Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Friday, 25 September 1936


Senator COLLINGS (Queensland) . - When I was able to announce to the Senate some time ago that I had been appointed Leader of the Opposition in this chamber, I stated that I should not under any circumstances be guilty of offering mere fractious opposition. I think that so far I have kept that promise. I recognize. in the budget many good features, and I realize that it will be popular to the extent that it makes concessions to many sections of the taxpayers. But, in spite of its probable popularity, I have some criticism to offer, criticism arising from the more or less obvious fact that the "basic principles which guide the political thinking of the Opposition, both in this chamber and in another place, are directly opposed to the political actions, budgetary and otherwise, of the Government. In my party there is no conflict of ideals, no clash upon basic principles. But what a contrast we find on the Government benches ! There we see a clearly defined, and often definitely expressed, conflict of interests, due to the incompatible political elements which make up the Cabinet. There is incompatibility of interest not only in the Cabinet room, but also within the two parties walch make up this Government. I. assert very definitely that no composite government of the nature of the Lyons-Page-Menzies Cabinet can embark upon a clear-cut, definitely-planned, and courageously executed policy. There must always be, as the result of the existence of competing factions within the Government and the party, dangerous indecision, abandonment of principles, sops to party factions, and fatal neglect of, and damage to, the real interests of the people of Australia. I shall indicate to the Senate some of the differences in principle which exist, and some evidence of the fatal indecision and dangerous compromise to which I have referred. The declaration made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) that "the position as a whole in Australia is satisfactory ", is not in accordance with facts. 1 should very much like to use a stronger term, but I fear that if I did, I should bc in conflict with the Chair. Such an assertion on behalf of the government of a country which has an enormous number of workers unable to secure employment - many of them in destitute circumstances - is a positive disgrace to our statesmanship. We have in our capital cities horrible shuns that are a mockery of our vaunted progress. It is not necessary to go beyond the confines of this beautiful city of Canberra in search of evidence to support this statement. We have in Australia people *' pigging" in bag humpies, crowded lon in a room, and I say it with sorrow, we have children suffering severely from malnutrition. There is in this country a multitude of the oncoming generation unable to find work when they reach the school-leaving age, and for many there never will be a job while tho existing social order, sponsored by this Government, is allowed to continue.

We have in this country farmers hopelessly in debt to the bank and other money-lending institutions. Despite irrefutable evidence to the contrary, tho Prime Minister has declared in broadcast addresses or in statements to the press, that " the position as a whole in Australia is satisfactory!" The right honorable gentleman makes that statement without any qualification. He does not say that the condition is satisfactory for some of the people. He asserts quite definitely that the position of Australia as a whole is satisfactory. I deny that statement, and shall give concrete examples in support of my view.

I have indicated that there aire certain vital differences between the policy of - the Opposition in this Parliament and that of the Government, as declared in the budget, and before proceeding further I wish to offer a few comments with regard to the surplus for the last financial year. A government is entitled to levy only such taxation as will enable it to meet its current obligations and future commitments. We on this side assert that this or any other Government has no right whatever to surpluses, particularly those that are not declared, but which are concealed by a process of accountancy legerdemain. We hold the view that a government should not levy taxes merely in order to close the financial year with a huge surplus. The responsibility of any government is not to make profits, but to render service. A surplus indicates either excessive taxes, starved services, or an underpaid Public Service.

We hear a great deal these times of the necessity for balanced budgets. I and all the members of my party believe in a balanced budget, and I have already indicated that our policy is to levy just sufficient taxes to ensure revenue for. the obvious requirements of the Government. I now invite honorable senators to examine the financial policy of this Government and consider to what extent it makes possible the balancing of domestic budgets - the budgets in the homes of the people - the only budgets that really matter. This Government's policy, judged from that angle, is not satisfactory, and I impress upon honorable senators that unless domestic budgets are in balance, the position of the State itself cannot be satisfactory. I also affirm that this Government is not able to balance its budget, as the result of any considered action of its own other than the levying of excessive taxes, and I further claim that, any credit for the present financial position of the Commonwealth is due entirely to the policy of the Scullin Government, which preceded the present Administration. I anticipate that this statement will be challenged, but I am confident that it cannot be truthfully denied.

The conversion of the internal debt by the Scullin Government has, up to tho present time, saved this country approximately £74,000,000 of interest and £9,000,000 in respect of exchange charges. In one year, the saving was £16,000,000 of interest and £2,000,000 on account of exchange. Of the total, savings effected, only £8,000,000 may be attributable to any action taken by the present Government. I admit that my remarks under this head may savour somewhat of past history, but let it not be forgotten that the Scullin Government was faced with the bitterest opposition from people and financial institutions whose ideals are out of harmony with those of Labour; therefore, its achievements are the more noteworthy.


Senator Foll - They all helped the Scullin Government.


Senator COLLINGS - After longcontinued opposition to the Scullin Government's proposals, the financial institutions finally refused to carry the Administration any longer. Then when an attempt was made to force the Niemeyer plan upon the Commonwealth, Mr. Scullin declared that his Government would rather go to its political death than agree to those proposals. It was only later, when he found himself definitely in a " jam from which there was no apparent escape, that reluctantly he agreed to make reductions of Public Service salaries and social service benefits, on the definite understanding that there would also be a substantial reduction of the interest hurden in respect of the public debt. The Scullin Government went out of office on that issue. But for the reduction of the interest debt and the waiving, by Great Britain, of payments in respect .of Australia's war debt to the Mother Country, what would be the financial position of this country to-day, and what amount of additional taxes would this Government be forced to impose in order to declare this boasted surplus?


Senator FOLL (QUEENSLAND) - Mr. Scullin depended upon the Opposition for support of his proposals; his own followers threw him over.


Senator COLLINGS - In this debate, Senator Poll will have ample opportunity later to air his views. I hope that when he does so he will tell us what he thinks of the policy which I am endeavouring to outline, and not, as he so often does, leave us in doubt as to where he stands. 1 emphasize that the conversion by the Scullin Government of the Australian internal, debt was the greatest transaction of its kind in history, a total debt of £536,000,000 being converted into securities bearing approximately one-half the then ruling rates of interest.

A good deal has been said lately about the achievements of the representative of Australia in Great Britain in the direction of converting our overseas debt. All that Mr. Bruce has been able to do is to convert a comparatively small amount of loan indebtedness at current rates of interest. As a matter of fact, the new rates are somewhat higher than those granted by security holders in Great Britain to countries like Argentina. Yet the budget statement eulogizes the wonderful work done by Mr. Bruce, and makes no mention whatever of the more noteworthy achievements of the Scullin Government with respect to the internal debt.

On the subject of taxation, I preface my remarks by asking - why is taxation necessary? It is, I think, not inappropriate that occasionally in this chamber an attempt should he made to get down to realities. Therefore, I ask from what source do governments derive their right to tax the people? Answering this question, I express the view that every government has the right to levy taxes in order to pay for the services which it renders to the people.


Senator Duncan-Hughes - There is no taxation in Papua, I understand.


Senator COLLINGS - I believe that the Commonwealth might find in Papua a useful lesson concerning the business of balancing budgets. But I do not wish to digress. I repeat that governments have the right to tax the people in order to fulfil their obligation to render the requisite national services. But governments are not supposed to serve only a portion of the population; their duty is to serve the interests of all the people, and I submit that this budget does not do that. On the contrary, it discriminates between sections of the people. It confers obvious advantages on those people who are best able to bear taxes, and does not give anything like adequate compensation to the poorer sections of the community.

One reason why taxation is necessary is that there is a serious flaw in the financial policy, not only of the Commonwealth, but also of other countries. The Labour party hopes to alter that state of affairs in Australia some day. It may interest honorable senators to know that notwithstanding that since the inception of federation, the Commonwealth has paid £900,000,000 as interest on the national debt, that debt has increased by £100,000,000. Some day a party will be in power in this country which will get back to the policy outlined in the Scriptures, whereby usury will be abolished and the people will no longer be bled white by coupon-clippers and the rentier class.


Senator Dein - Which party?


Senator COLLINGS - I cannot flatter Senator Dein by suggesting that the party to which he belongs will ever be so humanitarian or so intelligent as to proceed along such scientific lines

If I -were asked who should pay taxes, I would reply - those who are best able to pay them, who will have the most left when the taxes have been paid, and will receive the greatest service from the activities of governments. And if asked how taxes should be graded, I would reply that there could be no fairer system than that the demand should be in accordance with the capacity to pay, the social service received, and the security conferred. Except for the wealthy section of the community, there is no security to-day. The thousands of small farmers, the great army of primary producers who are struggling against insecurity, debt, mortgages and adverse seasons; the small manufacturers and business concerns ; and the whole of the working class of this country, are faced every 24 hours of their existence with the frightful spectre of present want and future insecurity. The Opposition believes that taxation should be levied along the lines that I have mentioned, and therein lies one of the fundamental differences between the policies of the Labour party and the present Government. Unlike the Government, the Opposition does not believe in indirect taxation if it can be avoided. It believes that, so far as possible, all taxes should be imposed directly so that the taxpayers may know what it costs to govern the country, which section of the community derives the most benefit from the activities of governments, and the exact amount they are asked to contribute towards the cost of government. If the people were told these things, there would soon be an intelligent democracy in this country - a body of taxpayers who would know what they were paying and. why they were paying it - and the financial jugglery which these budget figures disclose would be impossible.


Senator Brennan - Would the honorable senator abolish all customs duties?


Senator COLLINGS - I have not mid anything of the kind, but 1 do say that the Labour party believes that more of the taxes should be imposed directly, and that indirect taxes should be kept as low as possible.


Senator McLeay - The honorable senator and his party did not adopt that policy in connexion with the duties on cement.


Senator COLLINGS - I shall have no difficulty in reconciling any action of mine with this speech. As to cement, I point out that the Labour party stands very definitely for the 'building up of secondary industries in this country, and, therefore, it realizes the need for protective - not revenue-producing - customs duties. A Labour government would tell the people the truth about customs duties, and the amount paid to encourage the secondary industries, and would make it clear that profiteering by those industries which shelter under the tariff wall will not be permitted.


Senator Dein - What would it say to the match-making industry?


Senator COLLINGS - I remind Senator Dein that it is always much easier to be destructively critical than to make a speech giving evidence of constructive thought. Indirect taxation provides opportunities for financial juggling such as that which is now taking place in the interests of the Government. Direct, taxation is more honest, and more courageous. People should be told what they are paying, and why they are paying it. Are honorable senators aware that during the last financial year the Government took out of the people, by means of taxation, more than ever before, notwithstanding the remissions made during recent years? Do they realize that despite the further remissions proposed in the budget, a greater sum is estimated to be received from the taxpayers this year than in any previous year. The Government finds that it cannot, carry on its activities without increasing the burden of taxation and raising loans, thereby increasing the interest indebtedness of the country. Last year the yield from all forms of indirect taxes was nearly £5,000,000 more than for the previous year, and aggregated over £i>2,000,006. The budget Estimate for the current year is £51,100,000, or nearly £4,000,000 more than the yield in 1934-35, £7,000,000 more than in 1933-34. and nearly £9,000,00(1 more than in 1932-33.

Other people besides supporters of the Labour party have criticized the Government's budget proposals. For instance, Professor Bland, of the Sydney "University said only last week -

By the device of under-estimating income, the Treasurer was extracting an unwarranted amount of taxation . . . By the manipulation of trust funds tile Treasurer could embark on expenditure far beyond that disclosed . . . Effective popular control of public money had completely disappeared nml the passing of the estimates was of no Fe at all.

I agree with that criticism. Eugene Debs, with whom also I agree, said - l.f the hand of corporate capital could reach Old Sol, there would bc ii meter on every sunbeam.

Corporate capital is- the power behind the throne in this and every other country; it is the power which dictates the policy of the Government of the Commonwealth. All the evidence indicates that if it were possible to tax the air we breathe, or the sunshine we enjoy, the present Government would tax it.

A consideration of the earnings of the people of this country is illuminating. The latest statistics available show-


Senator Sir George Pearce - Statistics for what year?


Senator COLLINGS - The figures that I shall quote ar.e taken from the 1935 Year-Booh.


Senator Sir GEORGE Pearce - They refer to the year 1933.


Senator COLLINGS - I am of course aware that the 1935 Y ear-Book does not present figures for 1935; but the fact remains that it shows that 11.8 per cent, of the breadwinners in 1933 had no income, 30.5 per cent, received less than £1 a week; 18. 6 per cent, between £1 and £2 a week ; 11.9 per cent., between £2 and £3 a week; 9.4 per cent., between £4 and £5 a. week; and 7.3 per cent., between £5 and £6 a week; leaving 10.0 per cent, in receipt of £5 or more .a week.


Senator Hardy - If the Labour party had remained in power the position would have been much worse.


Senator COLLINGS - The honorable senator's interjection reminds me that " If the other dog had stopped, our dog would have won." If the Loader of the Country party (Senator Hardy) can derive any satisfaction from those figures, he is welcome to it. I tell the honorable senator that every time I see the unemployed, the relief workers, and those in receipt of sustenance and doles, living in wretched dwellings, with no security for the future, I feel ashamed that I am in any way responsible for the government of this country.


Senator Hardy - The figures quoted by the honorable senator relate to 1933.


Senator COLLINGS - They are the latest figures available. The honorable senator cannot expect nic to supply fig.ures which are not yet available. TJ n- _ like him. I am not a compendium of all* the wisdom of the world, or a walking encyclopaedia. The statistics which I have quoted indicate clearly that 89.5 per cent, of the people of this country are not getting a fair deal, and that the remaining 10.5 per cent, enjoy benefits which all should share, but do not.


Senator Hardy - Is the honorable senator starting a "sock the rich" campaign \


Senator COLLINGS - The Leader of the Country party is endeavouring to attribute to me words that T did not. say; but if he derives any satisfaction from doing so, I shall not raise any objection. If I had my way I would " sock " the people who can afford to pay so effectively that there would not be any people unable to pay taxes.

If at any time Senator Hardy desires to address the electors in his own electorate from the public platform on an " antisock" campaign I shall be prepared to stand beside him and repeat what I am now saying. I have no doubt that I would carry his audience and that he would be left in the lurch.

The latest published figures in relation to earnings disclose a rather alarming condition of affairs. Whilst the incomes in the lower range have substantially" decreased the higher incomes have considerably increased. That state of affairs should be very carefully considered when the budget proposals are in course of preparation. Let us see what reductions of income tax are proposed in this budget. Although I am glad to notice that remissions are to be made - and every honorable senator will readily agree that if it is possible to reduce taxes we should do so - I am opposed to the incidence of the proposed reductions. The remissions contemplated in connexion with the various income grades are as follows: -

 

It will be seen how the amount of reduction increases in the higher income groups. What most matters, however, is not what is taken from the people by way of taxes or what is given to them by way of remissions, but rather how much they have left after they have been taxed. To the taxpayer with an income of £2,000 a year, the Government offers a present of £15 7s. 10d., but to the unfortunate person with £317 a year it can only make a remission of 15s. 8d. I have already said that the budget will be popular; it will be popular even among taxpayers who receive a remission of only 15s. 8d. In my opinion, however, the incidence of the proposed remission is unfair. We should say to the man on £2,000 a year " Large numbers of the taxpayers receive only £317 a year; we propose to remit to those taxpayers £10 and in order to pay that amount we propose to add that amount to the taxes already lc/Wl upon you".

Sooner .or later that must be done. It is inevitable that governments of the future will have to adopt a policy of taking from those who have and giving to to those who have not, in order to bring about a measure of social security in the community and to protect those in receipt of big incomes, the people who, in the words of the Old Book, " toil not neither do they spin ". Unless the present policy of this country is reversed we shall inevitably be faced with what is happening in other countries - Fascism, involving the setting up of dictatorships, and the destruction of all liberty, or bloody revolutions such as has been brought about by communistic activities among the people of other nations.


Senator Hardy - It is the policy of the Government to-day to impose taxes on those most able to pay.


Senator COLLINGS - A few days ago I asked a question relative to a small number of government employees in the Federal Capital Territory. I asked the Minister representing the Treasurer whether it was a fact that there are 25 men in the Statistician's Department who would derive no benefit from the restoration of salaries to public servants as announced in the budget statement. I mentioned the fact that although they were employed in Canberra and had to suffer the disabilities of the high cost of living and difficulties of accommodation associated with life in this city, they were receiving only £4 7s. a week. These men are engaged in highly skilled actuarial and statistical work. They are in fact the remnants of the census staff and were retained to do special work because of their exceptional ability. Some of them are qualified actuaries. The Minister replied that the salaries of those employees were fully restored to the normal rates in 1933 and that the salaries paid were fixed by the Public Service Board with due regard to the value of the work performed and the standard applicable to the service generally. I have not seen one of these officers and I do not know any of them : the fact that highly qualified men were being paid a miserable pittance of £4 7s. a week came under my notice accidentally. Yet we are told that the finances of this country and the position of affairs generally in Australia are entirely satisfactory. However, ££ 7s. a week is a princely income, in comparison with that of hundreds of thousands of our people.


Senator Hardy - Why does not the honorable senator quote the unemployment figures?


Senator COLLINGS - I shall content myself by saying, in reply to the honorable senator, that the percentage of unemployment in Queensland, where a Labour Government is in office, but only partially able to carry out Labour's policy, is 8.9 per cent, as compared with an average of 12 per cent, for the whole of the Commonwealth.

I am gratified to notice that the conditions governing the payment of the maternity allowance have been liberalized.


Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - The maternity allowance is not enough.


Senator COLLINGS - The maternity allowance will never be enough until it is paid without . regard to the financial condition of recipients. To-day it is not an allowance for maternity, but a degrading allowance restricted to people whose incomes are below a certain amount. The allowance should either be paid for maternity or abandoned. Similarly, the old-age pension should be paid for old age and not as an allowance to indigent people.

The other day I asked a question relative to the provision of funds for the Governor-General's establishments. A definite undertaking was given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in the House of Representatives last year that no expenditure would be incurred in connexion with residences for the GovernorGeneral outside of Canberra until Parliament had first been advised and consulted. Despite this promise, the reply given to the questions which I asked in connexion with this matter was that expenditure had been incurred in carrying out improvements at Admiralty House, Sydney. When I raised this matter before, I should, perhaps, have amplified my remarks. I want it to be definitely understood that I do not object to the cost of maintaining the GovernorGeneral's residence in Canberra. I am desirous that his stay here should be as happy and as pleasant as possible. The Commonwealth has provided accommo dation for him in Canberra commensurate with his needs and the dignity of his position. I am heartily in agreement with that, but I maintain that not one penny should be spent on the provision or embellishment of residences outside Canberra for the use of the GovernorGeneral.


Senator Hardy - Does the honorable senator suggest that the GovernorGeneral should live in hotels when he visits the State capitals?


Senator COLLINGS - I do not know where Senator Hardy lives when visiting State capitals, but I have no difficulty whatever in securing first-class accommodation in any part of the Commonwealth, at a cost quite within my means.

For more than one reason I am pleased that it is proposed to reduce the sales tax. By the proposed reductions the Government is able to honour, at least in part, one of the promises made by its supporters when the financial emergency legislation was first enacted. Honorable senators will recall that at that time all parties were agreed that as soon as the financial position of the country warranted it, financial emergency taxation would be abolished. The proposed reduction of sales tax by 1 per cent, is an attempt to honour, at least in part, that promise. 1 should like to know, however, whether the Government proposes to take action to ensure that the benefits which will accrue from the reduction of the sales tax will be passed on to the people most in need of them. I am quite certain that a reduction of the sales tax by 1 per cent, will make very little difference to the prices of many of those low-priced articles and commodities upon which the bulk of the earnings of the average working-class family is now expended.

I do not intend to traverse in detail the Government's proposals for the defence of this country. There are honorable senators in this chamber who pose as authorities on defence. Though some of them are thoroughly entitled to do so because of their military experience, the vast majority of them should have more regard for their limitations.

Sitting suspended from 12.1)5 to 2.15 p.m. [Quorum formed.]


Senator COLLINGS - In the matter of defence any government has to be guided very largely by the advice of its expert military advisers. I wish, however, to sound a note of warning concerning the tremendously increased expenditure proposed during this financial year, which is equal to 26s. per capita. It is impossible for a nation with a population of 6,500,000 to continue under such a heavy burden. A plank in the platform of the Australian Labour party provides for the adequate defence of Australia, which should be strictly interpreted to mean defence and not offence. There is a good deal of sophistry even on the subject of adequate defence. At present practically every nation is incurring huge expenditure on re-armament, which it is said is for the -purpose of defence and not offence. If that be true there should be no urgent necessity for unnecessarily heavy defence expenditure to be undertaken in Australia. 1 was very astonished to find that in outlining the defence proposals of the Commonwealth, the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) did not declare that it is the intention of the Government to ensure that not one penny of profit is to be made by private enterprise out of the manufacture of armaments or the erection of defence works. If there is one point upon which we all should agree it is that the manufacture of munitions and the erection of defence works should he undertaken by the Government, and that there should be no possible opportunity for exploitation or profiteering by private firms.


Senator Dein - Is that not so at present ?


Senator COLLINGS - Of course it is not. In a national emergency it is only at the eleventh hour that the Government takes the work out of the hands of rascally private enterprise and handles it on its own account. Two months ago the following paragraph appeared in the Spectator, published by the Methodist Church- in Australia: -

Every lover of mankind will lament the present" siituat ion in Europe. To witness a new race in armaments, in which Great Britain and even Australia are becoming involved, and, after the lessons of the Great War. to hear responsible heads of governments talk of war and boast their determination of preparedness for it, is to make one almost despair of civilization and of humanity itself.

That is not the expression of a Labour man, but is the opinion expressed by a highly respected and extensive religious body in Australia. In the Melbourne Age of the 22nd July, the following paragraph appeared : -

Speaking at the annual consular luncheon of the Rotary Club to-day, the president (Sir Henry Braddon) said the world was spending approximately £855,000,000 annually on armaments, and this expenditure would increase. The League of Nations would have to be reconstituted 511 stronger foundations, as it was too valuable an agency to be allowed to disappear.

We all desire to protect this country against aggression, but notwithstanding the enthusiasm displayed by some over what is termed national patriotism we ought to realize that a population of 6.500.000 people is being asked to shoulder too heavy a burden. In an issue of Smith's Weekly, published a little time ago, the following leading article appeared : -

Before Mr. Archdale Parkhill competes his negotiations with unnamed private engineering firms for the manufacture of separate aircraft parts to be assembled in the Air Force work shops, "Smith's " would like a say. For this paper notes that a government subsidy is likely to bc given to encourage the manufacture of these separate aircraft parts by private firms.

We all know that these negotiations are proceeding and that private firms will be given the opportunity to exploit the people. The article continued -

Here wo have the birth of a vested in West. This comes into the world as a subsidized industry. Subsidized industry will grow up to lusty proportions and, should there l-e a waT. become a private armament group, which will enrich a, few people

Private Armament firms, history shows, have a way of becoming obscenely prosperous and of breeding rapacious directorates to whom power and plunder are synonymous ,aim«. In the United Kingdom and in the United States of America efforts are being made to trace their machinations by commissions of inquiry and ins been revealed is by no means an edifying story.

Austraia has no overwhelming urge to spawn private armament factories, however deviously they may be disguised. Finn" which are hi Red on defence, as a justification for subsidy are altogether too insidious to be permitted to h» " private ". Taxpayers are opposed to helping them to pay dividends or even to foster them into being. Their record is too notorious for Mr. Parkhill to have his innocence imposed on without vigorous and nation-wide protest. There are other and safer ways of solving the situation, a statement backed by a sound precedent of the Commonwealth Government.

I am bringing these expressions of opinion under the notice of the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) because I believe that there are more effective ways in which to deal with the situation.

There are regrettable omissions from the budget now before the Senate. For example, no provision has been made to abolish unemployment, sustenance and relief work. I know that J shall be told by the supporters of the Government that a few thousands of pounds are being spent here and there on public works to relieve unemployment, and that remissions of taxes are being made to private enterprise. Private enterprise does not engage employees from philanthropic motives ; it engages only the labour necessary to meet the existing demand for the commodities being produced. Employers will not engage one additional employee until the effective demand is increased, and that cannot be done by making remissions of taxes. The only way in which to improve our economic conditions is to increase the purchasing power of the working class - the most important section of the consuming community. We cannot expect prosperous conditions until the purchasing power of the people has been increased. Stability cannot bc assured by remitting taxes paid by the wealthy sections of the community. [Extension of time granted.]

I direct the attention of the Government to the difference of opinion which now exists in connexion with the overseas air-mail service. I have not sufficient time to go into details, but I trust that in any agreement accepted by the Government it will not supinely succumb to instructions from the Government of the United Kingdom, and in that way tend to cramp or deteriorate the fine service at present operating within Australia. We all agree that nothing should be done to interfere with the splendid work which has so far been accomplished by the civil aviation branch. All aviation in Australia should be under the control of the Commonwealth Government, particularly as the development of this service has been greater in comparison with our population than in any other country. There has been remarkable immunity from serious accidents, and the number of miles flown emphasizes the success that has been achieved.

In the matter of wireless broadcasting, I consider that the time has arrived when listeners' licence-fees should be reduced to 15s. per annum or even less. The Government should control all broadcasting services.

Unfortunately we have allowed B class broadcasting stations to get into private control, and consequently we have the privacy of our homes disturbed at all hours by wretched advertisements. All the B class stations are continually advertising one nostrum or another, if I tune in to one station, I am told that beer is the best thing for children's constitutions; if I turn to another, I am offered a cure for tuberculosis, although we know that no really efficient cure for that disease ha3 yet been discovered. It is of no use going from one station to another because they all ave engaged in the same wretched business. Why tho Government ever allowed -these private profit-m'ongering undertakings to get control of B class broadcasting, I have never been able to understand.

With regard to the Australian Broadcasting Commission, I shall not be particularly careful in the choice of my remarks although I shall endeavour not to transgress by saying anything which is unparliamentary. Some time ago, I raised the subject of the commission, tho work it was not doing, and the nefarious work that it wa3 doing. The personnel of the commission has since been changed, and Major Conder, who should never have been on the commission, has been displaced from the position of general manager. 'He was got rid of in some way for reasons which have not been disclosed. The fact remains, however; that shortly after I had. made accusations in this chamber against him be was removed from his position. Theoretically, the system under which the National Broadcasting Commission operates is good, but in actual practice it is a failure. At the present time nearly 1,000,000 listeners in

Australia provide the Commonwealth Government with a revenue of about £1,000,000 a year.


Senator Badman - The number of listeners is between 800,000 and 900,000.


Senator COLLINGS - Even if that he the number the fact remains, that the broadcasting commission receives a huge income, which is spent absolutely without any check by Parliament. Why should these accounts not come before us so that we might know what is happening? The control 'of national broadcasting is in tho hands of five people who are employed part-time. The chairman receives the ridiculously small salary of £400 a year. He must have other interests, as it stands to reason that for such a small salary he could not be expected to give the whole of his attention to broadcasting. Surely a business which has a huge revenue should have, as I recommended some time ago, a full-time director. The vicechairman of the commission receives £300 a year, which is equally ridiculous. The ordinary members of the commission receive proportionately small salaries. Is it fair that the wonderful service of broadcasting should be administered by parttime, half -paid people? The chairman prior to taking up this appointment, had no experience of broadcasting. He achieved a certain amount of fame as an accountant in a brewery, and also as Bail ways Commissioner of New South Wales. His past experience may qualify him for some of the duties of the position he now occupies, but even of that I am doubtful. The vice-chairman is a retired engineer, whose only claim to the position is the fact that his wife is musical ; perhaps that gives him some qualification for supervising broadcasting' programmes. The three members of the commission are Mr. R. Orchard, Mr. J. W. Kitto and Mrs. Claude Couchman. I have no doubt that Mr. Orchard is an estimable gentleman, but he is- inexperienced in broadcasting. Mr. Kitto was recently retired from the Post Office. If the Commonwealth Government considers that Mr. Kitto has transcendant abilities, it, might have been expected to retain him in the postal department, but if his days of usefulness there were past, how can he be expected to make a success of broadcasting? Mrs. Claude Couchman is a bachelor of arts and she was at one time an organizer for the Nationalist party. I do not suggest that that fact should debar her from service on the broadcasting commission, provided she possesses outstanding qualifications, but nobody who knows the lady will say that she has any qualifications at all except that she has entree into certain social circles which other persons probably cannot get. As a matter of fact, her job on the broadcasting commission is merely a side-line. I do not object to these people being given positions on the commission so long as the Government admits that it is merely a depositing ground for retired public servants, men with dubious qualifications, and ladies who have rendered efficient service to the Government party in days gone by- If national broadcasting is to be placed on a firm footing these part-time, half-paid amateurs should be replaced by adequately remunerated people who have had solid experience of this work. The appointees should be above private economic considerations and the nepotism which has characterized appointments to and by the commission in the past. I could continue on this subject at great length, but I shall take another opportunity to amplify these remarks.

To summarize, I think that the budget, whilst obviously cleverly designed to catch popular approval, discloses complete bankruptcy of statesmanship on the part of those responsible for it. It shows that the Government lacks any semblance of a capacity, for nation building, and has little vision. It juggles feebly with the immediate present betraying either the Government's disinclination or incompetence to handle current problems with any regard to building for a better future. The attitude of the Government is that things as they are are completely satisfactory. " God's in His Heaven ; all's right with the world." All is right with us. We have received our little increase, and, in passing, let me say that I am glad that parliamentary salaries have been partially restored. I have always advocated that they should be. I have said both inside and outside Parliament that I demand the full contract price for the work I contracted to do, but I am not receiving it even now.

Surely the job confronting the Government in a greatly favored nation like Australia is not difficult. This Government has opportunities which are presented to the Government of no other country. Australia has a greater variety of soils, climates and production than any other country, and within it i3 a race of virile workmen capable of doing anything they are called upon to do. Surely the problem of providing adequately for all the people within our shores, and those others whom we hope lo invite here when we are able to sustain them, is not insoluble. Let us find work for our unemployed, abolish the dole and relief work, create opportunities for our boys and girls, and end the present dreadful tragedy of youth. Let us release our primary producers from the stranglehold of the mortgage-monger, the freight thief, and the usurer. Abolish the filthy scandal of the slums with all its concomitant evils of disease and destruction of morale. The problem of guaranteeing the material welfare and physical well-being of nearly 6,500,000 of people is' not difficult. We have every material asset needed to meet every possible need. We have the accumulated knowledge of the centuries, we are blessed with natural resources of all kinds, and the only thing we require is a bold progressive programme of collective action, instead of the futile policy of pettifogging executives which are prepared all the time to take their instructions from the great capitalist interests overseas.







Suggest corrections