16th Parliament · 1st Session
The President (Senator theHon.J. Cunningham) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– Honorable senators will have heard with deep regret of the death in Sydney yesterday of a former Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, the Honorable John Christian Watson. The late Mr. Watson had had a lengthy parliamentary career, which commenced when he was elected to the Legislative Assembly of New South Wales as the member for Young in 1894. He represented that constituency until June, 1901, when he was elected to the House of Representatives for the division of Bland, New South Wales. On the abolition of that division in 1906, he became member for the Division of South Sydney. He will be well remembered as the first leader of the
Federal Labour party. He was Prime Minister and Treasurer from April to August, 1904. He retired on the expiration of the third Parliament in 1910. The late Mr. Watson was widely known and respected. He was for many years president of the National Roads and Motorists Association of New South Wales. His death severs one of the few associations with the first Commonwealth Parliament.
Mr. Watson was a personal friend of mine. We were contemporary in the work of the Labour movement, he in Parliament, I mostly outside of Parliament. He was our first leader in the Commonwealth Parliament. He had a charm of character which drew to him those with whom he was associated in all of his work. He earned, not only their admiration and respect, but also that close friendship so essential in any political party if harmony is to be achieved and maintained. He was 74 years of age, and of him it can be truly said that he served his country well with all those manifold gifts he had to bestow. On behalf of the Senate I extend to his widow and daughter . our deepest sympathy. I move -
That the Senate expresses its profound regret at the death of the honorable John Christian Watson, a former member of the New South Wales and Commonwealth Parliaments, and Prime Minister and Treasurer of the Commonwealth, places on record its appreciation of his distinguished public service, and tenders its sincere sympathy to his widow and daughter in their bereavement.
– I am sure that honorable senators generally appreciate the eloquent tribute paid by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) to the memory of the late Honorable John Christian Watson, a distinguished ex-Prime Minister of Australia. The members of the Opposition support the Minister’s remarks concerning the successful and public spirited career of the late Mr. Watson, and join in the expression of sympathy to his widow and daughter.
Senator COOPER (Queensland).The members of the Country party in the Senate support the motion and desire to be associated with the sentiments expressed by the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings). Iamsure that all who remember the valuable public service rendered by the late Mr. Watson during a distinguished career will regret to hear of ‘ his death. My colleagues and I join in extending to his widow and daughter our! deepest sympathy in their bereavement.
Question resolved in the affirmative, honorable senators standing in their places.
Sitting suspended from3.7 to 8 p.m.
The PRESIDENT.Two hours hav ing elapsed since the meeting of the Senate, I must now call on the Order of the Day.
Motion (by Senator Collings) - agreed to -
That the Order of the Day be postponed until after questions on notice have been answered.
Effect on Tasmania.
– Has the attention of the Leader of the Senate been drawn to a leading article ‘ in the Advocate, a newspaper published in northern Tasmania, in which it is stated that the Prime Minister had refused to appoint an economic committee to inquire into, the disabilities being suffered by Tasmania as the result of war conditions? Is that report correct? Has the Government been requested by the Government of Tasmania to appoint such a committee ? If so, what is the attitude of the Prime Minister towards the matter?
– On the 27th May last, the Tasmanian Government requested the Commonwealth Government to conduct an investigation on the lines indicated by the honorable senator. On the 1st July a question was asked in the House of Representatives as to whether that request had been granted, and the reply then given was that it was being considered. On the 24th July the Economic and Industrial Committee of Cabinet recommended that the request be approved, and that the committee be set up. On the 30th July the Economic and Industrial Committee of Cabinet again considered the matter and recommended to the Government that the appointment of a committee on the lines previously recommended be held in abeyance. That Government was not the present Government. If any request be made to the present Government prompt and sympathetic action will, be taken with regard to it, and any statement to the contrary which has appeared in the Tasmanian press is entirely false. The blame, if any, for the delay in this matter rests upon the previous Government.
– 1 ask the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce whether he is aware that many wheat-farmers in the Moora district in Western Australia are only now receiving their authority to plant wheat, the crops of which are now nearly ready for harvesting? As many of these farmers have over-planted as the result of the delay in forwarding to them their authority to plant, will the Minister advise these wheat-farmers at the earliest possible moment what acreage they will be authorized to plant next season ?
– I shall look into the matter raised by the honorable senator and convey to him as soon as possible the information for which he has asked.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs make a statement in respect of the recent increases of the price of tea ?
– by leave - read a copy of the Ministerial statement delivered in the House of Representatives by the Prime Minister (Mr. Curtin) on the 18th November, 1941 (vide page 478).
– In view of the lengthy statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs setting out the reasons for the increased price of tea, I should like to know if the Minister read in the Perth Sunday Times the report of an interview with a visitor from Ceylon who has spent a lifetime in the tea trade, in which he stated that tea-planters in Ceylon were still burning their surplus stocks of tea in order to keep up the price? If the Minister has not read that report will he undertake to do so as soon as possible, and make some inquiries to ascertain whether or not it is correct?
Sena tor KEANE. - I have not seen the report to which the honorable senator has referred, but tea is one of the commodities concerning which all available data have been placed at my disposal by the Prices Commissioner. I shall endeavour to obtain a copy of the report, and if able to do so I shall give it full consideration, but in consonance with my remarks earlier to-night on this question, I may state that I am satisfied that the increase is -inescapable.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister for Commerce indicate whether it is the intention of the Government to continue the apple and. pear acquisition scheme on the same basis as during the 1940-41 season ? If not. what changes, if any, are proposed ?
– The Government has not yet reached a decision in regard to that matter, but I hope to be able to make a statement on the subject before the Parliament goes into recess.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development say whether it is proposed to install special coal-conveying machinery at the coal dump at Newcastle? If so, what is the estimated cost? Before embarking on this proposal, is the Minister prepared to receive alternative suggestions from interested bodies in the north in regard to a more efficient and less costly system? Will the Minister give an assurance that this work will not be proceeded with until interested parties have had an opportunity to meet him and place their views before him?
– Special mechanical devices were to be installed at Newcastle, and the previous Government took certain steps in regard to the matter. I am not in a position to state what amount of money is involved. The subject is still under consideration, and I assure the honorable senator that if representation be made to the appropriate Minister such representations will receive sympathetic consideration. Meanwhile no action will be taken by the Government.
Appointment of Mr. W. C. Taylor
– Can the Leader of the Senate say why Mr. W. C. Taylor, who was eligible for service in the Australian Imperial Force or the Royal Australian Air Force, was appointed to the vacancy on the Commonwealth Bank Board ? Were there not many soldiers who served in the last war, with banking and commercial experience, who could have been considered for this appointment? Is Mr. Taylor’s appointment an indication of the Government’s policy towards returned soldiers of the present war? Could not Mr. Taylor’s appointment have been of a temporary nature pending the return of a suitable person from overseas war service? Does the Government realize that it has set a very bad example to State governments and private employers by appointing a person eligible for active-service to a sheltered position when recruiting is at such a low ebb?
– In answer to the honorable senator’s long list of discourteously phrased questions–
– Take your gruel.
– It is my privilege to answer questions relating to matters under my control, and my duty to answer them as I think fit. I repeat that in reply to the honorable senator’s long list of discourteously phrased questions, one of which was distinctly insulting, members of the Commonwealth Bank Board appointed by the Government of which the honorable senator was a supporter, were not returned soldiers. I say further, that the actions of this Government so far–
– I rise to a point of order. Is the Leader of the
Senate in order in implying that you, sir, are unable to determine whethera question is of an insulting nature?
– In asking or answering questions honorable senators are not entitled to make speeches. Questions should be couched in courteous language.
– Not one of the members of the Commonwealth Bank Board appointed by the previous Government was a returned soldier.
– That is not correct. Professor Giblin is a returned soldier with a distinguished record.
– I remind honorable senators that the Minister is replying to a question and is entitled to be heard without interruption.
– The Government has appointed to the Commonwealth Bank Board a person who is eminently fitted for the position, and until Senator Brand asked impertinent questions, the incident was regarded as closed.
– Is the Leader of the Senate aware that Professor Giblin, a member of the Commonwealth Bank Board, is a returned soldier with a very distinguished war record.
– I am now aware of that.
– Can the Leader of the Senate say whether Sir George Pearce, who has just been reappointed to the Commonwealth Grants Commission, is a returned soldier, and if not, were any complaints concerning his reappointment made by the Opposition?
– I understand that Sir George Pearce is not a returned soldier, but I have no definite information on the subject. I have not heard any complaint from honorable senators opposite concerning his appointment, and no complaints will be made by me.
– In view of the recent press statement that the price of matches is to be increased to1s. a dozen, has the Minister for Trade and Customs any statement to make to the Senate regarding the reason for this increase of the price of a commodity which is used by all sections of the community?
– The increase of 21/2d. a dozen in the retail price of safety matches throughout the Commonwealth, from the 14th November, 1941, was necessitated by an increased excise duty of 2s. a gross, and sales tax of 10 per cent. or approximately 21/2d. a gross. Manufacturers have been permitted to pass on only the additional excise of 2s. a gross paid by them, without any additional profit.Wholesalers are permitted to sell at an increased price of 2s.1d. a gross. The gross profit margin of wholesalers is below the rate prevailing at the outbreak of war. Retailers’ margins have been increased by 21/2d. a gross on sales of dozens, but have been materially decreased where sales are made in single boxes, as no increase has been permitted of the price of1d. for single boxes. Since the outbreak of war, on account of increases of manufacturing costs, 3s. 6d. a gross excise duty, and the increase of sales tax from 5 per cent. to 10 per cent., the total costs to retailers have increased by over 80 per cent. Retailers’ margins have been considerably reduced since prewar days.
Senator JAMES McLACHLAN.Will the Minister for the Interior inform the Senate whether he was reported correctly in the Canberra Times yesterday as having said, inter alia, “ We know that the police are not doing their job in Canberra “ ? If the report be correct, does the Minister stand by his statement and what action does he propose to take with regard to the matter?
– The statement was made by me and I stand by it. The nature of the action to be taken will be divulged later.
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for the Army aware that considerable inconvenience is being caused, and complaints made owing to the insufficient quantity of equipment supplied to those who have volunteered to serve in the Home Defence
Force? Will he bring the matter to the notice of the Minister for the Army, in order that the supply of necessary equipment to the members of that force may be expedited?
– Inquiry will be made into the matter, and a reply to the honorable senator’s question will be furnished to him.
– Will the Minister representing the Treasurer inform the Senate what grants, if any, have been made to State governments during the last three years as Christmas gifts for the unemployed ?
– The information that I have is that, during the last three years, when Governments anti-Labour were in power, no grants were made by the Commonwealth Government by way of Christmas gifts to the unemployed. As the result of a question placed on the notice-paper this evening by a member of the Opposition the matter will now be considered by the Government.
– I lay on the table the following paper: -
Taxation on ex-Australian Incomes - Report of Special Committee.
The recommendations were unanimous, and the Government has decided to adopt them.
Advertising Costs -Sales by Private Banks - Payment of Brokerage.
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 answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer : -
Enquiry is being made, and a reply will be furnished as goon as possible.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has supplied the following answer : - 1 and 2. The Commonwealth Government is aware of the necessity for rendering all possible assistance to Russia in the present conflict and every endeavouris being made within our capacity to meet the needs of that country with as little delay as possible. The Government has decided to supply, at Commonwealth expense, items of medical equipment required by Russia of which a surplus existsin Australia.It will also recognize public appeals for funds to provide other items of medical supplies to be purchased abroad. Permission will be given for money so raised to be sent outside Australia: With a view to meeting Russian requirements of raw materials, foodstuffs, &c, the Commonwealth Government is in close collaboration with the Government of the United Kingdom. It is actually a question of utilizing transport facilities to the best advantage. In the present emergency, the Soviet Governmentis anxious that all the available shipping bo reserved for the carriage of urgently required military equipment and commodities of direct war importance. Shortly after the outbreak of hostilities between Russia and Germany, the authorities at Moscow consulted the United Kingdom Government and the Government of the United States of America, and indicated that there were special commodities which they desired to procure as early as possible from the British Empire or the United States of America. In response to that appeal, prompt action was taken to meet the more pressing Soviet requirements. Included in the early shipments were consignments of wool and lead from Australia. The Soviet Government has maintained close consultation with the United Kingdom Government, acting on behalf of the British Empire, and the Government of the United States of America. This three-party collaboration, which was extended in the Moscow Conference, has been an important factor in co-ordinating Empire and American plans for assisting Russia. Such co-ordination is essential, of course, to ensure that the requirements of the Soviet Government are supplied from the readiest source without wasteful duplication, and with proper regard to the demands of the Empire’s own war effort. The Commonwealth Government has been kept informed of developments, and the Soviet authorities were advised at an early date regarding Australia’s potentialities as a source of supply. They indicated, however, that details of Russia’s needs would be communicated to London in order to facilitate co-ordinated action. It is hoped that there will be further shipments of Australian produce to Russia in the near future, depending on the order of urgency in which various commodities are required by the Soviet Government, and the disposition of shipping. To assist in connexion with the transport of materials to Russia, the Commonwealth Government, in co-operation with the Government of New South Wales, has arranged to make available locomotives and trucks for Iran as follows: -63 main-line locomotives; 835 wagons.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
What action has the Government taken with regard to the agreement proposed to be finalised by its predecessors in connexion with the development of the Lakes Entrance oil-field?
SenatorFRASER. - The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following, answer : -
The Government is now completing a detailed examination of proposals involving the development’ of the Lakes Entrance oil-field. and it is anticipated that it will be possible for it to announce its decision in this regard at anearly date.
asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
In view of the disturbed feelings of various local government bodies concerned with the route to be followed by the East-West road now under construction, will the Minister obtain for the information of the Senate the latest progress report on this road, and also definite information as to the route to be followed ?
– The route followed is that of the track from Penong through Eucla, Balladonia and Frazers to Norseman, connecting the railhead at Penong to the Coolgardie-Esperance Railway. Completion of construction work may be expected in December.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Munitions, upon notice -
– The Minister for Munitionshas supplied the following answers : -
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– ThePrime Minister has supplied the following answers : -
Minister representing the Minister for Supply and Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for Supply and Development has supplied the following answers: - 1 and 2. Commonwealth technical officer? have investigated Mr. Bowker’s invention, the production of which would necessitate the diversion of materials required for the munitions programme. The report of the investigators indicates that the car has not sufficient special merit to warrant this procedure.
Financing Through Commonwealth Bank
asked the Minister representing the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will the Government consider the advisability of insertinga clause in every contract entered into compelling the successful tenderer to finance his contract through the Commonwealth Bank ?
– The Treasurer has supplied the following answer: -
The method of financing their business is a matter for the contractors themselves. Where, however, it becomes necessary for the purpose of ensuring essential war production, for the Commonweal th to assist in the provision of finance for defence contracts, such additional finance willbe arranged through the Commonwealth Bank.
asked the Leader of the Senate, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable senator’s questions are as follows : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for the Army, upon notice -
– The Minister for the Army has supplied the following answers : -
Bill received from the House of Representatives.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bill (on motion by SenatorKeane) read a first time.
.- I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is designed to implement that portion of the Government’s proposals in relation to sales tax which concerns the re-grouping of goods into the different schedules to which the varying rates of sales tax apply. The complete proposals may be briefly stated as follows: -
All of the goods in the existing 5 per cent. schedule are goods which, although taxable originally, were exempt in the period immediately prior to November, 1940.When these goods were brought back into the taxable field last year, they were taxed at 5 per cent. only, and not at the normal rate of 10 per cent. With the increasing need for more revenue, it is now found impossible to continue that preference, ana it is proposed that, with some exceptions which will be explained later, the 5 per cent. schedule will be incorporated in the 10 per cent. schedule. The exceptions referred to are -
The above-mentioned goods will remain at 5 per cent. until revenue requirements have so far eased as to permit their total exemption. Certain surgical appliances for use by persons with grievous physical afflictions have, however, been exempted. These appliances are - artificial eyes; artificial limbs; abdominal belts; crutches; invalid chairs, carriages and tricycles; surgical boots, braces and irons; trusses and umbilical belts. I am confident that the preference which has been accorded to these items will not be challenged for, without exception, they have claims for exemption beyond the normal.
For the sake of consistency with the policy of exempting plant and machinery used by primary producers, item 6 of the 5 per cent. schedule, insofar as it relates to windmills, pumps, tanks, troughing, &c, for use in the agricultural industry, is being transferred to the exempt list. Maps for use in schools are also being exempted.
Certain goods now included in the 10 per cent. schedule are to. be included in the schedule of goods which will bear tax at 20 per cent. The items to be so transferred are set out in detail in a statement which is being circulated for the information of honorable senators. The sale value of goods in this list is estimated at £6,500,000 per annum.
The existing law provides for the exemption of goods sold retail by a person whose total average sales of all goods does not, or would not, in the opinion of the commissioner, exceed £1,000 per annum. This exemption was provided to enable small manufacturers to escape the burden of sales tax and, at the same time, to free the administration from the task of obtaining returns from a large number, of persons conducting small businesses. The exemption has been well justified in the past. However, with the increasing rates, taxpayers whose average sales are slightly over £1,000 per annum complain that an undue advantage is obtained by taxpayers whose average annual sales are a little under £1,000 per annum, and that, consequently, business is being diverted from taxpayers because of the better price quotations which can be obtained from exempt manufacturers. It is proposed, therefore, to exempt only those manufacturers whose total turnover does not exceed £700.
The opportunity has been token to correct an anomaly which has been revealed since the creation of the 15 per cent. schedule in November, 1940. In that schedule, baskets were included without distinction as to the kind of basket, and, therefore, tax at 15 per cent. was charged on all baskets. The fact that many types of baskets are used for industrial and commercial purposes was overlooked. With the proposed increase of the rate to 20 per cent., this anomaly, if not corrected, would be aggravated. It is, therefore, proposed that the rate of tax on baskets of a kind used for commercial or industrial purposes should be reduced from. 15 per cent. to 10 per cent.
The opportunity has also been taken to provide for the exemption of the following three items: -
TheCommissioner of Taxation was authorized by the previous Government to anticipate the exemption of producergasunits from the 2nd June, 1941, in pursuance of its policy of fostering the use of substitute fuels for petrol. The present Government endorses that policy and submits the proposal for legislative sanction.
As regards goods for air-raid precaution, it is proposed that the exemption shall operate as from the 1st February. 1939, that being the earliest date upon which such goods are known to have been purchased by public authorities undertaking such services. The refunds to be granted under this proposal will not amount to a large sum.
The exemption proposed in respect of uniforms for the various women’s organizations is designed to operate from the 1st October, 1938, that being the commencing date of item 74 C ii, which exempts uniforms sold to members of the Defence Forces. The original exemption has been interpreted as covering uniforms, &c, purchased by the Australian Army Nursing Service in the belief that the members of that service were, in fact, members of the Military Forces of the Commonwealth. It has now been discovered that, technically, that is not so. The amendment ratifies the interpretation which has been adopted.
When all of the adjustments proposed above have been effected, it is expected that the extra revenue to be obtained from sales tax in the current financial year will amount to £1,900,000. For a full year, the amount will be about £3,300,000. I trust that honorable senators will not regard the present as a suitable opportunity to press claims for the exemption of particular goods, but will, on the contrary, await the time when Australia’s commitments for the war effort have become less pressing.
For the convenience of honorable senators in their consideration of this measure, I have had prepared a statement showing in much greater detail than has been possible in this speech, the effect of the proposed changes. Because of the length of the statement, it has not been considered necessary to repeatthe particulars of items making up the existing 5 per cent. and 15 per cent. schedules of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1940. A study of the statement in conjunction with that act will give to honorable senators a clear picture of the details of the proposals.
Debate (on motion by Senator McLeay) adjourned.
SALES TAX BILLS (Nos. 1 to 9) 1941.
Bills received from the House of Representatives.
Motion (by Senator Collings) put -
That so much of the Standing Orders be suspended as would prevent the questions with regard to the several stages for the passage through the Senate of all or several of the Sales Tax Bills Nos. 1 to 9 being put in one motion, at each stage, and the consideration of all or several of such bills together in committee of the whole.
– There being an absolute majority of the members of the Senate present, and no dissentient voice, I declare the question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing and Sessional Orders suspended.
Bills (on motion by Senator Keane) read a first time.
. - I move -
That the bills be now read a second time.
The only change in rates of sales tax proposed is that the present 15 per cent., which applies to goods included in the third schedule of the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Act 1935-1940, be increased to 20 per cent. The rate of 5 pei’ cent, on goods which are considered to deserve special consideration, will be retained, but the goods to which that concession will apply will be reduced to the bare minimum. It was hoped that it might be possible to dispense entirely with the 5 per cent, rate, and thus simplify the work of merchants in classifying goods. That, however, has been found impracticable in view of the inclusion in the 5 per cent, schedule of drugs and. medicines, goods used to some extent by primary producers, and goods for use in schools. The Government is unwilling to increase the rate on these goods and, consequently, they will continue to be taxed at, 5 per cent. However, the retention of these goods in the 5 per cent, schedule will not prevent a large measure of simplification being achieved, because they are of a kind that follow a fairly clearly defined course from manufacturer to consumer, and only rarely become intermingled with ordinary goods of commerce. It is proposed, also, to retain the general rate of 10 per cent., but the field to which that rate will apply will be somewhat enlarged by transfers of goods at present, bearing the rate of 5 per cent. Particulars of the goods so transferred are shown in the Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill now before the Senate. The rate to be applied to goods in the third schedule is to be increased from 15 per cent, to 20 per cent. Honorable senators will know that in this field are goods which are estimated to serve the less urgent needs of the community. The list has been carefully compiled in the light of present needs. As is customary when changes in sales tax are suggested, it is proposed that the new rates shall operate from the clay following the announcement of the Government’s budget proposals. This course i.? designed to prevent the dislocation of trade which would occur if there were any delay between the date of the announcement of the Government’s policy and the date upon which that policy became effective. The new rates will be effective on and from the 30th October, 1941. There are provisions in the existing law which fully protect vendors of goods who, as from that date, pay tax at the higher rates now proposed. When the bills become law they will be empowered to recover the additional amount of tax from any customers who have not accepted liability therefor. The new rates will apply to goods imported on and after the 30th October, 1941, as well as to all taxable transactions or operations effected or carried out on and after that date.
Debate (on motion by Senator MoLeay) adjourned.
Debate resumed from the 13th November (vide page 371), on motion of Senator Keane -
That the following papers be printed: - ““Estimates of Receipts and Expenditure (Revised) and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c. (Revised), for tlie year ending the 30th June, 1042” and “Budget 1941-42 (Revised) - Papers presented by the Honorable J. B. Chifley, M.I’.. in connexion with the revision of the Budget 1941-42.”
.- I wish to refer briefly to a matter which I raised on the adjournment of the Senate last Wednesday, namely, the desirability of taking immediate steps to act upon the recommendation of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries in connexion with the building of flax milk. The remarks of Senator Herbert Hays, whose speech followed mine, might make it appear that my comments were scarcely warranted. Although £500,000 of the taxpayers’ money has been expended in the establishment of this industry, the previous Government intended to set up another big monopoly to handle the whole of the flax produced in this country. It will be remembered that the previous Government signed a contract which automatically gave an option to one company to establish a monopoly over the whole of the flax/ industry of Australia after the ivar. Two members of the Flax Production Committee which negotiated the agreement, are financially interested in that company. This matter has been fully probed by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries. It is strange that the Flax Production Committee, which was established by the previous Government to handle this season’s flax crop, has completely failed to carry out its task in spite of the fact that nine months ago it was able to estimate the yield which it would be called upon to handle. Last week I urged the Government to see that every endeavour was made to ensure that the flax mills were ready in time to handle this season’s crop. Approximately £500,000 has been invested in plant and machinery and an additional £1,000,000 will be required for the processing of the crop. Senator Herbert Hays stated that the chairman of the Flax Production Committee had given an assurance to the Joint Committee on Rural Industries that the mills would be ready in time ; but those honorable senators who read the newspapers will have seen that tenders are only now being called for the erection of some of the mills. In some instances the tenders do not close until the 25th November. In some districts the Flax Production Committee has not yet decided what type of mill is to be erected in spite of the fact that the crops are almost ready to be harvested. Even in the latest districts the crops will be harvested early in January. If tenders are only now being called, how can the mills possibly be ready to handle this season’s crop? The Flax Production Committee has not yet even completed the processing of last season’s crop in spite of the fact that the crops were a failure, only 17,000 tons being produced from 20,000 acres. The crop this year is estimated at 90,000 tons. The point I make is that if the Flax Production Committee is not prepared to get on with the job entrusted to it and have the mills and processing plants ready for the coming harvest it is the responsibility of the Minister to replace it by some more competent body. If the chairman of the committee is not competent to carry out the duties allotted to him he should be displaced. Probably had he been given a free hand the construction of these mills would not have been delayed. The Minister should make inquiries and ensure that everything possible is being done to expedite the erection of the mills.
– The honorable senator is not satisfied with the inquiries conducted by the Joint Committee on Rural Industries?
– In saying that the honorable senator is merely indulging in a little mind-reading. Does the honorable senator know before the committee has even deliberated on the evidence taken by it what it will recommend? I can assure him that I shall be very gravely disappointed if the opinions which I expressed to-night are not also expressed in the committee’s report. How can the honorable senator know that I disagree with the findings of the Joint Committee on Rural Industries when that committee is only now about to commence the preparation of its report.
– How many mills are to be erected in order to handle the next flax crop?
– Approximately 30 mills will be required for the whole of Australia. A number are to be erected in Tasmania, but the construction of them has not yet been commenced. Tenders have only just been advertised in the press. The Joint Committee on Rural Industries was told in evidence by mill managers that the additional mills required must be completed with full machinery installed and running by the end of December, in order to be ready to handle the coming crop. Owing to the incompetence of the Flax Production Committee, as I have already said, it will be impossible to have those mills ready by that time. Consequently, the contractors will be clamouring for both skilled and unskilled labour for these works at a time when labour will be required for harvesting.
I urge the Minister to give consideration to the problem of providing labour for harvesting not only flax, but also other crops. That problem will exist throughout the Commonwealth, because on present indications there will be a grave shortage of rural labour during the coming harvest. In this connexion I refer to the following statement made recently by the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. Ward) : -
Where primary producers have complained to him about labour shortage, he had asked for information about hours of work, wages. and living conditions. If primary producers want mcn to work on the land, they should ensure that the standards were equal to those of other industries.
I agree with that statement. At the same time, however, I point out that owing to the low prices ruling for primary products some of our rural industries cannot afford to pay the equivalent of the basic wage. The Government itself must grapple with this problem. The shortage of labour for harvesting will obviously be accentuated by reason of the fact that our primary industries generally cannot afford to pay the equivalent of the basic wage; but one method of dealing with the problem is to ensure that those employed in those industries are given the equivalent of the basic wage. Of course, the further problem of guaranteeing higher prices for commodities in order to enable primary industries to pay such a wage and standard working conditions must then be dealt with. Those two problems call for urgent attention.
Another matter of vital importance to Australia at the moment is the shortage of aluminium supplies. At present, we import ingots which are rolled in this country by Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited. In view of the gravity of the position in the Near East, it is obvious that our import trade is in danger of serious interruption. Should our supplies of aluminium be cut off, our production of aircraft and other war material will be brought to a standstill. At the same time, we have the raw materials and the equipment necessary for the provision of the finished article. All that is needed to overcome this problem is for the Government to establish the industry. The previous Government was asked to establish it, but as it was more concerned with fostering and protecting monopolies, it failed to do anything in that direction. Had it done so, it would have acted contrary to the interests of Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited. I point out that this company is a subsidiary of the combine operating throughout the world which is interested in the manufacture of aluminium and magnesium. The Government must not allow this industry to become the preserve of this monopoly, but should establish and operate it under Government control.
It is not only a war industry, but also a post-war industry. Supplies of the raw material for .the production of aluminium are available in abundance in Tasmania, where the requisite electric power for treatment works is also to be had comparatively cheaply. I urge the Government to ensure that this industry does not fall into the hands of the combine of which Australian Aluminium. Company Proprietary Limited is a subsidiary. Like the Australian company, the subsidiaries of that combine in every other country masquerade as small individual concerns, but they are interwoven with Alcoa, which in the past has been the main suppliers of aluminium to our present enemies. In order to enable honorable senators to realize the ramification of this combine, I shall give a brief history of Australian .Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited. In November, 1938, a company was registered under the name of British Aluminium (Australia) Proprietary Limited, and Sir Colin Fraser and Mr. A. J. 0. Bult, of 360 Collinsstreet, Melbourne - Collins House - were the first directors. In 1939 the name of the company was altered to Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited with its registered office at 360 Collins-street, Melbourne - Collins House. At that time it was announced that onethird of the capital was being supplied by the Electrolytic Zinc Company of Canada, which is owned and controlled by the Aluminium Company of America - Alcoa - and the British Aluminium Company Limited. A search at the Titles Office revealed that, in April 1940, the following were the shareholders : Electrolytic Zinc Company of Australasia Limited, Metal Manufacturers Limited, British Aluminium Company Limited, Aluminium Limited. Montreal, Canada, Aluminium Limited, Geneva, Switzerland.
The first two companies held approximately one-third of the capital, British Aluminium Company Limited held onethird and the balance was held by Aluminium Limited Montreal and Aluminium Limited, Geneva. Both of these companies are subsidiaries of the American Aluminium Company. Aluminium Limited, Geneva, is the organization through which the combine carries on its European business in Norway, Germany, Italy and Japan. The directors of the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited, in June, 1940, were - Sir Alexander Stewart, Sir Colin Fraser, John Seymour Teulon, William Sydney Robinson, Lawson Greene Bash, Norman Warren Waterhouse, Sir Walter MassyGreene, Leslie Vickery Waterhouse, Henry St. John Somerset, and Aubrey John Clifton Bull. Sir Walter MassyGreene, Henry St. John Somerset and Aubrey John Clifton Bult were alternative directors. Lawson Greene Bash is an American citizen, whose address is given as Montreal. Together with Norman Warren Waterhouse he represents the Aluminium Company of America (Alcoa) interests. The remaining directors represent, between them, the Electrolytic Zinc and the British Aluminium interests. A further search at the Titles Office on the 30th June, 1941, indicated that Aluminium Limited, Geneva, had disappeared from the shareholders’ register. Apparently, this shareholding had been transferred to Aluminium Limited of Canada. The present shareholders of the company are - Electrolytic Zinc Company Australasia Limited and Metal Manufacturers Limited, holding 150,000 £1 shares, British Aluminium Company Limited, holding 150,000 £1 shares; and Aluminium Limited, Montreal, Canada, holding 150,000 £1 shares. The directors were the same as at June, 1940, with the exception that W. S. Robinson had retired from the board and Sir Walter Massy-Greene, who was previously an alternate director, was appointed a full director. The articles of association provide that two directors shall be nominated by British Aluminium Company Limited, two by Aluminium Limited, Canada, and two by Electrolytic Zinc Company and Metal Manufacturers Limited.
It will be seen, therefore, from the shareholding that the Australian Aluminium Company Proprietary Limited as at present constituted is controlled, so far as capital and the directors are concerned, by non-Australian interests. Both the British- Aluminium Company Limited and Aluminium Limited, Canada, which is owned by Alcoa, were members of the original aluminium cartel which was formed in 1904 when the price of aluminium had fallen to the lowest on record, namely, £60 per ton. They were also members of the second syndicate, or cartel, which was formed in 1909. On the outbreak of the great war the metal was selling for about £85 a ton. During the Great War it went . to £220 a ton, and a very large development in the American and Canadian production was -financed out of war profits. The price did not fall, below £100 a ton until 1922, and it was maintained roughly at that figure until the outbreak of war in 1939, when it was pegged at £110 a ton by the British Ministry of Supply. The aluminium cartel is world-wide and operates in all of the aluminium producing countries with the exception of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics. Even in Nazi Germany, the Aluminium Company Limited of Geneva held large interests, particularly through interlocks with the Germany I.G. Farbenindustrie. which, of course, is the great German dye, chemical and metal trust. It can be seen, therefore, that the controlling interests in the Australian Aluminium Company Limited represent two of the oldest and strongest individual members of Alcoa, the great international aluminium combine. I bring this matter forward because, if the aluminium industry in this country be not protected and operated as a national concern, sooner or later it will automatically find its way into the hands of this great combine. The Government should not be forced to depend for ite aluminium supplies upon an organization such as the Australian Aluminium Company Limited, some of the directors of which represent the great aluminium combine of America. The controllers of Alcoa were indicted recently for subversive activities, namely, the holding up of supplies. In answer to a question which I asked in this chamber I was informed that the people concerned had been cleared of these charges, but I am not satisfied with that reply because the inquiry into the metal industries in America is still proceeding. Unless the aluminium industry in Australia be controlled by the Government, it will ultimately pass into the hands of people such as those who have been indicted for subversive activities in America. In order to ensure continuity of supplies of aluminium, regardless of interruptions of shipping on our trade routes, I urge the Government, before it is too late, and before our war effort i-‘ hampered through lack of supplies, to take immediate steps to establish this industry in Australia. “We have the raw material and men capable of doing the job. An adequate supply of aluminium is necessary for aircraft production. Not only would we save the freight on the aluminium that is now brought from overseas, but also we should save the £4 10s. a ton which is going out of this country to purchase bauxite overseas. We have huge deposits of bauxite in two or three, if not four, States. In addition, to the large deposits known to exist in Queensland and New South Wales, other extensive deposits have been discovered in Tasmania. They have been tested for quality and, to some extent, for quantity. If the Government requires information in that regard, it is obtainable from the Registrar of Mines, Mr. Williams. He is the only man who is in a position to give the Copper an’l Bauxite Committee the information which it desires when it visits Tasmania. The Government should explore every possible avenue with a view to establishing this industry in Australia before it is too late.
As my time has expired and I do not wish to ask for an extension, I shall leave several other matters to which I intended to make reference, to other honorable senators.
– I consider it fair to compare this budget with that brought down by the Fadden Government, and in the light of such a comparison, I submit that this budget cannot be regarded as an improvement on that presented by the previous Government. In any case, there is not sufficient difference between the two budgets to warrant the defeat of the Fadden Government. The Fadden budget should have been debated on its merits, and, had that been done, I have no doubt but that it would have been passed with perhaps a few amendments. However, it was not debated on its merits, but with the object of displacing the Government. Even the honorable member who was chiefly responsible for the Fadden Government’s defeat had very little fault to find with the budget. Whatever grievances he harboured had little relation to the budget. The defeat of the Fadden Government was not brought .about because of any defects which it contained. Both the Fadden Government and the Menzies Government gave splendid service to the people of Australia. They laid the foundation of a war effort in this country, which has not ‘been surpassed by any other nation with a similar population. Visitors from overseas invariably remark on our splendid achievements, whether in relation to the recruiting of an army for the defence of this country - our home forces to-day are incomparably better than ever before - the despatching of an army overseas to fight the Empire’s battle, the making of munitions, or the building up of a navy and an air force. In every way the Menzies and Fadden Governments did well, and they dad not deserve the treatment which they received. However, whatever differences of opinion may exist in politics, there is no difference of opinion as to the imperative necessity to make a supreme war effort, and to fight on till victory is achieved. That victory will be achieved there can be no doubt, and when that, supreme aim has been accomplished, any differences of opinion which then exist can be dealt with. However, that should not prevent us from criticizing what is now being done by the Government, provided that our criticism is of a constructive character. The object of the Fadden budget was to raise large sums of money by means of heavy taxation on large incomes, somewhat smaller impositions on lower incomes, and by means of post-war credits. However, that balance has now been altered, and the Labour Government proposes to increase unduly the taxation on high incomes. I should like to make it clear that I am not speaking on behalf of the rich taxpayers. I am concerned only with the interests of the country as a whole. Under this budget the people on the lower income ranges are to make no additional contribution by means of direct taxation. Whilst no one can object to the principle of placing the burden of taxation upon the shoulders of those best able to bear it, the increases now proposed are altogether excessive. It must be remembered that taxation can be increased to such a degree that it will detract from incentive and therefore destroy progress and initiative. The result is stagnation. Because of the income tax proposals in this budget it will not be worth while certain people continuing to make money. Taxation on large incomes is to go so high as 200d. in the £1. That imposition, coupled with State taxation, will create & state of affairs in which there will be no incentive for certain individuals to do their best in the interests of the advancement of the country. Cases have been cited where the combined taxes on high incomes are over 20s. in the £1, and the taxpayer would be better off if he earned a more moderate income. In some cases, high taxation will impose considerable hardship. Most people on large incomes pay heavy life assurance premiums, and in some instances the result of these impositions will be that taxpayers will be unable to continue to meet their assurance commitments. The adverse effect of that will be appreciated when it is remembered that a good deal of our loan money comes from life assurance companies. The deduction for income tax purposes of assurance premiums paid by people in the lower income groups should be extended to those in receipt of higher incomes. The Government would probably lose very little if that concession were extended in the direction I have suggested.
There is a tendency on the part of many people to look upon all companies as rich enterprises. Actually, the majority of them are nothing of the kind. They contain many small shareholders, and when a company is taxed, the effects of the tax are passed on to its shareholders. An exemption of 4 per cent. is not enough. Heavy company taxation means lower dividends, and many people, who receive dividends of perhaps only £5 or £10 occasionally, will suffer. When people invest money in a company there is an element of speculation in their investment, and they should be allowed a fair return on their money. I ask the Government to consider this matter thoroughly. The proposed tax will be applicable to mining companies as well as industrial companies, and I should like to speak of alluvial tin-mining companies in particular. It is possible to estimate with a great deal of accuracy the quantity of tin that is in an alluvial mine. Those who invest their money in such enterprises should be enabled to get a return of their capital during the life of the mine and also a fair return for their investment. Tin will soon become a scarce commodity. If tinned plate is manufactured in Australia after the war, as it probably will be, Australia will hardly be able to meet its own requirements of that commodity. The development of tin mines should be encouraged, but we cannot expect people to risk their money in mining propositions, in which the operating costs are high, unless they have a reasonable chance of getting their money back, and a fair return on their capital. There is a great difference between industrial companies and mining companies. The capital of textile companies remains intact and after the war those companies will no doubt be able to continue operations successfully; but many tin mines have a life of only seven or eight years.
– Surely the companies write off depreciation.
– They can write off certain depreciation for machinery and the like, but they wish to be able to make provision to pay back the shareholders’ capital to them during the comparatively short life of the mines, as well as a reasonable profit on account of the speculative nature of the enterprise. They are entitled to this. I shall be glad to make all necessary information regarding this matter available to the Government, or to inform it as to the source from which it may be obtained.
Little fault can be found with the principle that the highest taxes should be borne by those who are best able to bear the burden, but we should not remove all incentive to enterprise. Therefore, I consider that the Government has made a mistake in relieving to too great a degree the lower-paid sections of the community of income tax. This is an all-in war, and everybody in the community should contribute according to his means, to the cost of the war. In the Fadden budget it was not proposed to tax persons on the lower incomes very drastically, but they were to be called upon to contribute a certain sum of money for the purpose of creating postwar credits. This was merely a scheme of deferred pay, such as has been adopted in the remuneration of members of the fighting services. That seemed to me to be a sound and sensible proposal, and I regret that the present Government has not adopted it. Money is being expended throughout Australia at present at a high rate. At the Melbourne Cup race meeting £400,000 passed through the totalisator, and it would be absurd to deny that a great deal of that money could have been diverted to the war effort. In what better way could it have been used than as a loan to the Government? The bulk of the national income of Australia is earned by persons receiving less than £8 a week. The annual income of those in receipt of under £400 a year has been calculated at £560,000,000 out of the total income of £800,000,000. I believe that if the present figures were taken out the total income would amount to about £900,000,000 or £1,000,000,000, and that the greatest increase would be seen in respect of the incomes of persons in receipt of less than £400 a year. We know that the average Australian, is liberal in his expenditure, and will not save money unless compulsion is brought to bear upon him. Where one man will save money, half a dozen will spend it unwisely. The people are spending so freely nowadays that it is often very difficult, if not impossible, for one to gain entrance to some of the large shops at certain periods of the day.
The fact that the war loan has been fully subscribed is a matter for congratulation.
– It shows that the Labour Government has the confidence of the subscribers.
– I do not go so far as to say that, but, since it was doubtful a week or two ago whether the amount asked for would be fully subscribed, the public is to be congratulated on the success of the loan. I point out to the Government that probably six months will elapse before the taxation authorities will be able to get in the revenue to be raised under the new proposals. Prudent individuals and wellmanaged companies will no doubt have made some provision to meet the heavy taxes anticipated by them; therefore, large sums of money are lying idle in Australia on that account. I know persons who have relatively large sums in reserve to enable them to pay their taxes, and who would have been glad to put that money into the loan that has just closed. They were afraid to do so as they had no idea of the amount of tax that they would have to pay. I suggest that some scheme should be devised whereby that money could be used in the war effort. Although details of the next loan have not yet been announced, I understand that subscriptions to it would be accepted now. Subscribers to the last loan had the option of lending their money for fifteen years at 3£ per cent, or for five years at 2£ per cent. I believe that if there had been a third option, by which they could have left their money at call, the rate of interest to be 2 per cent., those who were holding large sums in reserve with which to pay their income tax would have placed that money in the war loan. Such an arrangement would merely have been an extension of the system of issuing war savings certificates, which enable contributors to get their money back at any time. If a taxpayer had £1,000 in reserve for the payment of his taxes, and could put it temporarily into a war loan, he might in the meantime discover some other way to meet his tax commitment and the £1,000 would be left in the loan. I make this suggestion in the hope that it may be useful to the Government in floating the next loan.
Senator ARNOLD (New South Wales) £9.57]. - With only a few weeks in which to prepare the budget, and without the ministerial experience and departmental knowledge of its predecessors, the Government can be proud of the budget that the Treasurer (Mr. Chifley) has placed before the Parliament. The first item on the expenditure side relates to increased pay for members of the fighting services. The Government has said that the obligations of the community to the members of those services warranted the increased rate of pay, and I feel sure that no honorable senator will quibble at the increase. Nor should it be necessary to defend at great length the proposals for the increase of invalid and old-age pensions. Most of the pensioners have been employed in industry in this country for about 50 years, but on reaching the age of 65 years found that they had no financial assets to enable them to eke out an existence. None of us will say that the£ 3s. 6d. a week granted to them in payment for the services rendered by them to their country throughout their lives is too great a recompense. The keynote of the proposals placed before us by the ‘Government is that taxes should be levied in accordance with the ability of the individual to pay them. The comment has been made that persons in the higher income groups have been singled out for harsh treatment. Let us see if this be true. A. resident of New South Wales with an income of £2,000 a year has £1,262 left after paying Federal income tax and State taxation. That is equivalent to £25 a week with which to carry on his normal activities. I agree that he may have entered into commitments on the basis of an income of £40 a week; but I submit that he can adjust his commitments much more easily than is possible to a man who has to pay £11 12s. in taxes out of an income of £300 a year.
– Does the honorable senator really believe that?
– I do. A taxpayer living in New South “Wales whose income is £250 a year has £244 10s. left after paying Federal and State income tax; a man on £300 a year is left with £288 8s. That is not a large amount on which to keep himself, a wife and one or more children. I submit that it is more difficult for a man on £5 a week to adjust his financial commitments than it is for a man who has £25 a week left after paying taxes.
– The Labour Government of New Zealand did not think so.
– I am referring to the Labour Government of Australia, which has its own programme to carry out.
– It is the only Government that is not in step with other governments.
– No great sacrifice is demanded of a man, who, after paying his taxes, still has £25 a week with which to carry on his normal life. Apparently, the Opposition thinks that a man on £2,000 a year is called upon to make too big a sacrifice when he is expected to pay £542 towards the country’s war effort. A citizen of New South Wales who is in receipt of £3,000 a year has £1,476 left after paying State and Federal taxes. In other words, even in this critical period of the nation’s history, he is left with £28 10s. a week. I suggest that he is not called upon to bear any undue sacrifice. If there be any person in this country with an income of £40,000 a year-
– That is a mythical figure.
– I should be grateful to that man who, out of an income of £40,000 a year, paid £34,000 towards the country’s war effort.
– The Taxation Department is unable to find a man with that income.
– I am grateful to those persons with big incomes who contribute large amounts to the revenue of the Commonwealth. I am equally grateful, also, to the man on £250 a year, who pays £5 10s. a year in taxes. Each of those individuals will receive the maximum protection that the armed forces of the Commonwealth can provide for them. Each enters this country on an equal footing, but owing to the inequality of the distribution of wealth one is better off financially than the other. It is necessary for the Government to protect one section of the people by fixing a minimum wage for those in the low income group. Other sections of the community are more fortunate; some are still able to live in luxury. In this war, all of our cherished rights, privileges and traditions are at stake, but I would remind honorable senators the people in the higher income groups have the most to lose from a national defeat.
It is contended in some quarters that companies are being taxed unduly. In normal times, an additional tax on profit of1s. in the £1, bringing the rate up to 3s. in the £1, might be regarded as a harsh imposition, but I remind the Senate that the old standards by which profits were measured are gone. In peace-time it was possible to measure the probable dividend by the degree of trading risk involved, but now it must be remembered that if the British Empire and its Allies do not win the war, not only will dividends disappear, but also the assets on which those dividends are now paid will be lost. As another honorable senator stated, companies, which are aggregations of individual shareholders, are merely paying a reasonable insurance premium against defeat by an enemy.
– The shareholders themselves also pay tax.
– That is so.
– What about private companies?
– I shall not enter into a lengthy discussion of that subject at present. The armed forces of the Empire are protecting the wealth as well as the lives of the people. They are protecting our liberties, and I suggest that, if some of our men are called upon to risk their lives in order to ensure the safety of the nation, it is not too much to ask companies and individuals who can afford to do so to assist the Government financially in order to win the war.
I have no particular animus against bankers. I believe that the banking system of Australia has grown into a fairly solid organization, but if the private banking system be left uncontrolled, it can become a serious menace to the economic life of the community. Banking affects every citizen in the community because by the release or the restriction of credit it exercises a considerable control over industry. The banking system so controls our economic life that it in a large measure determines the lives of our citizens. In peace-time, we have been able to carry the burden of a private banking system without any very great effect on the national life.
– The honorable senator believes that it is a burden?
– I believe that it is a burden because, unless properly controlled, it can do an immeasurable amount of harm to our economic system. In war-time, it would be suicidal to leave the control of the banks in the hands of individuals. When deposits are placed in a bank, the banks are able to lend over and above the amount of such deposits.
– Has the honorable senator observed that from a study of their balance-sheets ?
– I am not particularly interested in their balancesheets, but what I have said is a fact. The Macmillan Committee onFinance, whose report was published just after the last depression, set out clearly that it was the practice of the private banks in Great Britain to lend nine or ten times the amount of money deposited in their vaults. If the amount of credit passing into the banks is allowed to flow out in further credits it will lead to inflation. With cheap money and plenty of credit available, it would be possible for a speculative period leading to inflation to occur. The Royal Commission on the Monetary and Banking Systems recommended a system of bank control which should have been instituted four years ago when the report was submitted. I should like to see that control continued after the war, because I believe that in the post-war era there is likely to be a period of deflation. If left uncontrolled, the banks will bring about a deflationary period because of the necessity to protect their securities by calling in overdrafts.
– Deflation destroys their assets.
– That happened in 1931, and it will happen again. The bankers have taken no real objection to the budget proposals with respect to banking. They have very good reason for that; they know that under the control of this Government, the Commonwealth Bank will become a central reserve bank.
– I thought the party to which the honorable senator belongs wanted the Commonwealth Bank to become a trading bank?
– I believe that it should be a trading bank. However, the point I make is that the regulations which the Treasurer is bringing in will make the Commonwealth Bank a central reserve bank and place the banking system of Australia on such a foundation that the Commonwealth Bank will have to carry any burden that may result. It is not my intention to pursue that subject any further. The budget sets out to organize a full war effort, and I believe that it contains proposals which offer the best means of achieving that end.
– I approach this budget not in any critical spirit because I realize that with the exception probably of the previous Administration this Government is confronted with the biggest task that any Commonwealth Government has ever had to tackle. However, it is fortunate in that the foundations upon which it will build its future activities were firmly laid by its predecessor. . The Government has three important tasks to undertake in this time of national crisis. First, it has to take every step to ensure that Australia emerges out of this war with the liberty of its people as much as possible unimpaired. Secondly, it has to see that our troops and those of our Allies who are fighting the battle for democracy are properly equipped and that our factories are turning out the maximum production of the munitions of war. Lastly, the Government has to see that, as far as possible, the civilian population is kept in reasonable comfort. Realizing the magnitude of the problems confronting the Government, my only desire is to help it, because I realize that this budget is the only justification that the present Government has for having turned its predecessor out of office. If this Government cannot do a better job than its predecessor - and it would have to do a splendid job to equal the record of the Menzies and Fadden Governments - there was no justification for the change.
– The honorable senator does not suggest that Labour members turned the last Government out of office?
– I do.
– They did not have the numbers to do it.
– Who moved the amendment that resulted in the defeat of the Fadden Government?
– That Government was defeated because of the disintegration of the parties supporting it.
– Then the Minister is but an accidental occupant of his office. He is ashamed of the negotiations that resulted in the defeat of the Fadden Government.
– Not at all. On the contrary, those who failed to support the then Prime Minister on that occasion did their country a very good service.
– It is very hard for me to praise this budget, particularly when I find that Ministers apparently have no confidence in it. Apart from the few staccato sentences delivered by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane) when he presented the revised Estimates and budget papers, no other Minister has seen fit to defend the budget. It seems to me that they are ashamed of it; they have no confidence in it because they have set up junior members of their team, one after the other, to substantiate it. What have those junior members of the team done? Possibly with the single exception of Senator Arnold, not one of them attempted to defend it.
– The budget does not need defending; it justifies itself.
– I remind the Minister that he has not yet addressed the Senate in its defence. To witness the spectacle of five Ministers whose verbal athletics have become almost a record for Australia, now sitting almost at bursting point because they are ashamed of their own budget, is one of the most remarkable things that I have ever seen in this Senate. Senator Darcey spoke on the budget ; but he did not defend it. On the contrary, he disagreed with it in essence because from a financial point of view it is abhorrent to him.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. I have never expressed myself in the terms attributed to me by the honorable senator.
The DEPUTY PRESIDENT (Sen* tor Brown). - A personal explanation may be made only after the honorable senator to whose remarks objection is taken has resumed his seat.
– I would be sorry to misrepresent Senator Darcey; but if he said one word in defence of the budget during his lengthy speech on finance, I have no knowledge of the meaning of words. As a matter of fact, all the arguments he used were absolutely opposed to all the financial proposals contained in this budget. As he is opposed to it on financial grounds, and as he disagreed with the methods by which the Government proposes to raise the necessary revenue to meets its commitments, surely I am in order in saying that he in no way defended the budget. He was followed, if I remember aright, by you, Mr. Deputy President. In the course of an excellent speech delivered in your own inimitable entertaining style you made a number of wise remarks, but you did not attempt to defend the budget. I would like the people to know that we are following right lines; but apparently Ministers do not think so or if they do they are afraid to say so. I have never before met so many tongue-tied Ministers. I am at a loss to understand how Senator Eraser can sit in his place in this chamber and bear cogent criticism directed against the budget and still remain silent. He is a remarkable man. He has experienced a complete change of heart. It seems to me that from this hour he has decided not to say anything.
– I am confident that the honorable gentleman will accept the budget.
– This is a pure Australian budget. It is based upon Australia’s most primitive weapon. This is what I call a boomerang budget. The Government gives something, but immediately it takes away more than it gives! It proposes to grant a lot of increases to certain sections of the community with great voting power, but it has provided that what is to be given shall not be worth anything. In fact, the people to whom those supposed increases are to be given will be worse off under this budget than they are now. I find that the budget speech itself contains a number of excellent financial expressions. First, it says that the increased volume of employment will place further spending power in the hands of the people. What increase of employment does the Government mean?
Practically no available unemployed are to go into war work and, as Senator Aylett has said, a dearth of labour exists in the rural areas. The same scarcity exists everywhere; so no extra volume of employment will be created. The transfer of certain workers in civil occupations to work in war industries, which I strongly advise, would, not increase the total employment or the national wealth, especially the national wealth, because, ordinarily, munitions of war are not used for its expansion. One of the next statements in the budget speech reads -
Private spending must therefore be limited to the small flow of civil goods that will be available and prices must be rigidly controlled.
The Government intends to inflate the currency by borrowing, which is a euphonious way of saying “ creating “, credit through the nation’s bank. At the same time as it is inflating the currency it proposes to keep prices down. It proposes to chase the spectre of inflation with the mirage of price control. If it can achieve its purpose it will do one of the most remarkable things ever done in the economic life of any community. The budget speech proceeds -
Credit expansion, however, can be successfully used to finance employment of reserves of man-power to expand the production of goods and materials. That is to say that any increase of the money volume must be balanced by the corresponding increase of production.
The Government will not do that except by shifting men from civil production to the production of munitions. It will hot increase the wealth of the country by that means.
– Nor by increasing wages.
– No, that is so. This budget will be all right if there were a vast reservoir of unemployed people who could be employed with the extra money that is to be produced.
I notice that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Senator Keane), who, in his capacity as Minister representing the Treasurer, introduced the budget papers in the Senate, has returned to the chamber. I welcome him as the only Minister in the Senate who has attempted to defend the budget. I point out, however, that immediately after having,’ in his function as Minister representing the
Treasurer, authoritatively and clearly announced the proposal for the limitation of civil spending, he leftthe chamberand resuming his functions as Minister for Trade and Customs, defeated the object of the excise portions of the budget, which were designed to restrict civil spending, by ordering that increased prices, consequent upon the increased excise, must not be charged, and said that the people should be able to drink as much beer and smoke just as much tobacco as before.
Returning to the theme I was developing when the Minister for Trade and Customs made his welcome return to the chamber, I point out that the Government proposes to increase the capital of the country to an enormous degree by expanding credit. Optimistically, the Government also expects to raise, by means of ordinary loans, £66,000,000 for Commonwealth purposes, and £20,000,000 for the States. I am doubtful whether the Government will do so, especially in view of the fact that it proposes to expand credit by about £100,000,000. That amount of money would provide work for 400,000 people at £5 a head a week. Surely, in view of the opinions expressed in the budget speech by the Treasurer, expansion of credit to that degree would be justifiable only if the money so created could be used to finance the employment of reserves of man-power. Where are these reserves of man-power? If they do not exist, this proposal is simply a “ blister “.
– That is according to the dictum of honorable senators opposite themselves.
– Yes; that is why I am amazed that no Minister has defended the budget. These things should be explained. I am simply looking for information. I should like to be told how the Government proposes to obtain 400,000 extra workers for employment in the production ofmunitions and war materials. No one seems to know. If these workers be taken from other industries it will simply amount to transferring them from one industry to another. The Government says that it will obtain the money it requires by restricting the consumption of civil goods. That intimation is given in the budget, but not so definitely as I should like.
The Government has said in effect that it intends to restrict the consumption of civil goods.
– What about rationing?
– Does the honorable senator suggest that we should entirely couponize the country; that we should issue coupons for food, clothing, tobacco, fuel, lighting, gas, beer and amusements, such as picture shows and races?
– That is not suggested in the budget.
– Not in so many words; but, according to the budget, the Government intends to restrict the consumption of civil goods.
– Luxury goods.
– What goods? It is well known that the consumption of civil goods, instead of declining, is increasing. The business of retail stores has increased by 35 per cent. in Sydney, 45 per cent. in Melbourne and 26 per cent. in Brisbane. At the same time, the prices of commodities have increased by less than 10 per cent. Consequently, an immense additional volume of goods is being consumed. The Government simply says that it will restrict the consumption of civil goods. When it makes a statement like that, it should explain how it intends to give effect to it.
– We intend to ask the individual to spend his money as advisedly as he can.
– According to the honorable senator, the Government is going to ask the women of this country to spend less on underwear, lipstick, &c. ; but they are to reduce such expenditure voluntarily. They are also to be asked voluntarily to reduce their expenditure on picture shows and amusements generally. The cook is to be asked to cut down the gas and fuel bill. All this is to be done voluntarily. People are to be asked not to go to the races so often.
-Would the honorable senator compel them to reduce their expenditure on certain goods ?
– I am entirely in the dark, because no Minister is prepared to defend the budget. Apparently honorable senators opposite are ashamed of the budget. I approach it inthe most friendly spirit. I want to help if I possibly can, because I realize that the Government is now confronted with the biggest job thathas yet confronted any government in thehistory of this country.
– The honorable gentleman should “ wake up “ to the fact that we are doing the job.
– I may entertain doubts about the capacity of the Government to do the job ; but, in the meantime, a Minister should defend the budget. That task should not be left to junior members of theGovernment. Some of them have spoken on the budget, but they have not defended it; they have even attacked it. Most of them, however, merely attacked the previous Government. I should feel relieved if the Leader of the Senate (Senator Collings) would give us an hour and a half, with his usual extension of half an hour, in order to. explain how the Government intends to carry out some of the proposals contained in the budget. I, and the people generally, would thus be enabled to gain some idea of what the Government has in mind.
– We could not make the honorable senator understand even if we did give an explanation.
– If I were obliged to understand everything that the honorable senator has said, I should find myself in a lunatic asylum.
– The honorable senator would not be out of place if he were in a lunatic asylum.
– I ask that the honorable senator, withdraw that remark.
– The remark is not in order. I am inclined to think, however, that the honorable senator brought it upon himself. I ask Senator Ashley to withdrawthe remark to which exception has been taken.
– If the remark is offensive to the honorable senator I withdraw it. In doing so, I point out that he provoked the interjection.
– The honorable senator’s withdrawal is satisfactory; but it does not explain the budget. Would some Minister, even by interjection, assure us that he and his colleagues have confidence in the budget? Would one of them offer an explanation of it before this debate concludes? So far, we gather the idea that they have no confidence in it. I should like an explanation of the various proposals which the Government declares it intends to implement.For instance, how does it intend to secure the extra men it says it will provide for the production of munitions and war materials? Where does it propose to find this great reserve of labour? How does it propose to place an additional 400,000 workers in war industries at £5 a week? The budget contains a lot of nice-sounding words ; it almost sounds as if it were prepared by honorable senators on this side. However, Ministers have failed to offer an explanation as to how these proposals will actually be implemented.
– The honorable senator suggests that we are incapable of implementing them.
– That is so.
– Why not give us a chance?
– I have just said that the job of preventing prices from rising after the credit of the country has been inflated by £100,000,000 in one year is the greatest job that has ever confronted any government in the history of Australia. I do not think that the Government can do what it has set out to do in the way it proposes to do it. The thing is impossible by any canon of economics. If the Government pumps into the community the flood of economic blood which it is proposing to pump into it, something will burst. So far, the speeches of honorable senators opposite have consisted chiefly of testimonials to members of the previous Government. It has been said that our output of munitions is satisfactory, our production of aeroplanes “ right at the top “-although, having had charge of that department for some time I must say that that is an overstatement - our tank production commendable, our munitions programme as far ahead as it ought to be, and our shipbuilding activities praiseworthy. In the light of all those testimonials I should like to know how honorable senators opposite can justify their action in removing the previous Government from office.
However, that is perhaps all beside the point. “What I wish to know is how the Government proposes to reinforce our men at the front, from where it proposes to obtain 400,000 additional munitions workers, and what steps it proposes to take to restrict civil purchases of nonessential goods. All of these objectives are outlined in the budget, but no honorable senator opposite, except, in a minor degree, Senator Arnold, has attempted to explain the method by which they are to be attained. The people of Australia are entitled to such an explanation and to a clear statement of the Government’s plans. It will be a fine thing if the Government can provide sufficient reinforcements for our men, assure adequate supplies of munitions, and keep the civil population in reasonable comfort, and we are willing to assist it to. do so, but I again ask how it intends to do these things. For example, is it proposed to issue ration tickets, in order to limit purchases by the civil population, and to control the spending of the large sums which we are told will be earned by the additional workers in our munitions enterprises ? We request an explanation of these points. I trust that if the Government finds that it cannot achieve its objectives, it will show a’ proper realization of the importance of the struggle we are making for the preservation of our freedom, and retire from the Government benches in order that another Government may make an effort to succeed where it has failed.
– I do not know whether to evince amusement or concern at the pathetic attitude adopted by Senator Leckie. ‘ In one sentence he said that the Government could not possibly do what it has set out to do in the way it has said it wilt do it, and, in another sentence, he said that honorable senators opposite would assist the Government to enable it to achieve its ends. I am what I suppose the honorable gentleman would describe as a junior member of the Senate, and I have not heard him deliver many speeches, but I could not help feeling that he was in very poor form to-night. He charged Senator Aylett with verbal athletics. I would describe his own speech as a demonstration, not of verbal athletics, but of mental gymnastics, and it occurs to me that he must have had considerable exercise of this nature. Although I am a junior member of the Senate, I can claim a certain amount of political sagacity. I have certainly had a long experience in the Labour movement and in the political arena. I have also given considerable study to economics. I was startled to hear the Leader of the Opposition (Senator McLeay) say that the party to which he belongs has no caucus.
– It was a true statement.
– I am glad to know that. If honorable senators opposite have no caucus their utterances reflect their individual opinions and not their composite mind. Therefore, I hope that the Labour budget will commend itself to them. Senator Leckie said that he would like the people to know that honorable senators on the Government side were proceeding on right lines. I suggest that there is one sure method of testing that point, and that is by rejecting the budget and appealing to the people. In that way, the honorable senator would soon discover that the people consider that the Labour Government is proceeding on right lines. The Leader of the Opposition, in order to prove that this is a biased budget - he called it a vicious budget - took exception to the taxes to be imposed on persons in receipt of the higher incomes. He said that in Australia only 2,000 persons receive incomes of £5,000 a year and upwards, and he mentioned that 2,400,000 persons get less than £400 a year. The story need go no further than that, because that in itself is a tragic revelation. I commend Senator Brand for his statement that nobody could object to the taxing of the very wealthy class. That seems to suggest that there must be some truth in the assertion that there is no caucus among members of the Opposition. I regard those earning over £5,000 a year as very wealthy, and I think that Senator Brand would support me in that opinion. Therefore, he was in discord with the leader of his own party.
– The wealthy man has been paying practically the lot all th« time.
– We contend that the man in receipt of little more than the basic wage is paying all the time.
Senator Spicer, in the course of his speech, complained that this budget does not spread the hurden of taxation equitably. He said that the man on the lower wage was not contributing his share, and that there was no equality of sacrifice, but, before he resumed his seat, he almost shed tears in his complaint that indirect taxes would bear harshly on the lower wage-earners. I ask him to be consistent. I agree that the lower wage-earners will bear a heavier burden than other taxpayers. The honorable senator was trying to point to what he chose to call the injustice of the budget, but, as a matter of fact, the increases of the sales tax in the budget apply mainly to nonessentials. I find that it is well to consider what a lawyer does not say as well as the words he uses. I advocate justice rather than that which the law provides.
In an obvious attempt to boost the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, the Leader of the Opposition compared the cost of steel produced in Australia with that of steel made in the Old Country. Again, we should have regard to the things that were left unsaid. The honorable senator failed to mention the handicap suffered by the producers of steel in Great Britain as compared with producers in Australia and elsewhere. He did not refer to the mining rents and royalties that have to be paid by steel producers in Great Britain, and he omitted to draw attention to the fact that the railways in the Old Country are privately owned, and that exorbitant freights are charged for the carriage of steel. Thirty years ago, steel could be produced at Pittsburg, freighted across the Atlantic, and landed at the furnace doors at Sheffield at a lower rate than that at which it could be produced in the Sheffield furnaces, despite the fact that high wages are paid in the United States of America.
At the commencement of his speech, Senator McBride told us a first-class sob story. I was watching the distinguished visitor from the South African Parliament, and I expected him to burst into tears, because of the woes with which we were said to be threatened unless certain advice tendered by the honorable senator was promptly accepted. The only bright spot apparently was the progress made in the manufacture of munitions. The honorable senator has only recently vacated the position of Minister for Munitions, and, naturally, he desired to boost the Ministry of Munitions, and the munitions workers, who, he said, were doing a good job. I happen to have some technical knowledge, and I can tell the honorable senator that those workers did a good job according to the equipment at their disposal, but that many things that could have been done by them were not done. Since the outbreak of war, the crying need in this country has been for machine tools. Everybody knows that. Buckets of ink were used by the last Government in order to prove that more and more production was needed, and in explaining the difficulty of securing shipping space for the transport of machinery and machine tools from the United States of America; yet a few months ago - and I have no doubt that the position is no different to-day - I could have selected, within a radius of 250 yards, in the Sydney metropolitan area a sufficient number of machines to equip a machine tool manufacturing shop. I am an engineer by trade, and have visited the shops in which these machines are installed. It would not be necessary to hamper in the slightest degree the war effort of thedifferent firms.
– The honorable senator ought to have been made Minister for Munitions.
– The honorable senator may be skilled in the procedure of the Senate, but he is not so well versed in applied mechanics as I, with 37 years experience, should be. I believe that I could have brought practical knowledge to the task of Minister for Munitions, and could have achieved much better results than were achieved by the honorable senator. There will be an improvement of the position under the present administration. I cannot blame the honorable senator for failing to know that it was possible to equip machine tool manufacturing shops; but I consider that he was at fault in having failed to ascertain the possibilities of the various Government establishments. When he was Minister, I asked him what use was being made of the inspectors employed by the State Department of Labour and Industry, and he gave me clearly, to understand that’ he was not aware of their existence, let alone their qualifications. He should have instituted inquiries in order to learn what talent was available. Working for the Department of Labour and Industry in New South Wales are 18 or 20 highly skilled technical men who would be invaluable to the war effort. It was my intention to follow up the question I had asked, but when I saw that a change of government was imminent I decided to reserve the information that T had, for the benefit of the new administration. The men to whom I have referred are performing functions which, in their opinion, do not achieve the best results, and they are anxious to participate more closely in the war effort. As a matter of fact, two or three of them who were able to do so joined the fighting services, and have become active participants in the war. Had the “honorable senator’ known his job, he would have combed the different State departments for whatever men were available, and would have used them to the best advantage. These men, without leaving their offices, could tell what machines are installed in the different workshops in their areas, and which of them are being used in the war effort. Their knowledge of the various shops in their areas is so complete that they could equip several machine tool manufacturing shops. I worked for years in a machine tool manufacturing shop in Sydney, consequently I know what equipment is necessary. I worked at the trade, as well as at munitions production, on the other side of the world. The honorable senator could have controlled his department much better than he did.
I also asked a question in relation to the setting up of a plastic advisory committee, and the reply that I received was evasive. I had been informed - and my informant could not be contradicted - that a body of Melbourne men who were using the plastic material employed in the making of telephones and the like, had formed themselves into a committee to tender advice to the Minister for Munitions.
The complaint that Ministers have, not attempted to reply to the observations of honorable senators opposite, is ill-timed. Perhaps Ministers do not consider that the opposition offered so far has been worth the expenditure of any verbal ammunition, except what junior senators are able to provide. I have not noticed that any pearls of wisdom have fallen from the lips of our opponents.
Senator Arnold has said that Australia is able to bear the burden of private banks in peace-time, but not in wartime. An honorable senator opposite questioned the use of the description “ burden “. Of course the banks are a burden! One of these days, honorable senators opposite may get down to fundamentals, and study economics, thus improving their understanding.
Senator James McLachlan spoke feelingly of the hardship that would be caused by the tax imposed on incomes above £1,500 a year, and by the aggregation of the incomes of husbands and wives. Any one listening to him could have been forgiven had he entertained the suspicion that the honorable senator felt the hardship personally.
– He could not, am! any one who knew him would not have thought so.
– It occurred to m»that the honorable senator left himself open to that construction of his remarks. In my opinion, honorable senator? opposite are doing their job. When J worked at the bench in the grime and dust of an engineering shop I looked om on what appeared to me to be a grey world. At the end of the day I had to fill in a time-sheet, or wages-sheet. That is what honorable senators opposite are doing; they are filling in time-sheets for their bosses. I sympathize with them in their difficult task. The people who pay their election expenses want to know what they are getting back in services rendered. On one occasion I spoke with my tongue in my cheek, but the task was difficult; and therefore I sympathize with honorable senators opposite who, I imagine, often speak with their tongues in their cheeks and indulge in sham fighting in order to impress their bosses. The Labour party is better able to organize this country’s war effort than were the governments which preceded it. L remind the Senate that all production is the result of effort. That section of the community which supports the Labour party consists of men and women who undoubtedly are toilers. Unfortunately, not every toiler supports the Labour party; some of them vote for members of the Opposition. I have always held that Labour has never been defeated by its political opponents: it lias frequently defeated itself. But those who support us are the people who fight wars and make the tools and implements wherewith to wage war. Unfortunately for themselves, they also have to pay for wars. One of the reasons why the appeal for recruits has not been so successful as was expected in some quarters is that the people are not prepared to have the wool pulled over their eyes time after time. The people of Australia have asked for a first instalment of the “new order” of which we hear so much, and the present Government has given it in this budget. In his anxiety to know how the present Government proposed to overcome certain economic laws, Senator Leckie was somewhat impatient. If he will wait patiently until March he will know that the Government is on the right track. If those in Opposition to the present Government were to get down to fundamentals they would, not ask so many questions as to the way in which the budget will be implemented, for they would know that the source of all wealth is the application of labour to the land, and that a nation’s credit is determined by its power to produce. To-day, tha average worker is much better educated than was the case in the past. He realizes that he owns the means whereby men live. . He is determined that the power to produce credit out of the airmoney out of nothing - shall be taken away from private individuals. That i-a a fundamental matter, and I hope to have a further opportunity to discuss it more fully. When I do so, I shall give to honorable senators opposite some lessons in bread-and-butter economics of which they appear to be badly in need. The ignorance of the subject displayed by some honorable senators is woeful. If afforded an opportunity to do so, the Labour Government will give to the people of Australia a lesson in sound economics. I belong to a powerful trade union called the Amalgamated Engineering Union. Our contributions are rather high - we pay 2s. a week, and the money is placed in the Commonwealth Savings Bank. Somebody comes along and borrows that money from the bank at 7 per cent, interest, having offered adequate security, and uses it, perhaps, to build an engineering shop. In the course of time I may fall out of work, and walk past the shop built with the funds which I have contributed. I ask the foreman what are the prospects of a job, and if he is satisfied that I can earn for him 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, profit he will give me one - that is, 15 per cent, or 20 per cent, on the money which I have contributed as a member of my union. My wife needs to be another Denison Miller to balance the budget while that is going on.
– I presume that this is a lesson in bread-and-butter economics.
– That is exactly what it is. As I said, he who owns the means by which I live owns my very life.” A nation’s credit is fixed by its ability to produce. The only thing that can destroy the credit of this country is for the producing classes to fold, their arms and refuse to produce. Within the limits of our productivity we can extend credit, and up to that stage it is not inflation. It may be that, during this war, we will have to expand credit even a little in excess of the nation’s ability to produce. That would be inflation, and at that point we would have to exercise very rigid control, but it can bo done. During the last war, the Government made promises to the soldiers who went away, and then honoured them by bringing Sir Otto Neimeyer to Australia to introduce the economic depression. If the last Government had taken that lesson to heart it might, instead of merely talking about a new economic order, have given the country an immediate instalment. I ask leave to continue my remarks at a later date.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Case off. L. R. Polak: - Flax Mills.
Motion (by Senator Collings) proposed -
That the Senate do now adjourn.
SenatorE. B. JOHNSTON (Western Australia) [11.32]. - I bring to the notice of the Government the case of a farmer who, in my opinion, is being treated unfairly by his creditor, one of the trading banks. I have no complaint against the banks in general, and this particular bank has done good work in the development of Western Australia. Nevertheless, I regard this as a case of hardship. The man concerned is Mr. F. L. R. Polak, who established a wheat farm at Bencubbin some years ago, and was employed in business in that town. For several years Mr. Polak and his family worked the farm, but in 1933 he found that he could no longer carry on at a profit. He asked the bank to take it over, and he and his family went to the goldfields. For several years Mr. Polak, who earned a considerable income, continued to spend money on the property. Then there were several bad seasons, and the farm was abandoned and deteriorated. The members of his family, all of whom were working on the gold-fields, raised some money and Mrs. Polak bought a property in Victoria upon which the family is now living. It is quite a small property, and is heavily mortgaged. A few weeks ago, Mr. Polak received from the bank a writ, No. 18 of 1941, issued out of the Supreme Court of Western Australia, for the principal sum of £3,039 12s.10d. lent to him many years ago, and accumulated interest amounting to £1,2818s. 8d., making a total of £4,3211s. 6d., of which considerably more than one-quarter is represented by interest. In 1933, the family decided to give up the property, and asked the bank to take it over. The institution declined to do so, and in the interval values in the district have deteriorated as the result of a succession of bad seasons combined with low prices. The mother and the family are now in Victoria working a small property which is heavily mortgaged. The husband has received this writ for what may be described as an ancient debt, and the solicitors for the bank have informed him that they propose to make him bankrupt and, if possible, dispossess the worthy family of their new farm in Victoria. The effect will be, in that event, to deprive them of their only means of livelihood.
I urge the Government to protect this worthy family against any such action.
As far as I know, this is an isolated case, but if there be similar instances, the Government should intervene and grant to wheat-farmers who have worked hard in an effort to make a success of their holdings security from dispossession. If necessary, protection should be afforded to them under the National Security Act. It is wrong that families, who have sought to wrest a living from the land, should be driven from their properties during the war period for debts that were incurred years ago. The Government should examine the matter with a view to ascertaining whether there is justification for granting a moratorium in such cases. In these times, even banks which have played such a prominent part in the development of Western Australia and of other States cannot afford to adopt the attitude that one of their number has taken up in this instance.
SenatorFRASER (Western Australia - Minister for External Territories) [11.38]. - I shall examine the facts which Senator Johnston has presented to the chamber with a view to ascertaining what can be done to prevent hardship.
On the 12th November, Senator Aylett expressed anxiety regarding the arrangements made by the Flax Production Committee to handle the forthcoming flax crop. I brought the matter to the notice of the Minister for Supply and Development (Mr. Beasley), who, after having the matter investigated, has furnished the following information : Every effort has been and is being made to have all mills ready to deal with the flax straw as soon as it is delivered. To achieve this object priority was given in the first place to those machines and buildings which are required in connexion with the delivery and deseeding of the straw. This will enable the next process, namely, retting, to be proceeded with without interruption. However, certain unavoidable delays have occurred in the preparation of some of the plans, and in the manufacture and supply of machinery owing to a shortage of certain materials. Furthermore, difficulty has been experienced in obtaining quotations for the manufacture of certain machinery. Although public tenders were called through the Contracts Board in the usual way, no tenders were received. These difficulties have been or are being overcome. No delay will, however, occur in regard to the availability of mill sites, although in one or two instances the acquisition has been held up. In these cases action is being taken under regulation 04 of the National Security (General) Regulations to enable the Commonwealth to take immediate possession and proceed with the erection of the buildings without delay.
In regard to the additional handling referredto by the honorable senator, the position is that, whilst acknowledging the advantage of having the deseeding machinery in operation as the crop is received, it is not possible to avoid stacking the bulk of the crop at the mill prior to deseeding. An average mill this year will be. expected to handle 2,000 tons of straw, and of this quantity not more than 500 tons couldbe brought straight to the deseeders during the period the straw is being received. This means that the balance of 1,500 tons must be stacked.
In the matter of labour on mill construction during the harvesting period, I may state that all buildings are being erected under contract and the contractor usually provides his own skilled men for this work. Experience has shown that farm or field hands are not employed to any extent on construction work. Moreover, the committee is co-operating to the fullest extent with growers in connexion with the labour and cartage problems associated with the harvesting and transport of the present flax crop.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
The following papers were pre sented : -
National Security Act -
National Security (Prices). Regulations -
Declarations Nos. 63 to 70.
Decoration (Papua) No. 6.
Orders Nos. 418 to 489.
Order. (Papua) No. 10.
National Security (Prisoners of War) Regulations - Rules-Trial of Prisoners of War.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941,Nos. 244, 251, 256.
Arbitration (Public Service) ActDeterininatious by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 31 of 1941 - Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union.
No. 32 of 1941- Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
Defence Act - Regulations - Statutory Rules 1941, No. 260.
*Dried Fruits Export Control ActSeventeenth Annual Report of the Commonwealth Dried Fruits Control Board, for year 1940-41, together with statement by the Minister for Commerce regarding the operation of the Act.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired at -
Alexandria, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Auburn, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Brighton, Tasmania - For Defence purposes.
Charters Towers, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Coen, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Cunderdin, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
Nhill, Victoria - For Defence purposes
Port Melbourne, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Port Pirie, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Senate adjourned at 11.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, Senate, Debates, 19 November 1941, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/senate/1941/19411119_senate_16_169/>.