15th Parliament · 2nd Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I have ascertained that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral will be pleased to receive the Address-in-Reply to his Opening Speech at Government House at half-past ten o’clock to-morrow morning. I invite as many honorable senators as can make it convenient to accompany me when I present it.
– Can the Minister for the Interior state what information is in the hands of the Government as to the quantity of firearms held by aliens in Australia? Will the Minister take steps to have regulations framed, compelling the holders of firearms to be licensed, where not licensed under States laws?
– The whole matter is under the consideration of the Government at the present time.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce inform the Senate whether the Government proposes to modify the Apple and Pear Acquisition Act to provide: (1) State varietal pools, each to be financially independent of the other; (2) that recognition be given to the principle of appraisement according to values within each State pool; (3) that advances paid on fruit not delivered to the State pool shall not be a charge on the pool? Before anything is done to modify the act, will the Government undertake to call a conference of growers only, so that they may fully represent their case?
– The questions submitted by the honorable senator will receive the consideration of the Government.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development state whether it is a fact that Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, some time ago, secured a government contract to supply shell cases at 80s. each,and is it a fact that the company refunded to the Government, after completion of the contract, 7s. 6d. in respect of each . shell case, as” conscience “ money?
– The amount that the honorable senator suggests was refunded as “ conscience “ money was not correctly described by him. A refund was made by the company to the Government in respect of an order received by it; when the company found that it was able to produce this article at a much lower price than had been paid up to that time, the amount saved was refunded to the. Government, because the company did. not wish to make an undue profit out of the transaction.
– What is the estimated cost of similar shell cases manufactured at Maribyrnong?
– If the honorable senator will give notice of that question, the information will be obtained for him.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. The State Premiers have been communicated with regarding the conference, and it has been suggested that each Minister of Agriculture will represent the State at the conference. Additionally, they have been requested to arrange preliminary discussions with representatives of all sections of the apple and pear industrywithin their States. The basis of representation from the industry will depend upon the arrangements made by each State Government.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Information, upon notice -
– The Minister for Information has supplied the following answers: -
DISMISSAL OF Mr. j. H. BEAUCHAMP.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will the Minister lay upon the Table of the Senate the report of the inquiry which resulted in the dismissal of Mr. J. H. Beauchamp from the Postmaster-General’s Department, Victoria, on the 27th February last?
– The PostmasterGeneral has supplied the following answer : -
The case of Mr. J. H. Beauchamp was dealt with under the provisions of the Public Service Act. It is not desirable to make the papers in such cases available as the interests of officers are fully safeguarded by the act mentioned.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
Now that the supply of apple wrapping paper is cut off from Norway, will the Government put in hand inquiries for the securing of supplies for next season’s crop?
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answer : - .
The sources of supply of wrapping paper will be examined with a view to instituting inquiries regarding the provision of requirements for the next season’s crop.
– On the 23rd April Senator Clothier asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister the following questions : -
The Prime Minister has now furnished the following replies : -
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That leave be given to introduce a bill for an act to approve an agreement made between His Majesty’s Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and His Majesty’s Government of the State of Queensland, and for other purposes.
Bill brought up, and read a first time.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
No change of policy is involved in this measure. In clause 7, increased power is sought to deport certain classes of undesirable aliens; but otherwise the object of the proposed amendment is to bring the act up to date for administrative purposes, and to remedy certain weaknesses which experience has shown to exist in the present law. I shall now explain briefly the various provisions of the bill. For some years alien immigration into Australia has been controlled by a landing permit system. Every alien must obtain permission, usually in the form of a landing permit issued by the Department of the Interior, before he is admitted into the Commonwealth for permanent residence. The act provides that any alien may be prohibited from entering Australia if, on demand by an officer, he fails to satisfy the officer that he is the holder of a landing permit or that his admission into Australia has been authorized by or on behalf of the Minister. It is usual in the case of alien immigrants, other than dependent relatives of persons already settled in Australia, to stipulate certain conditions of admission, such as possession of valid passports, landing money, &c. Paragraph ge of section 3, in its present form, does not indicate clearly that the landing permit relates to admission into Australia, and it does not stipulate that the holder of the permit must comply with the conditions specified in the permit. There are, of course, other means of prohibiting entry if an alien holder of a landing permit cannot comply with the conditions of his admission, such as the effective application of a dictation test, but it is desirable that the necessity for him to comply with such conditions should be definitely stated as set forth in the proposed amendment of paragraph ge. Included in the classes of prohibited immigrants specified in section 3 of the Immigration Act is any person who has been deported from the Commonwealth in pursuance of any act. In cases that have arisen from time to time, it would have been reasonable and even desirable to re-admit to Australia a person who had previously been deported, not for a criminal offence, but because he had become temporarily a charge on the community, or had deserted his ship. The Minister should have power to consider each such case on its merits, and to authorize re-admission where circumstances fully warrant such action. It is, therefore, proposed that paragraph gg of section 3 of the principal act, which prohibits the re-entry of a deportee, should be amended to read : “ Any person -who has been deported in pursuance of any act unless his re-entry into the Commonwealth has been authorized by the Minister.” Clause 4, which relates to certificates of exemption, is largely a repetition of the existing section 4 of the principal act; hut that section does not specify the classes of persons to whom certificates of exemption, entitling the holder to reside temporarily in Australia, may be issued. The purpose of the proposed amending clause is to make it clear that the act provides that the Minister, or an officer authorized by him in writing, may issue a certificate of exemption in the prescribed form authorizing any person, who, unless he possesses such a certificate, is liable to be prohibited under the act from entering or remaining in Australia, to enter for temporary residence, or if he is already here but not eligible to remain indefinitely, to remain during the currency of the certificate without being subject to any of the provisions of the act restricting entry into or residence in the Commonwealth. This provision is mainly used in connexion with the temporary admission of non-Europeans, who visit Australia for business or pleasure. It is also used for the temporary admission of white persons who would be liable to restriction on account of illness or other reasons. There is power under the existing section 4 to deport the holder of a certificate of exemption on the expiration of cancellation of his certificate. This new provision provides for giving notice to the person concerned to leave within a specified period before action to deport is taken.
There are many instances in which persons are admitted temporarily under certificate of exemption in the first place, and are permitted to remain permanently. The decision depends mainly on whether they would he eligible for permanent admission except for temporary disability such as illness. Clause 5 does not call foi any comment at present ; hut with respect to clause 6 it may be explained that section 7aa referred to therein provides that where a person has been convicted on a charge of being a prohibited immigrant and sentenced to a term of im prisonment pending deportation, tho imprisonment shall cease for the purposes of deportation, or, subject to authority being granted by the Minister, if the offender finds two approved sureties, each in the sum of £100, foi- his leaving the Commonwealth within one month. From time to time it is found that convicted persons have business or property interests to dispose of, and., in some cases, it is reasonable that, if they find the necessary sureties, they should be allowed longer than one month. The Minister is to be the judge in the light of special circumstances submitted for his consideration. It is therefore proposed to add after the words “ one month “ in section 7aa the words “ or within such extended period as is authorized by the Minister “. Clause 7 necessitates some special observations. Section 8 of the act provides for the deportation of an alien convicted of a crime of violence against the person or any attempt to commit such a crime at any time after his arrival in Australia. From time to time aliens, particularly in north Queensland, extort money or attempt to extort money, mainly from their own countrymen, by methods which cannot be tolerated ; but no actual violence against a person is involved; For example, they may threaten to burn down a homo or cane crop. Some years ago action was taken to deport several aliens who had been convicted of crimes of violence, against the person, and this action had a deterrent effect; but it will be a greater deterrent if aliens are made to realize that they will he liable to deportation if convicted of any crime of extorting or attempting to extort by force or threat money or property from any resident of Australia. Only recently I signed an order for the deportation of an alien who had been convicted at Townsville of demanding money by threats. In that case it was possible to issue the order under section 8a of the Immigration Act because the offender had been resident in Australia for less than five years, and had been convicted ot a criminal offence punishable by imprisonment for one year or longer. Representations were made to me to give further consideration to this case. I’ postponed the deportation for a short period until I ascertained whether any miscarriage of justice had taken place. After full consultation with the Queensland Police Department I found that no reason existed why the deportation should not be carried out. Consequently, I signed the necessary order, and the deportation is now being put into effect.
Unfortunately, a tendency to indulge in what are known as “ black hand “ practices has been exhibited among aliens in northern Queensland. Cases have occurred in which many perfectly reputable Italian farmers have been subjected to “ black hand” methods by their fellowcountrymen who desired to extort money from them. In most cases, however, the victims of these practices are afraid to lay the facts before the police because they fear reprisals. Fortunately, in the particular case to which I have just referred, the farmer concerned informed the police of the threats made against him, and the police successfully prosecuted the offender, who was sentenced in the Supreme Court at Townsville to a term of imprisonment. I take this opportunity to make it quite clear that in every case in which it is proved that “ black hand “ methods are being practised, I shall not hesitate to issue a deportation order against the offender.
It is very desirable that aliens should not be allowed to believe that they are free to indulge-, in this class of crime once they have passed the five-year period of residence in Australia. For this reason, it is considered necessary to extend the scope of section 8 in order to cover crimes of the class to which I have been referring, as that section does not limit the period within which action may be taken against alien offenders. As I have referred particularly to aliens in north Queensland, I point out that from my own experience, as well as from investigations made by departmental officers, it is evident that the great majority of such aliens are law-abiding, peaceful, and industrious. Only a few have given trouble in the past, and it is desired to prevent anything in the nature of a “ black hand “ gang from raising its ugly head again in this country. It is proposed to strengthen section 8 further by providing for the deportation of aliens who are convicted of criminal offences other than those to which I have just referred, and who are sentenced to imprisonment for one year or longer.
Section 8c provides that where the Minister has made an order under the Immigration Act for the deportation of any person, that person shall be deported accordingly. Cases arise occasionally in which circumstances come to light, after the issue of a deportation order, which make it undesirable to put the order into effect, and the Minister, who has power to make such an order, should also have discretionary power to withhold its enforcement if the circumstances warrant such action. If amended as is proposed in clause 8, the section would read -
Where the Minister has made an order under this Act for the deportation of any person that person shall, unless the Minister otherwise directs, be deported accordingly ….
Clause 9 does not call for much comment. Numerous maintenance guarantees have been obtained in connexion with the admission of aliens into Australia. These guarantees usually provide that for a specified period the guarantors shall ensure that their nominees are not allowed to become a charge upon public funds. Immigration regulation No. 6 provides that where any person in respect of whom a maintenance guarantee has been given becomes, within five years from the date of his arrival in the Commonwealth, a charge upon State funds, or upon any public or charitable institution, the cost of his maintenance may be recovered, in any court of competent jurisdiction, from the person who guaranteed his maintenance. Fortunately, very few cases have arisen in which the department has been called upon to take action to enforce the guarantees, and so far no court proceedings have been necessary. It is held to be desirable, however, that the regulation referred to should be supported by statutory power to make regulations relating to the obtaining and enforcing of maintenance guarantees.
Many aliens now in Australia have come from various European countries. To them the Government says that so long as they obey the laws of Australia they will be assured of all the privileges and freedom to which residence under the British flag entitles them. However, if they are not prepared to observe our laws and become good Australians, as we desire them to do, there is no room for them in this country.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
– I move -
That the bill be now read a second -time.
This bill proposes an amendment of the Northern Territory (Administration) Act 1910-1039, by the insertion of a provision lo the effect that a notice in the Gazette of any ordinance of the Northern Territory having been made, and of the place where copies of the ordinance can be purchased, shall be sufficient notification of the ordinance for the purposes of the act. At present ordinances of the Northern Territory are notified in full in the Commonwealth Gazette. Often this legislation is lengthy and occupies many pages of the Gazette. It is proposed that in future the title only of the ordinance shall he published, together with information as to where copies can be purchased. The resultant saving in paper should commend itself on the grounds of economy.
Commonwealth acts and statutory rules ure not published in the Gazette in full, and no inconvenience should be caused to persons interested by reason of the nonpublication of the full terms of ordinances. It is also proposed to discontinue publication in full of regulations made under ordinances of the Northern Territory.
Many ordinances which affect the Northern Territory relate only to minor matters, but are very lengthy and interest only about 5 per cent, of those who now receive the Gazette. The notification of new ordinances in the Gazette in the formnow proposed will give to these people all of the information they require to enable them to secure complete copies of such ordinances, which will freely be made available to them upon application.
Debate (on motion by Senator Collings) adjourned.
Senator McBRIDE (South Australia - Assistant Minister for Commerce [2.59 j . - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this bill is to provide £10,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of war pensions. This is one of the recurring measures periodically submitted to Parliament for the purpose of appropriating an amount from the Consolidated Revenue Fund for payment into trust account from which pensions are paid at the rates already approved by Parliament.
The total amount appropriated by Parliament to date for this purpose is £155,000,000, and the appropriation is now exhausted.
Although Parliament is being asked to approve of £10,000,000, which is the usual amount appropriated, this sum will not be withdrawn from revenue immediately. Payments from revenue to the trust account are made only periodically, as it becomes necessary to meet the payments to pensioners.
This bill relates only to pensions arising out of the 1914-18 war, the basis of payment of which has already been established by Parliament, and it merely approves the provision of funds for the purpose. I should’ add that the Government is at present considering the whole subject of repatriation of soldiers of the present war, and an announcement of its intentions will be made at an early date.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 (Appropriation of £10,000,000 for war pensions).
.- I welcome the statement made by the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) that the Government is at the present time considering a repatriation hill for the second Australian Imperial Force, but I urge that an inquiry should be made into the cases of soldiers of the old Australian Imperial Force who since the 1914-18 war have developed illnesses as a result of war service.
Many such cases are represented to honorable senators and honorable members of the House of Representatives, and in our endeavours to secure justice for the claimants we are involved in a great deal of work. Quite a number of these men were discharged as medically unfit, but many of them did not make a claim for a pension at the time, and went back to their jobs. Subsequently, however, their ailments developed, and in the present pensions legislation no provision is made for them. I urge the Government to take that matter into consideration.
– It is impossible for the Government to hold a mass inquiry into such cases. They are examined separately by the proper tribunals, and I do not know a better method whereby the disabilities of individuals could be accurately ascertained. Whatever treatment returned soldiers are entitled to under the Repatriation Act is given freely.
– I would like the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) to supply honorable senators with some information with regard to the amount of £10,000,000 to be appropriated by this bill. Speaking from memory, the annual war pensions bill does not exceed £8,500,000. If that is so, what is the reason for paying £10,000,000 into the trust fund? Does the Government anticipate such an enlargement of the repatriation scheme that the increased benefits to be made available to ex-soldiers of the 1914-18 war will absorb an additional £1,500,000 this year? It may be that the Government intends to extend the benefits of the Repatriation Act to other ex-soldiers of the 1914-18 war, who, up to date, have been ineligible for a pension; perhaps the Government intends to include members of the mercantile marine, many of whom served in various theatres of war but are not eligible for benefits under the Repatriation Act. I should like to know to what extent payment of the service pension has been made in respect of the 1914-18 war? As the ex-soldiers grow older their disabilities increase, and consequently applications for a service pension, are more numerous. Much more information regarding the bill, which is of great interest to the people of Australia generally, should have been given by the Minister in charge of it.
Senator McBRIDE (South Australia-
Assistant Minister for Commerce) [3.6]. - As I mentioned in my second-reading speech, this bill has nothing to do with the conditions under which pensions are paid to ex-soldiers. It is merely an appropriation measure. The amount of £10,000,000 is the usual sum by which the trust fund is replenished, and does not cover any specific period or imply any increase of pension benefits; it may be sufficient to meet all needs for a period in excess of twelve months. Although £10,000,000 will be appropriated by this measure, the money will not be taken out of revenue and paid into the trust fund until that fund is in need of it. Consequently the appropriation of £10,000,000 will not. impose any greater burden on the budget than would an appropriation of £5,000,000.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia) [3.7]. - In view of the appropriation of this £10,000,000, will the Assistant Minister for Commence (Senator McBride) state whether it is the intention of the Government to extend the scope of the present act?From time to time the Government has indicated that at some future date the Repatriation Act will he amended to include cases which to-day are not provided for.
– The Government does not intend to amend the Repatriation Act, in relation to veterans of the 1914-18 war, unless some specific need to do so becomes evident.
– The Government has already indicated that it proposes to amend the act.
– The amendments mentioned will provide for the inclusion of soldiers of the second Australian Imperial Force, and will have nothing whatever to do with the soldiers who served in the 1914-18 war.
– The former Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) practically promised that the Repatriation Act would be amended to include categories of ex- soldiers who . to-day are ineligible to receive benefits under the act. I should like to know if the extension of benefits to those ex-soldiers is the reason for the appropriation of £1,500,000 in excess of last year’s war pensions bill ?
– There is no significance whatever about the amount of £10,000,000. This measure does not indicate that the Government has in view any amendment of the act.
– I take it that the money has already been borrowed by the Government and my concern is to ascertain its source, rather than how it is to be expended.
– The money is not borrowed ; it is drawn from the Consolidated Revenue Fund of the Commonwealth.
– I hope that the administration of this act will be more sympathetic in the future than it has been during the last twelve months. I say this because a considerable amount of the time of honorable senators on this side is occupied in making representations concerning complaints from persons who are entitled to payments under this law.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to make a second-reading speech at this stage.
Clause agreed to.
Preamble and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
, - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The purpose of this measure is to provide £17,000,000 out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund for the payment of invalid and old-age pensions. This measure is similar to that periodically submitted to Parliament for the purpose of appropriating an amount from the Consolidated
Revenue Fund for payment into a trust account in order to enable pensions to be paid at rates already approved by Parliament. The total amount appropriated to date for this purpose is £240,000,000, and the balance of this appropriation now remaining is sufficient only to meet pension payments to the 31st May, 1940. Although Parliament is being asked to approve of £17,000,000, which is approximately a year’s expenditure, this amount will not be withdrawn from revenue immediately. Revenue is only drawn upon for payment to the trust account as required, to enable pension payments to be made as they become due. This measure has no relation whatsoever to the rates or conditions under which invalid and old-age pensions are paid ; it merely approves the provision of funds for the purpose.
– I direct the attention of the Minister to the heavy expenditure incurred by the Commonwealth in respect ‘ of invalid pensions to persons suffering from occupational diseases, which, I contend, should be the responsibility of State authorities. In New South Wales, workmen engaged in the construction of sewers and similar works in the cities and larger provincial centres become affected with the disease known as silicosis. Under the New South Wales law the compensation payable is £750 - it has been as high as £1,000 - and when this sum is exhausted persons suffering from occupational diseases become a liability of the Commonwealth Government. I submit that full compensation in all such cases is the responsibility of those people who have benefited from the carrying out of these works. I do not know to what extent the Commonwealth expenditure on invalid pensions has been increased on this account, but as a large number of persons suffer from these occupational diseases the total for the whole of Australia must be considerable. I therefore suggest that this matter be taken up with the various State governments.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time and reported from committee without amendment or debate; report adopted.
- by leave - read a copy of the ministerial statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Minister for External Affairs (Mr. McEwen) (vide page 739).
Senator McLEAY (South Australia -
Minister for Trade and Customs) [3.40]. - I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
The bill is to approve the sugar agreement made on the 18th April, 1940, between the Commonwealth Government and the Government of Queensland, under which the prohibition of imports of foreign sugar into Australia is to continue for five years from the 1st September, 1941, except as to types of sugar not manufactured in Australia which may bo required for special manufacturing purposes, and small quantities of foreign sugar needed for scientific research. In consideration of this extended prohibition of sugar imports, the Queensland Government accepts, on its own behalf and on behalf of the sugar industry, numerous obligations, the chief of which are -
The agreement also provides, as in various bounty acts, that employees in the cane-sugar industry shall be entitled at all times during the currency of the agreement to have their rates of wages and conditions of employment determined by conciliation or arbitration, if not settled by agreement; otherwise a tribunal may be established to determine those matters. The sugar agreement method of protecting the Australian sugar industry has existed since July, 1915. The agreement under review is the tenth of its kind. This method has been proved by 25 years of experience to be the most effective arrangement for all the interests concerned, whether sugar producers and workers, refiners, manufacturers, distributors, or domestic con- somers. It is not surprising, therefore, that Commonwealth and State governments of every political complexion have since 1915 been parties to the renewal of the various sugar agreements. Australia was the world’s pioneer in this method of protection or stabilization of the interests of all sections concerned in the production, distribution and consumption of sugar. Many other nations have since adopted similar or equivalent methods to such a degree that most of the sugar-producing countries of the world now exercise a more or less extensive control of sugar production and distribution. In addition, there is the International Sugar Agreement of 1935, under which 22 nations, including Australia and all the other large sugar-producing countries, agreed to control its production and exports within specified limits, and, where -possible, to stimulate its domestic consumption. I mention these facts in order to demonstrate that, in principle, there is nothing unusual in the bill now before the Senate. The most important feature of the new sugar agreement is that it restricts the wholesale and manufacturing selling prices of all sugar products required for Australian consumption from the 1st September, 1941, until the 31st August, 1946, to not more than the existing prices. In other words, domestic sales o’f such products, now aggregating some 365,000 tons and worth £11,500,000 per annum, cannot he increased in price despite any increase of sugar production costs. Such costs have increased since the wa r began, ‘ and will probably increase further still. It is obvious, therefore, that the Government has secured a definite benefit for consumers by retaining the present sugar selling prices for such a long and economically hazardous period. In this connexion, it is worth while recalling that the present retail price of sugar in State capital cities, viz., 4d. per lb., is only 33 per cent, above the usual pre-l!)14 price of 3d. per lb. This result wm pares most favorably with the increase of 66 per cent, in the average retail price of all foods and groceries’ since 1911, and the increase since that year of 68 per cent, in the average of all Commonwealth and State basic wages. These two facts prove conclusively that housewives are much better off to-day under the sugar agree ment, because it provides sugar at a far cheaper price than in 1911, relative to the average price of all other foods and groceries and to their husbands’ wages,. Nevertheless, it is a fair argument to contend that the price of sugar should be reduced, if possible, despite the favorable aspects just enumerated. On that point,. I may say that the latest annual report, of the Queensland Commissioner of Taxesshows that 81.3 per cent, of all sugarcanegrowers have a net taxable income too lowto render them liable to pay any income tax at all.
– That information is available to the honorable senator.
– The Minister should supply it.
– This is not a kindergarten class. The honorable senator can obtain the figures if he so desires.
Although a reduction of the present retail price of sugar by id. per lb. would render bankrupt many cane-growers and reduce production considerably, there would probably be a substantial number of growers still able to produce .Australia’s sugar requirements, and perhaps a small surplus for export. Would any far-sighted Australian citizen accept with favour the consequences? Our present exports of raw- sugar are worth about £6,000,000 per annum, thus providing equivalent export credits of considerable value to Australia, especially under present conditions. A marked reduction of these exports would also reduce our exportcredits. The resultant decreased income from sugar would similarly reduce sugar producers’ purchases of a comprehensive range of Australian products, which are obtained principally from the southern States. Moreover, some thousands of canegrowers and workers engaged on farms, and in mills and transport would lose their present means of earning a living, and thus the unemployment problem would be intensified.
I emphasize that the estimated average return for all raw sugar of standard quality during the last four seasons has ranged from £15 2s. 2d. to £15 14s. 3d. a ton, as against an average of £15 6s. for 1913 and 1914, when wages, rates and other costs were much lower than at present. The. return was £30. 6s. 8d. a ton from 1920 to 1922; £27 and £26 for the next two years; and in subsequent years, owing to increasing export surpluses, from £24 down to £15 14s. 3d. for 1939. Since the outbreak of war the increase of the producers’ net return on exported raw sugar has already been largely counteracted by increased costs of all production, due to higher rates of wages and the effect of war conditions on the freight rates and prices of sacks, fertilizers, and many other items. The Government has carefully considered all of these important factors, and is quite satisfied that a renewal of the present sugar agreement at current selling prices for sugar for domestic consumption constitutes a fair deal to both producers and consumers. Perhaps, at this stage, I should make it clear that the sugar agreement is a document which relates only to peace-time conditions. This being the case, the Commonwealth is precluded under the Constitution from fixing in the agreement the prices to be charged by retail grocers to domestic consumers. That power is reserved to each of the States. In times of “national emergency” - that is war - the Commonwealth can fix, or control selling prices by legislation based on section 51 (vi) of the Commonwealth Constitution. Such power has been taken during the present war by regulations issued under the National Security Act. The’ retail price of sugar is thus not relevant to the bill now before the Senate. I may say, however, that the Commonwealth Prices Commission has under consideration requests by various retail grocers’ associations for retailers to be allowed to obtain a larger gross profit on sugar by increasing the present capital city price from 4d. to 4Jd. per lb.
In the new sugar agreement provision has been made for the principle of uniform sugar prices in State capital cities and Launceston to be applied as from the 1st September, 1941, to Darwin, a3 the capital of the Northern Territory. The Government recently became aware that the retail price of refined sugar in Darwin is 5£d. per lb. as against 4d. in State capital, cities, thus giving Darwin grocers an extravagant gross profit on their landed costs, equal to three timesthe profit in State capitals. Under the new sugar agreement, Darwin retailers will receive sugar from Brisbane or Sydney as from the 1st September, 1941, at the prices charged to retailers in State capital cities, and they have undertaken to reduce the retail price correspondingly. Apart from this, it is hoped that some reduction of the present retail price at Darwin will be effected in the near future.
I have already referred to the new terms for the wholesale discount on sugar to operate as from the 1st September, 1940. When the present sugar agreement was under consideration in 1935, the Government attempted to restore, as nearly as possible, equal and fair conditions of trade amongst all wholesalers and all retailers respectively. For some years prior to 1935, there was considerable discountcutting by numerous wholesalers, which injured other wholesalers, and which the Federal Wholesale Merchants Association wished the Government to suppress. This discount-cutting and other unauthorized concessions, such as cartage rebates, benefited many chain stores and other large retailers, whose gross profits consequently were larger than those of their competitors. On the other hand, retail grocers’ associations urged that the wholesale discount should be made available to any group of retailers.
The Government was confronted with two possible solutions of the problem - first, to prevent wholesalers from giving away any of the discount, or making any other unauthorized con- cessions, thus ensuring that all retailers would buy sugar at - the same price; or, secondly, to make the discount available to any group of retailers with the same object in view. Having in mind the great degree to which country storekeepers are dependent upon wholesale merchants for credit - in many cases banks and other financial institutions are unwilling to render aid - the Government chose the first solution, and confined the sugar discount of 2 per cent, to any persons, firms, or corporations who, or which, in the opinion of the Queensland Sugar Board, whose decision would be final and conclusive -
This plan, it will be noted, gave dictatorial and unrestricted power to the Queensland Sugar Board to deprive any wholesaler of the discount, if the board had reasonable ground for believing that the wholesaler was acting improperly. No direct evidence, but only reasonable belief, was necessary; and no aggrieved wholesaler could take any effective action through a court against an adverse decision of the board. Wholesalers’ associations asked for such a plan, believing that it alone would succeed in abolishing discount-cutting and other improper practices. Nevertheless, the Government has since had constant complaints from reputable wholesalers, alleging continued discount-cutting, and is aware from retailers and other sources that this practice is fairly general. The Queensland Sugar Board has felt obliged to seek, or await, at least some tangible proof of discount-cutting, but states that it has received no such proof. This is rather to be expected, seeing that the accounts and records of defaulting wholesalers are most unlikely to reveal evidence concerning the matter. Nor are the beneficiaries of the rebates, the retailers, likely to admit the receipt of them, because that could only result in their losing the rebates.
The present position is, therefore, that the wholesale discount experiment in the current sugar agreement has failed. Many retailers, principally some chain stores and larger individual retail grocers, are buying sugar at less than the price paid by most of their competitors, and are thus receiving larger gross profits. Moreover, an anomalous position exists, under which a few retailer-wholesalers and co-operative farmers’ associations or companies, who receive wholesale dis counts on almost every commodity except sugar, are excluded from the sugar discount, whilst exactly similar, or nearly similar, concerns have been receiving the sugar discount for many years or have been added to the list during the last few years. The evolution of trade has resulted in all wholesalers selling nearly all of their sugar in the capital cities for cash, credit thus being practically nonexistent. Where such wholesalers do not cater for country trade, they cannot be regarded as complying with paragraph c of the present conditions. Indeed, a discount of 2 per cent. is too large for such virtually brokerage transactions, seeing that, in respect of from 80 per cent. to 90 per cent. of capital city sales, the sugar is delivered direct from the refinery to the retailer according to a list supplied to the refinery by the wholesaler.
Having regard to the various considerations which I have felt it necessary to describe at some length, and to the undesirability of further giving to the Queensland Sugar Board absolute power in a peace-time agreement, in an endeavour to operate what experience has proved to be a practically unworkable plan, the Common wealth and Queensland Governments have decided that, as from the 1st September, 1940, the wholesale discount of 2 per cent. on sugar shall be payable to any person, firm or corporation who, or which, in the opinion of the Queensland Sugar Board -
This arrangement, which defines the basic functions of a wholesale merchant, is expected to enable all existing anomalies to be adjusted. Wholesale merchants are essential in the grocery business, but the two governments consider that it should be their own affair, or the affair of their associations, as is the case in regard to practically all commodities other than sugar, to devise means of preventing their members from giving away part of the sugar discount, or other equivalent concessions on sugar orders, to retail buyers. To this end the Queensland Sugar Board may be able to co-operate with wholesalers.
Federation of Retail Grocers Associations of Australia have informed the Government of their full accord with this proposal, and certain long-established wholesale concerns have done likewise.
The only other significant aspect of the new sugar agreement embodied in the bill is the annual contribution of £216,000 per annum by the sugar industry to assist the manufactured fruits industry. This amount is the same as is provided in the current sugar agreement, but a separate undertaking has been given by the Queensland Government that the sugar industry shall make an additional contribution each year equivalent to the export rebates paid on the sugar contents, in excess of 500 tons, of jams and fruit jellies exported from Australia. The additional sum will, of course, vary in accordance with fluctuating jam exports, but it should average about £45,000 per annum.
These funds are administered by the Fruit Industry Concession Committee, which is composed of one representative from each of the following: - Commonwealth Government, Queensland Sugar Board, growers of canning fruits, growers of non-canning fruits, cooperative and State manufacturers of fruit products, and proprietary manufacturers of fruit products. The representatives of the Commonwealth Government, and the Queensland Sugar Board are chairman and deputy chairman respectively of the committee. During the first four years of the current sugar agreement, the annual amount of £216,000 has been almost sufficient to meet all the obligations of the committee and the needs of the manufactured fruits industry. The committee has admittedly received £90,000 during the last three years in the form of an annual voluntary contribution by sugar producers in respect of excess exports of jam, but it will have surplus funds of at least £60,000 at the end of its fourth year. During those four years, the committee has been able to secure for growers of fruits for canning, jam, pulping, crystallizing, cordials, &c, very satisfactory minimum prices payable by all factories in Australia. Practically all processible fruit has been taken by factories, except in respect of some jam fruits. The committee has also provided bounties where needed, on exports of all canned fruits, jams, and berry pulps, so that these exports have been profitable to manufacturers. During the last three years successive all-time record exports of canned fruits have occurred, being three times as large as the usual exports before 1931, when the committee was established. Exports of jam have increased eight-fold under the committee’s jurisdiction, and are increasing at a much greater rate since the war began. The position of the committee, and , of the. manufactured fruits industry, has been substantially improved under the new sugar agreement by the conversion of the present voluntary contribution by sugar producers on excess jam exports, which hitherto was purely optional each year, to a permanent right under the Queensland Government’s separate undertaking. The Government considers that such improvement in funds will be warranted by the volume of production and the export values of canned fruits during the period of the new sugar agreement, and that the total financial provision thus made will meet the reasonable needs of all sections of the manufactured fruits industry.
In conclusion, I should like briefly to inform honorable senators of the favoured position now enjoyed by Australia in regard to sugar as compared with our position in the last war. During the last war, Australia produced approximately only two-thirds of its requirements of sugar, and had to import, the balance from foreign countries. The A ustralian producer’s price was limited by the Commonwealth Government to amounts of £18 and £21 a ton from 1915 to 1919. Throughout this period, imported foreign sugar cost the Government considerably more than was paid to Australian producers, and in 1919 and 1920 Australia had to import approximately 230,000 tons of raw sugar, the average landed cost of which was more than £50 per ton - or substantially more than twice the rates to Australian producers. Moreover, on numerous occasions, supplies to Australian consumers were rationed and some of the foreign sugar was of a very inferior quality. Manufacturers of jam and other commodities for export were very seriously embarrassed, as were many fruit-growers who supplied their produce to the factories.
Owing to the far-sighted policy of the Commonwealth Government under the Right Honorable W. M. Hughes, the sugar industry was encouraged by the sugar agreement of 1930-22, to produce all Australia’s requirements. For that purpose, a special price for raw sugar of £30 6s. 8d. per ton was awarded, but that amount has been very considerably reduced since 1922. The final result is that Australia is now producing from 850,000 tons to 900,000’tons each year, of which 365,000 tons is required for refining for home consumption, and the balance is exported, creating credits overseas of £6,000,000 a year.
Australia is in no possible danger of a sugar shortage during the present war. Indeed, Australian exports of goods containing sugar are actually still further increasing, to the general advantage of the community and the particular advantage of the industries concerned.
I therefore commend the bill to the Senate^ believing that all honorable senators will agree that it provides equitable treatment for all sections of the community affected by sugar production and consumption.
Debate (on motion by Senator Amour) adjourned.
Sitting suspended from 4.15 to 8 p.m.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1940.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Foll) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages, for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9 being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such bills together in committee of the whole.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - There being an absolute majority of the members of the Senate present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
Bill received from the House of Representatives, and (on motion by Senator Foll) read a first time.
Debate resumed from the 14th May, 1940, (vide page 741) on motion by Senator MCBRIDE -
That the paper be printed.
– During the last few days a good deal has been heard in this chamber to which, it may bc imagined, some attempt should be made b)’ honorable senators on this side to reply. We have heard much about Communists and non-Communists, disloyalty, a national government and the failure of one party in this Parliament to agree to participate therein. J admit that the temptation to deal with these matters is fairly great, but I intend to avoid it. I am tired . of explaining the Opposition’s view on these matters. I have always believed - and to-day I am more convinced than ever before - that on such points one’s friends do not need an explnation whilst one’s enemies will not believe it anyway. Events now happening on the other side of the world create an atmosphere which, in my opinion, should make every one of us exceedingly serious in all the work we have to do in this branch of the national legislature. Honorable senators on all sides can surely give each other credit for some sort of honesty and some sort of honour. It is that thought which makes me say now that great though the temptation be to deal with these subjects, I decline in the present atmosphere to succumb to it.
I propose to say something about the financial proposals of the Government in this time of serious stress. I preface my remarks simply with the observation that in the criticism I propose to offer I have in mind only one thought, namely, what is. best for Australia. We heard the statement by the Assistant Minister, and we have also received, copies of the Treasurer’s more detailed financial statement. In this document the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) said that a threefold task confronted the Government. On a previous occasion I said that the Government is confronted with a twofold task.. The Treasurer has gone one better, but, incidentally, he does not include in his three points that which I gave as my second point. The Treasurer detailed the threefold task confronting the- Government as -
First, to prosecute the war with all the force at ite command-
We on this side agree entirely with that view -
This involved, incidentally, various emergency measures which had to be taken for the preservation of both internal and external trade stability. Controls had also to be established to promote the progressive organization of our resources for war -
Secondly, to increase our war potential by raising to their maximum the general levels of income, employment and production.
Thirdly, to take a longer view of the whole period of the war to the phase of reconstruction beyond.
With this outlook, it was determined to reduce interest rates, keep the growth of public debt to a minimum, maintain essential development, and, above all. avoid a cumulative rise of costs and prices.
The task confronting the Government could not be more clearly set out. I say with all respect that the more I analyse the statement of those three points, the more I atn convinced that the Government has failed entirely in respect of each one of them. That is a serious statement to make. I believe that the Government is doing its best to carry out the first of these tasks, but I do not believe that it is using all of the forces at its command. Indeed, some of the most important forces are being left entirely unused. We have in Australia at the moment probably not less than 250;000 men unemployed. Of that number, it would be fair to say that at least 160,000 are capable of doing work, and are anxious and willing to get on with the job. However, we have nothing to offer them at the moment. As. to the second task - that we must increase our war potential by raising to their maximum the general levels of income, employment and production - I can only say that this has not been done.. We have no evidence that the Government is attempting to do anything in this direction. As to the reduction of interest rates, keeping the growth of public debt to a minimum, maintaining essential development, and avoiding a cumulative rise of costs and prices, not one of these things has been done. As a matter of fact, as I hope to show in my subsequent remarks, the very opposite has been accomplished.
I propose now to deal with the Government’s taxation proposals. I shall approach this subject in a general way, because when the actual proposals are before the Senate we shall be able in committee to concentrate on the particular proposals themselves. Let us see what budgetary steps the Government has taken. The Treasurer says, among other things -
The pressing problem has been the conservation of non-sterling exchange. Control of exports has also been necessary to preserve resources for local requirements.
That ought to he done; but how is the job being tackled? Let us look at the facts with regard to imports and exports. According to the Treasurer, our overseas expenditure in connexion with the war in the next financial year will be £35,000,000. The Government has already floated a loan of £6,000,000 in London. If there is one thing to which we on this side object it is borrowing abroad. We object, of course, to the general trend of the Government’s financial policy. I shall have something to say later about the opportunity that is now presentedto useour national credit to a far greater degree than the Government is apparently prepared to use it, or even to visualize. In tire meantime, I should like to deal with our financial position overseas. Inaddition to the flotation of the £6,000,000 loan in London, the Government has received temporary accommodation from the United Kingdom Government to enable it to carry on, and meet its commitments until December next. The statement which is now. under discussion, and the more detailed statement given by the Treasurer (Mr. Spender), say nothing whatever about the manner in which that temporary accommodation is tobe met, or as to the financing of future commitments: I say emphatically that my opinion, and that of all members of the Opposition, is that the external situation is more complex than the internal one which the Government’s proposals appear to have covered reasonably well at the moment: The external debt can be financed only by borrowing in London, or by an excess of exports over imports. This isnot a new problem. It is a more urgent problem at the moment because of our defence requirements, and the increased financial provision which will have to be made; but other governments ofthis country have had to face exactly the same quandary, which, briefly stated, is how best to convert an unfavorable trade balance into a favorable one. There was one Commonwealth Government which took heroic measures to rectify that position-measures which this Government; could very well afford to imitate, andno doubt would imitate if it werenot f or its political pride, or perhaps its utter incapacity to understand the situation and the remedy.
– More exports?
– Yes, more exports. If I were a supporter of the Government, I would not feel inclined to say too much about that. To-day Australia has an abundance of commodities for export, and they could be sent to the people who need them and can afford to pay for them,had itnot been for the action of a government of the same political complexion as the one now occupying the treasury bench, in ignoring advice offered by the Labour party, and selling the Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers. The honorable senator brings to my mind the utter failure of the Government to make provision for Australian shipbuilding; the folly of selling the ships which the Commonwealth owned; and manyother things which, in my opinion, deserve repeated emphasis, even though their reiteration becomes a little tiresome.
The position so far as the London fund is concerned is that Australia has about £56,000,000to cover all of its commitments. That is the lowest amount since the depression. Approximately £27,000,000 isneeded every year for interest on Commonwealth, State and local government borrowings, and at the moment just about double thatamount is required. It is true that some restrictions have been placed on imports from nonsterling countries, and it is known that the professedly patriotic importersof this country are continually wailing and beseeching the Government- they are friends of the Government - because of the inconvenience and the loss of profit caused to them by the restriction of imports. I tell the Government that there is no way out, with regard to this external need, other than resort to heroic measures. Not only imports fromnonsterlirig countries, but also imports from sterling countries must be restricted. It is of no use to say that this cannot be done, because if it is not done Australia will be in a pdsifiori which I hate to contemplate, because ofall that it portends for the future after this war is over.
The Treasurer said he was fearful of inflation of prices owing to expansion of credit through the banking system. These are old words; we have heard them often before. If they are dissected we find that all they mean is that the Treasurer eitherisnot prepared, or is unable, to control prices,andthathe is unableto trust those who manipulate prices, rig themarkets, and do a hundred and one other things, the result of which is that the cost of living, in spite of the activities ofthe price-fixing commission and it’s deputiesin the various States, is going up by leaps andbounds at a time when the workers are being told that they will have to agree to dilution of labour, and Lengthening of hours without any increase of wages.
– That is not borne out by the Statistician’s figures.
– 1 propose to back up my arguments with facts. Let us examine for a moment what the Treasurer said with regard to employment. His statements are interesting to me because, as I have said on many occasions before, I have had long experience. I have been through the whole gamut of the system by which industry, wealth production, and distribution are organized, and every one of my experiences was bitter indeed. The Treasurer has said that total employment, which previously had been falling, had increased month by month from August last year up to the present, in spite of severe shocks to business in the early months of this year. He said that that fact was a tribute to the Government’s administration. The Treasurer is either very innocent or he thinks that we are, because when his statement is analysed it is an admission that his Government was in complete control of this National Parliament over the period during which, on his own admission, employment was falling. He cannot have it both ways. Employment was falling while his Government was in control; it is now rising while his Government is in control.
– Employment has been rising ever since this Government has been in control.
– .Senator Wilson is one of those gullible innocents from South Australia who, without intelligent dissection or inquiry, swallow anything that the Government likes to offer. I am quoting the Treasurer’s own words. He said that month by month from August of last year up to the present, in spite of shocks to business in the early months of this year, employment which previously had been falling has since been increasing. I am not arguing about the truth of this statement. I claim that he is telling the truth. Apparently it is only ‘his ardent supporter, Senator Wilson, who denies what the Treasurer has said.
The Treasurer should be honest and admit that the only reason*, why employment is rising to-day are, first, because of the vastly increased expenditure on defence, and, secondly ? because of the great volume of commodities exported and the more rapid payment which the primary producers are receiving for them. Both these things are entirely incidental to the war. The Government was not responsible for bringing the war on, so why should it claim credit for the rise in employment with so much unctuous satisfaction? Obviously a long war is visualized. If that is the prospect we have to face, and there is no way of preventing a decline of employment except so long as this country is capable of finding these vast sums for expenditure on war, the outlook is bad indeed. The unemployment returns by trade unions show a steady increase of unemployment between February, 1938, and August, 1939. These figures are not my own; they are supplied hy the Commonwealth Statistician, who is paid by the Commonwealth Government not to put out political propaganda hut to tell the truth about matters which come under his scrutiny. The Statistician’s figures show that unemployment increased from 8 per cent, in February, 1938, to 10.4 per cent, in August, 1939, and the average for the year 1938-39 was 1.1 per cent, higher than the average for the previous year 1937^38, which was the best year since the peak period of 1931-32. I hope honorable senators will understand what I am driving at. As I have said, the Treasurer claimed that at one stage employment was falling, and I point out that that was while the Government of which he is a member .was in power. The honorable gentleman says that employment is now rising; once again I point out that that is happening while his Government is in control. Employment is rising now. not because of the Government’s financial genius or its capacity to provide for the future and ensure that we shall not get into those ever-recurring troughs of depression, but because there is & war on; and God knows what the state of employment would have been had not the people been persuaded by the legislators of this country that the war is the serious matter which we all know it to be. When the Government starts to talk about unemployment, it is my job and the job of every member of the Opposition to show that, to put it mildly, the Government does not know what it is talking about.
SenatorFoll. - If the honorable senator accepts the Commonwealth Statistician’s figures with regard to unemployment why does he not accept them with regard to the cost of living?
– That is a very reasonable question. No doubt the Minister will have an opportunity to reply to the speech which I am delivering. I suggest that if he has some statistics which refute my arguments - not arguments which he puts up merely to knock down - I shall be prepared to listen to him and make a public apology should he prove that I am wrong. He must, however, deal with what I am saying and not with what he thinks I ought to have said.
In regard to the banking position the Treasurer made a very erudite statement -
The favorable change which has taken place from Septemberto March is due mainly to (a) better export prices and more rapid payment to producers for their exports, (b) increased defence expenditure financed directly or indirectly through the banking system.
That is only repeating what I have said. He said further - .
The effect of this improved liquidity-
I must admit I do not know what he means, but it sounds nice - has been that the banks have been able to support a continuous business extension and at the same time make substantial contributions to Government loans. It is obvious, therefore, that the apparent prosperity and business extension is dependent upon the existence and continuance of a state of war. Better export prices and rapid payment to producers are both due to the temporary (and what would be in ordinary times artificial ) measures which have been taken to meet the war situation. The increased defence expenditure also, ofcourse, is a direct result of the war.
My comment on that is that it is apparent that the prosperity of business is dependent on the existence and continuance of a state of war, and nothing more. That is something which I invite the Minister to controvert with statistics. The Treasurer himself admits that what I am saying is true. In other words it means that there is no hope for this country; no chance of proper development; no chance of mobilizing our raw material and man-power in the interests of the nation except while the war continues. I deny that emphatically. I say that we can have prosperity in this country, we can finance our war commitments, and we can prevent a depression after the war if only the Government will get away from its orthodox method of finance, which if continued, will ruin this and every other country. The day for orthodoxy in finance has passed, but apparently this Government has not awakened to that fact. Eventually we shall be forced to get our heads out of the sand and abandon this ostrich-like attitude - the ignoring of facts which should be apparent to even the meanest intelligence. Let us look for a few moments at the list of our future requirements. I accept the figures which the Treasurer has given in his financial statement with regard to our war commitments for the next twelve months. I note also that he warns us that the proposals submitted are only temporary, and do not include provision for heavy war expenditure overseas. Let us see what this Government has proposed to do in borrowing and taxation. The Treasurer has told us, and I do not dispute his statement, that £50,000,000 is the maximum amount which can be borrowed for war purposes between now and the end of June, 1941. He says further that this amount, with additional taxes amounting to £20,000,000 will increase the total war liability of the Commonwealthto £70,000,000 in that period. We on this side hope that the Government will get the money, though we do not agree with the methods to be employed for raising it. We say that the Government should seek an expansion of credit through the Commonwealth Bank and we believe that it could make more extensive use of this method without endangering the financial stability of the nation. We have to remember that the circumstances at the beginning of this war are entirely different from those existing at the beginning of the Great War in 1914-18. The public debt of the Commonwealth and the States then amounted to £329,000,000. To-day it totals £1,295,000,000- four times greater than the public debt at the beginning of the last war. Surely it is agreed that, with a public debt of such dimensions, it will not be so easy now to raise money by public loans as it was in 1914-18, when the total Commonwealth debt was only £300,000,000? I am afraid that the Government has overlooked this significant fact. I know, of course, that any protest which We on this side may make with respect to war finance will be so much time wasted, because the Government has no intention of taking notice of our warnings. It is high time that the Ministry realized the seriousness of the position. The issue involved is not Labour’s financial policy as compared with the policy of the Government. The plain fact is that it is a physical impossibility for the government of a country having a population of only 7,000,000 to go on indefinitely increasing the public debt by £1,000,000,000 every quarter of a century. This business of piling up our public debt must stop sooner or later, and it might as well stop now. I am well aware, of course, that, from the Government’s point of view, the situation calls for the imposition of higher taxes. At the moment the incidence of taxation is heavier in some quarters than it was during the last war, but in some quarters also it is not so heavy as it ought to be. May I say here, in parenthesis as it were, that I do not wish any honorable senators supporting the Government to charge me and my colleagues with the desire to “ soak “ the rich. We know very well that whilst “ soaking “ the rich may be entirely sound and safe up to a certain point, there comes a stage at which that policy will defeat itself, because taxation beyond a recognized capacity to bear it will stop the wheels of industry and make our last state worse than our first.
The Government proposes to impose new forms of taxes on companies for the purpose of getting additional revenue from this source. I have noticed that whenever discussion takes place on this subject and whenever the incidence of taxation in Queensland is mentioned, our political opponents, by interjections which evidence their ignorance of the subject, tell us that Queensland is the most highly-taxed State in the Com- monwealth. That, of course, is not true, and I take this opportunity to say a word in defence of the State which I assist to represent in this chamber. It is true that in Queensland incomes in excess of £1,000 a year are taxed more heavily than in any other part of Australia. I am proud of that fact. But it is also true that in Queensland, incomes below £1,000 a year are taxed more lightly than in any other State. I invite the Assistant Minister for Commerce (Senator McBride) to turn to the Commonwealth Statistician for the figures, and try to knock that one over.
Queensland taxation authorities leave the municipal councils to deal with the lower incomes;
-I do not agree with the honorable senator, but since he has mentioned the part played by municipal bodies in Queensland I take this opportunity to say that the Brisbane City Councilj which no doubt the honorable Senator had in mind, is administering the largest municipal area in the world. It has the widest charter of any municipality in the world, and it administers such functions as lighting, water supply, transport and sewerage, which usually are conducted by separate authorities. It is true that Brisbane has its £1,000,000 city hall; but I and other Queenslanders take some pride in the fact that, unlike the building which houses the Commonwealth Parliament, it has been well constructed, and we do not have the spectacle of plaster falling from the ceiling at frequent intervals owing to” jerry building “ which was so rife in Canberra in its early days. We have also had something tosay on many occasions about the Brisbane Post Office, which is a standing disgrace to the Commonwealth Government. I am afraid that it will be a standing disgrace for many years, because a long time will elapse before any money will be available for other’ than the Commonwealth war activities. But I am digressing. The Government is proposing something with regard to the company taxation. The war-timecompanytax, it is estimated, will yield an additional revenue of £5,300,000 of which £4,250,000 will be collected in this financial year. The Government also expectsto obtain £575,000 from thetax on undistributed profits,of which £450,000 will bc collected in this financial year. From time to time. I take the trouble to read the financial columns of a number of leading Australian newspapers, and I have been impressed by the generally expressed opinion that the Government has dealt very lightly with some companies which show profits amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. I could suggest to the Government a very easy way of getting from these wealthy concerns a much larger proportion of tax revenue than is proposed.
We are told that the rates of income tax on individuals are to be increased, and it is expected to get an additional £3,000,000 from this source in the next financial year. If there is one form of tax of which I approve it is the tax on incomes, but I distinguish between incomes earned and incomes received. I point out that the Government is not doing the right thing in this regard. T consider this the most vulnerable aspect of the Government’s tax proposals.
I invite honorable senators to examine, the methods proposed by the Government for’ raising an increased amount of £1,500,000 from the land tax in this financial year. Stated in that bald fashion, people unfamiliar with the true position would believe that the Government proposes to raise an additional £1,500,000 by means of the tax on land. I do not wish to be charged with unfair criticism of the Government’s proposals, but these are the facts with regard to the land tax: In 1932- 33 the Lyons Government reduced the rate of tax by one-third, the amount remitted totalling £825,000. In 1933-34 it made a further reduction of 16$ per cent., representing a further remission of £500,000. Tn 1934-35, the two previous reductions were increased to a total reduction of 50. per cent. ; in other words, from 1932 to 1935 the land tax was halved. Tn. 1934-35, the total reduction was £1,281,000; in 1935-36, £1,327,000; in 1936-37, £1,435,000; in 1937-38, £1,368,000, and in 1938-39, £1,144,000. The total remission in seven years was £8,705,000. What a different complexion those figures put on the boast of the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) that the Government proposes to take an extra £1,500,000 in land tax in the next twelve months! The Government merely proposes to take back a sum equivalent to one year’s reduction. Who pays the land tax? The totals of improved and unimproved land values are approximately the same, yet the city land-owners pay two-thirds of the land tax, which serves to prove that the owners of city land, which is subject to the federal land tax, are wealthy persons holding lands of great value.
– Mostly companies.
– Exactly ; the companies to whom the Government has made a present of £8,700,000 in the last seven years. Yet the Government makes a claim to righteousness for the re-imposition to the amount of £1,500,000 of a tax that in previous years had been remitted. The Opposition may be expected to throw its hat into the air and cheer, but it keeps before its eyes the eloquent figures of earlier concessions to wealthy city landlords. No struggling farmer pays federal land tax, because of the exemption of land not having an unimproved value in excess of £5,000. On a property valued at £20,000, with improvements valued at £8,000, the tax in 1932 would have been £16 a year, whilst in respect of a property valued at £8,000, with improvements amounting to £3,000, no tax would have been payable. The people who will benefit mostare the banking institutions, whose city properties are increasing in value to a remarkable degree, the insurance companies, the shipping and commercial companies, the land mortgage companies, and the great city proprietary stores. The Opposition has protested strongly against remissions of the land tax.
– We do not wish in one budget to dry up all of our reservoirs.
– Does the Minister imply that these wealthy companies and the stock-broking firms, will be “ soaked “ more heavily next year ?
– Every one of them wil.1 be “soaked”.
– I do not believe it. In the last analysis the principal sufferers’ will be the section of the people whom the Opposition represents.
A worker with a taxable income of £350 a year will have to “pay a 5 per cent, increase of tax under the present proposals of the Government. On a taxable income of £400 a year, the increase of tax will be 66 per cent., and on an income of £500, it will be 25 per cent. When the taxable income rises to £4,000 a year, the increase will drop to 2.7 per cent., and on £5,000 a year to 1.7 per cent. ‘ As we go up the scale we see how the magnanimity of the Government is extended to its friends. When the income reaches £10,000 a year, the increase is 3.7 per cent., and at £40,000 a year the taxpayer is let off with an increase of 3 per cent.
– Will the honorable senator state the amount of tax each of these classes pays in the £1?
– What counts is not what a man pays in tax, but how much he has left when the Government has finished with him. I should not object to the Government taking in this time of national emergency £39,000 from a person who earned £40,000 a year, because he would still be left with £20 a week on which to live. In this national emergency I should not shed any tears over action of that kind. To take two extremes, a man with a taxable income of £400 a year will pay 66 per cent, more tax next year than he did last year, but on an income of £40,000 a year the extra tax will amount to a mere 3 -per cent This is nothing short of a financial confidence trick.
A fundamental principle of honest taxation is that the burden should be placed fairly and equitably on the shoulders best able to bear it, but the Government is doing the very opposite. From the ranks of the poor it will draw t lie blood, as well as much of the treasure, necessary for the conduct of the war. Lt was stated in this chamber yesterday that I have been unfair in remarking that S3 per cent, of the volunteers for service overseas come from the homes of the workers. It was made to appear that I had suggested that no volunteers for military service have come from the homes of the well-to-do; but I said nothing of the kind. I know men in my own State, and in my own town, who have volunteered, and whose parents are wealthy. What I did say is perfectly true. I pointed out that 85 per cent, of the fighting forces abroad ave drawn from the homes of the working classes. I refer not only to manual toilers, but also to whitecollar men who work in offices. In brief,
I referred to the income taxpayers in the lower grades,- and, in the last analysis, those who escape the penalty of the supreme sacrifice will be called upon to provide by their toil the wherewithal to enable the government of the country to be carried on. The war loans will be subscribe mainly by the well-to-do people, and the Government is making them free of Commonwealth income tax. There is need for ever-increasing revenue, yet the Government restricts the taxable field by continuing tax-free loans. Thi; whole thing is so serious that it is a tragedy. I become more and more amazed, as time goes on, at the tolerance of the Opposition and the fatuity of the Government’s action which, we are told, is inevitable.
I now wish to refer to the sales tax in respect of which nine bills were introduced into the Senate to-night. The Treasurer said that it is anticipated that during 1940-41 this tax will yield £18,000,000. The Opposition in this chamber does not believe that indirect taxes should be imposed if they can be avoided. The Government has a perfect right to raise revenue by direct taxation, but when it gives an account of its stewardship it must show why it needs the money, and the way in which the revenue is to be expended. The raising of £18,000,000 in this financial year by means of the sales tax, is grossly unjus-because it is upon those in receipt of the lower incomes that practically all of this impost will fall. I give credit for what has been done in removing the sales tax from a number of commodities, including foodstuffs, all of which, of course, have to be purchased by the poorer sections of the community. But surely the Government will not claim any credit for removing the tax from the necessaries of life
– The Scullin Government did not do that.
– Surely Senator McBride does not claim that the Government did anything wonderful in removing the tax from foodstuffs. Neglect to do so would have been the last act of financial rascality.
– Who first imposed the sales tax?
– Any attempt which I might make to explain anything to Senator Dein would be merely “ casting pearls “. If the Government proposes to raise £18,000,000 this year from the sales tax, surely it should ‘ remove the flour tax. If the amount then available should be insufficient to afford relief in the direction in which it is now being afforded, the money required should come from the sales tax. The Government has no right to impose a flour tax when it expects to receive £18,000,000 from the sales tax, because the former has to be paid by those on the lower grades of income. I object strongly to the tremendous difference between the amount received in direct taxation and that received in indirect taxation. We have been informed that the increase of customs and excise duties will give to the Government an additional £5,300,000. The moment a person enters a store and buys goods the Government places its hands in both his pockets and he is actually robbed. That cannot be done in connexion with the income tax. The Government favours indirect taxation because the income taxpayer knows exactly what is being taken from him by direct taxation. I have no objection to the income tax, because I know the amount I have to pay. If I have a taxable income I do not mind contributing the amount the tax-gatherer demands. That is a fair way in which to tax the people. Senator Dein asked by interjection who was responsible in the first instance for the imposition of the sales tax. I know perfectly well by what government it was imposed and why such a tax was necessary. At that time a war was not in progress, and money could not be extracted from the pockets of the people as readily as it can be taken to-day. Although we were not then engaged in an international conflict, an internal war was in progress. [Extension of time granted.’] When the Treasurer speaks of the undesirability of expanding bank credits because of the fear of inflation and consequent increase of prices, he makes me smile, because at present the Government has an overdraft of £21.000,000 in connexion with the acquisition of wheat, and no one is saying a word about inflation or expansion of credit.
– Does the honorable senator believe in unlimited credit?
– Do I. appear to be one of those simple individuals who can be led up the garden path and left there? The Treasurer estimates that the additional revenue to be obtained from taxes this financial year will be £20,000,000, of which £10,300,000 will be the proceeds of indirect taxes, and £9,700,000 from direct taxes. For reasons which I have already given, the figures ought to be the other way round, and even then they would not be very attractive. I again remind the Government that indirect taxes are paid largely by those in receipt of small incomes. I now wish to cite a paragraph which appeared in that reliable paper - the Canberra Times.
– The honorable senator has not always referred to that newspaper in that way.
– I do not think that any one has ever heard me speak disparagingly of the Canberra Times. At least, it is not a syndicate newspaper, and at times it tells the Government some home truths. The paragraph reads -
The Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland,has received complaints regarding substantial increases in the price of fuel stoves and primus stoves in Sydney.
I was in Sydney when the restrictions on the use of gas and electricity were imposed, and I saw housewives raiding stores for primus and methylated spirit stoves, which, 24 hours after the restrictions were imposed, were unobtainable. The paragraph continued -
The investigations show that as a result of the heavy demand all stocks of stoves had been cleared, and traders were selling new stocks which had been landed at a higher price. Inquiries disclosed that the landed cost increased the price by60 per cent. as compared with the pre-war price, but he reminded traders that their price must be based on landed costs plus a normal profit margin.
He knew perfectly well that a lot of old stock was sold at inflated prices.
– That is not correct.
– I have great respect for the Assistant Minister, but I know how easily he would be deceived if he met the thimble and pea man at the corner of the street. If he believes that old stocks were not sold at the prices of new stocks he is too credulous for this hard world.
It is sad, depressing and highly discreditable that members of the Senate should think that the people can be deceived by sophistry such as that contained in the financial statement now before the Senate. I am not opposing the appropriation of the amount proposed to be sought - we have not done so since the outbreak of war - but the Government is faced with one of the most serious problems which any government has had to solve. The war has to be fought and won, and financial provision has to be made, not only for the present but also for the future. The whole problem appears to me one that could easily be solved and understood; but I know that it is not understood by this Government, which adheres to the orthodox methods of finance. The members of the Government are not heartless and soulless, but they are totally ignorant of the problem confronting them. They know that prices of commodities cannot be raised without the cost of living also being raised. The Government knows that the cost of living is increasing. Recently I cited detailed figures showing the degree to which the prices of ordinary commodities required by the community every day have increased.
– Extraordinary requirements.
– No, ordinary requirements. The prices of every-day commodities are increasing rapidly, and with an increase of the sales tax and customs and excise duties, further increases can be expected. We hear from time to time of contractors who fail to fulfil their obligations and of miners and others who strike for improved conditions. It was said last night that honorable senators on this side of the chamber have not done anything to bring about a settlement of the coal strike. Those who made such statements knew that they were not in accordance with facts, because in Sydney to-day members of the Opposition in both Houses of this Parliament a re using all the power at their command to bring this unfortunate dispute to a satisfactory conclusion. We have to remember that we are here to protect and serve those who have only their labour-power to sell; the full burden has to be borne by them. We are also told that we cannot have arbitration when it suits us and discard it when it does not. I should like my friends opposite to remember that any award made by any arbitrator in this country - where the system has been developed more successfully than in any other country - is broken immediately it is made by the people who supply the commodities which the people must have in order to live. When the court awards an increase of wages of, say, 5s. a week, the landlord and the supplier of commodities immediately - not next week or the week after - nullify that contract by progressively taking back that increase from the worker. It may be said that the worker’s standard of living is raised a little, because whereas he previously paid; 9d. for an article he can now purchase a better one for1s. 6d. Very soon, however, he is back to “ taws “, and his struggle to secure a decent standard remains just as severe. In spite of these facts, however, honorable senators opposite still indulge in sophistry on this subject.
I thank honorable senators for granting me an extension of time. I conclude as I began, by saying that in every remark I have made to-night I have endeavoured to reply to the question which I asked myself when I was preparing my speech : What is best for Australia? This war must end some day. Every 24 hours, whether it brings discouraging or encouraging news, must obviously bring 24- hours nearer the conclusion of the present struggle.I hope, and I am sure every honorable senator hopes as fervently asI do, that the war will be brought to a. successful conclusion. By that I mean that the democratic principles for which we stand as part of the British Commonwealth of Nations will eventually emerge triumphant from this struggle. Each of us has a great responsibility to see that in the fight that must be put up for the preservation of our democratic ideals, we do not allow ourselves to be stampeded into a course of government conduct, financial or otherwise, which would destroy those ideals in our own country, with the result that, even though we won the war, we lost the peace. Those ideals are worth fighting for. When the war ends, defence expenditure will cease. Yet there is nothing in the Government’s proposals, or in the Treasurer’s financial statement, to show that the Government is aware of the tremendous depression that will then descend upon this community. Let me point out what will happen. An immediate and incessant demand will be made for an increase of wages in order to enable the worker to catch up the time lag which always occurs between cost of living and wages. An immediate and incessant demand will be made for developmental works to be undertaken with the object of not only decreasing unemployment, or preventing its increase, but also carrying on the ordinary development which is so essential to this young nation. We shall be told then - there is not the slightest doubt about it - that we are practically bankrupt, because of our tremendous expenditure on war. We shall be told that we must be satisfied, that wc cannot have new schools or new hospitals.
– I do not think that the honorable senator’s forecast is very reliable.
– Well, we had a serious depression from 1929 to 1932.
– That ‘depression was not the result of war.
– It was the result of bur having to pay for four years’ destruction of wealth. . We cannot have our cake and eat it; too, even in this glorious country. Flamboyant statements were made in this chamber not so long ago that we had emerged from the valley of depression on to the sunlit hills of prosperity. Where are the sunlit hills of prosperity? Look at the congestion in our public hospitals in Sydney and Melbourne to-day. Only in to-day’s press, appears a picture of a baby being bathed in an enamel basin which was the only bath left available for infants in the biggest public hospital in Sydney because of serious overcrowding. That was the only facility which could be provided, in that huge institution for the bathing of an innocent infant, who had not asked to be born into this world, and who is in no way responsible for war or the evil sys tem under which we live. I am emphasizing what will happen in this country at the conclusion of this conflict as the result of our huge war expenditure. When thai day comes, honorable senators opposite will not say that the internal war about which I spoke a fortnight ago - the war against unemployment, poverty, economic insecurity, over-crowding in our schools and hospitals, and neglect of health and physical and mental culture - evils which are evident to some degree even in this glorious city of Canberra - must be fought. On the contrary, we shall be told that nothing can be done to wage that war. We are behind the Government in its prosecution of the external war, and we shall do everything in our power to help it in that effort, but honorable senators opposite will not help us to fight the internal war either now or when the present conflict ends.
– Does not the honorable senator think that he would be an acquisition to the Government? Let him be honest.
-Senator Dein has attempted to spoil my concluding remarks. I am beginning to think that he believes that I would be an acquisition to the Government. However, I have long felt confident that the honorable senator would not be such an acquisition, and I do not like his chances of being taken into the Government.
Let me reiterate what I have already said. A depression greater than any which honorable senators opposite have ever visualized is ahead of us; yet the Treasurer’s financial statement does not contain one ray of hope concerning it. If the Assistant Minister (Senator McBride) had been through the shadows of depression as I have been through them at various stages of my life, and had experienced the hardship, toil, low wages and rotten industrial conditions which I have experienced, he would not be so flippant ‘in dealing with this subject. It is not a matter of pessimism, but a matter of hard, cold, physical fact. We cannot spend £100,000,000 this year, and more next year, and go on destroying wealth, and, at the same time, escape paying for it. It has to be paid for, and when that day of reckoning dawns I shall remind honorable senators, if I am fortunate enough to be still a member of this chamber, of my remarks to-night. I know that my prediction will be proved true. When that day comes honorable senators opposite, or their political successors, will say that our resources have been exhausted, and that the demand which I now make for the settlement of t he internal war cannot be met. We shall not then have the help of those honorable senators. Neither they nor their political predecessors have given their help in the past in that direction, and we do not expect it from them in the future. We lave at least obeyed the Prime Minister’s injunction to carry on business as usual; but business has not been carried on as usual. We know that prices are rising higher and higher. The right honorable gentleman also said that he did not want a muzzled Opposition. The only reason why the Labour party will not participate in the formation of a national government is because we believe that we can best discharge our responsibility and fulfil our duty to this nation by remaining as a virile Opposition, prepared to offer honest and sincere, though devastating, criticism of the Government’s proposals.
– I congratulate -the Government upon the foundation which it has laid for the very heavy taxation that has now to be borne in order to enable us to prosecute our war effort. All sections of the community have received this budget with the conviction that although the taxation is extraordinarily heavy it represents a burden which every person must willingly carry if we are to put forward our maximum effort. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) said that he did not want it to be understood that he was advocating a policy of “ soaking” the rich. He said that he fully appreciated that there were limits to the imposition of taxes on higher incomes. 1 believe, and I think that every honorable senator believes, that the broadest shoulders should carry the greatest share of this additional taxation. However, it is very unfair of the honorable senator to bring forward calculations and figures in an endeavour to suggest that we in Australia are not placing the greatest share of this burden on the broadest shoulders. If he had pointed out that the wealthiest individuals in the community already pay as “much tax as 16s. out of every £1 of income earned, the utter impossibility of increasing by 50 per cent, the taxes already borne by such persons would have been obvious. Even the Leader of the Opposition will admit that no person can pay 22s. 6d. tax out of every £1 of income earned. Consequently, although I do not disagree for one moment with the general principles set out by the honorable senator as to the basis upon which taxes should be levied, I ask him particularly in the present crisis, when, above all, we need unity and fairness, not to quote inaccurate statistics for the purpose df misleading the general public, but to state the facts. In his financial statement the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) said that if an all-round increase of tax had been imposed, certain persons would have been asked to pay 12s. 9d. in the £1 federal tax and 8s. in the £1 State tax, and he pointed out how utterly impossible it was for any Government to take 20s. 9d. by way of tax out of every £1 of income. I ask the Leader of the Opposition to use statistics of this kind fairly and in a way which will enable the general public to understand the facts. The honorable senator also endeavoured to show that prices are rising in spite of the Government’s price fixation regulations. The figures of the Commonwealth Statistician which he quoted show that the prices of locally-produced goods have been lower since the price-fixing commission came into operation than they were in the corresponding months of last year. How does this compare with what happened in this respect in the last war? On that occasion we had steep increases of prices, but to-day, in spite of the war, prices of locally-produced goods have not risen, but fallen. Admittedly, prices of imported goods have risen, but as honorable senators realize, we have virtually no control over those prices. Taking the whole range of’ imported and locallyproduced goods, the total increase of prices has been . only 5 ‘ per cent., which represents a considerable im’provement upon what, has happened in any other country. When we were last considering the finances of the country we realized that we were facing a crisis. In this war we are confronted by the largest and” best-equipped army and air force in the world. To-day the situation is serious indeed. We are facing an enemy who is far more formidable than we imagined even-a few months ago, and the safety of every part of the Empire is at stake. At any moment an attack may be launched on Great Britain itself. It is even possible that an attack upon Australia may not be very far distant. In view of these things, I believe the time for complete mobilization has arrived. The Government should call up for national service all men between the ages of 18 and 60 years, and decide the particular branch of service in which each man can best be employed. Those trained in our fighting services should be mobilized; others should be trained. Technicians should he drafted into munitions and other similar services ; those skilled in distribution should be employed in services of supply. Further, the Government should consider immediately the working of three shifts a day in munitions establishments and war industries. We can no longer afford to proceed leisurely; we must expedite our industries and work our plants to full capacity. Money considerations should be no bar to our war effort. The maximum of our effort should be limited only by Australia’s total wealth and resources, which runs into many hundreds of millions of pounds. It would be far better to lose the whole of our wealth, rather than lose our liberty. If we lose the war we shall lose not only our wealth, but also our liberty. To allow industrial troubles to interfere in the present crisis, is to allow action to defeat our war effort. I urge the Government to take immediate action to obtain the supplies of coal which are essential to defence. I am sure that if the Government tells the people that our war industries are held up and calls for volunteers to serve in the production of coal for the duration of- the war thousands of offers of assistance will be received from patriotic workers. The people of this country are loyal and are prepared to serve the nation by producing coal, or in any other way. Those who impede our war effort should be interned immediately. We have to fight the enemy within as well as the enemy without. If we are half-hearted in our efforts, and are not prepared to take strong measures in this time of emergency, we are courting disaster. We are facing a ruthless foe; if we are strong we can defeat that foe, but if we are weak, we shall be defeated. The time has passed for oversensitiveness. We have to face an unscrupulous enemy and we must show strength, courage and determination. We must proceed immediately with the marshalling of the whole of our man-power and resources.
– What does the honorable senator mean by the whole of our resources?
– I mean capital, man-power, industry, and everything else that is necessary to a war effort. It is disgraceful that we should be borrowing money from Great Britain when it is facing the greatest crisis in its history. Australia is a wealthy country, and is able to finance the war from its own resources. At present we are importing millions of pounds’ worth of goods which are unnecessary. With the money which at present is being used to purchase those commodities we could he assisting Great Britain, rather than borrowing money from that country. I have here a list of commodities which were imported last year. These commodities are typical of imports which Australia could easily do without. The list includes salmon, imported mainly from Japan, Russia, the United States of America and Canada, and valued at £571,000 ; sardines imported mainly from Portugal, £145,000; sausage casings, imported from the United States of America, £210,000; cocoa-butter, £117,000; tobacco, £1,750,000. We can and must go without many of these things.
– We can produce many of those commodities in Australia.
– Probably we could, but whether we could or not, the time has arrived when we should prohibit their importation, in order to assist our war effort.
– That is what the Scullin Government did, and the party of which, the honorable senator is a member cried, “ Shame “.
– I am not concerned with what the Scullin Government did. I am looking to the future, not to the past. We are in the midst of a war and we must win it. The Government should immediately place an embargo on the importation of all foodstuffs and clothing from non-sterling countries.
In conclusion, I should like to summarize the suggestions which I have .put forward. I have not submitted my proposals in a captious spirit. In this time of crisis there should be national unity; everybody should be prepared to help the Government to win this war, and if we can make suggestions which may be of help to the Government, it is our duty to do so. My suggestions are constructive and are made in the hope that they may he of some use, because I fear that the people of Australia do not realize the magnitude of the crisis with which we are faced. We must be prepared to marshal all our resources. I again urge the Government to call up immediately, under the powers conferred upon it by the Defence Act, all men between the ages of 18 and 60 years, for national service. These men should be employed in the arm of the service for which their qualifications best fit them. Those not engaged in actual military service should be employed in the production of munitions, foodstuffs, clothing, and other war essentials. In this hour of need all men, old and young, should be called up to assist our war effort.
– Does the honorable senator mean that that service should be given voluntarily or by conscription?
– I say that the call should be made under the powers of the Defence Act which was passed by this Parliament as far back as 1903, and endorsed subsequently by every other parliament. That act provides that all men between the ages of 18 and 60 years are liable to serve within Australia.
– The honorable senator would conscript them?
– For home service. Under the provisions of the Defence Act the Government has already called up the compulsory trainees now serving with the Militia. In my opinion, compulsory training should not be limited to hoys between the ages of 18 and 21 years ; every
Australian should be called up. Honorable senators opposite apply the word “ conscription “ because it is an odious term. I did not use it. I said that all men between the specified age limits should be called up for national service within Australia. I think that Australians would welcome an opportunity to serve their country in this time of crisis.
The second matter which I urge upon the Government is the adoption, in defence industries, of three shifts instead of one. I do not think the statement that technicians cannot be procured is correct. If industries were properly organized technicians could be obtained. In many towns there are five motor garages despite the fact that all the work could be done by one, and the skilled mechanics in the other four could serve in essential industries.
All persons aiding the enemy .by impeding our war effort, whether that enemy be within Australia or without, should be interned immediately. We are being far too sentimental in this regard. We have seen the effect of the fifth column, in Norway and Holland. The independence of both these countries has been lost because they did not tackle the enemy within. I do not know if there are many enemies within Australia, but if there are any at all they should be placed in internment camps.
I believe the present crisis is sufficiently serious to warrant strengthening of our home defence. We should be prepared to meet the menace of a possible attack by aeroplanes or by parachute troops. Let; us imagine for one moment that an enemy landed, say, 500 troops in a fairly remote part of Australia - troops as brave as those which have been landed by the Germans in other parts of Europe. Such men virtually constitute suicide squads. They are almost certain to be wiped out, but they are able to cause tremendous damage before they are detected and dealt with. By such methods as the arming of police Australia should take steps to prevent the occurrence of such an invasion: We could also reinforce the police force with armed militiamen. Germany has now overrun Holland; to our immediate north are two colonies of the Netherlands % Empire, the Dutch East Indies and Dutch New Guinea. What attitude will Ger- many take towards these colonies 1 I was glad to see the statement by the Queen of Holland and by the Netherlands Government that the fight with Germany will bo continued. Will Germany recognize that, or will it say that Holland having been captured, its colonics belong to the victor! If by any chance German leaders laid claim to that portion of the Netherlands possessions immediately to our north, we should immediately realize that the war had been brought to our doorstep. I therefore ask the Government to consider whether we should not prepare to meet invasion by parachute troops, or by raiders. Our military authorities have advised that a largescale attack upon Australia is most improbable, but they recognize that an attack by raiders, or perhaps by parachute troops, is a possibility. In the light of existing facts, it is imperative that the whole of our defence organizations should be reviewed, in order to ensure the maximum use of our. resources of man-power to protect this country. The next point I make is that the Government should immediately prohibit the importation from non-sterling countries of all goods that are not necessary for our war effort. My last point is that we should work the coal-mines immediately, and not delay further with conferences between employer and employee. Our immediate need is to get coal for our war effort.
– ‘Would the honorable senator care to work in a coal-mine?
– I would be quite prepared to undertake any duty required -of me in order to ensure the immediate production of coal. This is not a time tor cheap gibes from one side of the Senate to another. It is a time for serious thought and united action, if we are to win this war. Again I urge the Government and members of this Parliament to take every opportunity to tell the people of Australia how serious the. war situation has become, to endeavour to infuse in all sections a national spirit, so as to ensure the .protection of our liberty and all1 the rights and privileges which we enjoy as part of the British Empire.
Debate (on motion by Senator Darcey) adjourned.-
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Senate, at its rising, adjourn till 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.
The following papers were presented : -
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired, at Swanbourne, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Meteorology Act - Regulations, amendedStatutory Rules 1940, No. 36.
Senate adjourned at 9.60 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 15 May 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19400515_senate_15_163/>.