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Thursday, 24 November 1927


Mr COLEMAN (Reid) .- As the thirty-third speaker in this Marathon debate, I have listened to many different examples of eloquence, but the most depressing of all was that- delivered by the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Seabrook). It was depressing in its attack on the Australian workers, and the one bright spot it possessed was its solicitude for apples. It is a pity that this solicitude was not extended to the workers of Australia. The speech was also remarkable for the similarity which exists between it and those made by the honorable member on other occasions. We continually hear the same old attacks by him on the Australian worker and Australian standards of living. The monotony of them coming as they do so repeatedly from the honorable member for Franklin made his contribution to the debate one of the most depressing we have heard.


Mr McGrath - He knows more about Jones and his jam factory than anything else.


Mr COLEMAN - Yes ; he is a product of an environment which is responsible for the narrow view he takes on important subjects. A turgid stream of talk has flowed through this Chamber during the past three weeks. Govern^ ment supporters have anxiously en deavouredto justify their support of an administration which is already overwhelmed by the unanswerable criticism directed against it in relation to the' economic position of Australia. The criticism hurled at the Government from this side of the Chamber has found welcome support from the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gullett) and the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes) to whose utterances I shall refer later. We have been asked to suggest remedies; but that is a function of the Government and not of the Opposition. We can well say to the Treasurer, " Physician, heal thyself." Never in the history of government was there a more ill-assorted and quarrelsome family as that which at present constitutes the Government and its supporters. There are in the Government freetrade and protectionist elements, as well as militaristic and near pacifist elements. There are those who believe in state enterprise and those who are opposed to it. The tangled skein of criticism we have heard during this debate makes it obvious that a consistent person cannot support a government possessing the colour-changing qualities of a chameleon. One day it survives a censure motion on itsbanking policy on which it has staked its life, and next day abandons the project for which it fought so desperately. One day it insists upon withdrawing the per capita, payments to the States and the next day allows them to be continued inanother form. The same government suggests that a constitutional convention should be held in Canberra this year with the object of considering amendments of the Constitution, and next day appoints an expensive royal commission to undertake work which should be done by this Parliament. This commission, which, with the exception of the chairman, is distinguished by its lack of juristic eminence, has received a considerable amount of criticism from the press on the ground of the expense it is incurring and the comparative mediocrity of the talent of its composition and because the Government could have selected a better balanced commission. Ministries affirm the necessity of government by Parliament and next day surround Parliament with a veritable hierarchy of boards and commissions. One day they say that the maintenance of an Australian mercantile marine and shipping service is essential to Australia, and the next day they sacrifice the service which gives effect to this national ideal. I listened with great interest to the speech of the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Gul- lett), and I congratulate him on his courage in 'affirming that the war was fought for thewealthy. It was indeed refreshing to hear such a candid state ment from a Government supporter. A particular feature of the honorable member's speech was his gloom, because of his unhappy and unwelcome surroundings. His speech would lead me to believe that his prescription for the ills to which the body politic is subject, is, in the words of the old couplet -

For joy and temperance and repose,

Slam the door on the doctor's nose.

That seems the prescription of the honorable member for Henty and the right honorable member for North Sydney, who so often adopts the role of Sir Oracle " When I speak, let no dog bark." The speech of the right honorable member for North Sydney disappointed every one because of its weakness, which was owing principally to the fact that he directed most of his criticism against the Treasurer instead of against the Government. In view of the right honorable gentleman's hectic political past, he was singularly unfortunate in comparing himself to Plaucus, the Roman consul, because according to classical authorities, both the public and private life of Plancus were stained with numerous vices. . In his political actions he was unprincipled as well as undecided. Honorable members on this side of the chamber have been anxiously awaiting a speech from the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), whose "entrances and exits " have become fewer since we entered into this long-promised land. Altogether aparat from his political views, the right honorable gentleman has established a reputation as a financial authority in Australia, and I contend that it is his duty to give his views on the economic situation at present facing Australia, or "forever hold his peace."


Mr FENTON (MARIBYRNONG, VICTORIA) - Why does not the right honorable member do so?


Mr COLEMAN - That is what every one wishes to know. In view of the attitude which the right honorable gentleman has adopted towards the Government on previous occasions, and as he is now within the precincts of the House, I should like to know why he does not tell us what is in his mind.

Turning now to the Prime Minister, I want to stress that he did not attempt to justify the expenditure incurred by the Government, but simply asked honorable members to show where economies could be effected. But it is the function of a government to reduce expenditure wherever possible. In any case, the information available in the budget concerning the internal administration of departments is so meagre that honorable members are prevented from suggesting any comprehensive schemes of economy. The Prime Minister says, in effect, to his supporters, "With me as your leader, restrain, ye men, your hurtful tendencies.'' He relies very largely upon the docile support of followers, who include a few men with - speaking relatively - established reputations and wide experience, and should have the courage to give their opinions on the outstanding economic facts in Australian politics today. The press of Australia is loud in ite condemnation .of the Treasurer's administration, and evidently there is much truth in the old Hebrew proverb, "Do not dwell in a city whose governor is a physician." The Treasurer is not a governer of, but he practically dominates this Administration. That, I think, is the view held by a. number of honorable members opposite, who are chafing under the present inequitable composite arrangement. An example of the crticism directed- against the Government is contained in tlie Evening News, which is a bitter Nationalist newspaper, of yesterday, from which I quote the following -

The Bruce-Page Government is meeting with considerable' criticism of its budget, and this is not astonishing. In the first place, the budget is so badly presented that it is difficult to obtain a comprehensive notion of the commonwealth finance. If it were presented more in the manner of a company's balance-sheet, but showing both the past year's figures and the estimates of the present year, the reader could readily gauge how the accounts stood. 1 Instead, they are hidden away in obscure paragraphs or merely implied. The second objection is that, when the obscurity of the budget is penetrated, it is discovered to be a most extravagant one.

For the defects of the budget the Treasurer is not alone to blame. Dr. Page was probably primarily responsible, but his budget was passed by the Cabinet before presentation to Parliament. Upon the whole Cabinet, therefore; and particularly upon the Prime Minister, falls the responsibility for the budget.

Dr. Pagehas made a poor showing as ii. financier, but he is nevertheless the mouthpiece of the Cabinet's financial policy.

What does the Government do with its excessive revenue? It wastes it with both hands. How many federal royal commissions there are in Australia to-day passes the wit of man to remember, for a new one is appointed almost every week. That most expensive and tireless royal commission on the Constitution was appointed in- the teeth of the popular demand for a convention. These innumerable and unnecessary commissioners are symptomatic of the extravagance of the Federal Government, of which its strongest supporters, inside and outside of Parliament, complain. was the Prime Minister has asked where economies may be effected, let me point to one or two examples of extravagance which can be regarded as nothing less than a crying scandal. No less than ?70,000 has been spent upon the reconstruction and re-furnishing of Yarralumla House, to provide a residence for the Governor-General. The money wasted there in certain directions exceeds by 100 per cent, to 150 per cent, the value of the assets created. The waste of money' in this instance is a positive scandal, and should be investigated by the Public Accounts Committee or some other such body. In the erection and furnishing of the Prime Minister's residence at Canberra! admit that the Prime Minister is entitled to an official residence in keeping with tlie prestige of the position - ?2S,000 has been spent, while workmen in the Territory are housed in iron huts and broken-down shanties. Notwithstanding this, the Prime Minister finds that the house is not, altogether suitable, and it is now suggested that the Public Works Committee should consider the construction of another official residence. It was criminal waste and extravagance to spend so much on this structure, and the waste is intensified when it is found that the building is unsuitable. I have quoted only two examples of wasteful expenditure; but if the detailed information were available in the budget I have no doubt many similar instances could be given.

This morning, by a question, I directed attention to the unfortunate funding agreement entered into in 1921 with the British Government. This agreement can only be regarded as precipitate, seeing that many years passed before any other dominion or foreign debtors entered into any funding arrangement. I strongly protest against the extraordinary disparity between the terms received by Australia and those given to Italy and France. The Italian and French debts were written down to insignificant amounts. I do not know what arrangements have been made with Canada, South Africa, or New Zealand; but it is outrageous to find that Australia has to pay £4,191,410 annually as interest, and £1,293,035 in reduction of the principal. The strongest possible pressure should be brought to bear upon the British Government in an endeavour to amend the terms of the agreement. Great Britain should not adopt the role of Shylock in dealing with Australia, and demand its pound of flesh, by asking us to adhere to a contract which was entered into before any other nation began to recognize its debt obligations. Instead of being penalized for our willingness to meet our obligations, we should be granted treatment at least as favorable as that meted out to the allied countries.


Mr Duncan-Hughes - The point is under discussion.


Mr COLEMAN - The Prime Minister stated this morning that he had been unsuccessful in his endeavour to persuade Great Britain to reopen the subject. Through that channel alone we are sending abroad at least £1,000,000 a year more in interest than we should have to pay which amount could well be used as a set-off. against our adverse trade balance. That debt really represents the board, lodging and equipment of our troops when on service abroad, and it is unfair for Great Britain to adhere to the letter of the contract. I do not desire any honorable member to suggest that I am in any way opposed to Great Britain, or to the well-being of the Empire to which we belong. But I .wish to see the interests of Australia conserved, and I decline to countenance without a protest, Australia being made the victim of an unfair arrangement simply because of her ready willingness to meet her liabilities. The debts of France and Italy have been written down to insignificant proportions. The paradox of the situation is that we are to-day discussing our adverse trade balance, and our heavy commitments overseas, while here is a sum which would very materially reduce that overseas. expenditure.

For the edification of my constituents who have the inclination to read Hansard, I shall summarize the arguments put forward by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), who has moved the following amendment : -

That the item be reduced by £1, in order to draw attention to our adverse trade balance; the inadequacy of the protection afforded to Australian industries, and to direct the Government to remodel its financial policy to bring it into accord with the economic necessities of the Commonwealth.

During the course of his speech the Leader of the Opposition stated that our revenue had increased from £63,834,000 in 1922-23 to £75,541,000 in 1926-27, whilst the customs revenue had increased from £22,597,000 in 1922-23 to nearly £31,832,000 in 1926-27, and a further substantial increase was estimated for 1927-28, and that direct and indirect taxation had increased from £49,885,000 in 1922-23 to £58,994,000 in 1926-27. The honorable member also stated that whilst direct taxation had shown a slight decrease, indirect taxation had increased very materially. He also directed attention to the fact that- the adverse trade balance had reached alarming proportions, amounting, in 1926-27 to £20,000,000, or, if bullion is excluded, to over £30,000,000, while the adverse trade balance for the quarter ended 30th September, 1927, was £13,500,000. I give the amounts in round figures. With a possible decline in our wool clip and a reduced wheat yield it is quite on the cards that, at the end of twelve months, if the present position is not rectified, our adverse trade balance will amount to either £60,000,000 or £80,000,000. The position is the most serious that has ever confronted the Commonwealth of Australia. The principal remedy suggested from this side of the chamber, on which I and my colleagues agree, is the imposition of an effective customs duty on imported goods which can be manufactured in Australia. The. honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers) suggested that "that nock would not fight any more." After all, what is the test of an effective protective policy? If the customs duties, which are supposed to protect our industries, fail to do so, they are no longer effective, and we might as well have no protective policy as have one which fails to protect, and which merely adds to the cost of living. It is both iniquitous and immoral to collect money under such a guise. It is also unsound to have to depend on such duties to meet the financial commitments of the Government. Yet we have a Treasurer who is depending on a continued increase from that source of supply in financing next year's estimates of revenue. The fact cannot be denied that depreciated exchanges and substantial reductions in wages abroad have rendered our tariff ineffective. There has been a tendency towards an improvement in countries where exchange is depreciated, but even in Italy and elsewhere, where that is noticeable, there have been drastic wage-cuts. To-day Europe, with its high cost of living, low wages, long hours, and sweating conditions, is in a deplorable condition. "Would any honorable member in this chamber change the policy of Australia for that of Europe as it is to-day? Europe is on the verge of revolution. Only recently, there was an bloody outburst of civil war in Vienna. Unless it makes a determined attempt to restore its economic balance, and to distribute its wealth more evenly, Europe cannot escape a serious upheaval. That upheaval, if it comes, will not be attributable to communistic propaganda, but to the low standard of living, the starvation, disaster, and misery which invariably accompany an unequal distribution of wealth. Honorable members opposite have attacked the high standard cf wages which prevails in Australia. They affect to ignore, or do so deliberately, the fact, that the standard in operation in Australia was established by our arbitration tribunals, and is based upon the cost of living. Those arbitration courts have the support' of honorable members opposite if we accept their election policies, at face values. Any departure from the arbitration system would be fraught with economic disaster, and would bring industrial upheaval. It should also be remembered that it is much easier to increase than to decrease wages. It may be desirable to lower the cost of living in Australia, but that must precede any reduction of' wages. The whole complex structure of credit and the economic system of Australia is based upon a certain purchasing power and a certain money value. Any attempt to interfere drastically with that would bring disaster of considerable dimensions. The only alternative to additional protection to Australian industries is to reduce wages, lengthen hours, or abandon our industries algether. The idea of reducing wages and lengthening hours is preposterous when one considers that the existing standard has been ' created by our Arbitration Court, and to abandon our industries would be to destroy our whole economic future, seeing that over half a million people are to-day engaged in secondary industries in Australia. We do not wish to see European conditions operate in Australia, -and any government that advocated them would meet with short shrift from the people. Honorable members opposite have referred with a great deal of gratification to the conclusions arrived at by the World Economic Conference recently held at Geneva. They entirely ignore the fact that the economic 'conference was mainly concerned with the economic conditions of Europe, which do not apply to Australia, j Its intention is to assist Europe to withstand the economic pressure of the United States of America. The desire in Europe is to create an international entente cordiale between the countries of Europe, a European zollverein. It would be ridiculous to adopt for Australia findings which are based upon the geographical and economic conditions of Europe. In determining what is an effective tariff, it is necessary to examine the relative standards of the countries in competition with us. If that is done, it will be found that an 80 per cent, or even a 100 per cent, tariff is insignificant when contrasted with the standards in force in European countries. The wages in Australia generally speaking are over 100 per cent, higher than those in Great Britain, while those in Great Britain are 50 per cent, higher than those in force in foreign countries, and the Asiatic standards are still lower than the European. Those countries work long hours and impose intolerable sweating conditions that could, not be con- sidered in Australia. 'This Government should have a tariff session to deal with every item of our existing schedule, in the endeavour to reduce our adverse trade balance. Figures could be quoted to show the extraordinary increase that has taken place in luxury importations during the last year. Luxury importations last year amounted to over £28,000,000, and this Government relics upon the duties on those and other importations, together with excies, for the bulk of its .revenue. Protection should be extended to every Australian industry that is capable of helping to solve the labour absorption problem. It has been suggested by honorable members behind the Government that there is inefficiency in Australian industry. The Tariff Board has also implied that profiteering is rampant among some of our manufacturers. I hold no brief for the manufacturers, but I do resent such implications as damaging to our tariff policy when specific instances are not given for investigation by this Parliament. For every manufacturer in Australia who may be making' an undue profit, there are one hundred importers and profiteers robbing this country of its wealth.

The Minister himself has given specific instances in which Australian manufacturers have reduced prices, and I wish to refer to one or two of them. Shock absorbers are manufactured by Storey Bros., of Sydney, in sufficient quantity to supply the whole of Australia's requirements. That firm has 'reduced its price to the public from £10 10s. to £7 10s. a set. The importers of Gabriel Snubbors, under a 10 per cent, duty, sold their goods at £10 10s. a set, while under the 55 per cent duty they sell at £8 8s. a set, showing clearly that they were previously exploiting this country to the utmost. Certain Australian manufacturers, such as Sonnerdale Limited, the pioneer manufacturer of spare parts and gears for motor cars in Australia, are being penalized by the unfair methods adopted by oversea traders. On the 3rd September, 1924, the duty on spare parts for a certain car was 10 per cent., and the car agents' retail price was £8 10s. The Spare Parts Merchants' retail selling price, under the 10 per cent, duty, was £7, giving the car agents a profit of £1 10s. On the 1st October, 1927, the Spare Parts Merchants' retail price under the 55 per cent, duty was £4, while their net price of imported gears, when sold to wholesale houses in lots of six or more, was, under the 55 per cent, duty, £2 Ss. The selling price of Australian-made crown wheels and. pinions to wholesale houses was £3 15s. The maximum landed cost of imported gears, allowing 60 per cent, off list price, plus 75 per cent, for duty and handling charges, was £2 6s. 8d., allowing the importer a margin of ls. 4d. profit, clearly showing that dumping is going on with a view to killing the Australian industry. These instances show the immediate need for tariff,amendments to prevent some of our industries from going to the wall. Mr. Henderson, one of the leading hat manufacturers in. Australia, has supplied me with information showing how that industry is being crushed by importations. The value of imports of fur felt hats on the 30th June, 1919, was £73,032, and on the 30th June, 1927, £385,756. As a result, hundreds of men have been thrown out of work, and hundreds of machines are lying idle. The value of imports of wool felt hats on the 30th June, 1921, was £5,274, and on the 30th June, 1927, £163,635. Let us see how these imports are made up. The imports of Italian fur hats since 1925-26 have increased by 17 per cent., and of French fur hats by 92 per cent. The imports of wool felt hats from France have increased by 560 per cent., from Czecho-Slovakia by 145 per cent., from Austria by 268 per cent., from Germany by 254 per cent., and from Belgium by 160 per cent. Most of the competition in this industry is from lowwage countries. In England a hatter is paid ls. 5d. an hour, and a trimmer Sd. an hour. The Italian rate in 1926 was ls. Id. an hour for, hatters and 7d. an hour for trimmers. In France, in 1925-26, the rate was 5d. an hour for hatters, whereas the Australian rate is 4s. an hour on piece-work for hatters and ls. 6d. an hour for trimmers. That is surely an answer to the suggestion that Australian manufacturers are sufficiently catered for by the existing tariff. I have received the following' letter from

Mcleod and Company, -manufacturers of kalsomine, in which they complain of the trading methods of American companies which are dumping their products into Australia : -

The Muralo Company, of New Brighton, New York, United States of America, export large quantities of kalsomine to Australia. I am informed that in order to evade the declaration of the home consumption value, a kalsomine is manufactured by the abovementioned firm under the name of " Calcimo, which is for export only; and that the same kalsomine is packed under various labels for consumption in the United States of America. If this information is correct, the Muralo Company can truly say - as they do - that the kalsomine under the name or trade mark of " Calcimo " is not sold in the United States of America, and, therefore, there is no home consumption value to declare.

The substance of that letter will be submitted to the Minister, and I hope that he will take some action. I have also received further letters complaining of the delay of the Government in dealing with requests for additional duties on leather fancy goods and artificial flowers.


Mr PRATTEN (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) - With regard to leather goods, the next move is with the industry


Mr COLEMAN - I am glad to have that assurance from tlie Minister. Take the manufacture of electric motors, which is important, especially from the point of view of defence. The Monarch Electric Motors of Sydney have drawn my attention to the inadequacy of the tariff and its inability to withstand oversea competition. The Australian manufacturer competing under war-time conditions was able to secure a large proportion of - this trade, but since- 1920, .as a result of foreign competition, the price for electric motors has dropped from £74 to £29 10s., which was the approximate pre-war price. We cannot withstand unequal competition of this description, particularly when the cost of material in Australia is 70 per cent, higher than in England. The wage paid to fitters in England is £2 18s. 6d. a week, and the Australian rate is £5 16s. 6d. a week. There has been an alarming increase in the importation of woollen- textiles. The imports in 1925-26 amounted to £2,320,426, and in 1926-27 to £2,445,972. It makes me disgusted to think that we Australians, who were so ready to make sacrifices during the war, are to-day not prepared by supporting our own industries to do all we can to win the race for trade supermacy and economic development. During the war our uniforms were the pride of the whole allied armies, as also were our boots. We make the finest wearing apparel in the world, and yet the Government is not prepared to increase the tariff sufficiently to protect the industry. The importation of hats and textiles should be prohibited except under licence. The man who wants a» Stetson hat should be made to pay £4 or £5 for it. The Australian hat is good enough for any one, and so are Australian-made textiles. A higher tariff on textiles would increase the local consumption of our wool clip, and thus, ultimately benefit the primary producers. We have an unfavorable trade balance with the United States of America, and the Government should take steps to induce that country, if possible, to give us greater opportunity to develop our export trade, at least in wool. According to the Literary Digest, published a few weeks ago, there is a general tendency in Europe to withstand American competition. Prance has placed prohibitive and discriminatory duties upon American imports. I should not go so far as that, because of endangering possibly the general trading interests of Australia, but something should be done to .induce America to help certain of our industries. However, I do not think that American capital invested in Australia should be penalized through the tariff, although it is well known that it is being penalized under certain duties which were recently tabled in this chamber by the Minister to which I shall refer later.

It is interesting to note that according to the Memorandum on Balance of Payments and Foreign Trade Balances, compiled for the League of Nations, the imports to Australia from the United Kingdom in 1913 amounted to 51.S per cent, of the total, and in 1925 to 43.9 per cent.; while our exports to that country were 44.3 per cent, in 191S and 42.7 per cent, in 1925. We obtained 13.7 per cent, of our imports from the United States of America in 1913, but by 1925 the figure had risen to 24.6 per cent. Our exports to that country were 3.4 per cent, in 1913 and 5.7 per cent, in 1925. Our imports from France in 1913 were 2.8 per cent., and in 1925 2.7 per cent.; while our exports were 12.3 per cent, in both years. Our imports from Germany were 8.8 per cent, in 1913, and 1.4 per cent, in 1925. The trade altogether ceased during the war, of course ; but the figures show slight increases each year since the cessation of hostilities. Our exports to Germany were S.S per cent, in 1913 arid 4.6 per cent, in 1925. Our imports from Japan were 1.2 per cent, in 1913, and 2.6 per cent, in 1925; while our exports to it were 1.8 per cent, in 1913 and 7.2 per cent, in 1925. Our imports from Italy were 0.8 per cent, in 1913 and 1 per cent, in 1925; and our exports to that country were 1.3 per cent, in 1913 and 6.2 per cent, in 1925. I have read those figures chiefly to show that there is an enormous and growing disparity in imports and exports between Australia and the United States of America.

I protest once more at the delay of the Government in submitting to the House a revised tariff schedule. I ashed a question on this subject of the Minister for Trade and Customs some time ago, but his reply was not satisfactory. I appreciate the work of the Minister, and also realize the difficulty he must have in framing a policy acceptable to the widely divergent interests which support the Government. On the 15th November the Minister informed me, in reply to a question, that in the last twelve months 24 recommendations had been received from the Tariff Board for increases in the tariff; but there have been about 40 1 alterations made in the schedule since the last schedule was tabled. In view of the many occasions in this House on which the honorable gentleman called attention to the unfortunate economic trend of the Commonwealth prior to his acceptance of the Trade and Customs portfolio, I trust that he will give us an assurance that something will be done to remedy the evils with which we are afflicted.

I join issue with the Minister on one subject, and am fortified in doing so by the fact that the policy to which I am pledged, which is based upon Australian sentiment, is that to ensure the develop ment of Australian industries we should not grant additional reciprocal treaties to Great Britain, or any other country, unless we are given a quid pro quo. The Australian-made Preference League recently addressed a letter to honorable members of this Parliament, in which it protested against statements that were made during the visit of the Secretary of State for tlie Dominions (Mr. Amery). The following sentence appeared in it -

It is thought that the time has arrived when Britain should completely reciprocate by legislation and administration in favour of British dominions instead of keeping them, except in a few isolated cases, on the same footing as foreign countries.

We are receiving no proper return for the preferential treatment that we are according to Great Britain in respect of motor chassis. I question whether the latest action of the Minister in this regard is in strict conformity with the spirit of the Tariff Board Act. In reply to a question which I asked him some time ago, he informed me that the alteration which he proposed to make in respect to the duties on imported motor chassis was in accord with the revenue policy of the Government. The duties which are at present applicable to unassembled motor chassis entering the country are: - British, free; intermediate, 7£ per cent.; general, 10 per cent.; and to assembled chassis, 7 per cent., 10 per cent., and 12^ per cent. respectively. The proposals which the Government submitted to Parliament last year were as follow : - unassembled chassis, British, 2i per cent.; intermediate, 10 per cent.: and general, 15 per cent. ; and assembled chassis, 7£ per cent., 15 per cent., and 20 per cent, respectively. The latest proposals are as follow : - unassembled chassis, British, free; intermediate, I2i per cent.; and general, 17£ per cent. ; assembled chassis, British, 5 per cent.; intermediate, 20 per cent. ; and general, 25 per cent. Although the Minister has claimed that the alterations are to be made in order to provide revenue for road work. the importer of unassembled British chassis will pay no duty at all. ' If this is to be a revenue impost, its incidence should be such that all parties will make some contribution under it. A stronger criticism is that it is entirely unfair that, while importers of assembled British chassis are to pay a duty of 5 per cent., the importers of unassembled foreign or American chassis are to pay 17-£ per cent. Every honorable member must realize that if General Motors or other firms import a large number of unassembled chassis they must employ Australian workmen to assemble them, yet they will have to pay a higher duty by 12i per cent, than the importers of the completed British car on which no Australian labour is employed.


Mr PRATTEN (MARTIN, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Some time ago a boast was made by one motor manufacturing company that a chassis could be assembled by one man in one hour.


Mr COLEMAN - I do not know whether that is so or not, ; but when I paid a visit to the assembling plant of General Motors I was informed that 70 per cent, of the cost of their cars remained in Australia in the form of wages material, &c. I would never hesitate to attack General Motors, or any other firm, if they did not in some measure encourage Australian industries, hut I believe in giving credit where credit is due. But General Motors are, I am now given to understand, assisting Austraiian industries substantially by equipping their cars with Australian-made bumper bars, shock absorbers, batteries and. other accessories ; and they should be encouraged to do so. It is fair that I should ask the Minister whether British manufacturers are doing likewise. A proper margin is not being preserved between the two countries under the new proposals. I am not attacking British preference, but only the unfair incidence of the tariff. The total number of unassembled chassis- imported into Australia last year, according to a return made available to me by the Minister, was 21,212 from the United Kingdom, while more than 68,000 came from Canada and the United States of America. That shows conclusively that the American interests are assembling many more cars in Australia than the manufacturers of any other country, including Great Britain. It is not equitable to penalize manufacturers who are assembling their cars here, for in a small degree at least they are assisting to establish the motor car manufacturing industry in Australia. I would strongly support anything which would establish motor car manufacture in Australia. I trust that the day is not far distant, when, in spite of the apparently stupendous difficulties caused by the mass production methods that are in vogue abroad, the acquiring of the necessary patterns and so on, we. shall be manufacturing a completely Australian made car: We are already doing something to en courage 'the manufacture of spare parts here. I am afraid that the Minister is inclined to be unduly prejudiced against our cousins across the Pacific. In spite of his evident desire to make a gesture of goodwill towards Great Britain and our sister dominions, by granting them a greater margin of preference than they have hitherto enjoyed, he seems to be unduly prejudiced against America.

The flooding of this country with imports has undoubtedly brought us U: against a most difficult financial situation. The Government should try to do something to check the importation of luxuries to Australia. This undesirable feature in our economic life has been contributed to largely by what is known as the cash order system of extended credits, which encourages people to buy luxuries which many really cannot afford. I have no desire to penalize the people, but I am convinced that our economic problems are assuming such huge dimensions that we must do something to check the growth of this bad habit, or it will bring disastrous consequences to us.

I wish to express my entire disagreement with the cheese-paring policy that the Government has adopted in respect to the provision of motor transport facilities for incapacitated and disabled soldiers. My protest is endorsed by the Returned Sailors' and Soldiers' Imperial League, of which I have the honour to be a member. In view of the dreadful affliction of soldiers who suffer from cerebral trouble, paralysis, . or have undergone double amputations, which in many cases make their life nothing but a living death, they should be treated with the utmost sympathy, instead of which the Government, in a most niggardly, reluctant and ungenerous spirit, has granted them a few transportation concessions, which are not- as much as they desired.

I resent the attitude of the Commonwealth Public Service Board towards those under its direction. This body was appointed some years ago to classify the Service, and has 'taken an inordinately long time in carrying out its task. In fact, most of its time seems to be spent in exceeding the bounds of its administrative jurisdiction. In its last report the board bitterly attacked the Public Service 'Arbitrator, because, in the exercise of his judicial functions, he has made certain awards which do not please the Board. Such language should not be 'allowed to pass unchallenged in this House. The Arbitrator is a judical" authority created by Parliament, and his decisions are entitled to be treated with respect by the authority that is administering the Public Service. The board further exceeds its jurisdiction by urging the withdrawal of the political rights and privileges of public servants. That is a matter to be determined by this Parliament alone. For twenty years the political rights of public servants have been an unchallenged feature of Australian politics, and the board is guilty of grave presumption in criticizing a principle so firmly established and generally approved. Some years ago I found it necessary to move a reduction of the Estimates in order to call attention to the extravagant language used by this arrogant authority i n its annual report. The langauge in the last report would warrant similar action if the committee were not already occupied with another amendment and discussion was restricted.

This Government shows a remarkable readiness to intrude into spheres that constitutionally do not belong to the federal authority, while failing to exercise certain specific powers which the Constitution confers upon us. Notable amongst these defaults is the neglect to introduce legislation for the regulation and control of companies, particularly those dealing with insurance. The Commonwealth Parliament has been in existence for 26 years, and it has not yet enacted a federal insurance law. Since 1921 the formation of wild-cat insurance companies, improperly financed, and scandalously managed, lias constituted a menace to the reputation and financial well-being of the commercial community. It is high time that the Government grasped this nettle, and introduced a comprehensive insurance and company law. The subject is so complex and difficult that itmight, well be referred to a select committee. Apart from the roguery in connexion with the formation of wild-cat insurance companies, share hawkers, . the numerous failures, and the financial instability of some of them, the " expectation of life tables " call for action by this Parliament. These tables are based upon English statistics, although the expectation of life in Australia is greater than in England.

I protest against the extent to which the censorship is exercised over imported literature by authorities who are notcompetent to decide what printed matter should be admitted and what excluded. I believe in allowing to everybody the utmost liberty of thought. I have more admiration for a man who will read Karl Marx on capital and other abstruse economic studies, than for the man who reads literature treating mainly of sexuality. The former is entitled to be regarded as a good citizen ; he has at least an inquiring and healthy mind. The censorship is resented not only by men who have communistic sympathies or who are interested in that form of political thought, but by university professors and others, who find themselves handicapped in their studies of political science and social philosophy by the restriction that is imposed by this narrowminded and intolerant Government, Professor Anderson, lecturer on philosophy at Sydney University, says: -

The Communist case, if I understand it rightly, rests in the end on this contention that society is in danger of breaking up, and that only the working class can save it. Now are we to regard ourselves as political infants, and to assume (a) that public opinion consists of the opinions of newspaper proprietors; (&) that political discussion is politically dangerous; (c) that the. only thing thatprevents ns all from becoming Communists is our ignorance of what Communism is?

Professor Bruce, also of Sydney University, ridicules the character of the censorship. Amongst the publications that are excluded are some which are of purely historical interest to students and seekers after political and economic truths. No man can pretend to understand political science if his reading is confined to conservative literature. The censor will not allow the importation of the Sunday Worker, the organ of the Independent Labour party, printed and circulated in London every week ; the Labour Monthly, which was formerly tabled in the library of this Parliament; Shop Talks on Economics, which lias been a popular text book for sixteen years;

Aiia Where is Britain Going, issued by an ultra respectable English publishing house, on sale in general booksellers, and reviewed as one of the most significant contributions to of the most significant contributions to political thought of the last three years. "Who exercises the censorship? The Collector of Customs is guided by certain instructions issued to him by the ComptrollerGeneral in 1921. A proclamation in that year prohibited the importation of literature wherein a seditious intention is expressed or a seditious enterprise advocated. The Solicitor-General, Sir Robert Garran, has defined a seditious intention as being inter aiia, an intention to promote feelings of ill-will and hostility between different classes of His Majesty's subjects so as to endanger the peace; order, and good government of the Commonwealth." Judged by that test, many honorable members on this side are a menace, because our utterances from time to time are calculated to disturb the peace of the House, and certainly, the peace of the gentlemen who occupy the Ministerial bench. The sole test applied to some of this literature is whether it creates ill will. Parliament has given no specific direction as to how the censorship shall be exercised, beyond prohibiting "blasphemous, indecent, or obscene works or articles, and all goods the importation of which may be prohibited by proclamation." There is a vast difference between a book which advocates criminality and immediate acts of violence calculated to destroy constitutional government, and a publication which merely expounds certain political doctrines or those upon which government is, or may be, carried on under a different economical condition of society. I support the protest made by Professors Anderson and Bruce, who, by no stretch of imagination can be regarded as dangerous men ; they are merely teachers who desire to inform their minds: I have no desire to be misunderstood on this subject.

I am not a communist, and the Labour party does not advocate communism. We believe in political evolution. Our policy is the antithesis of communism, to the extent that it is based upon political action, and adherence to constitutional methods of parliamentary government. At the same time we believe in the utmost liberty of thought, and we ask the same freedom as is allowed in Great Britain and. other parts of the Empire where this monstrous restriction on human thought and the freedom, of the press does not operate. Leaving that, I will turn to a subject which was referred to by my leader, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton), in the speech which he delivered on the budget. Towards the concluding stages of that speech he mentioned with regret the failure of the conference on disarmament. I have always been a believer in international peace and disarmament, and as a means thereto in the League of Nations. I speak as one who has identified himself with the League of Nations union established in Australia. If there is one form of expenditure which is hindering the economic development of the world, and which is heading Europe towards industrial turmoil and anarchy, it is the enormous expenditure on armaments. Small as this country may be, and insignificant as it may be in the scheme of things, it is our bounden duty as a nation of would-be idealists, whose country is practically the only one in the world where blood has not been spilt in warfare to try to bring about some method whereby the nations will agree among themselves to submit their disputes to arbitration without embarking on war. Some time ago the Leader of the Opposition was a delegate at the League of Nations Conference, and he has all along expressed his allegiance to the Protocol which Great Britain has discarded. On behalf of the League of Nations of Australia, I secured some days ago from the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, a statement which shows the increasing expenditure by Australia on armaments. In 1919-20 Australia's total expenditure on' defence, excluding war services was £3,456,000. For 1926-27, this sum had grown to £7,890,000, or more than double the previous amount. I do not want to be misunderstood in this connexion. Honorable members opposite are always only too ready, when on the public platform, to misrepresent the attitude of honorable members on this side of the House, particularly at election time. I do not want it to be understood that I am in favour of denuding Australia of defence. We must be in a position to defend ourselves, but it would be much cheaper if we, as a nation, could enter into arbitration pacts with other nations so as to render this expenditure on armaments unnecessary. If that were done money spent on armaments could be diverted to production, and our present adverse trade balance would disappear in a very short while. I view with regret the resignation of that great Conservative idealist, Lord Cecil, from the British Cabinet. He has always been a firm supporter of the ideal of disarmament. When he resigned, he said that disarmament should not be bought at any price, but he also expressly stated that in his opinion it is more valuable than any other political objective. His statement on this subject is rendered all the more significant by the recent failure of the Disarmament Conference.

I wish to congratulate the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) on the attitude he took up some weeks ago, in protesting against the utterances of a distinguished visitor - I refer to Mr. Amery, Secretary for the Dominions - to this chamber, who spoke to us on international subjects as if we were kindergarten children. He inferred' that we had no knowledge whatever of Empire and foreign affairs. We had to meet the Secretary of State for the Dominions of a Government that is already discredited, not only in England, but throughout the world, and he came here to give an exposition of conservative politics. The total expenditure by Great Britain on armaments during the six years following the war amounts to the huge total of £1,300,000,000. For the year 1926-27 alone the expenditue was £122,834,000. The cost to the United States of America that year for armaments is approximately the same, while the total spent by the various nations of the world on armaments every year is in the vicinity of £760,000,000. What this means, to a world already impoverished by the biggest war in history can hardly be realized. Sir Josiah Stamp, in his recent book Current Problems in Finance and Government, has estimated that the cost of the Army and Navy to Great Britain is "the equivalent of at least a month's work every year of all producers and plant of the nation." The significance of this may be inferred from the fact that the greater part of a nation's income is absorbed on mere necessaries, and that war expenditure has to be taken from the " luxury-margin " of income. Thus urgently-needed reforms in education, scientific research and economic reorganization, as well as development in the cultural arts, are all held up while nations indulge in highly individualistic policies. According to Sir Josiah Stamp -

The standards of life throughout great industrial powers would be lifted by over 10 per cent, by the cancellation of the expenditure on armaments. Such an increase would have a much greater influence upon the comfort of life, and upon the economic well-being of the people, than the mere figure itself might convey. At the stage at which we stand, it is for the mass of the peoples of these nations tlie difference between grinding penury and a reasonable standard of comfort.

Well might one say that the man who rattles the sabre ends by rattling a deficit. That is the position in Europe to-day. Lord Grey, speaking at Caxton Hall on the 16th December, 1925, said -

As long as Europe is a great powder magazine, people will not feel comfortable because the various governments have agreed that they won't put a match to it. Nothing will make real security except to remove the powder magazine.

Let me contrast the speech of Mr. Ramsay Macdonald with what was said by Sir Austin Chamberlain in a provocative speech delivered after the Geneva conference, when he suggested that the protocol would disrupt the Empire. With that statement I entirely disagree. Mr. Ramsay Macdonald said; -

Sir AustinChamberlain's speech is calculated to increase Great Britain's difficulties in Europe. In the last three years we have become more isolated. The Baldwin Government, by its trade and international policies, is giving tlie world to understand that the

Empire is unable to adapt itself to modern conditions. Nothing could be more awkward that the statement that the protocol will disrupt the Empire, and, anyhow, it is not true. We should leave our enemies to say such things. We have gratuitously thrown away our position in Europe.

Let us also contrast the attitude of Great Britain, with that of our former enemy - Germany. Germany is bound by the Locarno Treaty to a pact under which she must agree to arbitration ; and also of her own volition, at a recent conference, she has signed the optional clause of the covenant by which she agrees to submit all disputes with the signatories to arbitration.


Mr Maxwell - But do not our own domestic experiences show that little value can be attached to compulsory arbitration ?


Mr COLEMAN - Surely it is a cheap kind of comparison to suggest that industrial arbitration - which has only been a partial success,but which, nevertheless, has been successful in 80 per cent. of the disputeswhich have occurred in this country - is on the same plane as international arbitration. In the industrial world men do not take guns and blow out one another's brains, women are not widowed, and hundreds of millions of pounds are not wasted. Ten million men died in the " war to end wars," including 60,000 of our own Australian soldiers, of whom 21,000 have died since the war. One out of three of those actually engaged in the war are now dead. Surely if we are to be worthy of those sacrifices, and are to live up to the ideals which we have set ourselves, it should be our avowed determination to bring about disarmament, that ideal which was first preached by the founder of Christianity 2,000 years ago. I might appropriately conclude by saying that war is becoming increasingly impossible. If another was is held in Europe it will mean the complete destruction of civilization, or will complete the collapse of the present crumbling capitalist system throughout the world. Another world-war would mean horrors that can hardly be contemplated.For example, near the end of the GreatWar, the United States of America was preparing in its chemical laboratories a new gas called " Lewisite " to be used during the 1919 campaign. Professor Baker, of London University, described this new gas as follows: -

Lewisite is invisible; it is a sinking gas, which would reach down to cellars and dugouts; if inhaled it is fatal at once; if it settles on the skin it produces almost certain death; masks alone are of no use against it; it is persistent; it has 55 times the " spread " of any poison gas actually used in the war. Indeed, it was estimated by an expert that one dozen Lewisite air-bombs of the largest size known in 1918 - for larger sizes could not be used - might, in favorable circumstances, have wiped out the population of Berlin.

These facts give us cause to reflect. It makes the statement true that " The road to hell is paved withwar inventions." War conducted under those circumstances may mean, not only all the terrors which I have suggested, but practically the devastation of that age-old cradle of civilization the continent of Europe. Therefore, it is the bounden duty of this Government to see that it is strongly represented at the forthcoming conference on disarmament, at which I understand Russia, and possibly the United States of America among other countries, will be represented. We should follow the example of that other small nation - Denmark, in the direction of encouraging other nations to substitute arbitration for a recourse to war. In this connexion I may perhaps use the phrase that before we can achieve complete disarmamentwe must disarm suspicion. We cannot hope to disarm suspicion, but whilewe have military and naval rivals such aswe have in Europe to-day, I regret the failure of the Naval Disarmament Conference between Great Britain and the United States of America, which has done a great deal to endanger the future friendly relations between that great nation and the British Empire. The resignation of Lord Cecil is also a factor of far-reaching significance. The failure of the conference should occasion the strongest possible protest from Australia and other parts of the Empire. We of the Labour party realize that in the interests of oppressed humanity we need peace, but our only hope of peace is the triumph of democracy in Europe. It is reported in the British press to-day that before many months have elapsed the Baldwin Government will be forced to the people,where itwill meet its defeat. A Labour Government on the British Treasury bench will possibly give a gesture of peace which will, as far as British policy is concerned, result in an adhesion to the doctrine of recourse to arbitration and conciliation, and the substitution of international co operation for armaments, the cost of which is causing such a terrible burden of taxation upon the workers of the. world to-day.

Progress reported.







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