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Wednesday, 23 November 1927


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - The presentation of the budget gives to honorable members an opportunity to review the administrative and financial achievements of the Government. The debate so far has been of considerable interest to the general public. I pay a tribute to the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) for having revealed some startling features of the Government's administration. Its extravagance has been roundly condemned in this chamber by members of all shades of political opinion. It gained office by promising economy, efficiency and sound administration, yet in the last two years its legislation has not in any way accelerated the progress or added to the stability of Australia. It is unusual to have demonstrations of unemployed at this period of the year, although we have become accustomed to them during the winter months; yet every State is at present faced with a most acute unemployment problem. Australia has enjoyed a succession of good years and the Commonwealth Government has had bounding revenues. The Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page) has been fortunate in being able to show at the end of each fianancial year a surplus of revenue over expenditure. The freetraders who sit in this Parliament lose no opportunity to complain of the tariff, but they are not able to point to any civilized country in which the standard of living is comparable with that which exists in Australia. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Pratten) and the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce) are sympathetic with our industries, but there is some influence at work which is preventing this Parliament from giving full effect to the wishes of the people. What is the use of having a tariff that docs not completely protect our industries? Our adverse trade balance is an indication that something is wrong in our present policy. The imports of iron and steel last year were valued at £10,000,000.


Mr PRATTEN (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) - That is inclusive of a large quantity of iron and steel that is not manufactured in Australia.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I am not concerned with that aspect of the matter. The Prime Minister said yesterday afternoon that, the Government could not make provision against inefficiency. The Newcastle Steel Works are the most efficiently organized and controlled works in the Empire. A large amount of Australian capital has been invested in that concern the most modern machinery has been installed, and the most highly skilled men are employed, yet there is a possibility of its having to close down on account of the ineffectiveness of the tariff.


Mr Atkinson - What is the remedy?


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A tariff that will make impossible competition by cheap labour countries. Australia, will not progress as it, should until 'its tariff is completely protective.


Mr Atkinson - The iron and steel industry was given all that it sought a little while ago.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - It was not. Another industry that is being adversely affected by the large volume of imports is that of hosiery manufacture. I have visited in my electorate factories that have the most up-to-date machinery and the most affective management and organization. Last year the imports of stockings and sox amounted to £1,652,000. They came from Germany, Japan and other cheap labour countries, and were dumped into Australia to the detriment of our local industry. Are we content to allow that state of affairs to continue? Despite the fact that the manufacture of pianos and player pianos is established on a sound basis in New South Wales and Victoria, the imports of those instruments totalled £1,082,000, Germany and America being our chief competitors. Australia produces a greater quantity of food-stuffs than its people can consume, yet last year our imports of those commodities reached a total of £3,059,000. Linoleums and carpets were imported to the value of £2,843,000, although %ve have factories which are manufacturing those articles, and which will be unable to continue their operations unless they are adequately protected. In every State tlie manufacture of electrical appliances is proceeding on a satisfactory basis under the direction of highly skilled men. Our imports of those appliances amounted to £7,461,000.


Mr Atkinson - What is the use of raising the tariff when the Arbitration Act allows its benefits to be nullified?


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member wishes the Arbitration Act to be repealed, and cheap labour to be brought to Australia from China, and other countries, let him say so. That is what he is driving at..


Mr Atkinson - Not at all.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Yarns were imported to the value of £2,149,000, and as a result a large number of employees in that, particular industry have been thrown out of employment. Over £10,000,000 worth of woollen goods, cotton goods and linen was imported. Cotton is being grown in Queensland, and cotton piece goods can be manufactured in Australia. The imports of silk aud goods containing silk represented a value of £6,S82.000, and hats, caps and, gloves a value of £1,429,000.


Mr PRATTEN (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Not gloves.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Other large imports were bags, baskets and brushware, £1,023,000; and glass and glassware, £1,307,000. On several occasions I have interviewed the Minister for Trade and Customs with respect to the manufacture of crystal glass. A large company in my electorate has established works to produce that commodity, but the market has been destroyed by the Belgians. Hundreds of men have thus been deprived of their employment. We also imported earthenware and china to the value of £1,244,000, drugs and chemicals to" the value of £3,560,000, timber and the manufactures thereof to the value of £5,643,000, and paints and varnishes to the value of £1,200,000. We import into this country chassis worth over £12,000,000. What is there in a chassis that we cannot manufacture in Australia? When a duty was proposed on imported motor bodies,- it was argued that they could not be made here ; but the result of the imposition of that duty has been the establishment of motor body factories in SOUtH Australia, New South

Wales, and other States. The' Australian workmanship is equal to that of any other country, and to-day we are manufacturing seven motor bodies for every one imported. One great advantage is that we are. employing our own people. It would be of great help to Australia if the Minister placed a deferred duty on chassis to encourage their production in this country. When federation took place, motor cars were unknown. Since then the motor car industry has come into being, and has expanded enormously in certain countries. Surely our engineers are just as capable of manufacturing motor cars as those of America and England. At present we manufacture spare parts and bodies, and it will only be another step to manufacture chassis. Our adverse trade balance certainly justifies the establishment of this inindustry. It is time that we stopped sending money out of this country in payment of imports. We are told that we should cease borrowing abroad. The more we borrow, the more imports we receive ; therefore the Government should -concentrate on borrowing within Australia, and cease borrowing abroad as far as possible. I do not advocate the cessation of borrowing overseas altogether, because considerable money is needed to develop this young country. The Minister for Trade and Customs should introduce a tariff that will stabilize the industries of this country. The manufacturers are complaining bitterly about the lack of protection given to them. George Bond, one of the pioneers in the textile manufacturing industry, has established a fine factory in New South Wales, but because of the dumping of Japanese textiles into Australia, he has had to discharge hundreds of employees, the value of the company's shares has dropped considerably, and existing stocks are unsaleable. Why should we hesitate to protect that industry? I remind the Minister that some years ago he said that we should have a special session to deal with the tariff. The present practice is to tableany amendments of the tariff on the last day of the session, and thus preclude any discussion. Our secondary industries will develop only under a scientific and protective tariff. When I was a boy the

Mr.jj. Riley.

McKinley tariff was imposed in the United States of America, and Great Britain was loud in its protestations against it. At that time the population of America was much smaller than it is to-day, yet it was determined to manufacture its own requirements. As a result the United States of America has gone ahead by leaps and bounds. Its population and manufactures have increased enormously, and the nation is now self-contained. Honorable members supporting the Government advocate the bringing of immigrants to this country, and surely the best way to attract immigrants is to provide work by establishing new industries. People will go to the country in which employment can be found. When unemployment is rife, immigration must necessarily be retarded.


Mr Perkins - Has a working week of 44 hours anything to do with unemployment.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - A man working 60 hours a week in one country would be only too pleased to migrate to another country in which the working hours were 44 hours a week. Honorable members opposite continually speak of the detrimental effect of high wages; but they forget to mention the high rate of interest charged by the banks. Until we have a proper protective tariff we shall have unemployment in this country, and disinclination on the part of the business people to invest capital in industries.


Mr M CAMERON (BARKER, SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - They are hesitating now to invest capital.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Only because there is no proper protection to industries. This Government came into office to bring happiness and prosperity to tha people, but it has not put upon the statute-book one monumental piece of legislation. It certainly has appointed many commissions. This composite Government has shirked the responsibility of governing this country properly, because every knotty problem that has arisen has been referred to a board or commission. The expenditure is not considered. The Prime Minister was a great advocate of the Development and Migration Commission.


Mr ABBOTT (GWYDIR, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Labour party supported the appointment of that, commission.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The division list will show that we opposed it. To-day the first annual report of that commission was tabled, yet it has been making investigations for nearly eighteen months. The chairman receives the salary of £5,000 a year, double what the Prime Minister is receiving. His first act was to accompany the Prime Minister to Great Britain. He travelled through that country, making speeches. He returned to Australia, and again travelled extensively.What has been the result ? Up to date the expenditure on the commission amounts to £140,000. A large staff of clerks, typists and lecturers has been appointed, but not one scheme has been propounded that will settle any family, or even one man, on the land.


Mr Cameron - Some schemes have been recomme n ded .


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have not heard of them. By the end of the year the expenditure on this commission will amount to £250,000, and its continuance will reflect upon the intelligence of the Ministry. The commission is serving no useful purpose, and it is time that we called a halt in its expenditure. The Government has appointed numerous commissions and boards, including the National Insurance Commission, the War Service Homes Commission, the Sugar Board, the Pacific Phosphates Commission, the Repatriation Commission, the Railway Unification Council, the Commonwealth Shipping Board, the Dairy Produce Control Board, the Dried Fruits Board, the Canned Fruits Board, the Meat Council, the Tariff Board, the Public Service Board, the Public Service Arbitrator, the Canberra Public Servants Committee, the War Memorial Com- mittee, the Commonwealth Bank Board, the Old-age Pensions Commissioner, the Superannuation Board, the New Guinea Trade Agency, and numerous others. These bodies have incurred a tremendous expenditure. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. J. Francis) eulogized the work of the National Insurance Commission, and made a great appeal for national insurance. In 1924-25 the expenditure of that commission amounted to £3,790, and in 1925-26 to £2,734, and it is still continuing its investigations.


Mr J FRANCIS (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) - The honorable member is wrong.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Has not Senator Millen an office and' staff in Sydney, and is he not interviewing friendly societies ?


Mr J FRANCIS (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) - He has no staff.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - He is drawing fees. The commission is going on for ever, like the babbling brook, and is accomplishing nothing.


Mr J FRANCIS (MORETON, QUEENSLAND) - It furnished its report some time ago.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - If the honorable member is the only champion of that commission that the Government can find, it is truly in a bad way. The expenditure on royal commissions is as follows: -

 

Any vital question that arises is referred to a royal commission for investigation and report, and when information is desired by honorable members in this chamber the Government's invariable reply is that the commission's investigations cannot be interfered with. The Federal Capital Commission has been of great expense to this country. The foundations of the Federal Capital City were laid long before that Commission was appointed. The water, sewerage and lighting services and the brick works were established by the Home and Territories Department. This Government has nearly reached the end of its tether. Taxation and expenditure have steadily 'increased, and the result is an adverse trade balance of nearly £20,000. I shall give a simple illustration. If a man is earning £7 or £8 a week, and he and his family live at the rate of £9 a week, he must become bogged in the morass of debt. If he is a wise man, he will take stock of his position, and endeavour to live within his income. If he does not, he will find the bailiffs in possession of his chattels. Similarly, if a business man spends more than his income he will ultimately land in the bankruptcy court. That is really the position of this Government, which is pursuing a wastefully extravagant career.


Mr Atkinson - Will the honorable member indicate where this Government has been extravagant?


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The appointment of all these commissions constitutes extravagance. One commission alone cost £140,000 and produced no beneficial result. Then every year there is a ministerial jaunt to Geneva conference. Ministers are accompanied by a large staff, and the business is developing into an annual picnic. This Government sends representatives regularly to a conference which advocates disarmament, yet it yearly increases its defence vote. The country cannot bear such extravagance much longer. The Treasurer comes along and declares that he intends to reduce taxation by reducing income tax. We should encourage our secondary industries by relieving them of income tax, provided that a reasonable portion of any profit is utilized to expand the business and to develop the resources of our country. Instead of that this Government is taxing them out of existence. Overseas competition is being encouraged, and our own industries cannot properly expand. If proper encouragement were given, our secondary industries could meet the competition from overseas, and the future of Australia would then be unlimited. I am not one who declares that Australia is going to the dogs merely because we have an adverse trade balance. Australia's potential resources are so tremendous that it is impossible to check its progress. It needs only the establishment of a sound and progressive government to give Australia the necessary impetus. I do not object to borrowing, provided it is used for reproductive purposes and to develop our resources. But I certainly do consider that borrowing is now being overdone, and that the money that is borrowed is being misapplied. The Treasurer's balance-sheet shows the PostmasterGeneral's Department with a surplus. Actually the developmental work of the department is paid for out of loan money, and all revenue is passed into the Treasury as profit. As much of the work as is possible should be paid for out of revenue. We lose £270,000 a year on newspaper telegrams. Is that a sound way in which to conduct the business of the country?

Yet, when it comes to maintaining an essential service, such as our own shipping line, the Government declares that we must not lose money. We .shall have a word or two to say on that when the matter comes before this chamber again for discussion. The Australian Commonwealth Line of Steamers was left in the hands of the Shipping Board, and this Government had no right to interfere with it. I regret that the Government is floundering so hopelessly in a financial morass. Our debt and our expenses have increased, and if that continues there is a black day ahead for Australia. The Government must check its reckless extravagance in connexion with commissions. It appointed an industrial commission to go to the United States of America, to investigate the industrial conditions of that country. That commission cost £10,000. What are the results worth?


Mr Gregory - It was a very good thing to do.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I thought the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Gregory) was in favour of economy. The industrial conditions which obtain in America are entirely different from those in Australia, and cannot be adapted to our requirements, therefore, that £10,000 was a sheer waste of money. Last season the Prime Minister said that we would hold a constitutional session this year. Instead of that, the Government has appointed a commission to investigate our constitution. The personnel of that commission is entirely inadequate for the task. The chairman is drawing £200 a month, and two guineas a day travelling expenses. He is a lecturer from the Sydney university, and has not a practical knowledge of politics. I could name three or four men who could have done the work well. I mention the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes), who has on two occasions drafted alterations to the constitution, and who knows its weaknesses perfectly. If he had been appointed, in conjunction with the Attorney-General. (Mr. Latham) and one of our High Court judges, either Mr. Justice Isaacs or Mr. Justice Higgins, we should have had a practical and efficient trio, who would have produced a satisfactory report. Honorable members on this side of the chamber declined to accept a position on the commission.


Mr Seabrook - The bosses of honorable members of the Labour party are on it.


Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - I have no bosses other that the electors. I have great faith in the destiny of Australia, and have no wish to decry it, but we must endeavour to conduct the business of the country on sound lines. This Government has failed to do so, and unless a halt is called, disaster must inevitably follow. I shall vote for the amendment moved by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and I trust that honorable members on the Government benches will be actuated by a spirit of commonsense, which will cause them to view the issue as a non-party one, and vote as their consciences dictate.







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