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Thursday, 26 June 1930

Senator O'HALLORAN (SOUTH AUSTRALIA) - That story is old enough to qualify for the old-age pension.

Senator PAYNE - This old man then said, " I voted Labour, and my pension has been reduced during the last month."

Senator Daly - Will the honorable senator give me the name of that man?

Senator PAYNE - Yes. I realize that whatever government was in power this man's pension would have been reduced because of a change in his circumstances. But the point is, he was told distinctly that, if he voted for a Nationalist candidate, his pension would be reduced. Naturally, he voted Labour, and was surprised and pained afterwards to find that ' his pension payment was lowered. The story shows the extent to which certain candidates are prepared to mislead the people in order to secure votes.

Two or three weeks go, when I was in Brisbane, I attended service in a Presbyterian Church one Sunday morning, and listened to an address from a cultured clergyman. In the course of his sermon the minister said he had never yet met a politician who, on the hustings, did not tell a pack of lies. The following day I wrote to the clergyman, telling him that I was under the impression that the bulk of his congregation would go away from the service in the full belief that all members of parliament were untrustworthy and would do anything to get votes. I furnished him with the names of a number of Queensland members of Parliament, and asked him if he would dare to include those gentlemen in his sweeping denunciation of politicians. In his reply to me he said - I quote his letter from memory -

I am in receipt of your letter, and I am glad you wrote to me on this subject. If you had been an ordinary member of my congregation you would have known that I have spoken on this subject more than once, and I have always differentiated between politicians and statesmen. Politicians, I have always explained, are men who promise to open coalmines within a fortnight. Statesmen, I should say, include men whose names appear in the list which you furnished to me.

I have another charge to bring against the Government'. During the election campaign the right honorable the Prime Minister' (Mr. Scullin) promised definitely that if his party were returned to power he would link up Tasmania with the mainland by wireless telephone, and would also extend the telephone service to Western Australia. I pointed but at the time that he knew quite well' the BrucePage Government had placed on the Estimates the initial sum for the proposed linking up of Tasmania with the mainland and also that the Public Works Committee, of which I was a member, had visited Western Australia, taken evidence with regard to telephonic communication with the Eastern States, and had recommended the project to the previous Government. The present Prime Minister in the circumstances was on perfectly safe ground. But tas he fulfilled his promise? I do not know whether Western Australia is linked up with the eastern States by telephone, but I do know that, for the time being at all events, the proposal to link Tasmania with the mainland by wireless telephone has been abandoned. I should like to know why this undertaking has not been honored, and why the Prime Minister, when it suits him, can disregard his pledge to the people. He said also that if his party were returned to power, the Labour Government would not suspend the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act to allow passengers to travel in some comfort by the large mail steamers between the mainland ports and Tasmania; but that, on the contrary, it would tighten up the provisions of the act, and make them more rigid. But what happened? Shortly after Labour was returned to power there was a by-election for the division of Franklin in Tasmania, and, apparently for the purpose of securing a party advantage, the Labour Government issued a proclamation declaring that the coastal provisions of the Navigation Act would be suspended in the interests of tourist traffic. Immediately the seamen's union got to work, and the following Thursday another proclamation, published in a special number of the Commonwealth Gazette, repealed the first proclamation. It was, however, too late to undo the damage, because the electors of Franklin, believing that the Government intended to ease up the restrictions imposed by the Navigation Act, returned a Labour candidate. The information that the proclamation had been repealed came too late as the election was on the following Saturday.

Various reasons were assigned for the defeat of the Nationalist candidates at the last election. It may not be out of place if I retail a conversation which was overheard in a town in Tasmania between two women voters employed in a State public department. On the morning of the election one said to the other, addressing her by her christian name, " We have to go down to vote this morning. We might as well go at once." "Yes," replied the other, " So-and-so " (mentioning the name of an estimable member of the House of "Representatives, who, fortunately, was returned) " is far and away the best candidate offering." "Yes," said the first one, " He is a very good man, and looks after the interests of the district, but it is unfortunate he is not a Labour candidate, because we have to vote Labour this time." It transpired that these ladies were informed that if the Bruce-Page Government were returned to power their salaries would be reduced and they must vote Labour. I may add that these two ladies are entrusted with the education of the rising generation. They evidently, with others, were misled by emissaries of the Labour party, who, during the campaign, travelled from shop to shop impressing upon assistants that they must vote Labour as the Bruce Government was out to reduce wages.

Recently several measures have been passed providing for the payment of bounties on certain commodities, but notwithstanding the fact that repeated requests have been made to the Government to provide for a bounty on the production of evaporated apples for export nothing has been done. Although only £4,000 to £5,000 a year was required for three years to assist the evaporated apple industry in Tasmania, the amount was refused and over 200,000 bushels of good wholesome apples have been compelled to rot. on the ground. If this amount had been made available the quantity I have mentioned could have been prepared for the export market, and a ready sale for them found. In consequence of the rigid legislation governing exports, the .Tasmanian fruit-growers are prevented from exporting apples which do not reach a certain standard. The quality of the fruit is perfect, but owing to skin blemishes they cannot be exported. If treated under the evaporating system they could be readily marketed. A bounty on a sliding scale and' not exceeding 2d. a pound was all that was required, but the request was refused.

Senator Hoare - Why did not the Government, of which the honorable senator was a supporter assist the industry ?

Senator PAYNE - I mention this matter, because the Government is at present assisting other industries by the payment of bounties, and it seems peculiar that such a reasonable request should have been refused. The honorable senator should not endeavour to draw a comparison between the past and present Governments, because when Mr. Bruce was Prime Minister, he approached the members of the present Government and asked them to co-operate with him in an effort to prepare for the crisis which is now upon us, but they definitely refused to meet him in conference. It is too late to do anything this season in the direction of payment of a bounty to assist the apple producers, but I trust that the Government will seriously reconsider its attitude towards this small, but important industry, and thus eliminate as far as is possible the unwarranted waste which is now occurring in consequence of the absence of funds. The Government should give more consideration to those producers who work from daylight till long after dark in an endeavour to make their work remunerative. While appealing to wheat-producers to work harder they should ask other sections to co-operate in the interests of the community, as the future prosperity of Australia depends upon the co-operation of all sections.

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