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Friday, 18 June 1937

Senator A J McLACHLAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - And less gas.

Senator COLLINGS - The inference from that interjection is that I am getting rid of some gas at the moment. The sooner the honorable senator develops the capacity to spread a useful gas instead of the politically poisonous tear gas, with which he usually endeavours to envelop the Senate, the better. His gas does not mean anything, but it befogs and discomforts us, because we cannot see how to meet the attack. The honorable senator's remark is not clever. Talk is all that we can do in this chamber. We are sent here to talk, not to chop wood.

Senators McLeay and Marwick, in moving and seconding the Address-in-Reply last night, undertook an almost impossible task. I listened most carefully to Senator Marwick, and I hope that he will not misunderstand me when I say that the only pearl of wisdom he dropped was his reference to the tragedy of unemployed youths.

Senator Dein - We have not had any from the honorable senator yet.

Senator COLLINGS - That is because I refuse to cast my pearls before swine. Senator Marwick is sympathetic towards them; he wants to ensure that something is done for the relief of that tragic product of the depression, the workless youth. I can understand that, but I cannot understand why he has allied himself politically with a- muddling group of do-nothings. He referred to the apprenticeship laws, and said " We shall have to do something about . them ". Apparently he had in mind a man who, seeking a job and asked if he were a member of the union, and whether he had served an apprenticeship, had to reply in the negative. The honorable senator complained that many persons were unable to obtain jobs because they had not served an apprenticeship, and that the unions limit the number of apprentices in proportion to the number of journeymen or tradesmen. The same charge has been voiced from time to time by my honorable friend Senator Payne, who is a picture of funereal gloom when he refers to apprenticeship laws, and charges those whom we on this side of the Senate represent with having strangled employment. Senators Marwick and Hardy know nothing of the past because they .suffer the handicap of youth, but some honorable senators, the greybeards of this chamber, know that the restrictions about which my honorable friends complain had to be introduced in order to curb the rapacity of private employers. Those restrictions were made for the same reason as every other regulation is made, namely, to prevent some evil or solve some problem. For instance, in the interest of safety and comfort, traffic regulations exist. If Senator Marwick does not know the origin of the apprenticeship laws I should like to take him under my paternal wing and school him in political economy. In the Parliamentary Library he may read of the horrors of labour exploitation that have prevailed, and in some industries still prevail, in this country and Great Britain. I believe that if I coached Senator Marwick and others like him in the political and industrial history of their own land, they would see the error of their ways, and understand the problems which afflict this nation. They would realize that this Government cannot be effective, because it is incapable of understanding the basic causes of our troubles, and of distinguishing them from the mere outward and visible signs of the disease which afflicts the body politic.

On the 12th November, 1936, I asked a question in this chamber relating to the distribution of financial assistance to the pearl shell industry. The question and answer are reported on pages 1728-9 of Hansard, Volume 152. On receipt of the information I proceeded to make investigations, the result of which forces me to express the hope that in any further distributions of largesse which this Government finds itself able to make it will see that the money goes to those who deserve it, and not to those who are not in financial need. My investigations brought forth the following facts regarding some of the beneficiaries: -

Farquhar's Proprietary Limited, £6911s. 6d. - The proprietors of this concern live on Thursday Island and are reputedly well-to-do.

Wyben Pearling Company Limited, £32811s. 4d.- Originally Burns, Philp & Company. Found their fleet of nearly twenty boats too cumbersome to be bandied in connexion with their merchandise and shipping agencies, and the Wyben Pearling Company was formed to take over the fleet. It is an offshoot of Burns, Philp and Company, and is understood to have paid handsome dividends, as high as 40 per cent, in one year.

Bowden Pearling Company Limited, £269 2s.8d- Herbert Bowden, the original owner and now principal, left Thursday Island over 30 years ago to manage the affairs of Bowden Brothers and Company Limited, Sydney, in their large operations in Japan. Bowden has retired from business and is reputed to be a wealthy man. He has been a frequent traveller to Japan, Europe and America.

Charles Sinclair, £70 8s. 6d.- This man was born in Torres Straits, his father having been one of the first white divers. He is the only pearler who is not financially strong.. Had the whole of the £1,500 distributed on Thursday Island been given to him it might have been justified.

E.   J. Hennessey, £106 18s. 5d.- This pearler has sold his fleet and is about to retire south. He stated he had received £200 without expecting anything. He was so pleased, evidently, that he exaggerated the amount.

Morey and Company, £177 13s. 3d. - Mr. Morey retired to Brisbane about twenty years ago, and has carried on no business since. He has now a working partner.

J.   B. Carpenter and Sons Limited,. £91 9s. 2d.- Sir Walter and William are both well off and reside in Sydney. It is said the former gave £25,000 to Imperial funds to get the " Sir ". They, or William, received also some of the grant for boats at Port Darwin (£88 12s. 8d.).

Austral Diving and Pearling Company Limited, £24 0s. 9d. - This is a new concern I can ascertain little about, but I understand Walter Carpenter has formed it.

Cleveland and Vidgen Limited,. £186 15s. 6d. - Both these pearlers reside on Thursday Island, but can hardly be deserving of public charity.

Wanetta Pearling Company Limited,. £131 17s. 7d. - This company was owned by the late Reg. Hockings, who also had a coco-nut plantation on Aru Island under the Dutch. His estate should have been valued at about £50,000. His two cousins now run the fleet and no doubt own it. They are both well-to-do. Reg. Hockings was a bachelor.

Aboriginal Company Boats, £4311s. 2d. - These are under the Protector of Aboriginals. The natives own about 30 boats, but they are nearly all skin or swimming divers, who, apparently, were not considered worthy of much of the £1,500.

In nearly all the cases the fleets were owned by one or two men who, on their retirement, formed companies to relieve their private accounts of any risks.

Sitting suspended from 12.45 to 2.15 p.m.

Senator COLLINGS - This morning I referred to the patrol boat operating in northern waters, and I understand that since the incident, which I mentioned the Government has been faced with a legal problem of whether the claim for towage charges made by the prize ship should or should not be paid. On previous occasions I have expressed my opinions concerning the activities of the Government, which, in endeavouring to increase its territory, may involve Australia in serious international complications.

I also had something to say regarding the magnanimity, alleged more than real, of the shipping companies, which are reducing freights to the amount of approximately £500,000 per annum. I showed quite conclusively that these reductions are not what they appear to be. Since speaking on the subject I have perused a report in a Brisbane newspaper, which supports this Government, and which prompts me to ask the Government if it is prepared to institute inquiries before extolling further the virtues of certain shipping companies which are alleged to have reduced freights. I should like it to inquire into what ha3 been done regarding the claim of the shipping companies for greatly increased freights for the carriage overseas of zinc concentrates from the Mount Isa Mine. If the Minister studies the report he will find that there is a good deal more in this subject than appears on the surface.

On previous occasions I have referred to the long periods during which this Parliament is in recess. The last recess extended for about six months, -and, naturally, I, in common with other representatives of the people, strongly object to the closing of Parliament in this way. We are not permitted to carry out the work we are paid to perform. In December last the Prime Minister promised quite definitely that Parliament would reassemble before the Australian delegation left for the coronation and the Imperial Conference. We were told that we. would have an opportunity to discuss the policy to be supported by the Australian delegates at the Imperial Conference which has just concluded its sittings; but no such opportunity was afforded.

I do not intend to elaborate what I said "this morning concerning the syndicated press, except to say that the press of Australia is doing a great dis-service to those who undertake the national work in this country by continually belittling this and other Parliaments. You, sir, have, on more than one occasion, very eloquently directed attention to the serious state of affairs which exists. Whatever may be the opinion concerning the value of the services of individual public men, it is a national dis-service on the part of the pres3 to be continually belittling the efforts and credit of men in public life. The Australian press never misses an opportunity to ridicule this Parliament, and particularly this chamber. You, sir, have pointed out that the time which the Senate sits is not the important factor; what counts i3 the value of the work which it performs. The problems confronting Federal and State parliaments are now so involved and intricate that members are entitled to more consideration than they receive from the press of this country. I believe that the time is approaching when governments will have to take some measure of control over the press in order ihat politicians may be given "a fair spin " and also to ensure that the information which Australia is allowed to receive regarding happenings overseas may be more complete, instead of in the ridiculous and restricted form in which it is supplied at present.

I repeat what I have said on previous occasions concerning the control of wireless broadcasting. I am wondering how long the Postmaster-General (Senator A. J. McLachlan), who is closely associated with the Australian Broadcasting Commission, will allow the present state of affairs to continue. For some time I have been asking for a B class broadcasting licence for the Trades Hall in Brisbane, but have always been told in a perfectly courteous way that, according to the experts, a suitable wave length is not available. I do not pose as an expert, but I know that powerful A and B class stations are being erected in different parts of Australia, and I should like to know why a station cannot be made available to the Labour party in Queensland. Why should there he this monopoly of the air? The Australian newspapers are privately controlled, and, consequently, Labour cannot expect any consideration from them, but there is no reason why one political party should be excluded from the air.

Senator Arkins - Our party is in a similar position in New South Wales. The Labour party has a broadcasting station in that State, but we have not.

Senator COLLINGS - The party to which the honorable senator belongs has unlimited funds at its disposal, and is able to pay for whatever propaganda it desires.

Senator Sampson - Our party is without funds.

Senator COLLINGS - If I were permitted to peruse the balance-sheet of the United Australia party I could dispute the honorable senator's statement. The large sums made available to that party enable its representatives to remain in occupation of the Treasury Bench. In New Zealand, where there is a Labour Government in control, Mr. Savage, the Prime Minister, has established the most powerful broadcasting station in the Southern Hemisphere. In opening that station some months ago, Mr. Savage said that the country and the Government intended to be independent of wireless transmitting stations controlled by a biassed press. A governmental station has been established in that Dominion for the dissemination of reliable information to the people of New Zealand and, in fact, to the world, as to what the Government is doing, why it is doing it, and what it expects to achieve. In Japan the wireless broadcasting of advertisements is prohibited. It is atrocious to realize that in Australia we cannot enjoy the privacy of our homes without being bombarded with a nefarious propaganda and endless advertisements.

Senator Arkins - That is incorrect.

Senator COLLINGS - Does the honorable senator suggest that the privacy of our homes is not interfered with by advertisements ranging from beer to "B.O. " soap? I again ask the PostmasterGeneral whether the technical objections which now exist in respect of a B class station for the Labour party in Queensland are to prevail indefinitely or whether there is a prospect of our request being complied with? The Labour party has insufficient funds to enable it to pay for the use of B class transmitting stations already on the air.

Of course, the Address-in-Reply will be carried by an overwhelming majority in this chamber, and conveyed to. His Excellency with a great show of pleasure. But the Speech itself does not mean anything at all. I have dealt with some portions of it and also with points raised by the mover and seconder of the motion for the adoption of the Address-in-Reply. I have also endeavoured to reply to some of the disorderly interjections of honorable senators opposite, who take such an unholy delight in entering the arena when I am speaking. A few days ago I read a facetious comment to the effect that politicians possess two hats - one to throw into the ring and another through which to talk. I realized this morning how fully the hats through which some talk were being used.

I now direct attention to the encroachment being made upon the accommodation provided in this building for the use of members of Parliament. This building is supposed to be a temporary structure, but a long time will elapsebefore a permanent Parliament House is erected. Unfortunately, through the trespass of Government departments, Parliament House is becoming merely a huge secretariat. In the interests of Australia, and of all concerned, the Parliament should take cognizance of the situation and reserve the accommodation provided in this building for the work of Parliament and those associated with it. The Prime Minister's Department alone has established a hive of industry in this building, and many of its officers conduct a good deal of their work here. Accommodation should be provided for them by the construction of the necessary administrative buildings.

In moving around this Capital City I have noticed, with pleasure, the development which has taken place during the recess. Whatever government is in power, Canberra should be developed as rapidly as circumstances permit. I do not know whether honorable senators are aware of the building activity and general trade expansion that is taking place in Queanbeyan, only eight miles away. Hotels are being extended, new shops are being erected, and additional housing accommodation is being provided. That development should be in Canberra instead of in Queanbeyan, which is deriving most of the benefit from the wages paid to artisans in Canberra. In addition to building houses in Canberra for public servants, the Government should be erecting house for a resident artisan population. Many men who are employed in Canberra are compelled to live in Queanbeyan owing to the inability to obtain housing accommodation here. Additional Commonwealth departments should be established in Canberra at the earliest possible moment. The Government has failed in not having evolved a scheme of cheaper housing for the building artisans and others working for wages in this

Federal territory. It is not making sufficiently rapid provision for the housing of even those officers who are employed in the departments already transferred to Canberra. Thus it is doing two evil things at once; not only is it enabling a neighbouring town to reap the advantage of such development as has been carried out, but it is also establishing, on the part of public servants, an ever-increasing vested interest in Melbourne and making the task of bringing them to Canberra more difficult. One of the first things which the Government should do in developing this city is, not to embark on new buildings such as one which has been recently forecast in the press, but to extend the housing accommodation so that the transfer of government departments may be completed without delay and the artisans and others who earn their living in Canberra may reside here and by their expenditure help to build up this city. We shall never have cheap building in Canberra until we have a resident artisan population. To continue the present neglect is to fail not only to develop this wonderful capital as we hope to see it developed, but also to do justice to lessees in the Territory, to public servants who cannot get accommodation except at hotels, and to other employees who ought to be here but whom the Government dares not invite to come here because it cannot house them. As this Government has the necessary funds for this work - it says it has another surplus - there is no reason why it should not allocate all the money necessary for putting men into re-productive employment in Canberra and thereby increasing the great asset we possess in this wonderful capital.

I sincerely hope that the matters which I have raised will not be passed by merely as points mentioned in a speech in this chamber and recorded in Hansard, or placed in departmental archives never to be referred to again. Even if my suggestions be not acted upon, it would be to the advantage of the Government and. the Commonwealth as a whole if they were given some attention, and not treated as being unworthy of consideration merely because they emanate from a small Opposition, or regarded only as excuses for ribald wit on the part of honorable senators supporting the Government, who apparently are themselves unable to advance any worthwhile proposals.

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