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Wednesday, 11 November 1936

Senator FOLL - I have seen a number of statements made by the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) in which he took pride in the number of enlistments that are being recorded at the present time.

Senator Duncan-Hughes - The number dropped by 1,000 last year.

Senator FOLL - I was not aware of what the figures were. That there should be a wastage of nearly 50 per cent, in the infantry battalions is a matter for the serious consideration of the Government. It is difficult for the senior military officers to place obstacles in the way of men leaving before their term has expired. If a man in one part of Queensland wants to go to another part, say, Roma, or Charleville, where no unit exists, the authorities cannot stand in his way, especially when the service is entirely voluntary. It would be difficult under present conditions to enforce the full period of enlistment.

If it is necessary, as I am sure it is, to have trained soldiers to defend this country, would it not be far better and far more economical to establish a standing army of 50,000 or 60,000 men, stationed in the various States? Men could enlist in such an army for a period of ten or twelve years, and then spend three or four years in the Reserves, to be called up for service if required, as is done overseas. The basis of the scheme could be voluntary, and the fact that it would absorb 50,000 or 60,000 men as permanent soldiers would make it more economical than the present system under which men who have been served with equipment and have involved the Commonwealth in expenditure on their training, cease within a few months to be soldiers because they either get tired of the service or have some other reason for leaving it. The establishment of a permanent standing army in this country would give greater scope to the graduates of the Royal Military College. A great number of young men would like to take up a military calling; but they are unable to do so at the present time. If they were enabled to do so. they could be taught some trade which would be useful to them when their period of enlistment ended. I do not doubt that, if the whole of the circumstances were considered, it would be found that the cost to this country of maintaining a permanent army would be no more than the amount which we are expending to-day on the voluntary enlistment system for which we are not getting an adequate return.

Senator Brown - That would depend on the rate of pay.

Senator FOLL - The pay, I suggest, should he on the basis of the pay in the Royal Australian Navy, in which the men receive a certain amount in cash and the balance is held to their credit as deferred pay. At the finish of their enlistment period the permanent soldiers would be useful men who could be called up for service if needed. They would leave the service with a cheque for the amount of their deferred . pay which would enable them to set up in civil life. Not only would the system be of great use to the country, but it would also be a godsend to many men who would be given an opportunity for military service in a permanent army. In Great Britain a voluntary standing army of more than 250,000 men has existed for many years. After their period of service, they may continue in the army, or go into other walks of life. I submit this idea for the consideration of the Government. I agree with the statements by Senator Sampson from time to time, both in this chamber, and in Tasmania, that we are not getting anything like the full value for the money that is being expended on the voluntary enlistment system at present operating, having regard to the smallness of the personnel of the units. This is a matter which must be faced. Every nation, irrespective of its condition, is being compelled to spend large amounts of money on armaments and the training of men to defend its shores if the need should ever arise.

The matter of droughts was brought before the Senate by Senator Marwick, who spoke particularly of the unfortunate conditions obtaining in Western Australia at the present time. I have recently returned from Queensland, and I know that conditions in parts of that State are worse now than I have ever known. On this occasion, strangely enough, the drought is very severe in coastal, dairying and agricultural areas. This country, which usually produces prolifically, is in a frightful condition, and the grip of the drought extends even down so far as the northern rivers in New South Wales. In all the years I have been travelling between Brisbane and Sydney, I have never seen Grafton and the other towns on the northern rivers in so frightful a condition as exists at the present time. I have raised this matter because sooner or later it must be faced by the national Parliament as a national problem. We shall never be free from droughts in this country. Periodic droughts have always occurred, and presumably, always will. Those who have studied the outback conditions and are acquainted with the history of the natives know that this is so. Very little provision has been made by individuals or governments to provide against them, but the time will come when we shall have to appoint a national minister for droughts, and allocate a small percentage of our revenues to a special trust fund to enable men to stay on the land during serious times and also to provide money for restocking when the droughts are over. One of the worst features of droughts is that after they have ended and the grass has grown again, the landholders are so indebted to the banks or other financial institutions that they cannot raise money to restock. When the drought breaks and natural feed is available again, the price of stock rises, and the position of the land-holder, who is unable to get further financial aid, is indeed difficult. In the western part of Queensland there are men with ample grass on their land, hut they cannot buy stock. They are waiting to let out part of their land for agistment if the droaght continues in other parts of the State. This emphasizes that this Parliament must take this matter up as one of national urgency. We must set apart a small part of our revenues for the purpose of building up a trust fund to be administered by representatives from the various States in order to safeguard the position of these men. There are districts in the far northwest of Queensland, in which there is scarcely a man who is not heavily indebted to the banks as the result of droughts that have occurred there in recent years. So difficult is their position that the banks are simply holding the mortgages over the holdings and not charging interest. Parliament goes to the aid of other sections" of the community. When an industry finds itself in difficulty owing to overseas competition, we give to it extra tariff protection ' in order to enable it to live ; or we may help another industry by a bounty, but we have never provided a fund to give adequate relief to those men who have been fighting drought conditions for generations in the outback areas. I should like the Government to give some consideration to the need for rendering some assistance to those settlers who are in ore straits at the present time because of the adverse seasonal conditions.

I am pleased to learn that consideration is being given to the resumption of migration to Australia. I believe that under normal conditions a steady flow of migrants is more likely to provide additional employment than to bring about increased unemployment as some suggest. One of the principal causes of unemployment in Australia is underpopulation rather than over-population, and a study of the records shows that Australia has always been more prosperous when migration has been actively carried on. Prior to the war there was greater prosperity - I do not refer to the artificial prosperity which followed the expenditure of large sums of loan money - than perhaps at any other time. Australia was prosperous when there was a steady flow of migrants to Australia from Great Britain and southern European countries.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - There was also a steady flow of loan money at that time.

Senator FOLL (QUEENSLAND) - That is so, and loan money is still being expended. Only foolish persons would advocate bringing thousands of persons to Australia without making provision for their employment when they arrived; but there are many directions in which migrants could be profitably employed in Australia at present. For instance, thereis an acute shortage of youths in certain primary industries, because parents of boys who are still looking for jobs do not wish them to leave their homes to work in country districts. I have been informed that it is extremely difficult to obtain youths for station and farm work. It is practically impossible to obtain boiler-makers and other tradesmen; this is due to some extent to our apprenticeship system, which has prevented many men from becoming skilled artisans. Undoubtedly there are industries in which there is a distinct shortage of skilled labour. I was very pleased to receive from the Reverend Canon Garland, of Brisbane, the president of the New Settlers League in that State, a copy of the speech he delivered at the welcome to the Marquis of Hartington, in which he said -

The attitude of the Queensland Government was expressed last year in the House by the Premier, the honorable W. Forgan Smith, who said that as we could not get our own lads to go on the land the time would come when we must revive the immigration of British lads. In the House within the last week or two he definitely stated that a requisition for immigrant lads would take place at once, and I am glad to think that already he has sent into the Federal Government his requisition for lads to come to Queensland. I am proud that Queensland is leading, and 1 want to emphasize, Lord Hartington. for your information and the information of your colleagues when you return, that with us in Queensland, and I hope in other parts of Australia, immigration is not a party political question. Our Premier himself the other day by giving the lead he has given to Australia has shown that it is above all party politics, and that he regards it as a national question. In support of that I will tell you a most interesting fact. My first connexion with immigration began in 1910 in this State. At that time a government was in that was not the same type of government as is to-day, and as you know governments come and go, policies change, but from that day to this the policy of the Government of the day has never varied in the matter, and has always supported immigration. It ia significant that in that 26 years about twenty years we have had a Labour Government.

I commend the New Settlers League for the good work it is doing in endeavouring to bring these lads to Australia. I understand that an effort is also being made by that league to bring domestic servants from overseas, but I do not think that they can be obtained so readily as other migrants. When in Great Britain last year, I was informed that the shortage of domestics in that country was as acute as it is in Australia. Many of the housewives in Great Britain were obtaining domestic servants from central European countries, although they had to be taught the English language before they could perform their duties satisfactorily. When I spoke on the subject of migration a few months ago, I said that Great Britain had little or no surplus population, and that, notwithstanding the figures published by those controlling the British national insurance scheme, there was practically no unemployment in that country.

Senator Collings - Is that why the present King visited certain colliery districts ?

Senator FOLL - I was just about to say that, in the colliery districts, unemployment is pronounced, and the men are in a sorry plight. But it would be useless to obtain migrants from such districts to come to Australia, where, owing to the reduced output of coal for fuel purposes, there are already too many coal-miners. Moreover, the birth-rate in Great Britain is almost stationary, while in Italy and Germany, due largely to the policy of Mussolini and Hitler, the birth-rate is increasing rapidly. With a stationary birth-rate, Great Britain will not wish to lose useful citizens. The time is not far distant when we shall have to turn to other countries to obtain migrants. There are thousands of settlers in the Logan, Marxburg and other districts in Queensland who came from Germany many years ago and who have become good Australian citizens.

Senator Arkins - Could we not obtain suitable migrants from the United States of America?

Senator FOLL - I do not know what type of men would be likely to migrate from that country.

Senator Arkins - There are hundreds of thousands of men, some of whom have had a university education and who are now working in the forests, who would be willing to come to Australia. Many have been trained in agricultural schools.

Senator FOLL - I would not object to suitable persons coming from the United States of America. If we are to have a definite scheme of rural development, we shall have to look to countries other than Great Britain, where there is a shortage of agricultural labour to-day. As the British Government is subsidizing primary production in Britain to such an extent that it is difficult to obtain suitable agricultural labour in that country, I am confident that before long the Commonwealth Government will be compelled to look to European countries for new settlers. In the scrub country at the back of the sugar areas in Northern Queensland, where there is a 60-in. rainfall, thousands of families could not only maintain themselves, but also produce for export. Many European farmers who are now struggling to make a living on poor country would regard the area I have mentioned as a Paradise.

Senator Arkins - Would the German Government allow its agricultural population .to leave the country?

Senator FOLL - Germany has always been faced with the problem of overpopulation, as we have been with that of under-population.

Senator Arkins - I do not think that Germany would allow its agricultural labourers to leave the country.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Large numbers of them would bc glad to leave Germany.

Senator FOLL - Yes, and we should be glad to welcome them here.

I now wish to refer briefly to the trade diversion policy of the Government, and the result of the efforts of the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties (Sir Henry Gullett). I am glad to learn that there is a likelihood of overcoming the difficulties which have existed between Japan and Australia. I do not condemn the Government for its trade diversion policy, particularly in respect of Japan, which deliberately deflated its currency in order to produce cheap articles, to the detriment of other producing countries. In such circumstances, reprisals must be expected. Australia was not by any means the first country which found it necessary to take steps to protect itself against a flood of imports of cheap articles produced by a low-wage country with a devaluated currency. Nevertheless, it will be to Australia's ultimate loss if Japan does not enter our market for wool and other primary products. I shall not deal further with that matter because, as the Leader of the Senate has reminded me, it is now the subject of negotiation. I feel sure that every one will welcome the day when the negotiations have been finalized and trade is resumed between the two countries.

One action taken by the Government, however, is causing a tremendous amount of inconvenience and difficulty in Australia. I refer to the policy adopted in regard to the motor car industry. I read the statements made by the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties at the time when the new duties on motor chassis were imposed. The honorable gentleman said that shortly Australia would be manufacturing its own motor cars, a very laudable objective; but knowing something of the units necessary to be set up to produce cars on a commercial basis, T share the view of motor traders in Australia that we are a long way off manufacturing a complete car in this country. A.t the present time a tremendous amount of work is done in Australia in the manufacture of accessories and parts for cars. Usually the bare chassis is imported and the body, mudguards, battery, tyres, &c, are made in Australia. It is unfortunate that the trade diversion policy of the Government is likely merely to increase the price of motor cars without bringing about the additional work which was anticipated. In no country in the world do motor car manufacturers produce a complete car. In England, cars such as the Austin, Morris and Vauxhall, are equipped with lighting and starting units manufactured by the Lucas factory at Birmingham, while carburettors, wire wheels, sparking plugs, and various other component parts of the car are supplied by firms specializing in their manufacture.

Senator Guthrie - Industries manufacturing those particular parts could be established in Australia.

Senator FOLL - If the honorable senator saw the output of the English factories he would recognize that there is little chance of these parts being manufactured competitively in Australia. By our present trade diversion policy in this respect we have played into the hands of General Motors-Holdens Limited, which with its extensive ramifications throughout Australia and other countries has smaller companies at a disadvantage. The Leader of the Opposition said that the whole of the profit of General Motors-Holdens Limited, amounting to approximately £680,000, would be spent in Australia. I remind him that about nine-tenths of the preference shares of that company are held outside of Australia, and that proportion of the preference dividend earned by the company in Australia is remitted to America and other countries.

Senator Collings - The profits of the particular year which I mentioned were allocated to be spent in Australia.

Senator FOLL - As nine-tenths of the dividend declared on preference shares is sent to American and other holders, it would' be interesting to learn how the money was returned to Australia.

Senator Arkins - Holdens have now amalgamated with General Motors. I do not think the proportion stated by the honorable senator is so great.

Senator FOLL - I referred to preference shares. A deputation 6f three or four leading importers of American motor cars other than the products of General Motors, waited upon me in Brisbane a few days ago. They have been established in business in Queensland for many years, and are reputable men who have built up their businesses on sound lines. A quota system has been applied, under which they are not allowed to import more cars this year than they imported last year. They do not complain of that, recognizing that the trade balance with the United States of America warranted the Government taking steps to rectify it. But every obstacle has been placed in the way of these importers carrying on their business even, within the quota. One of these gentlemen, Mr. Tooth, of Austral Motors Limited, pointed out that he represents in Australia a group in the United States of America that manufactures the De Soto, Chrysler, Plymouth and Dodge cars. These cars, though marketed tinder different names, have practically interchangeable chassis, engines and parts, only minor differences being made in the bodies to suit the fastidious tastes of the people. Under the quota system this firm has been given the right to import this year cars equal in value to those imported last year, and no more. But in view of the fact that perhaps the De Soto might be more popular this year than, say, the Chrysler or the Plymouth, they a3k that they be allowed to adjust their imports, balancing an increase of one make by a decrease of another make - for instance, substituting four Dodges or four Plymouths for four De Sotos. That is not *n unreasonable request to make. This firm is carrying on business and employing a number of people in Queensland, una as long as the value of its imports does not exceed the total value of the cars imported last year, I see no reason why its request should not be granted, and why the limit imposed in respect of any one particular make should not be departed from. Mr. Dodwell, another representative of American cars in Queensland, and perhaps one of the best-known business men in Queensland, having spent many years in building up a large enterprise, is the agent for the Studebaker cars and trucks. Owing to the unfortunate drought conditions which existed in Queensland*, he is unable to sell so many trucks in the country this year as he sold last year. He has made application to the Minister directing negotiations for trade treaties to be allowed to vary the number of trucks and cars imported while still remaining within his quota. Though he has been writing to the department for months he has been unable to get a reply.

Senator McLeay - Similar requests preferred by South Australian agents have been granted by the Customs Department.

Senator FOLL - I have in my possession a pile of correspondence dealing with this matter, addressed to the department, but permission has not been granted.

Senator Sir George Pearce - Did the honorable senator approach the Minister on the subject?

Senator FOLL - I have communicated with him in regard to it. I think I am justified in bringing before the Parliament of this country these matters of so much importance to my constituents. For every car allowed to be substituted for a truck an extra £130 will be spent in Australia because of the difference between the prices of truck bodies and car bodies. The former cost only about £30, whereas the latter cost anything from £150 to £160, and provide four or five times as much employment in the motor bodybuilding industry. Motor car importers in Brisbane are becoming exasperated at the -failure of the department to come to a decision in regard to this matter. Their business is hampered by reason of tha fact that they are unable to give body orders in advance. My friend from South Australia (Senator McLeay) should be interested in this, because most of the bodies come from Richards Limited in his State, and naturally that firm is affected by the delay on the part of th« department in dealing with this matter.

Senator Payne - It is a complete- holdup of business.

Senator FOLL - That ia so. I have quoted the names of the Brisbane importers in order that honorable senators from Queensland will know that the complaints have been made by men of repute who have been engaged in business in large way in that State for many years They approached me in desperation to ask if I could do anything to expedite the matter. I promised to bring it up in the Senate in order to see if relief could be granted to them. I commend their case to the Government because, recognizing the need for correcting the unfavorable trade balance with the United States of America, they are not asking for any increase of the quota laid down. All they ask is that they be able to arrange the internal affairs of their business in such a way as to enable them to carry on, and keep their men in employment.

I desire now to deal with the continued delays which take place in the arrival of the air mail from overseas. I am glad that the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) is present in the chamber, because I feel sure that he is just as concerned about these delays as is any one else in Australia. Practically the whole of the delays occur in that section of the air mail route controlled by Imperial Airways Limited. Taking the whole route from Australia to England, that portion of it operated by Qantas Imperial Airways of Australia is the most satisfactory. I cannot understand why such a great organization as Imperial Airways Limited, which claims a high degree of efficiency should take so long to fly the mail over the route from England to Singapore. It has been pointed out to me that, in the United States of America, no less than nine planes fly on coast to coast services at a cruising speed of 200 miles an hour, travelling day and night. I Lave had a letter from a friend of raine, Mr. E. Allan Box, who has just returned from abroad, and who travelled extensively by air in Europe, the United States of America, Iraq and Palestine. He travelled thousands of miles on services operated by Imperial Airways Limited. He tells me that for general efficiency and for maintaining a time-table, the EnglandAustralia service provided by Imperial Airways Limited lags sadly behind similar services supplied by American companies. Mr. Box writes: -

Instead of the rather commonplace method of a " traveller's tale " to the press, I think a rather more brilliant idea is to write you some views on the position of Australian air communication with Europe.

In my " round the world " trip I visited nearly all the countries in the Near East, including Iraq, Syria, Palestine and Egypt, using commercial air lines, and made numerous journeys backward and forward across Europe by the same method. I also spent a period of eight weeks in the United States of America, where my business interests enabled mc to have the use of a Commuters ticket, available for ' the twelve major air lines, on which, incidentally, I was given a 15 per cent, concession on regular fares and charges.

T cannot help noticing since my return that the repeated delays that have been occurring throughout the year on the Imperial route have not been overcome. However disinclined we natural y are to criticize any British enterprise, the position on the Imperial route is really serious, and it seems should be faced without delay. The air mails by Imperial last week were reported to be again late. When have they been early during the last twelve months? The Post Office is so desperate, that it proposes to get over the difficulty by adding another day to the schedule. This, I suppose, is intended to solve the problem completely! In other words, when is a delay not a delay! Answer - '* When it is official."

The facts are well known to those of us who have flown regularly on the world's air routes. To be quite candid, the flying equipment of Imperial Airways is out of date, and has been out of date for a long time. Its fine personnel cannot possibly overcome the handicap of inefficient machines. Where Imperial struggle to keep up a speed of 90 miles an hour, up-to-date services in every important country maintain an average cruising speed of 180 to 200 miles in all but abnormal weather. Where Imperial aircraft struggle with a ceiling of 8,000 feet, other services make light of 12,000 feet. Where Imperial ure always in danger of fire with their fabriccovered machines, other services with metal planes allow their passengers to smoke alii> in the air. Where the shades of dusk find . Imperial seeking ground shelter, other services fly day ami night without hindrance. The existing equipment on the Singapore route if like continuing to carry mails and passengers in 30-mile-an-hour trains and 10-knot steamers.

As an example of what efficient commercial air services are like, the United States of America presents a picture of at least nine planes daily each way from coast to coast completely - equipped for luxurious speed and completing the 3,000-mile journey day in and day out in hours.

The enclosed' folder of one of the principal air lines used by me leaves little further to be added.

I shall not mention the name of the line to which my correspondent refers, but I took the trouble to examine the timetable. The schedule provides for day and night running, aided by beacons and [and lights, from coast to coast, a distance of 3,000 miles. The journey is accomplished at an average speed of about 200 miles an hour, and the service is maintained without, a subsidy. Mr. Box concludes his letter as fallows : -

Briefly, commercial passenger flying and fast air mails have in other countries passed from the realm .of adventure into the sphere of commercial necessity. No country can long afford to become back ward, especially one with large unoccupied areas like Australia, and the world's experience seems to indicate that speed, beside being of the essence of the contract, is a vital element of safety.

As to cost, you will note that the fares in America are not greater than the cost of firstclass rail transportation on the luxury lines If all incidental charges be taken into consideration.

On the Brisbane to Sydney route, the airmail service is provided without a subsidy. Two journeys are accomplished each way daily. The time occupied in the run is about three and a half hours, and the time-table is regularly maintained. I suppose that no more efficient service is to be found in Australia. Yet, when we take up our newspapers, we discover, almost daily, that the England-Australia air mails are running late. I understand that the Dutch service from Amsterdam to Sourabaya or Batavia is one of five days. I hope that the protests which have been made by the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan) and the Minister for Defence (Sir Archdale Parkhill) regarding the service supplied by Imperial Airways Limited will result in faster and more up-to-date planes being used on the route. This company receives a subsidy of about £1,400,000 a year. A great deal of dispute has arisen as to whether the servicE should be provided by means of flying boats or land planes. I hope that Australia will have its overseas air mails carried by the most modern machines.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - My department communicated with the British Post Office, and has had an assurance that henceforward the position will be satisfactory. Two colossal flying boats have been put into commission within the last few days, and will be used on this route.

Senator FOLL - I am sure that this matter must have given the Government a' great deal of anxious thought. I hope that the people of Australia generally will benefit from the improved service that is anticipated.

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