16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for the Navy state whether there are sufficient minesweepers operating in Australian waters to deal effectively with the mine menace to our coastal shipping? If not, will the Government consider diverting from other industries the services of skilled tradesmen for the building of suitable craft? Will the Minister also state whether there is a shortage of volunteers to man the mine-sweepers ?
– The Government has given serious attention to the problems referred to by the honorable senator. Obviously it would be unwise to state the number of mine-sweepers operating, but there is no shortage in Australia of volunteers for this work.
– Will the Government bear in mind the fact that, along the coast, are numbers of boat harbours from which heavy-duty, seagoing motor boats owned by fishermen have operated in the past, and that some of these fishermen are of enemy nationality? Will the Government take steps to have the operations of these vessels thoroughly investigated so that there will be no possibility of their interfering with interstate shipping?
– I shall bring that matter under the notice of the’ Minister for the Navy, and see that all necessary steps are taken with regard to it.
– In order to obviate some of the difficulties confronting Tasmania owing to lack of shipping facilities, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce consider the temporary waiving of restrictions imposed under the Navigation Act, which prohibit overseas vessels from participating in interstate trade, so that American and Dutch vessels may be allowed to trade between Tasmania and the mainland ports when such trips can be arranged?
– A conference with respect to shipping matters was held in Canberra last week, and all of the points raised by the honorable senator were discussed. The Government is taking all possible steps to ensure the provision of proper communication between Tasmania and the mainland.
– As many woolgrowers urgently need money to tide them over the Christmas period, will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce state whether another appraisement of wool will be held in Western Australia before Christmas?
– I shall bring the honorable senator’s question under the notice of the Minister for Commerce, and ascertain if any such arrangement can be made.
– Has the Minister for Supply and Development any proof that magnesium cannot be produced economically by the Australian Magnesium Company at Hobart? If so, who supplied the evidence with regard to the matter and what is the nature of it? If the answer to the first portion of the question is in the negative, why is the Government trying to hamper the production of magnesium in Tasmania at a time when Australia and Great Britain are in grave need of supplies of this metal in carrying out our defence programme?
– The subject of the production of magnesium by the Tasnianian company referred to by the honorable member has been under consideration by the Government for a considerable time. The Government is doing nothing to hamper the production of this metal in Australia.
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : - 1 and.2. The Commonwealth Government has not raised any money for its own purposes by the issue of treasury-bills since the outbreak of war. Treasury-bills have been issued on behalf of and at the request of the States to provide them with temporary financial accommodation. This is the normal procedure for State finance and the treasury-bills issued are repayable in the financial year of issue. The Commonwealth will continue to meet the requests of the States in this matter.
asked the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answers: -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
Inquiries are being made and a reply will be furnished as soon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The Minister for Trade and Customs has supplied the following answers: -
Finance Through Commonwealth Bank
– On the 21st November Senator Darcey asked me a question without notice as to whether the Government would consider the desirability of inserting a clause in all Government contracts providing that successful tenderers must use the Commonwealth Bank to finance their undertakings. I am now in a position to inform, the honorable senator that the Government does not consider it desirable to insert such a clause in all Government contracts.
– On the 5th December Senator Cameron asked the following questions, upon notice: -
The Treasurer has supplied the following answers to the honorable senator’s questions : -
Included in the amount met from loan are subscriptions to Government loans from the Commonwealth and trading banks. It is not the practice to publish the details of such subscriptions without the consent of the subscribers. As no such permission has been given in this instance it is not possible to state the exact amount. As far as the trading banks are concerned, however, the published banking statistics show that the trading banks in October, 1940, held Government and municipal securities to the value of £45,000,000 compared with £22,000,000 in October, 1939.
– On the 6th December, Senator Abbott asked a question, without notice, as to whether the Government would consider a more serious exploitation of the oil shale deposits throughout the Commonwealth, with a view to the development of such deposits as those at Baerami and Murrurundi in New South Wales-. I am ‘ now in a position to inform the honorable senator that the Government has already taken active steps towards the development of the oil shale industry. Substantial sums of government money have been made available for the development of oil shale deposits at Glen Davis, and shale and coal spirit are protected to the extent of 7.4d. a gallon over imported petroleum spirit and 5.5d. a gallon over petrol refined in Australia from imported crude oil for a period of fifteen years on the understanding that there will be no limit as to the quantity which can be produced,but production must be undertaken within the next two years. These were the full rates of duty which applied prior to the outbreak of war. Certain interests are endeavouring to take advantage of this protection in connexion with the Baerami deposits, but reports indicate that deposits near Murrurundi are mainly of poor quality, and that they are faulted to an extent which would render mining operations very difficult.
In addition, the Government has appointed a Director ofSubstitute Fuels whose functions are to promote -
Debate resumed from the 6th December (vide page 532) on motion by Senator McBride -
That the papers be printed.
.- In continuing my speech of Friday last I desire to express my appreciation of the action of the Government in deciding to increase the service pension to soldiers in conformity with the increase of the invalid and old-age pension. This action is the result of negotiations through the Advisory War Council, which body is to be complimented on the good work that it is doing.
I desire also to express my appreciation of the work of the Australian
Broadcasting Commission.On numerous occasions, I have criticised the commission for bringing artists to Australia from overseas, because I believe that the work of educating the Australian public in music and art generally can be more effectively done by holding concerts and competitions in Australia, and selecting from the local artists young persons of promise to be sent overseas for further training. There would be greater appreciation of the work of the commission if its revenues were expended in teaching promising Australian artists rather than in paying huge salaries to overseas artists to visit this country.
– Is not the honorable senator in favour of the world’s best artistsbeing brought here to assist in educating the Australian public?
– That could be done occasionally, but not to the degree that has been practised in the past.
– Does the honorable senator know the percentage of overseas artists to local performers who have been engaged by the commission!
– Yes. I have a list of the names of the persons who have been engaged, but I have not been told what salaries have been paid to the overseas artists.
– The honorable senator is making charges against them without knowing the facts.
– I have said that I appreciate the good work which the commission is doing in broadcasting music, plays, descriptions of sporting events, educational talks, and other matters of general interest. I have been delighted to be present at some of the concerts arranged by the Australian Broadcasting Commission, especially those of Australian artists. They deserve the highest praise and I hope that they will be continued. The cost of the national broadcasting service is not excessive ; 10s. per annum from each listener is not a great amount. Several members of Parliament have been complaining about the publication of the A.B.C. Weekly, but that magazine is giving a splendid service, and the loss of £37,000 that was sustained on it in its first year must be offset by the saving effected by not advertising its programmes in he daily newspapers. Publication of programmes is an integral part of the broadcasting service, and the magazine, which is the best broadcasting journal in Australis, should not be stifled.
In Tasmania, a great many workers go home for their midday meal, but the only wireless entertainment provided for them between 12 and 2 o’clock consists of weather and market reports, whereas they would prefer to listen to music. Again, from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m., when the people like to listen to musical programmes, only market reports and the like are broadcast.
I appreciate the Government’s decision to acquire the apple and pear crop this year. The loss of £750,000 sustained by the Apple and Pear Marketing Board on the crop acquired last season resulted from bad administration. The mistakes that led to that loss would be avoided this season if the orchards were kept under constant supervision. Last season the crops on many big orchards were overestimated - a mistake which must not be repeated. Another mistake .that would be avoided under a system of constant inspection relates to cold storage. Last season we witnessed the spectacle of Granny Smith apples, a hard fruit, being put into cold storage earlier than the soft-fruited Jonathans. I am told that pears were put into storage two months too late. Pears ripen from the middle and it is impossible to determine ripeness merely by looking at the fruit. The only satisfactory method is based upon the length of time which it takes for pears to mature. That period varies according to varieties, and, in order to avoid a repetition of the mistake which led to many hundreds of cases of pears in Launceston and, I understand, Brisbane, being thrown on the refuse tip, regulations should be promulgated specifying the dates on which the different varieties should be put into cold storage. Having been paid for their fruit, the growers who adopt slack methods should be kept closely superintended.
The worries of the Apple and Pear Marketing Board would be lessened if the public were educated by an “eatmorefruit” advertising campaign. In the United States of America, which produces one-third of the world’s apples, the per capita consumption of apples each year is 57 lb., and of citrus fruit 53 lb., whereas the relative Australian figures are only 35 lb. and 30 lb. respectively.
There is urgent need to develop the Australian fishing industry. I understand that there is a fish cannery in New South Wales, but the cannery in “which I am particularly interested is the Lady Barren cannery at Flinders Island. Travelling at 185 miles an hour from Launceston to Flinders Island, an aeroplane in which I was recently a passenger took eleven minutes to pass over a shoal of salmon. The size of that shoal is conclusive proof of the abundance of edible fish in Australian waters. The modern cannery on Flinders Island is capable of handling much greater quantities of fish than at present. The main trouble with which the management has to contend is the unwillingness of the local fishermen to engage in their vocation when they are not in need of cash. After having been paid by the cannery for a catch the fishermen are disinclined to go out again until they run short of money. The result is lack of continuity of operations at the cannery. I suggest that the Government should give consideration to making a grant of money to people who are willing to exploit the fishing industry.
The tuna which abound in Australian waters could be fished and treated more profitably than at present. The latest report issued by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research contains the following passage: -
Much increased evidence of the tuna group of fishes has been obtained, and it now seems virtually certain that the numbers and distribution of this group are such that a commercial fishery can be envisaged particularly in Tasmanian waters.
In March, 1940, an article was published in the Melbourne Age under the heading “ Developing Fishing Industry “, in which the writer stated -
The American tuna fleet, which has been gradually evolved to meet the needs of the industry, comprises vessels which are not only designed for long travel, but to carry large catches. Australian packers, because of the comparative nearness of the tuna grounds, would be able to use boats far less costly to build and operate. It is estimated that the longest tuna cruise in Australian waters would not need to exceed 300 miles from the coast, and that vessels adequate for catching and transporting the fish could be built here at one-tenth of the cost involved in constructing and equipping an American tuna boat.
That passage proves that the Australian tuna-fishing industry could be operated even more profitably than that industry is now operated in the United States of America.
Recently I was a member of a deputation which asked the Government to subsidize a company wishing to engage in salmon-fishing in Australian waters. That company substantiated its claim for assistance with the following statement: -
For 1 lb. tall “Chum” the price landed into store in Australia is, we believe, 10s. 8½d. per dozen net.
This company has quoted and supplied the Defence Department with 1 lb. salmon at 8s. 3½d. per dozennet.
The saving, therefore, to be made by the use of Australian salmon would be 2s. 5d. per dozen, or 9s.8d. per case of four dozen.
We believe that a modest estimate of the requirements of the Defence Department for home use would be 50,000 cases of1 lb. salmon per annum. Consequently, the saving, if the Defence Department could be supplied with Australian salmon, would be at least £24,000 per annum.
Assuming the Government were disposed to set aside £50,000 as a loan to the industry to enable boats to be built to secure the supply of salmon, this amount would be repaid over a period, whereas in approximately two years the same amount could possibly be saved by the Government being able to buy Australian salmon at lower prices than the imported product. In addition, the loan would have enabled the salmon canning industry to have become established in Australia, thus conserving the overseas exchange position.
By supplying Australian salmon they would be enabled to effect a saving of £24,000 in one year. Any grant made availableby the Government could be repaid over a number of years, or could be utilized in the interest of consumers through the lowering of prices.
– The honorable senator would not compare Australian salmon with Canadian salmon?
– No; hut whilst Canadian and pink salmon is of better quality than Australian salmon, the latter is superior to the tinned salmon generally imported into Australia. The deputation’s statement continued -
It should also be mentioned that the boats which this company would build with government assistance, would enable Tuna to be caught and canned, and if this produce is not absorbed in the Australian market it could be exported in large quantities to America, thus further assisting in the conservation of the overseas funds.
I know that the Minister is sympathetic towards the trawling industry, and I have no doubt that he will give the fullest consideration to the request which I have made on its behalf.
Speaking in this chamber about twelve months ago on the necessity for patrolling Flinders and Furneaux islands, I said -
The Furneaux group of islands between Tasmania and the mainland is on the route of the regular air services, and if a plane were forced to alight on the sea there would be no means by which a rescue could be effected. It is the considered opinion of the inhabitants of the islands that for defence purposes, and also for use in the event of accidents to air liners, a pilot boat capable of a speed of 40 or 42 miles an hour should be provided.
These islands provide an excellent hiding place for an enemy raider operating in these waters.
Under the Government’s taxation proposals the tax on an income of £300 from property will be £6 a year, and on an income of £350 from property it will rise sharply to £12 a year. This means that in respect of those income levels the tax will be doubled when the income is increased by £50. That is unjust. In the summary supplied by the Treasury in connexion with the taxation proposals, it is stated that the rate of tax on income from property would be 25 per cent. on the lower incomes and would decrease to 3 per cent. on higher incomes. We are entitled to some explanation on that point, because obviously, the rate proposed will be unduly favorable to higher incomes.
I believe that the Government is doing its best to prosecute a full war effort. The latest war news from the Near East and the Middle East is heartening, but that from England is not so good. I am greatly impressed with the work of the Advisory War Council, and I hope to see that body continue to operate effectively.
SenatorJAMES McLACHLAN (South Australia) [3.35]. - In view of the fact that all matters arising out of the Governor-General’s Speech may be discussed during this debate, the Government acted wisely in disposing expeditiously of the debate on the Address-in-Reply in this chamber. As this is the first session of the Senate since the general elections, I propose to comment briefly upon the results recorded recently at the ballotbox. Whilst Government supporters could have wished for stronger representation in the House of Representatives, the Government nevertheless was returned in that chamber with a majority. In the Senate, which is the States’ House, it was returned with a substantial majority. Indeed, in the elections for the Senate, at any rate, the people of Australia took the opportunity to rectify some of the mistakes which they made in 1937. In five out of the six States the Government secured a total majority of 122,116 votes. In those States it also secured a preponderance of the votes cast in the election for the House of Representatives, the majorities for the respective States being Victoria 40,000, Queensland 15,000, South Australia 38,000, Western Australia 32,000 and Tasmania 5,000, or a total majority of 130,000.
– What are the figures, for New South Wales ?
– In New South Wales the Opposition candidates secured a majority of 249,000 votes. That result should have a salutary effect on thousands of the electors in the less populous States. It should induce them to resolve that they shall not allow the Government of Australia to be dominated by the most populous and wealthiest State in the Commonwealth. They should resolve to prevent New South Wales from becoming an octopus in national affairs.
In discussing the Governor-General’s Speech, the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) took pains to impress upon honorable senators that His Excellency had played no part in the framing of that Speech, but had simply voiced it as the mouthpiece of the Government. All honorable senators are aware of that fact. We know that had a Labour government been in office His Excellency’s Speech would have expressed Labour’s policy. As stated by the Leader of the Opposition, the Governor-General’s Speech merely outlines the Government’s policy, which,. when put before the electors at tie last elections, had one main plank - the fullest possible effort to win the war. In the Governor-General’s Speech the gravity of the position was stressed and a short resume was made of what is being done towards achieving, that important objective. Finally, an appeal was made to the people of Australia for wholehearted support and unity. Reference was also made in the Speech to the widespread industrial unrest throughout the Commonwealth. That was hardly necessary because the existence of industrial unrest has been published in almost every daily newspaper. The Opposition regarded that portion of the Speech as unfair and levelled at one section of the community, but it was nothing of the kind. The Leader of the Opposition stated that the industrial unrest was caused by the fact that employees experience undue delay in having their claims dealt with by arbitration tribunals. The honorable senator spoke of emergencies arising which demand immediate action to bring about a. settlement. No Government could be expected to provide machinery to eliminate industrial troubles and settle them in a few moments. Therefore, that industrial unrest can, and must, be settled by the existing tribunals.
I agree with some of the remarks made by Senator Lamp, particularly thatpractical men should hear the claims which come before arbitration courts. I also agree with Senator Keane that, so far as is possible, it is advisable that legal men should not represent the parties before such tribunals. I am sure that if those suggestions were given favorable consideration and eventually adopted great benefit would result. The Government has taken a step in this direction by appointing a Minister for Labour, and that is indicative of the Government’s determination to deal with all contingencies as they arise. We hope that the employees will be tolerant, knowing, as the Leader of the Opposition said, that disputes arise quickly. They will realize that the Government has just as many difficulties to overcome as they have.
In an interesting speech delivered a few days ago, Senator Spicer cited unemployment figures which were not in accord with statements made by Senator Cameron. It was quite refreshing to know that unemployment had been reduced to such a low level, at least in Victoria.
– I did not quote any figures.
Senator JAMES MCLACHLAN.That is so; but when the honorable senator referred dramatically to the starving multitudes in Victoria, Senator Spicer showed that in Victoria the unemployed numbered only approximately 10,000, or 7 per cent, of the population. All honorable senators will agree that the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) was confronted with a formidable task in preparing this wartime budget, and that he would have been super-human indeed had he been able to produce a budget above criticism. There is a considerable difference of opinion on financial matters, but the Treasurer is to be congratulated, not only upon the budget, but also upon his intimate knowledge of finance, as is shown by his lucid explanation of .the budgetary position. Although it has been said that revenue may be raised in three ways - by taxation, by loans, and by bank credit - there is a fourth method to which 1 shall refer later. The Government’s taxation proposals have caused a considerable controversy. In the matter of income tax, I take no exception to the statutory exemption being increased from £150 to £200. A single person in receipt of £200 with no dependants should not find it irksome to contribute something towards the country’s finances. The heaviest impost is on the higher incomes, as it should be. I do not agree with Senator Cameron that all incomes should be taxed down to £500, because that would take away from some persons much of the money which will be used to produce revenue later.
Much has been said about the company tax, and opinion has been divided as to whether that tax should be levied on a percentage basis, as outlined in the budget, or on a flat rate; but I believe that when the Treasurer puts the actual figures before Parliament, every one will be satisfied that the method which he has adopted is right.
We have heard a great deal with respect to loans. Some are in favour of compulsory loans; but at present I am opposed to such a scheme, because to a degree, it would dry up the sources of revenue. It must be remembered that most of the wealth in this country is not in cash, but in property of all descriptions, and if loans were raised compulsorily, many property-owners would be compelled to mortgage their holdings in order to meet the demands that would be made upon them. That would lead to the passage of moratorium legislation in order to protect the interests of the people.
Notwithstanding .all we have heard or read concerning national credit, I am afraid that many persons, including myself, do not fully understand the system that has been outlined by some.
The Leader of the Opposition, in discussing the budget proposals, referred to the loan position of the Commonwealth and to the fact that the associated banks had issued a greatly increased amount of credit since the commencement of the war ; but national credit expansion is generally understood to involve the provision of interest-free money. One of the most loquacious exponents of national credit in Australia is Senator Darcey. He can console himself with the knowledge that the national credit is now being utilized in this country to a greater extent than ever before. Honorable senators may decide for themselves whether this is due to his eloquence or to the war effort. Senator Brown, in referring to Senator Darcey’s financial theories, said that some of the honorable senator’s seeds of wisdom had fallen on barren ground. I remind Senator Brown of another Biblical allusion about a careful husbandman who planted his seed in good soil, but, during the night, an enemy sowed tares among it. Wherever national credit has been used unwisely a great deal of trouble has arisen, and I suggest that it would be well to avoid credit expansion as much as possible. Senator Darcey recently produced what he called Australia’s balance-sheet. The document was well prepared and closely resembled a proper balance-sheet. The honorable senator gave one to me and I began to study it. I went so far as to make comparisons between the figures it contained and other figures in the Commonwealth Year-Booh, from which it was supposed to be compiled, but I was quite refreshed when the Leader of the Opposition said that certain figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician had been “ rigged “. Senator Herbert Hays interjected that the figures had not been “ rigged “, and the Leader of the Opposition, in reply, reminded the honorable senator of the hackneyed aphorism that figures cannot lie, but liars can figure. He added that some persons are paid to manipulate figures, and can lie convincingly. An excellent address was contributed to the budget debate by Senator Spicer, who has probably given the best exposition of the proper use of national credit that has been heard in this Senate for a considerable period.
A fourth factor that has, perhaps, not received the consideration it deserves in connexion with the budget proposals is the importance of effective administration. It is possible to make money by saving it. Every penny saved is a penny earned. I submit that the people of this country would submit to almost any impost in order to win the war.
– So long as thu burden is spread equitably.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Tes, but the people have the right to see that their money is judiciously expended. In my opinion, economies could be effected by more care in administration than has been exercised in the past.
– Why not tell the Government ?
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.There are seven . Governments in Australia, and the aim of each should be to curtail expenditure as much as possible. When Ministers travel about the country they should not take with them a retinue of officials as large as the following which the Queen of Sheba had when she visited King Solomon. My criticism applies equally to members of the Governments of the States who periodically attend conferences in Canberra.
In the selection of sites for military camps and training schools, careful consideration should be given to their suitability and to the expenditure involved. It should be realized that these camps are only of a temporary nature. Strict supervision at the outset would in many instances lead to a considerable saving of money. Justification for my comment is afforded by the answers received from the Government to questions asked by honorable senators regarding matters of this kind. A few days ago the Leader of the Opposition asked questions relating to a military training ground at Dapto, and the answer revealed that the cost had already reached between £8,000 and £10,000, yet the training is now to be carried out on another site ! A question was also asked about Southern Cross, which was to be used as an air-training centre. A reply was received that, as Southern Cross was considered an unsuitable site, the training school was to be transferred to Geraldton. It was pointed out that the conditions at Southern Cross were hot and dusty, and that it was not a suitable place at which to establish a school. One naturally asks why the officials who selected that site did not realize, in the first instance, that Southern Cross was a hot and dusty spot. Why were thousands of pounds wasted in that way? The Government is establishing huge munitions works in South Australia, but, in my opinion, this matter is not being dealt with as it should be. Maladministration causes a serious loss of public money. I realize that the Government is confronted with a task of great magnitude and if” entitled to all the sympathy and help that we can give to it. Nevertheless, I claim that every effort should be made to eliminate waste, and that no mistake should be made twice. Although Australia is at war it is not under military rule. Let the Government avail itself of the opinions and experience of those having a full local knowledge in areas where government expenditure is contemplated.
Senator Brown, in his concluding remarks on the budget proposals, expressed sentiments that will be echoed by every honorable senator. He stressed the necessity for an all-in organization and for unity, in order to obtain a maximum national effort in carrying out our defence programme. An interjection about a national government was brushed aside airily, but I take it that the first place where organization and unity are required is in the national Parliament. A national government with a national policy would be of incalculable value. In his opening remarks, Senator Brown said that the Labour party had gained a victory in the negotiations over the budget proposals. I certainly do not agree with him. The negotiations proved conclusively that the members of that party in this Parliament are subservient to an outside caucus, that they are not to he trusted, and that, if they gained an advantage in this Parliament, they undoubtedly lost prestige outside by the methods adopted in obtaining it. From the declaration of war to the time when the last Parliament was dissolved, the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) was unceasing in his efforts to obtain a national government. Prior to the last elections, he offered the Labour party six seats in such a Cabinet, a greater number than it was entitled to by reason of its numerical strength. He reiterated, on the hustings, that if his Government were returned to power, he would continue his efforts to form a national government, and he has kept his word in that regard. After the election he offered to the Labour party half of the seats in the Cabinet or more than its numerical strength entitled it to hold.
– Why did not he, accept the offer to set up an Advisory War Council which was made in June?
– The negotiations were again abortive. However, an Advisory War Council was set up,but for its creation the rank and file of the Labour movement outside Parliament, not the members of the party within the Parliament, were responsible. I was astounded to hear the Leader of the Opposition say a few days ago -
May I say, with pardonable pride, that the Australian Advisory War Council is the creation of the rank and file of the Labour party, sitting in conference first in Canberra and later in Melbourne.
– The rank and file of the movement took our advice.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No; the Advisory War Council was set up against the advice of the members of the Parliamentary Labour party, who did not want it. That the rank and file forced the party to agree to the creation of this body is clear from the statement of the Leader of the Opposition which I have just read. The original budget proposals were submitted to the Advisory
War Council, which had the right to question every item. Having considered the budget, that body raised no query whatever; but as soon as the budget came before Parliament, the Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives (Mr. Curtin) moved an amendment.
– He had a perfect right to do so.
– But it was the budget to which he had taken no objection as a member of the Advisory War Council.
– Where did the honorable senator get that information; has the secrecy of the War Council been violated ?
– I know what emanated from the meeting ofthe War Council. I know that no exception was taken there to the budget proposals. At a later meeting of the council, the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition was discussed, and again agreement was reached, the only proviso being that the leaders of the respective political parties would place the facts before their members, undertaking at the same time to recommend the budget proposals.
– There was nothing wrong with that.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No ; but the members of the Labour party again repudiated the agreement which their leader had entered into.
– They did not; they asked us not to insult the invalid and old-age pensioners by offering an additional1s. a week.
– I think that I have proved my second point, namely, that the Opposition was not to be trusted.
By this time the Prime Minister had realized that, since the Labour party would not accept the advice of its representatives on the War Council, much of its proffered help and collaboration was only lip service. He, therefore, decided to have no more compromise, but to say definitely that if the budget proposals were not accepted by Parliament, the people themselves should be asked to decide.
– Then he climbed down.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.No; others climbed down. As soon as the Labour party realized that the Prime Minister was in earnest, and that rejection of the budget would have meant an appeal to the people, it crumpled and capitulated.
– It was the Prime Minister who capitulated.
– The Prime Minister called the Advisory War Council together again, as the honorable senator knows.
– In to-day’s Sydney Morning Herald some remarks of Mr. Curtin are published. The report states -
Labour, Mr. Curtin said, did not compromise last week. The compromise was made by the Prime Minister. The result was a better budget from Labour’s stand-point. “ A National Government,” he added, “ would bc an hour-to-hour and day-to-day series of compromises conducted in the secrecy of the Cabinet room. The compromise last week was open and above board”.
I point out that a compromise requires the consent of at least two parties. First, Mr. Curtin denied that there had been a compromise, and then he referred to the compromise of last week. The Sydney Morning Herald report continued -
A conference of presidents and secretaries of brandies of the Official Labour party last night unanimously condemned the Federal Parlia.nienta.ry Labour party’s decision to compromise with the Federal Government on the budget.
The decision is regarded as a vote of censure on the federal Labour leader, Mr. Curtin. . “ The action of the caucus has given the Menzies Government another lease of life, and will enable it to continue its vicious attacks on the standard of living of the people of this country,” read a resolution carried by the delegates.
That is the position as I see it. However, it is not yet too late for us to settle our difficulties, and unitedly face the problems which confront the nation. God only knows what 1941 will bring to the world, and therefore I ask that every nian and woman in Australia will approach the New Year determined more than ever to bring the war to a successful conclusion.
– The Senate has just listened to an extraordinary speech from Senator
James McLachlan. We have repeatedly heard honorable senators opposite say that they desire unity in this Parliament and in the nation’s war effort, but on every possible occasion they seize the opportunity to create difficulties and reproach honorable senators on this side. The honorable senator rejoiced in his belief that the Labour party had climbed down, but I hold that there can be no climbing down in view of the great issues which confront the nation at the present time. Whatever intelligence we have should be pooled, with a view to arriving at a common policy which will best meet the existing circumstances. I deprecate the attitude adopted by the honorable senator this afternoon.
When the budget was first introduced members of the Labour party adopted a certain attitude towards it, because they believed that the imposts proposed to be levied on the poorer sections of the community were too great, and would cause deflation and so react to the detriment of the people generally. We therefore sought a reconsideration of the budget by the Government. The result is that the amended budget proposals are much more satisfactory than the proposals originally introduced by the Government. To the degree that the amended budget is better than the original budget the credit is due to the Labour party. However, I do not propose to emphasize that point, but I pass on to say that I believe that we must consider on their merits the matters that come before us. The great difference between the Government and the Opposition is that, although all parties are agreed that it is necessary to secure finance to carry out our maximum war effort, we on this side say that the burden, must be shared fairly by all sections of the community. The Labour party is actuated hy that desire, and we rejoice that in some degree our efforts to achieve it have been successful. I was sorry that at the beginning of the budget discussion the Prime Minister adopted a nonconciliatory attitude; but I was equally pleased that, later, he was prepared to reconsider the budget and listen to the representations of the Labour party. I compliment him on so doing. Senator James McLachlan made the astounding statement that the Advisory War Council was responsible for the budget; at least, that is the only deduction I can make f rom his remarks.
– He did not quite say that
– That was the only impression that his remarks could convey, as readers of Hansard will agree when they see his speech in print. After the election, the Labour party realized that the electors had returned the Government with a slight majority, and therefore it honoured its undertaking to assist the Government to make the Parliament workable. Having done so, we are now jeered at by honorable senators opposite who say that we have climbed down and sacrificed our principles. We compromised in order to enable the Parliament to function, to ensure that the country’s war effort would not be impaired, and to enable the workers of this country to get a little more than they would have received under the proposals of the Government. The budget as it now stands is a very fair one, and I am prepared to accept it, although I regret that the Government has not gone a little further towards meeting the needs of the invalid and old-age pensioners. The Labour party holds strongly that a scheme of child endowment and other reforms should be introduced, hut we realize that these reforms must be left in abeyance for the present. However, I regret that the invalid and old-age pension has not been increased to at least 22s. 6d. a week, so that the pioneers of this nation, many of whom lost sons and loved ones in the last war, could enjoy a little more comfort. Many of the pensioners are compelled to subsist in the slums, where their rent absorbs 8s. to 10s. of their £1 a week. They have no facilities to live a decent life. Any additional consideration which the Government could give to them even now would be accepted gladly by this party. The concessions which have been given will be helpful to the community, because an additional £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 to be made available will be in circulation. The expenditure of that money will be reflected in industry. The decision not to reduce -the statutory exemption below £200 will mean that the hulk of the workers will be left with the little spending power they possess to be used for the benefit of the nation.
Senator Spicer, whom I congratulate, is a welcome addition to this chamber. His common-sense speech broke the conspiracy of silence on the other side of the chamber. He was the first honorable senator opposite to speak in this debate - but it was more the speech of a lawyer than that of a politician. He put the Labour party in the dock and accused it of having certain beliefs about financial reform. I do not know where he got the information on which he based his charges, but I assure him that his attack on this party was entirely without foundation. The Labour party has decided views on the financial system, but it realizes that it must have a majority in this Parliament to put its platform into effect.
– Does not the honorable senator subscribe to the views of Senator Darcey ?
– I subscribe to some of them. I do not believe that this war will be won with money. It does not matter where we cash our cheques if we save democracy and freedom. If we achieve that, it will not matter if we finish with only what we stand up in. The whole of the resources of this country must be thrown into the winning of the war. I could conduct a post mortem and take the Government to task for not heeding the advice given to it by the Labour party three or four years ago, but beyond saying that if that advice had been heeded, the contents of this budget would not have been such a shock to the community, I shall refrain from recrimination.
Senator James McLachlan in this chamber and Government supporters in the House of Representatives have repeatedly advocated the establishment of a national government on the lines of the Government of Great Britain, but the two countries are not analogous. In this country, many people are striving to avoid the loss of privileges and are clinging to all their advantages in the hope that everything will turn out all right. When the Labour party of Great Britain agreed to join the British
Government, the first thing it demanded and had granted was an increase of pensions and wages and an improvement of industrial conditions. The justice of those concessions was conceded by the Prime Minister of Great Britain (Mr. Churchill). It was on those lines that we approached this Government.
– In Great Britain National Government came first.
– It was only with great difficulty that we induced this Government to make any move. The Labour party approached the consideration of the budget with a desire to bring the Government’s policy a little closer to its policy so that our war effort would be united. A national government in the Commonwealth would mean only a few Labour Ministers in the Cabinet but that would not secure complete unity. The policy that we support is one which the people believe is the best for this nation. Australians will not shirk responsibility, but they want to be assured that burdens and responsibilities are equally shared.
-The Labour party scorns responsibility.
– Had the Labour party been returned with a majority at the last general election, it would not have scorned the responsibility of government. My experience of politics is that the merging of parties is not to the best advantage of the country. The Prime Minister would have benefited had he discarded the Country party from the outset. Honorable senators opposite talk about unity, but I remember that in 1938, when dark clouds were gathering, and we thought we were on the verge of war, the predominant consideration in the Country party was not what appeared to be impending disaster; but how many portfolios it would secure in the proposed coalition government and which members wouldbe chosen. Honorable senators opposite are insincere when they charge the Labour party with insincerity.
There is a feeling abroad that there has been careless spending, and I hope that in the future the Governmentwill take steps to ensure that it gets full value for every £1 that it expends. The sacrifices which the workers of Australia have been called upon to make so far do not compare with the sacrifices that the British worker is making. He can never be sure, when he goesto work in the morning, that he will not return to a bomb-wrecked house and and his wife and children dead. Nevertheless, the Australian workers are prepared to sacrifice everything for the preservation of democracy and freedom which they hold so dear. The common people have the most to lose if Hitler is successful in his onslaught on liberty, and, in order to protect the workers in Australia, the Labour party is determined to assist this Government in its war-time effort. It is not a qualification of that statement to say that the Government and the Opposition differ as to the methods which should be employed to prosecute the war. The Government’s policy is to lower the purchasing power of the workers.
– That is not so.
– As originally presented, the budget imposed taxes on people whose income was as low at £3 a week. Even the reduction of the statutory exemption from £250 to £200 will reduce substantially the purchasing power of the masses. The ability of people to buy goods should never be impaired, especially at a time when commodities are piling up on the wharfs because there is not sufficient shipping space to enable them to be exported.
– Can the honorable senator tell me the statutory exemption level in Queensland?
– The incidence of taxation on the worker in Queensland is lighter than in any other State.
– The lower incomes are taxed in Queensland.
– Offhand, I do not know the exemption, but the policy of the Queensland Labour Government is as far as possible to lift the load from the lower-paid people.I believe that to be a wise policy. The stupidity of taxing low incomes was demonstrated in Queensland in 1931, when the Moore Government was in power. It had the fallacious idea that, if the people tightened their belts sufficiently, prosperity would eventuate. The Nationalist party of Queensland was so disgusted with the Moore Government’s inglorious regime that not one member of that Government was nominated for the general elections when its term of office ended. It was disowned by the party. The result of that Government’s policy was a record unemployment, wholesale bankruptcy, and despair.
If there be any redeeming feature of this war, it is the fact that the Australian workers have demonstrated their ability to produce all our needs. Some consolation is to be derived from the fact that when the war ends- the new industries which have been set up as its result will continue to benefit the country. I believe, however, that industry can make progress only if the employees are paid adequate wages. That is a sound principle. I recall that when I wa3 a boy able-bodied men engaged in most arduous labour were refused butter in their ration. A 1-lb. tin of jam handed out to them on Monday morning had to last until Saturday, and for want of a place to store their rations the men were obliged to keep their food under their pillows. How can any one maintain that a policy which was responsible for those conditions will bring prosperity to this country? Those days have gone, but, apparently, the Government needs to be warned to-day against reducing wages. Once wages are reduced the purchasing power of the community is decreased. On this point I cannot do better than quote a recent remark by Mr. Forgan Smith, the Premier of Queensland. In passing, I might say that this Parliament is much in need of the services of a man of Mr. Forgan Smith’s ability.
– Does not the honorable senator think that we would have had a national government by now if Mr. Forgan Smith were a member of this Parliament?
– No, but we should certainly have a national policy. The Labour party contends that any general lowering of wages inevitably increases unemployment. All honorable senators must realize that a. man with three children must have great difficulty in making ends meet on the basic wage. Mr. Forgan Smith said -
If somebody stops buying somebody stops selling; if somebody stops selling somebody stops producing; if somebody stops producing somebody stops working; if somebody stops working somebody stops earning; if somebody stops earning somebody stops buying.
– Quite right.
– I congratulate Senator Leckie upon his promotion to the Cabinet. He possesses a thorough knowledge of industry, and so long as the Government relies upon men of proved ability in industry it will not be very far astray in its judgment.
Whilst I cannot claim to be an authority on finance, I realize that our financial structure rests on the resources of this country and the ability of our people to mobilize those resources in the production of all of the commodities we need. We may, of course, be obliged to borrow on future production. Indeed, to some degree, the Government is now implementing that policy. However, the point I emphasize is that the financial credit of the nation should be controlled in the interests not of private individuals, or institutions, but of the people. I recall that just before the depression financial institutions in this country were expending huge sums of money on the construction of palatial buildings in Sydney and Melbourne, while, at the same time, they refused to provide finance for works essential to the development of Australia. At that time the Government of Queensland found difficulty in securing sufficient finance to enable it to proceed with development works, including roads and bridges. The financial resources of this country must be controlled solely in the interests of the nation. In that work the Commonwealth Bank can play an important role, and that institution should be used to a greater degree in that direction. Unfortunately, however, it would seem that the policy of the Commonwealth Bank is subordinated to the interests of private financial institutions.
The Government’s compromise in respect of increases of pay to soldiers, and allowances to wives and dependants of soldiers, will bring joy to many people. The Labour party was responsible for securing that concession. Some people say that in doing so it climbed down. If that be so I shall be prepared to do a lot of climbing down in the future. Another concession which the Labour party secured was the consent of the Government to appoint a committee to investigate taxation proposals. We cannot say whether that committee will be able to devise a formula acceptable to all parties. However, its appointment exemplifies the value of compromise. Every political party will be given an opportunity to present its views on taxation generally before the committee.
Any one who has the interests of our democratic institutions at heart, and believes in our system of democratic government, must deplore the attitude adopted by a section of the Australian pres3 prior to, and during, the recent election campaign. Eoi- a number of weeks before the campaign opened, that section of the press indulged in most unfair criticism of the Government. It sought to make the issue at the last election a fight between Sydney interests and Melbourne interests. At the same time it ignored completely the interests of the other States. Apparently its criticism was actuated by the idea that if one or two gentlemen in New South Wales were elected to this Parliament our problems would be automatically solved.
– One of them was a Labour man, and he was elected. What does the honorable senator think of him?
– A couple of them are now supporters of this Government. All I can say is that they are not the great geniuses which the press claimed them to be. Apparently the particular section of the press to which I have referred believes that a few disgruntled politicians can solve our problems. Members of this Parliament as a whole have too much sense to be misled on that point. In all its actions in this Parliament the Labour party will be guided by common sense, and uppermost in ite mind will be the welfare of the people.
It is to be regretted that owing to the necessity for prosecuting our war effort to the full, we must, for the time being, pay less attention to the development of Australia. This country needs a greater population, and we can secure a greater population only by encouraging industry. We have the intelligence and ability to tackle that job, but we shall never do it efficiently unless we maintain decent living conditions for the mass of the people. I cannot emphasize that point, too much. Unlimited production will be useless unless we can provide a market for the commodities we produce. For instance, it would be useless to produce 1,000 pick handles if only one man required such an article or only one person could afford to buy one. I again urge the Government to rely to a greater degree upon the advice of practical men in industry. We are able to produce all of the goods we require.
– Most of them.
– We can well afford to go without those things which we cannot produce. I am aware of some of the intricacies of trade. I realize that we must export commodities in order to be able to purchase goods from overseas. At the same time, the best market is the home market, and we can only build up our home market by increasing our population, and by maintaining the standard of living of the community.
I am a realist. We must face our responsibilities and obligations. The budget is reasonable. Perhaps, a number of my colleagues will not agree with me on that point. However, I believe that regardless of its political colour any government would be obliged to act upon similar lines. At the same time we should avoid building up a huge national debt. We know that the sons of soldiers who died in the last war are still shouldering a heavy burden in the payment of interest to those who did not fight in the last war at all. The Government should exercise strict control over interest rates. This, of course, will mean smaller profits to lenders. Our people cannot escape the heavy burden which the Government must place upon them, but whilst taxation must be severe it should be wise. Such a policy will meet with no serious opposition from the Labour party.
– I agree with many of the remarks made by Senator Courtice, but I am afraid that, from the general tone of the speeches delivered hy several other honorable senators opposite, a stranger in the gallery of this chamber would have gathered, the impression that
Government supporters wished to oppress all those in receipt of small incomes. Honorable senators on this side of the chamber at least know that that is not correct, proof of which is found in the continued support given to the Government by the Australian people in past years. Had the Government not considered the welfare of the people on low incomes, it would not now be occupying the treasury bench. Probably there is no other country in the world in which the wealth of the population is so evenly distributed as it is in Australia.
I support the budget, and my first reason for so doing is because thu voters of Queensland elected me and my colleagues, Senators Crawford and Foll, to this chamber to apply our energies to the task of winning the war. As finance is necessary, and plays a most important part in the winning of any war, it is natural that the budget should have as its main object the raising of sufficient revenue to prosecute successfully Australia’s part in the struggle. The budget embodies the best means to raise the necessary revenue, and maintains an even balance between taxation, loans, and bank credit. I also believe that the budget fulfils one of the mo3t important requirements of any budget, in that it distributes the burdens of taxation as equally as possible. I agree that it is impossible for any government to place the burden equitably upon the shoulders of all people, especially in time of war. It is inevitable that some sections of the community will suffer more than others, but the people who make the greatest sacrifice are those who offer life and limb in the service of their country. The least that those who remain at home in comparative safety can do is to give their wealth, in order that their country may make the best possible war effort. The Government considers it necessary to tax incomes on a lower level than previously, which has caused a considerable amount of dissatisfaction. It is true that those in receipt of small incomes have been asked to bear their share of the burden, but since the budget was introduced, I have not received one complaint from any of the electors in Queensland concerning the Government’s taxa-tion proposals. The wealthier sections of the community are also to be taxed to a far greater degree than previously, in some instance up to 14s. in the £1.
If we compare the proposed taxes on low incomes in Australia with corresponding taxes operating in the sister dominion of New Zealand, and in Great Britain, we find that the people of the last-mentioned countries are bearing a far heavier burden. All portions of the British Commonwealth of Nations are expected to share equally the burden of meeting war expenditure. Yet we find that members of the Labour party are not prepared to go so far as Great Britain and New Zealand, and arc even cavilling at the moderate taxation which the Commonwealth Government proposes to put on the lower incomes. Had the Government asked for the same amount of revenue from the lower incomes as is being derived in Great Britain and New Zealand, I could have understood honorable senators opposite creating a disturbance, but, in the circumstances, I cannot understand them saying that working men who apparently are quite willing to pay their share of this war should not bear their portion of sacrifice.
– The honorable senator should also compare taxation levied upon higher incomes in New Zealand and Great Britain with that proposed in the budget.
– I have those figures, and I shall quote them for the information of honorable senators. In Australia, a nian with no dependants, in receipt of £5,000 a year, will have to pay £2,792, whereas the corresponding figures for New Zealand and Great Britain are £2,747 and £2,920 respectively. That the Government realizes that those in receipt of the higher incomes should be called upon to make the greatest contribution, is borne out by those figures.
– Why not compare still higher incomes?
– I am not conversant with the exact figures, but I think that in Australia there are only a small number of persons whose incomes exceed £5,000 a year.
– In England they are taxed up to 19s. in the £1, but here the tax only goes up to 14s. in the £1.
– That may he so, but the honorable senator must bear in mind that individual incomes in Great Britain are greater than individual incomes in Australia. Wealth is much more equally divided in Australia than it is in any other country, so that we must derive a reasonable amount of our revenue from that enormous proportion of .the population which receives the bulk of our national income.
Many suggestions as to how the money could be raised in some other direction have been put forward by the Opposition. The Leader of the Opposition suggested that 20s. in the £1 should be taken from all company profits exceeding 5 per cent. In effect, that would mean that 5 per cent, would be the maximum profit allowed for any business undertaking in this country. I ask the honorable senator to visualize what would happen to, say, the mining industry were his suggestion adopted. Mines represent a diminishing asset during the whole period that they are in operation, and on a profit of 5 per cent, many of them would he unable to carry on. In the north of Queensland there are deposits of rich copper - the ore containing up to 22 per cent, of copper - but the mines went out of production because the profit- obtained was too small, and now that huge wealth of copper is lying idle. It is futile to make suggestions such as that made by the Leader of the Opposition without first becoming fully conversant with the probable effects and repercussions upon industry.
Senator Darcey, who is consistent in his views, has expressed the opinion that all the money necessary to carry on the war could he provided by the Commonwealth Bank. The Government has different views on that matter, and quite frankly, having regard to the safety of the people, it does not think it possible to wholly employ that method. The statement has often been made by supporters of the financial theories advocated by Senator Darcey that the finance necessary for the carrying on of the war should be provided by the Commonwealth Bank, debt and interest free, as suggested by the Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems. Whatever that commission reported, it nowhere visualized the possibility of debt-free credit. Its report merely stated that loans based on national credit could be issued, but nowhere did it state that the Commonwealth Bank should make them. I draw the attention of honorable senators to the conclusions of the commission, in chapter 5 of its report. Paragraph 466, which deals with proposals for monetary reform, states -
We have given full and careful consideration to all the material to which our attention has been called, or which we have been able to discover for ourselves, upon this subject. We fully appreciate what has been urged upon us with respect to the problem of poverty, but we are unable to find that the social credit theory offers any solution.
I, together no doubt with other senators, received many letters during the recent election from electors interested in easy finance, stating that the money necessary to finance the war must be provided by the Commonwealth Bank, debt and interest free, “ as provided by the Royal Commission on Banking “.
No where does the report even remotely suggest that the Commonwealth Bank should do this, which the words “ as provided by the Royal Commission on Banking “, in the statement quoted above, would imply.
What the royal commission did “ provide “ is to be found in the 30 recommendations at the end of the report. I regret that the commission has been misrepresented with regard to its findings. It has not suggested that the Commonwealth Bank should issue debt and interest-free credit.
I think at this stage it is advisable to read paragraph 504 dealing with the issue of credit - 504. Because of this .power, the Commonwealth Bank is able to increase the cash of the trading banks in the ways we have pointed out above. Because of this power, too, the Commonwealth Bank can increase the cash reserves of the trading banks; for example, it can buy securities or other property, it can lend to the governments or to others in a variety of ways, and it can even make money available to governments or to others free of any charge.
And the following paragraph 513, which is linked up with 504 - 513. More important than the effects on prices are the effects of expansion and contraction of money on the volume of production, and on the distribution of production between different classes of industry. For example, an increase of bank loans is likely to cause an increase in the production of capital goode rather than consumer’s goods, and later to cause some disequilibrium. Moreover, if money ie easy to obtain, the growth of speculative concerns is likely to be encouraged, though their failure may be inevitable. The probability of results such as these is the chief reason against an undue expansion of money, for it produces changes in the structure of production which later will necessarily destroy the equilibrium of the economy. 1 would also like to read to the Senate paragraph 25 of the commission’s recommendations on Nationalization of Banking
I contend that the States should vacate, part of the field of taxation now occupied by them, in order to lighten the burden on the general body of wage-earners receiving less than £400 a year. Honorable senators opposite might assist me in urging the governments of the States to wipe out the special taxes imposed during the depression period. In some of the States these taxes still operate, and affect income as low as £100 a year. All of these taxes were imposed for the specific purpose of providing employment for those who had lost their jobs owing to the depression. I do not question the fairness of the action taken by the States to distribute the burden of the depression over the whole of the community, but the special State taxes are now unnecessary. In many of the States the taxes fall very heavily on wage and salary earners receiving less than £400 a year, but on the higher incomes also. The following table indicates the amount of tax levied in five of the States in respect of incomes of £250 a year: -
These taxes are not now used wholly for the purposes for which they were originally imposed. In New South “Wales, where the highest tax is in operation, part of the money is used for widows’ pensions and other social services; but the fact remains that a tax which was levied for a special purpose during the depression period is still operative, when Australia needs all the money it can raise for its war effort. The total amount of the taxes collected by the governments of the States is £11,064,085, which is practically double the sum which the Treasurer proposes to take from persons in receipt of the lower incomes.
– About 400,000 men are now either employed on war work or are in the services and it is unnecessary for the State authorities to impose special taxes for unemployment relief when the unemployed are few.
I congratulate the Treasurer upon the courage that he has displayed in presenting this budget. Admittedly, the burdens to be borne by the community are heavy. France collapsed quickly during the present war, largely because it had had a succession of weak governments which were afraid to tell the people that they would have to bear heavy taxes and increase production. If the Treasurer had been a weak Minister he might have been tempted to employ the financial methods advocated by Senator Darcey, but he preferred to let the people know that it is necessary for Australia, as well as other parts of the British Commonwealth of Nations, to make heavy sacrifices. The sole reason for this huge expenditure is the nation’s war effort, a fact which should not be lest sight of when we are considering the Government’s taxation proposals. So far, Australia has scarcely felt the effects of the war, whereas Great Britain, in addition to bearing the brunt of the enemy’s attack, has also had to carry the financial burden. It is not right that we should expect Great Britain to carry any proportion of our financial burden in order that we, far from the’ scene of the conflict, may carry on as before.
– If the honorable senator and his colleagues are sitting down, he should not accuse others of doing the same.
– I have not seen much evidence of the honorable senator’s interest in the war. In fact, many people in this country scarcely realize that the nation is at war.
– We on this side realize it, but we find difficulty in getting information as to what is actually taking place.
– The honorable senator can get from the newspapers all of the information that he needs. The Australian people are asked to pay a little more in taxes in order to retain their place in the world, and I believe that they are willing to do so if they understand the true position. Every day the war is creeping nearer to our shores.
– I am glad that the honorable senator has awakened to that fact.
– In waters adjoining the Australian coast 90,000 tons of shipping have been sunk during the last few months. Those losses have brought home to us that Australia is not immune from attack. The Treasurer asks the people of this country to find £1S6,000,000 this year for this country’s war effort, of which £143,000,000 is to be raised in Australia. Of that sum, £65,000,000 is to be obtained from revenue, and £50,000,000 from loan; the remaining £2S,000,000 has been carried forward from the previous year. Ad amount of £43,000,000 is to he provided by overseas loan. The budget for 1915-16, which was introduced into this Parliament by the then Treasurer, Mr. Higgs, is the comparable budget for the war of 1914-1918. It contemplated war expenditure amounting to £50,000,000, of which £9,000,000 was to he provided from revenue and £41,000,000 from loan. That loan money involved the payment of interest at 4£ per cent, or 5 per cent., whereas the loans raised to finance this war have been floated at 2-J per cent, interest for five years, and 3^ per cent, for from ten to sixteen years. Notwithstanding the greater amount proposed to be expended this year compared with 1915-16, the burden on the people will be lighter than it was then, because when Mr. Higgs contemplated an expenditure of £50,000,000 the estimated income of the people was only £200,000,000, whereas the national income at the present time is estimated at £745,000,000. Honorable senators will see that an expenditure of £50,000,000 in 1915-16 represented about one-fourth of the national income, whereas the contemplated expenditure of £143,000,000 for war purposes this year is approximately one-fifth of the total income. Had the proportion been the same as in the second year of the previous war, the Treasurer would have asked the people to provide for war purposes in Australia this year the sum of £186,000,000.
In other respects also this war differs from the last. Australia was then asked to supply only men. The response was so magnificent that up to April, 1916 - the nearest comparable date to the present period of this war - 180,000 Australian troops had been sent overseas. Those men were clothed and partly equipped in this country. At that time Australia had its own infantry, artillery, pioneer units,’ camel corps, light horse, engineering and other units, as well as a small air force, whilst our navy was then, as now, rendering all possible assistance to the British navy. Since the war of 1914-18, the armies of the world have been mechanized, and instead of an air force consisting of a comparatively few machines, we have to-day hundreds of air machines. Mechanical equipment is costly and increases the cost of this war compared with the last war but it is more efficient. Up to M.arch, 1916, Australia had suffered 42,000 casualties, but, so far, the wastage of man-power in this struggle has been practically nil. Our troops are still intact.
– There is some return from the increased cost.
– That is so. Warfare has become more speedy, and our aim, therefore, is to produce speedier machines than the enemy possesses, so that we may exceed his striking force. Moreover, during the last war, Australia itself was not in grave danger, its front line being overseas; but to-day we must have men trained, not only to take their place on the overseas front, but also to defend our own shores. That necessitates the training and equipping of a defenceforce of approximately 250,000 men, involving heavy expenditure in the provision of camps, training grounds, aerodromes, aircraft and other equipment.
The Government has done a good job in preparing this country to take its share in the conflict. The expenditure on this war is entirely different from the expenditure on the last war. “Whereas the bulk of the money is now being expended in Australia, in the last war a large proportion was expended overseas, and I venture the opinion that what has been achieved in the development of industry in this country since the beginning of the war is more than could have been achieved in 25 years of peace-time effort. Now we are producing, not only munitions, but also guns, aeroplanes, and every other part of our war needs. The factories which have been established will be a national asset when peace returns. They will continue in production and go on employing a steadily increasing number of men and women in the production of peace-time necessaries. Daily more men are being trained for work in workshops and almost every month new secondary industries come into operation. In fact the sword will literally be turned into the ploughshare by these industrial workshops in time of peace. In Great Britain industrial towns are being bombed, and factories,. I have no doubt, thrown out of production, whereas in this country industry is steadily forging ahead, safe from enemy action. It is a wonderful opportunity for Australian secondary industries.
Although the increased taxes represent a deduction from the wages of the workers, the money which is taken from those workers will immediately flow back into circulation and be used to pay wages to other workers.
Notwithstanding the heavy drain upon the public purse in the last two years, the requirements of the National Debt Sinking Fund Act have been complied with. In the year ended the 30th June, 1940, £11,041,000 was paid into the sinking fund for debt redemption. In the current financial year £13,000,000 will be provided for the same purpose.
I welcome the provision of £90,000 for the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research. That body has given valuable service to this country, especially in research into primary production. The council is now to be commended for its research into matters appertaining to secondary industries. Its work in that direction has been of material assistance in the war effort.
The job that we have undertaken is the nation’s job and before victory is assured every one of us will be called upon to share the burden. I hope that the time is not far distant when we as a parliament will be jointly sharing as an all party Government the burdens and responsibilities that have been thrust upon us.
– I wish that you, Mr. President, had the power to throw out this budget. It is deflationary and can only result in another depression. I do not think that the parties opposite are entirely responsible for the situation that this budget has brought about, because the High Commissioner in Australia for the United Kingdom, Sir Geoffrey Whiskard, seems to have influenced the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden). The Right Honorable S. M. Bruce, about ten years ago, said that the Australian people must tighten their belts and become accustomed to unemployment. Similar words were spoken recently by Sir Geoffrey Whiskard at a dinner in Sydney. He said that the Australian people must be heavily taxed and that their standards of living must be reduced. Subsequently, day after day, newspapers published leading articles on the subject. In part those articles urged upon the Government the need to utilize credit. Doubtless, those portions would be determined by the stand taken by the industrialists. The articles would then go on to state that if effect’ were given the taxation proposed by the Government, deflation, followed by depression, would result. The articles would then go on to give the view of the bankers that credit should not be touched, because interference with the credit structure would mean inflation, higher . prices and consequent depression. In the midst of all those articles, the Treasurer (Mr. Fadden) brought down a budget which caused consternation. One honorable senator said that he had received no letters condemning the budget. If that be so the people of Queensland must be backward, because agitation against the budget is rife in New South Wales and public meetings of protest are being convened at the Sydney Town Hall.
Last week some honorable senators supported the budget in its original form. Those honorable senators opposite who have spoken to-day have supported it in its amended form. Had a budget been brought down having for its purpose even heavier taxes, those senators would have risen in its support regardless of what effect it would have on the standard of living. The result of the taxation policy of this Government will be countless bankruptcies. Workers who have married in the last few years will lose their furniture, and even their homes through their inability to pay taxes .and at. the same time meet their other commitments. The budget will affect the man with an income of £400 almost as severely as the man on the basic wage. In their general effect the proposed taxes will cause widespread bankruptcy, and increase unemployment. The Government could, if it so desired, raise that portion of the revenue which it now proposes to derive from taxes on the lower incomes, by utilizing the national credit. There is nothing revolutionary in thi? idea because the Government, in some instances, has already utilized the national credit. I have not the slightest doubt that its decision in this respect has been dictated by the private financial institutions. The Government should nationalize banking. It should never have handed .over any portion of our war industries to private enterprise. Supporters of the Government contend that utilization of the national credit would cause inflation. That abjection has never been raised in those instances in which the Government has resorted to such a policy. To-day, the prices of many primary commodities and manufactured articles are fixed by the Government. The budget proposals will bring about a depression more severe than any which this country has yet experienced. Next year, the Government’s financial requirements will be much greater, but it will then find that it will not be able to obtain extra revenue through taxation because that source will be exhausted. It will then be forced to utilize the credit of the nation to a far greater degree than is necessary to-day, and in such circumstances economic chaos may result. The Government should reconsider the whole of its present proposals, and reconstruct the budget by spreading the burdens more equitably. It can do this by reducing the taxes which it now proposes to levy on incomes up to £400, and transferring them to individuals and companies who are best able to pay them. Public opinion will eventually force the Government to abandon the basis of its present proposals, because the new taxes will bring about a depression from which it will take us 20 yeans to extricate ourselves. We shall then revert to the good old days. People will be able to buy half a sheep for a shilling, but the trouble will be that very few persons will be able to spare the shilling.
The most reprehensible feature of the Government’s budget proposals is that the burden which it will place upon the shoulders of those with low incomes will not be confined simply to income tax. The price-fixing tribunals set up by the Government constitute the greatest joke yet perpetrated on the people of this country. The Government might be able to fool some of the people some of the time, but it cannot fool all of the people the whole of the time. It is impossible to discover on what basis the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner arrives at his decisions. He takes all of his evidence in camera. Through price increases those on lower incomes are called upon to make good to profiteering companies increases of sales tax, excise, and import duties on various commodities. Recently, the prices of such commodities as beer, tobacco, matches and razor blades were increased. Immediately the excise duty on beer was increased the wealthy brewing interests applied to the Prices Commissioner to increase the retail price. Government supporters never tire of telling us that every one in the community must make sacrifices. They mean, apparently, that the workers and their families must make sacrifices, but not the wealthy interests, like the brewing and tobacco companies. When the excise duty on beer was increased by 9d. a gallon, the increase was passed on to the consumer. The majority buy their beer in 8-oz. glasses. The price of the 8-oz. glass was increased by Id., but this means an increase of ls. 8d. a gallon, or lid. more than the increase of excise duty. Thus the brewing companies are enabled to make profits out of increases of taxes. Similarly, the British- Australasian Tobacco Company Limited, which is one of the wealthiest concerns in this country, applied to the Prices Commissioner to increase the price of cigarettes by Id. a packet, and that of tobacco by 2d. an ounce. It is not surprising that the request was granted, but the increase was effected in a contemptible manner. The Commissioner announced the increase at midday on a Friday. The result was that most working men, who purchase their tobacco supplies for the following week on Friday nights, were obliged to pay the increased prices immediately.
– On old stock too.
– .Yes. The explanation offered by the Prices Commissioner for permitting storekeepers to sell old stock at the increased prices is to enable them to offset the loss which they will be obliged to face in respect of stock which they have on hand when prices are reduced in the future. That is simply begging the question, because we know that the bulk of the profit made out of increased prices goes to the tobacco companies and to the distributors. The average worker is sufficiently patriotic not to complain about heavier taxes so long as he knows that his sacrifice will be in the national interest. How different is the attitude of the big companies? So soon as the excise, or import duty on a commodity is increased, they immediately pass the increase on to the consumer. For all they care the Government could increase customs duty on all kinds of articles by 100 per cent. They know that they will be able to pass on the imposts, and will not lose in any way whatever. From what I know of the average Australian, he will be reluctant, despite these taxes, to abandon little luxuries in the form of a drink of beer or a smoke. He will still have his drink and his smoke. This will mean that less money will be available to purchase requirements for his household. Such a development must be seriously considered, particularly in view of the increased prices of foodstuffs. Whichever way we look at the matter, the burden of increased taxes and imposts in various forms on articles needed by the worker must fall most severely on large families. Whilst I admit that the larger families will, to a great degree, escape direct taxation, it cannot be denied that they will pay most in the form of indirect taxes. Because they will place many foodstuffs beyond the reach of the average worker, these taxes will tend to undermine the health of the community. We shall find that many families will not be able to purchase various medical supplies. Consequently, within a few years, we shall again be faced with the problem of malnutrition among our children.
Action should be taken by the Government in connexion with the price of matches. Some time ago shopkeepers complained to me that they were unable to procure supplies of “ Federal “ matches. They asked the cause of the hold-up, and the Commonwealth Prices Commissioner said that so far as he knew supplies were not being held up. But we all know, and the Government knows, that at that time large stocks of matches were held in the warehouses. The match manufacturers approached the Government, no doubt with the support of the wholesalers, and asked that the price of matches be increased, and an increase of 2d. a dozen was allowed, making a total increase of 3d. a dozen since the outbreak of war. No doubt ample supplies of matches will be available to the public now that an increase of price has been granted.
Recently, I asked the following question concerning the sales tax : -
Does the Government collect sales tax weekly from the manufacturer, the distributor, the warehouse, or the retail shopkeeper?
I knew who paid the sales tax ultimately, but I wanted to know how it was collected. In reply to my question, I was given a long rigmarole which did not answer my question. Under an equitablesales tax scheme, those persons who are now making a profit from the sales tax would he compelled to pay it. If the sales tax is being collected only from the manufacturer or distributor, the Government is being robbed, and were the system altered to provide for a more equitable distribution of the tax, probably sufficient additional revenue could be obtained to enable the budget to be recast. No business man should be permitted to make a profit on taxes, but that is what is being done at present by many commercial houses throughout Australia. The Government should be more straightforward in this matter, because there is nothing to hide. Surely it does not wish to penalize the public for the benefit of those whose only interest in the country is to make money. These exploiters do not care whether the working man is able to buy one or two loaves of bread, provided they are able to make large profits. This is a serious matter, and the Government should take some action.
In reading various newspapers, it appears to me that those controlling them are concerned only with political strife; they are very interested in what is happening between the various political parties, and what may happen to the Government. However, a commendable article was published by one newspaper, Truth. It was a short but good article, and the newspaper should be thanked for publishing it. The article read -
Why Do Consumers Always Pay the Lot?
This mad deflationary budget - with compromises - which is being foisted on the public, spells ruination and despair.
Make sacrifices, howl the financial Nabobs of England and Australia, but apart from direct taxation, all the sacrifices are to be made by the consumer.
The consumers will have to pay so long as they are able.
– When I speak of the consumers, I refer to the masses of the people of this country who, although in receipt of low incomes, consume a large proportion of the foodstuffs and commodities upon which heavy taxes are imposed.
– Most foodstuffs are not subject to sales tax.
– Every one who smokes has to pay an additional 2d. an ounce on tobacco.
– But that is not a foodstuff.
– Of course not, but the price of bread is affected by the flour tax, and, in fact, almost all foodstuffs are subject to indirect taxation in some form.
– What is the tax on. butter?
– The working people have to pay1s. 7d. a pound for butter in order that it may be sold overseas at11d. a pound. Surely that is a very heavy tax.
The Government has not acted in the interests of the consumer. It has merely carried out the wishes of the private financial interests, and such persons asSir Geoffrey Whiskard, who said that the Australian people must get used to unemployment and heavy taxation. The Government, having fully explored the problem of raising revenue, discovered that by reducing the statutory exemption to £150 per annum, it could get at the working people very easily. Subsequently, it was decided to raise the exemption to £200, not because the Prime Minister had any sympathy for the poorer section, but because some more liberal members of his party impressed upon him that he must get off his high horse and make some concessions. Important concessions were made despite the fact that the Prime Minister had said that he regarded the Labour party’s amendment as a challenge to the Government. When concessions were being made, the Government should have gone further and restored the statutory exemption to the previous figure of £250 per annum. I have already shown how the Government could get all the revenue it requires by means of additional taxes on companies.
Sitting suspended from 6.13 to 8 p.m.
– When the Government went on the loan market last year it experienced difficulty in obtaining money. Despite the addresses broadcast by the Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) the Treasurer (Mr. Spender) and the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Curtin), for the purpose of whipping up the enthusiasm of possible subscribers to the latest loan, the people have indicated clearly that, in their opinion, the money required should be raised by means of an expansion of credit. It cannot be fairly said that members of the Opposition have made the slightest suggestion that would hinder subscription to the loan, yet, to induce the people to subscribe £28,000,000, demonstrations by mechanized military units have been held in the streets of Sydney. If the Government does not resOrt to the use of properly controlled national credit to a greater degree than in the past, it will have no alternative but to impose taxes more drastic than any yet contemplated. Two years ago, when Senator Darcey advocated full use of national credit, he was scoffed at, but he deserves to be congratulated for the consistent manner in which he has expounded his views on government finance.
– How many converts has he obtained?
– It was unnecessary for him to convert any honorable senator on the Opposition side, because the policy of the Labour party provides for the utilization of national credit. The Government has lost prestige because of its taxation proposals. A faked picture of the interior of the House of Representatives was recently published in a newspaper, the figures of members being deliberately removed from the photograph, in order to give the impression that members were absent and that our democratic form of government is useless. Regardless of their political opinions, those who make subversive statements desire to do away with democratic government, and would be prepared to establish a dictatorship in Australia. They are antiAustralians and an ti -Britishers of the worst kind.
A question was asked in the Senate to-day by Senator Abbott regarding the development of the oil shale deposits at Murrurundi, and he received a most evasive reply. For years the Wolgan Valley scheme was advocated strongly, but later it was decided by the Government to encourage the development of the deposits at Glen Davis. There are seven deposits of oil shale in New South Wales which are quite as valuable as that at Wolgan “Valley and Glen Davis, yet the Government has assisted in the exploitation of only one of them.
– Why does not private enterprise develop these deposits?
– If I had my way private enterprise would not be allowed to have anything to do with the development of our oil resources. All key industries should be in the hands of the Government. If the Government had control of the whole of the oil interests in Australia deposits such as that at Murrurundi would be developed. I have received the following letter from the Murrurundi Shale Oil Development Committee : - 25th September, 1940.
Referring to our recent conversation here on the matter of the local shale oil deposits.
Please find herewith copies of correspondence with the Director of Substitute Fuels in regard to the matter.
Copy of letter, dated 12th August, 1940, from Mr. P. C. Holmes Hunt, Director of Substitute Fuels. Department of Supply and Development, 300 Collins-street, Melbourne, to the secretary, Murrurundi Shale Oil Development Committee.
I am in receipt of your letter of 5th August, in which you ask that an investigation be made into the potentialities of the Temi shale field.
I have no information relating to Murrurundi shale other than what has been published in official reports. In one such report, Mr. Morrison has stated that “ little more than prospecting was done in the mine, and a very limited quantity was located in the retorts when operations were abandoned “.
I have been given to understand that there is a small quantity of good shale yielding about 75 gallons of oil per ton, but that most of the deposit is of poor quality, yielding only 30 or 35 gallons. I have been informed also that the seam has been much disturbed by earth movements, by reason of which mining operations on any considerable scale would present difficulties.
I note that you refer to a difference of opinion on the value of the deposit, and thai you have collected much information on the subject.
It appears to me that what is most urgently needed, to give an indication of the possibility of exploiting Murrurundi shale, is an authentic geological opinion on the deposit, the probable reserves and likely cost of mining. On such subjects I must be guided bv officials of the New South Wales Department of Mines, and for this reason I suggest that it would be best for you to submit the information you have collected to that department.
That advice was followed, and when Mr. Rogers submitted his report he commented in the following terms: -
I have been given to understand that the seam has been much disturbed by earth movements, and that for this reason, mining operations on any considerable scale would present great difficulties. Probably for the same reason, no estimate has been given by Morrison of the reserves in the deposit. Altogether I am inclined to conclude from the limited amount of information available to me that the Murrurundi deposit is not an attractive one for commercial exploitation.
It was stated that Murrurundi had no population. Therefore the local committee determined to secure from the Department of Supply and Development the report issued by Mr. Rogers which was forwarded to Mr. McVey. It read as follows: - . . Although in his letter to the Minister, Mr. V. C. Thompson, (M.H.R. for New England, New South Wales) states that the mines had produced “large quantities of good grade shale oil”, it is recorded by Morrison, that “ little more than prospecting was done in the mine, and a very limited quantity was treated in the retorts when operations were abandoned “.
Mr. Rogers did not make an inspection of the locality; he depended entirely on the reports received by him.
– They were official reports of the New South Wales Government.
– As a boy, I lived in Murrurundi for sometime, and I know that a considerable number of men were employed on the shale deposits there. I remember that there was an aerial tramway, or “ flying-fox “, to convey the shale across the valley.
– The company there is entitled to the same assistance as is given to any other company.
– The BritishAustralian Oil Company stopped operations because it was refining shale at other places. I remember particularly a noticeboard which appeared on the company’s gate: in large letters were printed the words, “ Men wanted “. Then followed some particulars as to the classes of men required. At the bottom were words which I shall never forget: “No Australian need apply”.
– Who put those words there ?
– They were put there by the company; they were printed on the same board in the same way as were the words “ Men wanted “. If honorable senators doubt my statement, I ask them to go to Newcastle and ascertain the facts for themselves. I know what was on the board, because I myself saw it. I know, too, what happened to the board ; it was shifted by Australian men. The company was determined that the Murrurundi deposits should not be exploited. The Government says that the works were closed down because the deposits were not profitable; I say that the major oil companies forced them to close. At one time over 300 men were working on the Murrurundi shale deposits,but after many of them had enlisted during the last war pressure was brought to bear, and the work stopped.
– Work was stopped for want of capital, following a strike.
– The Government should not have allowed work to cease; it should have seen that the deposits were developed.
– Why did not the Lang Government keep the works going? It was in power at the time.
– The development of these deposits is not a matter for State governments. The National Parliament should control the oil deposits of Australia.
– The Labour party . fought tooth and nail the proposal to develop the Newnes deposits.
– That proposal was objected to because the Labour party believed that it was wrong to hand over the deposits to private enterprise. Although Senator Dein knows that that was the reason, he has repeated his statement in this Senate time after time. Whenever he does so, he utters a deliberate lie.
– Order! The honorable senator must withdraw that remark.
– I do so, Mr. President, and say that the honorable senator has made an incorrect statement. Some day a government will be in office in the Commonwealth which will develop the shale deposits of this country despite the opposition of the major oil companies.
Some time ago I asked whether a fine of £1,400 imposed on the Abco Bread Company Proprietary Limited had been paid. After waiting nine days, I was informed that the collection of the fine was a matter for the State government.
– That is so.
– Even if that be correct, it would not have been much trouble for the Minister to ascertain from the State government whether or not the fine had been paid. In striking contrast to the treatment of that big company was the treatment of a number of small traders who were fined recently for selling potatoes at prices above those authorized by the Prices Commissioner. The following report is taken from the Sydney Morning Herald of the 7th December: -
Prices were Excessive.
Five potato salesmen at the Sydney Municipal Markets were lined yesterday in the Central Summons Court under the National Security Regulations for offering goods for sale at a price higher than that fixed by the Prices Commissioner.
On behalf of the Crown it was stated that the salesmen were offering potatoes for sale at £1 2s. a cwt., -whereas the price fixed by the Prices Commissioner was 18s. a cwt. at the time of the offences.
The five men, who each pleaded guilty, were stallholders at the Municipal Markets, it was stated.
They were: Harold Swain, fined £5 and fi !)s. costs; H. Matherson, fined £5 and £1 9s. costs: Andrew Garbellina, fined £5 and £1 9s. costs; W. H. Effield, fined £5 and £1 9s. costs; and W. Fitzpatrick, fined a total of £13 and £4 7s. costs on three charges.
These men are market-gardeners, who have had a hard time for many months because of drought conditions. “When the Prices Commissioner fixed the price of potatoes he had in mind old potatoes. New season’s potatoes which these men sold always bring higher prices than are obtained for old ones.
– No. I am not like the Minister who all his life has been seeking high prices and bounties for the commodities that he has for sale. These struggling market-gardeners have had a bad time. Last year a gardener whom I know planted seven acres of land with potatoes, and received a return of £4,000. This year from a similar area he received no return at all. The potatoes in respect of which they were fined were sold at 2d. a lb. to a retailer who sold them at 4d. a lb., thereby making 100 per cent, profit on the deal. The fine imposed on these small traders was collected on the spot, but the Government does not know yet whether the Abbco Bread Company Proprietary Limited has paid the fine of £1,400 imposed on it.
– The money would not be paid to the Commonwealth Government.
– It would be paid to the Defence Department, because the company had an army contract for bread. “
– The army contract was for a certain total weight of bread, not necessarily a certain weight for each loaf.
– The company robbed the army, as will be seen from the address of the Crown Prosecutor. I known these market-gardeners. They are most generous in giving assistance to Red Cross funds, the Lord Mayor’s Relief Fund and other such deserving objects. Yet they were fined for a trifling offence. Regulations should be framed so as to enable primary producers to receive higher prices for their produce at certain periods of the year, and the maximum prices allowed by the Prices Commissioner should be displayed prominently in the market where traders can see them. The differential treatment meted out to these men and to wealthy offenders against the law shows unjust discrimination.
– Does the honorable senator believe in price-fixing ?
– Of course I do. If I had my way, the price of everything would be fixed. Moreover, I should see that those who charged exorbitant prices were effectively dealt with. [Extension of time granted.]
Twenty five men employed in the mess at the Royal Australian Air Force station at Richmond have written to me complaining of their treatment. Their letters disclose a state of affairs warranting immediate investigation, not by officers at Richmond, but by officers from other air force stations. I do not, however, intend to pass those letters on to the Minister for Air (Mr. McEwen) because I fear that the writers would suffer the same fate as Aircraftman Reed, who dared to write to the Attorney-General (Mr. Hughes) and was court-martialled and dismissed from the Air Force for having done so. I was in the last war and I know what the private soldiers have to contend with from their officers. I also know that the only way in which to have grievances redressed is not by appeal to the men in command, but to a member of Parliament. When I was discharged from the Australian Imperial Force my application for a pension in respect of war disabilities was rejected, and before I could get justice I had to summon the help of the former member for Newcastle, the late Mr. David Watkins. The impressions I have gained from reading the letters sent to me by these aircraftmen is that the officers treat them as dirt under their feet. Among other things one letter, under the heading “Why the men complain,” sets out the following grounds of complaint: -
The foregoing shows the snobbery and class distinction that exist in the fighting forces. A second instance of snobbery is the refusal of the Government to extend to the rank and file of the Militia the privilege of “ wet “ canteens which has been restored to the officers’ and sergeants’ messes. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) was asked -
Will the Minister for the Army state whether it is a fact that it has been decided to establish wet canteens in militia camps for officers only. Can he give the reason for this discrimination? Does he intend to extend the privilege of wet canteens to all ranks?
His reply was - -
The decision of “the Government with respect to restoring a privilege which existed has no relation to the general subject of wet canteens in Militia camps. For many years the officers’ and sergeants’ messes have enjoyed the privilege of having liquor at their “messes. That privilege was, I understand, taken away under a misapprehension as to the legal position. Members of militia camps are volunteers. The Militia are called up under section 60 of the act, and not under section 11. In view of the fact that the privilege had been withdrawn under a misapprehension, I see no reason why it should not be restored.
The Minister was guilty of evasion in his answer because he made no mention of all ranks. The men concerned are 22 or 23 years of age, and officers have pointed out that when they go into town they are apt to drink too much whisky and rum and become drunken nuisances, whereas, if beer were provided for them in their camps,- they would be content with a pint or two and go to camp picture shows or concerts.
Twelve months ago a building for an automatic telephone exchange at Bankstown was completed. I thank the former Postmaster-General, Senator A. J. McLachlan, for what he did to meet my urgent representations in connexion with that exchange. Unfortunately,, however, it is necessary that a building be completely dry before the delicate apparatus -is installed. While the building was being allowed to dry, it was occupied by the military. It is still in occupation, and Bankstown is no nearer getting its telephone exchange than it was when I first entered this Parliament. The Bankstown municipality in sufficiently important for the erection by the Army Department of a drill hall, and I hope that the Postmaster-General (Senator McLeay) will bring pressure to bear on his colleague, the Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) in order to have the telephone exchange building vacated by the military so that the telephone exchange may be installed.
All sorts of difficulties exist in Bankstown as the result of the failure of the Postal Department to provide adequate telephonic facilities there. For instance, one resident whose home is about 12 miles from the General Post Office applied on the 1st April, 1937, to have a telephone installed. All honorable senators, no doubt, have seen the Postal Department propaganda to the effect that a telephone can be installed in a home for 2s. a week. This man was told that if he cared to pay £6 a year rental, and £21 for the extension of the telephone line, he could be connected to the Padstow Park Exchange. The hours of service at that exchange are from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on week days, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturdays, and no service is available on Sundays and holidays. Such a service as that is useless.
– How far is he from the nearest exchange?
– About 4 miles from the Lakemba Exchange and within 2 miles of the proposed exchange at Bankstown. Many people in the district have had their telephones removed, because the hours of service are insufficient. For the miserable pittance which the Postal Department pays them, the attendants at part-time exchanges cannot be expected to .remain on the premises after the official hours, and the result is that in an emergency such as sickness, the telephone is useless.
Earlier, I mentioned Mr. Robb, who wants a dictatorship in Australia, but I was told that the matter is sui judice, as a committee of inquiry is dealing with it. I do not expect to hear any more about the matter. I suppose that it will end like everything else which the Government handles.
– It is hardly fair for the honorable senator to condemn the man while the inquiry is still proceeding.
– I am merely offering the comment that we shall hear no more about the matter. Persons who make subversive statements should be interned.
I now propose to deal with the appointment of Edwin Van-der-Vord Nixon, under the National Security Regulations, as expert in charge of the control of profits in munition production. This gentleman was first appointed to the Board of Business Administration, his colleagues on that body being Essington Lewis Esq., the Right Honorable Sir George Pearce, Norman Myer, Esq., and the Honorable Sir Walter Massy-Greene. Sir Walter Massy-Greene is a director of the following thirteen public companies : Associated Paper and Pulp Mills Limited, Australian Knitting Mills Limited, Austral Silk and Cotton Mills Limited, Barnet Glass Rubber Company, Bradford Cotton Mills Limited, DunlopPerdriau Rubber Company, Electrolytic Zinc of Australia Limited, Emu Bay Railway Company, Felt and Textiles of. Australia Limited, North Broken Hill Limited* North Broken Hill Consolidated Limited, Yarra Falls Limited and Zinc Investments Limited.
– Would the honorable senator appoint to the Board of Business Administration a man who knew nothing about business?
– No, but I certainly should not appoint Sir Walter MassyGreene to that body. I should have got somebody else to do the job.
– The honorable senator has not proved that Sir Walter is not doing a good job.
– Probably he is, but only from the viewpoint of those whose interests he represents. However, at the moment I wish to deal with the appointment of Mr. Nixon. He will have power to limit profits in accordance with ascertained losses. Mr. Nixon was associated with Mr. Essington Lewis.
– There seems to be some sinister suggestion behind the honorable senator’s statement.
– The point I make is that the Government virtually appointed a board of directors, and then appointed one of them as auditor of the business controlled by themselves. In other circumstances such action would be a public scandal.
– Mr. Essington Lewis is not at present a member of the Board of Business Administration.
– His appointment to that board was gazetted on the 20th March, .1940.
– He is not a member of the Board of Business Administration at present.
– I object to the appointment of men who are interested in. so many private companies to such positions when the services of other men possessing equal ability, but with no private business ties, could have been obtained. Many people in New South Wales are concerned about this matter. I am not raising it merely for the sake of talking about it. I again ask the Senate to reconsider the case of Captain T. P. Conway. On a previous occasion I stated that Mr. Spender, when Treasurer, informed me by letter that he would forward the amount of £100 to Mr. Conway. At that time I was told that Mr. Spender did not make any such promise. Mr. Spender’s letter to me was as follows: -
I am in receipt of your letter of the 10th instant, regarding the question of the payment of an amount of£ 100 awarded to Mr. T. P. Conway. I shall arrange for consideration to be given to this matter with a view to payment of the sum in question being made as early as possible.
I forwarded that letter to Mr. Conway, and I suggest that from it he could draw only one conclusion, namely, that Mr. Spender would forward the sum of £100 to him as early as possible. I have now received the following letter from exSenator Gardiner : -
I have been thinking of the reference to the Conway case, at the close of the last Parliament. And if my memory serves me right Senator McBride’s speech left the impression that you had misrepresented Spender. In your own interests you must remove that impression. You might draft some questions to McBride to show that he or Spender have tried to misrepresent you.
But the flouting of the Senate by the Government is a very serious matter, and a carefully drafted motion should get you enough votes to carry it. You might get likely supporters to help you draft a motion. Not that you need help, but I found that getting in touch with a member, asking advice beforehand meant a supporter when the motion came before the Senate.
Ex-Senator Gardiner has asked me to request the Senate to reconstitute the select committee to inquire into his case. He feels that he can now place before the committee material which he previously overlooked.
– Has the honorable senator discussed this matter with Mr. Chifley, who is now the honorable member for Macquarie?
– No. However, I stand by what I said previously concerning Mr. Chifley in this matter. As the Senate intends to adjourn this week for the recess, I doubt whether it will have time to consider the request which I now make on Conway’s behalf. However, I feel that a majority of honorable senators would favour the re-constitution of the select committee. Should it be reconstituted, I should like to have the opportunity to ask Mr. Spender what conclusion he would draw, if he were Conway, from the letter forwarded to Conway. Since forwarding that letter to
Conway I have received about twenty letters from him urging me to present his case in the matter. I have received no word from Mr. Spender, or from the Treasury, since the 12th October, 1939, on which date Mr. Spender wrote the letter which I have just read. I should like to know why the sum of £100 has not yet been paid to Conway.
– In his letter Mr. Spender simply said that he would arrange for consideration to be given to the matter.
– From that letter Conway came to the conclusion, and I think rightly so, that Mr. Spender intended to forward the sum of £100 to him.
– The honorable senator’s time has expired.
– This motion affords honorable senators an opportunity to embark upon a discussion of various subjects. It is my intention to address myself to what I believe to be the most important subjects claiming the attention of both branches of this legislature at the present juncture. With the exception of brief references to minor matters such as wet or dry canteens in military camps, and the case of Captain T. P. Conway, all the speeches made so far have been devoted entirely to the war situation. We have assembled this week after what I regard as a political crisis which could have brought about very serious results. That honorable senators on both sides of the chamber have been aware of the serious possibilities is shown by tie tone of their speeches. Failure to reach a satisfactory conclusion would have suggested the complete failure of parliamentary government in Australia. Today we are fighting for the survival of democracy, the end of which would he certain should our enemies succeed. It is our duty to support the Government to the fullest degree, even at the risk of sacrificing some principles - which perhaps are not vital but in which we strongly believe - in the hope that we can enable the parliamentary system to function satisfactorily. One of the most profound statements made in recent times was made by President Roosevelt who said, “ Let us try to make democracy work “. Happenings of the last few days in this city have enabled the democratic system of government to work again. We had almost reached a position in which circumstances would have rendered parliamentary government unworkable, and I applaud a statement by Mr. Curtin published in to-day’s Sydney Morning H erald which sums up the position admirably. This is no time for party bickerings or recriminations as to who is right and who is wrong, and Mr. Curtin described the situation very aptly, when he said -
I had in mind, and kept in mind, and will keep in mind, the obligation we entered into to make Parliament workable, and that the establishment of the War Council, as authorized by the Federal conference, was for the purpose of enabling Labour to give its beet in support of the war effort.
That is the statement of a man who is sincere in his effort to make the democratic system workable. During the past few days a vast responsibility has been cast upon this Parliament. We have seen interest in our State Parliaments dwindle because the only subject of vital importance to Australia to-day is the necessity to win the war. It is everybody’s desire that Australia should make its best effort in this struggle, and that effort can be made only through the instrumentality of the national parliament. I am not greatly impressed by the amount of money that has been expended or is to be expended so long as this country is receiving value for that money. It is no answer to those who have been critical of this expenditure to say, “ This is what we are doing. We are spending so many millions of pounds “. What we want to know, and what I have been urged to do by organizations in South Australia to ascertain, is the value we are receiving and the contributions we are making to relieve the burden which has been inflicted on our Empire. We can be critical on this point without doubting the sincerity of the Government or questioning its capacity to deal with the matter, there is a vast war machine to equip and maintain. When the armies of a country are set on the march and the vast wheels of war-time industry are turning, it is very difficult indeed for an administration to be as economical as it would be in normal times, and, as one honorable senator said, when we are deriving extraordinarily high revenues from the people of this country we, as trustees for these people, should see that the money is expended to the very best advantage.
I have been fifteen years in this National Parliament, and during that period we have been through a financial and economic depression; but what measures have we passed of national importance? I recall only one - the Financial Agreement. As Senator Courtice said, the representatives of the people in this Parliament have a heavy responsibility, and their first duty should be to assist in securing the safety of this country. Have we lived up to that responsibility? I say that we have not; that fact should be evident to all of us to-day. I support the sentiments expressed by Senator Keane; we have been recreant to our trust; we cannot even protect our own shores from those who menace our sea-borne commerce.
– Other countries have been unable to do so.
– We would have been in a much better position to protect our shores had we followed the advice of those who in past years advocated that, in co-operation with other empire countries, Australia should build up a navy capable of defending its own shores. That could have been accomplished with an expenditure which would have been only a fraction of our present war commitments. At that time it was estimated that a battleship, with its attendant smaller craft, would have cost £12,000,000, two battleships would have cost £22,000,000, and three battleships £32,000,000. To-day battleships are the saviours of the Empire, and have proved almost invulnerable when attacked from the air. The presence of several capital ships in Australian waters would have ensured the safety of our shipping. We have a population of 7,000,000 persons, but we have yet to realize our nationhood. We have a vast continent to defend, a mighty heritage, but what are we doing? We are not measuring up to our first and most important responsibility, the protection of our own people and our own land.
– Would the honorable senator suggest sending battleships after raiders?
– There would be no raiders if we had battleships. Certainly we have cruisers in Australian waters, but what would happen to us should a pocket battleship venture near to our shores? It takes at least two cruisers to deal with a pocket battleship even under the most favorable conditions. In co-operation with the British navy an Australian navy should have been built up to such a strength that our trade routes could never have been endangered by the presence of raiders. Had that been done the people of Australia would never have been subject to the fears that have been aroused by recent events on our coasts.
– Why did a Government which the honorable senator supports scuttle the H.M.A.S. Australia?
– It was sunk because Australia was bound by its international obligations to disarm. Such obligations do not mean very much to some persons; but we are of the British race and are apt, foolishly perhaps, to place great faith in them. However, that has always been our standard and I sincerely trust it will continue to be so. At the time of the sinking of the H.M. A.S Australia I thought it was unwise - perhaps that was due to my Scotch instinct -but we werebound by the Washington Naval Treaty, to which this country was a signatory. We have since had opportunities to effect a remedy of the position, but no action has been taken. It is gratifying to know that Australia’s sons are serving with such distinction in the air. Even now we should endeavour to make a greater contribution to the sea-power of the Empire which has had to go cap in hand and ask the United States of America for obsolete destroyers, in order to defend our ships and the lives of our people. The trade routes of the Empire are England’s lifeline. However, we regard with satisfaction this close understanding and alliance between the English-speaking races. Had an Empire-wide naval defence scheme been inaugurated and contributions made by New Zealand, South Africa and the Commonwealth towards naval security in the Pacific, something worth while in the interests of the Empire naval defence would have been achieved. While we are quarrelling as to whether or not certain minor legislation shouldbe passed we are losing sight of the fact that if we armed ourselves as we should, there would be very little danger of attack, and our commerce would be safe from raiders. In that regard I feel that we have been remiss, and even at this late hour we should adopt a policy to help the Motherland by building ships. It is useless to start building a mercantile marine. First of all we must have naval vessels to protect our trade routes. That should be the first concern of a Commonwealth Government. We must deal with the terror which is facing us at the present time. Perhaps I take a too optimistic view of this country, but somehow I cannot agree with those who to-day are talking about the terrible plight in which we shall be after the war. If right is to triumph, this war will be won by the British Empire, and when peace has been secured, Australia will be a bigger, better and brighter country than it has ever been. No other country will rival our land, because of the great natural resources with which it is endowed. We have everything that is necessary to provide a comfortable existence. As a nation we are . still in our swaddling clothes, although we have some great achievements to our credit.
We have a wonderful country and with agricultural and industrial expansion due to some degree to the results achieved by the Council for Scientific and IndustrialResearch and other organizations, our national life should be quickened. Undoubtedly, we shall have to pay heavily for the war. but, for the generations yet to come, I think that there is a tremendous future. We are to-day, perhaps, at the turning-point in the war. Our allies, the Greeks, have inflicted severe punishment on one of the Axis partners. They have, at least, interfered with one of the spokes of the Italian wheel, and another spoke in North Africa is feeling the effect of British arms. I have always considered that the Italian nation, as a whole, was reluctant to go to war with
Britain. The ruling power in Italy drove that country to war under the most degrading circumstances, when it thought that France had been brought to its knees, and would have to give up its valuable possessions on the African continent, which the Italians have long coveted.
A statement was made by Senator Keane that the government with which I was associated tried to abolish the system of industrial arbitration. The honorable senator knows full well that that government never intended to do anything of the kind. What it desired to do was to provide an improved system of arbitration. After many years the honorable senator is now a repentant sinner. Having carried the flag of victory in the town of Bendigo, and having told the people that the government with which I was associated tried to destroy the system of arbitration, he now assures us that he would jettison the whole system! That is a complete somersault. He almost used a phrase employed by Sir John Latham, who once spoke of the “ entangling legalisms “ of arbitration. My friend, Senator Spicer, and I are entirely in agreement in regard to the present system. We have always advocated negotiations between employers and employees. Strikes over minor matters are to be greatly deplored. I agree largely with Senator Keane that the system could be improved, if assessors, who understood the conditions from the points of view of both employers and employees, were attached to the court, but the final decision as to the hours and conditions of work to be awarded should rest with the judge. I am glad that a Minister for Labour and National (Service has been appointed, and I hope that, when he has had time to settle down to his new work, good results will be achieved. The present Government should be given a chance to prove its ability. The Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies) has had little opportunity to do a big job, because of the constant party heckling and manoeuvring for position. If the Government is to make the war effort of Australia successful it must have a period of political peace.
I listened with pleasure to Senator Spicer’s references to credit expansion. I do not desire to hurt the feelings of any body who holds strong views regarding this matter. I have no doubt that the Government will make use of national credit as far as its advisers consider wise. No doubt, the Commonwealth Bank and the other banks will do all in their power to assist the Government, but I warn it against expansion of credit beyond a certain point. This method of finance has been tried in the past.
– It has never been tried.
– The honorable senator deludes himself by saying that. I believe Senator Darcey to be sincere in his views . on financial matters, but if he realized what the effect of expansion of credit to excess would be, he would be the last member of this chamber to advocate it.
Currency theories were expounded by social reformers at least 2,000 years ago.
In the year 48 B.C., a Chinese Emperor, Wang Mang, set into motion many social ideals and reforms, amongst which was an attempt at fixation of prices by means of currency control. He reorganized the coinage system, and made provision for State loans without interest, and for the purchase by the State of surplus stocks of goods. However, the scholarly Emperor’s plans were doomed to disappointment. Insurrections broke out and his innovations were followed by more, rather than less, disorder than at the commencement of his reign. Finally, rebellion overwhelmed the reformer and he was killed in his capital, while his dynasty and his experiments crumbled. It is also recorded in the pages of Marco Polo that the Emperor Kubla-Khan, in 1260, issued large quantities of paper money in parts of China which had been subdued by his Mongol armies. However, the chronicler laconically remarks -
These issues were without specific limit as to numbers, and thus became in time depreciated below the level of the coins after which they were named and for which the law compelled them to pass in the payment of debts.
Then there was John Law, a Scottish adventurer, who, in 1716, became manager of the General Bank of France. This had at first performed the ordinary functions of a trading bank and was a great success. Law proceeded with the development of what he called “ The System “, under which the issue of shares rose from the value of 6,000,000 livres to 12,000,000,000 livres in three years. For a while everything boomed. However, people soon began to demand anything possessing a stable element of value, and sold their shares to buy coin, houses and land. The result, of course, was a tremendous increase of prices, and consequent economic distress and confusion. A vast number of bank shares had to be destroyed and the notes were reduced to half their normal value. Law ended his career fittingly enough in Venice, where he had a casino.
Honorable senators may have come across the expression of contempt, “ Not worth a continental “. This phrase has its origin in the issue of paper currency by the Continental Congress of the United States of America which between 1775 and 1779 issued about $240,000,000 in bills of credit. As is always the case, prices rose, the need for money became more and more pressing, and no alternative was at first seen but to respond to the demands of the people and print more of them.
In 1923, Major Douglas came on the scene, offering the same sort of relief from the troubles which he saw ahead of the nation. Germany experienced the same difficulty. “When that sort of thing gets out of control, it cannot be stopped; it is more dangerous to this country than is Hitler himself.
– That is impossible.
– Evidently the honorable senator has had little experience, and does not know what money really is. Unlimited bank credit is a greater menace to the safety of Australia than is anything else I know of. I can understand men toying with it because they think that it can be controlled; but no one has ever yet been able to control it. It cannot be controlled. Do honorable senators think that the people of Germany went to their doom willingly? The trouble that arose in Germany had its foundation in the inflation of the currency of that country. It was brought about in the first place in an attempt to get rid of the burden of debt. It was done deliberately. But what happened? The people who had real money came along, and because they had real money, they were able to buy the best sites in Berlin and other parts of Germany. Is it any wonder that the hearts of the German people became bitter? 1 do not justify the cruelty that has since been perpetrated, but that was the cause of the trouble. To-day, that inflationary process is going on in another form. There will be another crash when they cannot obtain real money from other countries. Inflation of the currency of this country would be most dangerous. What is the position as disclosed by the Commonwealth Bank as far as the position is ever disclosed? Depositors’ balances with the Savings Bank Branch of the Commonwealth Bank disclose assets amounting to £140,533,538 ; the contingency account and other liabilities total £8,052,126, and the reserve fund is set down at £2,899,944. Against that it has coin and cash balances and money at short call amounting to £5,969,121, government securities and other securities total £107,690,904, whilst securities held by municipalities and other public authorities total £33,722,719. Those investments are made up of little amounts paid into the savings bank week by week by people with small incomes. The total of those small sums is considerable, and enables the bank to lend out large sums to governments, municipalities and other public bodies. The bank’s balance-sheet shows investments in British colonial and government securities, including treasury-bills, total £34,863,761. That is a considerable sum. I repeat that the money that is lent by the Savings Bank is the small man’s money. It is real money deposited with the bank, and then lent out by it to governments and other bodies for the purpose of carrying on various activities in this country. I have heard a good deal about credit expansion, but I shall not discuss the subject at length to-night. I shall conclude by reminding the Senate of the words of Emerson -
Wise men for the most part are silent at present and good men powerless; the senseless vociferate and the heartless govern; while all social law and Providence are dissolved by the enraged agitation of a multitude among whom every villain has a chance of power, every simpleton of praise, and every scoundrel of fortune.
That seems to sum up the European situation to-day.
– The position confronting the world to-day gives reason for serious thought. The huge expenditure on defence which the budget contemplates convinces me that the money should be raised in accordance with the policy of the Labour party, which has already been fully expounded by honorable senators sitting on this side of the chamber. I shall not cover the ground which has already been covered, but shall pass on to refer to the subject of banking. I describe bankers as lions in the path which stops progress. I am disturbed at the proposed expenditure on defence, but if it is necessary for the effective prosecution of the war funds must be provided. No longer dare we muddle along with half measures; we must become a wellequipped military nation. Particularly must we give serious thought to the growing menace to Australia from mines around our coasts. Our defences must be strengthened : we must increase the production of aircraft, high explosives, tanks and big guns, and organize industry in order to retain the freedom which we now enjoy. This is a mechanical age, and the war now in progress is a mechanized war. For the production of our war requirements, we need more steel, and therefore I urge that the iron ore deposits at Yampi Sound should be developed. The time has arrived when the embargo on the exportation of iron ore should be lifted. We must look ahead and prepare for the proper development of this country when the war is over. The producers of iron and steel should realize that their works can be profitable in times of peace as well as when the nation is at war. The Government’s policy embraces the encouragement of the shipbuilding industry in this country. If that proposal is to mean anything we must have steel for the building of the ships. Dr. Woolnough reported that the Yampi Sound deposit contained 150,000,000 tons of ore, but we arc told that a market cannot be found for it. That is to be regretted. I urge the lifting of the embargo. Dr. Woolnough’s report also stated that the coal obtainable in Western Australia is not suitable for the melting of the Yampi Sound iron ore. He suggested that the Government should get in touch with the authorities who control the coal-mines in Queensland, and in that way develop two new industries. I believe that electric power can be produced from the coal obtainable at Collie, Western Australia, and that that power could be used in smelting the iron ore from Yampi Sound. I draw attention to the following extract from a newspaper published in Western Australia -
In any case Australia will not bc playing an effective part in the Empire’s war until it is producing in its own factories vast quantities of guns, warplanes, and munitions. The supply of armaments from other countries might be wholly cut off, so we should regard ourselves as being dependent on our own resources.
We have the factories, the engineering shops, the skilled men, and the raw material; and we can make ourselves self-dependent in war material if the Government will cut out of its dictionary the words “ impracticable “ and “ impossible “. The time for such talk has gone. What is needed now is a stern and resolute determination to do the job that is confronting us.
I have read with interest a pamphlet prepared by Senator Abbott, and believe that his proposals, if generally adopted, would bring justice to the world. The honorable senator is on the right track. Recently I received a lettergram from a relative in Brisbane informing me that his wife had presented him with twin sons. Naturally he was pleased, but at the foot of the lettergram there was a sentence which revealed what many people are thinking. It read: “I suppose that after another 25 years they will be fighting another war “. An expanded shipbuilding industry would be of great benefit to Australia which has all the skilled men and materials needed. The industry, however, should be diversified and not confined to Sydney and Melbourne. I am pleased that South Australia is to have its share. Queensland also has the facilities for shipbuilding, and wooden vessels are well within the capacity of Western Australian shipbuilders. If possible Tasmania should also share in the work.
Even in times of peace additional ships are required for our coastal and island trade and their construction would keep our shipyards steadily at work. Between 1919 and 1937 Australian shipping companies had built overseas 137,238 tons of shipping. In the same period the Commonwealth Government and State governments had 1.4,153 tons built overseas. At least 94 ships were constructed for private interests, and 16 for the Government. All of these could have been built in Australia.
All ships which earn revenue solely in Australian waters should be built in Australia.
The late Brigadier Street when he was Acting Minister for the Navy said that it was possible that Australian naval shipyards would soon undertake the construction of the smaller naval vessels for the British Admiralty. He said -
The Admiralty has shown its interest in out naval shipbuilding potentialities by making inquiries about the possibility of building small local defence vessels here. If it decides to do so, requirements will be fitted in with the vessels now being constructed for the Royal Australian Navy. The product of Australian shipbuilding is well up to British standard and results obtained from the escort vessels which have come into service have been most satisfactory and can be taken as a measure of the efficiency of Australian workmanship and careful and satisfactory supervision.
We should be proud of that. We have in this country men with the necessary ability to build ships equal to the best in the world. It is necessary that the shipbuilding industry be expanded so that work can be provided for the men who return from war service overseas.
During the time the Cockatoo Dockyard has been in existence 115 ships aggregating 211,000 tons have been ordered from overseas builders compared with 26 vessels, mostly ordered for the Navy, built at Cockatoo. For the last five years, Australian shipping companies have placed orders overseas for more than 30 ships worth about five million pounds. Shipbuilding has been sadly neglected in Australia for the last few years, despite the fact that we have the men arid the equipment to do the work with credit. Why should vessels required for the Australian service be built overseas ?
– Cheap labour!
– That may be the reason. The virtue of a shipbuilding industry is that it is continuous. I have never been to England, but I understand that the dockyards there are continually working either on building or on repairs.
If there be one country where trade depends upon sea transport, it is Australia, and shipbuilding should be one of our principal industries.
We should have more docking facilities. The graving dock to be built in Sydney will be vulnerable to attack. Each State should have its own docking facilities. The naval base at Fremantle which was reported as being suitable was condemned by British experts and has since been lying idle. The Minister for the Army (Mr. Spender) said at the launching of Australia’s newest destroyer that since the last war the shipbuilding industry in Australia has been allowed to languish. He added’ that shipbuilding is an industry in which work would be provided for returned soldiers.
Concentration of Commonwealth, State, and other developmental works in crowded industrial areas of New South Wales and Victoria is undesirable. Particular attention should be given to South Australia, Western Australia, Queensland and Tasmania where the necessary raw materials can be produced. Industries must be established in areas where they will be subjected to the least degree of risk from attack.
In all States oil-storage tanks and electricity power-houses are conspicuously placed near the sea front where they provide attractive targets for any enemy aircraft. That policy should be changed.
In answer to a question to-day, I was told that the numbers of men employed in munitions works were as follow: - New South Wales 5,859, Victoria, 16,512, and South Australia 1,761. That shows how the eastern States are sharing in the benefits that accrue from the production of munitions, whereas the less populous States, like Western Australia and Tasmania, and to a degree Queensland, are overlooked. Admittedly a munitions annexe is nearing completion at Midland Junction, Western Australia, but I understand that owing to the volume of work to be undertaken in the eastern States there may be difficulty in obtaining a .sufficient number of skilled hands to man that annexe. If that be so the Commonwealth should follow the example of New Zealand and place a ban on the departure overseas of young men and on the transfer of men from State to State.
– I do not think that there will be any shortage of skilled labour in Western Australia for that work.
– I have: been told that there will be difficulty in obtaining skilled fitters and turners. But the technical school in the west is going ahead rapidly, and the feared labour shortage may not result.
I regret that in this budget small consideration has been given to the pensioners. Pensioners are entitled to at least 25s. a week.
– What did the last Labour Government give them?
– That is the past; we must progress. The present invalid and. old-age pension is not sufficient to give to the recipients that measure of assistance to which they aTe entitled. The small increase conceded by the Government, as the result of the stand taken by the Labour party in this Parliament, will be filched from the old people by way of increases of prices of commodities resulting from the sales tax. I have had much to do with the old-age pensioners in Western Australia. Many of them find it very difficult to make ends meet on the present pension. We should do all in our power to compensate the pioneers who blazed the trail in developing this continent.
Every honorable senator will agree that the Commonwealth Government should take over the control of public education from the States. The difficulties arising from six different systems of education are obvious. I propose to mention one which, whilst it may not seem to be very important to some honorable senators, is of paramount concern to parents with large families who cannot afford to purchase school books for their children. In Western Australia, and I have no doubt that similar circumstances exist in the other- States, parents find that when a boy or girl passes to a higher class the books which they used in their former class are useless to their younger brothers and sisters. I know of many families consisting of four and five children who are obliged to pay a much as 17s. 6d. for books for each child attending public schools.
The Commonwealth should advance sufficient money to the farmer to enable him to pay off his first mortgage, accepting transfer of the mortgage. On money thus made available it could charge 1 per cent, interest, and crystallize principal repayments until after the war. The lending of money on this basis of security is not inflation. I congratulate the Government upon its decision to advance an extra 3d. a bushel on wheat from the No. 2 Pool. My idea was 6d. I can only hope that the various State governments will distribute that money only to those farmers who are really in need of assistance.
– Assistance by way of drought relief is better than” any increase of price from the viewpoint of the. wheat-grower in Western. Australia.
– In our national economy we must recognize the importance of the wheat-farmer. We depend on wheat for our bread. Australia has been so blessed by nature that we are able to produce every commodity we need. We cannot do too much to lighten the lot of the primary producers, many of whom are tilling the. soil in the face of great difficulties. Owing to adverse weather conditions and unfavorable prices during recent years, the average wheat-grower cannot now afford the simplest luxury. For this reason I am pleased that the Government has consented to provide 3d. a bushel from the No. 2 Pool, although I am somewhat disappointed that it did not grant, the Labour party’s request for an advance of 6d.
The Government should organize industry in order to provide continuity of employment for our people. It should stabilize the standard of living for all families at a reasonable level. This is an essential plank of the Labour party’s platform. We wish to improve, not only the material, but also the spiritual and intellectual standard of our people. In the present crisis we must co-ordinate work on the land, in the mines, and in our transport services. In this war labour is prepared to give its all; we ask that capitalism also give its all. The sacrifices arising out of the war must be shared by all. I quote the following paragraph from the Western Australian Sunday Times : -
Western Australia includes about one-third of the land area of the Commonwealth. Its isolation from the larger centres of Australian population; its great length of exposed coastline; its comparatively few towns of importance and the great distances separating them - all these considerations make urgent and imperative a greater spread of people, a greater progress in secondary industries, and a greater readiness to give our own factories the preference in our own market than has marked our history.
Let it be understood that these things are not now so much ambition as they are stark necessity. We cannot be safe in any part of the Commonwealth without secondary industries in time of war. Nor can we in times of peace find employment for our people unless we have the workshops in which they may labor.
I put it to the people that the man and the woman who seek customers for their industry in this State must themselves be customers for the goods which the State produces. This is sound policy for Western Australia. It is also sound policy for all Australia.
Those observations support my earlier remarks concerning the need to organize secondary industry on a sound basis with a view to providing employment for all of our people. I can see no reason why big trading concerns in Victoria and New South Wales should not establish branches of their industries in Western Australia. However, the present attitude of such companies towards Western Australia is deplorable. When any industry is started in a small way in Western Australia, big eastern companies immediately lower the prices of their goods in order to crush the local industry. They invariablysucceed in doing so. In order to drive local jam manufacturers out of business H. J. Jones Proprietary Limited reduced the price of its jam by1d. or 2d. a tin, and immediately it had crippled the local factories it again raised its prices.
Labour is not concerned with the reshaping of maps and territories. We shall strive for the establishment of peace, security and safety in the economic order. We refuse to abandon our conception of democracy. We shall oppose dictatorships, whether they attempt to usurp the rights of the people from within, or attack the nation from without. National unity is imperative in time of war. At the same time, however, we shall fight every attempt by profiteers to exploit our people. Whilst we shall co-operate fully in the nation’s war effort, we shall not relent in our opposition to armament rings. Our man-power must be drawn on heavily for war purposes, but, at the same time, the instruments of production and exchange must not be allowed to fall into the hands of a privileged class. Whilst we shall do our utmost to oppose the external enemy, we shall do nothing to strengthen the forces of capitalism within Australia. We say to the Government that when exploitation breeds discontent, the exploiter, and not the discontented must be dealt with ; the cause, and not the effect, must be attended to.
In conclusion, I again appeal to the Government to establish the shipbuilding industry. I admit that Western Australia does not possess facilities equal to those existing in Victora, New South Wales and South Australia for the construction of vessels of a heavy tonnage. However, Western Australia, and the other States, should he given every opportunity to tender for contracts for the construction of smaller craft, such as motor launches which are likely to be required in considerable numbers. Such launches are required, for instance, to handle traffic from seaplanes. In the fog of uncertainty which has descended upon the world, our people desire nothing so much as security. In the past, life was largely a matter of competition between individuals; to-day the struggle is between nations.
Debate (on motion by Senator Dein) adjourned.
Answers to Questions - Defence Con tracts -Barton House, Canberra - Magnesium Industry.
Motion (by Senator McLeay) proposed
That the Senate do now adjourn.
– I draw the attention of honorable senators to the very unsatisfactory replies which I receive to practically every question which I ask on public finance.
To-day, I asked the following question : -
What is the amount of treasury-bills issued since the war began?
The reply I received was that the Government intended to continue to issue treasury-bills. That answer has nothing to do with the “ amount of treasury-bills issued “, but it is in accordance with the general practice of keeping such information from me. I have been attacked consistently during the budget debate for my views on treasury-hills and finance generally, although I have explained more than once the trickery that is indulged in, in connexion with such bills. Treasury-hills are merely undated IOU’s, upon which the banks can issue to the Government notes worth six times the value of the IOU’s. Senator A. J. McLachlan accused me of saying many things which I did not say. I know what I am talking about, and it is a great pity that the honorable senator when dealing with finance does not know what he is talking about. I have been in this Senate for two and a half years, and I am sorry to think that my efforts have been wasted.
The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. J. B. Hayes). - Order! the honorable senator is not entitled to make another budget speech on this motion.
– I am merely drawing attention to unsatisfactory replies which I have received to my questions. I submit that all honorable senators are entitled to have full and accurate answers supplied to their inquiries. Last session, I asked if it were the intention of the Government to borrow money to finance the war, and, if so, ‘was it aware that such a policy would result in disaster to the credit of Australia. I received a “Yes-No” or rather a “No-No” reply, stating that the answer to the first part of the question was “ No “, and the answer to the second part was “ see answer to No. I “. My views on finance have been misrepresented throughout the entire budget debate.
– Order! The honorable senator is not entitled to reopen discussion on the budget at this stage.
– Various speakers said that my ideas were wrong. I point out that in 25 years the assets of the banks of Australia had increased by £298,000,000. I received some praise from Senator A. J. McLachlan who spoke of me as the greatest and most eloquent financial authority in Australia. Then, the honorable senator went on to speak of Marco Polo-
– The honorable senator must not refer to the budget debate.
– It is recognized by the greatest authorities on economics that finance is government and government is finance. When I ask questions dealing with financial subjects, I expect to receive satisfactory replies.
.- I should like to ventilate a matter which goes to the very root of the system which the Government is using to conduct the war, namely the practice of allowing representatives of companies, tendering for the supply of materials to the Government, to sit on advisory panels. This is a serious matter. I have a communication from persons connected with the laundry industry complaining that Mr. Robert Lilley, who is the head of the firm of Robert Lilley and Company, laundry equipment suppliers, of Melbourne, is a member of an advisory panel. Mr. Lilley has been appointed to advise Army Headquarters on the best means of handling army laundry in Australia. There is no doubt about the ability or the honesty of the gentleman to whom I refer, but the laundry industry considers that it is a mistake to appoint a laundry equipment supplier to such a position. Tenders were called by the military authorities for laundry machinery of various kinds, and one of the tenderers was Robert Lilley and Company. Persons engaged in the laundry business consider that as Mr. Lilley has a knowledge of the Defence Department’s requirements the firm of which he is a member should not be permitted to tender.
– Did his firm get the contract?
– Yes. That is the point. Tenders were called, not publicly, but by private letter to some suppliers. In the circumstances that was particularly unfortunate. The machinery required included one hydroextractor, and one soap and soda dissolver, and Robert Lilley and Company’s price of £132 8s. was accepted. The fact that the principal of that company, Captain; Robert Lilley, is a member of the advisory panel which controls army ordnance tenders, is pointed out in a letter signed by the editor-in-chief of the journal representing the laundry trade. The writer also states that it is time the matter was ventilated in Parliament, and an investigation made. I do not suggest that there is anything dishonest in letting the contract, but safeguards are provided. For instance, the restrictions relating to the letting of local government contracts could be imposed. The present system is wrong, and should not continue.
-Why not take this matter up privately with the Minister ?
– It was the desire of those making the protest that the matter should be made public. I do not wish to argue as to whether or not that is the best method, but I do not see that any harm can be done.
– I direct attention to the following advertisement which appeared in last Saturday’s Canberra Times -
APPPLICATIONS addressed to the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Canberra, A.C.T., will be received until noon on Monday, the 6th January, 1941, for the lease as a guest house for a term of 10 years, of BARTON HOUSE, Canberra, furnished and partly equipped. Applicants to state the amount of rental per annum offered for the lease.
Full particulars may be obtained from the Secretary, Department of the Interior, Canberra.
No offer necessarily accepted.
Minister for the Interior.
Why should the Government lease Barton House? The reasons given in the report of the Public Works Committee for its construction were: -
It is represented that there is urgent need for an establishment to house lower-paid public servants and to provide additional accommodation, which owing to new appointments to the Public Service of typists and clerks, and the arrival of teachers from the various States, has become acute.
Paragraph 6 of the report states: -
After carefully weighing the evidence received, and opinions expressed, the committee is quite satisfied that urgent necessity exists for the provision of more accommodation within the reach of officials in the lower salary range. It therefore recommends, that steps be taken as early as practicable, to provide accommodation for approximately1 30 guests in a hostel of such a class as will admit of the maximum tariff to be charged not exceeding 36s. per week.
If the Government intends to lease the establishment a clause should be inserted in the contract to provide that the lessee shall not charge boarders more than 36s. a week. In view of the fact that Gorman House is conducted quite satisfactorily by the Government and at a profit this establishment should also be under Government control. The building which cost £42,400 should, if properly conducted, show a satisfactory return to the lessee. In fact, had I the money I should not hesitate to lease it, because I do not think there are many boarding establishments in Canberra that do not pay.
– Once again, I bring before the Senate the subject of magnesium production in Australia. I regret that it has been necessary to deal with this matter on so many occasions, and I suggest to the Minister that if he were to give me the information which I desire, it would save further trouble. He has endeavoured to create the impression that he has not the information which I seek, but he knows a good deal more of this subject than he will admit. Considerable correspondence has passed between various Government departments and the company producing magnesium, and matters reached such a stage that the Prime Minister admitted that his replies were not authentic, and did not give a complete statement of the position. In a letter to the manager of the company the right honorable gentleman said -
I have caused a further estimate to be made of the total Australian requirements, including metal and power, and the estimate now given to me is 200 tons per annum. Another official estimate is 300 tons per annum. In the light of this new information, I have asked Sir Colin Fraser to reopen the whole question with your company and I would be pleased if you would take up this matter again with me.
Previously, the Prime Minister stated that requirements of the Government totalled only 2 or 3 tons, but he has now admitted that the figure was based on the quantity of magnesium used by the Government in aeroplane construction. I conferred with the representatives of the company and the Premier of Tasmania, and the latter telegraphed to the Prime Minister as follows: -
Many endeavours have been mads to interest Commonwealth Government in production of magnesium from raw materials available in Tasmania. Local company on June 27th submitted to Sir Colin Fraser, Director of Materials, Ministry of Munitions, full details of proposals, but it seems, that no progress has since been made. May I ask whether you could agree to arrange conference in Melbourne between Commonwealth technical officer! and representatives of company, as in this way it may tie found possible to reach finality.
The Prime Minister replied to the telegram in the following terms: -
Your telegram let November. Have arranged for Sir Colin Fraser to re-examine whole question of magnesium production and have suggested to the company that they contact Sir Colin on matter.
Previously, the Minister for Supply and Development had stated, in reply to a question asked by me in the Senate, that the Government had requested the company to submit proof that it could produce magnesium on a commerical basis. On the 19th June the company submitted an eight-page report dealing with the details of the electrolytic process which it intended to use. This report was forwarded to Sir David Rivett and was subsequently shown to Sir Colin Fraser. On the 27th June, the company wrote a further five-page report to Sir Colin Fraser dealing with its proposals for the establishment of the industry and giving an estimate of the capital cost, the time required to complete the plant and reach the production stage, and the cost of producing magnesium. On the 38th May, a definite offer was made to- the Aircraft Production Commission in the Department of Supply and Development. All that I desire to know from the Minister is the opinion of his expert advisers as to whether magnesium can be produced economically in Tasmania. Surely the disclosure of that information would not hamper the war effort. I understand that conferences have taken place regarding the matter. If a conference has not been held, I ask the Minister to convene one, and to invite Tasmanian senators and members of the House of Representatives to attend. If the Minister does not supply me with definite, information to-night, I shall have to refer to the matter again.
– Reference has been made by Senator Clothier to the lease of Barton House, Canberra. I hope that the department will be successful in securing a suitable person to lease that establishment and to conduct it in a satisfactory manner. The terms of the lease will be of such nature that the interests of the guests will be safeguarded as set out in the report of the Public Works Committee. This hostel has been built, as recommended by the Public Works Committee, to meet the needs of a certain class of public servants. The department is not anxious to extend its activities as a hostel owner, in view of its experience in conducting one or two hotels. If honorable senators will examine the accounts of the Hotel Canberra, and consider the financial position that resulted from government administration, it will be seen that hotel management is best left to private enterprise. It would ‘be foolish to expect an establishment like the Hotel Kurrajong to show a profit, having regard to the cost of construction, the cost of maintenance and the low rates charged to those who stay there. That, hotel is conducted largely to meet the convenience of members of Parliament. On some days the accommodation is fully availed of, and at other times many rooms, are empty because they have to be kept in reserve for members. If the department could secure a suitable person to. conduct Barton House, it would be glad to grant the lessee a ten years’ lease. “Under a capable lessee, the guests would receive as fair a deal as they could expect if the hostel were conducted by the department.
[10.40). - . Senator Armstrong has referred to the supply of washing machines required by the Department of the Army. All too frequently, honorable senators make insinuations against men who give their time and energy in an entirely honorary capacity to assist in the various war activities. I suggest to them that the men doing this work at present are not seeking personal gain, but are patriotically giving their service to the country. If they are to know anything about the matters on which their advice is sought, they must have been connected in some way with the organization in respect of which their advice is given. I have no personal knowledge regarding the position of Mr. Lilley, but I suggest to the honorable senator that, whilst Mr. Lilley may have advised the Department of the Army regarding the machinery necessary for army laundry purposes, that department will not ultimately obtain the machinery. The department, after determining what machinery it desires to install, makes its requirements known to the Department of Supply and Development. Tenders are called by that Department, and these come before the Supply and Tender Board, which is entirely dissociated from any of the advisers of the Department of the Army, and the Supply and Tender Board finally decides which tender shall be accepted. Even if Mr. Lilley were connected in some way with laundry machinery, he could not influence the acceptance of any tender called for by the Department of Supply and Development.
Senator Aylett has spoken of the development of the magnesium industry in Tasmania. If the conference referred to by him has not yet been held, I undertake to convene it on an appropriate date. Senator Aylett has frequently referred to this industry in the Senate, but probably not on more occasions than thoseonwhichconsiderationhasbeen giventoitbymydepartment.Asfaras Iamaware,nopreciseproposalhasyet been made by the Tasmanian Magnesium Company, except that, in a general way, it has undertaken to refine its product if the Government will guarantee the company at least the costs of production. That, of course, is an unacceptable proposal.
– Will the Minister call a conference with the company?
– Yep, if the company desires it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Audit Act - Transfers of amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial year 1939-1940.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 272, 273.
National Security Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, Nos. 257, 259, 261, 262, 263, 264, 265, 266, 267, 268, 269, 270, 271.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 1 1- Superannuation (No. 2).
No. 12 - Immigration.
No. 13 - Execution of Instruments.
No. 14 - Medical.
No. 16- Customs Tariff.
Papua Act- Ordinances of 1940 -
No. 13- Justices.
No. 14 - Probate and Administration.
No, 15 - Land.
War Service Homes Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1940, No. 274.
Senate adjourned at 10.44 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 10 December 1940, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1940/19401210_senate_16_165/>.