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Wednesday, 23 November 1938

Mr SCHOLFIELD (Wannon) (12:43 PM) . - I congratulate the Treasurer (Mr. Casey) on his budget, and the Government on its achievements during recent years. Since the Lyons Administration has been in office world conditions have changed considerably. Only a few years ago there was a general desire for disarmament, and a policy of disarmament was applied by both Great Britain and Australia. Recently, however, there has been a demand for more adequate measures to be taken for the defence of this country. I sometimes wonder if Ministers have not been too obsessed by the requirements of their own departments to take notice, not only of the trend in world affairs, but more particularly of the changed public opinion in Australia. The Government would do well to study carefully the progress of its recruiting campaign. Should it not give immediate good results, I suggest that some system of compulsory training be substituted for it. I feel strongly that compulsory military training would be of benefit to Australia, not only in building up its defences, but also in training youths who are unable to obtain work and in subjecting to some form of discipline those youths who on present indications, do not appear likely to make good citizens. I believe that an overwhelming majority of the Australian people would support such a policy. I have spoken to many persons opposed to me politically, who strongly support it. For the present, however, I intend to "uphold the Government in its endeavour to increase the strength and efficiency of the voluntary system.

We have seen the growth of dictator countries, and witnessed the way in which they have outstripped other nations by regimenting the whole of their forces, and placing responsibilities upon their people, such, as we are unable to do, and I have often wondered how long Australia will continue under its present system. At present we have seven parliaments, sometimes operating in conflict with one another. We have seen the consequences of the actions of these parliaments, not only upon the electors, but also upon other parliaments ; and I think the time has arrived to convene a conference of Commonwealth and State authorities to devise some means whereby the work of this country can be carried on more harmoniously. I applaud the suggestion made during this debate that some action be taken in that direction, because there is ample scope for more co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States, particularly in connexion with public works. The more or less haphazard method at present of relieving unemployment is a gross reflection, not only upon the State parliaments, but also upon the Commonwealth Parliament. It has been said that the State governments should provide employment, and that all that the Commonwealth Government can do is to provide the finance. But we know that the States have not the money to relieve unemployment as it should be relieved, and therefore there should be more co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States in the direction of building up an organization to tabulate works to be undertaken, and to record their order of urgency.

Mr Blain - A national planning authority is needed.

Mr SCHOLFIELD - Yes, and had not an additional Minister been appointed recently I should have suggested the appointment of a Minister for coordination between the Commonwealth and the States. That would be of great benefit in relieving unemployment, and in assisting this Government's defence programme.

Many State public works, such as the erection of aerodromes in strategical positions, would be of use in the defence of Australia. In Warrnambool, in my electorate, there is no aerodrome, as the cost of providing one places too much financial responsibility upon the municipality. There should be some authority to investigate such matters. Some time ago, a measure was passed through this Parliament, in which provision was made for id. of the petrol tax collected to be given to the States to assist those engaged in aviation, and persons using petrol engines in fishing boats and in stationary engines, who do not derive any benefit from improved roads. When I supported that measure, I thought that some of the petrol tax would be used to establish aerodromes in country centres, but I have since been informed by one State Minister that that is unlikely because aeroplane services compete with railways.

One of our greatest needs is an increase of population. Although we should like migrants from Great Britain to settle in Australia, unfortunately there are not many of a suitable type available. One of the objections to foreign migrants is that they are likely to establish foreign communities. I have a novel suggestion to make, and it is that foreign migrants should legally adopt a common AngloSaxon name, and in that way eliminate some of the disabilities under which they suffer. I have spoken to a number of new arrivals with foreign names, and they have favoured my suggestion because they say that they suffer many disadvantages in that respect. Many business people in Australia trading under Anglo-Saxon names had foreign names when they came to Australia. Many Germans who migrated to Australia years ago because of religious persecution in their own country are some of our best settlers, but because, they have foreign names, there is a certain amount of prejudice against them.

Mr Brennan - Does the honorable member suggest that they should repudiate their names, in order to overcome the bigotry of certain people in this country i

Mr SCHOLFIELD - Many have already done so. For instance, I would not object to some of these persecuted people taking the honoured name of Brennan.

Vast areas in this country are awaiting development. Recently, I visited the Northern Territory and, therefore, can speak with some authority on territory matters, although the honorable member for the Northern Territory (Mr; Blain) will probably say that I can do so only to a limited degree. The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research should establish branches in the Northern- Territory to enable its officers to investigate some of the pressing problems to be dealt with there because they differ greatly from those of the south. Queensland has its particular problems, but by now it knows pretty well how to deal with them, tn the Northern Territory, however, many difficulties arise - for* instance, in connexion with stock fodder - which should be scientifically investigated in order that we may be enabled to develop that part of the Commonwealth more rapidly and more effectively than is now possible. Because of world conditions in these times, when international boundaries have practically no meaning for certain people, and when many countries are demanding areas for the settlement of their surplus populations, it is not improbable that some country might turn its eyes to the Northern Territory, and, should we not do our utmost to develop that part of the Commonwealth, world opinion might decide against us should 3u ch a country demand the right to settle portion of its surplus population there.

In connexion with scientific and industrial research, I also suggest that a station should be established in South Australia, just over the Victorian border, for the purpose of investigating the special problems confronting settlers in that district. I know that a suitable site in that district could be acquired by the Commonwealth for the establish ment of such a station, which would be of inestimable value to land-holders on both sides of the border, who are confronted with problems which differ from those arising in other parts of the Commonwealth. I point out that the nearest station is at Melbourne, or Adelaide, both of which cities are nearly 200 miles from this area.

Mr Scully - That is a very poor district.

Mr SCHOLFIELD - At present it is one of the best areas in Australia. If the honorable member visited it, he would be surprised at the crops and stock. However, that does not mean that these settlers have no problems. They are confronted with many difficulties, and are practically fighting a lone battle without any assistance from the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research.

I propose now to deal with certain aspects of the Postal Department's activities. I heartily support the honorable member for Maronoa (Mr. Hunter) in his criticism of the department's treatment of its juvenile employees. I know of many sad cases of lads who have been engaged in a temporary capacity. In one particular case a promise was made, by an irresponsible person I am told, thai a lad would be made permanent, but when he reached the age of nineteen years he was put off. I suggest that, if a private concern meted out similar treatment to any of its employees, the matter would be well ventilated in the Parliament. In view of its huge revenue, the department could well afford to be more lenient towards its temporary employees.

As I have done on many occasions, I again advocate the establishment of a uniform closing hour at post offices in small country districts. I know that the department is endeavouring to do this wherever possible, but there still remain many places in which a change could be effected immediately. In most places of this kind people are obliged to wait from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m in order to ring up local business places. Considerable inconvenience would also be avoided if the evening hours were extended. Perhaps it is not generally known that people in country districts are obliged to get out to work long before 9 a.m., which is the hour at which country telephone exchanges usually open. When they return home for the mid-day lunch hour they find that the exchange is closed for that period. After opening for the whole afternoon the exchange closes again at 6 p.m. which is usually earlier than the hour at which people on the land return home in the evening. Certainly they can put through a call on paying an opening fee, but very many subscribers imagine that the charge of ls. 6d. is not the maximum, but the usual charge. This is one aspect in which life could be made much more pleasant for people in rural districts, and as it is our desire to induce as many people as possible to settle on the land, this improvement should be effected immediately. I also suggest that very many more automatic telehone exchanges should be established in country districts. The department would be amply repaid, because an increase of subscribers would mean that its revenue would correspondingly improve.

I urge the Postmaster-General (Mr. Archie Cameron) to push on with the work of establishing automatic telephone exchanges in rural districts. These facilities, I feel sure, would prove a wonderful boon to country subscribers. With the advent of automatic exchanges all of the difficulties and disputes arising in rural districts over uniform closing hours, and the extension of hours, would disappear, because subscribers would thus be enabled to use the telephone at any time. I again congratulate the Treasurer on the budget which he has presented on this occasion. I conclude by expressing the hope that the Government will give very serious attention to the defence of this country.

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