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Wednesday, 29 June 1938


Mr MARTENS (Herbert) (2:17 AM) . - My views on immigration are very different from those of the honorable member for Forrest (Mr. Prowse) and the honorable member for Henty (Sir Henry

Gullett). 1 have a very vivid recollection of the financial debacle that occurred in Australia in connexion with what is known as the £32,000,000 immigration agreement. One State government had to pay heavy compensation to a number of well-treated immigrants, who came to Australia under the aegis of governments such as the honorable member for Forrest has always supported. I shall not deal at any length with this subject, for an honorable member on this side of the chamber who is ait fait with all the facts intends to make them known. When he does so the public will be given something to think about. Immigration does not appeal to me as a possible solution of our troubles. The honorable member- for Forrest described the virtues of the honorable member for Henty in such a way as might lead us to think that he is a heavensent saviour of Australia. Yet his real desire is to bring to this country young children who should not . be taken from their parents. The place of children of twelve years of age is in their homes, and not in a strange land. The only purpose for which they could be brought here would be to provide . cheap labour for people who want it. The first duty of the Government, is to provide employment for people already here. We shall not solve our troubles by adopting the measures suggested by the honorable member for Forrest. His freetrade policy and his crocodile tears will get us nowhere. The reason why more immigrants from Great Britain do not come to Australia is not difficult to discover. It is a fact that more English people are leaving this country in these days than are coming to it and every one who returns to Great Britain is a bad advertisement for the Commonwealth. These people inform their acquaintances at home that they have been paid compensation by the Government because promises made to them prior to their arrival in this country were not kept. The honorable member for Henty at one time spent a considerable time in England advocating the immigration of British people to Australia. He told some wonderful stories about the marvellous opportuni- ties that awaited newcomers to the Commonwealth; but many of those who came here were bitterly disappointed. If proper employment were provided for the people already here, the producers for whom the honorable member for Forrest expresses such concern would find a greatly enlarged home market for their products ; but, unfortunately, the necessary work is not being provided. I leave it at that.

I regret that I am finding very great difficulty in regard to the naturalization matters that I have to bring before the officers of the Department of the Interior from time to time. Many people in my electorate have been refused naturalization because the department asserts that they have an insufficient knowledge of the English language. That is the effect of the official replies they receive to their applications for naturalization. I have had many interviews with people of other races who live in my electorate and I am well aware of the great difficulty they experience in obtaining naturalization. Again and again, they are told that their knowledge of the English language is inadequate, yet they find no difficulty whatever in making themselves understood to me. As they are capable of engaging in ordinary dealings with British people in the districts where they live, they must possess a. working knowledge of the language. Moreover, many foreigners have been naturalized who have no better knowledge of English than many who have been refused naturalization. Some of the people whose applications have been rejected have told me that they could obtain their naturalization papers if they would adopt a certain course; but this they are not prepared to do. The individuals that I have in mind are good citizens who have never been in any trouble with the authorities, and they are entitled to more considerate treatment. Unfortunately, some of them have been cajoled by agents not in any way connected with the Labour party, to buy farms and small businesses that can be held for them by trustees until the purchasers can assume complete control of them upon obtaining naturalization. They are, therefore, placed in an invidious position when naturalization is refused. Seeing that they have no difficulty in .making themselves understood to members of this and other parliaments, and that they are able to to take an effective part, in the business life of the communities in which they live, they should not be refused naturalization, particularly as many of their compatriots whose knowledge of English is also limited have been naturalized.

I wish to bring under the notice of the Treasurer the case of a Mrs. Ninnis, of Ingham, who has applied for but been refused an old-age pension. This lady was born in Samoa. She has been married for 46 year3 to an Englishman and has lived in the Ingham district for 35 years. She is the mother of eight or nine Australianborn children and is also a grandmother. Yet, because she was born in Samoa, she lias been unable to obtain a pension though she is qualified by age to receive one. Unfortunately, she will also be denied any benefit in this respect under the national insurance scheme, even though her husband 'were to pay the required contribution of ls. 6d. a week to qualify her for this consideration. I have made application to the Commissioner of Pensions, Mr. Metford, on her behalf, and he has informed me that lie has no power to grant a pension. Some weeks ago I submitted the case to the Treasurer, but I have not yet had his reply to my representations. I do not criticize him on this account, for I know that he has been' very busy; but I ask him to give the case consideration at the earliest possible moment. Any legislation which denies a pension to the mother of a large family of Australian children is, in my opinion, totally inequitable. The mere fact that Mrs. Ninnis was born in Samoa should not disqualify her. If the existing law makes it impossible for a pension to be granted to her, I hope that early steps will be taken to amend it. "When the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was making a plea on Tuesday for the more favorable treatment of the rifle clubs in Australia, I interjected that the Defence Department did not regard the clubs as of much value for defence purposes. My statement was based > on a reply that the former Minister for Defence, Sir Archdale Parkhill, gave to a question I asked on the subject. He said definitely that the department did not regard rifle clubs as of any real value for defence pur- poses. That is the reason why the Government is not prepared to increase the vote for their maintenance. I make this statement so that the honorable member for Moreton will appreciate tho reason for my interjection. Personally, I consider the rifle clubs to be a very valuable asset to this country, and I support the request that they be given greater encouragement.

Reference has been made iu the course of this debate to the attitude of the PostmasterGeneral's Department towards applications for increased postal facilities in outlying country districts. As this department has shown a surplus of millions of pounds in recent years, I must express my dissatisfaction with its policy in relation to country districts. My electorate is almost entirely rural, as it contains no manufacturing industries except the few small saw-mills, one or two small butter factories, and some sugar-mills. On various occasions when applications have been made for increased postal facilities for people in the more remote parts of it, the department has replied that the difference between the probable income and the estimated cost of providing a service is too great to justify a favorable answer. Admittedly, the profits of the department are made chiefly from services provided for people in large centres of population; but surely it is reasonable to ask that a portion of the surplus should be devoted to the provision of proper facilities for people living in country districts, even though the services may not be financially profitable. "We should look upon the postal service as a national utility. The Government should be prepared to provide better facilities for country people than are at present available in many centres.

The honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Hollaway) referred to the frequency of accidents in connexion with Defence Force aeroplanes, and the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fair. bairn) intimated that he would furnish figures to show that the number of such accidents in Australia is not greater in proportion to personnel than in Great Britain and other countries. I shall be interested to hear what he has to say on the subject. I have not been able to obtain specific figures in relation to the Commonwealth, but the following table indicates the position in connexion with the Royal Air Force: -

 

I submit those figures, not for the purpose of contradicting any one, but in order to give information to the public. It will be seen that the proportion of accidents to personnel is not so serious as is popularly imagined. An open inquiry, or a statement of facts such as I have just related to the committee, would relieve the perturbed mind of the public. I deplore the accidents that have occurred recently, and, even more, the Minister's refusal to order a public inquiry into them.


Mr Thorby - Can the honorable member suggest a more thorough investigation of the Royal Australian Air Force than is to be made by Air-Marshal Sir Edward Ellington and his officers?


Mr MARTENS - I do not care whether that inquiry be thorough or otherwise. It is not an open inquiry of the nature that I have suggested. The interests of all concerned would be better served if inquiries into Air Force accidents were held in public under the chairmanship of a man with judicial training. I am not qualified to say whether the machines used by the Royal Australian Air Force are all that they should be, and I am not so much interested in that aspect as I am interested in the setting up of a tribunal whose open inquiries would tend to ease the mind of the public. Everything else of public interest is decided in open court. I impress upon the Minister for Defence (Mr. Thorby) that men with judicial training are able to assess the value of evidence; they can tell from the demeanour of a witness the worth of his testimony. The cloak of secrecy which has been wrapped around inquiries into fatalities in the Air Force has resulted in exaggerated notions as to the danger of flying, but the statistics I cited show that in England the number of accidents in proportion to personnel is not sufficiently great to cause public concern. Millions of miles are flown yearly, but, in proportion, more people are killed in road accidents than are killed in air accidents. Public fear as to the safety of flying has been increased of late in Australia, but I suggest that a great deal of that fear would be dissipated if Air Force accidents were investigated by a tribunal pre sided over by a judge or by a senior magistrate. The Qantas company's aeroplanes have flown millions of miles over a long period of yearswithout serious accident. It appears that the flying record of the Air Force is not so good as that of civil aviation companies.


Mr Thorby - It is better.


Mr MARTENS - The Minister says that the Air Force record is better than that of civil aviation but, unless there is an open inquiry, the public has no means of checking the accuracy of his statement.


Mr Thorby - Sir Edward Ellington is conducting the most thorough inquiry possible.


Mr MARTENS - It is an inquiry by interested persons. It is not a public inquiry, and it is not what the public wants. I hope that the agitation by the people for an open inquiry into the Air Force accidents will be continued. I do not believe that there is great danger in flying. I should prefer to fly to my electorate in a few hours than to take almost a week to get there by a rough passage either by train or boat. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Fairbairn) and some of his friends have been flying to Canberra for a long time, and they have had no trouble. To use the words of the honorable member for Flinders, he "strolled out from England by aeroplane." The Minister for Defence claims that the accident figures of the Defence Department are better than those of the Qantas Company. It would be interesting to see them. If what the honorable gentleman says is true, the facts should be published to ease the minds of the people.


Mr Thorby - The honorable member is now picking out one company.


Mr MARTENS - That company has flown millions of miles over a long period of years. I give it credit for its fine record.


Mr Thorby - The honorable member does not make allowance for the fact that the Air Force is a training organization.


Mr MARTENS -In the last few months, there have been some serious accidents in the Air Force. No matter how many inquiries are made by experts, Australian or imported, the people will not be satisfied that everything is right with the Air Force machines until a public inquiryis held. I should be glad to be able to refute charges of inefficiency that have been levelled against the Royal Australian Air Force, but, until a public inquiry has elicited the facts, I cannot do so.

The Sydney press attributed to the Minister for Defence the other day the statement that he was not in favour of, and would not encourage, women aviators. That is his concern, but in the course of his remarks the Minister mentioned two women who have made a name for themselves in the air, Mrs. Amy Mollison and Miss Jean Batten.


Mr Thorby - I mentioned many women aviators.


Mr MARTENS - But the Minister did not mention Miss Nancy Bird, who is equal to any of them. She has flown thousands of miles in Australia, and is able to look after her own machine efficiently.


Mr Thorby - It was I who gave publicity to Miss Nancy Bird's record.


Mr MARTENS - That may bo so, but the only two women mentioned in the report in the Sydney press were the two that I have named.

The sectarian issue was raised during the last elections in Queensland and the day after the elections - not before the elections - the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Maher, repudiated all responsibility for or sympathy with sectarianism, which, he said, he regretted. I shall read extracts from the official minutes of the conference of the Country Progressive

National party held in Brisbane in August, 1935-


Dr Earle Page - In New South Wales, the Country party commenced organizing by starting in three different centres, and in that way local sentiments were capitalized. Hume was a seat that was held by Parker Moloney, and we attempted to win it because we held that Hume was a seat that should be held by a producer. We tried running a Country party man - we tried running aprotestant, we tried a catholic and a protestant running together (laughter). We had six or seven tries during the last thirteen or fourteen years, and we could not displace him. We might get within two or 3,000.

But, in 1931, we won by about6,000 votes, and it looks as if our man will hold that seat for the rest of his life. Our man has preached "New State" all the time. He is essentially aRiverina man, quite apart from anything else, and if you are going to get back into office inQueensland,I believe that you will have to follow somewhat similar lines - endeavour to capitalize all the forces at your disposal. There is no question that the name "Country party" in the country has an appeal, somewhat similar to "Labour party" to the Labour voter. They always feel that they are "scabbing" on their mates if they vote against it. In the country, the " Country party " has a definite appeal in the same way. I do not think you can possibly scrap the name " Country " if you want to win.

The name " Country " was to be used only for the purpose of winning the election.


Mr Thorby - In order to do any good for the people whom it represents, a party must win the elections.


Mr MARTENS - I appreciate that, but elections should be won fairly. The name " Country ", according to the Leader of the Country party (Sir Earle Page), was to be used only for the purpose of catching country votes. Sir Earle Page continued -

WhatI would suggest is that you should here in Queensland have four autonomous organizations - one for the north, one for the centre and one for the south and the other for the city for your National and United Australia party nominations. Each of those districts should be autonomous in regard to the organization of its area, and to the drafting of its policy. It will be found that in actual practice, suppose there are ten items of policy - you will find that on six of them there is general agreement through the whole of the area, but in the case of the four others they will not bring you any votes. Why should you try and have on "umbrella" policy for the whole State. The result must be that you lose votes in both places.

I found that out. in New South Wales when we had preferential voting.I have got certain definite ideals that I want to carry into effect. To get control of government, you have got to oust the Labour nominee. One of the electorates reached from the Hunter right up to the Richmond. They gave us three men, and when we worked out the position we found at the first election that we got two and the Labour party got one. That was on the preferential system of voting. I induced the king of every river to come forward asa candidate.I pointed out that they all had something like an even chance, and the result was thatwe got three men in simply because we capitalized the local sentiment, and that is what you have got to do to get results, in my opinion.

I believe if you do that and then had an arrangement whereby you synchronized your policy - and made sure that they did not get too divergent - you wouldhave a rattling good chance of getting six, eight or ten men from the northorcentre. If you could get those men in the north and centre,I venture to say that, Mr. Moore wouldbe in the saddle again. You cannot win it with the south. You have won in the south quite a number of times, but you have been overwhelmed by the north and centre.

A vote of thanks was carried and the official minutes continued -

Dr.Earlepage. - Thank you very much for the vote of thanks. There is one matter that I would like to clear up. - as to how much I should give to the press. Would I say that

I just suggested that there shouldbe four autonomous centres in the matter of organization? Do you think that would be a wise thing?


Hon Jos Francis - I hope you won't give your reasons, because I think that they are not based on sound premises. If you are, I would like to have an opportunity of going into them now.


Dr EARLE PAGE (COWPER, NEW SOUTH WALES) - Oh, I think it wouldbe a good thing if Mr.Francis did that now.


Hon Jos Francis - I don't wantto go into this matter, but as Dr.Page has thrown down the gauntlet - when you are out of office you ask for unity, but when you are in office you don't want unity-


Mr Francis -Where does the honorable member get that information?


Mr MARTENS - From the official minutes of the Country Progressive National party conference of August, 1935.


Mr Francis - How did the honorable member get the official minutes?


Mr MARTENS - That does not matter,I have them. The minutes continue -

Dr.Earle Page. - Thatis an absolute lie - because I am always seeking unity; I have been flogged all over Australia.


Hon Jos Francis -i hope Dr. Page won't resort to threats such as " That is a lie."I have suffered enough of that already. (The discussion got more heated and was not reported. )

You have referred to Mr. Collins' success in the Hume electorate. His success is largely accounted for by the fact that the Murray River Waterworks had been closed down. In New South Wales we have Mr. Lang, and if wehad aMr. Lang in this State tilings would be quite different, but here we have a canny Scot who side-steps all problems. I disagree with Dr.Earle Page as to the causes which have brought about success in New South Wales.

Then we have some interesting information from the otherdelegates as follows : -

Mr.J. Craven (Maree). - All other things come after finance is achieved. The shipping, insurance, banking and other interests should be mobilized to prov ide finance in the different districts.

Mr. V.Tozer (Gympie). It is said by some " Why don't you organize the same as the Labour party?" but they have compulsory unionism, and many of their voters are dependent on awards and the unions promise to look after their interests. We. cannot do that.

The Douglas Credit party seem to be able to get money from somewhere and we will haveto put up with them at the next election.

The following resolution was carried -

That the National party organize trade unions independent of the Labour party controlled unions, and thus divert the compulsory union fees from the Labour party and cause these fees to be paid into funds contro led entirely by the several group workers concerned.

The minutes continued -

Mr. K.Jenyns. Speaking on this resolution " If we want to succeed we must study thestrong points of our opponents. We must find out their strong points and tackle them. When Delilah wanted to conquer Samson she watched until she found what his strong point was ".

A Voice. - And she got it (loud laughter and interruption ) .

Mr. J.A. Walsh. TheFinance Committee was outside the organization altogether. The organization did not control them in any way whatever. This body got funds and they handed them over to the. Management Committee to spend.

Those extracts give a clear indication of the extent to which the members of the Country party represent country interests, particularly when we recall that Sir Earle Page said that the party proposed to retain the word " country " in order to win votes. According to the report, the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Francis) was not then in very happy company, hut at a later period he was a member of a government of which Sir Earle Page was one of the leaders. I do not propose to disclose the source of my information; that is my business. I am, however, satisfied of its authenticity, and I have some similar information which I shall quote when I consider the time opportune.







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