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Thursday, 13 September 1928

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) . - I listened with interest to the speech delivered by the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Bruce), and I can assure him that we, on this side of the House, accept the apology which he has offered to-night. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Scullin) delivered his criticism of the Budget on Tuesday night of last week. It has taken the Prime Minister all this time to get his facts together in reply. One would have thought that the Treasurer (Dr. Earle Page), having delivered the budget, would have been prepared to reply immediately to the strictures of my leader; but, as I have stated, it was left to the Prime Minister to do this, and he has taken all this time to prepare his defence. One cannot be expected to challenge immediately the figures which the right honorable the Prime Minister has just presented to the House. I therefore do not propose to attempt to do so. As I listened to the right honorable gentleman, I cast my eyes around the chamber, and could not help thinking that since the fusion of parties took place several years ago, there has been a considerable amount of political wreckage going on. Originally, the Prime Minister of the fusion Government was the right honorable member for North Sydney (Mr. Hughes). After a time he was deposed, and since then has been sitting behind the Government as a private member. Then, the honorable member for Warringah (Sir Granville Ryrie) was cast out of the Ministry to become High Commissioner in London, as also was the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers). The honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Bowden), whom every member of the House honours, did his job well, but was deprived of his portfolio. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Foster) was shunted out of the Ministry, and the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson) suffered a similar fate. All about us we see ministerial wrecks. To-day the Government is controlled by two or three men, and because of mismanagement and bad legislation there is chaos throughout the country, and increasing unemployment. The Prime Minister holds also two portfolios ; a state of affairs without precedence in the history of the Commonwealth. One would think that the responsibilities of a Prime Minister were sufficiently great to keep him occupied; but the right honorable member for Flinders is also Minister for External Affairs, and since the death of Mr. Pratten, a man who adorned the treasury bench, and devoted the whole of his time and energy to his ministerial duties, he has held the portfolio of Minister for Trade and Customs. Is it possible for even the intellectual giant from Flinders-lane to do justice to two portfolios and administer the Prime Minister's Department? I believe that if we had a live Minister for Trade and Customs devoting the whole of his time to his department, we would have a more effective tariff and more employment. But we cannot get the present Minister for Trade and Customs to even investigate urgent tariff matters. I turn now to the honorable member for Calare (Sir Neville Howse), who, as Minister for Health, is responsible for the Federal administration of. health throughout the Commonwealth; but, being a glutton, like the Prime Minister, he attempts, also, to administer repatriation affairs. Thousands of soldiers have complained that they are unable to get justice, and the honorable gentleman has promised to look into each case individually. How can he do so when, in addition to being Minister in charge of Repatriation, he is also Minister for Home and Territories, and is responsible for the control of the Federal Capital Territory, the Northern Territory, and the Pacific possessions of the Commonwealth? It is impossible for any one man to do justice to three portfolios of such importance. Six departments of the Commonwealth are managed by two Ministers, and four members of the Cabinet are without portfolios. Either the Prime Minister is not prepared to trust his followers with responsibility, or he thinks they have not the capacity to administer departments. If the Ministerial party had any backbone it would resent this reflection on its capacity, and would insist upon a re-allotment of the portfolios. The people will demand an explanation of these things.

The care with which the Prime Minister prepared his speech for to-night proved that he had been considerably disturbed by the . criticisms of the Leader of the Opposition. The right honorable gentleman spoke of the Government's practice of economy, but every year since it has been in office, it has increased the naval and military expenditure. Australia is a signatory to the outlawry of war pact; if we are sincere in our professions of a desire to prevent war, we should give some practical proof of it. .

Mr Lister - The honorable member has always been opposed to war.

Mr E RILEY (SOUTH SYDNEY, NEW SOUTH WALES) - The Creator did not intend that men should systematically destroy each other. I am a humble follower of the Great Reformer who said " On earth peace; good-will toward men." In 1909-10 the total expenditure on naval and military forces was £1,328,141. In 1924-25 the expenditure, including that on air services, had increased to £4,753,236 ; in 1925-26 it was £5,796,161 ; and in 1926-27, £7,379,018. It is scandalous that 6,000,000 people, isolated from other nations, should be spending £7,000,000 a year in preparations for war. The British Government has shown its earnestness in regard to disarmament. Speaking in the House of Lords this week, the First Lord of the Admiralty said that there were 40,000 fewer officers and men in the navy than in 1914. The British Government is genuinely reducing the expenditure on armaments and preparations for war; but the Commonwealth Government, notwithstanding the financial stringency, is increasing both naval and military expenditure.

The Prime Minister accused the Leader of the Opposition of devoting his attention to small matters. The criticism by my leader was well justified; we are trying to protect the revenue of the Commonwealth. Australia is represented in London by a High Commissioner. I do not know that he does anything except send out invitations to tea parties; but the expenditure on his office is gradually increasing. Heavy costs have been incurred in leasing a house for him, and he has been granted an allowance of £2,000 above his salary. The Government sent to London, Mr. Collins, formerly secretary of the Treasury, to act as financial adviser to the Commonwealth. He receives £2,000 a year, and £250 for entertainment expenses. That is waste of money. Another. £5,000 a year is expended on the maintenance of a Trade Commissioner and a staff in America. Surely our export trade to

America is not sufficient to warrant the maintenance of a commissioner there at such a heavy cost. We are unable to send manufactured goods to the United States of America, because we cannot compete with its mass production methods. Indeed we cannot supply our own markets. The Leader of the Opposition was doing his job well when he pointed out how money is being wasted by this Government. This morning I asked what had been the cost of the Royal visit to Canberra, in connexion with the opening of this Parliament. I do not say that Australia should be mean or paltry when entertaining members of the Royal Family; but I was astonished to learn that the entertainment of the Duke and Duchess of York and the other guests of the nation at Canberra had cost £120,000. There was no need for such lavish expenditure. In addition the Governor-General has been paid £1,000 for out-of-pocket expenses in connexion with the entertainment of the Royal party, His Excellency was a guest at all public functions; he paid for nothing. Already £75,000 has been lavishly spent on the Governor-General's house at Yarralumla, and another £19,000 is provided on this year's Estimates for repairing Government Houses. Where are the Government Houses that are to be repaired ? The Governor-General is given an additional allowance of £2,000 a year because he is compelled to live in the Federal Territory, where I do not suppose he spends more than one or two months in the year, while the public servant, who is compelled to live in Canberra all the year round, is given an allowance of only £50 a year to meet the extra cost of living in the Federal Capital Territory. The Government should be pleased to have these things pointed out, so that it may take steps to see that they do not occur again. The Right Honorable the Prime Minister has no right to condemn honorable members for criticism of this kind. Honorable members are sent here to criticize the Government's financial proposals, and, if possible, see that no injustice is done to the public.

One thing to which the Labour party takes objection is the method adopted by the Government for tha control of the Federal Capital Territory. The Territory itself was developed to a considerable extent, the sewerage system of the capital was well in hand, the brickworks were in operation, the Hotel Canberra was completed, and the construction of Parliament House was well advanced when this Government appointed a Commission to control the Territory, paying the Chief Commissioner £5,000 a year, and two other Commissioners £2,500 a year. This led to the creation of another staff of architects, surveyors, and clerks ofworks when already we had all these officers in the Works and Railways Department under Mr. Murdoch, one of the best architects in the Commonwealth. It is costing £20,000 a year to have a Commission to control the Federal Capital Territory, but I hope that this item will be deleted from the Estimates and that the task of building the capital will be handed back to the Works and Railways Department.

It has been admitted by the Prime Minister and the Treasurer that there is unemployment in Australia, as unfortunately there is unemployment in most of the countries of the world to-day. It is the duty of the Government to see what can be done to alleviate the distress that exists, but there is nothing in the Treasurer's budget to indicate that the Government has any policy in that direction. Its policy is simply to spend money lavishly. The fact that Australia imported £160,000,000 worth of goods last year indicates that we are asking the people of other countries to do work that our own people should be doing. If, as the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fen ton) has pointed out, we had manufactured half of the goods we imported it would probably have provided employment for 100,000 Australians, and if the average weekly wage of this 100,000 had been £3 a week it would have meant the distribution in Australia last year of £15,000,000. Surely that would have had a beneficial effect upon the country. I have spoken to some big business men, who say that they are feeling the present depression, and that they wonder what is the cause of it. It is our huge importations that have brought it about. When the Treasurer borrows money overseas, the money does not come to Australia. The people who lend us money send us goods, and as long as we have goods coming from overseas we shall have unemployment in Australia.

If the Labour party is returned to power at the next election it will bring forward an effective protective tariff, it will employ as many people as possible, and will endeavour to set up a standard of living in Australia that will attract other people to this country. There will then be no need for assisting migrants by paying their passages. When the Fisher Government was in power the Labour party had a sound policy. There were no wild-cat schemes to attract people from overseas, yet there was a steady influx of immigrants, and the country was never more prosperous. Prosperity can be brought about again by the adoption of a sound policy of protection; by extending the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, and by keeping down the rate of interest. My friends opposite talk about cheapening the cost of production, but we cannot have cheap production while a high rate of interest has to be paid, for any money that is borrowed. The rate of interest can be brought down only by the Commonwealth Bank competing with private institutions. If the Labour party is returned to power it will not seek to injure any section of the community. Its aim will be to build up Australia and make it attractive to people from overseas, so that we shall have prosperity once more. We cannot have that prosperity while we have two Ministers trying to control six departments, and thinking that they are doing their work well. The Prime Minister has the support of all the big newspapers, which always put the best side to his case, but there must be something wrong when there is so much depression in a country with the great possibilities that Australia has. I know of no other country so blessed with natural gifts. Australia has a climate suitable for all classes of production. It has an abundance of everything that man requires. It has made marvellous strides. It was only 140 years ago that Captain Arthur Phillip arrived in Port Jackson and founded there a small settlement, to which he gave the name, Sydney. The 1,100 souls that constituted that community have now grown to 6,250,000, and to-day the city of Sydney is the second city of the Empire. And when we see the growth of the other cities of Australia - Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide, Perth, and Hobart, we cannot but marvel at the wonderful strides Australia has made within so short a period. Yet there are some in this Parliament who are always decrying their country; they are always talking about the number of strikes we have. There are strikes in every country. As a matter of fact, there will always be strikes while human nature is what it is, and while injustice is done; but the fact remains that -Australia has less industrial disturbance than any other part of the civilized world which enjoys conditions similar to those we enjoy. I challenge any honorable .member supporting the Government, which has been in office for about six years, to point to one piece of monumental legislation it has placed on the statute-book for the benefit of the people. It has simply confined its attention to undoing the work done by former Parliaments. Although Sir Denison Miller and a Deputy Governor managed the Commonwealth Bank through the whole period of the war, negotiated all the war loans of the Commonwealth, and succeeded in building up the bank to its present fine position, this Government saw fit to appoint a board of directors to control the institution, and among the directors appointed were men who were interested in private banks. Sir Samuel Horden was one of them. He is a splendid citizen, and 1 have nothing to say against him personally, but although he is a director of the Commonwealth Bank, he banks with the Union Bank. What need is there to pay Sir Samuel Horden £500 a year to be a director of the Commonwealth Bank? The Board of Directors is not extending the activities of the institution ; on the contrary, it is retarding them. All these matters will be placed before the people of the country,' and they will be asked to give their judgment upon them. I welcome the appeal to the country. I shall ask the people to decide between the performances of the present Government and the programme that will be placed before them by the Labour party. -I shall ask them to compare the administration of the present Government with the excellent record of the Labour party when it was in power; and I feel sure that the verdict of that impartial jury, the people, will be in our favour.

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