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Friday, 2 December 1927

Senator Sir GEORGE PEARCE (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) (Vice-President of the Executive Council) [3.34].-I trust that honorable senators do not expect me to traverse all that has been said during the debate, seeing that I have only a limited time at my disposal.

Senator Needhamcharged the Government with having failed to initiate a scheme of national insurance against unemployment. In approaching such a question, which touches not only unemployment, but also national health and various other matters, we must be sure of our ground and not make blunders. An investigation has been made by a royal commission, which has presented reports to Parliament. There is an important aspect of the matter which cannot be dealt with lightly or airily, as the honorable senator appears to imagine. In this, as in the majority of civilized countries, there is a highly organized system of friendly societies. These health proposals affect them very vitally. They undoubtedly have been responsible for a vast amount of good work, and we ought not, by our legislation, to wipe them out of existence. If possible, we must work in with them and utilize their organization. It is necessary, therefore, to devise a scheme which, while it is acceptable to them, may also be fair to the whole community. Such a matter calls for negotiation. The Government has requested Senator Millen to undertake those negotiations, with a view to an amicable arrangement being made.

I pass over Senator Needham's diatribe against migration, which is becoming stereotyped. The best way to counter foreign migration is to increase the stream of British migrants. If we close our doors to foreign migrants we must also keep out British migrants.

SenatorNeedham asked me last week the amount Australia is supposed to receive by way of reparations, and how much had been received to date. I then replied to him, but he reverted to the subject on this motion. I have a statement prepared by the Treasurer, which will inform honorable senators of the exact position. Under the Treaty of Versailles, the Reparations Commission assessed the liability of Germany for reparations at £6,600,000,000. As the result of pressure by the Allies for payment the financial collapse of Germany followed. It became clear that it was a physical impossibility for Germany to pay the required indemnity. It was also evident that in the interests of Europe generally Germany should be reconstructed so as to enable normal trade relations to be resumed and the maximum payment by way of reparations to be obtained. Eventually an expert committee, known as the ' Dawes Committee, was appointed by the Reparations Commission to deal with two problems, viz. : -

(1)   Stabilization of German currency.

(2)   Balancing of the German budget.

This committee evolved a plan known as the "Dawes plan," which was accepted by the Allies and by Germany. The aim of the plan may be briefly described thus : -

(1)   to setup machinery to provide the largest annual payments from Germany;

(2)   to enable maximum transfers to be made to Germany's creditors ;

(3)   to take the question of "what Germany can pay " out of the field of speculation and put it in the field of practical demonstration ;

(4)   to facilitate a final and comprehensive agreement upon all the problems of reparations and connected questions, as soon as circumstances make this possible.

The following extract from page 43 of the Dawes report is interesting: -

We would point out finally that while our plan does not, as it could not properly, attempt a solution of the whole reparation problem, it foreshadows a settlement ex-tending in its application for a sufficient time to restore confidence, and at the same time is so framed as to facilitate a final and comprehensive agreement as to all the problems of reparation and connected questions as soon as circumstances make this possible.

It will be clear, therefore, that it is quite impossible to make any reliable forecast of the total amount that Australia will receive by way of reparations. The Dawes plan commenced to operate in September, 1924. Up to the 30th September last Australia had received the following sums as reparations: -


Up to date the Dawes plan has, on the whole, functioned satisfactorily. The further sums to be received will depend upon two factors, viz.: -

(1)   Capacity of Germany to pay reparation in her own currency.

(2)   The ability of the Reparation Commission to transfer such payments to other countries without dislocating exchanges.

References have been made by Senators Payne, Chapman and others to the par liamentary visit to the Mandated Territory. Their speeches have shown that those visits are not joy-rides, but, on the contrary, are of considerable value to Australia and the islands themselves, because honorable senators and members of another place are thus enabled to give to Parliament informative and valuable information that it would not otherwise obtain. A number of honorable senators have commented on the fact that there is no form of local government in the Mandated Territory. I can assure them that that matter is receiving the attention of the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Marr), and that the Government intends to extend the present form of government as soon as possible, so as to give the local residents a vote.

Senator Payneexpressed the view that the salaries which are paid to civil servants in New Guinea are too low. Those servants were given a second classification only last year. I know, from the experience which I gained as Minister for Home and Territories, that the salaries paid in New Guinea are on a higher scale than those paid in Papua where the service is both contented and effective; and in both cases they are higher than the Australian rates.

I shall not refer at length to the remarks of Senator Lynch and other honorable senators, who have attacked the Government and alleged that its budget discloses extravagance. I point out, however, that the additional expenditure was incurred principally on old-age pensions, war pensions, war loan interest and the postal department. No honorable senator would suggest that a saving couldbe effected in any of those items.

Senator Findleyreferred in somewhat cynical and satirical terms to the Development and Migration Commission. Among other things he said that the commission had two highly paid officers, one of whom is a forestry expert and' the other a customs officer, wandering around Tasmania doing he knew not what. It is easy to be satirical at the expense of any person or thing when one is not in possession of the facts.

Senator Findley - I was not satirical at the expense of those officers; I merely asked what they were doing.

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