In view of the colossal task of shipping £101,000,000 worth of our primary products overseas, honorable senators generally must realize the importance of encouraging shipbuilding in this country. Some honorable senators may ask whether the Government can do more than it is doing in this respect. I say to the Government that if we on this side were in power, we should go to the country with two slogans - “We want planes and more ‘planes; we want ships and more ships “. If those slogans were acted upon we should meet the views of the industrial movement as a whole; and in that direction, I believe, lies the secret of the success of Australia’s participation in this war. It. is futile for the Govern ment to talk of little isolated jobs. It says, for instance, that it will train some of our Air Force personnel here and some in Canada, and that it will make some planes here and buy some in England. “ Ships and more ships, ‘planes and more planes”, should be our slogan. If we acted upon it, we could achieve almost the impossible in this war. We should apply it even if it involved the employment of junior labour to an unusual degree. From my experience of the workshops of this country - and as for years I presented the claims of 85,000 railway men in the Arbitration Court, I know what I am talking about - I believe that the workmen of this country will rise to the occasion presented by the difficulties confronting us in the present crisis. Indeed, men who have gone out of industry would gladly return in the present emergency in order to show the younger men how to handle this job. It is more than ever important that we should establish a shipbuilding industry in this country. In the past we have badly lagged behind in this respect, but now we should look ahead and plan to establish the industry on a big scale. We should visualize our necessity in the immediate future to build ships in this country in order to help not only ourselves but also the British mercantile marine. The tonnage limitation for the payment of this bounty should, be increased from 1,500 tons to 5,000 tons in order to encourage the construction of the class of vessel which is almost in general use in interstate and intra-state trade, and, to some degree, in overseas trade.
It is proposed under this measure to admit free of duty machinery such as hoilers, driving gear, and humping gear, required for use in shipbuilding. We on this side do not agree with that proposal, and in that opinion we are supported by the men engaged in the industry. The Government now proposes to provide a bounty of £50.000 a year and, at the same time, to deprive thousands of Australian workers of employment although they possess the skill necessary to build this machinery. It can be constructed at. such works as Thompson’s. Castlemaine, Wort’s Dock, Babcock and Wilcox, Cockatoo
Island Dock, the Clyde Engineering Works in Sydney and Walker’s Limited in Queensland. In practically every State works exist which are capable of making machinery of this kind. For instance, a colossal dredge, costing £180,000, was recently constructed at Castlemaine. That dredge, which has proved most successful, is comparable with anything of its kind constructed elsewhere. It is obvious, therefore, that we have the men and the resources to make this machinery. Despite this fact, however, the Government proposes to admit it free of duty. That machinery should be made here. With one hand, the Government provides a bounty for the shipbuilder, and with the other it deprives Australian workmen of opportunities to find employment. Such a policy is not helpful to industry in this country.
– Every body is aware of the skill of Australian workmen. There is no need to emphasize it.
– I wish that organizations like the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited would realize it. When next that firm requires ships for the transport of iron ore and other goods around our coast I hope that it will place its orders for the construction of such ships in Australia.
In order to give some idea of implications of this bounty I point out that from 1918 to 1938 we imported 268 vessels, with all fittings, costing £4,255,000. I do not suggest that all of that money could have been spent here, but most of it could have been. Other aspects of the measure also need to be emphasized. It appears that on a previous occasion, on the recommendation of the Tariff Board, a bounty was paid gross tons; Germany, 347,832 gross tons; on vessels up to 500 tons constructed in this country. That assistance has not proved successful. In making its present orders. From 1932 to 1935 a total of 77 vessels were constructed outside Australia, and registered in Australia, as follows :- From 100 to 500 tons, 25 ; from 500 tons to 1,000 tons, 34; and from 1.000 ton? to l.SOO tons. lS. Of these, was guided by experience in the construction of vessel? overseas to Australian 63 ships were for private companies, the remainder being built to the order of State governments. The needs of the have been roaming about jobless. Happily, their position is not so bad as State governments support my contention that vessels of that size could be built and sold in this country. The necessary organization is available among shipwrights and workers in the iron. trades and other industries in which the conditions have been serious. Skilled men it was before this war.
– There was a slump in shipping all over the world. Of what use would it have been to build ships that were not required?
– There was a direct demand for shipping. I have just enumerated seventy-seven vessels that were built outside Australia. Even if we cannot build ocean liners we can build smaller vessels: The honorable senator, 1 am sure, would have- had those vessels built here.
The other comment that I wish to make is that the British Government brought in a scheme to help the shipbuilding industry in Great Britain. It said “We must have ships and more ships “ and the shipbuilders got on with the job. Assistance was given by way of loans and grants. It was proposed that a sum not exceeding £10,000,000 should be made available in respect of the building of new cargo vessels ordered after the 28th March, 1939. These loans and grants will be made available for the building of cargo liners, tramp steamers, &c. As the result of that policy, the. increase of ment took similar action. As the result of the adoption of the British plan there is under construction in Britain and Ireland 791,000 gross tonnage of ships. About 108,000 gross tons, or 13.7 per cent., is intended for registration abroad, or for sale. The tonnage now under construction abroad is 2,067,837 gross. The leading foreign countries building are: same ‘thin? would happen in this Japan, 308.849 gross tons: Italy, 224,616 gross tons; Holland, 223,381 gross tons; British shipping has been colossal. The Sweden, 160,620 gross tons, and Denmark, 122,440 gross tons. Just imagine that The United States of America, 391,824 country if the Commonwealth Governrecommendation the board apparently places like Sweden, Holland and Denmark are building such colossal tonnages whilst Australia, which has superior conditions and greater reasons for wanting shipping than have European countries, is doing nothing. The bill is an effort to get something done, but it should be amended on the lines suggested by the Labour party, that is, by providing for the bounty to be paid on vessels of a greater gross tonnage and by not remitting the duty on boilers, engines and auxiliaries from overseas. I welcome the measure as an instalment in the creation of an industry which will give more opportunity to the skilled men. There is an opportunity for the Government to make the shipbuilding industry a part of its afterthewar policy. “We can build our own ships for our own work and when the Empire wants more shipping we should be able to supply its requirements just as well as any other part of the world.
– It is fitting when a bill of this kind is before the Senate that attention should be directed to the actual position. I say that because the Government, for reasons best known to itself, has not attempted to direct attention to that position. First we have had Senator Allan MacDonald stating his belief that private ‘ enterprise should be encouraged and subsidized in the building of ships. It should be obvious to Senator Allan MacDonald and other honorable senators that private enterprise has failed and is failing all along the line. Hence the necessity for Government assistance. Now of what does that assistance consist? Through the medium of not only the shipping board, but also all boards which the Government has established, assistance is given to establish to a far greater degree than has existed hitherto in. Australia private monopolies. Assistance is given to all of our primary and secondary industries, which are’ unable to help themselves, mainly in the interests of private enterprises and to the detriment of the working class of Australia. The granting of this bounty will certainly help to establish the shipping industry in Australia, but I direct attention to the fact that for years past the Labour party has been advocating the establishing of our secondary industries on a selfcontained basis. It is only when war comes that the Government makes a virtue of necessity. It is only when ships cannot be purchased abroad at lower prices than they can be manufactured in Australia that the Government comes forward and says, “ We shall have to grant a bounty. We must have ships “.
– What was the date of the Tariff Board’s recommendation?
– I am not concerned about the Tariff Board for the moment. The point I wish to emphasize is that what the Government is doing now could have been done years ago. If that had been done, when the war came we should have been prepared; but we are not prepared. We have now to speed up. Wartime economy is simply a speeding up of our peacetime economy.
– The honorable senator may as well say that about aviation and the Militia.
SenatorCAMER ON. - Exactly. Ever since the depression, our virile manhood and womanhood have been deteriorating mentally and physically because this Government and its predecessors have not been interested sufficiently in the establishment of our economy in Australia on a self-contained basis. I suggest, therefore, that it is fitting and proper that attention should be directed to that, in the hope that the lessons yet to be learned will not be forgotten like the lessons that were learned during and after the last war. Our peacetime economy is based upon two principles - minimum costs of production, which, of course, include the lowest wage possible and maximum profits. So, when we require ships or engines, or anything at all, if they can be manufactured more cheaply in Germany or Japan, or any other country, we find our strictly orthodox economists representing the Government saying, as has been said ad nauseum, “ We cannot afford to pay the Australian rates. We can get our ships . or engines so much cheaper abroad “. That is the plea in peacetime, but in wartime a virtue is made of necessity, and the Government says, “ We must have ships and are prepared to pay a bounty for them “. 1 welcome the bill, because it will help to establish an industry. I agree with Senator Allan MacDonald that the amount of the bounty is not sufficient. If this war lasts as people in high places suggest that it is likely to last, a greater sum than £50,000 will be required. The bounty should not be used, as it is intended to be used in this instance, to subsidize and maintain failing private enterprise, which is concerned mainly with the profits that are to be gained as the result of shipbuilding. Private enterprise has no interest primarily in shipbuilding. Private enterprise would not be concerned in shipbuilding for one moment hut for the profit’s that can be made from it. But the people are concerned about shipbuilding. The nation requires ships, and there is no good reason why the Government should continue the economy which provides a maximum profit for private industry, particularly in time of war. I say that, because I have in mind what occurred after the last war. We discovered then, as has been discovered now, that we had not sufficient ships. The then Prime Minister, the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), practically on his own responsibility, purchased a fleet of ships. It was a very good fleet and the vessels served a useful purpose, but they were not profitable to shipping companies, private banking institutions, and people who had money capital to invest. Therefore, a government was elected which had as its policy an increase of the profits of private enterprise. That government immediately found a reason for disposing of the ships, and, immediately they were disposed of, freights rose and our farmers had to pay the cost.
– Tell us how job control killed that fleet.
– I shall deal with job control at the proper time. At the moment I emphasize that what happened after the last war will happen after this war. If the war were to end to-morrow, the policy of the Government would be “ It is no longer necessary to subsidize shipbuilding’ to the amount of £50,000 a year. We can purchase ships in Germany, Janan or England much more cheaply. We shall purchase them wherever labour costs are cheapest”. That is the reason why money capital is directed where the biggest returns from investments are possible. The policy of this Government is based on a maximum return for money capital invested in industry. It has been generally admitted that Australian workers are second to none. We have a superabundance of raw materials, and sufficient machinery for our purposes; if it is not sufficient, we have the industrial capacity to produce all that we need. Why, then, does not the Government go ahead? The objection raised is that we cannot embark on this industry if Australian standards of living are to be maintained. That objection nas always been raised in the past; it is raised again today, and no doubt it will be raised in the future unless this Government is replaced by one committed to an entirely different policy.
– They tried that in 1930.
– Unfortunately, the people were misled by sup.porters of the present Government, and their fears were capitalized by- the press of this country, which is indirectly interested in all these industries, speaks for them, and does its best to give effect to the policy for which the present Government stands. To-day there are 88,000 employable but unemployed men in this country. Were this Government as capable as it would have, us believe it to be, then, in this time of war, there would not be one man out of work. The resources of this country are tremendous.
– The resources were the same in 1929-31 when the Labour Government was in power.
– -That is not the point. Not only in respect of shipping, but also in respect of primary products such as wheat, meat, wool and fruits, and all manufactured equipment, our resources should be utilized to the fullest possible extent. That would he done under a government formed by honorable members on this side of the chamber, but this Government prefers that the many thousands of men now out of work should stay out of work. Tt has not made n serious endeavour to find avenues of employment for them; it has made no concerted effort to build up the material resources which are. so necessary if we are successfully to wage war. I say that with respect to this bill, because it is appropriate that attention should be directed to these matters. I say now to the Government that there must be more speeding up of industry than there has been in the past. Large industrial enterprises must not he permitted to use the valuable machinery placed at their disposal by the Government for the purpose of building up monopolized industries at the expense of the people.
– That has not been done.
– It is being done. How many contracts have been let on “ a gentleman’s agreement “ without tenders being called? What does that indicate? If one had sufficient time to make the necessary investigations of these matters, the people of this country would be astounded to learn what is going on. I do not wish to embarrass the Government in any way when it is undertaking a legitimate task, hut I shall embarrass it so long as it is committed to a policy of war, plus profits, for its friends. That is what. I object to in connexion with this bill. If the Government seriously intended to carry out its duty with regard to the shipbuilding industry, then it would take over all the necessary machinery and build the ships as a. State enterprise.
– Remember Cockatoo Island Dockyard?
– The Government has at its disposal all the necessary trained artisans. If- it cannot take over the industry and build ships, that is an admission that it is incompetent. The reason why the -Government will not do it is that there would be no profits for investors. Under this legislation, profits in the shipbuilding industry will be practically guaranteed as a result of government assistance, ‘ and there will be no difficulty in securing investments. But if the Government took over the industry and organised the many thousands of competent workers throughout Australia as- they could easily be organised under competent supervision, it could build bigger and better ships at a lower cost, because there would be no profit.
– That has never yet been done.
– It has been done. and it could be done again. Take, for instance, the construction of war vessels in Great Britain* That work is becoming more and more a government monopoly. It is coming more and more under government control. That has been found to be necessary because private enterprise, which is primarily interested in the making of profits and not in the building of ships, cannot be trusted. What has been done overseas over and over again, can be done in Australia. Unless the Government will pursue a policy along these lines, it will show that it is not sincere; it is not doing the job that should be done; it is not- making the fullest use of all the resources available, and therefore it is not endeavouring to protect this country as it should be protected. The mere fact that there are 88,000 men living on the dole is proof of that. That dole is paid for by the imposition of taxes upon wageearners, who, therefore, are working, not only to keep themselves and their families, but also to keep the many thousands who are out of work. By a thorough regimentation of Australian industries, employment could be. given to all those who are ‘out of work to-day, even assuming that most of them are only semiskilled and are not capable tradesmen. By a. proper system of industrial control every one of these men could be made a valuable producing unit without in any way reducing the standard of living of the Australian people, or paying less than the basic wage. That has been done in the past and the fact that it is not being done now constitutes an indictment of the Government. With other honorable senators on this side of the chamber, I support this bill so far as it goes. I suggest that much moTe could be done, and should be done quickly if this Government is to convince the Australian people that it is doing its best for. the country in this time, of war.
– I do not desire to delay the passage of this measure, but at this juncture I cannot resist the temptation to’ say a few words ou behalf of Queensland. 1 believe in the Commonwealth of Australia, but there are occasions on which I must stress the needs of Queensland. In that way I resemble the Scotchman who said, “I believe in internationalism; but Scotland for ever “. At Maryborough, in Queensland, the highly capable engineering firm of Walkers Limited has successfully engaged in the shipbuilding industry. That firm is efficiently, managed and employs highly skilled tradesmen, but it has suffered in the past because of the actions of the Government with regard to the construction in Australia of machinery of various descriptions. On several occasions this Government and its predecessors have taken action detrimental to the interests of that firm. I refer specifically to the happenings a few years ago when the firm of Walkers Limited was building diesel engines. I remember the occasion very well, because a demonstration was given in this chamber of how the tariff adversely affected the firm owing to the stupid differentiation made by the Government in the duty on diesel engines. Diesel engines are used extensively in boats of all descriptions, and the Government is reducing the tariff on some types of engines and boilers imported into Australia for use in ships. As I understand this hill, the proposal is to pay a’ bounty of £10 a gross ton on ships of up to 1,500 tons, with a limit of £50,000 in the first year. That amount is a mere bagatelle, and will do very little to assist the shipbuilding industry. However, it is a beginning, and it is essential that ships should be built in Australia. We are a maritime nation with 12,000 miles of coastline, and the real and vital need for the construction of vessels in this country has been proved beyond a shadow of doubt. What a splendid thing it would <be in these hours of the Empire’s need, when ships are daily being destroyed by enemy action, if we could say to the Old Country, “Australia will play its part as a great shipbuilding nation “. In the past the Government has been remiss in its duty to the nation, insofar as it has failed to give adequate encouragement to the shipbuilding industry in Australia. This applies particularly to the firm of Walkers Limited, to which only discouragement has been shown. I understand that Walkers Limited is capable of building, not only engines, but also far larger ships than those provided for in this bounty legislation.
– There is grave doubt about the engines.
– As my leader has pointed out, that firm has built the best locomotives. It has also built very fine diesel engines. The Government, however, struck a severe blow by reducing the tariff protection on engines of more than 100 horse-power. Ali that the British manufacturers had to do then was to build diesel engines of 105 horse-power instead of 100 horse-power, and these engines were admitted to Australia at a lower tariff, if not entirely duty free. Subsequently when I visited the yards of Walkers Limited, I saw a number of diesel engines lying there, and I was told tha’t they could not be sold in competition with engines imported from Great Britain. While we all have the greatestlove and respect for the Old Country, in matters such as this our own land must be placed- first. In the interests of the defence of the British Commonwealth of Nations, the shipbuilding industry must be placed on a firm footing in Australia, and employment given to the many thousands of men who to-day are seeking work. Why should not the Government be courageous in matters such as this? Why is it always left to the autocratic and fascist countries to do things courageously? We, in the democracies, have always been timorous and afraid to do the right thing, and only when a certain amount of pressure is brought to bear, is some action taken. In this case, a sop is being given by the payment, of a small bounty, and what is being given by one hand will be taken away by the other. In other countries, firm action has been taken in cases such as this, and encouragement has been given to industries oh a big scale indeed.
Sitting suspended from 12.U5 to 2.15 -p.m.
– I am not one who maintains that the policy of economic nationalism will, under the present financial system, solve all our problems, but it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction. Certainly, insofar as it applies to shipbuilding, it is essential if we are to progress as we should. Other countries do not subsidize their shipbuilding in the pinch-penny way of this Government, though we are graceful, of course, even for the little that the Government is doing. The Japanese pay a subsidy ranging from 25 per cent, to 50 per cent, of the cost of the ship, and shipping companies .are paid subsidies to open up new services. In the United States of America shipbuilding is encouraged by the granting of loans at 1 per cent, interest, and the mail steamer services are subsidized to the amount of 10 dollars a mile.
– A mile?
– I understand that that is so, though I may be wrong. 1 have been informed that, because of the little encouragement given to the shipbuilding industry in Australia, no fewer than 500 skilled workers have returned from this country to Great Britain within the last few years. The granting of this bounty should help to stop that drift. If the shipbuilding industry were properly developed, employment would be found for thousands of youths for whom there are at present no prospects. The Government has often paid lip-service to the ideal of establishing a thriving shipbuilding industry here. In years gone by, Mr. Bruce, when Prime Minister, spoke of the value of the industry and the skill of the workers employed in it. At that rime, two cruisers were to be built for the Australian Navy, and Mr. Bruce was emphatic that one of them, at any rate, should be built in Australia. Shortly after that he went to Great Britain, and found that unemployment was so bad there that, instead of having the cruisers built here. he had them built overseas. Of course. he is a big-hearted Australian !
– The honorable senator’s statements are not correct.
– Statements were made at the time showing that that was the reason.
– They will not bear out what the honorable senator has said.
– I shall quote Mr. Bruce’* own words. This is what the honorable Stanley Melbourne Bruce stated on that occasion -
T say T»”vt emphatically that lt is essential from n defence point of view that we should h,ii ld cnr own vessels.
That was thirteen years ago. A little later, he said -
The Government is very anxious that al least one -cruiser should be built in Australia, Many reasons for this must be immediately obvious to any one. One is that the Government would naturally ‘be desirous ‘Of promoting industry in Australia. Another is that .unless it is to come about that defence will not be required, we shall in future years -have to make provision for the construction of further units of the Australian Navy.
– That is not what we are denying.
- Mr. Bruce continued -
To do that it will be essential that we shall have a first-class dockyard and a first-class stuff in Australia capable of doing the work. Apart from this we have the fact that from time to time we shall inevitably require to repair our ships. We shall not. be in a position to do that until we have actually built in the Commonwealth ships of the class we require.
He went to Great Britain shortly after that, and upon his return he made this statement -
Unemployment was so acute in that country then that the British Government was anxious to do all that was possible to relieve it.
– That does not prove the honorable senator’s assertion.
– Shortly after that, the order for two cruisers was given to firms in Great Britain, demonstrating that the influence of the Britishers was greater than the influence of Australians. That is the logical inference from what happened. It has been computed that if the cruisers had been built here, the following beneficial results would have accrued : -
I do not suggest that we could solve every problem merely by having ships built here. I realize that, while we are establishing an industry, the greatest amount of employment is provided. Once the factories and docks have been completed, unemployment will ensue to some extent. But, at any rate, we should then be independent of outside supplies, money would be kept circulating in the” community, and we should have made a worthwhile contribution, to the defence of the country. Unfortunately, the Government seemed to forget all about defence for a long time. The matter of shipping was left to the future, just as was the building of aeroplanes. When Sir John Salmond visited Australia, he said that we need not bother about building aeroplanes here because all that were needed could be built in England.
– How long ago was that?
– Only a few years ago. Wing-Commander Wackett spoke very bitterly at the time of the closing down of the aeroplane construction factory, and the dispersal of the trained personnel. The Government is now to pay a bounty on the construction of ships, but it proposes to allow boilers and machinery to be imported free of duty. What is to happen to the boilerinakers mid machinery manufacturers ?
– They will not be put out of work because the demand would not have existed for the boilers and machinery were it not for the stimulus given to. the shipbuilding industry by this bounty.
– Work which would otherwise have come to them will not be available if boilers and marine machinery are to be admitted free. Our argument is that if you are going to encourage the building of ships’ hulls in Australia, you should also encourage the manufacture of boilers and machinery. I am a patternmaker myself, and I know what a high degree of skill is necessary in those engaged on this work. We need highly skilled workers in Australia. One of our greatest difficulties is that we have an over-supply of unskilled labour; it is almost a menace.
– That is largely due to our industrial legislation.
– That statement is absolute rot.
– It is true insofar as it affects apprentices. There is a provision that there can be only one apprentice to every five journeymen.
– As a matter of fact, only a little while ago we had to fight the employers in Brisbane in order to compel them to take on the prescribed number of apprentices. The day is not far distant when, in the interest of Australia, every boy and girl will be employed, and if the private employers are not prepared to offer employment, they will be compelled to do so. That is coming, whether we believe in nazi-ism or communism or any other form of government.
– There should be provision for more apprentices.
– The trouble is that the employers will not employ even the number now prescribed. The other day in Brisbane, 1,500 men were thrown out of work because, it was said, there was no money to employ them. One never hears of soldiers being thrown out of work during a war because there is not enough money for them. As soon as this war started, it was possible to find £60,000,000, but there is no money for the development of industry.
– Industrial legislation does limit the number of apprentices, and the honorable senator knows it.
– I know it does. The unions had to organize in order to stop the excessive exploitation of youths. If some employers had their way, the fathers would not be working at all ; they would be living on the earnings of their children. The human being is the only animal that exploits its young, and the Labour movement has been compelled to take measures to prevent the exploitation of youths. I know something about it because, for five years, I was an organizer in the distributing industry. The employers have to be prevented from sacking the fathers and taking on the kids in their place.
– That is all right, but we want to arrive at a happy medium.
– We want justice.
– The boys should be given a chance.
– We would give them a chance if Labour were in power.
– Labour would have to make a better showing than it did in 1929-30.
– The honorable senator knows that although Labour then bad a majority in the House of Representatives it was not in power in this chamber. We have learned much since then. Our complaint is that under the existing system of finance it is possible for the Government to find millions of pounds for the purposes of destruction, as in war, but all sorts of objections are raised when a demand is made for expenditure by governments on constructive work such as the improvement of the social conditions of the people.
– Industrial legislation does not give a boy a chance to learn a trade.
– Private enterprise under existing conditions, when it gives the boy a chance, puts the father on the dole. The history of the present economic system reeks with examples of the exploitation of boys and girls in mine, mill and factory. I speak of. the accumulation of private profit to the detriment of the health of the people.
Senator Dein said something about the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers which were opera ting during the last war. Those vessels were not built in Australia, but ‘ later a number of vessels were constructed in this country. The honorable senator also spoke of industrial trouble, which he said occurred in connexion with the operation of those vessels. Labour’s well-known Blue Book, which was issued in 1937, contains this statement relating to that matter -
Mr. J. T. Brennan, Melbourne branch manager of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers, claimed that the reducing of freight charges had saved Australia over £2,000,000 a year since 1023, in reduced freight. Besides that it prevented increases in rates before that year. Time and again London shipowners cabled the Commonwealth Line seeking an agreement to increase freight charges, but on each occasion the Commonwealth Line refused, thus keeping freights down to a reasonable level.
What happened to that Line? The BrucePage Government sold the vessels, and the purchasers did not complete the transaction. Later the principal of the firm was sentenced to .a term of imprisonment. I have no doubt that the influence which impelled the Bruce-Page Government to sell that Line is at work in connexion with this new proposal to encourage shipbuilding in Australia. The pressure of events has compelled the Government to encourage the building of ships in Australia, but I feel sure that among the people who support the Government are some who believe that a successful shipbuilding industry may, in certain respects, operate against the best interests of their friends in the Old Country.
– Rubbish !
– I think that the reasoning is sound. If this Government really meant business it would provide for subsidizing the construction of not only the hulls of vessels, but also the engines and boilers. It is thought by some people that those who command the economic situation in Britain are bringing pressure to bear upon the Govern- ‘ ment. The following statement, published a few days ago, from the London representative of a Sydney newspaper, seems to give support to this view -
Something akin to a state of alarm exists in Sheffield as a result of Australia’s progress in the production of steel. Manufacturers say that Australia is seriously challenging Britain’s position as a steel producing nation. The most significant fact is that Australian steel makers claim the ability to produce pig iron, structural steel and bar steel which they are selling much below the rates in Sheffield and other British steel producing centres.
I have read that statement because I think it indicates that there are at work in Great Britain forces not wholly favorable to the establishment of the shipbuilding industry in Australia. We say emphatically that .if Australia is capable of building the hulls of vessels it is capable of building also engines and’ boilers for such ships. However, I suppose we should be thankful for small mercies. This bill is a move in the right direction.
– I agree entirely with the concluding sentence of Senator Brown’s speech. This bill proposes a small measure of help, but it is a move in the right direction. To me it has always seemed extraordinary that Australia, which is so dependent for its development on external trade, should not have developed an adequate sea-sense.
– “We had ships, but a Nationalist Government gave them away.
– I shall deal with that aspect of the subject in a few moments, and I have no doubt that I shall be able to set my friend from Tasmania right concerning the circumstances which led to the sale of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. I was about to say that having regard to our isolated position and the international situation generally, it i3 only to be expected that this Parliament should take more than passing interest in the shipbuilding industry. In practically every other country government subsidies are providing for the carrying on of shipping services and many other activities. The Commonwealth has in recent years occasionally ventured in the same field. At one time we possessed a socially controlled and owned line of steamers. Our friends in opposition have, on many occasions condemned the Bruce-Page Government for its action in disposing of those vessels. Having regard to what has been said on this matter, we should examine the history of that Line in order to refresh our memories as to the reasons for its sale. I remind the honorable senator that during their period of operation the Commonwealth-owned ships carried 3 per cent, of Australian wool to overseas markets, 1 per cent, of Australian wheat, and 2.7 per cent, of all export cargoes. The losses incurred amounted in round figures to £500,000 a year. In one year the loss was as much as £593,000. Having regard to all the circumstances, it would have been entirely uneconomic, and certainly it would not have benefited the primary producer, to continue the operation of the Line.
– As- soon as it was sold freights rose.
– Owing to the scarcity of ships in the early years of the war for the transport of Australian commodities to the British market, Mr. Hughes, who was then Prime Minister, purchased the Bay and Dale lines of “reamers. Subsequently, the exercise of job control in the operation of the Line led to difficulties, and induced the Government to sell the vessels. The Public Accounts Committee, which made an exhaustive investigation of the working of the ships, came to the conclusion that the continuance of the Line would have been disastrous to Commonwealth finances. Although Mr. Charlton, the then Leader of the Opposition, challenged the Government in respect of its decision to sell the Line, he was overwhelmingly defeated.
– Was not a system of rebates in operation against the Commonwealth Line?
– There is a system of rebates in existence to-day. The fact is undisputed that the Commonwealth Line was costing the taxpayers of this country over £500,000 a year, and eventually the vessels were sold.
– They were not sold ; they were given away.
– They were sold legitimately. Offers were invited and a sale was effected. It is true that the principal of the firm which bought the ships was charged with having manipulated certain funds, was convicted, and found himself in durance vile for a time. Various sums were paid to the Government during the time when I was in the Ministry, and I understand that since I left it further payments have been made. I shall remind honorable senators of the staggering losses incurred by this venture.
– About £8,000,000 was written off.
– The amount was much larger than that. The value was written down to £12,716,000, although the actual cost of the vessels was £14,800,000. From the 1st September, 1933, to the 31st March, 1934, a period of seven months, the losses amounted to £245,474.
Senator A. J. McLACHLAN.Because it was impossible .to trade at a profit. The Line had to observe Australian rates of wages and industrial conditions, and how could it possibly hope to compete in trade to Japan, for instance? When I hear my friends opposite speak glibly about Australian standards, I often wonder whether they should not devote a little more thought than they appear to do to what is threatening us.
– Should we lower Australian industrial standards?
– The solution has to be found in the proposals at the International Labour Convention at Geneva to raise the level of industrial conditions in other countries to our own. We must face the facts. From the 1st April, 1924, to the 31st March, 1925, the losses on the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers amounted to £593,879.
– But what did those ships save the nation?
– As 1 have already pointed out they were carrying only 1 per cent. of the wheat, 3 per cent, of the wool and 2.7 per cent, of all export cargo. My friends opposite would sink the funds of the nation in this reckless fashion. From the 1st April, 1925, to the 1st April, 1926, the losses amounted to £503,076, and from April. 1926, to March, 1927, the losses were £593,572.
– How much represented interest on the capital?
– I do not think that any interest was debited to the Line at all. The figures that I have given relate to the trading account.
– Those vessels wore the nation’s policemen.
– On the recommendation of the Public Accounts Committee, millions of pounds belonging to the taxpayers, including the wageearners, was written off in order to run this fantastic shipping line, which was not of any service to the community.
– That is something which the honorable senator cannot substantiate.
– I am stating facts. The honorable senator should not talk glibly about the matter. The primary producers would have been better served if the amounts lost on this Line had been used to help them.
Senator Cameron tells us that we ought to build ships in Australia, because there will be a shortage of shipping space. I pray to God that that will not be our experience, but that we shall be able to overcome the menace to both Empire and neutral shipping. The United States of America, which is a sound, business-like country, embarked on a similar venture to that of the Commonwealth, with the result that it was left with a bill of loss amounting to £600,000,000. What are honorable senators opposite asking Australia to head for, in supporting such a proposal? Admittedly our difficulties in regard to shipping are great, but they will not be overcome by strategy of this kind. During the last war period, serious losses were inflicted on the community, and to repeat that venture will be to pay a vain tribute to a socialist policy which has dismally failed.
– The Government which the honorable senator supports is doing this in other directions every day.
– It is all right within the four corners of the Australian economic system, but it is impossible for us to compete successfully in shipping . enterprises with countries whose wages are far below our standards. Would Senator Keane, to whom I attribute a business sense, allow a government of which he was a member to embark on an enterprise of this kind ? It is all very well to thunder politically about the injury done to Australia, when in fact a benefit was conferred on the people of this country, by the disposal of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Even if the vessels were given away, to use the words of Senator Sheehan, that would have been better than carrying on the Line at a loss. We have two instances of disaster having overtaken socialist shipping lines. The United States of America is in a. better position than Australia, to deal with shipping. It has the continent of South America at its command. Its shipping is protected under its Monroe Doctrine even more efficiently than is that of Australia under the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act. Just as the Australian experiment failed, so did that of the United States of America:, yet honorable senators opposite would have the Government build more ships. All of the profits made by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and a. great deal more besides, was lost, and even the shipping board, which was given independent control, was unable to make the Line pay. 1 entirely support this bill because of the principle which it introduces. Whilst 1 object to the Government interfering in the shipping industry in any way, I consider that there is an urgent necessity for something to be done to develop a sea-sense among the people of this -country.
– That cannot hu done on a bounty of £500,000.
– It is a small beginning. For years I tried to develop a sea-sense among the people with regard to the development of the fishing industry as an important adjunct of our national defence. It may be that the people are not inclined to support this proposal, but, if they watch events, they will see that our best protection is our distance from the Old World. If we can keep this country free from the horrors of war we shall be indeed fortunate. The other day a gentleman in London borrowed my thunder. I- had expressed the opinion a couple of years ago that this continent is destined to become the arsenal of the Empire. There is need here for ship3 and more ships of a defensive character, not merely 500 and 1,000 tonners but larger vessels. It is one thing to talk of giving a bounty on ships for ordinary trading purposes. This is certainly a beginning and will be of assistance, but we should consider our own safety, and our ability to co-operate with the Empire in preserving our trade routes inwards and outwards.
– Why was the Australia sunk?
– £ike many other public men I bowed my head with shame when that happened; but, after the Washington Conference, there was no alternative. We had given our word, and we kept it, but conditions have changed. At that time it was hoped that the League of Nations would be successful in restraining the ambitions of warring nations; but to-day it would appear that our only hope is that the British Empire will continue to grow in strength so that the peace of the world may be assured. This measure should assist to stimulate interest in the shipping industry, but it is unlikely that ships will be built in Australia capable of carrying goods overseas, because in view of experience which I have just cited that cannot be regarded as an economic proposition. With the assistance of Great Britain we can build ships and to a degree facilitate trade and commerce. I ask honorable senators opposite what would happen should Britain lose control of the sea. Economically our position would be hopeless. With our lengthy coastline, extensive areas, and small and scattered population, resistance on the land would be futile. I have read in the press -thai the construction of dockyards in Australia is contemplated. Have honorable senators opposite considered what the position would have been had the Deutschland or Admiral Scheer been operating in conjunction with aeroplanes off the Australian coast, say on Cup day? If vessels of that type were in the vicinity of Australia vessels of our Navy would have no choice but to seek shelter. It makes me shiver to think of the position in which we would be placed had we not the British navy to protect us. I understand that this bill provides for the payment of a bounty on the construction of ships not exceeding 1,500 tons displacement, and although such vessels may form only a “ mosquito “ fleet, they will be very useful for coastal work. I remind Senator Brown, who objected to boilers and engines required in the construction of ships being imported free of duty, thai having recently had some experience in connexion with the construction of a small craft which is to be used in connexion with fisheries research, I know what is required. ‘ Senator Keane will recall the trawler Endeavour which was constructed in Australia, but which unfortunately was lost with its crew and all its records. There is much more in ship construction than some laymen believe. For instance the metric centre is most important. While Australian manufacturers can produce excellent stationary and transport engines, they may not have the technique required in the construction of marine engines. That is why it is considered necessary to give to builders the right to import the engines and boilers free of duty. I take second place to none in my admiration of the Australian steel industry. I speak with some authority on this subject because I am associated with persons closely connected with steel manufacturing in Australia. The export of
Australian steel to Great Britain, the United States of America, and Singapore is increasing and I understand that, for certain purposes, Australian steel is more suitable than American or Caldwell’s Scottish steel. I am not particularly enTthusiastic over the construction of even small craft in Australia, but I realize that such construction will encourage a sea sense in this country. The representatives of Tasmania in this chamber should be particularly interested in ship construction, because the commercial activities of that State depend largely upon sea-borne trade. Sea carriage, which is -one of the cheapest forms of transport, should be utilized to a greater degree, particularly by primary producers. Large quantities of primary products grown in the northern rivers district of New South Wales are shipped from the Clarence River, and to a lesser degree similar goods are also transported by water in South Australia. I have often wondered why a larger volume of the trade of the west coast of South Australia is not transported .by water instead of by rail. I trust that I have made the history of the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers quite clear; but if this subject should be re-introduced I shall cite some further figures for the benefit of honorable senators opposite.
– I shall give the honorable senator an opportunity.
– I have given the official figures. Surely Senator Keane does not believe that this country is capable of shouldering the terrific financial loss of £500,000 a year which was being incurred by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. Honorable senators opposite should also remember that more than one-half of the crew, including stewards, were not Australian born.
. -=-1 listened with, a good deal of interest to the speech of Senator A. J. McLachlan, who has taken advantage of this debate to ridicule a State instrumentality. One would imagine that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was the only Stare instrumentality engaged in transport which has sustained a loss. According to the arguments adduced by the honorable senator, all such under takings which have shown a loss should be scrapped. Would Senator A. J. McLachlan support the scrapping of all Australian railways because some have incurred losses? Many of our railway systems which show a loss pay handsome dividends to those who provided the capital for their construction. . Some of these instrumentalities have shown bookkeeping losses, but they have assisted the development of this country to the stage it has reached to-day. If we were to adopt the policy supported by Senator A. J. McLachlan, Australian inland transport would still be conducted by camels and by bullock teams. We still have to pay the price of development. Losses were sustained by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, but other shipping lines do not always show a profit. In many countries the shipping industry is subsidized by governments in order to enable their mercantile marine to develop. If it is profitable for Japanese, Canadian and American Governments to subsidize shipping lines, why cannot the Commonwealth Government subsidize a shipping line in the interests of’ the Australian people?
– The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was subsidized by the Commonwealth.
– In effect, a subsidy was provided. If a governmentowned line of steamers is in the interests of the community, why should there be so much objection on the part of the honorable senators opposite? Senator A. J. McLachlan mentioned a vital point when he referred to the necessity to develop our sea-borne trade to- a greater degree than at present. Australia is one of the greatest primary-producing countries of the world, but because of its small population, whose purchasing power is restricted owing to the low wages paid, large quantities of our primary produce have to be sold in overseas markets. Nowithstanding the losses incurred by the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers, and the small percentage of our produce alleged to have been carried by the vessels of that fleet, that line played- a very important part in keeping down freights. The proposal now being discussed was investigated prior to the outbreak of war ; but now, as the result of the war, our shipping difficulties have increased. This matter was investigated by the Tariff Board, which submitted a reportupon which the Government bases this measure. It may be news to honorable senators to learn that those directly associated with the engineering industry of Australia regard the board’s report as farcical. Those most keenly interested in this matter claim that the board failed to consult the very people who could have given it the greatest assistance.
– Why did they not submit evidence to the board?
– They were not asked to do so.
– Everyone interested had an opportunity to submit evidence.
– It appears that an official of the Customs Department conducted the inquiry into this matter.
– Who would be more competent than such an official to make the inquiry?
– I am not questioning the competency of the official; hut one would have thought that as the Government awaited the result of that investigation before introducing legislation for the benefit of Australia, those responsible for the investigation would have ensured that the people best qualified to give advice in the matter were consulted.
– An open inquiry was held at which any interested party could attend.
– Representatives of engineering firms claim that they were not given an opportunity to give evidence. That is the advice given to me, and I shall be surprised if the Minister can show it to be incorrect.
– Is it not the practice in connexion with these inquiries to call publicly for evidence from anyone desirous of giving evidence?
– Apparently that course was not followed on this occasion. In any case the fact remains that the people best qualified to give advice in the matter, including those directly associated with the ship-building programme undertaken in Australia some years ago, were not consulted. Consequently, the general opinion held in the engineering industry to-day is that the report submitted by the Tariff Board is farcical, and that the Government’s decisions, therefore, are based on wrong premises. Some honorable senators have implied in this debate that no Australian engineering firm is capable of manufacturing engines to the specification required for large ships. It is well known that Australian firms have been capable of constructing engines for ships up to 1500 tons. I understand that Thompson’s Company, of Castlemaine, one of the most efficient engineering firms in the southern hemisphere, were engaged in making at least six complete sets of engines. They made all of the propulsion machinery necessary for the boats concerned. Walker’s Limited, of Maryborough, and Poole and Steele, of Adelaide, also manufactured marine engines in connexion with the shipbuilding programme undertaken in this country some years ago.
– To which period is the honorable senator referring?
– To the shipbuilding programme undertaken in 1918.
– On that occasion the tonnage of ships to be built in Australia was limited to 8,000 tons, because no firm in Australia could build larger ships.
SenatorSHEEHAN. - Australian firms are capable of manufacturing engines for ships of any size. I saydefinitely on behalf of Thompson’s Company, of Castlemaine, that, given the opportunity to do so, they will be pleased to manufacture engines for ships of over 15,000 tons.
– Have they said so?
– Yes ; and they have advised me that they are able to fulfil any order that might be placed with them by the Government. That is something which the Tariff Board might have discovered in the course of its investigation. Had it. done so the Government would have had available a report upon which it could have acted with far better results.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should build ships in Australia for use in the overseas trade?
– Why not? “
– For private enterprise, or for the Government?
– I am concerned with the development of Australia’s shipbuilding industry.
– But the honorable senator must approach the matter in a businesslike way. We could not afford to build ships for the overseas trade if shipowners continued to use exclusively ships built elsewhere.
– I desire to see the shipbuilding industry in this country established on such a scale that it will be able to manufacture vessels for whoever desires them, whether it be private enterprise or the Government.
– Some years ago two 12,000 ton vessels were constructed in Australia.
– We have been building ships in Australia for the last 40 years, but owing to the lack of patriotism on the part of shipowners, who have gained much advantage as the result of the development of this country, in taking their shipbuilding business to other parts of the world while exploiting our primary producers and others who have had occasion to use their ships, the industry has not been developed. These unpatriotic shipowners have invariably “sought the cheapest markets, especially in the East, when their vessels were in need of repair. Indeed, they have patched up vessels in Australia merely in order to transfer them to the East, where repairs could be more cheaply carried out. It is because of this unpatriotic attitude on the part of Australian shipowners that the industry in this country has languished. However, the Government now proposes to do something to encourage the industry, ft proposes to pay a bounty on ships up to 1,500 tons, and I understand that this scheme will be reviewed three years hence. We must bear in mind, however, the present wartime difficulties, which make it almost impossible for the proposal to be given effect, to the extent needed. How in , the present crisis can such a scheme be judged on its merits? It cannot be said that conditions are normal. Within the next few days tenders w;ll be completed for the construction of small craft required by the Defence Department for operations on our coast. Local shipbuilders have tendered for this work, and I hope that they will be successful. At the moment, however, I am more concerned with the development of the industry in order to enable it to undertake orders for the construction of much larger vessels. The meagre facilities which we possess at present will be fully occupied in meeting orders for the small craft required by the Defence Department, with the result that local shipbuilders will be given no opportunity to prove that they are capable of building ships of a larger tonnage.
– Why does the honorable senator say meagre facilities ?
– We have not developed our resources for shipbuilding as we might have done.
– It is not a matter of having the facilities; it is the business that is lacking.
– Because of these meagre facilities many craftsmen previously engaged in the industry have drifted into other industries, with the result that shipbuilders will be obliged to recruit new staffs. That is a serious difficulty. Our quarrel with the Government is that it has not gone far enough. It should enable this country to undertake a vast shipbuilding programme.
– For whom?
– For the nation which needs the ships. To-day the value of Australia to the Empire* as a place where manufacturing can be carried on is being brought home to us to an increasing degree. Senator A. J. McLachlan suggested that Australia may become the arsenal of the Empire. Because of our remoteness from hostile forces we should be able to undertake that class of work. Following that argument, is it not only natural to conclude that for a similar reason we should engage in shipbuilding on a large scale? I need hardly point out that the shipbuilding yards, of Northern Ireland, Scotland, and England are vulnerable to the new form of attack, whereas Australia is not nearly so vulner- able. For that reason we should do our utmost to develop the technique of shipbuilding.
– Australia may become vulnerable.
– But to a much lesser degree than the OA Country. In any case, Ls it not significant that those who are best acquainted with the facts are prepared to transfer the manufacture of munitions from Great Britain to Aust tralia to an increasingly greater degree? The interjection just made by the honorable senator is one of despair. In effect, he suggests that we should not utilize our resources in this country, simply because of the possibility that we may become vulnerable. For that reason we should do nothing at all. Such a suggestion is without; any logical basis. The interjection by Senator Allan MacDonald that the ships might be built at Canberra is just as intelligent as the statement made by another honorable senator on the same side of the chamber when the Labour party in originating the Australian Navy, proposed the acquisition of a certain number of destroyers of what was known as “ The River “ class. The honorable senator expressed the opinion that there were not sufficient navigable rivers in Australia to warrant the acquisition of destroyers of “ The River “ class. I am not surprised therefore at the interjection made by Senator Allan MacDonald.
– Senator Allan MacDonald suggested the building of friendships in Canberra.
– Nonsense ! He did not say anything of the kind. The Government is at present very anxiously endeavouring to promote a spirit of friendship among its own supporters. We will know during the next few days whether friendships so built are on a. solid foundation.
This matter merits serious consideration by honorable senators. The debate, especially the speeches of honorable senators on this side of the chamber, should encourage the Government to go ahead with its programme. We on this side are not greatly impressed by the meagre effort now being made by the Government, but apparently we shall have to accept the recommendation of the Tariff Board in accordance with the philosophy thai “ Half a loaf is belter than no loaf at all “. But while accepting what is offered, we are endeavouring to impress on the Government that to build the hulls of vessels in Australia without building the engines as well will be farcical. Complete ships should be built in this country, especially in view of the fact that we already have facilities for all the work necessary. We are endeavouring to point out to the Government that by relieving importers of the duty upon boilers and engines it will nullify any benefit which otherwise the bounty might confer. We believe that in addition to the payment of a bounty the present tariff rates on boilers, engines and auxiliaries should be retained. If that were done, then Australia would be well on the road to the development of a shipbuilding industry, and we would be doing something towards increasing employment for our own artisans and developing the vast resources of this country, including the coal, iron and steel industries. Dealing for a moment with the iron and steel industry, it is not hard to understand the policy of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited in purchasing its ships overseas. Bearing in mind the benevolent attitude of governments towards that company in the past and the fact that only recently this Parliament granted certain assistance in order to enable the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited further to expand its activities, one would hav<? thought that that organization, if only for patriotic reasons, would have had its vessels built in Australia rather than import them from foreign countries. Certainly the selfish spirit shown by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited will not develop other industries in Australia. While that company desires, to secure all possible assistance in its own interests, apparently it is prepared to do nothing to assist the development of other industries in Australia. We of the Opposition believe that the Government could go further than it is going and give greater encouragement to the engineering industry in order to prove to the world that Australia can produce vessels capable of engaging in all forms of marine transport. I hope our shipbuilding activities will not be confined to the smaller type of vessels provided for in this measure. I regret very much that when the matter was under discussion in the House of Representatives, which has power to extend the financial implications of the bill, the Government did not take heed of the case presented by honorable members of the Labour party. I appreciate the power of honorable senators to direct the Government to action involving further financial liabilities is limited, but I hope that, as a result of this debate, the Government will realize the necessity to go ahead. It has been noticeable that, irrespective of party alignments, the majority of senators have expressed the view that had the Government come forward with a proposal to grant a bounty on the manufacture in Australia of ships of much greater tonnages than are proposed in this measure, it would have been favorably received. I hope, therefore, that a start having been made, cooperation and advice will be sought from those whom the Tariff Board failed to consult on this matter. I would like the Minister in charge of the bill to give an undertaking that the Government is prepared to have a more extensive inquiry carried out, and will direct the Tariff Board to go more fully into the question, and seek the assistance of those people who are best qualified to advise on such an important matter. If the Government is prepared to do that, the time which has been spent on this measure will not have been wasted.
– I support the second reading of this measure which has for its object the encouragement of shipbuilding in Australia., although I doubt whether the measure goes far enough with regard to the tonnage on which the Government is prepared to pay a bounty. If the benefits of this bounty are to be limited to ships not exceeding 1,500 tons, they will extend to only a small number of the ships required for the Australian trade. There may be reasons not known to me and to other honorable senators which have prompted the Government to make provision only for ships of up to 1,500 tons, but I agree with most honorable senators who have spoken with regard to the important part that the mercantile marine must play in the development of this country. 1 suggest that Senator Cameron’s criticism was unfair, as it very often is. The honorable senator seems to be unable to address himself to any legislation in this House without seeking to drive a wedge between employer and employee. Ifthe honorable senator would devote more of his time, first, to the building up of not trading ships, ‘but friendships between employer and employee, instead of making speeches which in the main are not in accordance with fact, he would be doing much more to promote the welfare of this nation. The antagonism which, he claims, is rife between employer and employee, exists principally in his own imagination. The honorable senator alleges that employers are concerned only with profit-making and that their operatives are not considered to the extent that they should be. I point out to the honorable senator that the political party forming the present Government is a continuation of the party which was responsible for the introduction of the industrial arbitration system, and of many other benefits now enjoyed by the working people. The arbitration legislation sets out clearly and definitely the conditions under which industry shall be carried on, and all legislation of this Parliament which has for its object the encouragement of industry whether by tariff, bounty, bonus, or any other method, is subject to the industrial laws relating to wages and conditions of employees.
Senator Cameron condemned the conduct of business for profit. He must know that the money that is invested in the industry is not money belonging to the Government. The Government is not developing this industry. Who are the profiteering companies of whom the honorable senator spoke?
– The Broken Hill. Proprietary Company Limited.
– The honorable senator knows quite well that if a company is floated for the building of ships or for any other object, a prospectus is issued and members of the public are asked to subscribe capital. Surely he does not deny that those people who contribute £5 or £10 to the funds of a company draw their share of the profits made by the company; or does he suggest that those people should get no interest at all on their money? The only way in which subscribers of capital can be paid interest is by the industry making a profit. Yet Senator ‘Cameron said that these industries are profiteering at the expense of the people, and that only a few industrialists are participating in the benefits. He must know that these concerns are public companies. Their dividends are made known, and the prices of the shares are governed by the extent to which the .industries are profitable. Very often profits diminish and sometimes disappear altogether. But when companies are making profits, how do they use them? They use the profits in the extension of their business and in the setting up of new industries, so creating further employment. All of that further employment is subject to the wages and conditions prescribed by the arbitration courts.
– Why have we so many unemployed?
– Senator Cameron knows quite well, and the honorable senator should, at least, have some word of commendation for our captains of industry who have done so much for the development of this country.
– Has the honorable senator ever heard of a worker gaining a competency as a result of an Arbitration Court award?
– Perhaps not, but I would suggest that Senator Sheehan and Senator Cameron, who so often denounce profit-making in industry, would do their fellow unionists a good turn if they encouraged trade unionists to purchase shares in the various enterprises that employ them. In this way they would participate in the profits of such industries.
– We have always striven for a better distribution of the wealth of this country.
– I challenge Senator Sheehan or Senator Cameron to prove that at any time they have encouraged unionists to co-operate in industry by the purchase of shares.
– We say that the workers should own the means by which they live.
– 1 feel sure that neither Senator Sheehan nor Senator Cameron has the courage to approach any of the great trade unions of this country and advocate the employment of union funds for the purchase of shares in industry. A few days ago I related in the Senate a story which 1 do not wish to repeat. Senator Sheehan knows quite well that what I said was true. The only thing that can be said for his story is that it reads well at home.
This afternoon, Senator Sheehan said, amongst other things, that the Government should enter upon a vigorous policy of shipbuilding.
– There would be no harm in that.
– If Senator Sheehan believes that the Commonwealth Government should establish here an industry for the construction of vessels to be engaged in commerce in competition with existing shipping lines he should, to be logical, also advocate the payment of a subsidy for every ton of cargo carried by those vessels. Obviously this will be necessary, because if, as has been demonstrated, shipbuilding in Australia would cost 50 per cent, more than in Great Britain, and if Australian-built vessels were operated in the Australian coasting trade under Australian awards and conditions, it would be impossible for them to carry on without substantial subsidies. But the honorable senator went further. He advocated the building of ships for the overseas trade. If Australian-built vessels engaged in the overseas trade, it would be necessary for the Government to commandeer the whole of the outward cargo for these ships, otherwise it would be obliged to pay a heavy subsidy for every ton of Australian cargo carried in them. This, I think, is abundantly clear. The honorable senator suggested that at present we have not the facilities for the building of larger vessels. I remind him that the Ferndale and the Fordsdale, vessels of approximately 12,000 tons, were constructed at Cockatoo Island Dockyard during the last war. It is possible to build large vessels in Australia at a price; but, as I have shown, if they enter into competition with vessels built for one-half the price overseas, the Government will have to pay a heavy subsidy for every ton of cargo carried from Australia. And what chance would Australian-built vessels have of securing inward freight against cheaper vessels operated by private companies? These are matters that should have consideration. I am anxious to encourage the shipbuilding industry in Australia and will do all that I can to make the project a success, especially in connexion with naval shipbuilding. But I am well aware that ship construction is an intricate and difficult business, and we should have to face the keenest competition from private shipbuilding firms which will come together to protect their own interests. Senator Keane reminded us that railways in Australia were government-owned, and said that no government would close a section of its lines merely because it was not- earning a profit. That is true, but the analogy between Commonwealth-owned railways and a Commonwealth-owned shipping line ls not quite good because the Commonwealth has a monopoly of rail transport but cannot expect to have a monopoly of sea transport.
– There is a privatelyowned railway in Tasmania.
– I know ; but that is a losing concern. No one will deny that the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers rendered a distinct service to this country during the war, and Mr. Hughes, the then Prime Minister, was commended for his action in purchas-ing the first vessels of that fleet.
For some time those ships showed a substantial profit in operation because freights were rising rapidly and vessels of the Austral Line, as they were’ then known, were trading all over the world. In a few years they earned sufficient money to recoup the Government their capital cost.
– I am speaking of the Austral Line, the initial purchase made by Mr. Hughes. My remarks in this connexion have no relation to vessels acquired subsequently and the later operation of the Line. In addition to the purchase of Austral ships, the Commonwealth Government entered into contracts for the building in Australia of the D and E class ships, of about 7,000 to 8,000 tons displacement. The vessels were limited to that size because it was not possible, at that time, to import engines sufficiently heavy to give them the requisite speed. Even when freights rose, many of the D and E class vessels were not taken to sea, because it would not have been profitable to run them. The Shipping Board was given the widest possible powers. The proceeds of the sale of the various vessels were taken into the ordinary trading account, yet the line showed a heavy loss. The board sold all of the ships. These vessels were running with full cargoes for the whole time during which they were owned by the Commonwealth Government, and they had their full share of the passenger traffic. In addition, they received every assistance that could be given by virtue of the fact that they were government-owned vessels, yet the line showed a loss of about £500,000 a year. I do not suggest that, in a time of national crisis, the Commonwealth Government should not own ships, but, generally speaking, our experience of this line demonstrates that the proper function of a government is to govern, and not to trade.
Is it not just as important, in a time of national crisis, to strengthen our. navy as much as possible, and to build up our military forces, as it is to develop the shipbuilding industry? At the present time the whole of the resources of the nation should be used to the utmost for the purpose of national defence. It would be unreasonable to condemn the Government for not having made provision to meet a shortage of shipping space. Honorable senators opposite, by pointing out to the Government what they regard as omissions on its part, are attempting to be wise after the event. Speaking subject to correction, I believe’ that there is no record of a proposal having been submitted by a Labour government foran expansion of the defence forces of this country that was not supported by the parties on this side of the chamber. Some honorable senators appeared to be much concerned about the building of ships to carry the commerce of this country, but I advise them to spend a little more time than they do in attempting to establish friendly relations between the various political parties.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales) [4.9 . - I commend the Government, as far as I feel able to do so, for having submitted this measure, which indicates a desire to assist the shipbuilding industry. Had a Labour government been in power, the bill would have been much wider in its scope, and would have offered more definite assistance to the industry. However, it is a move in the direction in which the Opposition has desired to travel for many years. In the district in which I reside the people arc vitally interested in this industry. The rise and fall of unemployment there largely indicates the activity or lack of it in the ship-building trade at Cockatoo Island Dockyard and at Mort’s Dock, Balmain. No doubt the Government has been forced into the position of having to do something to assist the industry. The. Opposition’s two main criticisms of r.hi’s measure are that the tonnage of the vessels in respect of which assistance is proposed to ‘ be offered is too low, and that it would be a mistaken policy to admit, free of duty, the boilers, machinery and auxiliaries for the construction of these vessels.
At Fisherman’s Bend,, in the works of the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation, we have an example of what Australian labour and brains have been able to achieve, and there is no justification for facilitating the importation into this country for shipbuilding purposes of equipment which might well be manufactured here. I was amazed at the quality of the workmanship displayed a t Fisherman’s Bend, where we have clear proof of Australia’s ability and determination to equip itself for air defence. Two years and a half ago no sod had been turned at Fisherman’s Bend, but the factory there has now produced over £250,000 worth of aeroplanes. The story of that industry also could have been written in large letters concerning the shipbuilding industry. Had this industry received proper encouragement it could’ have been developed to such an extent as would have enabled it at least to meet the shipping needs of Australia. Twenty years ago A ustralia proved its ability to build ships, and vessels of 12,000 tons were completed here. Owing, however, to bad administration and legislation, the industry in the last couple of years has reached its lowest level. Men employed in the trade have informed me that the number of unemployed registered on. their union books is now extraordinarily large, and in someunions the numbers have reached record figures. Even if vessels built in Australia cost a. little more than those imported, thedifference in cost is more than compensated for by the fact that Australian workmen are kept in employment. If anti-Labour governments could solve the problem of unemployment my strongest objection to them would disappear. At present 60,000 persons in. New South Wales are unemployed. The only way in which to overcome the problem of unemployment is to encourage industries, such as the shipbuilding industry, which is one of the most essential. The passage of this measure may result in increased shipbuilding activity; but that can be determined only after the legislation has been in operation for some time. In 1921 the then Minister for Trade and Customs (Sir Walter Massy Greene) when introducing similar legislation emphasized the beneficial effect that it would have upon the shipbuilding industry; but in the three, years which elapsed before it became operative ships to the value of approximately £9,000,000 were imported, and all Australia’s requirements for many years were fulfilled. The Government and the Minister controlling the department at that time may have been anxious to do their best for the industry, but, instead of having the results desired, the legislation actually had a detrimental and disastrous effect upon the industry. I am sure that every one hopes that this measure will be of benefit, not only to the nation, but also to those engaged in it, including the workers. I was in the House of Representatives when the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson) said that the Government would review the position in twelve months to see how the scheme was operating, and, if necessary, the legislation would be amended in the direction considered necessary. I congratulate the Government upon the promise it has made in that respect. I earnestly hope that the legislation will be of some benefit, and will be as successful as the Minister desires. Although it is an advantage to increase the tonnage of vessels on which the bounty shall be paid, I do not believe that the right to import certain mechanical equipment free of duty will have the beneficial effect that some suggest. If Australian artisans can carry out high-precision work such as is being undertaken at the Australian Aircraft Corporation’s Works at Fisherman’s Bend, it should be easy for them to manufacture the machinery required in ship construction. Before concluding, I again direct attention to the fact that many Australian manufacturers who have been able to make a success of their undertakings under our protective policy and by the patronage of the Australian people have not shown that patriotism which we should have expected of them, and, generally speaking, have adopted a selfish attitude. Many large manufacturing concerns which have become wealthy under the high customs duties imposed by this Parliament have purchased overseas requirements which they should have obtained locally. I do not wish to go into detail, but I may cite as an example the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited which purchases overseas vessels and other requirements. Parliament, when affording protection to these companies, should force them to purchase in Australia such of their requirements as are made here.
– I. thought that the honorable senator was opposed to compulsion.
– In many respects I am not. American shipping companies are compelled to have their vessels constructed in that country, and the Commonwealth Government should compel companies operating in Australia to obtain at least a portion of their rethe position is reviewed twelve months hence, the present Minister may not be associated with this department; -but if quirements here. I commend the Minister for what I believe he intends to do to assist the industry. When the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Beasley) is a member of the Ministry, I know that amendments will be incorporated to enable the industry to function more effectively.
– in reply-“ The Government appreciates very fully the generous measure of support which has been accorded to the bill, lt has been evident from the utterances of honorable senators that all are in complete agreement as to the principle involved, and it is only in respect of certain details that there seems to be any difference of opinion. It’ has been suggested that the amount of bounty is unduly small, but we do not expect that at the outset advantage wall be taken of the bounty to such a degree as will necessitate provision of a larger amount than £50,000 in. any one year. As was stated by Senator Armstrong, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. John Lawson ), when introducing this measure in the House of Representatives, said quite frankly that later he would be willing to review this legislation so that, should the industry expand, the amount of bounty may be increased. (Quorum formed:’] The Government has been accused of being somewhat dilatory in bringing forward this measure. Indeed, one honorable senator said that it would not have been introduced but for the outbreak of war; hut in August of this year the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) definitely stated that it was the intention of the Government to assist the shipbuilding industry. I admit that the need has become greater in consequence of the war ; but the policy of the Government in this respect was made known before the outbreak of hostilities. I would also point out that under wartime conditions it will be very much easier to establish the shipbuilding industry in Australia. One of the great difficulties under which manufacturers labour is the extraordinary high cost-
– Inflated costs, not genuine costs.
– I do not know whether the honorable senator suggests that the wages of the operatives, which enter largely into costs, are inflated. The Tariff Board in its report pointed out that the data available tend to confirm the view that the price of constructing a vessel in an Australian shipyard- is roughly twice the price in sterling as that at which a similar vessel could be supplied from the United Kingdom. The board, which is satisfied that this disparity of price can be reduced, goes on to point out that one of the ways in which this can be done is by the Australian shipbuilder confining his attention to the construction of the hull. In these circumstances the Tariff Board very wisely recommended that should the Australian shipbuilders desire to import the engines and machinery required, such equipment should be admitted under bylaw free of duty. Although exception has been taken to that proposal, it was made because under peace conditions competition is much more severe, and it would definitely assist in establishing the industry in Australia. Shipbuilders are not compelled to import machinery, and if they consider that it can be obtained more economically in Australia they can purchase it locally. To enable the industry to become more firmly established, it was thought desirable to give to shipbuilders the advantage of obtaining boilers and engines from overseas under the conditions mentioned. In moving the second reading of the bill I stated that the British Government also provided for the admission free of duty of machinery and equipment required in ship construction in order to assist the industry in Great Britain. Consequently this idea is not novel, but has been accepted even in the United Kingdom, where shipbuilding is carried on as efficiently as in any other country.
– That idea was introduced with a view to getting the benefit of certain patents connected with modern diesel engines.
– Yes ; but that consideration would apply to shipbuilding in Australia also. Senator Sheehan made the extraordinary statement that the findings of the Tariff Board were based entirely on wrong premises. He alleged that people who were in a position to submit valuable information and advice on this matter were precluded from doing so. That statement is entirely erroneous. I am sure, however, that the honorable senator made it in good faith. The Tariff Board conducted an open inquiry and, as is the practice in connexion with the board’s public inquiries, the dates and places of its sittings, together with the intimation that the board was willing to hear evidence from all interested parties, were advertised. Consequently, the suggestion that the board not only did not desire evidence from those interested in the industry, but also acted in a hole-and-corner manner, is groundless. I admit that very few people took the opportunity to give evidence before the board.
SenatorCameron. - Did the board issue a general invitation to interested parties to give evidence?
– The board held a public inquiry in accordance with the Tariff Board Act, and that inquiry was open to any interested person to come forward and give evidence. The response from interested parties was not great, but that was due not to any act or omission on the part of the board, but entirely to lack of enthusiasm on the part of those who should have come forward. I emphasize that fact, particularly in view of Senator Sheehan’s suggestion that’ the board had not sought, or heard, all of the evidence available. The Government recognizes the necessity for reviewing this legislation; but, as I said before, it will be very much easier for engineering organizations, under existing conditions, to undertake shipbuilding than would be the case were we’ at peace. We know that shipbuilding in this country was given an impetus in the last war. Unfortunately, owing to costs, the industry failed to survive when peace was re-established. On this occasion the Government is desirous of establishing the industry on a permanent basis; and it believes that once the initial difficulties associated with establishment have been overcome, the industry will be enabled to continue to operate successfully when the war is over. Wartime conditions are favorable to the establishment of the industry. In addition we have the advantage that to-day our iron and steel works are able to supply steel more cheaply than.it can be bought in Great Britain. We can also assume that rising costs in Great Britain may reach a level which will, in time, render the payment of this bounty unnecessary. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the rapid rise which has alreadytaken place in general living costs in Great
Britain. According to the Times index of costs, wholesale prices in November increased by over 5 per cent, whilst since the war they increased by 18.6 per cent.
– To what is that attributable ?
– Owing to the increase of the costs of so many of the things that affect living conditions in wartime, including high freights and extraordinarily high insurance premiums, prices overseas have increased to a degree infinitely greater than has been the case in Australia. We are justified in hoping that, owing to the conditions prevailing overseas to-day, the shipbuilding industry will be established in this country on a permanent basis.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
In committee :
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Clause 5 (Limit of annual bounty).
– When the Minister was replying to the second-reading debate he did not indicate exactly in what way it was anticipated that this meagre bounty would give an impetus to the shipbuilding industry in Australia. According to the scale of bounty to be paid, as set out in the schedule, the bounty may be responsible for the construction of four vessels a year. Of course, the larger the vessels constructed, the fewer will be built. I fail to see in what way so small a bounty will induce any organization to recondition its shipbuilding yards or establish new shipbuilding yards, particularly when we remember that such undertakings involve a capital investment of up to £250,000. I should also like the Minister to explain why the Tariff Board recommended that the payment of the bounty be limited to vessels not exceeding 1,500 tons gross. That recommendation is fatal, so far as our coastal trade is concerned. An amount of £13,200 would be payable in respect of a vessel of 1,200 tons, and £12,075 in respect of a vessel of 1,050 tons, and so on. Possibly the Minister may know of some proposed activity in the industry which gives him reason to hope that the bounty will induce consider - aable expansion, but I have seen no indication that such expansion is imminent. I do not. suggest that the clause should be amended, but I urge the Minister to make representations to the Government to increase the bounty, in order to give greater inducement to private enterprise to build ships of the class of which we are so badly in need at the present time. I also suggest that this legislation should be reviewed, if not within six months,- at least within twelve months.
– Whilst the amount of bounty proposed is a substantial encouragement to the construction of ships of the class provided for in the schedule, I should like the Minister to explain the limitation of 1,500 tons. Even on the Australian coast, ships of that size are regarded as being in the mosquito class. They cannot be said to be in the interstate class of ships. The tendency on the part of shipowners to-day is to prefer fewer but larger ships, carrying modern equipment for the handling of cargo, with a view to reducing overhead costs. If the Minister has an explanation to offer on this point, I should like to hear it. In any case, the bounty will be payable solely in respect of vessels which cannot be said to come within the category of our ordinary coastal steamers. The Navigation Act prescribes the conditions that shall obtain in the running of coastal ships. It would not be unreasonable, therefore, to provide under this legislation for the payment of bounties in respect of larger ships, particularly as these vessels will be restricted to operations on the Australian coast.
– Honorable senators should realize that the proposals contained in this measure were formulated prior to the outbreak of war. Indeed, they ‘were formulated when there was very keen competition in the shipping industry. We had the spectacle of one country after another substantially subsidizing shipbuilding in order to make competition possible. Consequently, it was the duty of the Tariff Board to ascertain exactly what type of ship could he most efficiently and cheaply manufactured in this .country. Working on that basis the Tariff Board conducted a thorough investigation, and decided that the most economic vessels with which to start the industry were cargo carriers up to 1,500 tons. It was in pursuance: of that recommendation that the Government introduced the present legislation.
In regard to the limitation of the bounty to £50,000 in any one year, I remind Senator Allan MacDonald that, in the House of Representatives, the Minister who introduced this bill said that he recognized that if the shipbuilding industry expanded in the way the Government hoped that it would, £50,000 would possibly not cover requirements. He undertook therefore to review the whole matter at the end of twelve months, and then if it were found that development warranting an increased amount had taken place, the matter would receive careful and sympathetic consideration by the Government. In view of that assurance honorable senators need have no fear, and the shipbuilding people may confidently assume that if they embark upon a programme of shipbuilding, this Government will not stand solidly behind them and give whatever assistance is considered necessary in fulfilment of the undertakings it has given.
– The weakness of this clause is that it leaves to private enterprise the whole future of the shipbuilding industry in this country. No indication is given by the Government of what it intends to do should private enterprise say, as it is likely to say, that the amount is not sufficient to induce it to engage in shipbuilding. The Minister in charge of the bill in the House of Representatives said ihat the matter would be considered at the end of twelve months, but obviously he is forgetting that we are living in an atmosphere of war. Many things can happen in twelve months, and some assurance should be given that if private enterprise is not prepared to build ships, then the Government itself will do it. If that assurance be not given, the fate of the shipbuilding industry in Australia will be left entirely in the hands of private enterprise, irrespective of whether or not ships are urgently needed in this country. It is a most unsatisfactory condition that is not creditable to the Government.
.- I join with honorable senators who have suggested that the Government should consider the allocation, of a larger amount.
My opinion is that £50,000 will not provide sufficient attraction to private enterprise. The imposition of a limit on the size of the ships upon which the bounty will be payable will remove all commercial inducement to private enterprise.
– Does not the honorable senator think that the present shipbuilders will be attracted by the proposals ?
– I think not. I would like to know abo what the Ministry estimates will be the number of ships that can be financed by the £50,000 provided for in this measure?
– That will depend on the size of the vessels constructed.
– If- such, an estimate were given, the extent to which the industry will be assisted could be gauged. I would like to secure from the Minister some information regarding the exact meaning of sub-clause 2 - (2.) Where the total amount, available in pursuance of this section for the payment of bounty in respect of any financial year or part thereof is insufficient for the payment in full of all valid claims for bounty in respect of that financial year or part thereof, the bounty otherwise payable under this act in respect of each of those claims shall be reduced to an amount which bears the same proportion to the amount of the claim as the total amount of bounty available in respect of that financial year or part thereof bears to the total amount of valid claims in respect of that financial year or part.
– In reply to Senator Cameron, I say definitely that this Government has no intention of engaging in the building of ships. There are in Australia many organizations which are prepared to engage in the shipbuilding industry, under the conditions imposed by this legislation, and I think that should they not do so, the Government would be prepared to consider whether or not any further assistance is required. I assure the honorable senator that so far. consideration has not been given to government enterprise in this matter, and if consideration were given to it, the Government would undoubtedly decide against it.
Senator Keane expressed the opinion that no attraction would be provided by the provisions of this legislation. I point out, however, that after the announcement by the Prime Minister of the Government’s intention with regard to this industry, the proposals were favorably commented upon by a certain engineering organization in Sydney, which I believe, at that time, considered the assistance offered to be satisfactory. It might be assumed, therefore, that that firm will take advantage of the bounty provided under this legislation.
In further reply to Senator Keane, I understand sub-clause 2 to mean that the ships which have been constructed, or are in the course of construction, at the end of the financial year would absorb more than the £50,000 provided, the payment of the bounty could be made on a pro rata basis.
– Why not add the words “ or such amount as becomes necessary by the expansion of the industry “?
– Unfortunately we cannot put such a clause in the bill, but in order that all organizations engaged in shipbuilding shall have equal advantage under the provisions of this legislation and the first vessels completed shall not absorb the whole of the bounty we provide for pro rata payment.
– It seems to me that by limiting the bounty to vessels of not more than 1,500 tons gross register, we shall be confining shipbuilding activities in Australia to the construction of trawlers, dredges, colliers, ferries, and other small vessels. This will not be assisting the development of the necessary technique for the construction of vessels of greater tonnages. As I understand the position, the construction of small vessels has undergone very little change, if any, during recent years, whereas methods of construction of larger vessels have been considerably improved. Therefore, in order that our workmen, whom we all recognize as second to none in the world, shall be given an opportunity to adapt themselves to changing conditions, it is necessary that vessels of the larger type should be constructed in Australia. By confining the bounty to £50,000 the Government is not doing justice to its objective in introducing this legislation.
I was interested to hear the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) state that the tonnage limit had been imposed because of the number of smaller vessels which have been purchased abroad by Australian shipowning companies. During the second-reading debate I mentioned that I thought that these companies were not playing fairly with Australia. It may be interesting to honorable senators to know the number of vessels purchased abroad by the various companies operating in Australia from 1919 to 1937, which is the period upon which the Tariff Board based its recommendations. The total number of vessels built overseas was 77, and the tonnages were as follows: -
Of this total 63 were for private companies : the remaining fourteen were for the various State governments or their departments. The companies who had vessels built overseas between the ranges mentioned are as follows: -
The various State governments or their departments which had vessels built within the same ranges are as follows: -
Had those companies so desired, all of those vessels could have been manufactured in Australia.
– “Were those vessels actually built, or ordered to be built?
– I understand that they were built overseas, because the report refers to them as vessels built overseas and coming within the minimum and maximum gross tonnage contained in the Government’s proposals. I regret again that the Government’s proposals do not go a little further, so that we could look for the development of the shipbuilding industry in Australia in a more comprehensive way. We have the facilities and I am certain that Australian workmen are competent to build them.
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 6 to 24 agreed to.
Schedule agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from the 1st December vide page 1924)., on motion by Senator McBride -
That the papers be printed.
– Under cover of this motion I desire to refer to a number of matters which, I think, should, in the interests of the community, be mentioned. It is deplorable that, in this time of national emergency, when we are facing the most serious situation that has ever confronted Australia, we should have the sordid spectacle of a disgraceful political intrigue in the ranks of the parties supporting the Government. I am wondering how long this Government will remain where it is, so easily amenable, as obviously it is, to the process of squeezing by, or under the direction of, certain interests.
– Is the Leader of the Opposition suggesting that his party’s proposals were a squeeze?
– No ; I suggest that the ignominious climb-down last week by the Government in connexion with its wheat proposals clearly indicates that Ministers would not risk going, to the electors to get from them a mandate, which this minority Government has never had. To-day also the Government climbed down by compromising over the question of military pay. Again the Government has shown that it is entirely unfitted to govern. It is afraid to face its masters - the electors of this country.
– Is the honorable gentleman endeavouring to stage another sham fight?
– After his change of front in connexion with the gold tax, Senator Allan MacDonald should be the last person in the world to accuse any one else of staging a sham fight. Despite all that he has said in criticism of the Government for political and economic reasons he can always be relied upon to east his vote in such a way as to prevent an appeal to the electors. It is interesting to note that the newspapers of this country, with the exception of such Labour papers as we possess, have advised Government parties not to take the risk of going to the electors at this juncture. There can be only one explanation. Obviously, they believe that an appeal to the electors would mean the advent of the Labour party to power in this Parliament.
– The Leader of the Opposition flatters himself’.
– I mention this matter for two reasons, one of which I have already given. The other I now propose to give. The newspapers of this country, with their customary untruthfulness and desire to misrepresent Labour, have on every possible occasion during the last fortnight stated that Labour was a “ no-election “ party. Every time they made that statement they knew it to be untrue. Last Sunday my leader in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) managed to secure the publication of the definite statement that we had agreed upon our policy with regard to this matter long before the crisis arose. There has been no alteration of our policy. At all times we have been prepared to face the electors, and for the benefit of the press, I now add that Labour senators are not scared at the prospect of a double dissolution either. The Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) might convey that intimation to the Prime Minister.
– The Leader of the Opposition and his colleagues have altered their opinion recently.
– No. I could understand Government supporters being afraid of a double dissolution, and I could understand Senator Ashley, one of my colleagues, not being particularly enthusiastic,because he will have to stand for re-election; but I tell the Government that, if it intends to bring about a double dissolution, Labour is prepared to face the issue.
– In that event, the Opposition would have no alternative.
-Well, the Government need not count on us to save them. We are not scared about the prospect of a double dissolution. We know that we can trust the electors.
This Government has bungled the arrangements for the sale of Australian primary products. The Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) appears to be surprised. By its arrangements for the sale of Australian wheat, the Government has deprived the wheatgrowers of Queensland of benefits which they enjoy under State legislation.
– Would the Leader of the Opposition say the same of the arrangements for the sale of sugar?
– If the Government proposed to interfere with the existing arrangement, I should have something to say about it. The Minister knows that the sugar agreement is one of the finest investments ever made by legislative enactment for the people of this country. I repeat that the Minister for Commerce (Senator McLeay), by bungling in connexion with the sale of Australian primary products, has robbed the wheat-growers of Queensland of benefits which they enjoyed under Queensland legislation. The arrangement made has been of no advantage whatever to anybody in Queensland except the millers. .
– How much does the Leader of the Opposition suggest has been lost by the wheat-growers of Queensland?
– At least 2d. a bushel, and, so far as I have been able to gather, the arrangement does not benefit anybody but the millers.
– What about wool?
– The Assistant Minister ought to know that the woolgrowers are up in arms because they are not going to get as much as they should get.
– Of course they will.
– I direct the attention of honorable senators to the disgraceful treatment of our national capital by this alleged national Government. At great expense and with a remarkable degree of success, we have built up a national capital in this Territory which, as far as successive governments have allowed it to develop, is not excelled in beauty, dignity and culture by any. city in the world. It is interesting to note that the revenue derived from the Australian Capital Territory now shows a return of 2½ per cent, on the capital outlay. Therefore every additional unit that we can bring into this community increases the value of our assets without appreciably increasing the overhead cost. The whole history of governmental action in connexion with Canberra, particularly in recent years, is a matter of serious concern. Honorable senators will recall that, in 1924, definite proposals were set before prospective lessees of lands in this Territory. It will also be recalled that the leasehold system of land tenure was adopted, because the government of the day believed that community-created improvements should be at all times the property of the nation and not subject Do exploitation by private interests. Definite promises were made to the prospective lessees, who were informed that the transfer of departments would be undertaken immediately, and completed within ten years, when the population was expected to reach 15,000; but ten years later only 40 per cent, of the public servants had been transferred.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that all of the public servants should be stationed in Canberra ?
– Of course not, but the head-quarters of every department should be located here. When a certain Auditor-General said that he would not transfer his office to Canberra, . I stated from my place in this chamber that had I been in power I should have given him 24 hours’ notice to remove to Canberra, and, had he refused to do so, 1 should have taken steps to have his job declared redundant. Fifteen years have elapsed since the first sale of leases in this Territory, but not half of the members of the Public Service have been transferred to Canberra. The position has been going from bad to worse since the present Government has been in control. It has not a spark of national honour left in its make-up. It has failed to transfer the Defence Department and the Postmaster-General’s Department from Melbourne to Canberra, whilst it has established the new Department of Supply and Development in Melbourne instead of in Canberra. One of its most disgraceful acts was that, when the war broke out, the Department of Information was also established in Melbourne, although the Minister in charge of that department is also Minister for External Affairs whose department was already established in, and should be administered from Canberra.
As soon as the Menzies Government assumed power, it scrapped the whole idea of the transfer of these important departments to Canberra, and agreed to the infamous proposal for the establishment elsewhere of new departments involving immense expense. In Melbourne the Government is prepared to face inevitable disorganization in removing two departments from Victoria Barracks to new temporary quarters which, although to be erected at heavy cost, will have no value after the war, whereas with no more disorganization the transfer could have been made to Canberra of two of the three service departments at an expenditure which would have stood the Government in good stead for many years after the war.
– Who said that?
– It is part of an editorial article in the Canberra Times, which has never been false to the splendid ideals which brought this national capital into existence. That journal also stated -
Twelve months ago, the Government decided to transfer the Marine Branch to Canberra. The Government committed itself to a twoyears lease of office space, incidentally at about one-third to a quarter of Melbourne rentals.
The Menzies Cabinet took office and the Melbourne bias entered acutely into departmental, arrangements. Plans for the transfer were cancelled, but the lease ran on. While proclaiming economy, the Governmenthas been paying rent for empty offices which would cost only a fraction of the costs of space in Melbourne.
– Who said that?
– Why does the Minister attempt to weaken my argument merely by attempting to discredit the authority that I quote? Does the Minister expect to get an unbiased report from the Melbourne Herald, or from any other section of the Murdoch press? If there is one thing that stands to the credit of the Canberra newspaper, it is the fact that, despite the opportunity to do so, it refused to be shackled by becoming part of that press which voices the policy of the Government, provides its election opportunities, and, in the last analysis, its election funds. If I desired to dispose of the Minister’s argument, I should not descend to the mean trick of attempting to discredit an authority referred to by him. The Sydney Morning Herald, which cannot be accused of being in the same journalistic category as the Canberra Times, stated in its issue of the 13th November last -
It is suggested that in making the announcement in Canberra Mr. Menzies was not withoutguile. It gives a spectacular start to the political activity that will revive Canberraas the national capital.
Evidently, the Sydney Morning: Herald realized that it was time to attempt to revive the patient, and for once I agree with it.
The activity of the last few days has introduced a new atmosphere into the city. From a fair picture of a deserted village it was transformed overnight into an active centre of political administration. The city will be Australia’s political head-quarters for the next live weeks, and thereafter it is almost certain that there will not be a repetition of the evacution that occurred after last session. With the division of Cabinet duties, Mr. Menzies will see that Ministers who are not needed for war activities in Melbourne spend a good deal of their time administering their departments from Canberra.
The Government admits that the patient had been so badly neglected that it was advisable to administer a serum in order to revive it. I hope that the Government will give serious consideration to my suggestion for the transfer of all Commonwealth departments to the national capital.
We have an excellent Public Service, and in Canberra are the headquarters of many Commonwealth departments. My experience in the main, from the heads of these departments down to the messenger boys and telephone girls, is that the public is getting as nearly a thoroughly efficient service as it would be possible for any government to obtain. In recent years the recruits to the Service have included young men with university degrees. They are ambitious and capable, and they hp ve had ‘ exceptional educational opportunities. Many of those in receipt; of the lower salaries are taking technical courses to enable them to qualify for promotion. While young men in the Commonwealth Public Service are receiving tuition under the auspices of the Melbourne, Sydney and other universities, in order to improve their positions, the Government continues to appoint men from outside the Service, and in that way jeopardizes the promotion of juniors already in the Service. There are dozens of men whose ambition has been definitely destroyed by the action of the Government in this respect.
– Did the honorable senator say dozens?
– Yes. In support of my contention I cite the following paragraph which appeared in the Sunday Telegraph on the 3rd December: -
Other new boards, commissions, panels on and off our pay-roll include advisers on economics, prices, shipping, imports, companies, dairy produce, wool, wheat, customs and supply, man-power, business, war precautions, censorship, defence works, industrial organization.
All are staffed by Government supporters, mostly wealthy business or professional men.
Civil Service is uneasy.
Deputy Opposition Leader Keane put their case in Senate on Wednesday.
He said men in Government departments were fully competent to do new board’s work. Appointments were Government blunder, bad taste, bad judgment.
Man in street would believe vested interests were being given control of country, he said.
I endorse every word .in that paragraph, and I appeal to the Government to see that it does not destroy the ambition, enthusiasm and aspirations of many young men in the service, who, before appointment, have to pass the prescribed examination, and, subsequently, to observe the Commonwealth Public Service Regulations. It is wrong, cruel and definitely unjust to allow a large number of university graduates and others to enter the Commonwealth Public Service through the back door and thus deprive other worthy young men of the promotion to which they are justly entitled. On many occasions when there is a chance, of promotion to a higher position, carrying a higher salary, some one from outside the Service is appointed over their heads, and those recruited to the Service in the regular way have to remain in the same positions for years.
– I have not yet done so ; but I shall now refer to a specific instance. I have taken the trouble to peruse several issues of the Commonwealth Gazette and I refer to the appointment of valuers in Western Australia, Victoria and in Queensland; later two more were required in Western Australia and one each in Tasmania and New South Wales. It is a fairly long story. The complaint has been made from time to time that whenever it is desired to prevent an officer already in the Service from being appointed to a higher position, some astute official decides that the appointee must possess certain qualifications, which, in ordinary circumstances, would not be required. Ordinarily these qualifications are not insisted upon; but when some one in authority wishes a particular person to be appointed by a back-door method the advertisement setting out the duties is loaded with an unusual qualification, possessed only by the favoured person.
– The appointment in Western Australia was made from within the Service.
– The first three appointments definitely were not made from within the Service, and in Queensland an outsider was appointed. In other instances officers were transferred from other departments. Whatever honorable senators opposite may say, I have definite proof that in some instances when an officer should have been promoted to a higher position persons from outside the Service, whose qualifications were not superior, were selected.
– The honorable senator does not believe in special qualifications for special jobs.
– I do; but I contend that in nine cases out of every ten, officers in the department could perform the duties quite efficiently. When some one in authority wishes to establish a system of patronage or desires tooblige a friend it is the easiest thing in the world to get outside the Public Service Regulations by the departmental head insisting upon the possession of special qualifications; this device enables the Public Service Board to determine that no officer in the Service is capable of filling the position. Action in this respect is destroying the morale of an efficient, courageous and loyal Public Service.
– The charge is one of favoritism.
– I did not use the word “ favoritism “. The Assistant Minister may call it what he likes; it does not make any difference. The undeniable facts are as 1 have stated.
– That is a condemnation of the Public Service Board.
– Those “higher up “ are responsible.
– They cannot do it.
-I have given instances.
– Will the honorable senator cite a specific case?
– I thought that such a request would be made. Does the honorable senator think that I am likely to be so stupid as to mention the name of any particular officer? He knows that if I did so the officer would immediately be penalized because he ventilated a grave injustice.
– The honorable senator is mentioning imaginary instances. I. have had a good deal to do with the Commonwealth Public Service, and I know what happens.
– I am pleased to have that interjection. Ever since I was eighteen years of age I have been engaged in clerical pursuits which have brought me into close contact with Commonwealth departments, particularly the Department of Trade and Customs and the Postmaster-General’s Department. Senator Gibson, who has occupied a highly important ministerial position with distinction, will admit that no one could have been more enthusiastic, loyal and efficient than the officers who were under his control when he was PostmasterGeneral. All that I am asking is that the Government shall depart from its present practice of making appointments to the Public Service by these back-door methods, and that it will see that a number of loyal and efficient public servants, many of whom are devoting many hours of their spare time to improve their knowledge, are promoted to higher positions when the opportunity occurs. I suggest in all earnestness that the present, practice should be stopped - I do not wish it to be watered down - because it is tending to destroy the discipline and morale of the Service of which we have every reason to be proud.
– Some public servants will resent the honorable senator’s remarks.
– I am prepared to take that risk. I have received requests from officers in different Commonwealth departments to have this state of affairs remedied. I am not suggesting that it is an overpowering evil, but it is a bad practice which should be nipped in the bud, and unless there are special reasons no outsider should be appointed to the detriment of officers already in the service. As the Sunday Daily Telegraph said, certain appointments are absolutely disgraceful, because there are men in the Commonwealth Public Service fully qualified to undertake the work which is now being done by outsiders. There is no necessity for me to extoll the capacity and ability of the officers of the Commonwealth Public ‘Service, but I say without fear of truthful contradiction, “that there are men in the Commonwealth Service capable of filling practically every position that is available. When Ministers require information immediately they do not obtain it from Mr. Essington Lewis or from the chairman of the Wheat Board in Western Australia, but they communicate with the officers in the various departments, who never let them down. It is very interesting to see how dependent Ministers are on permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service, who have to keep them on the right- path and prevent them from making incorrect statements. Why stultify them?
– The honorable senator is doing the stultifying.
– Later I believe that many of the officers in Commonwealth departments in Queensland will support the remarks I have made to-day on this subject.
I now wish to refer to the urgent necessity for Parliament to be kept continually advised of the manner in which the money it appropriates is being expended. In a few days everything will be rushed through with the usual political indecency.
– And the usual protests.
– Yes, and so long as I am here protests will be made. It was once considered essential that Parliament should control public expenditure, but parliamentary control of the public purse now seems to be viewed very lightly. In a national emergency money is being poured out like water - wo are not quibbling on that account because the job has. to be done - but there should be a closer scrutiny of public expenditure.
Many years ago Sir Joseph Cook, when he was Prime Minister, suggested, at a time when no emergency existed, that it was desirable that Parliament should exercise more direct control over public expenditure. He evolved the idea, subsequently adopted, of appointing a public works committee. That legislation, which was passed in 1913, provided that the committee should consider and report upon every public work the estimated COS of completing which exceeded £25,000. This was amended by providing that the committee should report only upon such public works, the estimated cost . of which exceeded £25,000 as were referred to it by the House of Representatives. Thus the original powers- of the committee were whittled down. 1 know that that amendment was passed in 1936. As I was a member of this chamber at that time, I must accept my share of responsibility for it. However, I plead extenuating circumstances. I notice thai the bill was introduced in the House of Representatives at 1.33 a.m. on the 3rd December. At that time, probably all of the Government’s supporters were asleep, whilst members of the Opposition were hardly able to carry on. The process of legislation by exhaustion has been adopted on many occasions hy this Government and its predecessors. The fact that the bill passed through all its stages in four minutes will enable honorable senators to realize’ just how much consideration was given to it. As the result of that amending legislation, the committee may only consider works specifically referred to it by a resolution of the House of Representatives, and we know that such a resolution will not be passed, or even submitted, if the Executive of the day is nol willing that any public work be referred to the committee. It. is alleged that defence works must not be referred to the committee, because certain military secrets might be divulged. There might be something in that suggestion, but, surely, the committee can he trusted in that regard. I should be surprised if its members are not obliged by statute not to divulge such information. However, apart from works which may be deemed to involve military secrets, is there any reason why ordinary defence works should not be supervised by some authority? The Leader of the
Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) asked, in September twelve months ago, that a committee of members of Parliament be set up to supervise expenditure on these items in order to ensure that we receive value for every £1 expended on defence. The members of that committee were not to be remunerated. The Government sneered at that proposal. Although a committee exists which should be functioning in this direction, the Government takes care that it if not given an opportunity to supervise important expenditure. Less economy in public expenditure is observed in a time of national emergency than in normal times, because in a crisis it is necessary to get things done quickly. But why should not defence works, which in no way involve military secrets, be referred ‘to the Public Works Committee? There is also the matter of postal works. One Postmaster-General, who did not reign for long, but who has been active in the crisis which occurred in the Government corner last week, declared that if he had anything to do with the matter no postal works would be referred to the committee.
I say with very great regret that if the proposal to extend, the Sydney General Post Office had been referred to the committee, as should have been done, one of our most devoted and honorable public servants would still be with us in Canberra. If the Government is not satisfied with the Public Works Committee, let it, get rid of that body; but I urge it to appoint some other authority to oversee public expenditure, in order to ensure that the taxpayers of this country shall get at least a decent return for public expenditure. In the Estimates now under consideration provision for defence for this financial year amounts ‘to £19,750,000. It cannot be said that all of that expenditure will be incurred on works which should be kept secret, or that Parliament should be denied control of it. Some authority should be enabled to oversee the expenditure of £3,250,000 allocated in respect, of the Department of Supply and Development. The same may bo said of other votes, including - civil aviation, £750,000 : Postmaster-General’s Department, £4,000,000; Commonwealth railways, £164,000; territories, £931,000; and other departments, £529.000. T urge the
Government to consider seriously whether some of that work should not be ‘referred to the Public Works Committee for investigation. If posible all of it should be referred to the committee. The committee has done exceedingly valuable work. It did at least one thing in con*nexion with the development of Canberra. It investigated the need for a modern hospital for the National Capital, and recommended that the work be undertaken. Nothing discredits the National Capital so much as the existing hospital. I do not now refer to the internal economy, or administration, of that institution. But should any one visit the hospital, he will find that it is a fire-trap. The committee did a very fine job in that connexion. However, its report has merely been tabled. Why it has not yet been approved by Parliament I do not know. A modern hospital is very badly needed in the National Capital, and should have been constructed long ago. I should like to know what the Government is doing with that proposal. I understand that approval has been given to the construction of a new hostel and that departmental officers are engaged on the drawings. Another important work the extension of the Kingsford Smith aerodrome, is not being proceeded with, although the committee has also reported on that work. Many other urgent public works should be undertaken immediately. The Government proposes to build a temporary hospital at Concord at an estimated cost of £110,000 to accommodate at least 1,200 beds. The Public Works Committee should be asked to inquire into that proposal. Should the worst happen in the present, war - and all of us devoutly hope that it will not - we shall probably require new hospitals in every State. I understand that the naval authorities are contemplating the establishment of a big hospital in Sydney. That is quite a recent proposal. Do not honorable senators opposite think that we should have some authority - and I am suggesting the Public Works Committee because it is already functioning, to investigate jobs of this kind - in order to let us know what is required and what will be achieved by the expenditure proposed if it be too must to cut it down, or to raise it if it be insufficient ? Should not Parliament have at its disposal data of this kind when it is considering the expenditure of millions of pounds of public money? Without information of that kind we shall be obliged to act blindly, with no concern whatever as to whether the taxpayers will be assured of getting value for this expenditure.
It will be conceded that on no matter have I a parochial outlook; I do not merely press the claims of one State as against those of another. But I wish now to deal with a matter from the point of view of the State which I represent. After all, the Senate was intended to be mainly a States house. Troops are being raised for the 6th Division in the various States. I am not sure whether the quota in any State has yet been raised. I know, however, that it is proposed to take these troops from Queensland to Maitland, where they will be trained. I protest against such a proposal. I have already inquired into this matter, and I know that I shall be told that the High Command recommends this arrangement in order to ensure that these troops will be correctly trained. That argument carries no conviction to me. Will any honorable senator suggest that General Wynter, the commandant of the Queensland military district, will not see to it that the Queensland unit is correctly trained? Will any one suggest that if the “ form threes “ formation be adopted in one State another State will retain the “ form fours “ formation or adopt a “form fives” or “ form sixes “ formation ? Surely we can trust the men in command of the various military districts to ensure that the troops who enlist in their respective districts will be correctly trained. This arrangement, which involves the transfer of some thousands of men from Queensland to Maitland, is also unfair to the commercial community of Queensland.
– It all depends what the honorable senator means by being trained.
– As the result of centuries of suffering the Irishman is facetiously said to consider everything, whether it, relates to his country or not, .as another injustice to Ireland. In connexion with de-, fence every proposal of this Govern ment seems to be another injustice to Queensland. This latest proposal is the culminating indignity. The commercial community of Queensland has a right to expect its share of Queensland trade, but under this arrangement that will be denied to it. This is a policy of greasing the fat pig; it is a case of looking after the interests of one State only.
– Is the honorable senator referring to New South Wales
– I do not think that the Government has allocated to New South Wales a fair proportion of its defence expenditure, having regard to the capacity of that State to execute defence orders. The Government no doubt will claim as it has claimed in the past, that the money is not being allocated in accordance with State boundaries, but is being expended where it will give the best return. That is only adding to the insult. We in Queensland are no less able to carry out any contract which the Government may place there than are the people of other States. Earlier to-day we were talking about the manufacture of boilers and machinery. I point out that at the railway workshops at Ipswich even the most intricate machinery can be manufactured. The Government has only to ask for it. If we have not the necessary machinery at our disposal to do a special job - I cannot conceive of such a job - then we will get it or make it. No doubt the Government will some day depend on Queensland to turn out military boots at prices which permit of no profiteering, when the southern States have agreed to profiteering on this commodity. In Queensland we can build ships, boilers, and diesel engines, but now it is proposed to take 4,000 men from that State in order to train them. These men are to be taken away from their families and friends long before it is necessary, and the same thing of course applies to New South Wales, Tasmania, South Australia and Western Australia. I am urging that this action be not taken. I have been asked to speak on behalf of a representa?tive body of citizens in my State who are entitled to more consideration than they flr” receiving.
– Tenderers in all States are on an equal footing. .
– I know that, but why is some consideration not given to Queensland ?
– For the simple reason that tenderers in that State are not successful.
– The Government is demonstrating its desire to keep the States on an equal footing by taking 4,000 men away from Queensland for training on the pretext that they cannot be adequately trained in Queensland.
– That is a red herring.
– I am beginning to believe that there is such a thing as a decent red herring.
I intend to say a few words with regard to militia pay. I do not desire to raise the question that has been the subject of almost a national crisis, but it appears to me that a very serious anomaly exists in connexion with the lads of 21 years of age who will be called up for compulsory military service early next year. I understand that it was originally stated that the difference between the normal earnings of these youths and their militia pay would be made up during their period of training.
– That is not so.
– Are they not going to get anything? Surely it was originally intended that their pay would be made up for at least the first sixteen days, or had the Government no intention of paying them at all ? If that is the case, the position is even much worse than I thought.
When we examine this financial statement we find to our horror that there is no provision for an increase of taxes. We know very well what that means. ‘It does not mean that the Government has other means of finance which are so satisfactory that an increase of direct taxes is not necessary. It means that the Government foresaw a political crisis and the possibility of having to make an appeal to the electors. The Government could not afford to take the risk of going on to the hustings and telling the press and the people who support it with funds and influence that the taxation of the rich would be increased. Therefore, there is no provision for an increase of taxes. Now we find that the Government had no in tention of making any payment whatsoever to the conscripted youths apart from their military pay. I thought the position was bad at first, but now it appears to be very much worse. The Government does not intend to pay the trainees; it does not intend to tax the rich; so obviously it is going to run the war on the cheap. The parents of these lads will have to bear the brunt, because in many instances owing to unfortunate economic circumstances, the parents are dependent upon the earnings of these lads.
There is another matter that affects particularly my own State. Queensland has made more progress in civil aviation than has any other State.
– With the help of a Commonwealth subsidy.
– That is so. I do not deny that Queensland has had the assistance of the Commonwealth Government, but so also have all the other States. Surely it will not be suggested that assistance should have been given to all of the other States but not to Queensland. The fact remains that Queensland has done more for the development of civil aviation than has any other State. Our privately owned and controlled air lines are flying a greater number of miles per annum with a lower percentage of accidents than those of any other State. The climate of Queensland, and the country itself, are particularly suited to aviation. We contend that Queensland is entitled to decent treatment with regard to aerodromes. 1 have a letter from a very important coastal town, Maryborough, in. which is situated the firm of Walkers Limited, which, as Senator Brown pointed out this afternoon, is ready to undertake any engineering job which the Government likes to give it. That firm is capable of producing ships of 10,000 tons if necessary, and of fitting them with engines and all necessary equipment. [Extension of time granted.]
Representations were made to the Government by a Queensland supporter of the Government -in the House of Representatives, who urged that Maryborough be given consideration by the Military Board as an aviation centre-. The import of the voluminous report prepared by the military experts on the subject was that the board considered that Bundaberg had superior claims for the establishment of a military aerodrome. The Maryborough City Council has asked me to ascertain why the Military Board contends that Maryborough is not a suitable site, in view of the fact that Air Force bombers recently called at the Maryborough aerodrome in preference to Bundaberg in order to refuel. I do not seek to pit Maryborough against Bundaberg. I contend that both these aerodromes are essential in wartime, and I ask the Minister to deal out evenhanded justice to each of them, even although they are in Queensland. We are rapidly approaching the stage when we shall feel inclined to apologize if we ask for anything on behalf of Queensland because the development of Queensland in any way seems to be opposed to the policy of this Government.
I draw attention to the fact that in north Queensland and western Queensland there are tens of thousands of square miles of country perfectly suited to the establishment of aerodromes. The country is as flat as a billiard table and nature has already clone three parts of the job. Much work has also been done by the Queensland Government and local governing bodies. I ask the Minister to give consideration to the claims of Cunnamulla, which is ohe of the most important towns in western Queensland. Much good work has been done already at that centre and a fine site for an aerodrome has been prepared. Throughout Queensland it will be necessary to build new defence roads and strengthen existing roads and bridges. We in Queensland can do a wonderful job in engineering undertakings of that nature. All that the Commonwealth has to do is give a reasonable amount of assistance
I urge that the Government should give more consideration to the employment in clerical positions of young men who were not old enough to serve in the last war. If there is a vacancy for a temporary clerk, and there is no returned soldier available, then the job should -be given to the young man who had no opportunity to participate in the last war. Now that the Commonwealth works programme is being expanded there must be many directions in which temporary clerical help will be needed. Many young men have asked me to assist them in obtaining positions, and
I have sent them along to the Defence Department with recommendations that they be employed, but they have been informed that preference would be given to returned soldiers. I emphasize that these young men are applying, not for permanent positions in the Commonwealth Public Service, but merely for temporary jobs as clerks, and I urge that more consideration be given to them. No doubt there are hundreds of such young men throughout Australia, lt should not be within the province of a departmental head arbitrarily to refuse to employ young men who are not returned soldiers where additional clerical labour is required.
Sitting suspended from 6.16 till 8 p.m.
– I have placed before Ministers my views on a number of matters which I consider are worthy of their attention. I assure them that I have done so in a spirit of great earnestness, because all these subjects are of importance, to Queensland particularly, and to Australia generally. In other statements relating to war emergency measures we have declared our appreciation of the Government’s efforts to prevent profiteering. I take this opportunity, as it may be impossible to refer to the matter later in this period of the session, to say that having seen the Government’s price-fixing machinery at work, we have very little confidence indeed in the capacity of the Ministry to deal effectively with profiteering as it affects the working classes of the Commonwealth, and also in connexion with the three arms of the fighting services. I had something to say this afternoon about the infliction, upon the. public service of this country, of outside appointees in connexion with profiteering prevention and price-fixing. In this matter I think the Government reached the apex of indiscretion by appointing as Commonwealth Prices .Commissioner a gentleman whose sole qualification is that he is a university professor and an economist. That appointment’ carries a salary of £1,700 a year. I presume the appointee is not also drawing his university salary, but I have no knowledge on that point. In addition, he is receiving an allowance of 35s. a day for 365 days of the year. His home is in Victoria and he is doing his job in Canberra and in other cities. In the light of this arrangement, I am not much impressed by the Government’s claim to be serious in its profiteering prevention proposals. En the Sunday ‘Telegraph of the 3rd December last there appears, on page 7, a statement to the effect that all commercial interests in New South Wales, particularly in the metropolitan area, are agreed that the approaching Christmas will be the best on record. Business people are looking forward to what they believe will be a bumper Christmas. They say that assured markets for our exports, import restrictions and the flow of defence money mean a rosy finish for the economic year. By contrast, on page nine of the same issue, there is printed an article by an economist who states that 400,000 people in Australia “to-day are short of life’s necessaries; they have not enough food for a balanced and nourishing diet. The article goes on to urge, and I add to that appeal the full weight of the Opposition, that it is the duty of this Government to eliminate the lag between prosperity in business and the improvement in the conditions of the workers on the basic wage or below it. Unless the Government is prepared to take up that lag more effectively than is suggested by its recent effort to prevent profiteering, I shall, doubt its sincerity. We are engaged in a desperate effort to win the war. We all hope that success will crown our efforts, but we must see to it that when the war is won, we shall not lose the peace; that when the war is over, we shall not enter upon the tragedy of peace which was our experience after the last war. I hope that thi3 phase of the war position will have, the careful attention of the Government.
.- This evening it is my intention to draw attention to the arrangements made by the Government for the disposal of the Australian crop of apples and pears. This subject is of outstanding importance to Tasmania. The basis of the Government’s proposals is as follows : -
Another feature which needs emphasizing is the fact that 2s. a case for 75 per cent, of the crop naked at the tree means that this advance covers the cost of picking and storing the fruit. The grower will be required to take all reasonable care for the protection of the crop, to harvest the fruit when ready, and deliver it according to instructions.
I believe that the proposal that advances of 2s. a case for apples and 3s. a case for pears naked for harvested and stored fruit, with a restriction that such assistance be limited to 7,500,000 cases, has not been examined sufficiently by those in authority. Whilst the help by way of advances which are expected to be repaid will be of assistance to the industry, it is not nearly, sufficient to enable it to carry on. I am afraid that a large number of orchardists, particularly the smaller growers, will be extinguished if the war should last for some years, or if the scheme be not modified considerably.
The general impression was that this advance of 2s. a case would be on the total crop of the grower. I am informed; however, that the Statistician, when preparing his production figures for apples and pears, takes into consideration only fruit that is marketed, and that the 7,500.000 cases mentioned is approximately 75 per cent, of the commercial crop, and not of the fruit actually produced. This belief is borne out by the statement made by the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay), who spoke of the production of Australia as 13,000,000 bushels of apples. It will be seen that if these figures arc correct, instead of the advance being on 75’ per cent, of the apples and pears produced, it will be made on only about 58 per cent, of such fruit.
In a subsequent statement issued by the Minister for Commerce on the 14th November, 1939, the following figures were given: -
Although the average commercial apple crop which is actually sold overseas and in Australia, is 10,433,000 bushels, the total crop of fruit is 12,888,000 bushels; yet it is proposed to make advances on only 7,500,000 cases. This means that the scheme will apply to only 75 per cent, of the total crop sold last year. Support for this view is to be found in the following instructions issued by Mr. W. . M. Carne, Government Marketing Officer of the Department of Commerce, to State. Supervisors in Tasmania: -
It must : be understood that normally a grower wil.I,., receive advances and final payments on the basis of the. crop estimates, and not on his pack-out or deliveries. However,’ when a crop is very poor and estimated to pack-out badly, the committee may decide to pay the advance only on delivery.
It is essential that the estimates should be conservative. The success of the scheme will largely be tested, by the position of the pooled ‘ realizations at the end of the year. The .scheme will be discredited if an attempt is made to guarantee a better return to growers by optimistic crop estimations. Further, it must be realized that the scheme is ‘budgeted upon the basis of 7,500,000 bushels of. export quality fruit. If estimates are excessive it will be necessary, to reduce all by such a’ percentage as will bring them to this figure. Further it must be realized that estimation will be subject to check by deliveries.
The above is concrete evidence that no matter what the total crop may be, the Government’s proposal will be re- stricted to 7,500,000 cases of export quality fruit. Further evidence is to be found in the report furnished by Mr. L. S. Taylor to the State Fruit Board on the 31st October, 1939. In this report Mr. Taylor points out that of a total crop of 10,000,000 cases, the quantity to be sent overseas would be 4,712,000 cases, and the Australian consumption for this year would be 5,2S8,000 cases. The estimated increase over the previous year would be 30 per cent, or 1,762,000 cases. Shipments to the East are expected to reach 200,000 cases, leaving a balance of 250,000 cases to be disposed of. The departmental estimate of fruit below fancy or extra fancy grade is 2,500,000 “cases, so that the total production will be 10,000,000 cases. Last year the total sold amounted to 12,8S6,000 cases. An enormous quantity of fruit goes to waste.
The scheme has a number of unsatisfactory features. An advance of 2s. a case for 75 per cent, of the crop means that the grower would receive an average of only ls. 6d. for the whole of his commercial crop. This price, I believe, is below the cost of production. Only in respect of 60 per cent, of that 75 per cent., or 2,160,000 cases of a total crop of 4,800,000 cases, are packing costs guaranteed. That figure was originally 50 per cent., but owing to representations made by Mr. D’Alton, the Minister for Agriculture in Tasmania, it was fixed at 60 per cent. A third objection to the scheme is that 1,200,000 cases of saleable fruit would be allowed to rot on the ground. Another objection is that the scheme discriminates against Tasmania as it will enable the mainland. States to sell out their early varieties of fruit, which are marketed before the 1st March, and should there be a variety pool, this would further discriminate against Tasmania. The decision of the Government not to give further assistance would result in the orchardists having to live on their capital, if they had any, or neglect the necessary cultural practices of spraying their trees and hoeing and harrowing their land, which would bring about a lowering of productivity in the following year.
The Minister for Commerce (Senator MeLeay) will not recommend the increase asked for by a deputation some time ago to 2s. 6d. a case in respect of the advance on apples, and 3s. 6d. a case on pears. The reason given was that negotiations are proceeding to secure refrigerated space for overseas shipments. We are influenced by the fact that certain ships may be available, but we do not know what the total space will be. We believe that, if space is available, we shall be able to send some fruit away. In any case, if we secured an advance of 2s. 6d. a case on approximately 75 per cent, of the commercial crop, the orchardists would be able to carry on, but would merely get back their bare costs of production. Tasmania has practically pioneered the fruit industry. During the years 1933 to 1936, the quantity of fruit shipped from that State was 68 per cent, of the total quantity exported from Australia, compared with 17.4 per cent, from Victoria, 10.9 per cent, from Western Australia, 6.1 per cent, from South Australia, 3.4 per cent, from New South Wales, and 0.4 per cent, from Queensland. During the three years which ended with the 1937 season, Tasmania produced 62.8 per cent., Victoria 14.1 per cent., South Australia 6.3 per cent., Kew South Wales 2.4 per cent, and Queensland 0.3 per cent, of the fruit crop shipped abroad. For the three years ended 193S, Tasmania was responsible for 63.5 per cent., Victoria for 14.4 per cent., Western Australia for 11.6 per cent., South Australia for 8.3 per cent., New South Wales for 1.6 per cent, and Queensland for 0.5 per cent. Tasmania, as the mainstay of this industry, is asking that the industry be allowed to live. I have before me a statement by Mr. J. S. Bulman, who represents the growers of north Tasmania on the Apple and Pear Board. He has been in the orcharding business for many years, and he states -
He was in accord with the opinion of the Minister for Agriculture (Mr. T. D’Alton) that Tasmania would suffer a substantial loss if the apple crop for 1940 only realized 2s. per bushel. He calculated that the cost of producing a case of apples, including depreciation and all other factors, at about 2s. 9d. The Commonwealth Government scheme, .however, provided for a payment of 2s. a case for cost of production. This meant that growers were down about 9d. on each case.
The only way they could make this up would be by rigid economy. The price of wages might have to be reduced, manuring would be minimized, and less labour employed where possible. This would have a very serious effect on the business people of the State, particularly in Hobart and Launceston, where fruit played a large part in the commercial life of the city.
The effects of the economy employed by growers would not be so noticeable this year, said Mr. Bulman, but next season there would be no mistaking the effect on the business life of the State. If the cost of producing a case of apples had been allowed for at 2s. Od. for the 75 per cent., and an allowance of ls. 6d. had been made on a further 20 per cent., making 95 per cent, of the fruit provided for, then he considered growers would be able to get through the war period without too rigid economy and its bad after-effects.
He agreed with the Minister that if the scheme was carried out as it stood at present, the effects on Tasmania would be very serious.
The cost of production of commercial apples naked at the tree has been estimated by various people associated with the industry at from ls. 9d. to 2s. 6d. a case. Under the scheme the advance is to be 2s., but for only 75 per cent, of the commercial crop, which means that the advance is ls. 6d. a case on a crop based on last year’s sales. The grower will not receive any payment whatever for the 25 per cent, of his commercial crop, all of which is saleable fruit under normal conditions, and similar fruit was sold by him last year. Further, he will not be permitted to give away any of such 25 per cent.- of his commercial crop.
In some industries in times like these the producer can change over from a crop which does not pay to one for which there is a ready sale, but the unfortunate fruitgrower is not able to do that. It. takes about seven years for his orchard to come into production, and, if he retains hip asset, it is necessary for him to work his orchard and to carry out the appropriate cultural practices and spraying programme, even though he may not be able to sell one case of apples.
The position of the apple industry in Tasmania is very different from that in the other States except Western Australia, as boxing, packing and transport of fruit on an f.o.b. basis, represent half the value, so that in Tasmania associated industries are approximately half the value of the fruit industry. It is quite apparent, and definitely admitted, by those promulgating the present scheme, that this very important feature has not received the consideration which it deserves. It was made definitely clear that theproposals were for a marketing scheme only, and that it would be dealt with as such. It is thus quite apparent that the important factor of associated industries has been excluded from the scheme. The Government’s proposals will not come into operation until the 1st March, 1940, thereby exempting a considerable amount of the fruit from the scheme. That, I think, means inequitable treatment of some Australian growers. There is no justification whatever for departure from “ the one in, all in “ principle. If certain fruit be exempted, it will mean that growers of early varieties, particularly in certain mainland States, will be enabled to market a greater proportion of their crop than 75 per cent., and, in addition, such fruit will not berestricted to “ extra fancy “ or “ fancy “ standards ; but these growers can dispose of “good “ and even “D grade” fruit. The main result will be a special discrimination against Tasmania.
We have been told that a varietal pool is likely to be established. This request, I understand, comes from New South Wales. Such a proposal is of special advantage to that State, which produces largely the variety of apple known as Granny Smith, whereas in Tasmania we specialise in the Sturmer variety. We export 930,000 cases of Sturmer apples annually, of the total crop of 2,830,000 cases. We have developed the Sturmer trade, and now stand in danger of losing it. If a varietal pool were established, New South Wales growers would get a higher return for their varieties, because the Tasmanian fruits are not so popular on the Australian market as they are on the English market.
Another matter which Tasmanian orchardists have to consider, and which has not yet been made clear, is whether the dividend, if any, would be paid on a pro rata basis to all growers throughout Australia, or whether such increased payment would be made available only on the basis of fruit actually sold on behalf of the grower. Should the pool be a financial success, this matter will be one of great importance to the Tasmanian grower. If all States benefit in equal proportion, there will be less criticism than if exemptions be made in various directions detrimental to the interests of that State. As an alternative proposal, the Government of Tasmania has submitted the following: -
The Tasmanian Government realized the serious situation which was likely to be created, and submitted the following recommendations to the Minister for Commerce: -
1 ) That 2s.6d. pur bushel be advanced ‘ for “ fancy “ and “ extra fancy “ fruit naked at the tree up to 75 per cent, of the commercial crop of each grower.
That 2s. (id. per case be paid for picking, grading, packing, and casing such fruit delivered at the central depot at the port of shipment at such times as directed by the Apple and Pear Board.
That1s.6d. per bushel be paid for the other 25 per cent, of the commercial crop.
That a bonus of1s. per bushel he paid to processing companies for canned fruit to the extent of last year’s manufacture of such fruit.
That6d. per bushel bonus be paid, for fruit dehydrated to the extent of last year’s production of such fruit.
It is considered that if the Tasmanian Government’s proposals had been adopted the industry would have been able to carry on. Another feature in regard to the orcharding industry, which apparently has been overlooked, is that the small grower depends for his living not only on the actual production of naked fruit, but also on the work provided for his family in picking, wrapping and packing the fruit,- and thus augmenting the family income.
I notice in the press that it is estimated that the Commonwealth Government may have to provide up to £12,000,000, including £3,500,000 from the flour tax, for direct assistance to the wheat industry next season. If such a large sum can be found for the wheat industry, which has received such substantial assistance for a number of years, surely it is not too much to expect that some direct financial assistance shall be provided for the apple-growers. The difference between the position of the wheatgrower and that of the orchardist is that the former has a restricted market overseas brought about by over-production throughout the world, whereas for the product of the fruit-grower there is a market in the United Kingdom at probably very remunerative prices; but the crop cannot be transported owing to the fact that the ships are required to carry more essential foodstuffs. 1 have been informed, by those in control of the scheme that it is moulded in such a way that it will be entirely dependent on the marketing returns, and that it was devised so that it will remain quite solvent. This means that the Commonwealth Government is making no direct monetary assistance by way of a grant to the industry. The full Commonwealth assistance indicated by the Apple and Pear Board is an advance by way of a short term loan, free of interest, to enable advances to be made to the growers against the growing crop until the marketing returns come in. The proceeds of the sale of the fruit will be used to redeem such a short-term loan in full. The board has budgeted for the marketing of 7,500,000 bushels which will be of the best varieties and best quality. This fruit will be sold at considerably lower rates than those which have previously operated in the Australian market. As the marketing will be strictly controlled under powers to be given to the Apple and Pear Board, it appears that there is practically no risk being taken in regard to the short term loan.
The seriousness of the position will be appreciated by all when it is realized that the loss to Tasmania will amount to approximately £570,000, a sum greater than the whole of the Commonwealth grant this year. The commercial crop in Tasmania last year was 4,800,000 cases, and that quantity was actually sold. This year 75 per cent, of the commercial crop on the same basis will be 3,600,000 cases. An advance of 2s. a case will be made on this quantity provided that it conforms to the “ fancy “ and “ extra fancy “ grades. The loss to Tasmania on 1,200,000 cases on the basis of 5s. f.o.b. will be £300,000. Of the 3,600,000 bushels, or 75 per cent, of the commercial crop, only on the actual number of cases boxed under the direction of the Apple and Pear Board will payment be received for casing, and this payment will be limited to the actual cost of that operation with a maximum of 2s. 3d. a case. The Minister of Agriculture in Tasmania said -
The chairman of the board, Mr. Mills, said at Canberra that the board has made no guarantee of the number of bushels which could be boxed in Tasmania and thus enable growers to secure the packing costs. He stated that the board had notified the growers in that State that they would be safe in ordering 50 per cent, of their case material. Mr. Mills was questioned as to what the 50 per cent, really meant, and he made the definite statement that it was 50 per cent, only of the 75 per cent, of 3,000,000 cases and not of 4,800,000 cases, which was the quantity actually sold last year. The result is that only 1,800,000, or 374 per cent, of 4,800,000 cases, which is the commercial crop of Tasmania, would be packed with some guarantee. The loss to Tasmania on the basis of 2s. Gd. for packing, grading and delivery would be a further £375,000. In view of the importance of this aspect, Mr. Mills was pressed to recommend to the Apple and Pear Board a guarantee of the packing costs on 75 per cent, of 3,000,000 cases, but he definitely refused to do so. Later he agreed to recommend to the board that provision be made for a further 10 per cent, to be cased, which will bring the total for Tasmania to 2,160,000 bushels, which is only 45 per cent, of the actual sales of last year. It was pointed out how unsatisfactory this was to Tasmania, and he was again pressed that at least 75 per cent, of the 3,600,000 cases should be boxed. This was refused, but Mr. Mills later agreed to recommend to the hoard that a further ls per cent, of the material only bc guaranteed. If this recommendation be accepted by the board, a further 540,000 cases, valued at approximately ls. a case, will lie guaranteed. I think the position, even so. is still disastrous to Tasmania.
Last year 1,900,000 bushels of Tasmanian fruit was consumed within Australia, and this year under the scheme 2,160,000 bushels are proposed to be sold. As this fruit will all bo of choicest quality, there should be no difficulty in disposing of this quantity and should increase considerably the sales throughout the Commonwealth. We all arc familiar with the slogan that “ an apple a day keeps the doctor away”; and I understand that if a scheme could be adopted whereby the soldiers in camp, school children and others could be supplied with five apples weekly at a cost of 2d., the growers could dispose of approximately 27,000 apples daily. I believe that under a proper publicity scheme valuable markets could be found in New South Wales, Queensland and the Northern Territory, and that the whole of Tasmania’s marketable crop could be disposed of.
I now desire to bring under the notice of honorable senators what has happened in New Zealand, a dominion which exports considerable quantities of fruit. The problem facing the New Zealand Government and the fruit industry as a result of the probable loss of the export market through the war was discussed last week in a statement by tho Minister of Marketing, the Hon. W. Nash. The problem arose, he said, because the United Kingdom Government had notified New Zealand that it did not desire to buy any fruit this season. Apple and pear production for this season, said Mr. Nash, had been estimated at 3,403,000 cases. Normally up to 1,500,000 cases were exported and about the same quantity was sold on the local market. This year, in consequence of the war, growers were faced with a dangerous position, arising from a very large crop and the possibility of no European market at all. The United Kingdom Government had requested that shipping space should be devoted to essential food, with preference to dairy produce and’ meat. Mr. Nash said that the matter had been taken up with the Fruit Export Control Board and the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation. The Government had suggested to these organizations that the whole marketing procedure should be delegated by the Government to the Fruit Board, which meant that the board would take responsibility for the marketing of all the fruit and that the Government would enter into a contract to take 1,000,000 cases al 6s. 9d. a case f.o.b. and take the risk of getting the fruit away from the dominion. If the Government could not find shipping space for this fruit, it would not bc marketed in such a way as to destroy the chances of the rest of the fruit. Bather, the Government might distribute it to schools in the same way as milk had been issued, or send it to institutions such a? canteens. The price offered has since been increased to 7s. a case. Members of the New Zealand Fruit Export Control Board were in conference for three day? with the directors of the New Zealand Fruitgrowers Federation, during which period they had frequent contact with the Minister of Marketing, but the Minister and the conference failed to reach agreement on the question of Go- vernment assistance to the industry. The fruit-growers, in a prepared statement, assert that, while the war has completely upset the economics of the dominion’* primary industries, the prejudicial effect, especially in regard to meat and wool, is negligible as compared with the problem which faces the fruit industry.
The Premier of Tasmania, Mr. DwyerGray, has again communicated with the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) urging the Commonwealth Government to adopt the alternative proposals submitted by the State Government in regard to assistance for the fruit industry. The Premier of Tasmania said he desired to appeal to all Tasmanians to unite in supporting the proposals placed before the Commonwealth Government by the State Government. The Prime Minister had informed him that he approved the alternative proposals submitted to the Minister for Commerce,” (Senator McLeay), and would again communicate with him. . Mr. Dwyer-Gray said that he felt certain that no final decision had yet been reached, otherwise the Prime Minister would have informed him. The proposals of the State Government were that 2s. 6d. a bushel be paid for fruit on the tree for up to 75 per cent, of the marketable crop of each grower, and that 2s. 6d. a case be paid for picking, grading, packing and casing; the fruit to be delivered to a central depot at the port of shipment at such times as were directed by the Apple and Pear Board, and that ls. 6d. a bushel be paid for the other 25 per cent, of the marketable crop. A bonus of ls. a bushel was also to be paid to processing companies for canned fruit to the extent of last year’s production of such fruit, and that 6d. a bushel be paid for dehydrated fruit to the extent of last year’s production. The Premier of Tasmania said he had written to the Prime Minister pointing out the reasonableness of the proposals and expressing the opinion that they would make a difference to Tasmania of between £300,000 and £500,000. He had, he said, cited the defence expenditure for the current year, and had stated that in view of the enormous differentiation which victimized Tasmania, perhaps unavoidably, it was the duty of the Commonwealth Government, to be generous in its assistance to the fruit industry. He had pointed out. that disregarding payments to soldiers, £36,221,000 would be expended on defence during the current financial year, of which £480,000 was allocated to Tasmania, whilst £1S,717,000 -was to be spent in Victoria and £11,126,000 in New South Wales. He thought that all would agree with him in suggesting that ellis expenditure should be taken into consideration and that Tasmania should be treated more generously. 1 also have here a letter from Mr. L. S. Taylor, chairman of the State Committee of the Australian Apple and Pear Board. He objects to the proposal that Victorian pears should be excluded from the pool and asks that the principle of “ one in, all in “ should be maintained in the marketing of this fruit. I agree that that is the best principle, because if growers in one State be allowed to withdraw, then growers in other States must also be allowed to withdraw. We commend the Commonwealth Government for the work it has been doing in marketing this fruit. I emphasize, however, that Tasmania supplies 60 per cent, of the fruit exported from Australia. Expenses incurred in packing and grading, &c, represent 50 per cent, of the prices obtained. Honorable senators, therefore, will realize the importance of this matter to Tasmanian fruitgrowers. We appeal to the Government to give further assistance to the growers of apples and pears in order to enable them to carry on during the coming season.
– The Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender), in his financial statement on the 30th November, said -
Briefly stated the financial policy of the Government is to finance the war effort by a balanced programme of taxation, borrowing from the public and borrowing from the banking system.
We can borrow from individuals and from financial institutions, but I have yet to learn what we can borrow from a banking system. Perhaps the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay) can answer my query?
– This is a Senate, not a kindergarten.
– The phrase to which T refer was ‘used by the Acting Treasurer either in ignorance or for the purpose of misleading the public. It is the first occasion on which 1 have heard it. What can we borrow from a banking system ? As the Leader of the Senate cannot give me an answer, I shall be permitted to place my own construction on the meaning of that phrase. I assume that the Acting Treasurer meant that the Government intends to raise money by further inflation, but because “ inflation “ has a nasty sound and alarms some people, he prefers to use the euphemistic phrase to which I have referred for the purpose of avoiding an admission that the Government intends further to inflate the currency. Inflation means taxation. We have direct taxation, and indirect taxation. Borrowing means taxation; it is deferred taxation. By such means you defer taxation for the purpose of paying interest on money borrowed. I assume that that is what the Acting Treasurer meant by the phrase “ borrowing from the banking system “ ; that is taxation in another form. The Government, therefore, intends to raise all of its revenue by means of taxation; but the feature about this taxation is that the workers will suffer more than any other section of the community.
– What would the honorable senator do, tax or borrow?
– I should tax. The only fair and equitable method of financing Government policy, in either peace or war, is to tax those best able to pay. That is the principle of taxing people in accordance with their ability to pay. But when you inflate your currency you tax those who are least able to pay, because the effect of inflation is to cause prices to rise. Inflation and restriction of ‘ production are the two causes of rising prices and increased cost of living. In both cases those who are least able to pay are taxed more than any other section of the community. On page 4 of his financial statement the Acting Treasurer used the phrase “credit expansion”. As I cannot obtain any explanation to the contrary, I assume that “borrowing from the hanking system “ and “ credit expansion “ mean the same thing, namely, inflation. The Acting Treasurer went on to say -
We learned some lessons from the last war when credit expansion was carried to excess bv -most belligerent countries, and even by Australia.
That is true, but I am afraid that no such lesson has been learned by the Acting Treasurer. In 1923 the German Government by credit expansion, or inflation, impoverished millions of its people, and was enabled to repudiate its legitimate debts. I agree with the Acting Treasurer when he states -
The simple fact is that defence must be paid for now with men and materials. No manipulation can alter the burden.
I agree with that remark, but so far as I can judge from the Acting Treasurer’s statement, it is intended that the workers shall pay the great bulk of the cost of the war - at least, to the extent that they can be compelled to pay. I again direct the attention of honorable senators to the Acting Treasurer’s statement that “ defence must be paid for now with men and materials “. When a Government borrows, as this Government intends to borrow, it commits posterity to pay interest almost in perpetuity to a creditor section of posterity. Although the cost of war will be paid now with men and materials, a creditor section of posterity will be enabled through governmental borrowing to levy tribute in perpetuity on the debtor section of posterity. By investing in government loans, the creditor section of the present generation can also levy tribute in this way, and it can pass on that right to its heirs. In this way a colossal war debt is built up. The full effect of the Government’s policy will be to tax the workers to the limit in order to pay for the war. It will adopt the same principle as ‘ that adopted by Hitler in Germany, that is, the principle of “ guns before butter “. We find that persons enjoying prestige in the community are already attempting to pave the way for the introduction of that principle. These are favoured persons who will not suffer any financial loss as the result of the Avar. For example, Sir George Beeby, Chief Judge of the Arbitration Court, stated the other day -
No sane man to-day would think of altering wages and conditions, cither up or down, in view of the international situation.
The point I make here is that wages are being altered; they are being reduced both indirectly and directly. As from the first pay in December the basic wage has been reduced by1s. This reduction has been effected through the Arbitration Courts and wage-fixing tribunals. In 1907 the basic wage was fixed at £2 2s. by the late Justice Higgins, who based that figure on what he considered to be the cost of living at that time.
– He admitted that bis inquiry was not very thorough.
– For the purpose of argument, I am assuming that his inquiry was as thorough as could be expected. To-day the basic wage is £4 a week. The unsophisticated person would conclude that it is nearly twice as much as it was in 1907, but in terms of gold it is actually 25s. less than the basic wage of £2 2s. in 1907. Proof of this is to be seen in the fact that if the basic wage of 1907 was paid to-day in sovereigns its purchasing power would be equal to that of two sovereigns which to-day could be cashed over the bank counter for £5 6s. The basic wage, therefore, has not increased in terms of gold since 1907. On the contrary ithas been reduced by fully 25s.
– Does the honorable senator think that the basic wage should be based on the cost of living or on the price of gold ?
– I should say that the wages of the worker should be based on the wealth, created by his labour, but I should prefer that the basic wage be adjusted in terras of gold rather than the cost of living, because, then, as I have pointed out. it would ho at least 25s. more than it is to-day.
– If the price of gold dropped to £2 an oz. would the honorable senator say that the wage should come down correspondingly?
– If the price of gold dropped to £2 the price of every other commodity would decrease proportionately.
– Yes ; if the honorable senator studies this matter, he will find that the higher the price of gold the higher the price of every other commodity, because the price of gold is raised by inflating the currency, and in no other way. The value of gold itself has not increased in the slightest, but the price of gold has increased as the result of the war of currencies which is taking place between the various nations competing for international trade. As I have already pointed out, if the basic wage were assessed in terms of gold, it would be at least £5 6s. instead of £4. The basic wage, therefore, has been reduced since 1907. The purchasing power of the workers has not been increased in the slightest. That is why honorable senators on both sides of this chamber have reason to complain now about the glut of meat, wheat, wool and fruit, while thousands ure living in conditions of semistarvation because they have not sufficient purchasing power to pay for these commodities. That also is the reason why the wheat-growers are asking for a subsidy. Their purchasing power has been decreased all along the line by an increase of the cost of commodities which they purchase, and by a restriction of production. On that subject, Professor R. C. Mills, Dean of the Faculty of Economics at the University of Sydney, has said almost the same as Judge Beeby -
The real costs of war are those goods and services that are foregone by the community in order to make the war effort - in other words, the lowered standards of consumption that must result when resources are diverted from butter to guns.
I should like also to quote from a statement by another gentleman who is very prominent in commercial circles, Mr. Robert W. Gillespie, president of the Bank of New South Wales.
– He is getting ready for the depression.
– That is so. He is preparing to lower the standards of living throughout Australia in the same way that they have been lowered in Great Britain, and in every other warring nation where profits are the primary object of the war. Speaking on the subject of transfers of industrial effort, Mr. Gillespie said -
In general, transfers will involve a decline in the present standard of living since the maintenance of these may be consistent with, the increased war effort.
It can be seen, therefore, that it is no exaggeration when I say that the way is being paved for a reduction of living standards in order that we shall be able to carry on this war without financial loss to those who have invested their money in warlike activities. If true equality of sacrifice existed, those people who have invested their money in such activities should be prepared to give financial support to the Government to the fullest extent possible by making available to the Government all their surplus capital not required to carry on industry from day to day. But they are not prepared to sacrifice any more in this war than they did in the last.
– Has the honorable senator practised that himself?
– I have been on the bread line most of my life, as a result of the appropriation of the surplus value which I created by my very valuable services to the community.
– How much of his salary i3 the honorable senator giving to war efforts?
– I am prepared to give just as much as the honorable senator is prepared to give, but I am not prepared to sacrifice one penny if the honorable senator is to be allowed to go scot-free.
– How much is the honorable senator sacrificing ?
– I am sacrificing as much as the honorable senator who has just interjected. No doubt honorable senators should be a shining example to the rest of the community, and lead the way towards equality of sacrifice which they advocate so eloquently but seldom practise.
– The honorable senator is a wonderful example of the bread line.
– I am one of those vigorous persons who never take “no” for an answer. I am not easily scared or bluffed. I am the political projection of thousands of others who sent me here to tell honorable senators things which they should know but evidently do not appreciate. When I spoke on the Estimates on a previous occasion, I drew attention to the problem of unemployment. Without seeking to appear egotistical, I believe that what I said on thai occasion- has not altogether fallen on barren ground. Much to my surprise I find now that, in effect, all I said is repeated even more eloquently, and possibly more convincingly, by one of the most conservative Victorian newspapers, the
Argus. I am satisfied now that my efforts in this chamber were not altogether wasted. Honorable senators will recall that on the 19th November a deputation approached the Prime Minister and directed his attention to the fact that according to the latest figures then obtainable there were approximately 110,000 registered unemployed in Victoria. The Prime Minister said that he was prepared to spend £2,000,000 on defence works of a low order of priority, but that was as far us he was prepared to go. A report of that deputation appeared in the Argus of the 21st November, and this was the comment in the leading article -
Mr. Menzies entirely misconceives the nature of the unemployment problem when he soothingly tells a deputation representing the unemployed that work will be provided for thousands by the early expenditure of several millions of pounds of the defence allocation. Undoubtedly a large proportion of this money will find its way into wage-earner’s pockets, but those wage-earners will include few if any nf the present army of registered unemployed. The expenditure will be largely upon goods and services of kinds that require special skill for their production, and the unemployed as a class have not this special skill. Even where the money is spent on services requiring relatively unskilled labour the unemployed will not be automatically absorbed.
Tt has to be realized that many of these mcn and youths have been out of work for years, and have become industrially demoralized. Some of them, who were hoys leaving school at the depth of the depression, have never known what it is to have a job. Undernourished, their manhood sapped by idleness and the dole, their morale destroyed by the bitter conviction that they are outcasts of industry, they are in no physical or spiritual shape to battle on equal terms with normal workers in the labour market.
That is exactly what we have been saying ever since the depression. The article continues -
An employer who obtains a defence contract feels no moral obligation, and certainly has no incentive of self-interest, to recruit hi3 gangs from the “ official “ unemployed. His natural choice is the man who perhaps has just finished n similar joh. and is ready with well-nourished body and hands skilled by recent practice to live good value for the wage to which he is entitled.
That is perfectly obvious. Naturally it is to be expected that employers will select men who will provide the best return for the money paid to them by way of wages.
– If I were an employer I would like to have the honorable senator as an employee so that I could give him a taste of what I have suffered for years. Such an experience would be of great benefit to his mental outlook. A probationary period on the waterfront or in any of the industries which I know so well would do him all the good in the world. Practical experience is the world’s greatest teacher and more can be learned that way than by all the theoretical shadow-sparring in which the honorable senator now indulges. The article continues -
To imagine that if additional money is spent it will filter through somehow to those whom it is desirable to ‘benefit is an intellectual exercise which belongs to the realm of textbook economics rather than to that of practical statesmanship-
I agree with that entirely. I could not have said it better myself -
A specialized problem’ demands specialized treatment - and the problem of the unemployed is such a one. If the theory of the automatic absorption of the unemployed with augmented spending were valid, the registered unemployed should have disappeared when the depression disappeared. But members of the deputation which interviewed the Prime Minister claimed that there were 80,000 employable unemployed throughout Australia, and recent official figures lend support to that statement.
The States either cannot or will not tackle the problem in a statesmanlike way. Victoria, for ‘ example, continues to raise a large sum annually by a special unemployment relief tax, but spends the great bulk of it in doles, sustenance works, and interest and sinking fund on past unemployment loans.
Permit me to say at this juncture that if the relief of unemployment were as profitable as other industrial undertakings, plenty of capital would be forthcoming for investment and there would be no unemployed, but because the relief of unemployment is not profitable, very little money is invested. That which is invested in the form of loans floated by the Victorian Government necessitates the payment of large sums by way of interest and the burden of that payment is borne mainly by the workers who are already in employment. The Argus leading article continued -
An obligation to do something purposeful rests upon the Commonwealth Government, for several reasons. One is that the full utilization of Australia’s man-power in a time of emergency is its responsibility; another is that by paving the way for the removal of the State unemployment taxes it would increase the ability of taxpayers to meet its own heavier demands upon them; a third reason is that national developmental works, to which the unemployed as a class could be specifically drafted, are clearly n federal responsibility. lt has frequently been suggested’ iu these columns that such a work as the unification of the railway gauges, on main lines at least, would bc a suitable one to absorb the unemployed. Doubtless many other works of developmental value - as distinct from the sandshifting and gutter-scraping jobs which appear to be the limit of some politicians’ imaginations - would suggest themselves. But whatever policy be adopted, it should be a bold one, designed for the special needs of the unemployed. A man’s need of a job should be the fundamental qualification, even if his ability to do it depended upon preliminary training and - what is equally important - the proper nourishment of his body. The great problem is to remove the blot of a large unemployed army in a favoured laud like Australia. And it is the Commonwealth Government’s problem - war or no war!
That is the opinion of one of the most conservative newspapers of this country. In that article, the newspaper tells the Government what we have been telling it for years past from the floor of the Senate. It is gratifying to know that at least one newspaper has taken this matter up and has spoken in such scathing terms of the Government.
I direct attention now to the unfortunate position of Australian writers and printers. Recently, an Australian author of marked ability who has had ten books published in England and has written largely for periodicals, was evicted from his house in Perth, because of his inability to pay the rent due. That action caused great hardship to, not only the author himself, but also his wife and two children. I am glad to know that, through the Commonwealth Literary Fund, the Govern ment has been able to do something for this gentleman.
– I understand that he was granted £100 in one payment.
– I was not aware of the amount granted, but I made inquiries and was informed that something was to be done for him. Even £100 is not very much. “Writers are very useful citizens of the Commonwealth. The position of the gentleman to whom
I referred calls for sympathetic consideration, and I hope that the Government will be able to do more for him. His position is due to the fact that few Australian periodicals offer now any market for Australian writers, who, therefore, do not get much of a chance to make a reasonable living. Earlier writers, such as Brady, Bedford, Rolfe Boldrewood, and Steele Rudd did a great deal to establish an Australian literary background, which is now in imminent danger of vanishing completely. The Australian reader enjoys the benefit of the vast heritage of English and American literature of the past; the Australian author is starved by English and American literature of the present. If everything that came into this country had to be translated, Australian literature would flourish, and instead of buying English and American books and magazines, readers might be buying Australian-printed books by Australian writers in the local language. American writers of a hundred years ago were in the same plight as Australian writers are to-day. They lived in a condition of continual bankruptcy owing to the competition of books imported from England, and locally printed editions of pirated works, on which no copyright fees were paid. Then the Government of the United States took action through the customs, and the American writer of to-day is the best paid in the world.
If the Australian author finds it difficult to obtain book publication in the face of overseas competition, it might be imagined that at least he could find an outlet for his work in local magazines, papers and periodicals. This is not the case. Apart from 1’lie Australian Journal, and one or two others, scarcely a paper in Australia will give the Australian writer a decent chance and reasonable payment. The reason for this is the cheap rate at which the Australian rights of overseas works may be obtained. The paradoxical position has arisen that although there are more publications than ever before in the Commonwealth, and some of them have enormous circulations, there is less scope than ever before for the Australian writer. Whilst almost every other craft and trade is being encouraged, the -art of literature is being starved out of the country. The main reason for this is the growth of the literary syndicate. These corporations, mainly American, resell in Australia novels and other works of fiction which have already appeared overseas - in some cases, many times. Australian publications buy them at ridiculous rates. The overseas writer does well enough out of it, a3 he has already been paid for his work, and the payment which comes to hint from Australia is so much cigarette money. No Australian could afford to work for the rates offering through this competition, which is the equivalent of employing the cheapest possible labour.
– What is the honorable senator trying to prove?
– T am endeavouring to show that Australian writers and printers are being starved, and I wish to have my views placed on record in the hope that the Government will do something to check the tendency of Australian magazines to withhold support from Australian writers. If I succeed, I shall feel that my time this evening has not been wasted.
Newspapers which come out with heated leading articles about the necessity for supporting Australian industry and buying Australian manufactures, have no hesitation in sending the office boy round with a £5 note to purchase the Australian serial rights of an 80,000 word novel, written by some overseas author. They fill their pages with fiction, that costs them practically nothing. If, by any chance, an Australian writer interested them with an Australian book, he would be offered the same rate as is paid for this oversea matter from the syndicates’. I “have in my hand a copy of the Australian Women’s Weekly of the 18th November last. That publication has a circulation of about 415,000 copies, yet of its fiction contents of 43,000 words, nothing is written by an Australian author. The Woman, another weekly publication in Sydney, has a sale of about 94,000 copies. Its fiction contents amount to about 54,000 words, of which only about 2,000 words are contributed by Australian writers. Further to push the Australian writers towards the dole, many of these papers “ present “ their readers with oversea novels. in sup plement form. The rights of these publications may be purchased for the price of a few taxi fares.
As if the competition of cheap syndicated labour were not enough to contend with, the Australian writer is also subjected to competition of the “ pulps “. These are the “ remainder “ American magazines which, over-published in the United States of America, are landed in Australia at practically their cost as waste paper, and sold through chain stores and other retail places at prices much below their face value and the cost of production in the country of origin. During the last couple of months, three steamers, the Yomachi, the Tampa and the Mahout, discharged no fewer than 305,200 copies of back-date American magazines in Sydney. At a conservative estimate, for every current copy landed from America, three back-date numbers are dumped in this country. The people who are responsible for this business trade under the name of The Great Eastern Packing and Paper Stock Corporation. They describe themselves as “ Dealers and Exporters of all new American Fiction, Remainder Magazines, American Comic Remainder Books. American Remainder Music Sheets and Art Magazines.” Their address is Station and Halleck-streets (Roxbury Crossing), Boston, Massachusetts. The following circular letter has been sent by these people to all agents throughout Australia : -
As we are large exporters of various American fiction type magazines, comic sheets and comic books, and as we have been given to understand that you handle these lines, we enclose to you one of our printed circulars showing the various magazines that we export to all foreign countries with all details. /We further beg to advise that samples of some of these magazines are on hand at the American Consular offices located in. your country. We therefore feel that if you are not already handling this line that you will, no doubt, find the line a very attractive proposition. If you are already handling them and find our prices slightly under what you are paying we would be pleased to hear from you in the form of an order. Should out prices be slightly out of line, please do not hesitate to tell us.
We also enclose to you a sample two-page sheet of the- American comics mentioned in selection $8, tabloid size. We find these very good sellers in your area and guarantee that if you buy any of these from us that you will have no trouble with anyone in connexion with any of the features that may be contained in the comic sheets or comic books at any time, us we have been given the exclusive rights to sell these remainder comics in all countries; therefore, we will guarantee to protect you against any trouble, due to anyone making any claim as to copyright features.
As you will note by the enclosed circular all these items consisting of comic sheets, comic books or magazines, are guaranteed new merchandise and not secondhand as we do not handle any old or secondhand materials. If you are interested in these magazines we would be pleased to hear from you in the form of a sample minimum order from* any of those selections mentioned on the enclosed circular.
Hoping to hear from you in the form of an order together with your draft for whatever quantity you wish, but in no case less than the minimum quantity, we remain
Great Eastern Packing and Paper Stock Corporation.
There is a list of magazines, some of which have very suggestive titles such as Scarlet Confessions, Intimate Confessions, Real Life Confessions, Hollywood Nights, Paris Frolics and Spicy Stones. The circular also states -
Selection No. 6. - We can accept orders on National Geographic Magazines, which are packed 200 copies to each bag, and orders will be accepted for not less than one bag, and will be shipped individually or with any other orders. Each bag will contain three or more dates. This magazine retails in this country for 50 cents per copy. Price is . 12 cents per copy.
Selection No. 7. - We can accept orders on Popular Mechanics Magazines, which are packed 200 copies per bag, and orders will be accepted for not less than one bag, and shipped individually or with any of the other orders. Eachbag will contain three or more dates. Thismagazine retails in this country for 25 cents per copy. Price 12 cents per copy.
Selection No.9. - We are also able to furnish the large size Colored Comics printed in English which are similar in size to the regular American large size daily newspapers which are sold by the pound. Price 7 cents per pound. Out turn quoted below:
One set of Comics consists of eight complete pages; 144 sets of eight complete pages consists of one gross; one gross weighs 10 pounds; total cost of one gross of 10 pounds at 7 cents per pound equals 1.12 dollars, making the average cost about 78 cents per each 100 sets.
When we had our branches in England there was a large volume of business done through young boy hawkers. There, it was customary with the various dealers to send a group of boys out to sell those copies at one penny (2 cents) per set of eight pages. It was surprising how many each hoy was able to sellon a commission basis. We are giving you this information for the purpose of trying to help you increase your sale of these comics, which we will be glad to sell you.
Evidently the English authorities stepped in and prevented the sale of these comics. Australian writers sought to meet this market, but there is little demand for their work, and the supply of such writers has diminished accordingly. Some years ago there were many Australian writers, but any now left endeavour to get as far away as possible from this country in order to avoid starvation.
– Let us get on with some of the war problems.
– I should like something to happen to the Government to bring it to a proper realization of the fact that the evil of unemployment is essentially a war problem. With a view to encouraging Australian authors, steps should be taken to ensure that Australian publications include a reasonable quantity of Australian work, and that this country is not made a dumping ground for the magazines that the United States of America cannot absorb. Australians wear clothing made in this country, and they eat Australian sugar. Why should they not read Australian fiction and see Australian-made pictures? It seems to me that it would be advisable to apply the quota system to literature in the same way as it is to films. If every publication were required to contain 50 per cent, of matter contributed by Australian writers, the present writers would be encouraged and others would be broughj into the field. It may be said that this would lead to the publication of locallywritten rubbish, but that would not be the case, because, as usual, the law of supply” and demand would operate. All that would be necessary would be to place a dumping duty on out-of-date literature, because nobody would pay as much for old magazines as for new ones. Power to prevent dumping is contained in the Australian Industries Preservation Act 1906-1937 and in the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act 1901-1936. The remedy here is much easier than in respect of syndication. All that is needed is to treat the imported “ pulps as a commodity being dumped and sold at a price much below its price in the country of origin. A dumping duty sufficient to bring the cost of back-dates up to the normal price for current issues would soon stop the flow.
The outlook for the Australian writer is black in the extreme. What overseas market there was for his wares has been eliminated by the war. The Australian market, where he should be welcome, is non-existent, because of the general policy of Australian publications. Australian readers are being deprived of all chance of developing any sort of national spirit. Just as the American films have rendered the Australian actor as extinct as the moa, so syndicated literary matter is wiping the Australian author off the map. Rectification of this unfortunate position would not be very difficult, nor would it affect readers adversely, as it would not mean the banning or barring of any books or stories.
The United States of America, which does so much syndicating and dumping of its own literary wares, would not permit the application of a similar policy to itself. Stringent copyright laws protect its authors completely, and, although it . would not be practical as yet to go as far as the United States of America in this matter, much could be effected to give the Australian author something resembling a fair deal, which he certainly does not get now.
I have before me a circular letter by Australians who are members of the Sydney Black and White Artists Club. This letter was originally addressed to the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), and I understand that a copy has been sent to every member of this Parliament. It reads as follows: - 250 George-street,
November 17, 1939.’
The Rt. Hon. R. G. Menzies, P.C., K.C., LL.B..
Prime Minister of Australia,
The executive committee of this club, by a unanimous resolution, has instructed me to address you in the matter of the fast-growing practice of publishing in this country American syndicated press copy and drawings.
For years past this principle has been tolerated by journalists and artists, because it was felt that the journals which provided their livelihood should not be unduly fettered, but allowed every avenue of acquiring circulation in this country of small population.
Naturally, such a proposition implies some proportionate relationship between the possible output of Australian artists, the ‘ copy space available and the amount of foreign matter placed. Now, however, the members of this club, comprising the greater part of the pro fessional black and white artists of the city, feel that the latest syndicating enterprise, which, according to recent advertisements, has been determined on by Consolidated Press, goes far beyond what can be regarded with equanimity, and constitutes such a potent factor for good or ill in our national and social life as must he examined by all responsible bodies and individuals in the community.
From the recent advertisements for the new Sunday paper to be published in Sydney in the very near future, it would seem that the syndicating principle is to be employed on an extensive scale. These advertisements indicate that besides using a leavening of foreign stories and articles throughout its pages, no less is proposed than to insert a sixteen-page tabloid supplement of illustrations which will be entirely drawn, engraved and printed in the United States of America.
The success of this scheme, and there is no reason to doubt it, for the drawings will be well done, entertaining and well printed, will mean that other journals in competition will have to follow suit to avoid their severe handicap, and a new era in Australian journalism will have arrived - an era notable for the following things: - the decay of Australian black and white art and the dispersal of its exponents, unemployment in the printing trades, and the vitiation of the national consciousness the preservation of which is the black and white artist’s devoir.
Doubtless, thebodies affected by the printing of the matter overseas will be able to protect their interests; but the artists wish me to point out that even if the printing were done within our shores this would not help the artists or abort the threat to our Australianism constituted by the dissemination of the foreign point of view. On the contrary, should the principle be condoned of using foreign stuff in large quantity conditionally on its being printed here, it would thereafter become impossible to eradicate it owing to consideration due to the claims of the interests grown up round the practice.
Incidentally, may I point out that the Government proclaims a worthy concern for the growth of Australian art by the fact of its subsidizing art schools and technical colleges, but that tolerance of the filching of the artists’ practical field of endeavour is an absurd incompatibility.
Now, sir, our members are clear as to what, precisely, is objected to, and wish to say that they welcome, even if against their immediate personal interests, Australia’s reasonable acquirement of cultural or educational matter from America, but their objection, in which regard they solicit the Government’s help, relates to matter irresponsibly and ruthlessly imported with an eye only to the cutting of costs. Space devoted to this matter, we think, constitutes an injustice to the Australian black and white artists who are quite competent to carry out the work adequately, but who cannot compete with the low costs of syndicated matter where the whole of the United States of America is also part of the market.
Perhaps more than any other factor, the press is responsible for the growth of national traits and no little part is played by the illustrator and the humorous artist and cartoonist. and this is especially important at this time when national morale, which the newspaper artist is so potent to support, must be considered.
The Australian black and white artist claims to have done his duty in this regard with merit, and feels that he is justified in representing this matter as of national importance, as well as in advancing his own claims to personal consideration as a class threatened with unemployment. We ask, therefore, that this traffic be regulated by some system either of tariff adjustment or arbitrary control by legislation.
Time is limited, and, in order to prepare the ground for any action you may decide to take it has been arranged to send a copy of this letter also to the bodies mentioned hereunder.
The executive of the Black and White Artists Club feels that its attitude in this matter expounds, not only the best interests of its fellow-craftsmen, but of the whole Australian community, and confidently commends the matter to your consideration.
– Order ! The honorable senator has exhausted his time.
Motion (by Senator Ashley) put -
That Senator Cameron be granted an extension of thirty minutes.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Senator Dein) put -
That the debate be now adjourned.
The Senate divided. (The President - Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes.)
Majority . . . . 4
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by Senator McBride) read a first time.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
In September last Parliament approved an appropriation of £22,405,000 from loan funds, and at the same time approved the raising of loan moneys to meet expenditure under the appropriation. The services in respect of which the moneys were appropriated were as follows : -
The £10,000,000 provided for war services was to meet war expenditure to approximately the 31st December only. Provision for such a short period was to enable the Government to prepare comprehensive estimates for war services up to the end of the financial year. The estimates have now been completed and have already been distributed to honorable senators. This bill is to provide the necessary finance for the Government’s defence and war proposals for the year, except insofar as they will be met by the appropriation from revene of £13,780,000 in the main Appropriation Act. The services provided for in this bill are -
To this amount has been added £250,000 to meet the expenses of raising the loan. This amount represents 1 per cent, of the total and probably will not be fully expended. An amount of £1,593,000- defence £906,000, and supply and development £687,000 - has been included in the bill for the balance of the services of the developmental programme for 1939-40. This amount was originally included in the estimates of expenditure from revenue; but it has been transferred to the loan account in order to permit a larger charge to revenue for the pay and maintenance of the fighting services. This action has been taken because the services covered by the £1,593,000 are of a capital nature, and are therefore a more appropriate charge to the loan account. The inclusion of this amount completes the appropriation necessary to cover the defence developmental programme for the current year. The amount of £23,392,000 is in respect of anticipated war expenditure, and is included under comprehensive descriptive headings. The sum of £21,250,000 is for defence requirements, and is allocated between the Navy, Army and Air Services, whilst £2,142,000 is provided for the Department of Supply and Development. The loan estimates show the proposed expenditure in greater detail, and Irefer honorable senators to pages 313 to 317 of the printed Estimates, on which the various services, ranging from pay and raw materials to aeroplanes, are set out. The bill includes the bulk of the pay and maintenance requirements of the Navy, Army and Air Force, as well as expenditure of a capital nature. In accordance with proposals which have already been made known, £2,000,000, which is not shown separately, is included in the bill for works of a defence value, but which are not urgent. This provision is made to stimulate employment pending the heavy war expenditure producing its full effect. As I reminded honorable senators in September, when submitting the Loan Bill, which included an amount for war services, it was the custom in 1914-18 to appropriate a lump sum and not to allocate the provision: but in the bills presented this year the services on which the money will be expended are indicated, and the basis on which the amount of the appropriation has been calculated is shown. The amount of the appropriation required for war purposes is arrived at in the following manner: -
The difference between the amount for “ defence authorizations “, namely, orders to be placed and commitments to be incurred before the 30th June next, and the sums included ‘ in the Estimates is £7,594,000, and is made up of the following items : -
It is, of course, necessary to include the higher amount so that sufficient funds may be available to cover the authorizations. This bill, when passed, will give approval to such commitments to the end of the year. It will be realized that Parliament must give approval to authorizations and orders which have to be placed well in advance of the expenditure, and which cannot be held up because the liability in respect thereof will be met next year instead of this year.
Honorable senators will have noticed that works services appear under the ordinary defence programme and under “ war services “. The former are part of the defence developmental programme commenced before the outbreak of war, whilst those under “ war services “ are works that have been approved since, and as the result of, the outbreak of war. There is, however, no essential difference between the two sets of works, as both are in respect of the present war. Whilst they have been kept separate for 1939-40 for the sake of convenience and consistency in this year’s accounting, endeavours will be made to amalgamate them in one programme in subsequent years. This bill covers known liabilities to date, with the exception of that for the transport abroad of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. It is, of course, possible that other unforeseen, liabilities may present themselves, and that a further appropriation may he necessary later in the financial year.
– As authority has already been given for this expenditure, and as it has been the policy of the Opposition not to quarrel with the Government in respect of defence expenditure, we do not propose to delay the measure. We recognize that it is the Government’s job to decide upon this expenditure, and that it is acting upon the advice of its experts. I take this opportunity to express the hope that the amount of £2,000,000 allocated in respect of less important defence works, which it is intended to use as a means of minimizing unemployment until the defence expenditure proper .is in full swing, will be immediately embarked upon in order that much of this money may be put into circulation before Christmas.
– Whilst to a certain degree I support the war activities of the Government, I do not agree with the method which it proposes to adopt in order to raise this money. It is time that a halt was called to the raising of loans in this way, thereby piling up a huge national debt.
– How would the honorable senator raise this money ?
– I propose to tell the honorable senator. In his financial statement the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Spender) said that we could not entertain rosy and quite impossible dreams, and that it might be necessary to prepare for sometightening of the belt. I should like to know whose belt is to be tightened. Itwill not be my belt, but that of the man who is mainly responsible for keeping, the wheels of industry moving. He will be obliged to carry this burden now and for evermore. Senator Wilson has asked: how I suggest this money should be raised. I do not claim to be an authority on the banking system, but I propose to quotefrom men who are undisputed authorities on that subject. For a number of years I was a student of the Workers Educational Association in Tasmania and completed a course at the University of Tasmania in economics and banking. The authorities on whom I propose to rely in this matter are the authors of text books set for that course. Others are lecturers in their respective subjects at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge. We should utilize a certain amount of national credit for the financing of public works and defence expenditure.. The policy of the Labour party is that those people with the greatest stake in this country should be obliged to contribute proportionately to their wealth to the Government’s war expenditure. We ‘believe that certain undertakings can be financed by utilizing the national credit. Credit is the joint creation of a stable government, a functioning industry, and a consuming public. If you take away any one of those three, there can be no such thing as public credit. What contribution do the banks make to the credit which enables them to regard it as theirs, which they loan to us? None whatever. What does a bank consist of? A building, a few clerks and a charter to deal in money. Apart from their palatial buildings, the banks possess no real wealth at all; yet they have the colossal impudence to loan financial wealth to the community, as an act of grace, and to demand repayment of every penny with interest. Do the banks add any real wealth to the community? Do they ever pioneer a country? No. Only after the pioneers have braved the wilderness do the banks make their appearance. To do what? To trade in the community’s credit which they have done nothing to create. Their entire contribution to that community’s real wealth is the small service they rendered in keeping a few accounts.
The private trading hanks do npt lend out their cash deposits at interest, although all bankers will tell you that they do. They keep them to meet any demands for cash made upon the banks, and give credit for from nine to twelve times the amount of these cash deposits. The banks have worked it out that only about .07 per cent, of trading is done in cash. That is in England; in Australia although it is considerably more, it is much less than ten per cent. I shall show how the banks create credit. Here is an example from the MacMillan report. Let us suppose that a customer has paid into the bank ?1,000 in cash, and that it is judged from experience that only the equivalent of 10 per cent, of the bank deposit need be held actually in cash to meet the demands of customers. The ?1,000 deposit will obviously support deposits amounting to ?10,000. Suppose the bank then grants a loan of ?900; it will then open a credit of ?900 for its customer, and when the customer draws a cheque for ?900 upon the credit so opened that cheque will be paid into the account of another of the bank’s customers. The bank now holds both the original deposit of ?1,000 and the ?900 paid in by the second customer.
– I rise to a point of order, Mr. President. Whilst the honorable senator would be in order in discussing the financial system, or any system of economics, on the first reading of this bill is he in order in making a speech of this kind on the second reading? Should he not confine himself specifically to the proposals contained in the measure?
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - The honorable senator must confine himself to the bill.
– I am endeavouring to show that the policy of borrowing this money is not in the best interests of the community.
– The honorable senator is in order in saying that the borrowing of this money is not in the best interests of the community^ but he will not be in order in going outside the scope of the bill.
– I am trying to show how this money can be raised without borrowing it.
– That is another matter; it is outside the scope of the bill.
– I bow to your ruling, Mr. President. I shall take an opportunity later to deal with this matter.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Authority to borrow ?23,235,000).
– I oppose this clause. In my opinion this money could be raised in other ways which would not impose such a burden upon the community.
– Credit could be issued on the wealth produced by the community.
– How could that be done?
- (Senator James McLachlan). - Order! Honorable senators must address the Chair.
-It could be done in the same way as is now being done. The scope of the present issuance of credit on the wealth produced by the community could be widened. Wealthy organizations, such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited and the large insurance companies, have at their disposal large sums of money which could be used, interest-free, to carry on the war and’ so leave no huge interest burden for posterity. That money should be devoted to war purposes instead of being reinvested in war loans. At present investors are capitalizing the Avar in accordance with the policy of the Government. The men who fight, and the men who work, are being called upon to make all the sacrifices as they did in the last war, while the men who invest their capital sit at home and draw all the profits. Honorable senators will recall that recently I asked for financial figures relating to the last war. The figures supplied to me show that something like £240,000,000 has been paid in interest on loans floated during the last war. To-day, we find that the Commonwealth Government is unable to provide fully for returned soldiers because of this enormous interest bill which, in effect, means that for every £1 spent on a returned soldier and his dependants, the money lenders are receiving about £2 4s. 3d. I would like to know what justification the Government can putforward for this grossly immoral policy of capitalizing a war in which enormous profits are being made out of the sacrifices of the workers and the fighters. Such a policy cannot be justified, and I would be recreant to my duty if 1 did not protest against it on the floor of this chamber. Because the Government is committed to that policy of raising money, it is impossible te spend it to the best advantage. If money were secured without’ any obligation to pay interest, then higher rates of pay could be given to the soldiers, and employment could be given to the unemployed, who could create real intrinsic wealth far in excess of what they receive in wages. All that wealth could be used for the purpose of war. As I pointed out earlier to-day, the Treasurer said that men and materials were required for the war. But something more than that is sought - millions of pounds in profit. ‘No government can justify such a policy. If this war continues much” longer, it will involve even a greater expenditure than did the last war; the policy which the Government has tried to bludgeon through this evening will collapse, and obligations will have to he repudiated.
– That has never been done yet.
– The Government’s obligations to returned soldiers and their dependants have been repudiated.
– Order ! Honorable senators must confine their remarks to the dame now under discussion.
– The policy embodied in clause 3 of the bill is one which ultimately must break down under its own weight, because sooner or later the Government will be unable to meet its obligations. We are now engaged in a war, the magnitude of which is unprecedented in the history of the world. The [ms]
Government should take a long view and endeavour to gauge exactly what is before it. It should not rush blindly into actions which will commit this country, particularly the working classes, to enormous interest burdens which can result only in a substantial reduction of living standards and the employment of thousands of fighters under semistarvation conditions. That policy is doing as much as the enemy outside to defeat this country.
- Senator Lamp- .
– I move -
That the question be now put.
– The question is-
That the question be now put.
– I rise to a point of order. Senator Lamp was given the call before the Minister rose. I submit that Senator Lamp should be permitted to continue.
– Precedence is always given to Ministers.
– Partisanship of the worst type ! It is a disgrace to the Senate !
– I think thi? is a matter which should be referred to the President. In the first place, you, Mr. Chairman, called on Senator Lamp Senator Foll rose immediately afterwards and you accepted his motion to close the discussion. That does not seem to me to be the right way in which to conduct the affairs of this committee. If an honorable senator is given the call, then lie should not be made to sit down merely because a Minister rises.
– I am agreeable that the President should deal with this matter, but a division has been called and must be taken first.
– Would I be in order in moving that the matter be referred to the President?
– I cannot take that motion at this juncture. The division must be completed, unless the Minister withdraws his motion.
– I ask leave to withdraw my motion.
Motion- by leave - withdrawn.
.- Speaking in this chamber on previous occasions, I have urged the establishment of a national contribution scheme to assist defence expenditure. I have advocated that procedure because I do not believe in raising loans for war purposes. The debt structure of the Commonwealth has now reached absurd proportions, resulting in a situation in which farce and tragedy are enacted on the stage at the same time. The interest bill, on Australia’s national debt ticks up at the rate of £110 a minute. For every 5s. that is paid by a consumer for gas, water or electricity, approximately 4s. is required to pay interest and exchange. The interest charge on every bushel of wheat is approximately1s.6d. Under this monstrous financial system, the national debt doubles every ten years as is shown by the following figures: -
By means of so-called “sound finance “, the national debt has reached £1,200,000,000, the interest bill on which’ is £1,000,000 a week. In 1860 the national debt was £12,000,000 and to-day it is 100 times as great, although the population is only four times as great. Since federation, Australia has paid £871,000,000 in interest alone; paid nothing off, and added another £1,000,000,000 to the principal. The figures for Australia are typical of those for all countries. They are absolutely correct and cannot be contradicted. If this war continues, the financial burden will become intolerable. It is not fair to the people to borrow money for defence purposes when it could be raised by other methods. On some future occasion, I shall support my worthy friend, Senator Darcey, and show how that could be done.
– Under this clause the Commonwealth Government has authority to raise money, either by borrowing in the ordinary way by the issue of Commonwealth inscribed stock or by the issue of treasury-bills. The latter method is referred to in paragraph 504 of the report of the Royal Commission on the Bank ing and Monetary Systems, and certain honorable senators have been urging that the Government should be deprived of the right to raise money in this manner. Extracts have been read from opinions of economists, which, for the most part, have dealt with the A.B.C. of economics. Unfortunately the opinions of these authorities appear to be entirely misunderstood, and in some instances, the extracts have been torn from their context. Under this clause the Government is empowered to borrow money by the issue of inscribed stock, or it may issue treasury-bills.
– But not free of interest
– The bills could be issued free of interest, but not free of cost.
– No one would take up treasury-bills if they did not bear interest.
– I have never denied that the Commonwealth Bank could issue treasury-bills free of interest.
– Clause 3 merely gives the Government authority to borrow money. It makes no mention, of the rate of interest.
– I submit that in referring to the issue of the treasury-bills I am in order in discussing whether or not they . should bear interestThree methods are open to the Government for the obtaining of money, namely taxation, the flotation of loans from the general public, or the utilization of the Commonwealth Bank for the issue of credit in the form of treasury-bills in return for the Government’s I.O.U. The practice is to make these treasury-bills bear interest. I consider it a wise practice. Certain honorable senators opposite seem to imagine that the Government is refusing to use the credit of the nation.. That is not so. In the last war the Government used the nation’s credit; it has used it since, and it is using it to-day. There are, however, definite limits to which it is wise to use credit in this manner. If honorable senators opposite would read the whole of the report of the commission on banking, instead of concentrating on paragraph 504, they would realize and perhaps understand, what are those limits. It should be clear to all that if the defined safe limits be exceeded, we shall be exposed to the danger of inflation such as was experienced in Germany some years ago. My point is that we have always to some degree used the credit of the nation by the issue of treasury-bills, but there are Very definite and distinct limits of the extent to which we can go in this way. Under this clause the Government is given the option to raise up to £25,235,000 either by loan from the public or by the issue from the Commonwealth Bank of credit in exchange for the Government’s I.O.U.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber have often been charged with being somewhat simple m regard to finance. Indeed Senator Wilson has just now implied that we are very simple, because the honorable gentleman has . given us a kindergarten talk about the issue of treasury-bills. He has told us what the Government can do and what it will do. Apparently there is an impression that if an honorable senator talks with all the profundity of a professor he will be credited with the possession of a certain amount of erudition. But Senator Wilson did not tell us anything that we did not already know. He merely stressed the obvious, but in a manner that would give the impression that he was imparting knowledge.
There is much to be said on the subjectmatter covered by this clause. Honorable senators on this side have very definite ideas as to the best method for financing government expenditure at the present time. We believe that the money should be raised for government needs without placing an additional burden of debt upon the people of Australia. We do not approve of the methods that have been adopted in the past. We contend that it is possible for this Government, or for any other government, to use its financial power without adding to the interest burden of the community. I take it that the Government intends to pursue the old course of issuing treasurybills at interest. Senator Herbert Hays has said that he could not conceive of treasury-bills being issued except at a fixed rate of interest. Surely the honorable gentleman knows that these treasury- bills will be taken up by the banks and used as the. basis for a further extension of credit to their customers, and that the banks will charge interest to their customers. For the purposes of the banks treasury-bills are as good as gold or any other form of Government security, because, as I have explained, the banks use treasury-bills for the issue of credit to their customers. Finance during the last war was one of the greatest ramps ever put over the people of Australia.
– Why not move an amendment to the clause?
– Senator Brown does not know what he wants.
– We know what we want. I am only trying to show that there are other and better methods of raising this money than those contemplated in this bill. I shall enlarge on this aspect of the question under the Estimates.
– I shall be glad if the Minister in charge of the bill (Senator Foll) will inform me’ whether it is the intention of the Government to issue war savings certificates as an additional means of raising money to meet war expenditure. This is one of many bills that we shall no doubt be asked to pass, and I think that the general public should be given an early, opportunity to subscribe to the cost of our war activities by means of these certificates.
– It is not proposed, under this clause, to issue war savings certificates, but it is expected -that that method of finance will be introduced at a later stage.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 agreed to.
. - Will the Minister explain the meaning of the reference to “ fleet auxiliaries and charter of naval craft “ . under the heading “War services - Department of Defence “ ?
– “Fleet auxiliaries” comprise boats requisitioned by the Navy for use either in carrying supplies or in placing guns on auxiliary cruisers for the use of the fleet, . for mine-sweeping and other duties which can be performed by civil craft with very little alteration. Several of these craft have already been acquired for use on the Australian coast.
.- Under the heading “ War services - Department of Defence “, is a reference to “ mechanical transport and other equipment “. Is it a fact that, at the Seymour camp, the department has let a contract to Mr. Speed, a motor financier in Melbourne, who repossesses motor cars. The allegation is made that cars are hired from him at the rate of 25s. a day, and that a number of them are in bad condition. Why does the department hire cars when it could have its own fleet?
– I shall obtain that information, and supply it to the honorable senator to-morrow on the motion for the adjournment of the Senate.
– Will, any portion of the sum of £5,969,800 to be appropriated under the heading of war services for the Navy be expended in connexion with “nobby” yacht clubs associated with the Naval Reserve and found in the region of Pittwater?
– I cannot say, but I shall obtain the information for the honorable senator.
– I suggest that the Minister should be ready to supply it to-morrow.
.- Apparently the Pittwater Yacht Club has placed its best vessels at the disposal of the Navy. Does it dash out to sea and spy out the enemy? The point I am concerned about is whether any of this money will be expended on subsidizing that club.
– I shall obtain that information.
– I suggest that this debate should be adjourned until the Minister is in a position to supply the information desired by honorable senators. In view of the huge expenditure to be incurred, the committee is entitled to the details sought. I move -
That the chairman do report progress and ask leave to sit again.-
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Motion (by Senator McBride) pro posed -
That the bill be now read a third time.
. - The schedule contains an item providing for payment to the credit of the Aircraft Trust Account of a certain sum for the construction of air frames and engines. What is the purpose of that trust account? Can the Minister state how much money has been paid to the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation for services already rendered?
– That information will be furnished when the Revised Estimates are under consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Senator Foll) agreed to -
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 11 a.m. to-morrow.
Military Pay : Ministerial Statement - Marchof 2nd Australian Imperial Force - Compulsory Military Training - Meat Supplies to Military Camps - Business of the Session - Mortgage Bank Bill - Sixth Military District : Promotions.
– I move -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
The Government has given further consideration to questions which have been raised in relation to the pay of the Militia and of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, or 6th Division. In respect of Militia pay, some honorable senators have experienced acute embarrassment because they feel thatthey took part in a campaign to enlist men for the Militia at a rate of 8s. a day and that the decision of the Government to reduce that rate to 5s. a day for the special wartime camp of three months is, if not a breach of contract, at least a breach of faith. The Government wants to make it quite clear that, while it sympathizes with the views of tuese honorable senators, it does not concede that there has been either a breach of contract or a breach of faith. The truth is that the Militia is not now doing peacetime training, but is serving in Australia in time of war under the Defence Act. The decision of the Government was made because it considers that the payments to Australian militiamen are not in the nature of wages, but should be fixed having regard to all our vast commitments in relation to defence and with proper regard to the general circumstances of the country. In other words, the call to military service is a call to patriotism. It is not and cannot be a mere business deal, and the Government believes that no Australian expects it to be regarded as such. But although this be the position, the Government has, as I have indicated, a real desire to do the best possible for the men concerned, and has a real appreciation of the difficulties in which some honorable senators have honestly found themselves. They ‘shrink, as Ministers do, from a charge of bad faith. Just as judges must be free not only from bias, but also from the appearance of bias, so must governments, as far aspossible, avoid even a colorable imitation of bad faith. The Government has therefore decided as follows: -
I turn now to the members of the 6th Division or 2nd Australian Imperial Force. Their rates of pay, as already announced, are, in the case of a private, 5s. a day plus1s. deferred pay after embarkation, plus 3s. a day for a wife, plus1s. a day for each child under sixteen, with corresponding provisions in the case of an unmarried private with dependants. Having regard to the circumstances which have been the subject of discussion, some upward adjustment seems desirable. We have therefore decided -
– And another government will have to provide the money.
– Honorable senators opposite should know that the principle of deferred pay, which was adopted during the last war, was of great benefit to soldiers because, when they were demobilized, they were entitled to a. sum which assisted them to become re-established in civil life. Many members of the last Australian Imperial Force would have been glad had the daily rate of deferred pay been 2s., as is proposed in this instance, instead of1s. a day.
– And some of their dependants will be starving while their deferred pay is accumulating.
– Families are not affected by the deferred pay. Members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force knew the rate which would be available to their families before enlistment, and that rate has since been increased. Earlier, Senator Amour made what he regarded as a smart interjection, to which I did not reply at the time, by saying that the Government is endeavouring to get soldiers on the cheap. The only feature associated with this subject which can be characterized as cheap is the political capital which the honorable senator is endeavouring to make out of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and the Militia Forces, the members of which are rendering a. splendid service to their country.
– The Government, which promised to pay men 8s. a day, has since reduced the rate to 5s. a day.
– That, is quite incorrect, because the members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force knew the rate of pay they were to receive when they enlisted, and the deferred rates of the militiamen have been increased. The Government has further decided -
When Senator Brand asked a question earlier in the day as to the currency in which payment would be made to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force when serving overseas, I was not aware that the Minister for Defence (Mr. Street) had made a pronouncement on the subject. I am now able to say that the proportion of the men’s money which is paid overseas will be paid in sterling.
– Will any portion of the deferred pay of an Australian soldier remaining in London also be paid in sterling ?
– The whole of the pay received in Australia, including deferred pay, will be paid in Australian currency. That proportion of the money drawn overseas will be paid in sterling.
It may assist honorable senators to understand the magnitude of the adjustments which I am now announcing when I say that the estimated additional cost of the Militia for this year is over £900,000, whilst the cost of the increased Australian Imperial Force rate will be £1,000a day for 20,000 men. The
Government is not yet in a position, to announce the details of the Empire airtraining scheme; but I may inform honorable senators that over the total period its estimated cost to this country will be not less than £50,000,000. It is recognized that the arrangements I have announced involve the apparent anomaly that for a few months the pay of militiamen will be higher than the pay of a member of the Australian Imperial Force; but this is a temporary phase only. After the training of the Militia at present in camp has been completed, the pay to trainees in the home forces will be 5s. a day,while the Australian Imperial Force rates will be on the higher basis I have announced.
I am now able to provide the answers which were not available this morning, to a number of questions upon notice. Senator Armstrong asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army -
Is it a fact that a march by the 2nd Australian Imperial Force was planned through the streets of Sydney early in December? If so, has that plan been abandoned, because the Government has been unable to supply the troops with suitable equipment?
And the reply thereto, supplied by the Minister for the Army, viz. -
A suggestion was made to me for such a march involving participation by all arms of the Defence Forces. The proposal was considered impracticable as at this stage it would interfere with the war duties and training of the units concerned.
How can the Minister explain the announcement in the Sydney Morning Herald of Tuesday, 28th November, that the consent of the military authorities had been received for a march of troops through the city on Friday in support of the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic Fund’
The Minister for the Army has now supplied the following answers to the honorable senators questions : -
Alderman Crick, honorary administrator, the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic and War Fund of New South Wales, requested that a spectacular inarch of all arms might be arranged to assist the appeal for the Lord Mayor’s Patriotic and War Fund of New South Wales. Headquarters Eastern Command advised that this could not be arranged, owing to the fact that the garrison battalion would then be engaged on its war duties, and the 2nd Australian
Imperial Force and Militia could not take part without considerable expense and interference with their wax training. Subsequently its the result of discussions between Aiderman Crick and Head-quarters . Eastern Command, arrangements were made for a modified inarch, composed of a number of details representative of various units. This represented only a proportion of the troops originally visualized.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army -
Will there be any exemptions from compulsory military training for boys who are sole supporters of their mothers and younger sisters and brothers, especially where they are the sole manager of a business or a farm?
The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice, the following question: -
Will he supply the names of the persons who supply meat to all soldiers’ camps in New South Wales, Victoria and Queensland?
The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answer to the honorable senator’s question: -
Inverell, Cloonan Brothers, liigleburn, E. J. Ashcroft.
Base Supply Depot, Cowper Street Siding forcamps at Seymour and Mr Martha, F. Watkins Proprietary Limited.
Melbourne and Metropolitan Area, including Broadmeadows, F. Watkins Proprietary Limited.
– Honorable senators on this side of the chamber are pleased to learn that the Government has capitulated in the matter of pay to members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force and the Militia Forces, and is providing a more liberal rate than was at first proposed; I take this opportunity to direct attention to the unsatisfactory way in which this pronouncement has been brought under the notice of the Senate. The Government would not dream of making such an important statement on the motion for the adjournment of the House of Representatives; but it has elected to do so in this chamber. It is well known that for the last week this matter has been the subject of sordid intrigue in the House of Representatives, and has been responsible for one of the most disgraceful exhibitions we have ever had in the history of parliamentary government in Australia. Honorable senators opposite must admit that the hands of the members of the Labour party in both chambers are quite clean in respect of this matter. Originally we moved for a standard of pay which has not yet been quite achieved, although the rates now proposed approach those which we favour. The Minister could have made his announcement earlier in to-day’s proceedings and thus given honorable senators on this side of the chamber an opportunity to discuss the subject more fully. But apart altogether from the manner in which the statement has been presented, I wish to elaborate the manner in which the compromise has been accomplished. I can think of nothing worse than that in the circumstances now surrounding us, the Government should have made the subject of military pay the shuttle-cock of party intrigue in the House of ‘Representatives,
– It was not the Government.
– Honorable senators opposite may smile; but the fact remains that there has not been any intrigue on the part of the members of the Labour party in either House. “We stated our attitude and refused to budge one inch; but finally the Government, in order to save itself and because of its intense fear of an appeal to the electors, capitulated, as it did a week ago on the subject of wheat prices. We are not, quarrelling with the fact that a more liberal scale of payment has been arranged. If the new scale is not all that we might desire, it is so much an improvement on the Government’s original proposal that we are glad the Government has taken this action even though it has done so merely in order to save its face in the dilemma in which it found itself.
– And it was the Opposition which set the matter going.
– I should like Senator Allan MacDonald to tell me what member of the Country party or the United Australia party, either in the House of Representatives or this chamber, first moved for an increase of the rates of pay originally submitted by the Government. He knows that this action was taken in the first instance by members of the Labour party. He knows also that an intense struggle occurred in the United Australia party itself on this matter. With no spirit of political uncharitableness, I say that members of the Defence Forces concerned would have been entering upon their duties at the rates of pay originally proposed by the Government - the miserable pittance provided for the private and his dependants and children, - but for the fact that the Labour party refused to weaken its demands. We should have gone to the electors on this issue had we been given the opportunity to do so.
– That is totally incorrect.
– The honorable senator will have an opportunity to show in what respect my statement is inaccurate. The blame does not rest en tirely on the Country party. It is common knowledge that the United Australia party was very seriously divided upon the matter. It is also common knowledge, however, that nothing serious could happen in the United Australia party because ministerial favours in the gift of the party resulted in a solid phalanx supporting the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) in his attitude on this matter. It is true, of course, that if the Country party had stood to its guns as the Labour party did, less intrigue would have been evident, and the matter would have been settled without so much hurrying and scurrying to and from party meetings.
– That is all conjecture.
– The people of this country should know that our soldiers to-day would be doing the job which we all want them to do, and would be doing their best, as we want them to do - and, as, I hope, we are trying to do - to see the present crisis through to a victorious finish; but they would be doing their job on a scale of pay which is an insult to the nation and to themselves as soldiers whom we asked to defend us.
– That is incorrect.
– The Minister will have an opportunity to refute my statements if he can. That is the position as we see it. Whatever the final result is, the Opposition, both here and in the House of Representatives, has proved that it does not squib an issue because it might be dangerous. Our party is prepared .to take full responsibility for its actions ; and, if necessary - as seemed very likely up to to-day - to go to our masters and ask for their verdict. We on this side know, that if this issue had been submitted to the country, the Government would have suffered a disastrous rout. But the Government will not take such a step because the country is united against it on this issue. No good Australian wants any one to fight for him, either at home or abroad, for a wage which is less than that which we have succeeded after years of agitation in obtaining, for workers in their ordinary occupations. But for the determination of the Opposition in this Parliament the
Government was prepared to ask our soldiers to fight on such a wage. I shall conclude with the observation with which 1 opened these few remarks. We accept the new scale of payment as being far better than that originally proposed by the Government. If it is not as just as some of us think it should be, nevertheless we are gratified. Certainly we must pay some regard to the commitments which this matter of itself will entail.
.- The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) referred to a “ sordid intrigue “. If there has been intrigue of any kind in connexion with this matter the Country party has not been a party to it. It is true that the Country party has agreed to stand behind this Government and to assist it during the present crisis, just as it is standing behind the Government in this prosecution of the war. It felt pretty strongly on the reduction of salaries of men who enlisted in the Militia on the understanding, which was widely advertised, that they would be paid 8s. a day. In view of this fact, certain members of the Country party stood by that undertaking in the House of Representatives.
– But certain members of the Country party did not stand by that undertaking.
– It was not a party matter. On an issue of this kind, members of our party are free to vote a.s they deem right. But certain members of the party took the matter up, particularly Mr. Thorby because he was Minister for Defence at the time when the promise was made. Sir Earle Page and other members of the party were also members of the Government at that time, and they, along with certain members of the United Australia party, felt very keenly about the matter when it was ventilated in the House of Representatives. They contended that the Government should honour its undertaking to these men. The right honorable member for Cowper (Sir Earle Page) felt that way about it. As a. matter of fact, Sir Earle Page ventilated the matter at considerable length, and it was not until after he had done so that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Forde) in the House of Represen tatives submitted an amendment. Sir Earle Page certainly gave a lead in the House of Representatives on this matter. I assure the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) that the Country party welcomes the statement he has just made on behalf of the Government. We accept the Government’s proposal as being reasonable.
– Does the Country party accept this proposal 1
– We accept it for the time being. We shall certainly not step into any trap -set by the Labour party on any- issue on which a difference of opinion might arise between the Country party and the Government. The attitude both of the Country party and the United Australia party in this matter was fair, reasonable and honest. Certainly there was no intrigue between the two parties.
– Who moved the adjournment of the debate in the House of Representatives last Friday?
– The honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) did so in order to give the Prime Minister an opportunity to consider on its merits the position that had arisen. The Country party will not be led into a trap or be induced to take a snap vote on any serious matter involving the life of the Government. It will never play into the hands of a party with whose war policy it entirely disagrees. If it is necessary for the Country party to take further parliamentary action in order to retain this Government in office, it will do so in preference to allowing the Labour party to form a government during this war. During the present crisis I am prepared to stand behind this Government in preference to a Labour government.
– Despite what the Labour party did for the wheat-grower?
– The parties on this side have been responsible for the payment of over £14,000,000 to the wheat-growers during the last few years. I well remember that in 1931 the Scullin Government enacted a measure guaranteeing a price of 3s. a bushel f.o.b. to the grower. That price, by the way, was less than the price which this Government guarantees to the grower today. The Scullin Government’s measure was carried in both chambers, but that government was unable to pay one penny of the amount it guaranteed, with the result that in that year the wheat-growers lost from £6,000,000 to £7,000,000 which hud been guaranteed by that Government and then repudiated by it. So far :as that government’s previous promise to pay 4s. a bushel is concerned, it was a case of trying to be generous at somebody else’s expense. On that occasion, it endeavoured to be generous at the expense of the State governments. Sir James Mitchell, the Premier of Western Australia at that time, said’ that that State was not in a position to pay its portion of the tremendous loss that would have been suffered under that scheme, which was dependent on the States shouldering any losses that might be incurred. Those losses were to be paid not on an Australian basis, but on the basis of each State paying the losses incurred by their respective growers. As Western Australia produced much more wheat per capita than any other State, the government of that State would have been obliged to shoulder an unfair burden.
– But the honorable senator supported the Scullin Government’s proposal to guarantee a price of 3s. a bushel.
– Certainly. At that time I took the view that half a loaf was better than no bread, but the Scullin Government failed to find the half loaf it had promised. I had not intended to deal with wheat in the course of this speech, and I would not have done so had it not been for the interjections. However, since I have been drawn on to the subject I warn the wheat-growers not to be misled by promises from a party which in 1931 not only made promises but also passed legislation which it could not implement. Mr. Menzies, at least, will pay the advance he has promised, small as it is.
– How much would the honorable senator give to the applegrowers ?
– I would give the apple-growers everything to which they are entitled. If I could I would also give to the wheat-growers the 4s. a bushel at sidings for which they ask. I urge the Government to go as far in that direction as possible, and at least to guarantee 3s. 10 1/2d. for the coming crop. In the meantime, however, I am glad to see that some steps are being taken to relieve the plight of the wheat-farmers. Although the assistance is by no means all that they desire, it is at least a step in the right direction. My only regret is that it is not a larger step. While I am sorry that the guaranteed price of 4s. a bushel at sidings sought by the Wheat-growers Federation is not yet available - and that is the amount I ask this Government to pay - the assurance given to-day of 2s. S£d. a bushel for bulk wheat, less freight, and 2s. I0£d. a bushel for bagged wheat, less freight, is a commendable start, and a good deal more may be forthcoming if the overseas price for wheat improves, as it is doing to-day. I hope that the amount of the homeconsumption price receipts will be added to the agreed advance, and also the £2,000,000 promised by Mr. Menzies. Insufficient as the guarantee is, it is at least more than the wheat-growers of Western Australia received for their whole crop last year.
I should like the Minister to supply honorable senators with some information with regard to the legislative programme which it is proposed to complete before Parliament rises for the Christmas recess. I should like to know also whether or noi the press statement that it is the intention of the Government to rise this week i.” correct. If so, will the business of the session include the Mortgage Bank Bill, which, from a rural point of view, was probably the most important item in the policies of the two parties which at the time of the last election formed a composite government? It. seems to me that it would be a very good thing if thai legislation were placed on the statutebook, although I am not oblivious of the fact that, even if the bill were passed, the demand on national and public finance by the war would make it impossible to give to the bank the same financial backing as otherwise could be afforded.
– It is impossible to deal with that measure this week.
– I would rather have Parliament, sit next week and place that measure on the statute-book than adjourn without dealing with it.
Reverting to the subject of military pay, I repeat that the actions of the Country party in this matter were dictated only by public interest. I desire to keep faith with the militiamen, particularly on behalf of those members of my party who were Ministers when the pay was fixed at 8s. a day-. The actions of those Ministers and of members of the Country party on that matter are entirely beyond reproach.
– I listened with disgust to the statement made by the Minister with regard to Militia pay. A member of the House of Representatives informed me last night that 39 years ago he joined the Militia and was paid 8s. a day. During the last war when the basic wage was approximately £2 10s. u week the pay of our soldiers was 6s. a day. When the recruiting campaign for the Militia was embarked upon, the payment of8s. a. day was widely advertised. The campaign was a huge success, and 70,000 men enlisted. These men were prepared to serve in the Militia and train for the defence of their country for 8s. a day. Many of them were unemployed and half-starved. “By joining rhe Militia they were able to obtain boots and clothing and good food during camp. Now, however, there is no great desire for enlistment, and if the Militia is to be kept, up to strength a new 3ystem of recruiting will have to be devised. The Government has now announced that militiamen will be paid8s. a. day during the three months camp early next year, but that subsequently the pay will be reduced. I point out, however, that in January the conscript class will be called up for Militia service. Although at present it is intended that only those lads turning 21 during the current financial year will be called up for service, there is not the slightest doubt that the call-up will eventually be extended to other age groups in order to provide a force of 75.000 at 5s. a day. The Commonwealth Government is not even prepared to stand up to what is being done in the sister dominion of New Zealand. Apparently members of the Country party and of the United Australia party were merely sham- fighting last week when they so hotly opposed the proposed reduction of Militia pay. They have been appeased merely by a promise of an extra Is. a day deferred pay.
-Donot be so downhearted.
-I am not downhearted. Upon entering Parliament House this morning I noticed an atmosphere of gloom, but by 12 o’clock every body was bright and cheerful, because it was realized that members of the House of Representatives would not have to face the people after all. We on this side of the Senate are anxious to go to the country and give the people an opportunity to state emphatically whether or not they wish their sons and brothers to be sent away to fight for only 5s. a day.
– Nobody is being sent a. way ; all are going voluntarily.
– That will be changed a few months hence. Under the Government’s present proposals,1s. a day will be paid to soldiers for each dependent child. That represents the magnificent sum of 7s. a week. If a man is sent to gaol a payment of 10s. a week is made by the State for each child. Apparently it is considered more important that adequate payment should be made to the children of men who are sent to gaol than to the children of selfsacrificing soldiers who volunteer to fight for their country. It is regrettable that members of the United Australia party and of the Country party, particularly those who wear the “ Digger’s “ badge and self-complacently claim to be returned soldiers, should agreeto such proposals. The men who went abroad in 1914 were paid 6s. a day; and despite the fact that wages ha ve practically doubled since then, the Government apparently believes that 5s. a. day is now sufficient. Such an attitude is beyond my comprehension, and when election time comes Government supporters will have the greatest difficulty in justifying what they have done. If the Government were to say to those now serving in the Militia, “ If you are not satisfied with the conditions we will give you an honorable discharge”, I am sure that many would apply for a discharge. Last Friday night when I was on the Central Railway
Station in Sydney, after travelling from Canberra, I saw large crowds of soldiers in uniform returning to their camps after participating in the march through Sydney. I knew several of them and in a short space of time there were 20 or 30 around me asking what the Government intended to do. They wanted to know whether the Government would accept a compromise or precipitate an election. The Government has been clever enough to delude the people, and it has been successful in swaying the Country party. I can understand the attitude of the United Australia party and of Country party supporters because they are afraid to go to the people. They know perfectly well that most of them would not get back to this Parliament, and among the defeated candidates would be “ Shoot ‘ em down “ Thorby. It is beyond my comprehension how any soldier can stand for the action that has been taken by the Government. It is only a trick. In January the Militia will be supplanted by the conscripts, and when we come back here later in the year after the summer recess it will be too late to take action. I have no more faith in this Government than I would have in a bunch of garrotters. A militia force was recruited on the promise to pay8s. a day, and an election was nearly forced because the Government decided to reduce the amount to 5s. a day. The Prime Minister said that the Government would stick by that proposal and if necessary go to the people on it.
– Who told the honorable senator that?
– It is quite true. The Government promised to pay 8s. a. day, but now it has gone back on its word. But we are to have compulsory military service. Therefore, all this talk about the concession which the Government has made is so much piffle. The only thing I can say is that as regards the soldiers the Government is trying to run this war cheaply. It expects to get soldiers at a “ dollar “ a day.
Sector FRASER (Western Australia.) [11. 46]. - I regret that I cannot subscribe to the views of my leader (“Senator Collings) in connexion with this matter.I say that the Government has made no alteration to the position of the sol diers. Even to-night an admission by an Assistant Minister clearly indicated that the Government had repudiated, its contracts to men who had joined the Militia.
– How can the honorable senator say that?
– The honorable senator does not like to hear what I am saying. I repeat that this Government has repudiated its undertaking given to men who joined the Militia Forces. In order to avert defeat in the House of Representatives it has compromised with the Country party. It has promised to pay these men8s. a day ‘until the end of the year, when it will transfer them into the reserve. At the beginning of next year men will be called up for compulsory military training at 5s. a day. What does this alleged generous gesture on the part of the Government mean? It means that in order to avert defeat following the crisis that developed last week, the Government has agreed to add1s. a day to the deferred pay of members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force. What will be the effect of that arrangement in the long run? When these men return to Australia, the amount of deferred pay due to them will represent a considerable sum, and the Government will use it as a lever to cut down the amount of their gratuity. That will be their reward ! This “ generous “ Government will pay them, while abroad, in English currency and has agreed to give them an additional 1s. a day deferred pay.
– That is something.
– It will be nothing in the long run, because when they return to Australia they will be treated as members of the 1st Australian Imperial Force were treated. Their accumulated deferred pay, which they will have earned, will be held against them when the Government is considering the subject of a gratuity.
– We received deferred pay after the last war.
– I know, but I am envisaging what is likely to happen. I have a fairly good idea, of the treatment that will be meted out to our returned soldiers. Senator Allan MacDonald tonight endeavoured to take to himself credit for what he has done on behalf of returned soldiers in this Parliament. The issue is too serious for any honorable senator to seek to make political capital out of it. The purchasing power of the 5s. a. day to be paid to our soldiers is far below the purchasing power of the soldiers’ pay in 1914-18.
– It is about 65 per cent, below the purchasing power of the pay in the last war.
– I agree with Senator Cameron. The Premier of Queensland was right when he said that as far as the soldiers are concerned this Government is trying to run the war on the cheap. Manufacturers and people who contribute to Government loans will reap a veritable harvest. No monetary payment that may be made to our soldiers con compensate them for the sacrifices which they may have to make. Senator Amour has pointed out that the allowance for children of members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force is less than the payment made by State governments in respect of the children of parents sent to gaol. I am not satisfied with what this Government has done on behalf of the soldiers. The difference between the pay of Australian and New Zealand soldiers willcause dissatisfaction, and may lead to trouble. Our soldiers have a just claim for an increase of pay.
– Will the honorable senator approve of preference being given to them when they return?
– Probably many of them will never come hack. In the last war we lost 60,000 men. Our soldiers, equally with civilians, are entitled to a high standard of living. If my vote can assist them to get that, it will be given. I regret that the Government has done practically nothing to meet the claims on behalf of our soldiers. In order to stave off defeat in the House of Representatives over this issue, it compromised with the Country party by agreeing to an additional1s. a day deferred pay. We know what the verdict of the people will be when next this Government appeals to the country.
– Senator Fraser has just stated that the Government has repudiated its promises to members of the Militia Forres. That statement is wholly in correct and unwarranted. I have before me the conditions of service in the Australian Militia Forces which I, in common with every other member of the Militia, was given to read whenI enlisted. Paragraph 9 sets out the pay and allowances. It provides for gunner, sapper, private or driver,8s. a day, thus : - Pay, 5s., plus a peace training allowance of 3s. a day. Can there be any misunderstanding about that? If any honorable senator cannot read and understand the English language he is not worthy of a place in this chamber. It is an absolute distortion of the facts for any honorable senator to say that there has been repudiation by the Government in this matter. In order to place on record the conditions of service in the Australian ‘ Militia Forces for home defence, I ask the permission of the Senate to have incorporated in my speeeh the official statement of the conditions. [Leave granted.] The conditions are as follow : -
Home Defence Only.
CONDITION’S OF SERVICE IN THE AUSTRALIAN MILITIA FORCES.
(If it is desired to join any particular Arm of the Service, inquiry at any Drill Hall will obtain the addressof the nearest unit of that Armto your residence.)
Conditions of Service.
. Physical Requirements.
Age - 18 to 40 years. Height (minimum) - 5 feet 4 inches. Chest (average) - 33 inches.
Period of Service.
Enlistment is for 3 years, after which a soldier may continue to serve by engagements for two or three years. After twelve years a soldier is eligible for the Australian Efficiency Medal. 3.TrainingRequirements.
The total annual training comprises 20 days for Officers and Warrant and Noncommissioned Officers and 18 days for militia sold iers.
The annual training is divided into 12 days’ Continuous Training and 0 days’ Home Training with 2 additional days for extra training for Officers and Warrant and Noncommissioned Officers. continuoustraining in camp.
If it is not possible for militia soldiers to attend the full period of 12 days’ continuous training, arrangements will he made for a minimum continuous period of (1 days in camp, and the completion of the remaining 6 days’ continuous training in cam-ps of other units atmore convenient times to the soldier. or by attendance at week-end exercises. hometrainingparades.
The annual Home Training requires attendance at the equivalent of (i days made up of night drills of not less than 1½ hours’ duration; half-day parades - 3 hours; whole-day -6 hours.
Therefore the necessary parades for any quarter entail attendance only . at the equivalent of1½ days, which can he performed (for example) by attendance at 2 half-day and 2 night parades, or 4 nights and a half-day, or any other combination of above, as arranged for any particular unit. Fares to and from parades arc provided if residence is more than reasonable walking distance from Drill Hall.
If it is not convenient to attend any particular parade, lea ve of absence may be granted if applied for.
Voluntary courses and classes of instruction for those who desire promotion or to specialize in any particular military subject are held at convenient periods at local drill halls throughout the year.
In the Spring and Summer of the year, voluntary week-end Camps nnd Bivouacs are held in the country or at the seaside, where transport, rations and tentage or quarters are provided, and interesting practical training in the field is carried out.
Rifle Matches and. small arms practice (which includes revolver, rifle, light automatic, machine-gun and trench mortar training) are also carried out throughout the year, Tree transport is provided to rifle ranges and attendance counts as a paid parade. In the Artillery, Engineers, Signals, Army Service, Army Medical, Army Ordnance and Army Veterinary Corps the practical training is specialized and full of interest.
Sporting and athletic activities play a big part in the life and training of a militia soldier and culminate each year in the District Military Athletic Competitions and Gymkhanas. Many existing champions in sport and athletic! admit that it was service in the Citizen Forces and participation in these competitions which first brought them to notico and started them on their road to fame. 9.Pay and Allowances.
On the conclusion of 3 years’ continuous efficient service Warrant and NonCommissioned Officers and militia soldiers will be eligible to receive an efficiency allowance of £12.
All ranks attending continuous courses of instruction of 10 days’ duration will he eligible to” receive the full pay of their rank whilst in attendance.
In addition to pay, approved and qualified specialists of Light Horse, Artillery, Engineers, Infantry and Signals receive £2 per annum.
Skill-at-Arms prizes up to £1 are also pro vided annually for skill and proficiency in all types of individual military training, such as the following: -
Best shot with revolver, rifle, light automatic or machine gun,
Best range-taker or range-finder.
Best gunlayer, and many others, whilst attractive badges are issued to he worn on the sleeve of the tunic to indicate the proficiency of the wearer in each particular type of skill-at-arms.
Service badges are issued for each year of efficient service, to be worn on the right sleeve of the tunic.
On discharge, certificates of service arc issued to members.
Service in the Mi’itia Forces gives preference for entry into the Permanent Forces.
Commissions in the Australian Military Forces can be obtained only (except in very special circumstances) by competition amongst the serving members above the rank of Lance Sergeant. The way is therefore open for any member of the Forces by study, diligence, and proficiency to rise to the highest position in the Australian Army.
Even if you do not aspire to long service and leadership, you will never regret the experience gained by a period of service nor forget the comradeships made, whilst if the call ever comes you will be competent to step into the ranks and defend your home and country.
Senior Cadets between the ages of16 and 18 years, who arc phvsically fit, may he unrolled in any unit of the Australian Army.
Senior Cadets wear the same uniform as adult members of their Corps, and on attaining the age of 18 years are transferred into the ranks of the parent unit.
I have before me a copy of an amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin) in the House of Representatives, providing that the pay for members of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force should be 7s. a day plus ls. a day deferred pay, Avith an allowance of 33. a day for a wife and ls. 6d. a day for each dependent child, the unallotted part of the soldier’s pay to be paid in sterling; and that for the Militia and other mobilized forces the rate of pay for a private should be Ss. a day, with an allowance of 3s. a day for a wife, and ls. 6d. a day for each dependent child. The Labour party wants to win this war on the cheap, lt is prepared to pay the fighting forces only 8s. a day, while the men who stay at home get the basic wage of 13s. to 14s. a day. The great Australian Labour party wants Australian soldiers to risk their all for 8s. a day. But I claim that it is impossible to measure the services of the fighting forces in money. Those men have joined the forces because they want to serve their country. It is sordid and disgusting that honorable senators should lor political reasons make the service rendered by the Militia and the 2nd Australian Imperial Force a party question. I spent a month in the Woodside camp in South Australia with nearly 3,000 militiamen, and they did not grumble about the pay. I hope that this is the last we shall hear of the Labour party trying to make political capital out of the rates of military pay. I trust that every honorable senator will try to treat the fighting forces with more respect than has been shown to them in the last few days. We should put their work on the plane of sacrifice and. service to the community and not drag it down to the sordid plane of pounds, shillings and pence.
– I ask the honorable senator to withdraw that remark.
– I shall not withdraw it. Senator Wilson has made a deliberate accusation against the Labour party, and he ought to be ashamed of himself.
– I name Senator Brown.
– I appeal to the honorable senator not to let his temper get the better of him. He has been appealed to by the President, who has allowed all of us a great deal of latitude.
– I withdraw the remark.
Senator ARMSTRONG (New South Wales [12.5 a.m.]. - The Minister remarked that the call to military training is a call to patriotism, and that sentiment was further developed by Senator Wilson. Interjections from the Opposition have conveyed the impression that many young men who have joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Force have done so because their choice was limited. A week or so ago I saw a man of my acquaintance in uniform, and, when I remarked upon the fact that he was in khaki, he replied “ It is better than hanging around the street corners ‘”’. I believe that the number of men who were unemployed or on relief work and have now joined the 2nd Australian Imperial Force exceeds 50 per cent.
– Do not talk nonsense !
– The Minister will have an opportunity to submit figures to show the actual position, but I have expressed my considered opinion. I believe that nobody is more responsive to the call of Australia than are the members of this chamber. Senator Wilson expressed the opinon that the bes’t way to demonstrate one’s patriotism is to join the Militia. Other members of the Senate have other views. We all try to do our best, but what patriotism has been shown by the wealthy manufacturers? Is the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited to be asked as a patriotic gesture to supply steel at a lower price than that ruling before war broke out? Has the cost of aircraft been reduced or have the manufacturers been asked to reduce it? Certainly not. “ Big business “ is to get its cut at- all times. If the manufacturers of the boots, clothing and other equipment required by the soldiers are to be paid well for the goods they supply, the members- of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force are entitled to a fair return for their service.
Senator LAMP (Tasmania) [12.9 a.m.l. - In Hobart last week-end, Mr. A. J. White, the secretary of the Franklin branch of the Australian Labour party, drew my attention to the manner in which promotions are effected in the 6th
Military District. I have now received the following letter from Mr. White -
I have received complaints from members of Field Engineers, Army Service, and Garrison Artillery about the way promotions are handed out in the 6th Military District. Men who have served for years in these units and have been promoted to non-commissioned rank are being passed over for doctors, solicitors and prominent business people’s sons who are only just joining up and receiving commissioned rank almost immediately. The non-com’s complaint is that they are not even given a chance to pass an examination. Some of these men ave State high school scholars so that the plea of lack of education will not do. Many of the Militia would walk out at the present time, they are so disgusted. Many feel that it is becoming too exclusive for the ordinary nian. If the authorities want to make the men feel that merit receives its just reward, all promotions will be made by competitive examination not by back-door methods as at present. This applies also to non-commissioned ranks.
These young men who have secured noncommissioned rank arc being passed over by others who are joining the forces. Commissioned officers should not be selected without examination over the heads of others ‘who are willing to submit themselves to examination for promotion.
– In reply to the statements made by Senator Wilson I point out that whatever improvement has been effected in tb( rates of pay of members of the Military Forces, is the result of representations by the Opposition in the House of Representatives. In the debate in that chamber, the Country party took a prominent part and was largely hostile to the Government. Some of the men in that party are disloyal to their own leader.’ The Labour party did not take action in this matter until it had had a long and considered discussion upon it in its own party room. The statement that its action is entirely designed to make political capital out of the rates of pay of members’ of the Military Forces is not correct. The death knell of the Country party in this Parliament has been sounded, by its actions in regard to soldiers’ pay, following the disgraceful volle-face of that party on the subject of assistance to the wheat industry. It is using the United Australia party and the Labour party to show what a centre party can do in this Parliament.
I approve of the proposal to defer a portion of the soldiers’ pay, but the Opposition as a whole considers that thi rates even now are not satisfactory. . In 1915 the rate was os. a’ day and ls. deferred pay on embarkation. A period of 24 years has elapsed since that time, and the same rate of pay is now to be given. Every body knows that the purchasing power of money is much less than it was in 1915. I object to an issue arising out of this war being bandied about in this chamber and in the House of Representatives for the purpose of making political capital. First the Country party tries to “ put the boot “ into the Government that it supports, and then it suggests that the Labour party is disloyal. I resent the suggestion of honorable senators opposite. Whatever honorable senators on this side of the chamber may say during the heat of debate, it will be admitted that we are good fellows and are as sincere as are honorable senators opposite. If it is going to cost £5,000,000 extra to pay the men who are participating in this war, that will be only a trifle compared with the amount which the Government proposes to provide to assist the wheat-growers. The Government has indicated that it may possibly have to spend between £25,000,000 and £26,000,000 to assist that industry, in so doing it will probably involve the workers in an additional expenditure of £3,500,000 by increasing the price of bread. The representatives of the primary producers engaged in a sham fight on Friday last; but when it appeared that a crisis was developing the honorable member for New England (Mr. Thompson) moved the adjournment of the debate, and in that way provided a bridge over which the Government and its supporters retreated. We, have no apology to offer for the attitude which the Labour party adopted in the Senate or in the House of Representatives. Some have said that conditions have been improved, but the rates of pay are still inadequate, and the increased expenditure which the Government will now have to meet is small compared with the amount which it proposes to expend to assist a less worthy section of the community. Senator Wilson made a show of placing on record certain rates of pay; but every one knows the rates at which men enlisted. I sincerely trust that as the war proceeds the position of our finances will improve to such a degree that more liberal payments can be made to those who are serving this country in its hour of need.I am glad to realize that members of the Labour party “ bounced the ball but I am not surprised to find that the members of the Country party sought shelter, as they always do.
– Senator Wilson went to a great deal of trouble to endeavour to prove that honorable senators on this side of the chamber were imputing motives. The statement read by the Minister for the Interior (Senator Foll) is a most remarkable document, because it confesses in unmistakeable language that the ministerial supporters considered that the Government had not done the right thing.
– That is not correct.
– One can visualize the manner in which Senator Wilson must have criticized some of the members of his party this morning when they were discussing this subject. The Minister said -
The Government has given further consideration to the questions which have been mised in relation to the nay of the Militia and of the 2nd Australian Imperial Force, or 6th Division. In the matter of Militia pay some honorable senators have experienced acute embarrassment, because they feel that they took part in a campaign to enlist men for the Militia at n rate of pay of Ss. a day. and that the decision of the Government to reduce that rate to lis. a day for the special wartime camp for three months is, if not a breach of contract, at least a breach of faith.
– Not for militiamen.
– Yes ; the statement continued -
The Government wants to make it quite clear that while it sympathizes with the views of these honorable senators-
That lends support to the suggestion that has been made.
SenatorFoll. - The honorable senator should complete the sentence.
– I shall do that in a moment. I can visualize the. Leader of the Senate submitting to the directions of the Prime Minister, who, as usual, treated his supporters as children. In these circumstances it is not surprising that Senator Wilson should attempt to clarify the position. The statement continued -
It does not concede that there has been either a breach of contract or a breach of faith.
Doubtless that is the opinion of an eminent King’s Counsel, but it does not mean anything. The statement goes on -
The truth is that the Militia is not now doing peacetime training; but is serving in Australia in time of war under the Defence Act.
Another nice legal refinement by the Prime Minister in order to satisfy his followers. The Minister further stated -
The decision of the Government was made because it considers that the payments to militiamen are not in the nature of wages; but should be fixed having regard to all our vast commitments in relation to defence and with proper regard to the general circumstances of the country.
Was that factor borne in mind in preparing the schedule of the Loan Bill which we discussed earlier this evening? Quite a lot of money has been expended unwisely. As Senator Armstrong said, the manufacturers of munitions, who are deriving excessive profits, were not asked to display their patriotism by accepting lower prices for the goods they are producing. These men, who are offering the greatest asset they possess, are treated differently from wealthy manufacturers because the latter have not to submit to any reductions. Why should we expect those who are serving this country to work for less than a living wage?
– Why did not the Labour party offer them a living wage?
– The members of this party advocated the payment of a living wage from the outset. I deny that the general conditions of the men. have been improved as a result of the latest pronouncement. I do not agree with the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) or the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Senator Keane) that any improvement has been effected, particularly when we realize that the rate of pay was to be8s. a day for three months, and we are now informed that it is intended to keep the Militia at a strength of 75.000 under a system of compulsory training at a rate of 5s. a day for privates. The people of Australia now know that the Government introduced compulsory military training, solely in order to force young men into camp at a rate of pay lower than that promised to the Militia Forces. Why is it that Government supporters in the House of Representatives, who were outspoken in their condemnation of the inadequacy of the pay of the Militia Forces, were not prepared to force the issue? The statement made to-day in the House of Representatives by the Leader of the Country party (Mr. Archie Cameron) exposed the hollowness of the protestations voiced by the members of his party. Speaking from his place in the House of Representatives today, he said he believed that if this matter were allowed to be determined by the people it would mean the return of a Labour government. Does not that show that the honorable gentleman believed that if the people of this country were given the opportunity they would again be prepared to entrust the destinies of Australia to the Labour party during this time of war just as they did in 1914? Why does he desire to keep Labour from the’ treasury bench? Why do Government supporters desire to prevent the people of Australia from giving expression to their will? The Government has said that it is waging this war in the interests of democracy; but it is not prepared to give to the democracy of Australia the right to say who shall govern this country. Can we not rightfully assume that the Government is afraid that if the people of Australia returned >a Labour government we would pry. into some of the activities of its wealthy friends? The Government has set itself up as being superior to the democracy of Australia; it is afraid of the consequences of an appeal to the people on this issue.
– Give us Labour’s war policy.
– Labour’s war policy is well known; we do not have te somersault every time we are asked for our war policy. This is the greatest retreating Government that Australia has ever known, and it is led by the most spineless Prime Minister that has ever graced Australian politics; every time pressure has been brought to bear on him he “has retreated. I say to the wheatfarmers that they are fools if they do not keep the pressure on the Government for the payment of 4s. 6d. a bushel for their wheat, because I feel sure that the. Prime Minister, -rather than leave office, would give them 4s. 6d. a bushel and even more. What has been the attitude of honorable senators opposite in relation to the assistance of the wheat industry? A new statement has been made on behalf of the Government with respect to the wheat industry almost every day. I can visualize the Leader of the Senate, with his head swathed in a wet blanket, trying to solve the great problems that confront the wheat-growers. Eventually, he comes forward and makes a statement in regard to the matter and assumes that the last word has been said; but he finds that the wheatgrowers feel that with a little more pressure something else might happen, and so he goes into retirement again. After more cogitating he offers the wheat-growers an extra penny or so a bushel; but they are not satisfied; they want more. Then, despite the fact that he’ has assured us that he has already said the last word on the matter several times, and that the grant of another farthing a bushel would result, in the Government becoming bankrupt, he is able to bring forward still another suggestion that he can increase the price a little more. So the game goes on. Is it any wonder that the Government wishes to rush into recess? It realizes only too well that if the Parliamentremains in session for another week or so, it will have to give way a little more in many directions. It knows that its safety lie? in the closing down of the national legislature. The way in which this matter has been brought before the Senate tonight does the Government no credit. One would have thought that an important statement like this would have been left until to-morrow, and not introduced at an hour when it is impossible for honorable senators adequately to express their views in regard to it. Here again, the Government was evidently afraid to face the position in regard to this important matter. Is it any wonder that the Government wishes to hasten into recess as quickly as possible, scurrying away for fear that if Parliament remains in session, it will not be able to keep Labour from occupying the treasury bench? I trust that when we are called together again, we shall be able to force the Government to face the issue.
– It is not my intention to take up much of the time of the Senate in connexion with this matter. I am actuated to make these few remarks by the slick and snide way in which this matter has been brought before the Senate.
– I take strong exception, Mr. President, to the honorable senator’s remark that I submitted my statement in a slick and snide way. I ask that those words be withdrawn.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - I ask the honorable senator to withdraw.
– I withdraw the words complained of. I resent the action of the Minister in presenting this matter to the Senate on the motion for the adjournment. Such action suggests that the Minister desired to stifle d discussion
– The motion for the adjournment presents to honorable senators an opportunity to discuss any subject.
– Had this matter been submitted in a proper way, honorable senators would have been given an opportunity to study the Minister’s statement in print. In the circumstances, however, we are expected to memorize his remarks, and, at the same time, to analyse them thoroughly. Honorable senators who have had any experience of parliamentary procedure know how difficult that is. The majority of us are not shorthand writers, and we cannot make as full a note of the Minister’s remarks as we should like. We are obliged therefore, to depend entirely on our hearing and memory. I would have preferred that this matter had been prescribed in a way which would have enabled us to give to it the consideration it deserves. It involves not only the rate of pay of members of the defence forces concerned, but also other important issues directly affecting these men. For instance, they are seriously perturbed about the disability allowance. 1 hope to read the paper presented by Senator Wilson, because 1 am anxious to study the pension rights of our soldiers. In this regard we have had a. sorry experience over the last 25 years. In every State soldiers suffering disabilities as the result of service in the last war have been deprived of pensions, or refused pensions, on the ground that their disability did not arise from war service, despite medical evidence that the strenuous conditions of active service were such as to lower their resistance and render them more susceptible to ailments. Our soldiers should be given a clear understanding as to where they stand in regard to a matter of this kind under the contract into which they have entered for the purpose of defending this country. Senator Wilson pointed out that by joining the Militia he had entered into a. contract to serve at 5s. a day plus 3s. a day peace allowance. That is, Ss. a day. Now, under its system of compulsory military training the Government is calling upon young men to fit themselves for the defence of this country, and it is going to pay them 5s. a day. Thus the conditions under which the young men who will be called up as from the 1st January next will serve and those under which members of the other defence forces of the 6th Division will serve differ considerably. During the last few’ days certain events have occurred as the result of the declarations made by the Prime Minister and the attitude adopted by members of the Country party and other parties in this Parliament. It can be justly claimed that the Government has bungled preparations for the defence of this country. There can be no doubt about that. Consequently dissatisfaction is rife throughout Australia. When volunteers were first called for sufficient officers were not available to train the number who enlisted. The Government has . admitted that fact. Later it was found that sufficient clothing, or accommodation, could not bc provided for the volunteers.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that they should not have been called up?
– It is strange that they were called up under the voluntary system, which the Government now totally disregards.
– Does the honorable senator suggest that they should not have been called up?
– I do not suggest anything of the sort, nor can such an inference be drawn from any remarks which I have made.
– The honorable senator has suggested that the Government bungled this matter.
– Yes. I may say, . by the way, that this is not an issue which the Assistant Minister should treat with levity. I- say that advisedly, because it is characteristic of the Assistant Minister to treat many important matters which come before the Senate with a levity unbecoming the position he occupies. The issue now before us is most important. It is above party politics, and is of greater concern to the people than even the fate of the Government. It concerns so vital a matter as the defence of this country in a time of war, and should be dealt with accordingly.
– Why try to make political capital out of it?
– If Senator Wilson does not want political capital to be made out of this debate, he should not make interjections that are calculated to place the discussion on a party basis. Our contention is that those who have been called upon to serve this country voluntarily either at home or overseas, should be treated fairly. Those who will have to bear the brunt should have justice done to them. The events of the last three or four days have been sordid. I do not claim to know what happened in the party rooms of honorable members opposite, but I have a good idea of what occurred. One could not fail to gain an accurate impression of what was happening from scraps of conversation on railway platforms, in corridors and in tram-cars. Members on both sides in the strife which occurred within the Government and Country parties before the Prime Minister made his pronouncement to-day were very concerned about the matter, because they knew that it was vital. They were anxious to commune together in order to bring about a peaceful atmosphere so that there would be unity in the antiLabour ranks to-day. So anxious were they that they disclosed their party dissension to the world. The Labour party wants to see these squabbles ended so that the real work of the country maybe done. That is, the proper devlopment of the defence system.
– But the Labour party will not co-operate.
– The Labour party has never refused to cooperate.
– It would not accept any responsibility.
– Labour is ready to take office at a moment’s notice and to give effect to Labour’s policy in the interests of the Commonwealth.
– I take exception to the’ way in this this subject was introduced to the Senate.
– The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) started the fight.
– The Minister for the Interior deferred his statement until the motion for the adjournment, despite the fact that it concerns one of the most serious aspects of our national life. Senator Wilson was amusing in his efforts to defend the Government. He used the lawyer’s trick of producing documentary evidence to show that the Militia was notpromised8s. a day. Members of Parliament promised the men8s. a day.- Notices were posted at every post office in Australia to the same effect.
– That was not the condition of contract under’ which the men were signed up.
– Subterfuge is of no use. Senator Fraser was right when he said that the Commonwealth Government had repudiated its contract with the Militia. The crisis which gave rise to the statement placed before the Senate to-night caused members to gather in the corridors in agitated groups. There was a. state of fearfulness; a compromise was even suggested, under which those who were under the impression that they had been engaged at Ss. a day would be discharged and given opportunity to reenlist. That would have made them legal deserters. In any case many of those young men who joined the Militia under the impression that they were to get Ss. a. day will become 21 before next June and will be conscripted.
– Militiamen will not be conscripted.
– I do not want the honorable senator’s help in making my speech. Senator Wilson also referred to the services that he had rendered. Neither he nor any other honorable senator opposite has a monopoly of patriotism. Members on this side have played, and will play, their part in the defence of the country.
Most of the governmental building contracts to-day are being let on the basis of cost plus 5 per cent.
– Only two contracts in _ the whole of Australia have been let on that basis. They were so let for a special reason.
– The persons who are subscribing to the loans will get their interest, but the soldier, who is making the greatest sacrifice any man can make, is to be paid on the minus basis. I agree with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition regarding what happened in the House of Representatives. There was a section of the Country party which tried to snipe the Government. I maintain that any benefit which the soldiers have received is due to the efforts of the Labour party.
– I suggest to the Government that the art of successful organization, whether for peace or war, is to lay down conditions which attract men rather than to enforce conditions which repel them. The action of the Government in this matter has not surprised me in the least. I have said before that compulsory training was introduced primarily for financial reasons. It is cheaper to pay men 5s. a day than to pay them 8s. a day. If this war continues and the Government enters into additional commitments, I shall not be surprised if it proposes to reduce soldiers’ pay to 2s. 6d. a day, or the same rate as is paid to English conscripts. The Government will do that, not because it wants to, but because it will have no alternative. It is committed to pay high salaries far in excess of what ought to be paid, and certainly far in excess of the legitimate needs of the recipients. In addition, it is committed to pay profits and interest. I can imagine the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), when he is told by the Auditor-General what his commitments are, saying, “ Much as I dislike to do it, I must reduce the pay of the soldiers “. That is precisely what has been done, in fact. I maintain that thu men on whom we depend to do the fighting in the war, and those who are to do the essential work in the munition factories, should be offered the very best conditions possible. There is no reason why conditions should not be provided that would have the effect of ranging behind the Government a solid body of men inspired with a determination to do their be3t; but when it is known that mi. lions of pounds are to be paid away to those who will neither fight nor work, we cannot expect to inspire the spirit necessary to carry the war to a successful conclusion. I have no desire to make political capital out of this situation. I merely point out that the policy to which the Government is committed is forcing it to repudiate its contract with the soldiers. The Government must choose its policy. Is it going to do the best it can by the soldiers and the workers? If so, it cannot do what it proposes for the owners of capital, the contractors who supply war material, and the highly-paid officials who are receiving much more than they are entitled to. We should remember that we are confronted with a situation far more serious thai, during the last war. We need the very best from every man.
– in reply - I cannot refrain from comparing the attitude of honorable members in the House of Representatives and in this chamber during the course of the present debate with the attitude of the Opposition in the House of Commons since this war began. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) and the members who support him have told ns repeatedly that they desire to help the Government. Then, aft.pr making that statement, they set to work, one after another, to make the task of the Government as difficult as possible. No credit is ever given to Ministers who are working very long hours in an effort to ensure that Australia plays its part in this war with the maximum effectiveness. On the contrary, members of the Opposition suggest that the Govern ment is trying to rob the soldiers, and every kind of unpleasant epithet is applied to us. That shows little of the spirit of co-operation and consideration which honorable senators opposite always claim that they are desirous of extending to the Government. We are charged by the Opposition with having increased the soldiers’ pay for the purpose of keeping the Government in power and keeping the party opposite out of office. If this variation of the rates of pay has been instrumental in keeping the Labour party from the treasury bench, that is something really worth while, in addition to the increase of pay to be given to the soldiers. We say that, at a difficult time such as that through which we are nowpassing, it would be one of the greatest tragedies that could have been experienced by this country, or the Empire, or our allies, if the party which lias declared against the sending of troops abroad were returned to power.
What was the interpretation put on the earlier action of honorable senators opposite? Almost immediately after it had been decided to send the 2nd Australian Imperial Force overseas, and an amendment had been moved in the House of Representatives by the Deputy Leader of the Labour party (Mr. Forde), the German radio broadcast from Berlin ;i statement that the Commonwealth Government’s policy would not be endorsed by the Parliament, and that the Government was likely to be defeated. People in Berlin were rejoicing at the thought that the present Government might fall, and that the Opposition, which had declared against sending our men overseas, might be elected to office. But this Government will continue in office, with the support of a majority in this Parliament. That is one of the reasons why the Government is. justified, in deference to the wishes of the majority in the Parliament, in granting the increased rate of pay. We knowhow much real sympathy honorable senators opposite have for the soldiers, in com- parison with their desire to make political capital at their expense.
When our troops returned from the last war, members of the Labour party objected to preference being given in employment to returned soldiers. We remember some of that party’s activities in preventing the loading of foodstuffs on troopships.
– What about the “dog-collars” that were put on returned soldier waterside workers? Preference on the waterfront to foreigners as against Australian returned soldiers’!
– 1 might remind the honorable senator of some of his own activities in the industrial sphere between 1.914 and 1918. All this humbug and hypocrisy from honorable senators opposite is unjustified. It is strange that they now pose as the friends of the soldiers, although, when the soldiers returned from the last war, having been promised preference in employment, members of the Labour party voted against the granting of preference to thorn. Honorable senators now sitting on the Opposition benches have adopted that attitude.
– Where did the Minister get that idea from?
– I have heard honorable senators opposite declare themselves against preference to returned soldiers.
– I have always opposed that preference and always will. The honorable senator is not in favour of it-
– I am. We have listened for the last two or three hours to a tirade of abuse from honorable senators opposite, and they should now be prepared to take their gruel. No expeditionary force would bo sent overseas to assist our comrades in Franco, if honorable senators opposite were returned to power.
– Australia first!
– The Minister is not being fair. I gave our .reasons.
– I am accepting the honorable senator’s declaration, and the statement of the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives to-day that his party was not in favour of sending troops overseas. The sailors aboard the ships of the British navy are not earning anything like the rate of pay that will he received by our soldiers, but are keeping the seas free in the bitterly cold regions of the North Atlantic, facing the danger of mines and torpedoes, together with all the risks of the sea, in order that Australia may have its produce transported overseas. The Labour Government in New. Zealand has undertaken to send troops overseas.
– And to pay them well.
– The fact that the Government is not going to fall and that the Opposition in this Parliament will not accede to power will not cause Berlin radio announcers to rejoice this evening; rather will the; have cause for regret that the anticipated defeat of a government that has pledged itself to help the Empire to the limit of its capacity, will not take place. This Government has only one desire, and that is to prosecute the war to a successful conclusion. It . will ensure that Australia plays its part, together with the rest of the Empire, so that we, with our allies, may present a solid front to one of the most unscrupulous foes any country ‘has ever been forced to fight. The new rate of pay will be brought into operation in accordance with the wish of the majority of the Parliament, and as the Government itself desires. I hope that this debate will mark the end of the Opposition’s tactics of making political capital out of the claims of the soldiers. The Government will not stoop to such methods but will go on with its job, and when the time comes for an. election - not a catch election such as the Opposition had hoped to force on the people - the electors will recognize that the Government has a good record of accomplishment, and will return it to office with a greater majority than it has at the present time. The people will then show that theyrealize who are the real friends of the soldiers, and of Australia.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were presented : -
Reports of Australian Government Commis sionersand Trade Commissioners in United Slates of America, Canada, China, Egypt. Netherlands, India, and New Zealand, for 1938-39.
Apple and Pear Bounty Act 1937 - Report on the working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid.
Citrus Fruits Bounty Act 1938- Report on the working of the Act, together with return showing amount of bounty paid, for year 1938.
Commonwealth Shipping Act - Australian Commonwealth Shipping Board - Balancesheet, as at 2Sth February, 1939, and Liquidation Account for the year ended 2Sth February, 1939, of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard; certified to by the Auditor-General.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Fourteenth Annual Region of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for year 1938-39, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Meat Rxport Control Act - Fourth Annual Report of the Australian Meat Board, for year 193S-39, together ‘ with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Wine Overseas Marketing Act - Eleventh Annual Report of the Australian Wine Board, for year 1936-39, together with Statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Declaration No. 20.
Defence Act- -Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1939, No. IS9.
National Security Act - National Security (Prices) Regulations - Orders Nbs, 40, 41, 42 and 43.
Documents of Identity for Aircraft Personnel - Exchange of Notes hetween the Governments of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth of Australia. New Zealand and India, and the Government of the Netherlands (The Hague, 21st August, 1939).
Papua Act - Ordinance No. 14 of 1939 - Petroleum (Prospecting and Mining) (No. 2).
Senate adjourned at1. 15 a.m. (Wednesday).
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 5 December 1939, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1939/19391205_senate_15_162/>.