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Thursday, 26 August 1937

Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I did not intend to take part in the debate at this stage, but I now feel impelled to do so, in the hope that what I say may be of benefit to not only honorable senators, but also the people of the Commonwealth.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator is optimistic.

Senator PAYNE - I am sufficiently optimistic to believe that the ravings which we have heard to-day will not influence the people of this country. I listened attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) - a speech which he regarded as being calm and dispassionate. I admired his calmness; indeed, I was amazed at his lack of enthusiasm! I regret, however, that much of what he said was inaudible to me because of his thumping of the table. Unfortunately, he did not even keep time with his thumpings, which drowned some of the passages that might have interested me. The honorable senator should join the Salvation Army and learn to beat the drum. Statements such as were made by the honorable senator who holds so important a position as the leader of a political party in this country are to he deprecated. The condition of world affairs to-day makes it imperative that public men should give a lead to the people of Australia by refraining from utterances of a provocative nature. They should use their influence to promote harmony, not dissension, among the Australian people, and also among the peoples of other countries. Only by having a united people in the Commonwealth can we hope to make our proper contribution to the well-being of the world. We have only to read of happenings in other countries to realize how essential it is that we should engage in vigorous propaganda with a view to creating among our people an atmosphere of friendliness to the peoples of other nations. Public men particularly should refrain from making provocative utterances.

Senator Collings - Hear, hear!

Senator PAYNE - I am glad to have the honorable senator's endorsement of my remarks, for, on many occasions, he has made most provocative statements in this chamber. At times he appears to overlook the fact that we, in Australia, are few, that the territory which we control, and must defend, is large, and that should we, by any word or action, provoke other nations, we shall bring trouble, not only upon ourselves, but also upon the Mother Country, which, for a long time, has been engaged in earnest attempts to promote peace throughout the world.

Senator Collings - The Old Country has never complained about Australia's conduct.

Senator PAYNE - No, because its people have been forbearing. Even provocative statements in relation to the Old Country itself have been overlooked. In this connexion, the Leader of the Opposition himself is not guiltless, for, on many occasions, in this chamber, he has said that we should. put Australia first and let Great Britain look after itself.

Senator Collings - No ; I have advocated " Australia first ; Great Britain next."

Senator PAYNE - If the honorable senator will look through some of his former speeches, as reported in Hansard, he will, I feel sure, find cause for regret.

Senator Collings - The honorable senator should pass on that hint to Senator Hardy.

Senator PAYNE - From what I have read of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference, I have formed the opinion that, far from being a dud it has been most helpful to every part of the Empire. The Conference gave to the representatives of Australia an opportunity to meet men occupying leading positions in the British Empire who are qualified to speak on subjects which are of primary importance to the world. Contact with such nien is stimulating and helpful. I am confident that the experience gained by the Prime Minister and other Australian Ministers who attended the Conference will be of great value to Australia and will contribute to the solidarity of the Empire. It is unfortunate that attempts should be made to detract from the value of such visits and conferences. I have heard members of other parliaments attempt to deprecate the work of the Imperial Conference, but when we reflect on the magnificent gesture of disarmament made by Britain in the interests of world peace - a mistaken gesture it proved to be - we cannot but be proud that our race has been led by such men. The name of Stanley Baldwin, a former Prime Minister of Great Britain, will be revered for . all time because . of what he did in the interests of peace. Fortunately, his successor, Mr. Neville Chamberlain, is a man to whom, also, we may confidently look' for great achievements. It has been my privilege to meet both men, and I must admit that, after meeting them, I was content to wear a hat two sizes smaller than formerly. That is the experience of all Australians who go abroad with an open mind. Before leaving Australia, we may be inclined to think that Australians have little or nothing to learn, but when we rub shoulders and exchange views with such men, we are forced to admit that our contribution to Empire and world betterment is small indeed.

Senator Collings - Must we come back to Australia with an inferiority complex ?

Senator PAYNE - No; a man who, after leaving Great Britain, visits other European countries and gets in touch with their representatives, perhaps by attending conferences, at which 30 ot 40 nations, each with its own problems, are represented, comes away with a broader outlook, and a greater appreciation of the views of other peoples. Thus he refrains from acrimonious and provocative statements, such as those which refer to the people of other races as being inferior. I am a firm believer in conferences between nations as a means of developing international goodwill. If we act not too hastily, but gradually, so that- the results will be permanent, our children and our children's children, if not we ourselves, may look forward to the future with increased hope.

The Leader of the Opposition was particularly adventurous to-day when he attempted to make political capital out of the. report of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference. He introduced into his speech many subjects not dealt with in the report of the conference, and made a number of statements which can be explained only by the fact that in October or November jousting will commence in .the electoral lists. In the course of his remarks the Leader of the Opposition . charged the Government with the sin of having transferred the burden of taxation from the wealthy to the poorer sections of the community. The honorable gentleman knows that that charge is without foundation; but he has made it so often that he could not refrain from repeating it when discussing the report of the Imperial Conference. If he will search the legislation placed upon the statute-book during the last five or six years, he will be able to read for himself what has been done by this Government to give relief to the poorer sections of the community. He will also find that this Government has consistently introduced customs schedules considerably reducing the ad valorem rates on those commodities which are consumed mainly by the masses of the people. Every working man and working woman in Australia benefited by those reductions. Furthermore, the honorable senator will find that this Government has, at every opportunity, reduced the sales tax on all those things which the average working man consumes or wears. Does he contend that these reductions benefited only the wealthy sections of the community? His statement can be construed as having that meaning. He certainly said that taxes which the poorer sections of the community were not called upon to pay had been reduced or removed altogether. I do net deny that; indeed, such action is to the credit of the Government which had the courage to take it. Why did this Government do that? It was in order to encourage the development of industry by releasing capital, which previously flowed into the Treasury in the form of taxes, for investment in industry, thereby providing increased employment. No man occupying so responsible a position as that held by the Leader of the Opposition should lose sight of these facts. Our people are educated to a sufficiently high standard to realize that statements of the nature made by the Leader of the Opposition, when analysed and investigated, are not true.

The honorable senator also alleged that this Government had not taken any interest in the problem of providing employment for our youth. This is one of the greatest problems confronting Australia to-day. The honorable senator, however, was not justified in making his statement when he knows that a sum of money is to be provided by the Commonwealth to supplement any allocations that might be made by the States with a view to formulating schemes by which this problem could be dealt with. He said that this Government had entirely ignored this problem. I have heard the honorable senator make certain statements in this chamber which would justify my suggesting that he is one of those who, as public men, have said things calculated to aggravate rather than ameliorate this problem. I recall that a few years ago, when I spoke on this subject, I expressed the view that this problem was the most serious confronting Australia, because the future of this country depended, not upon its older people, but upon its youth, and I pointed out the absolute futility and, indeed, the injustice, of the laws of the various States, which debar a large number of our youths, when they left school, from following any occupation which would enable them to become useful citizens. When I made that statement, the honorable senator asked me what I meant, and I replied that I was referring to the laws which restricted the employment of our youth. He then said in effect, " Oh ! You then advocate that the boys should be allowed to scab on their fathers?" I remember that incident so clearly that I do not need to have recourse to the

Hansardreport of it. Those laws, I still contend, brought a boat the lamentable fact that we have in Australia to-day thousands of bright, intelligent lads who, a few years ago, were anxious to do all they could to become useful citizens, but were prevented by those laws from doing so. They were prevented from accepting, as adults, the responsibility of manhood, and of making' their contributions as citizens towards the welfare and upkeep of the Commonwealth. They were expected to become useful citizens, although the laws to which I have referred virtually prevented them, in the years subsequent to their leaving school, from following any useful occupation. Honorable senators, I feel sure, will admit that that is the case; it is no use talking platitudes. Senator Collings definitely said that the Government is doing nothing to-day to ameliorate the condition of these lads.

Silting suspended from 6.15 to 8 p.m.

Senator PAYNE - This problem has to be dealt with, no matter what it may cost Australia. The damage that has been done already to Australian young manhood is incalculable, and the enormous burden which it has imposed upon the rest of the community is extremely difficult to estimate. This is the more regrettable because it could have been obviated if in recent years State parliaments and industrial leaders had not adopted a very foolish policy. Every one knows that in the natural course of events Australia, being a young country, would have made very rapid progress, and there should have been no difficulty in absorbing the rising generation in useful forms of employment. "Even if the country had not been destined to develop rapidly, ample employment would have been found for the requisite number of skilled workmen to carry on the various industries that have been established. But in a country where the opportunities for development were almost without limit, a country too, that * has made astonishingly rapid progress during the last 20 years, the restrictions imposed on the training of youths in the various industries, has had disastrous consequences. The scarcity of skilled workmen, which has been so acute in recent years, has been responsible for an undue increase of costs of buildings and other commodities, with the result that the cost of living is at least 25 per cent. higher than it would have been if this unfortunate policy of the exclusion of youths from many industries had not been adopted. From time to time we hear of the necessity for going abroad to secure skilled workmen for certain classes of work, whereas if we had been wise we would have had available an adequate uumber of Australians fully trained for all the industries that might have need of them. It is lamentable that, as a result of this foolish policy, we have allowed to grow up in Australia a number of young men for whom apparently there is no prospect of advancement in life.

SenatorMarwick. - They are Australia's "lost legion."

Senator PAYNE - That is true. It is safe to say that 98 per cent. of the young men who at the present time are untrained and without work were, in their earlier years, keen to follow an occupation for which their tuition in technical classes had shown their suitability but because of this policy of exclusion they have been shut out, and now are without work or prospects of work. I am not prepared, at the moment, to formulate a plan to remedy this state of affairs, but I feel confident that if the Federal and State Governments approach the problem in a business-likemanner it will be possible to evolve schemes to repair some of the damage that has been done and prevent future mistakes of this nature. It is a subject that might very well occupy the attention of Commonwealth and State legislatures. It is not one purely for the States, because the problem is national in character and its solution lies along the lines of co-operation between the central and State governments. I hope that the Commonwealth Government will take whatever steps may be necessary to ensure the success of schemes for the absorption of our unemployed youths in Australian industries.

One of Australia's outstanding needs is more population. This subject was discussed at some length by the Imperial Conference, and action along the lines indicated would be of direct benefit to the Empire and the world generally. The sparseness ofAustralia's population is the subject of frequent comment in countries overseas. The most important of our industries are those associated with the land, and they depend upon an adequate supply of suitable labour. In my own state there has been a considerable amount of closer settlement with the result that certain areas which, in other circumstances, would have been absolutely worthless, are thickly populated and producing a great amount of wealth. Unfortunately, for reasons which I shall not now discuss, the people engaged in those industries are trembling on the verge of disaster. They are in urgent need of assistance, financial and otherwise, to enable them to sell their surplus products in the world's markets in competition with similar industries of other countries. If we can devise satisfactory means to keep these industries going, we shall do something to retain our present population and, indeed, to increase it.

Any honorable senator who cares to peruse the official statistics relating to the increase of population in Australia must wonder how long we can refrain from considering the serious decline of the birth-rate in Australia. Official figures show that ten or twelve years ago, when our population was 1.000,000 less than it is to-day, the natural increase was about 84,000 annually. To-day, with a population larger by 1,000,000 people, the natural increase is only 51,000. This matter has been the subject of discussions at health and other conferences from time to time. I have given careful study to all that has been said, and I have been surprised at the reluctance on the part of those taking part in such conferences to speak plainly about the most important factor responsible for the decline of the natural increase of population. Is it their intention not to tell the people of Australia the truth about this matter? If it is not, why do they hide the truth and thus lose the opportunity to create public opinion, which alone, I am afraid, will bring about a cessation of a practice that is a menace to Australia, in that it is directly responsible for a decline of the birth-rate, and also, to some extent, encourages the growth of worthless adults. When I get evidence from medical men of the appalling condition of our young womanhood in some parts of the Commonwealth I, as a public man, feel that at all costs we should endeavour to create a public opinion that will bring about an abolition of a practice that has produced such a calamitous state of affairs.

We have heard a good deal in this debate aboutthe defence of Australia. A few days ago the Leader of the Senate presented to this chamber a review of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference - which was attended by the Right Honorable the Prime Minister and other Commonwealth Ministers. In the course of that review Senator Pearce outlined the conclusions of the conference on the subject of Imperial defence. We also had a statement to-day from the Leader of the Opposition, setting forth in detail, up to a certain point, the defence policy of the Australian Labour party. I do not want to fall foul of our Labour friends intheir endeavours, if they are honest, to see that Australia is adequately defended ; but when I read in their socalled defence policy that in no circumstances must Australia attempt to defend the Empire of which we form a part, I am impelled to cross swords with them.

Senator Collings - That is not the defence policy of the Labour party.

Senator PAYNE - I heard the honorable gentleman say definitely that the Labour party did not favour sending any troops abroad.

Senator Collings - Without the consent of the Australian people.

Senator McLeay - After a referendum. That would give an enemy time to land troops here.

Senator PAYNE - Exactly. From my knowledge of history, I stress that we should always be prepared to take action without delay if danger should threaten us. I cannot imagine any important country being served honestly and faithfully by a policy which would require protective measures to be delayed until all the procedureof a referendum on the question of whether or not the war should be fought had been completed. For that reason, the efforts which the Commonwealth Government is now making to ensure that our defence policy will be practically effective, even though it be expensive, are worthy of approbation and support.

Senator Marwick - I do not believe that Australia ever sent men overseas against their will.

Senator PAYNE - No; every one of them went of his own free will; each man volunteered for service abroad. All power to them! The Australian troops put Australia on the map and through their magnificent heroism and sacrifice, we attained the status of a nation. Such a status carries with it many privileges; but it also entails heavy responsibilities which we cannot afford to ignore. That is my impression of Australia, a nation.

I desire now to refer briefly to the enemy within our gates. It is high time that speakers informed the public of the growth of communism in our midst. Our Commonwealth is more richly endowed by providence than any other country; we enjoy more blessings to the square foot than any other country possesses to the square yard. Unfortunately, our society is being honeycombed by Communist organizations whose object is to bring about the downfall of all that we hold dear. The Labour party is fully aware of the fact that if it is to win an election in Australia, it must have the Communist vote. Without such support it cannot gain the treasury bench, although, I believe that it will not succeed at the next federal elections, even with the aid of the Communists.

Senator Dein - I am sure of it.

Senator PAYNE - When in Brisbane recently, I attended a public meeting in the great City Hall for the purpose of listening to an address by Mr. Curtin. I noticed that at the entrance, the public was offered - andpractically every person accepted - a leaflet by men employed by the Communist organization. Those pamphlets urged people to vote for the Labour party - and to make Mr. Curtin the next Prime Minister. Why? The Communists hope that, by force of numbers, they will be able to bring pressure to bear on a Labour Government in order to effect an alteration of our present social order by the substitution of a communistic state.

Senator Brown - The Lyons' Governmentwithdrew the prosecutions against the Communists.

Senator PAYNE - With that action of the Lyons' Government, I am not dealing. I am fully alive to the lengths to which that organization is prepared to go in order to gain its objective in Australia. I have read extensively the Communist propaganda which is circulating in Melbourne.

Senator Brown - Surely the honorable senator does not blame the Labour party for that?

Senator PAYNE - No; but I blame the Labour party for accepting the help of the Communists.

Senator Brown - That is a deliberate lie. The Labour party has never accepted the help of the Communists.

Senator PAYNE - I shall substitute the words " apparently accepting the help of the Communist organization by allowing the distribution of communistic literature at a public meeting addressed by Mr. Curtin." If that is not an acceptance of help, I do not know what would be. In my possession, I have sufficient material to enable me to talk on communism for an hour. I know the dangers of this organization, and that it is on the alert. It has been raised to such a point of perfection now, that in every city and in every town where manufacturing is being carried on, communistic agents are actively engaged in endeavours to capture the imagination of a certain type of educated young women. The object is to encourage the women to enter factories to form communistic cells among the workers.

Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - And in the Sunday schools, too !

Senator PAYNE - Yes. I know of a young woman, who was formerly employed in the Education Department of a certain State, and whose imagination was captured by Australian Communists. Resigning her position in the department, she became a factory hand, with the avowed object of creating a Communist cell in that industry. Labour senators have read this literature, and are well aware of the instructions contained therein. They know that, if ever that organization gets its way, immense internal difficulties in industry, such as other unfortunate countries are now experiencing, will follow. The Government must, by all means in its power, endeavour to prevent this organization from carrying on its nefarious practices in this fair land which we hold so dear. We claim it to be the home of free men and women, and we desire, above all things, that it shall be retained as such.

In conclusion, I congratulate the Commonwealth delegation- which so ably represented us in the onerous duty of debating important international subjects at the Imperial Conference.

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