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Wednesday, 11 November 1936

Senator MARWICK (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - That policy cannot be continued for ever. That Australia already owes £1,255,000,000 causes me considerable concern. It is high time that Parliament viewed this subject seriously, and attempted to re-adjust the financial position as between the Commonwealth and the States. It may be that this is the aim of the Common wealth Government in remitting taxes to the amount of over £5,250,000, because those remissions will benefit the States considerably. I recognize that the Commonwealth is committed to heavy expenditure in connexion with its defence policy, and that the provision of £8,000,000 for that purpose represents a considerable drain on its resources. Defence expenditure must continue until Australia is more adequately protected, although we all hope that the need to use such defences will not arise.

The budget speech refers to inescapable expenditure, amounting to £63,073,277, in connexion with war services, pensions, sinking fund, defence measures, and other commitments. That money is now provided from revenue; but I believe that ways could 'be devised to make unnecessary so heavy a drain on the country's revenue. By the substitution of a ' scheme of national insurance for the present pensions system, a large proportion of the present annual expenditure in respect of aged and invalid persons would be avoided. In the event of an affirmative vote in the proposed referendum, it should be possible to provide, in good years, a fund sufficient to tide our primary producers over lean periods. I hope that, by the efficient organization of Australian marketing, it will bo possible to avoid the necessity for the States to seek annual grants from the Commonwealth to assist producers. It is high time that this Parliament tackled some of the big problems which are mentioned here from time to time. such as national insurance, and the 40-hour working week. If it be possible to have a 40-hours' working week all round, let us have it !

Senator Duncan-Hughes - It cannot be done in the dairying industry.

Senator MARWICK - I do not believe in one section of the community enjoying a 40-hours' working week at the expense of other sections.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The Arbitration Court has never attempted to provide for a 40-hours' week for primary producers,because it knows that it would be impracticable.

Senator MARWICK - I agree. The impracticability of providing for a 40- hours' week in all industries is a strong reason for setting up a committee to inquire into the whole subject. From time to time I have seen in the press statements by men who have advocated the reduction of the working week to 30 hours. The Government should ascertain whether such a proposal is economically sound. Personally, I have no doubt as to the result of such an inquiry; but before a general reduction of working hours is made, the subject should be fully inquired into.

Recently I visited some of the drought affected areas of Western Australia and found that many stock-owners there had lost 40 per cent of their stock. I learned also that although the season is a very dry one the poor wheat harvest this year is due to severe frosts rather than to drought conditions. My observations in Western Australia bear out what I said in my speech on the proposed grant to Western Australia. I am glad to know that following the recent meeting of the Loan Council, Western Australia is to receive a greater measure of assistance in order that the plight of some of its settlers may be relieved. Most of the credit for obtaining that additional grant for Western Australia is due to the representatives of the Commonwealth. I am, indeed, astonished at the attitude adopted by the representatives of some of the States in regard to the claims of their more necessitous neighbours.

Prom time to time, both in this chamber and elsewhere, I have heard men say that the increased production of gold should be of tremendous advantage to

Western Australia. It is true that that State produces gold to the value of about £8,000,000 a year, but I remind honorable senators that the only direct benefit it receives is increased revenue from income taxes from miners and others who benefit from the search for gold. My point is that most of the profits from the gold go to companies which are controlledby shareholders in overseas countries and in the other States. Because of the fallacious belief that the increased production of gold enriches all the people on the goldfields, those people are sadly neglected by both Commonwealth and State Governments. They too, have a sound claim for assistance,andI shall take this matter up with the responsible Minister in the future.

Senator McLeay - Do the people of Western Australia realize that the present Commonwealth Government has done more for the necessitous States than any other government has done ?

Senator MARWICK (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - I am pleased to say that they do. During my recent visit to the wheat belt of Western Australia, I found that the people there, particularly the primary producers appreciate what the present Commonwealth Government has done for them during the past five years, and realize how little the State government has helped them. I hope that in its future reports the Commonwealth Grants Commission will give greater consideration to the claims of the States which have suffered from Federal policy, and will alter the basis of its assessment. I hope, too, that" the personnel of the commission will he altered.

Senator Dein - In what way would the honorable senator have it altered?

Senator MARWICK (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Until a man with experience of the peculiar difficulties of Western Australia is appointed to the commission, that State will never be treated fairly, and therefore I hope that, in making future appointments to the commission, the Government will see that at least one person with a sound knowledge of conditions in that State is selected.

Recently, I asked a question regarding the instructing of members of rifle clubs in the use of machine guns, and was told that the cost of training them would be too costly to undertake. If it be not pos- sible to train all the members of rifle clubs, the Government would do well to instruct the captains and perhaps one or two other members of such clubs, in the use of machine guns, thereby providing throughout Australia a number of potential instructors of. other men in time of emergency. Fairly heavy expenditure on defence is proposed this year, and I maintain that in no other way could money be better employed than in creating a reserve of machine gunners.

Senator Dein - Would the honorable senator suggest that similar training should be given in the handling of the Lewis gun?

Senator MARWICK - Yes. I hope that next year we shall at least have dealt with the general budget policy before we are asked to record votes on important bills involved in the budget.

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