16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– In view of the increased passenger traffic on the transcontinental railway, and the long list which I saw in Perth recently, of passengers who are waiting for berths, will the Minister for the Interior make inquiries regarding the present position, and the possibility of increasing the number of trains on that portion of the transcontinental route which is controlled by the Commonwealth Railways Department ?
– I have already discussed that matter with the Railways Commissioner, partly as the result of questions previously asked by the honorable senator. One of the difficulties is the lack of the rolling stock required for the purpose of providing extra- trains, but a certain quantity of additional rolling stock is now under construction, and the Commissioner is doing his utmost to cater for the increased traffic.
– I lay on the table-
Fifteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, 1938-40. together with a statement by the Minister regarding the operation of the act.
In order to conserve stocks of paper, I suggest, with the concurrence of the Senate, that- this report be not printed as a parliamentary paper thisyear.
WALSH ISLAND DOCKYARD.
SenatorCOLLING S asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
In view of the admitted urgent need for more ships in order to increase the effectiveness of Australia’s war effort, will the Minister explain why the Government does not immediately re-open the Walsh Island dockyard at Newcastle?
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer : -
Walsh Island dockyard isthe property of the New South Wales Government. Consultations have taken place regarding the possibility of re-opening the. yard, and are still proceeding.
AUSTRALIAN ARMY PAY CORPS.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for theArmy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
MELBOURNE ELECTRIC SUPPLY SERVICES.
Production of Munitions.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1.Yes. The works have been inspected by technical officers of the Department of Munitions. The management have co-operated by release of machine tools to be employed elsewhere in the production of munitions.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished to the honorable senator as early as possible.
Production of NoX-ESSENTIAL Goods.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : - 1, 2 and 3. Vo proposals of this kind have been made by the United Kingdom Government. In many instances the effect of the war lias led to the creation of new industries and the expansion of established industries in Arutralia for the production of commodities which had previously been imported.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable- senator’s questions are as follows: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
-The Prime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce, upon notice -
– The Minister for Commerce has supplied the following answers : -
The funds will be provided specifically for drought relief. The Commonwealth Government will require the States to repay the principal over a period of seven years. There will be no repayments for the first three years, then there will be four equal annual payments commencing at the end of the fourth year. The Commonwealth will meet the full interest for the first year, and half the interest for the next six years. The States will make the funds available to drought-stricken farmers according to a basis of sustenance and operation advances agreed upon by the Commonwealth and State Governments.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
Is it a fact that fuel stoves and carpenters’ benches were imported from the mainland to Tasmania for the quarters of the Western Junction Aerodrome; if so. why?
– Yes. The fuel stoves are of a class which are standard fittings supplied to similar establishments throughout Australia. As these were not available in Tasmania, they were forwarded from stocks held by manufacturers in Melbourne for all Royal Australian Air Force establishments. Carpenters’ benches were supplied by the Royal Australian Air Force from existing contracts or stocks.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
When will the sixth volume of the Official History of the Australian Imperial Force be published?
– It is anticipated that Volume VI. of the Official History of the Australian Imperial, Force will be published in June, 1941.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
When will the Industrial Inspector be in a position to make an inspection of the garages and metal-trade workshops of Tasmania ?
– The Minister for Labour and National Service has supplied the following answer : - it is expected that an arbitration inspector will visit Tasmania early in the new year.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
What was the nature of the works recently let by tender at the Flinders Island aerodrome, and what was the contract price’?
– A contract for certain building work at Whitemark, Flinders Island, was let in September at an amount of £1,108 2s. The nature of the work cannot be made public.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government give an assurance that adequate measures are being taken to maintain a continuity of sea-borne traffic betweenTasmania and the mainland of Australia?
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : -
The honorable senator is doubtless referring to the recent interference with shipping in Bass Strait owing to the presence of enemy mines. The temporary interruption of shipping services to Tasmania was then unavoidable, but the services were soon resumed. The Government will continue to devote every effort to the maintenance under all circumstances of essential shipping services between the mainland and Tasmania.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What reasons are advanced by the Price Fixing Commission for tea being retailed to the consumers of Canberra at the price of 2s. l0d. per lb. when in other States the price is 2s. 3d. and 2s. 4d.?
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has furnished the following reply to the honorable senator’s question : -
The reasons advanced by the Prices Commissioner are that the comparisons made by the honorable senator do not relate to the same class of tea. A well-known brand of tea obtainable in Canberra for 2s.9d. per lb.is sold in Sydney at prices ranging from 2s.6½d. to 2s. 8½d. per lb., and in Melbourne from 2s. 7½d. to 2s. ,9d. per lb. Another brand retailed at 2s.1ld. per lb. in Canberra is sold in Sydney at prices from 2s. 8½d. to 2s. 1 0½d. per lb. The increase in the price of tea in Canberra since the war has been no more than the increases in other capital cities.
Diversion of Business to Private Banks
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The following answers have been supplied by the Commonwealth Bank: -
This policy still applies.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
Ready access by road and railway to a large centre of population for labour supply ;
Ready access to fire, police hospital, electric supply and water services;
Topographical featureswhereby drainagecan bo conveyed to the sea and yet the factory be out of range of bombardment.
Acquisition by Government.
asked the Minister for ‘ the Interior, upon notice-
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The following answers to the honorable senator’s questions have been supplied to me : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Navy has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. Some gaiters with leather attach ments wore imported many years ago, and are now obsolete. The present pattern is of webbing material and contains noleather.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Air, upon notice -
– The Minister for Air has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : - 1 and 2. Inquiries arc being made into these matters. It is known that there are several commercial schools offering training to persons desirous of obtaining ground engineers’ licences issued by the Department of Civil Aviation, but so far it has not come under my notice thatfirms are operating on the lines indicated.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the days of meeting of the Senate, unless otherwise ordered, be Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of each week; and that the hour of meeting, unless otherwise ordered, be three o’clock in the afternoon of Wednesday and Thursday, and eleven o’clock in the forenoon of Friday.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That on all sitting days of the Senate during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, Government business shall take precedence of all other business on the notice-paper, except questions and formal motions, and except that general business take precedence of Government business on Thursdays, after 8 p.m.; and that, unless otherwise ordered,general orders of the day take precedence of general notices of motion on alternate Thursdays.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, at four o’clock p.m. on Fridays the President shall put the Question - That the Senate do now adjourn, which Question shall not be open to debate; if the Senate be in Committeeat that hour, theChairman shall in likemanner put the Question - ‘I hat he do leave the Chair and report to the Senate; and upon such report being made the President shall forthwith put the Question - That the Senate do now adjourn-, which Question shall not be open to debate: Provided that if the Senate or the Committee be in division at the time named, the President or the Chairman, shall not put the Question referred to until the result of such division has been declared; and if the business under discussion shall not have been disposed of at such adjournment it shall appear on the business-paper for the next sitting day.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That, during the present session, unless otherwise ordered, the sittings of the Semite, or of a Committee of the Whole Senate, be suspended from 12.45 p.m. until 2.1.5 p.m. and from6.15 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Motions (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That a Standing Orders Committee be appointed, to consist of the President,the Chairman of Committees. Senators Crawford, Darcey, Herbert Hays, Johnston, Keane, Lamp and A. J. MeLachlan, with power to act during Recess, and to confer with a similar Committee of. the House of Representatives.
That a Library Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Abbott, Cameron, Collett. Collings, Fraser, and James McLachlan, with power to act during Recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
That a, House Committee be appointed, to consist of the President, Senators Amour, Arthur, Aylett, Brand, Cooper, and Uppill, with power to act during Recess, and to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
That a Printing Committee be appointed, to consist of Senators Aylett, Courtice, Cunning- ham, Dein, Gibson. Johnston, and AllanMacDonald. with power to confer or sit as a Joint Committee with a similar Committee of the House of Representatives.
Debate resumed from the 21st November, (vide page 56), on motion by Senator spicer -
That the following Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s Speech be agreed to -
To His ExcellencytheGovernor-General -
May it Please Yourexcellency :
We, the Senate of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, desire to express our loyalty to ourMost Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for the Speech which you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
– I merely take this opportunity to congratulate the mover and seconder of the AddressinReply on their excellent speeches. All of us, I am sure, are very pleased with the showing made by Senator Spicer in delivering his maiden speech in this chamber. At this stage I do not propose to deal with matters contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, because we shall have an opportunity to discuss them fully on the motion for the printing of the Estimates and budget papers, which is the next item appearing on the business sheet.
.- I take this opportunity to discuss one or two matters arising out of the GovernorGeneral’s Speech which I, unlike the Leader of the Senate (Senator McLeay), do not think will arise in connexion with the next item on the business paper. I compliment Senator Spicer on his maiden speech. He has made an excellent impression in this chamber, and, whilst we on this side differ from him politically, most of us, I am sure, readily recognize his merit.
In my view the Government is still failing to give to the people of Australia the information to which they are entitled concerning the unfavorable aspects of the war. The Government, of course, cannot be expected todivulge information which may be helpful to the enemy. On the other hand, however, it still refuses to make known important, and in some cases alarming, facts which arc being published in newspapers overseas, and republished in the Australian press. For example, I quote the following paragraph from the Sydney Build-in, of the 20th November, dealing with the serious losses sustained by France when that country collapsed before the German invaders. This was the first intimation which I, at any rate, received of those losses. The paragraph reads -
In France the Nazis made the biggest haul in history. Here is some of thebooty: Steel scrap enough to cover normal Germanimports three and a half years.: 42,000 tons of raw copper; 27,000 tons of zine; 19.000 tons at lead: 3,600 tons of tin; 1,700 tons of nickel: 700 tons of quicksilver: stocks of munitions including 230.000 tons of guns, meetly not yet milled;9,000 tons of barbed wire and 800 tons of other wire; 4.500 tons of nails; 53.000 motor cars and 20.000 trucks not counting the enormous number half-destroyed and abandoned all over France; untouched quantities of food, soap, shoes, clothing, paper, razor blades, even toothpaste. A good example of Naziplunderinir took place at Lyons, where leather, silk and canned fish were requisitioned in such quantities that 140 trains were needed to haul them to Germany. Incidentally, the trains were not returned either. -New York “PM.”
The Governor-General’s Speech emphasized the gravity of our position. The need for such emphasis is apparent, when we realize that, despite the information released by the Department of Information concerning our war effort, very few people in this country have any idea of the amount of work which that effort entails in order to place Australia upon an effective war footing, and enable us to do our utmost in helping the Old Country in this struggle. During the recess honorable senators were given an opportunity to inspect munition works. The arrangements made for that inspection by the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Broinowski, were most thorough, and gave satisfaction to every honorable senator. In a three (lays tour we saw for ourselves the complete manufacturing of aeroplanes and munitions, and we also inspected a radio factory. In. those works, which are situated in one city alone, approximately 35,000 men are engaged. We were thus enabled to gain some idea of the col- losal job with which this country is confronted. Every honorable senator who made that inspection gained satisfaction from the knowledge that all of those tradesmen are proving themselves equal, if not superior, to any elsewhere in the world. For instance, we discovered that the number of man-hours required for the riveting of an aeroplane in the factory we visited was exactly half of the number of man-hours, viz: 400, which workmen in English factories take to do similar work. The inspection enabled me to realize more fully what a wonderful country we occupy. We are producing all of the raw material we require, and out working men and women are proving highly efficient. So long as that position be maintained, we can confidently leave the future and safety of this countryin the hands of the trade unionists of Australia. That observation brings me to a. particular comment contained in the Governor-General’s Speech; for the reasons I have just given I am surprised that,such comment was made. In the course of the inspection of munitions factories I took the opportunity to investigate the hours worked by menengaged in the heaviest sections, viz., the ordnance works. I found that the men worked twelve hours a day and have been doing so for a long time. Such a system cannot last. It will certainly lead to serious trouble in those works. Added to that, the Government, in its natural desire to ensure that there shall be no slowing down of production, has asked the men to forgo their annual leave. That is industrial madness, and should not be attempted by any Government. The question may be asked : “ Are you going to allow a stoppage or slowing down of the production of arms and munitions?” I say, no! Everypublic utility experiences periods of abnormal strain. At times of bountiful harvests railway engine-drivers and guards used to be called upon to work sixteen or eighteen hours a day. The men pleaded that they could not go on any longer and the Railways Commissioners replied : “ We cannot release you. We must shift the wheat. The remedy in that case was to put the men on rosters and work them in shifts. The Governmentcould do that now. The Government could put off 100 or 200 men for a week or eight days, and then put off another hundred orso. It may be contended that that would mean loss of time, but it would not. There are large numbers of men registered in Melbourne, Sydney, and other industrial centres of Australia, who could be switched into these industries in order to relieve the men who are now working unduly long hours.
SenatorMc Bride. - I do not think that that is correct.
– They have not the necessary skill.
– I am not suggesting that all the men are skilled, but unskilled or semi-skilled workers could be put into the workshops to work alongside skilled men and do much of the work that is now being performed. If some action be not taken very soon, trouble will arise, because the men cannot go on much longer working the hours they do.
– Do those hours include overtime?
– Yes. I remind honorable senators who participated in the inspection of Melbournemunition factories that we saw men at workbelting ingots of iron into shells, and the boat of that job was terrific.
– But that was an eight-hour-a-day job.
– I was going to add that. If the hours were longer than that, the men would not live. In another place we saw men: working over furnaces, lifting our crucibles of molten metal. I understand that the heat in the furnaces was about 3,000 degrees. Without wishing, to stress unduly one small aspect of a huge organization., I consider that the officer-in-charge of that particular job should be told, that the men should not be asked, to work under such, conditions in ordinary clothes. Asbestos suits should be provided, as, I believe, is done in other countries. I think I can claim to have had experience of as many workshops as any other honorable senator, and after that inspection I felt proud and amazed to know that such a colossal job could be done in” Australia. With tactful and just handling of the men, the wonderful progress which has been achieved to date will continue. In order that it may continue, my advice to the Government is : “ See that the men get relief from these long hours; they should have some leave, even if it should mean a. slight slowing down of production. Unless that be done, there will be a slowing down of the whole industrial war machine.” I say that after consultation with some of the men in industry who really count.
– They have it to-day in Great Britain.
– Exactly. On that subject there is an interesting article in the Australian Mining Standard of the 16th November last -
It is not to he wondered nt that extremely long hours of employment millie necessary in the munitions and other war-time industries at the outbreak of hostilities had a deleterious effect on the efficiency of operatives. Thu London fspectaor points out that it had already been established by thu investigations of the Industrial Research Board in Britain that an undue prolongation of hours of work is not economic, and Ministers have realized that the pressure must be relaxed. A report on welfare and health in relation to hours of work and output in war-time prepared by the British Association of Labour Legislation status some of the problems which require constant review. It -has now been proved that excessive hours, so far from increasing output, actually diminish it. One case investigated shows that when the hours of work fixed by the management were reduced from (ill. 7 to fifl.5 hours a WeeK and the actual hours worked were reduced from 58.2 to 51.2 the hourly output increased by 30 per cent, and the total output by 22 per cent. But each kind of work ought to Vie judged separately to ascertain the optimum length of thu working spell. The association recom mends that thu Research Board should pursue its inquiries continuously throughout the war, that more factory inspectors should bc appointed, that young persons under sixteen should in no cases work more, than 44 hours a week, and that further provision should be made for welfare, it is a fortunate fact that the conditions which make for the fullest efficiency of the war machine are also those making for decent conditions of life for the workers. In Australia the Government has a committee watching this aspect of war work and it should bc able to so adjust hours of work as to prevent people getting into that tired, over-wrought frame of mind that will not only lower efficiency hut be of assistance to the militants who are ready to avail themselves of it to foment strikes and general unrest.
I do not think there will be any disagreement on that matter between honorable senators. “Without reading the whole of it, I refer the Senate to an article which appeared in to-day’s Sydney Morning .Herald, written by an industrial correspondent, under the heading “ Strikes in Time of War “. I commend the article to honorable senators as being well worth reading The author obviously knows quite a lot about his subject. Discussing the reasons for strikes the writer says -
And, if the full truth is to be told, industrial trouble has been aggravated by the attitude of the prejudiced, unbending attitude type of conservative employer who, financially weil situated, is willing to have his workshop thrown idle rather than concede a point or a penny. In Conversation, an executive chief of a large business recently rendered idle by a strike told the writer that a skilled tradesman was no more a. key man than an office boy, and that, so far as he was concerned, it was a fight to a finish before be would depart from his interpretation of the award. And this while on his table lay important war contracts that meant bigger business for his firm.
The Assistant Minister (Senator Leckie) had a very awkward job recently when he was called upon to settle a strike which occurred among men working at Deer Park and Maribyrnong. The reason for the strike was that the men wanted the payment of a fare of ls. 4d., or 2s. 4d. for the longer distance. Surely the Assistant Minister will agree that the employers were not justified in refusing the small concessions asked for, and so - holding up vital defence work in a time of great urgency. To my mind that was one of the worst instances of a job being held up needlessly.
– It was not sufficient reason for a strike.
– It was not sufficient reason for the employers, who obviously were not engaged in the contract for the good of their health, allowing the work to be held up, especially as this Government would no doubt have made a compensating adjustment later. The men should have been kept, at work. That is typical of the annoyances which should be, and, I believe, are being reasonably handled bv the Minister for Labour and National Service.
The Governor-General said that amending industrial legislation was being prepared by the Advisory War Council. That may be so, but I have not yet heard of it. The Government can set up all the committees and conciliation authorities it likes, but while legal men remain in arbitration, there will bo no peace among the workers of this country. I saythat as a result of long experience of industry, and of close friendships with many arbitration judges who, although they may be excellent men in many ways, cannot be expected to understand the ambitions and needs of the working people with whom they have never been in close contact. I arn not referring to the Commonwealth Conciliation and. Arbitration Act, but to the personnel of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The members of the bench are selected from the legal profession. The judges do not desire lay advocates to appear before them; they prefer lawyers. “When I appeared in that court as an advocate on behalf of railway employees in Victoria, the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was briefed against me, and associated with him were two junior counsel,one of whom was Dr. Ellis. The Victorian Railways Commissioners were prepared to pay hundreds of pounds a day in order to contest the right of railway men to the same basic wage as that of workers in private industry.
The Bruce-Page Government desired to get rid of three of the four judges of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court, retaining only one judge for the maritime industries.Why could npt the other members of the bench be transferred to another jurisdiction?What is the use of men who have had only a legal training attempting to appraise the value of the work, for instance, of a fitter? If a judge had had experience as an employer, experience such as Senator Leckie has had. I should be prepared to listen to him. I should also respect his decisions if he had been a distinguished union leader. An employer and a union leader would be capable of arbitrating on a matter involving an assessment of the skill of a worker; but in industrial’ affairs, I am not prepared to accept the decisions of men who arc merely highly qualified lawyers, and can “ put it over “. When measures designed to lead to a perfecting of the machinery of industrial peace are submitted to the Parliament for ratification, I shall study them with groat interest.
In 1929, a Conciliation Commissioner was appointed by the Scullin Government, but the judges of the Arbitration Court saw that he got no cases. The members of the bench did not want any of their work to be taken from them, and he ultimately lost his position. I had a hand in seeing that a Conciliation Commissioner was appointed as an experiment, but I arn now convincedthat little better result would be obtained fromthe appointment of another Conciliation Commissioner than from the present bench. I strongly advocate the selection of practical mcn from both sides in industry to adjudicate with regard to conditions of employment and rates of pay, particularly in view of the fact that there is every likelihood of industrial activity in Australia being doubled in the near future.
– How would the honorable senator define the duties of such arbitrators, as compared with those of the judges of the court?
– I do not believe in trade unions going to the Arbitration Count.’ . I should get rid of the present three judges by transferring them to some other jurisdiction. When a. navvy is called to give evidence, he should not be treated as though he were a criminal. An official says to him, “ Take the Bible in your right hand,” and, before the case for the union has been stated, the witness “gets the wind up”. I have said, hundreds of times that the whole system should be altered. The principal improvement requiredis the removal of legal men from the court. If it was right to attempt to get rid of some of the judges in 1921, it would be right in 1940.
– The people did not support the action suggested a.t that time.
– The issue then raised was the abolition of the system of arbitration, and the people did not support that proposal.
Strikes could be obviated by sweet reasonableness. Deer Park is miles from
Melbourne, and builders’ labourers employed there recently asked that their fares should be paid from their homes to their, place of employment, in order that they might receive the full benefit of their relatively small pay for the important work performed by them. A greedy employer, engaged in the construction of buildings required for defence purposes, objected to their request, despite the fact that contractors usually make ample provision for profit for themselves. It is outrageous that employees should have to pay their own railway fares to Footscray and, in addition, bus fares from the railway station to their place of employment. Men and women are crowded together almost to the danger point, and I submit that while they are working overtime, free transport should be provided for them from the railway to the works.
– We are doing something in that matter.
– I am glad to hear that. That statement will, I believe, give great satisfaction to the employees in munition works in Victoria, who at the end of September last, numbered over 20,000. 1 suggest that every honorable senator should visit such establishments as the munition works at Maribyrnong and Footscray. Having already studied the conditions under which the employees are working in Victoria, I intend to visit similar establishment in New South Wales and South Australia. We should find out how the workers are housed, whether they have reasonable facilities for their meals, and whether their transport arrangements are satisfactory. Such investigations would lead to a proper understanding of the colossal expenditure for which the Estimates will provide. On behalf of honorable senators, I compliment the Clerk of the Senate, Mr. Broinowski, upon the excellent arrangements made by him in connexion with the visit by senators to the munitions establishments in Victoria.
His Excellency the GovernorGeneral stated in his Speech that an Australian Advisory War Council had been set up under the authority of the National Security Act, with membership representative of all parties in Parliament. I believe that the council will do good, work, but I think that it should, at an early date, devise means whereby the members of this chamber and the other branch of the legislature may have an opportunity to consider .the many regulations issued from week to week. Many of them have a. tremendously important bearing upon the interests of the workers engaged in war industries. The Government should find some way by which the committee appointed to deal with regulations and ordinances could carry out its duties more efficiently than in the past, so that lay members of the Senate may be informed of the full effect of the new regulations. Under the National Security Act, the Government has power to make regulations to achieve almost any purpose. I have counted up to 184 regulations, and if I were asked to say what eight of them meant, I should be unable to do so. That is a deplorable admission, but it shows that this matter should receive the consideration of the Senate. We require the assistance of a skilled officer to advise us of the implications of these regulations.
– It would be a fulltime job.
– Some weeks could be spent, if necessary, in letting us know what regulations are loaded and what are not. In these critical times it is of no use for us to ‘bury our heads like ostriches. The public is not being informed as to all that is happening. I hope that, when a motion relating to regulations is next before the Senate we shall be told that the Department of Information is to be conducted on different lines from those followed in the past, so that we shall get the whole story in Australia at least as soon as it is released in the United States of America. The people of Australia are not afraid of bad news, so long as it is correct. The success of the war effort, depends to a large extent on proper industrial organization.
– What does the honorable senator mean by the whole story?
– According to what I have read in the press, some items of news have been reported in the United States of America many weeks before the release of the information in Australia.
Amine-sweeper was sunk off our coast recently, and there was a delay of 18 or 19 hours in the release of the news. News was published some time ago that an enemy raider was operating in Australian waters. If we mention these things we are ridiculed, but it transpired that a raider had been at work near our shores. Thena statement was made that no aerial reconnaissance of certain parts of our coast had been made for some time, and the announcement certainly made a bad impression on the public mind. We were told also that ample provision had been made to send armaments overseas, but I have not heard any statement by the Government as to what quantity has been retained in. Australia. If I were to ask such a question Ishould probably be refused an answer.
– . Does the honorable senator imagine that all armaments made here are being exported?
– A large proportion of them is being sent out of Australia. We understand that a search is being made for a raider, but it is not easy to obtain a clear statement regarding that matter.
– The full story can be given to the honorable senator, but information regarding stocks of munitions cannot be disclosed to the public.
– The Department of Information has given out that by June next 150,000 persons will be engaged in the manufacture of munitions in Australia. Recently, three able-bodied men walked into my office in Melbourne and said, “We have read in the newspapers that 150,000 munition workers are required. We have sold our farms in Tasmania in order to share in this work”. This shows that the greatest care should be exercised by the department in issuing official statements. If workmen are not required immediately, the fact should be clearly stated. Members of my party are inundated with all kinds of inquiries by men in search of employment, who have read in- the newspapers that men are required for the manufacture of munitions. Steps should be taken to see that persons living in country districts do not pay fares to the cities in the hope of obtaining work of this description. Most of those who are out of employment are unskilled workers, but. the Government should have no difficulty in providing employment, even for the least skilled of them. When it can be said that no Australian is out of employment, and when’ the public is given the full story with regard to the progress of the war news, whether it be favorable or otherwise, it will be better for the Government, for members of this Parliament, and for every Australian.
– Before dealing with the Governor-General’s Speech itself, I wish to compliment Senator Spicer on his maiden speech. The- honorable senator is an acquisition to the debating strength of the Government in this- chamber. There were several things in: his speech with which I did not agree, but I shall not dwell on them at this stage.
The last paragraph, of the Speech reads -
In the earnest hope that Divine Providence may guide your deliberations and. further the welfare of the people of the Commonwealth, I now leave you to the discharge of your high and important duties.
What are the duties referred to by His Excellency? Among them is the responsibility for safeguarding the Commonwealth by ensuring that its citizens, as well as the men who will return from the war, shall find a place in industry. The Speech gives no indication that any steps have been taken in that direction. The only industries to which it refers are those associated with the production of munitions and articles required for the prosecution of the war. What is to become of the workers in these industries when the war is over? Are these industries to be continued when hostilities cease?
– Our first duty is to win the war.
– I hope that before long we shall have won the war; but what will then become of the men who, in- the meantime, will be employed in the manufacture of munition’s ?’ I want to be sure that the wheels of industry will be kept turning after the war.
At the present time the people of Australia are suffering from fear and apathy. Fear hasbeen described as the jnost powerful product of civilization, in that it leads to unrest. Recently, some of our newspapers informed us that anAustralian vessel had sunk an enemy destroyer and captured a cruiser. Why was not that report made public soon after the occurrence, instead of the people having to wait until letters describing the encounter were received in Sydney?
– Probably the reason was that the fight did not take place.
– If that be the reason, why are such reports allowed to appear in the press? If the report be true - and I hope that it is - it will encourage men to enlist. Whatever the outcome of contact with the enemy may be, recruiting is stimulated; men like to share in victory, whilst losses only make them the more determined to resist the enemy. Public apathy has been described as the lack of interest on the part of the people in all matters of vital importance to the nation. It should be our aim to eliminate both fear and apathy.
Western Australia has not been fairly treated by the Commonwealth Government during the last twelve months. Fremantle is the first port of call for vessels travelling to Australia from overseas, and, as such, is entitled to proper hospital accommodation, so that sick and injured persons may be given suitable treatment immediately on the arrival of their ships in Australian waters. Yet Western Australia is the last State to be provided with proper military hospitals.
– Provision has already been made for200 beds in that State.
– That provision should have been made long ago. I have no doubt that Victoria and New South Wales have already been provided with adequate hospital accommodation.
– Hospitals are only now being built in those States.
– Western Australia has a special claim for consideration in the provision of hospitals to accommodate sick and wounded soldiers who return to Australia from other countries.
– A permanent hospital is being provided for Western Australia.
– It will probably be inferior to those provided in the other States. However, the prospects for the western State are now- brighter than they were, because with the honorable members for Perth (Mr. Nairn) and Forrest (Mr. Prowse) Speaker and Chairman of Committees respectively in the House of Representatives, Senator Cunningham Deputy Leader of the Opposition in this chamber and Senator Collett an Assistant Minister, it is possible that Western Australia will receive more consideration from the Government in the future than has been given to it in the past. I promise the Government that Western Australian senators who sit on this side of the chamber will not cease their agitation until a munitions annexe is provided at the Midland Junction railway workshops.
– I shall be glad of the honorable senator’s help in that matter.
– I hope that the Minister will use his influence to have this work expedited, and also that the work once it is started will be continued until completion.
Western Australia has not been treated fairly in the matter. of wool appraisement centres. The claims of Albany and Geraldton to recognition in this connexion should receive the earnest attention of the Government. Under existing conditions, growers of wool who normally send their wool to those ports have to send it to Perth at an extra cost of as much as 8s. 4d. a bale.
At this stage I shall not urge a policy of shipbuilding in Western Australia because I believe thatthe eastern States are better equipped to undertake this class of work. I am glad to know, however, that shipbuilding is being undertaken in South Australia.
The time has arrived when Canberra should in fact become the national capital of Australia. In this connexion I draw attention to the following extract from the CanberraTimes of the8th November -
But instead, we see the Department of Supply and Development in Melbourne acting to hold up vital Australian requirements by its failure to work in harmony with departments at Canberra (where the Department of Supply is unrepresented).
– That is not correct.
– The article in the Canberra Times continues -
We would see some steps being taken to establish the new Department of National Labour at Canberra instead of. as is actually happening, allowing undermining influences in Melbourne to be exerting their influence against this department functioning from Canberra.
Canberra is supposed to be the capital of Australia ; if it were so in fact it would not be necessary for so many officers of various departments to travel to and fromthe capital cities of the States on official business. The Government should take steps to make Canberra the national capital of Australia in fact as well as in name.
– I was astonished to read in the Governor-General’s Speech the following paragraph -
The Government feels strongly that, in a country in which there is adequate and accessible machinery for the settlement of disputes and the adjustment of grievances, there can be no justification for direct action.
I should have thought that the Ministers who were responsible for that statement kuow better than to make it. Nor did I think that they would seize upon the opening of Parliament as an opportunity to challenge the Opposition in this Parliament. The fact cannot be denied that there is neither adequate nor accessible machinery for the settlement of disputes and the adjustment of grievances in this country. Such machinery has never existed in Australia. The statutes which purport to provide machinery for the settlement of industrial disputes are the result of years of agitation. Various governments have had to give way under the pressure of public opinion, but the legislation that has been enacted is certainly ineffective, since it does not facilitate the settlement of grievances. The reason is that under private ownership, particularly the monopolistic ownership of industries, the workers are divided into two categories - indispensable and dispensable. Workers who are indispensable can practically impose their own terms on their employers. There is no need for key men in industry to go down on their hands and knees, metaphorically speaking, and beg a judge of the Arbitration Court to give to them a few more crumbs by the granting of additional concessions. Employers grant the requests of these workers, although they may do it reluctantly. But the majority of the workers,whose services can be dispensed with almost at a moment’s notice without dislocation of the enterprise, and whose places can easily be filled by others, are not in that happy position; they are forced tolive on the lowest possible level of subsistence. .
-Their wages are fixed by arbitration tribunals. Senator CAMERON.- That is so; on. paper, and in theory, the whole thing seems equitable and beyond suspicion. Indeed, any one who dares to challenge the justice of the system is deemed to be deserving of censure. The dispensable workers are generally classed as unskilled, although most of them possess skill in some degree. However, it suits the employers and the court to regard them as unskilled, and, therefore, entitled to not more than the basic wage, which is the least amount necessary to support a man and his wife and two children. From time to time the basic wage is adjusted. Should it be raised, the prices of commodities are immediately increased, with the result that the purchasing power of the people is no greater than before. By both direct and indirect methods, the workers are forced to live on the lowest level possible. If there were more so-called unskilled workers in Australia, and consequently greater competition for the jobs that are available, reasons would soon be found for reducing the standard of living below its present level.
The unskilled worker must either accept the terms offered to him, or be unemployed. And where there is a demand for highly skilled labour, a regulation under the National Security Act provides that the employer shall not pay to him any amount, in excess of the minimum rate.
– Does the honorable senator contend that the margins are too high.
– I have not mentioned margins. In the granting of margins a. virtue is made of necessity; employers say to skilled workers ‘“‘you possess skill ; therefore you shall be paid more than the other fellow “. But suppose that the position were reversed, and the dispensable man became indispensable. A person who previously had been regarded as dispensable would then be found to possess much more skill than was hitherto suspected, and his employer would be prepared to allow him a margin in excess of the basic wage. Before the declaration of war, when many thousands of persons throughout Australia were unemployed, the Commonwealth Government declared that their poverty and misery were not a matter of national concern but were wholly the responsibility of the States. The Government almost grudgingly provided a few crumbs to relieve their sufferings, but resolutely declined to make available an adequate amount, which was required to improve their unfortunate position. A few months ago, however, men who had formerly been dispensable and who had been semi-starved since 1932 became better housed, fed and clothed, because the war made them indispensable. Such is the position which exists under private ownership of industry; the dispensable man has practically no rights. But under another system of ownership or control, work would be found, whether or not a war was in progress, for all the men and women who wrere willing and able to work.
– Full-time employment !
– Yes, employment for them would be permanent. They would not be classed as either dispensable or indispensable.
– According to the honorable senator’s contention, every public servant should receive the same salary !
– All persons who do not enjoy the same consideration as that which is extended to public servants should receive it. That is the point which I desire to stress. The more congenial the conditions under which men work, the less inclined are they to go on strike. Public servants receive higher rates of pay and much more consideration than do casual workers. If the Government were prepared to give to all workers the same rates of pay and conditions as those which are enjoyed by public servants, great progress would be made towards the removal of the causes of industrial disputes and strikes. Unfortunately such a policy has not been implemented by the Government, even though it has appointed three additional conciliation commissioners. The policy to which the Government is committed now is precisely the policy to which it adhered before the outbreak of war. The only difference, perhaps, is in. respect of acceleration of output and ruthlessness.
The Government wishes to reduce the costs of production to the irreducible minimum. That is fundamental. At all times, it is contended that the costs of production are mounting up, and unsophisticated persons, who form the majority of members of this intelligent community, believe that to be correct. But accurate calculation shows that that is not true. Costs of production estimated in terms of labour time were never lower than they are at present. The relevant statistics, shown in terms of depreciated currency, which incidentally, is depreciated for the purpose of increasing profits and misleading the public, make it appear that such costs were never higher. As I have frequently pointed out in this chamber, the basic wage to-day, expressed in terms of gold, is substantially less than was the basic wage in 1907. To those , who do not know that any difference exists, however, the fact that the basic wage is £4. 2s. a week in Victoria, £4 6s. in Perth and £4 19s. on the Goldfields of Western Australia is evidence that it is higher to-day than it was 30 years ago. Speaking generally, what has happened has been that the cost of living has increased threefold. Although purchasing power expressed in terms of depreciated currency would appear to have increased by 100 per cent, the value of the basic wage is, for all practical purposes, substantially reduced. That is why rents, food and clothing are three times as dear as they were in 1907. A person who drinks beer, which is regarded as a national stimulant, knows that whereas he paid 3d. for a 16-oz. glass in 1907, he now pays 6d. for a 10-oz. glass. The same all-round increase applies to almost every commodity that is required for domestic purposes. This position is intimately related to the cause of industrial disputes and strikes. The
Government may appoint as many conciliation commissioners as it pleases, but unless it is prepared to examine fundamental causes, it will never abolish industrial upheavals.
– “What are the causes?
– For example, employers must not be allowed to become laws unto themselves. At present, an employer has the right to discharge an employee at a moment’s notice.
– The principle of “hire and fire “!
– That is true. But if the employee desires to reverse the process and no longer work for his employer under the existing conditions, and a number of his fellow workers feel that he is justified in acting in that manner and make common cause with him, their behaviour constitutes a strike, which is regretted in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, without due regard for the facts. This matter resolves itself into a question whether the employer shall have all the power, and the employee is to be merely the creature of his will. Such high-handed and arbitrary methods will not work nowadays. With labour power becoming more and more indispensable as the war progresses, men will not submit to such injustices, any more than would Ministers if they were suddenly transferred to work-benches in the factories. I venture to assert that if the Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay) or the Minister for Munitions (Senator McBride) were ordered to attend to furnaces for eight hours a day under the terrific conditions which are operating, they would rebel against the instruction, just as do the men. If, however, the Government attempts to make the conditions under which the men work as congenial as possible, consistent with the maintenance of a fair output, a valuable contribution will be made toward improving the situation. The present system under which a man may be discharged without justcause merely because his employer has had a bad night, or comes to work with a bad liver, will not function any more in time of war than in time of peace. Dealing with this subject, the former Premier of New South Wales (Mr.
The most obvious course is for the Commonwealth to take over, on an Australian basis, the full control of employment .and unemployment. . j
I commend that suggestion, to the Government for consideration, more particularly as the war brings into existence to a far “greater degree than in peacetime the necessity for governmental control of industry. The Government is compelled to intervene because under the divided control of private ownership, the Commonwealth is unable to secure the same output at a reasonable cost. The driving pressure of economic necessity is forcing the Government more and more to intervene in industry. That happened during the last war, and it is happening again to-day. As the present struggle is taking place on a far greater scale than did the last, it follows that government control of industry will be more widespread than it was during the last war. If the Government’s approach to a. solution of the problem is to make conditions of labour as congenial as possible, it will accomplish a great deal in avoiding industrial upheavals.
In the old craftsmanship days, men worked at a much more leisurely tempo than they do now and their output was much lower than it is to-day. Working conditions . were also more congenial, and the nervous wear-and-tear and physical strain to which modern workers are subjected were then absent. In consequence, strikes to the extent that they occur to-day were unknown. The Government must take into consideration the conditions under which men now work, and act accordingly. If that be not done, all the pleading in the world will not improve the position, and no number of speeches by the Governor-General, deploring this or that condition in connexion with industrial matters, will make the slightest difference. The Government must improve the conditions under which Australian mcn and women are required to work. It must give sympathetic consideration to the problem of overtime. To-day, whilst, many men are required to work much more overtime than is reasonable, others are not given the chance to work at all. That is the cause of much discontent among our working people.
– There are 40,000 unemployed men in New South Wales.
– Ministers must realize that, although they may talk as much as they like to men, they will never be able to convince them, that the Government is doing the. right thing so long as many are required to work excessive overtime whilst others are not working at all. Under competent management, overtime can be reduced to a minimum, particularly when a large army of unemployed is available from which to supplement labour. I admit the argument that the unemployed cannot be fitted into industry immediately. That difficulty arose some time ago, but the Government subsidized technical schools in order to train the men concerned for the jobs that had to be done. To some degree, the same difficulty may arise in respect of the unemployed, but it must be overcome if the Government desires to obtain better results and win greater support from the workers of this country during the present, strenuous times. The Government’s approach to the problem of overtime must be much more sympathetic in the future than it has been in the past. During this debate, reference has been made to certain judgments of the Arbitration Court. I agree entirely with what Senator Keane has said on this matter. In doing so-, I do not wish to speak derogatorily of members of the legal profession. However, the training of judges and legal advocates differs entirely from that ot men’ engaged in industry. The former are taught to observe rigidly and strictly legal precedent. Their training does not enable them to make any allowance for ever-changing economic conditions. The introduction of a new machine, or the adoption of a new method, may change industrial conditions entirely. Noth withstanding such facts, however, the legal mind declares that we must abide by the law. For instance, when Judge Lukin was appointed to- the Arbitration Court, he said in most sonorous tones to one union advocate, “ You must obey the majesty of the law “. When the union representative replied, “ Well, Your
Honour, this is a different set of circumstances “, His Honour replied, “I cannot listen to that argument. There is the law ; it must, be enforced “. That, exemplifies the approach of the legal mind to industrial problems ; it is necessarily inhibitive and incapable of expansion, so to speak, in order to deal with ever-changing economic conditions. Particularly is this the case in wartime, when- centralization of control and improvement of methods generally tend to develop much more rapidly than in a time of peace. That kind of approach to industrial problems arouses, quite unnecessarily, much of the antagonism which is the cause of most of our disputes. By removing that cause, we could avoid disputes. The legal mind is, so to speak, imprisoned, within legal precedent. By contrast, the lay advocate is more prepared to act, upon his own initiative and discretion. To-day. if any judge in the Arbitration Court attempted to act as the late Justice Higgins endeavoured to act, he would be condemned from one end of the country to the other for exceeding the authority of hi.; high office. Much of our industrial trouble arises because of this approach to industrial problems. If the position is to be improved, as Senator Spicer has suggested it can be improved, our industrial arbitrators must not be slaves to precedent and indexes, and other tilings which are stationary and ossified, because these limitations prevent judges from adjusting themselves to circumstances as they find them. Our arbitrators must not only be more adjustable in the way I have indicated, they must also be much more sympathetic with the workers than is the average legal man. I recall that during the depression, when all government employees suffered a percentage reduction of salaries, one judge of the Arbitration Court refused to accept any reduction of his own princely salary but at the sam e time, without turning a hair, reduced the wages of the workers, and made an award prescribing more onerous working conditions for the man on the basic wage. The Government’s approach to the problem of industrial disputes and strikes must be directed, towards studying the relationship between cause and effect. It must not be the kind of approach exemplified in this document winch comments upon the existence of industrial disputes in the most derogatory terms, but, at the same time, makes no comment on the cause of such disputes. If Australia is to play the part in this war which it can and should play, every available man and woman capable of working should be employed. No excuse whatever exists for any employable person being out of work in a time like the present. We have a super-abundance of the materials we require, and we have the means by which men and women can be more adequately fed, clothed and housed than they are at present. I urge the Government to adopt this approach to our industrial problems. Let it demonstrate more convincingly than it has done in the past that it is sincere in this matter, and let those who act in its name be more sympathetic towards the claims of the workers. If this be done, we shall be enabled to organize a war effort which will be 100 per cent, of our capacity. However, while we have the present “catch as catch can “ approach to this problem, the divided control, which the ex-Premier of New South Wales admits, and authorities working at cross-purposes - while anybody who makes a suggestion to improve the position is viewed with suspicion, and while a body of men who are trying to do their best for this country according to their lights are held up as traitors, as happened recently - we shall not obtain the results which I know every honorable senator hopes we shall achieve.
– Was it in order to effect those remedies that the honorable senator advocated the formation of a national government?
– I must correct the honorable senator. I have never advocated the formation of a national government. On a previous occasion, I pointed out clearly - and, I thought, convincingly - that a national government cannot be true to name, so long as private monopolies are allowed to hold sway over industry. A national government, true to name, can only be established under a system of national ownership of industry, particularly of industries essential to our war effort. Only under such conditions can the political superstructure be truly national. Then, we should have administrators working like a team, in perfect co-ordination and harmony, each administrator striving to excel and help his colleagues. But to-day, many members are in Parliament simply to represent private ‘monopolistic interests, whose primary object is by action, both within and without the limits of the law, to reduce the standard of living of our working classes to the lowest possible level.
– That is ridiculous.
– It. is not ridiculous. That stand has been taken by several honorable senators on many occasions in this chamber. For instance, when we were considering the importation from Germany of machinery winch could be, and is now being, manufactured in this country, they contended that we should not manufacture the machinery in Australia Because private interests said that the cost, of labour was too high. I remember Senator James McLachlan saying that the reason why this Government would not build ships in Australia was because they could be built more cheaply overseas. In its financial policy, this Government is primarily responsible to private monopolistic interests, who are endeavouring to reduce our standard of living to the lowest possible level. Did not Chief Judge Beeby say to the union advocates, “ Don’t ask for increased wages while the war is on “ ? Have not the employers said, “ Let us get on with the war before we discuss increases of rates of pay or the improvement of conditions “ ? Private monopolistic interests are endeavouring to reduce the standard of living of the workers, in not only direct, but also insidious and ingenious ways, by increasing prices. To-day, in Melbourne, apples cost 2d. each. How can the mother of a family, whose husband is working for sustenance, afford to buy apples at that price? How can she afford to buy bread, meat and clothing at the present high prices of these commodities? Prices are going up in spite of the Government’s prices control system. That has been admitted by the Treasurer, and by the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner, Professor Copland, who, in the course of an address to the Economic Society a few months ago, said in effect: “ Until you control finance, you cannot control prices to the degree that is necessary “, and prices have been going up ever since. The standard of subsistence is being reduced both directly in the ordinary way by reducing wages, and indirectly by currency depreciation and an increase of prices. In these circumstances, the Labour party cannot possibly be identified with a government which would claim to be a national government, but would be national in warne only, giving effect to the policy of the interests which it represented. I repeat that the aim of those interests is the1 lowest possible standard, of subsistence. What would be the effect of such a policy upon members of the Labour party if they were supporting a national government? If a proposal were made to reduce wages, which ‘would involve a reduced standard of living, ostensibly in order to improve Australia’s war effort, we, knowing that wages should not be reduced and. could even be increased, would cither bc gagged or have to challenge the Government. The Labour party does not intend to say that it will be loyal to the Government, and five minutes later challenge the Government. But the Government must be challenged on this question; it must be challenged also on the question of industrial disputes and strikes, not in a spirit of antagonism, but in an endeavour to rise to the occasion, and do better in the future than has been done in the past. The Government must be challenged also on the question of being dictated to by the private interests to which it is responsible. In these circumstances a national government would not be workable, and, in my opinion, any man claiming to represent the workers or the La.bour movement in this Parliament who joined a national government would he recreant to his trust, to say the least of it.
– Do you say that of the British Labour party?
– The circumstances in the two countries are entirely different. I speak subject to correction, because< we are at a great disadvantage. We are not allowed to learn exactly what is happening overseas. Certain publications from overseas are not allowed to enter Australia, and we must depend for our information upon other sources, some of which are doubtful. What is the position in Great Britain? It is a position which may arise in. Australia at any time, but, in Britain, it was not allowed to come into existence until the danger became so acute that the orthodox mind, the inhibited legal mind and. the contracted political mind no longer stood as obstacles between what should be done and what was being done. When bombs began to fly and something had to be done, Labour men were called in and given practically a free hand. They were not made responsible to the Cabinet, or to the Government. Mr. Ernest. Bevin. was told in effect, ‘“‘Here is a department; organize it as it should be organized “. One of the first things he did was to call up the entire personnel of the department. He told them that the job had to be done in a. way very different from that in which, it had been done. He said in effect: “You must increase output; you must get better results; you must do this and you must do that. Can you do these things? “ In every case where the answer was “ No, sir “, the job was given to some one else who could do it. .There was no appeal to the Prime Minister as to whether this could .be done or that could be done. The result was that Mr. Bevin and others like him organized efficient staffs overnight. Many of -the achievements so evident in Great Britain at present are due to the efforts of practical Labour men who work with their head3 as well as with their hands. It was not a matter of negotiating with this monopoly or that monopoly in order to determine what, rate of profit should apply, or whether this agreement or that agreement should be effected ; the individual took charge in the name of the Government, and anything in the nature of compensation was not to be talked about until after the war. The objective was to get on with the job, and the job has been done much more effectively under the direction of Labour men.
– How does the honorable senator account for the lower cost of riveting in Australia, mentioned by Senator Keane?
– I account, for the improvement by the existence of better conditions in Australia. The reactions of men to improved conditions are always favorable.
– The honorable senator then would give the men no credit for their skill.
– Yes, I would. Also,Iam prepared to give to the honorable senator all credit that is due to him for his dialectical skill, although I have not much respect for it. in England the conditions improved as the result of more efficient and more sympathetic management by Labour men who, in view of war-time exigencies and the necessity for a driving force, were given a free hand. Thesemen are giving to the workers the very best possible conditions in the circumstances. Even while the war is at its height, they are ensuring that the workers get, proper holidays, sufficient time for rest, and the right, food, knowing that the human mechanism has its limitations just as inorganic mechanism has limitations. By means of their extensive knowledge of these matters, their devotion, and their patriotism, they are obtaining results far greater ‘ than those obtained by men who have condemned them. That can be done here, but I am afraid that it will not be done until the pressure of war becomes even greater than it is to-day. Already some improvements have been effected as the result of war-time pressure, and were it not for that pressure, appeals to some people would be as futile as appeals to a wooden god. But in view of war-time exigencies and the knowledge of what is likely to happen should Great Britain go down in this struggle, the workers will no doubt get something better. Why fhould they wait? War was declared in September, 1939 ; we are now in November, 1940, and there are still thousands of men out of work, and being supported by the wages of those who are in employment - thousands of men who, instead of being contributors to the national revenue, are dependent on the national revenue. Are we to wait until the bombs are falling and there is absolutely no alternative before we make changes for the better? I trust that will not, be so; I hope there will be a better relationship between the workers, their representatives, and representatives of the Government. I am certain that if a sympathetic approach be made by those who represent the Government, there will be a sympathetic response from those who represent the workers. These men know just as well as any honorable senator in this chamber what to expect if Hitler and his hordes be successful, and they will work to the very last in order to make a maximum effort, if only the right approach be made to them. I trust therefore that if thiswar be still in progress when the next opening of Parliament takes place, we shall, instead of listening to reflections upon the workers such as were contained in the Governor-General’s Speech, hear something in appreciation of the services of the working people. I am not holding His Excellency personally responsible, because I know the circumstances in which his address was prepared, but if what I have suggested comes to pass, we shall all feel proud to be here in Australia; and we shall all be able to say : “ We have laid the foundations of a better order for the future than we have had in the past.” Sitting suspended from 5.2 until 8 p.m.
.- Paragraph 5 of the Governor-General’s Speech contains the following statement: -
The Treasurer will, within a few days, lay before you a budget which will impose upon the Australian people financial burdens heavier than they have ever before been called upon to bear. I am confident that these burdens will be cheerfully accepted and successfully borne.
I quite disagree with that. Last year’s budget imposed a burden of £20,000,000 upon the taxpayers. The sales tax was increased from 5 to81/3 per cent. Official figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician show that a man with a wife and three children pays annually direct and indirect taxes to the amount of £103 4s. 2d. Yet this year the budget provides for an increased expenditure over that of last, year of £35,000,000. On the 30th June, 1914, the taxes per head of the population amounted to £4 14s. 4d., and at the present time they total £20 12s. 10. Of course, when the new taxes are imposed, the burden will be very much heavier than it now is. The income tax exemption figure has been reduced from £250 to £150.
T have shown conclusively, in the past, that further taxation for the purpose of financing the war effort is unnecessary.
The futility of relief schemes has been shown by Professor F. W. Hart, of the University of California, who was in Australia in 1937 as a delegate to the New Education Fellowship Conference which met in Hobart, and of which I was a member. I suggested, incidentally, that adults required more education than young people. Although a master of science presided at the conference, and the gathering included the greatest number of university graduates I have ever seen under one roof, none knew anything about political economy. What has brought about this war, and the heavy taxation that it will involve? Professor Hart declared -
Surplus man power is the fuming, quaking volcano on which the economies and social security of the world is now sitting.
Surplus man power means low standards of living, poverty and starvation; these in turn lead to social unrest, economic strife, industrial warfare, political upheavals, civil war, revolutions, and may lead to international war.
I desire to get down to root causes, and I ask why Australia, is in its present financial plight. It must be recognized that the last depression was created by the banks. In the United States of America, the banks called up overdrafts and refused further credit. This movement spread to Europe, and that is how the great depression which began in 1929 originated. In George-street, Sydney, is a labour exchange where officials are at their wits’ end to find work for unemployed, whilst at the University of Sydney, men are being trained to discover labour-saving devices. In’ the United States of America, two-fifths of the world’s gold is stored, but in six years that nation has expended 20,000,000,000 dollars for relief necessitated by the action of the banks in bringing about the depression. Under his new deal, President Roosevelt borrowed £1,000,000,000 sterling from the bankers who brought about the depression, and in six years that nation expended, for relief £4,000,000,000, or three and a half times Australia’s national debt last year. A year ago, when I was addressing the Senate on the problem of taxation, I pointed out that it would be necessary to take away half of the salaries of members of this Senate by means of taxation before they would realize the futility of the present financial’ system. In the United States of America the recipients of relief early in 1933 numbered 21,000,000, yet the number is now 22,000,000. Those figures are startling. The United Slates of America started expending 1,000,000,000 dollars a year, and is now expending 4,000,000,000 dollars a year.
The greatest part of the money raised by taxation is, in many instances, used to pay the interest bill on money that has been borrowed. I have endeavoured to show that our war effort could be financed without further taxation, but my words have fallen on deaf cars. Australia owns the Commonwealth Bank, and. all of its profits go to the nation. If, instead of borrowing £25,000,000 next week from the private banks, we asked the Commonwealth Bank Board to advance credit to the amount of £25,000,000 for war purposes, according to the report of the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems, it could not refuse to grant the request. Instead of paying 33/4 per cent, to the private banks, it could be paid to the Commonwealth’ Bank, and thus the interest would go back to the nation.
– The honorable senator has advocated interest-free money, but now he suggests that 33/4 per cent, should be paid for it.
– It would hot matter if the Commonwealth Bank charged 5 per cent., because the interest would be returned to the nation in the form of bank profit.
– What was done in Alberta?
– That is the only country that has reduced its national debt, and. at the same time reduced taxes and developed its resources. I gave the honorable senator that answer twelve months ago. The sums already expended in the United States of America., together with the billions that have to be expended annually, constitute one of the main factors bringing ever nearer a breakdown in government credit, and the certain result of this will be the impoverishment of the very millions of citizens who now support, by their productive efforts, the 22,000,000’ relief recipients.
Great Britain lias presented a budget for this year of £1.500,000,000, but it is now admitted that, the treasury will not get half of that sum from, the people. Thousands of workers and others have been bombed out. of their homes and factories. They cannot be left to starve or be placed on. the dole. The money required to keep these people at work will have to be found from some other source, without increasing taxes, as was advised by the Macmillan Commission. No attempt has yet been made in Great Britain to take over the banks and the banking system ; but, as it, is impossible to get the money required by means of taxation, the only alternative is to raise it on the credit of the nation. A monthly review known as Sound Finance gives the bankers’ view as to how the situation should be met. Mr. Gillespie, chairman of the Bank of New South Wales, stated last year, after the declaration of war that, no doubt, the standard of living would have to be reduced, but he said nothing about lowering the rates of interest. He remarked that in London the bank could get only 10s. per cent, interest, on treasury-bills, whereas in Australia the rate was 35s. per cent, for the same accommodation. Why should the rate be three and a half times as high in Australia as in London? I invite honorable senators opposite to tell me if there is anything wrong with my suggestion as to how the heavy expenditure which the budget proposals involve could be met. For two years 1 have been trying to find an honorable senator who is willing ‘to controvert .what I have said, but apart from Senator Dein, who has interjected frequently, no one has accepted the challenge.
– Has the honorable senator converted any of his colleagues? (Senator DARCEY. - Yes. The Minister for Supply and Development (Senator McBride) has a bad memory, or he would, remember a division in this chamber some time ago which showed that I had 14 supporters. He may recall that I presented to the Senate a petition, signed by oyer 2,000 persons, in favour of an advance of credit by the Commonwealth. Bank, but the motion for the printing of the petition was defeated by 17 votes to 14. The right to petition Parliament is one of the great prerogatives and privileges of the people. From the time of Magna Charta aggrieved persons have had the right to present petitions to Parliament. Honorable senators who voted against the motion for the printing of the petition forgot that they were here to represent the electors, and consequently the motion was rejected without discussion.
– It was merely a motion for the printing of the petition.
– My colleagues on this side supported me on that occasion. It may not be generally known that I have converted a number of supporters of the Government. It is possible for a person to have the true faith without giving any outward indication of it. There are numbers of truly religious people who never go to church. Ministers opposite would probably not derive any benefit from attending church, because they appear to be beyond redemption. The conservative mind which is represented by honorable senators on the Government side of the chamber, will get a rude shock when the new income taxation proposals arc put into force. As a rule, wealthy people, particularly those whose fathers have left them sufficient money to enable them to live in comfort, have conservative minds, and do not like new ideas in finance. I predict that there will be much weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth on the part of many supporters of the present financial system when they get their income tax assessments. Those who impose taxes overlook thousands of people in Australia with incomes of from £500 to £1,500 a year who spend every penny that they receive. Indeed, some of them live beyond their means and fail to pay their debts. What will those people do? A man with an income of £1,500 a year will have to pay about £7 a week extra in taxes. H.e will have to find some means of saving that money. Obviously, he will not be able to live as he has done in ‘the past. I once had the impudence to write a letter to a newspaper. I hoped that it would be published, hut when I read what purported to be my letter. I found that it had been turned upside down. The publication which I hold in my hand has no name on it, but I know that it has been issued by the “banks, although it is said to be issued by the Sound Finance League of Australia, 54 Pitt-street, Sydney, and 422 Collins-street, Melbourne. I imagine that the Melbourne office ‘ is “ in Collins House,’ the centre which’ really controls Australia.
– Collins House is not at 422 Collins-street, Melbourne.
– Collins House wields a tremendous . influence in this chamber. ‘ Directors of the companies whose offices are situated in that building control the principal industries of Australia.. During the bank-created depression in the United States of America a newspaper in Detroit described bankers as benefactors. That newspaper regards as a benefactor a banker who will lend £400 or £500 on a house worth £1,000 if the owner will assign to the bank his right and title to the property. The bank can call up the mortgage a week later if it cares to do so. I have heard a banker likened to a man who lends another person an umbrella when the’ weather is’ dry and there is ho sign of rain, but sends for the umbrella when a storm is about to break. ‘The borrower gets wet in any case. ‘ In- 1929, when the bank , smash occurred in the United States of America, the “banks closed down on 200,000 factories, ‘ 3,000,000 stores,”. 3,000,000 farms’ and 5,000,000 homes. They took from ‘ the people of that country - wealth “ amounting to 3,000,000,000 dollars. -
Generally, the people who ask others to make sacrifices are themselves in comfortable positions, possibly because they have inherited considerable sums of money. ‘ The new taxation measure will impose’ a tax qf 10s. on a man earning £150 a year. Fancy taxing a man who earns £3 a week, when a royal commission has reported that money can be obtained from the Commonwealth Bank free of interest! The Government should put on its thinking cap before taxing a man with such a small income. Unfortunately it shows no consideration for any one except the private ‘banks. On previous occasions, I have shown how the Australian Mutual Provident Society invested £1,500,000 in government loans and received as commission oh the transaction the sum of £3,150. The Minister representing a previous Treasurer admitted that the loan provided for commission at the rate of 5s. per cent, being paid. The Australian Mutual Provident Society is not foolish enough to pay 6 per cent, on an overdraft from the hank while receiving only 3 per cent, from the Government for its investment. It transferred to the bank its bonds valued at £1,500,000, and in that way raised the money. A previous .Treasurer admitted that when it was desired to float, a loan of £9,000,000, the banks would not lend more than £4,850,000.
– If hanking business is so profitable, why did not the banks lend the whole of the £9,000,000?
– According to a recent, statement by the Commonwealth Bank dealing with the real currency of this country - the note issue - the whole of the private banks hold notes valued at only £15,000,000. There are only two sources from which money can be obtained: First, there is the Commonwealth Bank, from which money can ‘be obtained free of interest; and secondly, there are the private banks, which lend money at 3^ per cent. At any time since 1912, when the Commonwealth Bank was established, it was possible for the government of the day to do what I have suggested. Had I .been a member of this chamber twenty years ago, and had my advice been accepted, Australia’s national debt to-day would not be so great as it is: Each week this country pays £1,000,000 in interest on loans raised in previous years. Do honorable senators opposite think that the people of Australia can pay the new taxes as well as that interest, and carry on the business of the country? They should remember that the .taxes will have to be paid weekly, whereas it is possible to finance the war on credit which would not have to :be paid back. I am forced to repeat myself because, unfortunately, honorable senators do not appear capable of retaining in their minds for more than a week the things that I tell them. I have done my best to make honorable senators opposite take a serious view of things, particularly the subject in which I specialize. I have pointed out before that not only could the Commonwealth Bank lend money free of interest, but also that the increased prosperity resulting from the circulation of the money would mean that the Government would get its money back indirectly. The Bank of England is still trading under a charter which was granted in 1694, notwithstanding that recent legislation provides for the taking over of thebank. When the Chancellor of the Exchequer was asked if he was prepared to ‘bring in legislation to alter the charter of the Bank of England, and to require that the names of its shareholders be made public, he answered with an emphatic “ No “. Although the Bank of England is still allowed to lend money to the nation, the British Government is appealing to the Dinted States of America for financial assistance. Reference has been made to the great Victory Loan, but it is well known that Britain does not owe the bulk of that money, to the American Government. Many millions were subscribed by Wall-street, in the same way as Australian banks create credit out of nothing. With the British at their wit’s end to raise credits for the purchase of war materials, what is the objection to the Government using the credit of the nation, as Germany is doing? How can we expect to beat a powerful adversary, which is using such financial methods?For five years, Germany has been using the national credit for the purpose of providing armaments.
– That is not correct. !
– No man can be expected to beat his opponent with inferior equipment, and Australia, from the financial stand-point, is badly equipped. When Mr. Winston Churchill warned the British Government five years ago that Germany had spent £800,000,000 on re-armament, Ministers laughed at him. Are they laughing at him to-day?
– ‘Germany imposed heavy taxes and floated loans for the purpose of raising money.
– The British have adopted another course; they’ are borrowing their requirements from the Bank of England. Last Friday’s issue of the Sydney Morning Herald contained a news item headed, “Big Increases in all Taxation; Federal Budget Record”. In another column was published an article entitled “The danger of credit expansion ; further tax increases possible “. In 1939 the then Federal Treasurer (Mr.
Spender) stated at a meeting of the Loan Council that it. would be disastrous if the present war were financed under the same policy as was the last war. In his opinion, the adoption of similar methods to those which were employed, in 1914-18 would have both tragic and harmful results. What does Mr. Spender mean? Unless he advocated the elimination of interest through the use of national credit, the statement has no meaning at all. From time to time honorable senators have been informed that the Government will use the credit of the central bank. I desire to explain to the Chamber precisely what that declaration means. For one thing, Australia has no central bank in the true sense of the word. When a British financial mission, headed by Sir Otto Niemeyer and Mr. Guggenheim, caine to Australia we were warned that it would be necessary for us to tighten our belts, becausewe were living beyond our means.
– What Government invited Sir Otto Niemeyer to advise upon the financial policy of Australia ?
– I understand that it was a United Australia party-United Country party administration.
– It was not; it was a Labour government.
– At all events. Sir Otto stated that the standard of living enjoyed by Australians was too high, and that they must be prepared to draw in their belts, because our credits in London, which are required to meet interest payments on borrowed money, had reached a dangerously low level. On a number of occasions, I have described to honorable senators the financial position of Australia when the Scullin Government assumed office. The Bruce-Page Government had left an empty treasury and an adverse overseas trade balance of £30,000,000. Driven to seek new sources of revenue, the unfortunate Prime Minister, as a temporary expedient, imposed a sales tax of 2 per cent., which brought in between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 in the first year of its operation. As an illustration of the manner in which the sales tax has been multiplied by United Australia party-United Country party governments, I paid tax at the rate of 15 per cent, upon some purchases that I made in Sydney this week. During the current financial year the Treasurer expects to raise £20,000,000 from the sales tax, and to do so he has found it necessary to curtail the list of goods that hitherto have always been exempt. In fact, the Treasurer is at his wit’s end to realize his budget estimate of £270,000,000. Obviously the money cannot be obtained under the present proposals, and I prophesy that, in the near future, the Government will receive a severe knock when the money is not found.
Once upon a time Ministers took a delight in answering my questions dealing with finance. When I asked, in reference to a loan floated by a former Treasurer (Mr. Casey), how much of the money was bank credit and how much was subscribed by the public, I elicited that out of £4,500,000, the sum of £3,000,000 represented bank-created credit. In my opinion, that is really counterfeit money. The banks have a charter under which they may trade. They are the only authorities which may make counterfeit money and lend it to the Government at 3 per cent. If a man makes a florin in a lead mould, he may be sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. My views relating to finance are supported by excellent authority. In London in 1936, the Bank Officers’ Guild, which represents the employees of banks, carried unanimously a resolution drawing the attention of the directors of British banks to the growing public opinion that the present financial system could not hold up the economic system, and that if the directors did not voluntarily alter the system, they would be compelled to do so by public opinion and economic pressure. Such a warning substantiates my views upon the subject.
– Such an opinion is not held in New Zealand.
– In that dominion the so-called Labour Government has “ sold out “ to the banks. When the Treasurer (Mr. Nash) went to London, he was required to pay for the sins of the previous Government. The deeper one gets into debt, the greater is the restriction placed upon his liberty of action.
– Why does not the Government of New Zealand issue an interest-free loan?
– For the simple reason, as I explained to the honorable senator, that the Government “sold out” to the banks.
– When Mr. Nash went to London, he found that he could not convert any of the loans that had been raised by New Zealand, because his Government had made a radical change in the dominion’s financial policy. In those circumstances, Mr. Nash had to take what he could get. To provide a homely illustration, if I owe to my tailor £10 in respect of a suit of clothes, he will advise me, when I go to buy a new suit, to take one valued at £6. If the Labour party comes into power after the next elections, it will be obliged to carry the sins of this Government, in the same way as the Labour party in New Zealand was compelled to carry the sins of a nationalist administration.
– Pretty big sins, too !
– For 25 years the United Australia party-United Country party Administrations in the Commonwealth Parliament have followed a policy contrary to Labour principles.
– Why does not the Labour Government of New Zealand issue credits?
– I have already answered that question in reply to Senator Herbert Hays.
– The latest report of the economics committee flatly rejects the honorable senator’s proposals.
– Yes. As I admitted, the Labour Government “sold out” to the banks. Whilst I am not responsible for what is taking place in New Zealand, the party which Senator A. J. McLachlan supports is responsible for the financial policy of Australia. The private banks are doughty adversaries. If subjected to severe treatment, they are liable to react as they did in the United States of America. In the bank “ crash “ which occurred during the depression the Government had to come to the assistance of 4,000 banking institutions.
– The Commonwealth came to the assistance of the Savings Bank of New South Wales.
– If that institution had not been conducted in the interests of the private hanks, it need not have failed. On the clay that its doors wore closed it held £29,000,000 worth of bonds; but all assistance was denied it until it went out of business. In fact, big depositors, warned1 of the impending crash, withdrew large sums of money before that occurred. Apar.t from the Commonwealth Bank, the former Savings Bank of New South “Wales was doing more business than any other financial institution in Australia, and it was always a thorn in the side of the private banks. With the help of politicians, the institution was finally broken. Any bank, regardless of its financial reserves, can bc compelled to close its doors if it is subjected to such assaults as those that were directed against the Savings Bank of New South Wales. Over and over again, the manager of the bank appealed to the Government to compel politicians to refrain from, declaring that the institution was insolvent.
– Mr. Lang was responsible.
– Order !
– If you, sir, cannot keep honorable senators in order, I am sure that I cannot do so.
– Order! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.
– I have the greatest, respect for you, sir, and I withdraw the remark.
To the difference between the opinions held by the former Treasurer (Mr. Spender) and the present Treasurer (Mr. Fadden), I have already referred. There arc three ways in which money can be raised for the purpose of carrying on the war - by taxation, by revenue, and -by the issue of bank credit. I fail to understand the mentality of the Government, when it blindly refuses to recognize the advantage of obtaining the necessary money from the people’s bank. Honorable senators may recall that I suggested, in a question to the Treasurer, that a clause should be inserted in ali Government contracts to compel tenderers to place their business with the Commonwealth Bank. Such a provision is only fair and reasonable, as it represents reciprocity in business. From that source alone, hundreds ,of thousands of pounds could be secured. The present system is not only inadequate but also unsatisfactory. Banks display large advertisements exhorting the public to purchase Avar savings certificates, and the Treasurer is relying to a large extent upon that source for revenue with which to meet Avar expenditure. The staffs of the banks make weekly contributions to the purchase of these certificates, and the banks, at the end of each month send to the Commonwealth Treasury a cheque for the total amount. They receive the cash, and again use it a3 the basis for loans eight or nine times greater. This system is very profitable for the banks. Of course, at the beginning the Avar savings certificates scheme was not worth-while from the bank’s point of view, because no person or institution is allowed to hold more than £250 worth of certificates. The banks, however, had a brainwave and soon overcame that limitation by putting their employees into the scheme in the way I have described, but it is well-known that when the loan is fully subscribed, no money will have been paid by the banks to the Treasury. All the Government receives is the right to draw cheques against the banks for the amounts which they have contributed. I do not know why the . Government - permits, this racket to continue. I cannot understand why members of Parliament, who are elected to look after the interests of the taxpayers, allow the private banks to profit, in this way. At hundreds of public meetings held throughout the Commonwealth resolutions have been passed demanding that the Commonwealth Bank, as the people’s bank, be utilized to finance the nation’s Avar effort. Such resolutions, however, have bf:en disregarded. I have asked what amount the Government has received, first, as interest-free money from the Commonwealth Bank, and, secondly, from the private banks at 3-^ per cent, interest, but I am unable to obtain that information. Apparently the Government is becoming cunning, and is now adopting the attitude that such fact3 should not be made public. Many people have made straightout gifts of money to the Government, whilst many others have contributed large sums in the form of interest-free loans. They are the real patriots. Despite its profits, no private bank has made any gift of this kind to the Government. It cannot be said that the private banks do not make substantial profits. The Commonwealth Bank’s profit for the year ended the 30th June, 1939, was £1,138,000, which, on the bank’s trading capital of £6,000,000, represents a profit of 25 per cent.
– But the Commonwealth Bank does not pay tax.
– To some degree it does. The Commonwealth Bank is at the disposal of the Government. What I want to know is why the Government does not use it. No honorable senator opposite has dared to stand up to contradict what I have said. If any honorable senator opposite has a case to present on this subject why does he not put it forward? Honorable senators opposite will not accept my challenge to debate this matter. The Treasurer of Tasmania, Mr. Dwyer-Gray, declared at’ a Premiers Conference that the Commonwealth Government should issue £100,000,000 through the Commonwealth Bank, and with that money make the sky black with aeroplanes. This Government, however, took nonotice of that advice. Whenever money is sought for the construction, or extension, of public hospitals or schools, State treasurers ask where the money is to come from. TheRoyal Commission on Monetary and Banking Systems has stated that the Commonwealth Bank Board has power to raise money free of interest.
– The royal commission did’ not say that the Government should follow that course.
– No such body has the right to tell the Government what it should do, hut as a body of experts it can tell the Government what it can do. That commission stated that the Government can raise money free of interest, and that no legislation was required to enable it. to do this. In its report the commission pointed out that the Commonwealth Government has power to tell the Commonwealth Bank Board to issue as many millions of money as the Government requires. Parliament has complete control over finance, and the Government, with the support of Parliament, possesses full power to act in this direction. Should any difference of opinion arise between the Government and the bank board, the commission suggested that a free and frank discussion should take place on the matter. At all times, however, the will of the Government should prevail. In matters of public finance certain powers are delegated under the Constitution to the Commonwealth Bank, and this power must be used in the interests of the nation. Therefore, should the Government be of the opinion that the Commonwealth Bank Board is not acting in the interests of the people, it has the power to instruct the board as to what course it must follow. This position is dealt with clearly in paragraph 530 of the commission’s report. Honorable senators opposite, however, seem to question that procedure. Surely, the chairman of the royal commission, who is a Supreme Court judge, is well versed in constitutional law, and cognisant of all the facts associated with an inquiry which lasted twelve months, would not have permitted that statement to emanate from the commission had he entertained any doubt on the matter.
– The High Court itself has often been divided on constitutional questions.
– I cannot help that. This Parliament is not responsible for the decisions of the High Court; but it is responsible for the financial policy of Australia. Even the State Premiers are urging the Government to act along the lines which I have indicated. In a statement reprinted in the Sydney Morning Herald recently Mr. Mair, the Premier of New South Wales, said -
In times of stress and trouble like these we can get away from the orthodox methods of finance.
– To what degree?
– We can depart from the orthodox methods of finance to the degree that the productive capacity of the nation will allow. Only by spending more than we produce in various forms of wealth can we really get into debt. To-day, however, we -are getting into debt, and, at the same time, refuse to utilize national credit, War savings certificates are being sold to-day at a face value of 16s. In seven years they will be worth fi. “Where are we to obtain the money with which to meet those certificates seven years hence? Apparently we shall be obliged to borrow it, just as we are now borrowing the 16s. on each certificate. Many ‘people have said vo me that all members of Parliament should be business men. I do not agree with that view. Members of Parliament should be versed rather in the principles of political economy. Directors of a company who attempted to operate on a basis similar to that which the Government uses in connexion with war savings certificates would soon be censured by their shareholders. My point i.S that the taxpayers will not stand for such a system. ‘The worst-managed business in Australia is the business of government. This arises from the fact that each successive ministry is- tied to the principles adhered to by its predecessors. The mentality of each succeeding ministry remains unchanged. To-day the Government says, “ This is what out predecessors did, and we must stick to the same procedure”. Nothing hurts the conservative mind so much as a new idea. History records many instances in which the ideas advanced by one man in a particular sphere in the face of the strongest opposition from, his colleagues have been proved to bc right. For instance, in announcing his discovery of the circulation of the blood, James Harvey was strenuously opposed by the conservative medical mind of his time. However, he persisted in his claim, although the fact that he died in poverty is eloquent of the opposition he met with in his profession. In much the same way the conservative mind- in science refused to accept Newton’s discovery of the law of gravity.
– The honorable senator is the Harvey of finance, the only man who is right?
– The ideas which I have just expressed are not my ideas. They are not new. They could have been acted upon when the Commonwealth Bank was established in 1912. However, although the late Sir Denison Miller was an able financier and saved the Commonwealth millions of pounds in commission on loans, he could not quite abandon the orthodox methods of finance which he previously imbibed as a high official of the Bank of New South Wales. His failure to break away completely from the orthodox methods of finance was due solely to the influence of his conservative training. Had he so decided he could have issued credit in the way in which I have suggested. As a matter of fact, when the Commonwealth Bank was established it was in a better position to follow that course than, it is to-day, because the Bruce-Page Government by its legislation in 1924 practically strangled the Commonwealth Bank as the people’s bank.
– It has grown a great deal since then.
– One cannot prevent a good institution from expanding. I repeat that it is very difficult for any one to-day to place money on depositin the Commonwealth Bank, because the bank is reluctant to compete with the private banks. If I wanted to deposit £500 with the Commonwealth Bank, say, in Hobart, the first thing the manager would do would be to ask me with what bank I had been doing business.
– An answer supplied by the Minister representing the Treasurer to-day clearly showed that that is not correct.
– In this matter, I am speaking of my own personal experience. The manager of the Commonwealth bank in Hobart would be obliged to inform head office in Sydney of my application and head office would get into touch, with the bank with which I had previously done business. The latter bank would be informed of my application, and would be asked to explain my position. When such a system is followed, how can honorable senators opposite say that the Commonwealth Bank is being run in the interests of Australia? To-day, the Commonwealth Bank refuses to do business of this kind. Again I ask why the Government does not compel successful tenderers- for government contracts to do their business with the Commonwealth Bank? .In that way it can prove its loyalty tothat institution; and it would enable the bank to increase its earning capacity considerably. However, the Government refuses to do that, because it is tied to the private banking system. Nothing short of a financial crash will bring the Government to its senses. I hope it will realize the seriousness of our financial position, ‘and act upon the good advice which I have given. That advice is backed up by the highest authorities inthe financial world.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Presentation of Address-in-Reply.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) agreed to-
That the Address-in-Reply to His Excellency the Governor-General’s opening Speech he presented to His Excellency by the President and such senators as may desire to accompany him.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes).- I shall ascertain when it will be convenient for His Excellency the Governor-General to receive the AddressinReply, and will inform honorable senators accordingly. .
– I lay on the table -
Tariff Board - Deport for year 1939-40, together with summary of recommenda- tions .
The report is accompanied by an annexure, containing a summary of the Tariff Board’s recommendations which have been finally considered by the Government, and setting out what action has been taken in respect of each recommendation.
As practically the whole of the Tariff Board’s recommendations included in the annexure as tabled, are covered by Tariff Board reports which have already been made available to honorable members, it is not proposed to print the annexure.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed.
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I direct the attention of the Postmaster-General (Senator MeLeay) to the large and costly advertisements of a rather ‘extraordinary nature appearing in to-day’s issues of the Sydney Morning Herald’ and the Sydney Daily Telegraph. Apparently these advertisements have been inserted by the Australian Broadcasting Commission.
– Two good papers!
– I am not criticizing the newspapers because they always endeavour to publish all advertisements, particularly when they are supplied by persons who can pay for their insertion. The advertisements which are headed “ Propaganda Against the Australian Broadcasting Commission exposed “ refer readers to the current issue of the A.B.G. Weekly in which appears a similar heading with these additional words “The better the programmes the stronger the attacks “. This statement is so absurd that it carries its own condemnation. I have read the lengthy editorial in the A.B.C. Weekly more than once, and so far as I can see, it does not expose the nature of the attacks or by whom they were made. It is implied, however, that they were made by newspapers and by those controlling the B-class broadcasting stations. Advertising on such an extensive scale is costly, yet readers of the journal will doubtless experience the difficulty which I did in ascertaining who made the attacks referred to which are certainly not exposed. Generally speaking I find that the brighter and more interesting programmes are broadcast by the commercial stations, which I often’ listen-in to in preference to the national stations. I have not heard any propaganda against the Australian Broadcasting Commission broadcast by the commercial stations which do not refer to the Australian Broadcasting Commission in any way. Such propaganda probably exists only in the imagination of members of the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It is true that a few weeks ago a press paragraph stated that Mr. Randolph Bedford of Queensland had said that the Australian Broadcasting Commission imported musical frauds from the old world. Those who know Mr. Bedford’s picturesque personality and his command of language would read that paragraph with interest, but would not attach much significance to it. I do not think that his statement could be regarded as sustained propaganda against the Australian Broadcasting Commission. It does not justify the insertion of expensive advertisements in the daily press, or the publication of articles such as that which appeared in this week’s issue of the A.B.C. Weekly. I know of nothing to justify such a bitter attack. The commercial broadcasting stations which pay their way broadcast many sponsored programmes and advertisements, and no doubt when advertisements are being broadcast some persons tune-in to another station. The B-class stations pay the PostmasterGeneral’s Department an annual broadcasting fee and do not receive anything in the form of a subsidy such as is paid to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. A huge revenue is derived from listeners’ licence-fees.
– The commercial stations - run the biggest ramp in Australia. They pay £25 a year for a broadcasting licence and make thousands of pounds profit on their operations.
– The honorable senator is entitled to his own opinion on that matter. The commercial stations, which broadcast interesting programmes, have pioneered districts which for years were not served by the national stations or had only a very limited service. For a long period there was only one national broadcasting station inWestern Australia - the position has been altered in recent years - and the commercial stations provided programmes which were, and are, highly appreciated. The fact that the commercial stations are extremely popular with listeners, who, of course, have the right to choose the stations to which they will listen, shows that the service which they render is appreciated. Whilst the commercial stations do not receive any subsidy from the large sum collected annually byway of licence-fees, the Australian Broadcasting Commission receives10s. from every licence-fee received by the Postmaster-General’s Department. According to the commission’s figures, the Australian Broadcasting Commission receives a revenue of £616,500 annually. There is no reason why the A.B.C. Weekly, which is produced at a heavy loss with funds provided by the people, the necessity for the publication of which has been questioned, should be permitted to attack the commercial stations and the Australian press in the wayit., has done under, the pretext of replying to propaganda. The insulting tone of the editorial appearing in the A.B.C. Weekly may be judged from the following final words : -
The A.B.C Weekly will survive the Blitzkrieg and live to make handsome contributions to the programme fund.
I believe that the fund provided for supplying programmes and the general funds of the commission will be depleted if it continues to expend money on costly and unnecessary advertisements in’ the daily newspapers, and publishes articles such as that appearing in the current issue of the A.B.C. Weekly’. To apply the term “Blitzkrieg” to those who have dared to criticize the autocratic action of the Australian Broadcasting Commission is an insult to intelligent people, to the commercial stations which are rendering a useful service, and to the Australian press.
In fact, the A.B.C. Weekly is a weak weekly. It was never intended that listener’s licence-fees should be spent on advertisements such as those which appear in to-day’s Sydney newspapers.’ I do not know whether similar advertise- ‘ mends have appeared in newspapers in other parts of the Commonwealth, but if money is to be expended in that direction, the funds of the commission are being wastefully and unnecessarily depleted. Those who purchase the A.B.C. Weekly to peruse radio programmes and news do not wish to read two or three pages of abuse of the commercial stations and of Australian newspapers.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia) [9.11]. - I wish to refer to an answer given to a question which I asked upon notice to-day concerning the price of tea. The question read -
What reasons are advanced by the PriceFixing Commissioner, for tea being retailed to the consumers of Canberra at the price of 2s. 10d. a lb. when, in other States, the price is 2s. 3d. and 2s. 4d. a lb. ?
I did not mention any particular brand of tea, but merely stated that 2s. l0d. is charged in Canberra, whereas in other parts of Australia, the prevailing price is 2s. 3d. or 2s. 4d. a lb.
SenatorFoll. -For some brands of tea.
– The answer supplied by the, Prices Commissioner stated that the comparisons I made did not cover the same brand of tea. I did not’ mention any brand. The answer given is inaccurate, because in otherparts of the Commonwealth, Bushell’s tea is sold at 2s. 3d. or 2s. 4d. a lb, whilst in Canberra, the price is 2s. l0d. a lb. That is the comparison I am now making.I understand that there has since been, a slight increase of the price of Bushell’s tea, but the consumers in Canberra are not on the same basis as those in other States;
– The PricesCommissioner did not say that they are.
– No; but the prices mentioned are entirely different from those given by me. Even on the maximum price of. 2s. 4d. a lb. paid in Western Australia, there is a difference of 6d: I am dissatisfied with the answer given by the Minister.
I also asked another question relating to an application - made to the Commonwealth Bank in Melbourne for a bank draft to pay a debt owing in New Zealand. The Commonwealth Bank refused to grant the application, but when the applicant insisted and said that the business had to be done through the Commonwealth Bank his application was successful. In other cases the Commonwealth Bank has refused to grant similar applications. I agree with Senator Darcey that those controlling the Commonwealth. Bank do not seek, business from the public. I desire to know whether that policy is laid down by the board of directors.
– It is indicated in the answer that I gave to the honorable senator.
SenatorFRASER.- We have heard so much about the Commonwealth Bank being free from political control that I thought that this Government would see that the interests of the public are safeguarded.
. - Last week, I asked the Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay) without notice, if he was aware of the’ decision made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission to dispense with the services of Jim Davidson’s dance band, and whether honorable senators were justified in assuming that the economy drive against Mr. Davidson was to offset the loss of £37,000 incurred by the A.B.C. Weekly in the first seven months of its publication. I also inquired whether, the Minister would see that the A.B.C. dance band was retained at full strength, in view of its great popular appeal. The Minister replied that the matter would receive consideration. I should now like to know whether consideration has been, given to this matter, and what is the Minister’s- decision. As Senator Johnston has referred to a certain advertisement relating to the Australian Broadcasting. Commission, and as one of the best items broadcast by the commission was the “ Out of the Bag “ programme, it seems to me that an injustice has been done in dispensing with the band’s services.
. - in reply - Last Thursday Senator Aylett asked whether, in view of the possibility of further stoppages of the shipping service between Victoria, and Tasmania by the laying ofmines in Bass Strait, I would give consideration to the inauguration of a continuous, air mail service between Tasmania and the mainland, inorder to obviate a recurrence of recent conditions underwhichmailspiled up in the Tasmanian post offices. I am now able to inform the. honorable senator that, under present arrangements, all letter mails- between Tasmania and the mainland are despatched by the air service. As a result of the recent temporary closing of Bass Strait to shipping, there was a considerable accumulation of second-, third and fourth classmatter. The question of utilizing the air service for the transport of other than first class mail matter was given attention; but; in view of advices from the Navy Department that the early re-opening of the sea route was anticipated, it was decided that the heavy expenditure involved in air transportation would not be justified. In the eventof further stoppages of shipping in Bass Strait, the matter of forwarding all classes of mail by air will be promptly considered.
I appreciate the point raised by Sena- tor Johnston with regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission. I have nothad an opportunity to see the advertisement referred to by him, or to study the article in the A.B.C. Weekly, but I shall look into the matter. The Australian Broadcasting Commission has fairly wide powers. I am not in a position to state offhand the reasons for dispensing -with the services of the dance band referred to by the honorable senator, but, as I promised Senator Armstrong, I shall take the matter up with the commission at the earliest opportunity. In my opinion, the - commission is, on the whole, rendering good service to Australia. It would be difficult for it to please every body.
Question resolved in the affirmative. -
The following papers were ‘ pre sented : -
Arbitration(Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator,- &c. - -
No. 28 of 1940 - Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
No. 29 of 1940 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
No. 30 of 1940-Commonwealth Store- menand Packers’ Union; and Commonwealth Naval Storehousemen’s Association.
No. 31 of 1940 - Commonwealth- Temporary Clerks’ Association.
Commonwealth Public Service Act - Appointments - Department of Defence Coordination -M. P. Colebrook and R. L. Fraser.
Commonwealth Railways Act - Report on Commonwealth Railways Operations, for year 1939-40’.
Customs Act-Regulatioiis - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 256.
Dairy Produce Export Control Act - Fifteenth Annual Report of the Australian Dairy Produce Board, for the year 1939-40, together with Statement by the’ Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 252, 253.
Defence Act- and Naval Defence Act- Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940,- No. 254.
National Security Act: -
National Security (General) Regulations - Orders - . ….
Control of Highways, and use of land.
Prohibited Places (10). -
Prohibiting work on land, and use of land .
Taking possession of land, &c. (53).
Use of land (5).
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos..
249, 250, 251.
Naval Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 255.
Norfolk Island Act - Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 3 - Interpretation.
No. 4 - Advisory Council.
Petroleum Oil Search Acts - Statement of Expenditure for period 28th May, 1936, to 30th June,’ 1940.
Scat of Government Acceptance Act and Seat of Government- (Administration) Act-
Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 18- Public Baths.
No. 19 - Inflammable Liquids.
No. 20 - Court of Petty Sessions.
Regulations - 1940 - No. 7 (Police
Seat of Government (Administration) Act - Statement of Receipts and Expenditure of the Australian CapitalTerritory for year 1939-40.
Spirits Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 248. . ‘
Senate adjourned at 9.21 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 27 November 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19401127_senate_16_165/>.