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Wednesday, 23 June 1937

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) . - If I were to reply to all of the inaccurate statements made by honorable senators opposite during th« debate on this motion, and to comment on all the points raised in the GovernorGeneral's Speech, I should . occupy Mie time of the Senate for at. least a week. I agree that we should have a Governor-General in « Australia, but, . like the Leader of thu Opposition (Senator Collings), I am strongly opposed to unnecessary expenditure being incurred by providing more than one official residence for that gentleman. There is no need to maintain palatial residences in cities other than Canberra ; if such extravagance bc justified in the federal sphere the State governments will be justified in having more than one official residence for State Governors.

Senator Collings - Why should not the Governor of Queensland have an official residence in 'Brisbane, and another in Townsville?

Senator J.V. MacDONALD.Exactly. If residences for the GovernorGeneral were provided in Canberra, Melbourne and Sydney, and the occupant of that office should decide to reside permanently in Canberra, the other buildings would be left on the hands of theGovernment.

Paragraph 2 of the Speech reads -

The public credit in Australia has been maintained at a veil' high level, with corresponding advantages to interest ratesgenerally, while the conversion of our overseas, indebtedness to lower interest rates has been carried on. as loans mature, with very satisfactory results.

A number of our overseas loans have been, converted at reasonably low rates, but others have still to be converted. I give theHigh Commissioner (Mr. Bruce) credit for what he has done, but he has certainly omitted to take full advantage of the opportunities available. The Acting; Premier, the Minister for Lands inQueensland (Mr. Pease) said after his return from the United States of America, that so much money was available in that country that loans could' be obtained at as low a rate as 1 per cent. That may be a slight exaggeration of the position,, but I remember reading a statement by Dr. Dalton, M.P., to. the effect that so' much capital was available in England at such ridiculously low rates that it could almost be said that borrowers could have it for nothing.

Senator McLeay - Does the honorable senator believe that statement merely because it appeared in print?

SenatorJ. V. MacDONALD.- It has been published so often that it must have some foundation. If there is little use for money, the rate of interest must be low. The advisers of the GovernorGeneral should have been aware of the fact that money was available at very low rates a year or so ago, and a paragraph to that effect should have been embodied in the speech. Although we have been informed that the public credit of Australia has been maintained at a very high level, 53 per cent, of the Australian loan converted in London last week was left with the underwriters.

Senator McLeay - What would have been the position had Mr. Lang been in power ?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Mr. Langis quite capable of looking after himself. Despite the strong anti-Labour forces participating in the Gwydir byelection, the candidate supported by Mr. Lang and his followers won the election. Apparently Mr. Lang has now ceased to be a bogy. Our credit in London at present is not good. I should like the Minister, in the course of this debate, to tell me how much of our overseas debt held in London remains to be converted to an issue carrying a lower rate of interest than is at present payable. It is my opinion that Australia should have taken the opportunity, when money was so cheap in London that the bankers almost appealed to people to cart it away, to convert the whole of its debt. Great Britain converted £2,000,000,000 of its debt in one operation; and I feel, therefore, that we have been badly treated in London. Some honorable senators on the Government side are continually uttering a paean of praise for what Great Britain has done for us; there are certain sentimental reasons why it should help us, but the financial oligarchy in Britain has always looked after itself rather than helped us.

I do not know who drafted the following paragraph of the Governor-General's

Speech, but it is capable of a double meaning, and the meaning which I read into it was not creditable to the Commonwealth Government: -

My advisers desire to repeat that this recovery would not have been achieved as quickly as ithas been without the patriotic cooperation of the people as a whole and the patient endurance of those who were the greatest sufferers from the depression,

Those people who were the greatest sufferers from the depression did not patiently endure the burdens put upon them. I myself felt that some one had put his hands into my pocket and relieved me of about £400 worth of the assets which I then possessed. Owing to the depression. I suffered what I consider to be robbery. I was brought to the verge of bankruptcy, but, fortunately, escaped it. Thousands of other Australians, however, were ruined. Their murmurings and cries of disgust at the vast thievery which then took place are still to be heard. Of course, " the people " is a wide term, and may include every boodler in the Commonwealth, but the statement that there was patient endurance on the part of the greatest sufferers, the workers, is not true.

Some space in the Governor-General's Speech is devoted to national defence. I have always agreed that preparation to defend ourselves is necessary, but the attitude of the Australian Labour party is governed by its conception of our relations with the other parts of the Empire. The Labour party is still opposed to conscription and the compulsory sending of Australians overseas to engage in a vast war, about the beginnings of which we know very little. Our attitude follows the British policy of nonintervention in the Spanish civil war, or, for that matter, in the trouble which recently took place in Abyssinia. If a vast empire like the British Empire wanted to take part in every squabble that occurred in the world it would be in a continual state of warfare, and conditions would be far worse than in medieval days, when warfare was. the principal industry of some European States. Australia is obliged to have a protector. It is not big enough in a world filled with beasts of the jungle to defend itself, and, therefore, it needs an alliance with another country. Our first alliance, of course, must be with the British Empire, and failing that, with the United States of America, or finally with some great European power whose ideals are near to ours. We cannot look at the matter of Imperial defence with the same eyes as does Canada, which, as Mr. MacKenzie King has said, leans for its defence upon the United States of America, a country which has a population of 136,000,000 and is probably the most powerful single nation in the world at the present time from the point of view of both attack and defence. Since the great war we have been demanding that our rights of self government should not be handed over to the will of any international financial ring which might demand soldiers from this country, even to the extent of conscription. One material aid to Australia's defence is the fact that roughly £1,000,000,000 of British capital has been invested here, which means that Britain's self interest demands that its navy and army shall be available to protect this country from attack and invasion.

Senator McLeay - Surely the honorable senator does not object to those investments?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I do not, but I say that that money was not in the first place invested here for the good of Australia ; it, or rather its equivalent in goods, was sent here, merely because the investors were offered a good return for their money. If Senator McLeay remembers his history he will know that after the American War of Independence, Britain had to find some place in which to house its malefactors and Australia was chosen. Therein lies the reason why Australia is now a great dominion of the British Empire. Britain now, however, has to care for its own derelict population.

The Governor-General's Speech pro-, ceeded-

Consequent upon a report by the National Health and Medical Research Council, my advisers will take steps to enable the council to function effectively in the co-ordination of research into the causes of and cure for diseases which levy heavy toll upon the community. They will also continue their cooperation with the governments of the States in relation to national health problems.

I welcome that statement because on the first day of the session I asked a question of the Minister representing the Minister for Health -

Whether it is correct, as alleged to be stated by Dr. Nott, ex-Member of the House of Representatives, now of Canberra, "that 40 per cent, of the babies born during the regime of the- Lyons-Page Government are suffering from malnutrition", and if so, what action does the Government propose to take to remove such a state of affairs?

The Minister for Health supplied the following answer: -

The statement that 40 per cent, of children are suffering from malnutrition is doubtless a repetition of statements that have been made by some medical authorities. These statements, however, require to be read with their full context, which indicates the degree and the nature of the malnutrition. The Government has appointed an Advisory Council on Nutrition which is now inquiring into this question. The council expects to make its report about the end of this year.

The Minister ought to have taken more notice of my question, for I knew at the time that the Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) had admitted that 40 per cent, of the children of Australia were suffering from malnutrition. I had seen in the Sydney Morning Herald the following statement: -

Figures showing the danger of a decline in the health of the Australian people were quoted by the Federal Minister for Health (Mr. Hughes) in an address at the Savoy Theatre, Bligh-street, and in a broadcast from 2GB last night.

Mr. Hughesquoted medical authorities to show that .most ill-health was due to incorrect or insufficient diet, lack of exercise, and proper hygiene, and he pleaded for cooperation in a national campaign to educate the people so that children might be protected.

Last year, he said, 084,000 persons received treatment in the public hospitals of the State. It might be fairly assumed that a similar condition applied throughout -the Commonwealth. The number of the insane was increasing. The number of invalid pensioners had steadily increased, and, in 1036, was about 77,000.

Maternal mortality and morbidity showed no signs of decrease. The death rate of infants under one month remained almost constant at the old high level. According to the highest medical authorities, 40 per cent, of growing children, suffered more or less seriously from malnutrition. .

Those things have taken place under the Lyons-Page Administration.

Senator Herbert Hays - The Government is taking steps to deal with the matter.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - That may be; but it is proposing to proceed along wrong lines. In any case, such conditions should not exist in this country. The people did not patiently endure the results of the depression, as the Speech states; parents knew that when there were no wages coming in it was impossible for them to provide their children with proper food.

Senator Herbert Hays - Why did not the Scullin Government take action to remedy that state of affairs ?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - The honorable senator knows well that the Scullin Government did not have a majority in the Senate. He should also know that during its term of office it was fully occupied in cleaning up the mess which it inherited from the Bruce-Page Government. It faced a deficit of £20,000,000, and had to take extraordinary measures to cope with the situation. Those who, like Senator Herbert Hays, ask why Labour governments did not take steps to prevent such things from happening, overlook the fact that Labour has been in office in the Commonwealth for only three normal years- between 1910 and 1913. In 1914 the country was at war, and in 1930-31 it was on the verge of bankruptcy. During the latter period the Scullin Government had to take extraordinary steps to keep the ship of State on an even keel. I sincerely hope that the Minister for Health will be successful in his campaign against malnutrition, and that before long he will be able to report that the number of children so affected has been reduced from 40 per cent, to much smaller proportions.

Senator Marwick - He will not be successful until the people cease to congregate in the cities and get back to the country.

Senator Collings - But the honorable senator has told us that in the country the people are over-worked and underfed.

Senator Marwick - I did not say that they are under-fed.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I agree that in the fresh air of country districts children are likely to be healthier than in congested city areas.

Senator Marwick - Country people can obtain purer food.

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - Even as a matter of sound economics, it is important that we should have a healthy population. As things are, the strong and the able have to support the sick and. the helpless. During the depression I was fortunate enough to have a job, and I know that those who, like myself, were in employment, had to pay for those who were out of work. Under a proper system no one should be out of work. It is bad national economy to have men and women unemployed.

Senator Herbert Hays - How would the honorable senator deal with those engaged in seasonal occupations?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - A proper national economy would pick them up at the conclusion of their seasonal employment, and find other work for them, even if only in making armaments, as is now being done in so many countries. A proper national economy would ensure that work would be found for all capable of performing it.

I rejoice at the success which attended the efforts of the Treasurer (Mr. Casey), the High Commissioner (Mr. Bruce) and the Premier of Queensland (Mr. Forgan Smith) to obtain a satisfactory sugar agreement for a further term. For each of the next five years, Australia will be entitled to export 400,000 long tons of sugar. Australia's representatives did their job well.

Senator McLeay - Does the honorable senator give any credit to the British Government for its part in securing the agreement ?

Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I give credit to all concerned. As I am not loth to blame the Government for its misdeeds, so, when it does well, I give it credit.

I agree that British shipping must be protected against unfair competition. Trade routes in the Pacific between Australia, New Zealand, Fiji and other places must be served by British vessels. The unfair competition of the American shipping lines calls for action, and I shall be glad to support any move to counter such competition.

The Governor-General's Speech contains references to the extraction of oil from coal. I am keenly desirous that, if possible, the deposits of coal in Queensland and elsewhere in Australia should be utilized for the production of oil. At Blair Athol in Queensland, there are said to be 440,000,000,000 tons of coal, and from such a huge deposit it should be possible to extract large quantities of oil. The Newnes district of New South Wales also has possibilities as a supplier of oil from shale, and I hope that the efforts being made there will be successful. Until Australia is able to produce oil in sufficient quantities to meet its requirements, it should pursue a policy of oil storage, so that in the event of supplies from overseas being cut off, sufficient motive spirit to meet our requirements would be on hand. Many people have a suspicion that the hig oil companies have been active in preventing the discovery of oil in Australia. Pending success in the discovery of flow oil, I hope that the possibilities of obtaining supplies from coal and shale will be fully investigated.

Another paragraph in His Excellency's Speech which I should not have written reads -

After lengthy negotiations with producers' organizations and exporters' ami ship-owners' representatives, my advisers have succeeded in obtaining a satisfactory agreement on the important question of overseas freight reductions. This agreement will bring about a reduction in the freight rates on wool, chilled beef and fresh apples and pears, over a. period of at least three years, amounting in the aggregate to approximately £500,000 per annum. With a view to reducing the costs to shipping, the Commonwealth Government proposes to reduce light dues from 9d. to 6d. per ton on all overseas shipping visiting Australian ports. The State governments have been asked to co-operate with a view to reductions in harbour charges.


Senator J V MACDONALD (QUEENSLAND) - I do not agree with the honorable senator. First, after lengthy negotiations, the shipping combine is persuaded to reduce freights. Immediately that is done, the combine is given a compensating advantage. The Commonwealth Government proposes to reduce light dues from 9d. to 6d. a ton, and the State governments are to be asked to reduce their .harbour charges. I am reminded that Australia once owned its own line of steamers, but the Bruce-Page Government disposed of the vessels at a ridiculously low price. Even that price has not. been paid, and Australia has been " rooked " of between £500,000 and £600,000, apart from interest. Directly that line was sold to that thief and falsifier of balance-sheets, Lord Kylsant, freights on the carriage of Australian produce to London were increased. Those facts are ugly; but they should not be forgotten. A paragraph of this nature, which contains not a word about the ugly side of the matter, makes good reading. The truth is that the shipping octopus has squeezed probably millions of pounds in excess freights out of producers. Yet when we do persuade them to reduce freights a little, this Government endeavours to make the blow as light as possible. It proposes to reduce light dues and to ask the State governments to reduce harbour charges. We might as well give the shipping combine concessions to the value of £500,000, as it will . not be satisfied until it gets that amount. It is a lamentable fact that we have lost sight of the stabilizing value of the line of steamers that was formerly Controlled by the Commonwealth Government, and of how the shipping octopus ran the freights up on Australian produce sent overseas. The establishment of such a line is a plank, not only of the Labour party's platform, but also of that of the Victorian Country party. I believe that Senator Marwick, feeinstance, if he were frank, could tell us quite a lot about the exploitation of th.j farmers in Western Australia by the shipping combine.

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