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Thursday, 26 November 1936

Senator DUNCAN-HUGHES - Not with my support.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The honorable senator believes in compellingthe youth of this country to take up arms to protect the property of the wealthy class.

Senator Foll - We have not had an opportunity to reintroduce the compulsory system.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The Government which the honorable senator supports could have lifted the suspension but it has not done so ; it is all a matter of money. Now, when there are rumoursof another world war, we hear murmurings of the necessity for introducing universal military training, and of establishing a standing army. Some honorable senators expect the young men of this country to give up all forms of recreation in order to engage in military training so that they may be equipped to resist an aggressor.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - Many of those trained under the compulsory system 'enjoyed their work.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - They were not likely to do so when they were deprived of their freedom on Saturday afternoons. Universal military training would be acceptable to the majority of the Australian people, if, at the same time, provision were made for compulsory contributions to be made to Consolidated Revenue by the wealthy section of this community. The members of the Labour party will always look with distrust upon any system of compulsory training.

During the debate on the Constitution Alteration (Aviation) Bill reference was made to the desirableness of employing aeroplanes more extensively for transport purposes and to the possibility of our railways becoming obsolete. Inevitably with the march of time old methods must be discarded, and improved systems, particularly in respect of transport, will be adopted. I do not think, however, that there is any likelihood of any transport system being able to provide the service our railways are now rendering so effectively. In many respects we are lagging behind other countries. Had I my way I should take away the right to make bequests. I read quite recently of a man in Melbourne who bequeathed £1,000,000 to his two daughters. If after death duties on the estate had been paid, the residue were distributed among the people from whom it had been taken by various devices under the capitalistic system, this country would be in a much sounder position economically than it is at the present time.

Aviation should be encouraged in Australia; it figures largely in the defence of this vast continent. In the event of an attack by an enemy, we do not want to be in the same position as the unfortunate Abyssinians, who had no aeroplanes for their protection. At the same time, we should not let the subject of aviation depress us, or allow the sellers of petrol and of passenger aeroplanes to force their systems upon us with the assertion that railways as a means of transport are antiquated and defunct. For one thing, we must not overlook the fact that many thousands of men are employed in the railways at the present time; if they were displaced by a wide extension of aviation and motor services, the effect on this country would be very serious. Apart from the position of the men engaged in the railways, we must also consider the fact that hundreds of millions of pounds have been invested in this system of transport. During the course of this debate, I was surprised at the airy fashion in which certain honorable senators supporting the Government referred to the railways. The Labour party has often been termed by its opponents the repudiation party - the party that would repudiate debts to the British investors who had sunk considerable sums of money in Australian railway systems. If the vendors of aeroplanes and petrol be permitted to ride roughshod over every other means of transport in Australia, what would become of the railways? And how would the interest on the borrowed money or the principal itself be paid to the British investors ?

Senator McLeay - It would not worry the honorable senator if it were never paid.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - It would not worry the honorable senator, because he will probably be dead before payment is made. The statement has been made that British investors do not expect that this debt will ever be repaid to them; I, also, am satisfied that it will not be.

Senator Marwick - Does the honorable senator realize that many hundreds of thousands of pounds of that money represents the life-time savings of the poor?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The cry of the poor widow has been raised on previous occasions. I admit that a percentage of that money was invested in Australia by poor persons; but, if .the honorable senator would only listen.

Senator Marwick - I am listening, but I regret that I cannot follow the honorable senator's reasoning.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Tha t . interjection reminds me of the fact that one honorable senator has been reading a publication entitled An Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity; I do not know how many volumes will be written by the author in order to complete this work. Upon noticing the title of this book, I suggested to the honorable senator that human stupidity was so extensive that the author did not dare to tackle the subject as a whole, but that in a modest way peculiar to authors, he styled it " An introduction ", thus allowing the reader to understand that, perhaps, 100 volumes would be necessary to give a satisfactory conspectus of the outstanding mistakes made in history from the time of Moses down to the present day.

The PRESIDENT (Senator the Hon. P. J. Lynch). - I ask the honorable senator to direct his remarks more closely tothe bill.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) -I am endeavouring to reply to Senator Marwick. Among the instances of human stupidity which were included in this Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity was actually the construction of varying railway gauges in this country. They are certainly a monument to the stupidity of vested interests - for which Senator Marwick stands - in the pa3t and of the governments which allow this uneconomic system to continue. I regret that certain honorable senators show a lacie of appreciation of the serious results which may follow the displacement of thousands of railway employees by the indiscriminate introduction of aviation and motor services. We must proceed with considerable caution in this connexion, because of our heavy indebtedness to British investors. The Labour party does not stand for repudiation; the interest upon that debt must be paid annually. But, if unrestricted motor and aerial competition with the railways be permitted, it will not be possible for Australia to continue to meet those payments. I shall support the Constitution Alteration (Aviation) Bill 1936, but the power which will thereby be given to the Commonwealth should be exercised sparingly and wisely. A scheme for the coordination of various methods of transport must be devised in order to prevent motor and aerial transport from picking the eyes out of the goods traffic and leaving the railways to do the heavy and unprofitable traction.

Senator Arkins - The progress of science cannot be retarded; science will force the extensive use of new methods of transport.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - In many respects the honorable senator is correct in his assertion about science, progress, and new ideas. If it had not been for the fact that some " cranks " had formed new ideas on some subjects, our civilization would not have advanced to its present stage. Nevertheless, for every new idea that has been successfully put into practice, there have been 100 others which caused considerable trouble and expense, and were unqualified failures. Because an idea happens to be new, it will not necessarily be a success. I believe that Senator Arkins will subscribe to that view; he is sufficiently well-read to realize that a generalization cannot be made out of the fact that, because a few new ideas have succeeded, al] new ideas must necessarily succeed. I hope that, when the aviation proposal is carried at the referendum, the Australian railway systems will receive consideration in connexion with the competition which they will encounter from aerial and motor transport, and that the three principal forms of transport will be co-ordinated.

Senator Arkins - The world's greatest coward is the man who is afraid of a new idea.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - But the greatest chump in the world is the man who swallows any new idea which is brought forward. I do not include Senator Arkins in that category; but, standing on practically every corner of our big cities to-day, will be found a man with splendid ideas. He will probably want to borrow a " fiver " to help him to float a company for the purpose of marketing his ideas for the advancement of human progress. In my experience I have known workers in receipt of only £4 or £5 a week to invest in motor cars.

The final result of the transaction was that the sellers of those vehicles obtained a substantial part of the purchase price, and also the ears themselves. The houses and furniture of the purchasers were heavily encumbered. During the depression, many men who were comparatively well off bought motor cars, but, being unable to afford to purchase the petrol and oil with which to operate them, had to place their cars out of commission and return to the humble horse-drawn vehicle in order to travel 10 miles or so to town. We should not be misled by the frequent statement by . people who are specially interested in the sale of motor vehicles, passenger aeroplanes and imported petrol that we should not attempt to prevent progress.

A large amount of money should be spent in trying to produce petrol from shale and coal, which are to be found in Australia in large quantities, and we should manufacture motor car engines and chassis, and, in fact, all machinery, in this country, in order to provide employment for our own people.

Reference was made by Senator Collings to the need for discovering flow oil in Australia, and producing oil from shale find coal. The members of the Opposition have received a number of letters from Queensland in the last few years urging us to do everything possible to assist in the production of oil from coal. I do not say that it is impossible to find flow oil in Australia, but the investigations carried out up to the present time have been unsuccessful. It is significant that foreign oil interests have done their best to prevent its discovery here. There is no limit to the lengths to which big capitalists will go to prevent interference with their business. On a profit of 5 per cent, they will allow the law to take its course; if they are making a profit of 10 per cent., a man who Stands in their way is not safe: but, where a 20 per cent, profit is concerned they will start a war ! I understand that the important experiment carried out at Billingham-on-Tees in England has been successful in the production of oil from coal. Yet, when we ask members of the Government what they intend to do to encourage similar activities in Australia, we do not get an encouraging reply. In Queensland, large coal seams have been located. It has been admitted for many years that on Blair Athol field alone 440,000,000 tons of coal lies unused.

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - -Queens: land has a representative on the hydrogenation committee.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The mere fact that coal is known to exist in a particular locality is not sufficient. We should not be satisfied with the opinion of any individual regarding a matter of such tremendous importance to the nation as the production of oil. The Government should watch every attempt to produce motor spirit in this country, and it should take quick action to deal with any attempt to thwart development. Australia pays £10,000,000 pe'r annum as tribute to the oil companies of other countries. This could be avoided if we produced the oil we require by utilizing our natural resources. Just as the Leader of the Senate (Senator Pearce) makes a periodical statement on international affairs, a member of the Government should inform us every three or six months by official bulletin of the latest developments in regard to oil production.

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