|Title||SUPPLY BILL (No. 2) 1937-38
Senator PAYNE (Tasmania) .- I. have listened this afternoon to some interesting speeches, and it is somewhat difficult to make a contribution that will break fresh ground. I do not intend to make anything like an election speech, such as I heard from tha other side of the chamber earlier today. T regret that Senator Collings, the Leader of the official Labour party in this chamber, destroyed the effect that his speech might have had on me, by speaking in such a loud tone, and making so much noise, that at times, T was unable to distinguish what he said. He is always anxious to belittle, as far as he possibly can, anything which may be done by his political opponents, who to-day form the Government of the country. I wish he could learn to cultivate a more generous mind and admit that, on the face of them the budget speech and the Estimates prove conclusively that this country has reason to be thankful for the circumstances which brought about the change of government some six years ago. One cannot help realizing the totally different condition of affairs to-day as compared with what obtained then. I do not suggest that all the advantages we have gained during the last six years have been due to the administration of the Lyons Government, but I do say that the change of government at that time was most opportune, because it brought about overseas almost immediately a restoration of confidence in Australia. Without that confidence on the part of those upon whom we have to depend to a great extent Australia would be in a very bad way indeed. That was the first good result from the change of government. Things have gradually become better, and to-day we have the satisfaction of seeing an Australia practically back to the normal prosperous conditions which obtained prior to 1929. I am not here as a spokesman for the Lyons Administration, but speak as a senator helping to represent a very important portion of this vast Commonwealth. I propose later to make some remarks which I hope will be taken by the representatives of the Government in this chamber in the most kindly spirit, with a view to enabling that portion of the Commonwealth to become, as it can be, a very great helper to the rest of the nation.
I wish to refer to something said a little while ago about the enormous public debt that Ave in Australia have incurred. Certainly the debt is very great, but I wish the electors of Australia to draw a distinction between the total Australian debt and the actual Commonwealth debt. Time after time, in my peregrinations throughout Australia, I have heard denunciations of the Lyons Government for allowing the debt to increase in the way it has, whereas the fact is as disclosed by the budget papers, that the Commonwealth debt has been reduced by Â£11,000,000 during the last few years. Instead of it being heavier, it is considerably lighter than it was. At the same time, the national debt of the States and the Commonwealth combined has increased by Â£80,000,000. If honorable senators on the other side of the chamber were candid in this matter, they would endeavour to disabuse the minds of those upon whom they depend for election of the error that most people fall into in that regard. ' The States have their own boat to row. They know probably better than the Commonwealth Government does what is essential to develop their territories, because of their individual State peculiarities, and although the national debt, on paper, seem3 very large, it is possible that an inquiry, which would have to be a lengthy one, to estimate the actual value of the assets of Australia as compared with the national debt of the Commonwealth and States combined, would show a substantial credit balance.
Senator ALLAN MACDONALD (WESTERN AUSTRALIA) - But still a very large debt.
Senator PAYNE - We have a very large debt, but that should give us no cause for worry if we are satisfied that, on the other side of the ledger, we have assets which will more than cover the indebtedness. If it had not been for the borrowing policy of the States of Australia - and remember that the Commonwealth did not enter the field of borrowing to any extent worth mentioning until the great world war began, and then was compelled to do so - practically no development would have occurred in these vast territories. Australia could be developed only by money obtained by loan. We did not have sufficient people here to furnish the necessary revenue for the purpose. We could not borrow locally as the necessary amount of cash was not available in Australia and so we had to rely on borrowing overseas. Who would suggest that the little island State of Tasmania which I represent would have developed as it has, and became an eye-opener to many other portions of the Commonwealth, without a borrowing policy? I do not believe in rash borrowing, but a loan policy may be necessary for the States for many years to come. If the policy is controlled, and a thorough investigation made of the objects on which the money is proposed to be spent, to ensure that expenditure is only on works which will be productive, either indirectly or directly, and for the well being of the Commonwealth, then that borrowing policy is a wise one.
I wish to stress here, that the people of Tasmania, especially the fruitgrowing section, are most grateful to the Commonwealth Parliament and Government for the assistance that has been given over the past three years to Tasmania's greatest primary industry. The fruit-growing industry which, as I said before, represents the finest example of closer settlement to be found in any part of the Common wealth was flourishing, but during the last ten years or more through the development of the same industry in other countries and on the mainland of Australia, it has been seriously handicapped and embarrassed. The markets which were available some years ago in the old country had to bo shared with the produce of other countries, and the fact that we in Australia, have been producing, especially during the last two or three years, considerably greater quantities of apples and pear? than were produced hitherto, has tended to make it more difficult to carry on the industry satisfactorily. For this reason the aid that has been given to it during the last few years has been very welcome. D urine; this last year we expected, particularly as regards Tasmania, that on account of the Coronation celebrations in the United Kingdom, the returns of the industry would be much more satisfactory than they had been in the previous year, but unfortunately these anticipations have not been realized, and the industry to-day finds itself compelled to seek continued assistance from the federal Parliament. Those who have been entrusted with making out the case for the continuation of that assistance have shown very clearly the urgent necessity for at least as much help to be provided this year as was provided last year. Unfortunately, and I use that term advisedly, we find in the proposals for assistance this year, that the bounty has been cut down to Â£50,000, as compared with Â£85.000 last year. Any one reading the budget papers might conclude that some additional assistance is to be granted owing to the fact that the Government. lias arranged with the shipping organizations for a reduction of freight by 3d. a case, but I would remind the Ministry that that reduction will not apply till the 1938 season. Consequently, the reduction that has been secured in freight can have no application to the season which has just closed, in respect of which the amount of Â£50,000 is being provided by the Government. I have here letters which I have received from various sources in Tasmania, one from an organization which practically docs not control the industry, but has been formed for the purpose of helping it, and the other two from persons engaged in the industry as a means of livelihood. These letters show to me conclusively that none of the statements which have been made recently to the Government by delegations which have come from Tasmania to the mainland to plead the cause of the orchardists has been at all exasperated. The figures that have been submitted to me, compiled from statistics available in Tasmania, through the State Fruit Board" of Tasmania, show clearly that the last season, instead of being profitable, has been, for many individuals, disastrous. This year, for the first time, the quota system was established and made operative for the whole of the export season. T understand that the Government had the impression that, because a large quantity of fruit had been sold f.o.b., the industry was not in need of the same amount of assistance this year as formerly. It was easy for the Government, to fall into this error, but I may explain that although a large quantity was sold f.o.b., it was not allowed to be exported because of the quota system. Consequently, growers are just as much in need of assistance this year as ever they were. Let me cite the case of an individual grower in order that the Senate may understand the position. If, for instance, I sold, in January or February, 3.000 cases of apples to an agent for a British buyer at a certain price, and then applied for my quota for export, I would be informed that it would be only 800 cases, so I would have on my hands 2,200 cases which I could not export. Consequently, my only revenue on overseas sales would be the return from the 800 cases allotted to me. Hundreds of growers are in that position this year, and approximately 500,000 cases of apples were withheld from the overseas market. I hope that the Government will realize the need for an investigation of the entire position in order that, by supplementary legislation, the financial aid to be given to the industry this year will he equivalent to that of last year. If this is done, the growers will be able to face the 1938 season with some confidence. Without this assistance, they will find it difficult to carry on, despite the freight reduction of 3d. a case, because this advantage is more than offset by an increase of 100 per cent, in the cost of wrapping paper, an increase of 3Â£d. each for pine cases, and corresponding increases of other charges which, it is estimated, will cost the industry an additional Â£78.000 on the export quota alone. The continuance of the industry will be an advantage to the shipping companies interested in this trade, but, if the industry suffers, a3 it may unless the Government comes to its assistance, there will be fewer overseas vessels calling at Tasmanian ports, and consequent loss of revenue. I urge the Government to do what is possible to help this important industry^ which is the best example of closer settlement in any of the British dominions. If the growers are forced to abandon the industry, at, least 80 per cent, of the land under orchard cultivation will be useless for other purposes.
I publicly express my appreciation of the practical interest shown by the Government in a proposal to establish the shale oil industry in Tasmania. I personally thank Ministers for the promptness with which the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. White) took this matter up when the necessary information was furnished to him on behalf of the Adelaide Oil Exploration Company, which made a request for the introduction, duty free, of essential machinery which has been manufactured recently in the United States of America. If the request had followed the usual course, if departmental inquiries had not been expedited, and if, in addition, the United Kingdom Government had offered opposition, as it was entitled to do, the proposal to establish this new industry in Tasmania would not have been advanced to its present stage. But, thanks to the active interest of the Minister for Trade and Customs and the compliance of the British Government with a request to waive the right of the United Kingdom manufacturers to insist upon an inquiry as to whether the machinery, estimated to cost Â£140,000, could be manufactured in the Mother Country, the company is in a position to proceed with the project. Unfortunately, a temporary hitch has occurred in the negotiations with the Tasmanian Government over the leases for certain land, which contain the shale deposits ; but I hope the company and the Government will be able to come together at an early date, and that the negotiations for the establishment of the industry will be completed without loss of time.
There has been some severe criticism in this debate of the Government's attitude to the censorship of books introduced into Australia. The Leader of the Opposition (Senator Collings) was particularly severe. I assume there is general agreement that some censorship is necessary. If Senator Collings takes the view that there is no need for censorship, I oan understand his attitude. He told us that books which are published and circulated in Great Britain should be permitted to Australia without censorship. I know that the honorable senator was not referring to indecent literature, but to political works which are printed and have free circulation in the Mother Country. I have taken a good deal of interest in this matter. 1 have read nearly everything I could obtain relating to the objective of the Anti-Censorship League, and I was surprised to discover that many of my friends, very worthy individuals indeed, are members of that body. Knowing them so well, I feel sure that if they had read some of the books which I have seen, they would never have become members of a league which advocates the free admission to Australia of all literature printed and circulated in the United Kingdom.
Senator Collings - Did those books injure the honorable senator?
Senator PAYNE - That question does not touch my point.
Senator Collings - I am no more liable to be injured than the honorable senator.
Senator PAYNE - If the honorable senator were a family man I am sure he would be the last person in the world to allow his children to read some of the books which are introduced into Australia by the thousand. I speak on this matter as one who believes that literature of the kind which I have in mind should not be accessible to young Australians. Many of the books which are in circulation here would ruin them morally; many others would tend to encourage the breaking down of those principles which we hold dear in Australia. I am referring particularly to some of the Communist literature which occasionally is in circulation here.
Senator BROWN - The authorities allow that literature to circulate in Great Britain, do they not?
Senator PAYNE - Yes, but in Great Britain I have seen things which I should be very sorry to see in Australia. I know that the honorable senator desires that this kind of literature should have free circulation in Australia, and I can very well understand why the general opinion is that Labour is being allied to the Communists. The fact that he and. his colleagues favour the introduction of this kind of literature without censorship, encourages that belief.
Senator Collings - What is this literature? I have not seen it.
Senator PAYNE - Has not the honorable gentleman read some of the literature to which I am referring?
Senator Collings - I can be trusted as well as anybody in the United Kingdom to read that kind of literature.
Senator PAYNE - The Leader of the Opposition knows very well that the Communist literature, which I have in mind, encourages the establishment of Communist cells in Australian factories and workshops.
Senator Collings - I have not read any publication of the kind. I have too much other work to do.
Senator PAYNE - I thought that the honorable gentleman read practically everything that related to public affairs. As I am not speaking without knowledge, I ask the Leader of the Opposition to read some of this Communist literature, and then tell us if he thinks it should be allowed free circulation in Australia.
Senator Collings - If the Government of the United Kingdom allows it free circulation, that is good enough for me.
Senator PAYNE - This declaration by the Leader of the Opposition is new and very refreshing, because on other occasions I have heard him denounce in the most scathing language many things that have been done in Great Britain. He has told the Senate about his experiences as a boy in Great Britain, and has denounced some of the laws of the Mother Country. But apparently in regard to censorship he prefers to believe that everything that the Mother Country does is right and proper. The Leader of the Opposition, referring to a speech delivered by the Prime Minister (Mr. Lyons) in Queensland, said that the right honorable gentleman spoke in unduly high terms of the prosperity of that State.
Senator Collings - I did not. On the contrary, I was delighted with his speech on that occasion, but I criticized the one which he delivered to some manufacturers in Sydney.
Senator PAYNE - Perhaps I misunderstood the honorable senator. I thought that he had disagreed with the Prime Minister's reference to the prosperity of Queensland, and I remembered that on numerous occasions he himself had claimed that, under a Labour administration, Queensland had attained great prosperity.
I hope that my remarks with regard to the apple and pear industry in Tasmania will be noted by the Minister, and that the assistance necessary to enable it to carry on satisfactorily will be granted.