3rd Parliament · 4th Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he has yet arranged for old-age pensions to be paid at the Wyalong Post-office, and thus enable weak and decrepit pensioners to obtain payment without walking a distance of about five miles or paying cab hire?
– Inquiries have been made of the Deputy PostmasterGeneral, Sydney, from whom advice is being awaited of the completion of the arrangements for the payment of pensions at Wyalong Post-office.
Policy of the Government.
asked the Minister of
Defence, upon notice -
Whether Colonel Foxton (delegate from the Commonwealth to the Imperial Defence Con-‘ ference) has been instructed to put forward the following as the views of bis Government : -
Whether these proposals are to be regarded as equivalents of the two “Dreadnoughts” from Australia and New Zealand, or in addition thereto?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I may add that the proposals . mentioned seem to me to be equivalents which we may possibly be asked to consider.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
How many adult males are there in the State of Victoria who are permanently employed in the Commonwealth Public Service who are receiving less than the minimum wage of£110 per annum ?
– The Public Service Commissioner reports that -
Sixty-five officers of the General Division who have not had the requisite three years’ service to entitle them to a salary of£110 per annum, and seven officers of the Clerical Division, who have not passed the prescribed examination.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers : -
The Budget, 1909-10- Papers prepared by the Treasurer for the information ‘ of honorable members.
Ordered to be printed.
Census. and Statistics Act - Official Bulletins - Trade, Shipping, Oversea Migration, and Finance, No. 29, May, 1909.
Social Statistics - Statistics as to education, hospitals and charities, and law and crime, for the year 1907, No. 1.
Motion (by. Mr. Mauger) agreed to -
That he have leave to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Post and Telegraph Act1901.
Debate resumed- from nth August (vide page 2350), on motion by Mr. Groom -
That upon its rising for this week the House adjourn until Wednesday, 25th inst.
.- Just before the adjournment last night, I stated that the announcement appearing in the newspapers a short time . ago, that the’ Ministry, desired a week’s adjournment because of the Premiers’ Conference, was a surprise to me, especially in view of the fact that during the last recess the honorable member for Ballarat asked the then Prime Minister to arrange for the assembling of Parliament a little earlier than usual to transact important business. At the time, there were those who thought that, in making that request, he was prompted, not by concern for the public interest, but by the desire to obtain an opportunity to dismiss the Government from office, and again come into power, a view to which the motion now under consideration gives colour. The present proposal of the Government makes evident the truth of the statement in the Manchester Guardian, an English newspaper which is not concerned with the clang and clash of party politics in Australia, that the terms of the Coalition which we are opposing were “ that the Cookites approved of Mr. Deakin’s programme, and that Mr. Deakin made no attempt to carry it out.” The opinion was also expressed that “ the real purpose of the Coalition is to. get into office.” The first statement, at any rate, is a very serious one. This proposal for a week’s adjournment in the middle of the session certainly gives support to the view that Ministers do not desire to introduce important legislation. Another very strong reason for the adjournment was suggested bv the honorable member for Corio, who, a week or two ago, according to a newspaper report, addressed a question to the Prime Minister, in which he said that some exacting demands had been recently made on certain honorable members in regard to, regular and long attendances in the House, and that it would be a great convenience for them to know as early as possible the date and probable length of the adjournment of the Federal Parliament to allow Ministers to attend the Conference. To that question a reply was given by the Prime Minister, and it would seem to me, from the nature of the inquiry made by the honorable member, that the real reason why this adjournment is proposed is that the followers of the Ministry have felt the strain put upon them in attending to their parliamentary duties to such an extent that they are anxious to have an opportunity to recuperate, and also to attend to their own private business. The Government boast of a majority of from twelve to fourteen in this House, and it would seem that the strain put upon the party in attending to their political duties has been so severely felt by them that within a few weeks of the opening of the session they must be granted a holiday. The honorable member for Gippsland said yesterday that Ministerial supporters would vote for the motion because the whip had been cracked. I am inclined to think that it was quite unnecessary to crack the whip - that the Ministerial supporters are just as eager for an adjournment as the Ministry are. When the last Conference of Premiers was held in Melbourne, the honorable member for Corio objected to any adjournment.
– Did he sign the telegram to the ex-Prime Minister urging that Parliament should re-assemble as early as possible ?
– Probably he did. No doubt the proposed adjournment will meet the personal convenience of honorable members opposite, and if their personal convenience rather than the national needs are to be taken into consideration, the adjournment is justifiable. . I have no doubt that it will also suit the Opposition, since it will give us an opportunity to state our view of the position from public platforms. But whilst that is so, we believe that the work of Parliament should continue. I am glad that,i as an Opposition, we shall not be responsible for the adjournment, and that as the result of this motion a fair and honest opportunity will be afforded us to reply to the taunts so often hurled at us by Ministerialists, that we have been .wasting the time of the national Parliament.
– I enter my emphatic protest against the proposal of the Government that the House at its rising to-morrow adjourn until the 25th inst. Having regard to national considerations, there is absolutely no justification for the proposal that we should adjourn for a week or more to enable Ministers to confer with the Premiers of !he States concerning public questions with which this Parliament alone has the right to deal. I have always held the view that Conferences of State Premiers held to discuss with Commonwealth Ministers State as opposed to Federal rights, are contrary to the Constitution, which makes adequate provision for protection of the rights of the States. The Constitution was framed to put an end to the disputes that were constantly arising between the States, and with the establishment of Federation the work which used to receive the attention of the Federal Council was handed over to the Federal Parliament. It is an insult to the Senate that national questions with which it has to deal under the Constitution should be discussed at a Conference of State Premiers, and 1 enter my protest against the waste of public time which the Government propose. The Opposition are ready to go on with the business of the Parliament, and to sit as long as is necessary, to enable it to be completed.
Question - That upon its rising for this week the House adjourn until Wednesday, 25th inst. - put. The House divided.
Majority … 7
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
– The understanding was that the Treasurer should commence his Budget Speech at 4 o’clock, but the papers have not yet arrived.
Opposition Members. - Not ready again !
– The Treasurer is perfectly ready, but, as honorable members know, the confidential part of the papers is not brought to the House or its precincts until a few minutes before the address is delivered. We can have the papers here under half-an-hour. In the meantime’ I have communicated with the honorable member for Grey, who, I understand, can conclude his speech on the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill within that time. I move -
That the consideration of Orders of the Day Nos. 2 and 3 be postponed until after the consideration of Order of the Day No. 4.
.- I do not oppose the motion submitted, . but I do not think it is fair to the honorable member for Grey that-
– I have communicated with the honorable member.
– The other night I made a speech somewhat against the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill, and, under the present arrangement, the re- . marks of the honorable member for Grey; will appear in two different parts of Hansard. I was wondering whether it was not possible to arrange for the report of the honorable member’s remarks to-day to follow immediately after that of his remarks yesterday.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Debate resumed from nth August (vide page 2312) on motion by Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
– I must confess that I am somewhat taken by surprise. It is quite true that the Prime Minister asked me about 2 o’clock if I would be prepared to go on with my remarks after the Budget Speech had been delivered, and I replied in the affirmative. It certainly comes as a surprise tobe asked to proceed now. However, I yesterday referred to those portions of the Northern Territory where large numbers of buffaloes may be found, thus testifying to the fertility of the land. Something like 50,000 buffalo skins have been exported from those portions of the Northern Territory.
– In what time?
– During the course of a good many years. The buffaloes run wild and the station-owners simply arrange with a certain number of blackfellows, for a few pounds of rations, to prey on these magnificent animals. If there was anything that struck me as sinful waste it was the leaving of the magnificent flesh of these animals to rot on the ground. The members of the party with whom I visited the Northern Territory had some” of the buffalo beef cooked for dinner, the animal having been shot in the afternoon, and they found the flesh to be in fine condition, and of beautiful flavour. At present this wealth is left to the crows and large flocks of other birds which follow the hunters. In that part which is termed the “buffalograss country “ there are extensive plains, comprising some of the most magnificent land that any one could wish to occupy. Some comments have been made on the rainfall of the Territory. I find from the rainfall map of the Commonwealth, prepared by Mr. H. A. Hunt, that Port Darwin has had an average rainfall of 57.04 inches for ten years, while that of DalyWaters, considerably further south, is 24.08 inches, and of Alice Springs 9.21 inches. Mr. Hunt makes these remarks-
The rains in the interior are almost entirely derived from monsoonal depressions, which show most energy during the first three months of the year, but they are also in evidence at frequent intervals during the remaining nine months.
That is an indication that the rain falls at such times as would enable other than grazing propositions to be carried out in the Territory. Mr. Hunt makes this further interesting statement -
When compared with other continents, the quantities and distribution of rainfalls over Australia are not so unfavorable as is generally supposed, and it will doubtless be a surprise to many to learn that quite one-third of North America has an annual rainfall of only 20 inches and under, while in parts of the western States and California the average’ annual totals do not exceed 5 inches.
Looking back over my twenty years’ experience in South Australia, I cannot but be amazed at the rapid strides which have taken place in that State in regard to the occupation of vast areas which, having a limited rainfall of from 10 to 12 inches at most, were regarded as useless for agricultural purposes. To those honorable members who talk about the Northern Territory lands being occupied at rentals of from is. 6d. to 2s. 6d. per mile, I would point out that in South Australia, at no great distance from the capital, it is within my knowledge that lands were offered for years at a rental of from 2s. to 2s. 6d. per square mile, on forty-two years’ leases, with no rental to pay for the first ten years, and yet remained unoccupied. But to-day, with the introduction of new systems of agriculture, the application of superphosphates and improved methods of tillage, the necessity for a high rainfall is done away with, and South Australia has settled on those lands thousands of persons, who are all doing well.
– Where is that?
– In the Pinnaroo district, and on Eyre’s Peninsula. The South Australian Government are now opening up there another vast area, estimated to contain 3,000,000 acres, all land which, during my twenty years in South Australia, was looked on as not only utterly useless for agriculture, but as a menace to other settlement on account of its being a breeding ground for vermin. Honorable members who say that the southern portion of the Northern Territory is out of the practical agricultural zone, because of its distance from the seaboard and its limited rainfall, will find from pamphlets issued by Mr. Lindsay that in America to-day wheat is successfully grown on land which has a very limited rainfall, and has to be carried great distances to the seaboard. The introduction of what is termed “ dry farming “ has ushered in quite a new era in connexion with agriculture on vast areas in America and Australia. The South Australian Government are now getting from 5s. to 30s. per acre for the lands that I referred to as being offered on forty-two-year leases at a nominal rental of 2s. per square mile. People are almost scrambling over one another to get on to that land, and those who are settled cn it are doing remarkably well. I want honorable members to consider the great proposition now put before them from the stand-point of the future. Does any one seriously believe that the possibilities of settlement in Australia have been exhausted? Do we realize the population which Australia will contain in years to come? Has any one estimated what the Northern Territory will be worth in fifty years from now ? It is no exaggeration to anticipate that fifty years hence that land will be worth an average of 5s. per acre. Plenty cf it will be worth more than £20 an acre. Only a few thousand square miles have a rainfall under 10 inches, and I venture to predict that the Territory will be worth to the Commonwealth, in the next fifty years, an average of 5s. per acre at the very least.
– In fifty years’ time there will be two or three States there.
– If that be so, this is the best bargain that could be offered to us. According to my valuation, the Northern Territory in fifty years will be worth ^83,000,000, but if that be reduced by one-half, its value exceeds ^”40,000,000. At the present time the Commonwealth aspirations regarding settlement are cramped for want of land. We have not yet been able to make arrangement’s with the States which will enable us to pursue a vigorous immigration policy, which is a matter closely allied with defence. There is, however, this large tract of country which we can acquire for an expenditure of a little more than twopence per acre. Although South Australia has carried the burden of its management and control for so many years, and might ask for some return, she demands nothing more than what she has expended.
– That is all she should get, but she asks for more than that.
– The honorable member refers to the railway. As I stated yesterday, my view is that the Northern Territory can be developed only by a railwaypassing through the middle of it. A line tapping merely one corner, and running through Queensland and New South Wales, will not develop it; and we shall not be justified in spending the money of the taxpayers in obtaining control of this country if we do not intend to develop it. Having said what I know of its characteristics and possibilities, let me now make public the opinions of some whose knowledge of land matters cannot be called in question. In the memorandum issued by the Government is an extract from the journal of Mr. J. McDouall Stuart, dated 24th July, 1862. Writing at Thring Creek, he said -
Proceeded through a light soil, slightly elevated, with a little ironstone on the surface, the volcanic rock cropping out occasionally ; also some small flats of black alluvial soil. At 8£ miles came upon a broad valley of black alluvial soil, covered with long grass.
Mr. J. G. Knight, Government Resident, wrote in 1890 -
The fattening character of the country is proved by the circumstance that when horses or cattle stray away from their owners, on being found again after a few months’ roaming, they are always in fine order and condition.
Mr. Ernest Favenc, and Mr. L. Crawford, speaking of the Macarthur River country, say -
All this country is quite available for cattle, and will,, no doubt, be thickly populated in the future. After running an almost easterly course for some distance it comes abruptly on a red sandstone range of great height. After touching this range the river runs nearly north, and, on the north-western bank, is always of a character which would induce to the settlement of sheep. On the eastern - skirting the range - are a few small flats very richly grassed, between the range and the bank of the river. The whole of the valley of the river is here of a character exactly resembling the best downs in the interior. We have never seen better or more richly grassed country in any latitude. The country is admirably adapted’ for settlement, being level, and supplied with fresh water. We will condense in a paragraph what we have to say about the river.
The Macarthur is, without doubt, a grand stream, deep under the banks to the extent of at least 30 feet by our own measurement.
Captain Barclay, in an article written for Life, states that -
Nature has divided the Northern Territory into three well-defined zones.
I referred yesterday to the fact that the Macdonnell Range district produces some of the finest horses which are bred in Australia. That statement is borne out by the following paragraph, which recently ‘appeared in an Adelaide newspaper : -
No better proof of the suitability of the Northern Territory for the breeding of horses could be obtained than the splendidly developed animals which have been brought to Adelaide and Kapunda during the last month for sale. Indian buyers have been particularly pleased with them, and, consequently, a large number have been secured by them for shipment to India. . During that period the firm sold nearly 2,000 horses of all kinds, including about 1,100 from stations north of Hergott. There were 230 Queensland animals, 350 from the south-east, and about 300 from other parts of South Australia, in addition to the Territory contingent. Last year, owing to the dry weather, it was impossible to market Northern Territory horses, because they were too poor to travel.
As some honorable members may try to take advantage of the last statement, let me add that, although there was a partial drought in the southern portion of the Northern Territory> the want of rain was felt more in what is called the “ dead heart of Australia,” that is, over a district which extends into South Australia proper. It” must also be remembered that last year nothing was reaped on the tablelands surrounding Bacchus Marsh, a district within 25 miles of Melbourne. I know from personal observation that the farmers there were compelled to turn their stock on to the short, stunted crops. The same drought prevailed over some of the best districts in New South Wales; and Gippsland, a locality which, during the previous year, had a rainfall of 60 inches, received only 9 inches. Although, occasionally, droughts may affect the Northern Territory, no part of Australia escapes them. I should like also to make a few quotations from the very valuable publication prepared for the Northern .Territory League. Mr. D. J. Gordon, whose vast experience and knowledge of land values will be admitted, writing of a trip through this country, says -
To the east of Barrow Creek are the Murray Downs, and in this direction we shape our course for about 40 miles, when Mount Skinner stands out prominently, while stretching away to the right and left is a fine valley well covered with vegetation of various sorts. The Skinner Creek runs through the Murray Downs, providing a fine supply of water. We camped at night alongside a waterhole about a mile long, 60 yards wide, and some 18 feet deep. Further on to the eastward is the Spence Creek, and as we ride along the valley of the Spence, we almost forget that we are some 1,300 miles north of Adelaide, and in the very heart of the Continent. We have seen nothing to equal this valley we are now in. On either bank of the Spence grow large trees, confusion in their very variety, luxuriant grasses, wild flowers and delicate ferns, large snow-white lilies grow to the water’s edge, while the screeching cockatoos and beautifully plumaged birds that fly overhead all tell us we have come into a new country. On our right, about a quarter of a mile away, running parallel with the creek, is a high range of hills rising abruptly and overlooking the valley, with white lime-trees and vegetation growing to the very tops, and flowering creepers overspreading the rocks.
Further on, he writes -
Although we are justified in being optimistic over the possibilities of the central division, we shall eliminate it from the possible wheat area and see what it will do as a sheep country. No one will question that the country from Powell’s Creek to the southern boundary is anything but an ideal -sheep country. Thus we find an area of 136,704 square miles, or 87,490,560 acres which, if half of it is stocked with sheep at sixty sheep to the mile (much of it will carry 100 easily), we shall have 4,100,000 sheep.
If it were necessary, I could also quote from reports by the late Surveyor-General, Mr. Goyder, as well as from statements made by men who have travelled through the Northern Territory, to show that it has great possibilities.
– The authority just quoted by the honorable member points out that the country will carry more than one sheep to the acre.
– I understood the honorable member to say that it would carry only one sheep to the acre, and I would remind’ him that there are 640 square acres to the mile. My desire is that this Bill shall be passed without delay, for I believe that this is the last opportunity we shall have to take over the Territory from South Australia. I am not here to indulge in special pleading on behalf of that State, for there is no occasion to do so. South Australia has incurred considerable expense, and a great deal of trouble, in keeping the Territory as free as it is to-day. Time after time, attempts have been made to induce the State Legislature to pass legislation .which would have been a serious drawback to the development of the Territory by the Commonwealth. I am glad to say that all such efforts were unsuccessful. There is available an area of 334,000,000 acres of unalienated land, which is practically free from any contamination, save that introduced by the contractors for the Pine Creek railway. That immense area is offered to the Commonwealth by South Australia in the belief that it is the duty of the national Parliament’ to protect it from the inroads of coloured races from countries which are from six to nine days’ sail, and have a population of something like 600,000,000 people. South Australia, at her own expense, has kept the Territory free from such incursions, and all that she now asks in consideration for the transfer is that she shall be reimbursed the expenditure which she has incurred. If this offer be not accepted, we shall live to regret its refusal. This vast Territory, with almost illimitable possibilities, is offered to us for practically 2d. per acre, and the point that I wish to emphasize is that finality in the negotiations must be reached this session. During the last nine years,the settlement of the Territory has been seriously retarded owing to the negotiations that have been proceeding between the Commonwealth “and the State, and the transfer ought to be completed without delay. If we reject this offer, South Australia will determine to bear unassisted the burden of maintaining and ‘ developing the Territory, and future generations will thank her for having kept such a magnificent country free for the white races. Two years ago, I visited Pine Creek, and, whilst there, met an intending settler who had travelled in a waggon and waggonette with his wife and family from Queensland, bringing with him fifty-eight brood mares, two stallions, fifty cows, and about seventy-five goats, as well as two or three crates of poultry. He had trekked across the Territory without losing a hoof. As a matter of fact, his goat and . cattle herds had increased on the way, and a number of young foals also made the journey successfully. The only assistance that he had was that which his eldest boy, eleven years of age, was able to afford him.
– Where did he travel from ?
– From some part of Queensland. Lord Northcote and the honorable member for Maribyrnong were with me on the occasion in question, and met this man.
– He had travelled over 1,000 miles, and suffered no loss of stock.
– That is so. There are few parts of Australia where such a journey could be undertaken without loss. I refer to this gentleman’s experience as showing that the Territory is not the barren country that some people would have us believe.
– That part of the Territory would be good country to open up by means of a railway. ‘
-I fail to see the point of the honorable member’s interjection. From my own experience, and that of others with which I am familiar, T am certain that if this offer be rejected, the Commonwealth fifty years hence will seriously regret our failure to avail ourselves of it. My only reason for advocating the acceptance of the Territory is that the Commonwealth has no land of its own, and therefore cannot hope to successfully carry out a policy of immigration, nor proceed with an effective system of defence. If we are to give effect to our national, aspirations, we ought certainly to agree to the transfer. The Commonwealth must have land of its own, and it is the duty of the Federation, rather than of any one State, to bear the burden of the White Australia policy. South Australia could have freely settled Asiatics in the Territory. I have already referred to the offer of a syndicate to give £10,000,000 for the Territory, and to construct a railway line from Pine Creek to Oodnadatta, if permission were given them to employ any class of labour they pleased. The position to-day is infinitely better than it would have been had such an offer been accepted. I ask that this Bill be considered, not from a State, but from a national point of view. If that attitude be taken up, and the Commonwealth undertakes the development of the . Territory, I am sure that no proposition will be made to run a railway line into only’ one corner of the Territory; that of the Gulf country. Rather than that that should be done, I should stump South Australia and urge thnt the State Government should continue to control the Territory. -But for the negotiations proceeding between the Commonwealth and the State Governments, a railway line might have been carried nearly as far as Tennant’s Creek, and paid for by South Australia out of the surplus which she has enjoyed during the last few years. I believe that this Bill will receive fair consideration, and that honorable members generally will recognise that it is only right that finality should be reached as soon as possible. If we do not want the Territory, we should say so at once ; but if the Parliament rejects this offer, we shall never have another chance of considering a proposal to transfer this great Territory to the control of the Commonwealth.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Palmer) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1910; and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1910, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Ordered to be printed and: referred to Committee of Supply.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Mauger) read a first time.
– I have to place before honorable members the financial arrangements of the Commonwealth for the current year, from the 1st July last to the 30th June next. This is the third Budget that I have had the honour to deliver to this House, and it is the fourteenth that I have had the honour of addressing to -an Australian Parliament. I mention this merely to show that, at any rate for me, the years are rolling along. The task before the Government to-day is full of responsibility and difficulty. The obligations are increasing ; and I feel sure I may ask from honorable members every consideration this afternoon, as I propose to deliver, a plain unvarnished tale. I shall not, I hope, labour too much any of the many subjects which I shall have to place before honorable members; but I shall do my best to give full information in regard to all matters which are “of interest, and are contained in the Estimates, and explained more fully in the Budget papers, both of which sets of documents are in the hands of honorable members. I shall first deal with the finances of the year 1908-9, which closed on the 30th June last. The total revenue received was £14,349,835, consisting of -
The Customs and Excise revenue was £801,367 less than that received in 1907-8. The Post Office revenue was £108,911 more. Altogether the total revenue was £669,199 less than that received in the preceding year. The amount of £35,529 received as new revenue, that is revenue belonging peculiarly to the Commonwealth and divided amongst the States on a population basis, consisted of proceeds of sale of Acts of Parliament, costs and fines recovered under the Immigration Restriction Act, certain fees collected under the Patents Act, interest on fixed deposits in banks and other items. The amount of £28,302, credited as repayment of States’ proportion of pensions, was the amount payable by the States under section 84 of the Constitution. Hitherto, no amount has been claimed from the States under this section, as considerably more than the threefourths revenue has been repaid to them. The amount of £6,515 was transferred from the Pension funds into “which it had been paid by officers transferred to the Commonwealth service. As this amount was available for paying the pensions, it was credited to revenue. The total expenditure, 1908-9, was £6,419,364, consisting of -
The principal items in the transferred expenditure were -
The particulars of “ Other “ expenditure amounting to £2,197,787 are set forth on pages 81 to 93 of the Budget papers. Included is the amount of £668,306 for Additions, New Works and Buildings, and the whole of the expenditure for the New Commonwealth Departments, Parliament, &c. There is also included ‘ an amount of £462,179, which was transferred to the Old-Age Pensions Trust Fund. Deducting from the total revenue for 1908-9 £14,349,835, the total expenditure of £6,419,364, there remained a balance of £7,930,471, which was duly paid over to the State Treasurers, in accordance with the ‘Constitution, the amount consisting of exactly three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth for the year. It is interesting to observe that the result of the distribution to the individual States was that New South Wales received £188,120 and South Australia £23,183 more than three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue credited to them, whilst the other States received less than that proportion, viz. : Victoria, less by £108,336 ; Queensland, less by £62,436; Western Australia, by £12,377; and Tasmania by £28,154. I will now pass on at once to the more important subject before us, namely, the finances of the current year 1909-10. The Customs and Excise revenue is estimated at £10,800,000, or £43,985 below that of 1 908-9. It will be observed from the table which I shall presently quote that the amount estimated is £1,168,220 more than that received in 1906-7: - the year before the new Tariff came in. In 1907-8 the unprecedented!)’ large amount of ^11,645,352. was received, but this must be regarded as an abnormal year. Last year the receipts fell by £801,367, but after very carefully reviewing the figures, I have come to the conclusion that, notwithstanding the operation of the Tariff in encouraging local production, the receipts will not fall off much more, and the estimate made by the Customs officers, which I have quoted, viz., £10,800,000, will probably be realized. The revenue estimated for Post Office, &c., is £3,550,000, being ,£140,993 in excess of last year’s receipts. It is considered that, owing to the expansion of the Postal business and the additional revenue to be expected from higher telephone charges, the estimate is a sound! one. It- is expected that £100,000 will be paid into revenue during the year as the profit on the new silver coinage. Under an arrangement with the Imperial Government, we are authorized to withdraw during “ the year an amount of the silver coin now in circulation to the face value of £100,000, which will yield a profit of about £60,000, and a further profit is anticipated of £40,000 from the additional amount of silver coin which will be issued (during the year. The .total revenue estimated for 1909-10 is £14,555,765. The following table will permit of a comparison between the amounts received under the various heads of revenue in previous years and the estimated revenue for the current vear -
The expenditure for the current year is estimated at £7,867,621. The Estimates as forwarded by the Departments to the Treasury have been rigorously scrutinized and reductions made wherever possible. We must never forget, in considering Federal and State expenditure, that in both cases it is made in the interests of the same people. It cannot make any difference to the people of each State whether postal, defence, public works, and the services generally, are provided from Commonwealth or State funds ; in each case the same people derive the benefit, and in each case the same people bear the burden of finding the money. I mention this because, to listen to some observations one hears, one would think that the expenditure of the Commonwealth was made to assist others, instead of being wholly devoted to the advancement of the between the amount of estimated expendipeople of the States. The following tableture for the various Departments and the will enable a ready comparison to be made expenditure in preceding years -
It will be seen from this table that the estimated expenditure in 1909-10 is greater than the actual expenditure in 1908-9 by the enormous sum of £1,448,257. The following are the principal increases under special appropriations -
The principal increases under ordinary votes are -
while under votes for new works and buildings the principal increases are as follow’ : -
The principal decreases are, under Special
I may here mention that that survey is completed, and the £20,000 which was provided by special Act has not been exceeded. I was Treasurer at the time it was passed, and I am glad to say that there is no liability in excess.
– £20,000 altogether. There are also the following decreases under votes : -
Deducting from the total revenue estimated to be received during 1909-10, viz., £14,555,765, the estimated expenditure, 1909-10, viz., £7,867,621, the balance remaining to hand over to the State Treasurers is £6,688,144. But, under section 87 of the Constitution, we are compelled to hand over to the State Treasurers threefourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue. The estimated receipts from Customs and Excise are £10,800,000. Adding repayment of States’ proportion of pensions, £7,150, and transfer from Pension funds of Commonwealth proportion of pensions, £250, the total is £10,807,400. Deducting cost of collection, £289,874, the net Customs and Excise revenue is £10,517,526. Three-fourths of this amount is £7,888,144, which we are constitutionally bound to hand over. A study of the Budget papers will reveal the fact that it is impossible to reduce the proposed expenditure for this year so as to bring it within the limits of the revenue available, since this would mean, not only the stoppage of nearly all the new works and services in the Postal and Defence Departments, but would render it impossible to pay. old-age pensions. It is evident, therefore, that, after making the most careful estimate of the revenue to be received, and providing for expenditure considered to ‘ be absolutely necessary, we are faced with an estimated shortage of £1,200,000 in the accounts of the year, even after allowing for £655,800 transferred to Trust Funds in the last two years, which will be expended this year, so that the real shortage on the year’s transactions is estimated at £1,855,800. I want now to give honorable members information in regard to the actual revenue at the disposal of the Commonwealth for the year 1909-10. In order to make the position, if possible, still clearer, I would explain that, although the estimated gross revenue of the Commonwealth for the current year is £14,555,765, the actual amount available for Commonwealth purposes is comparatively small, as the following figures will show : -
Out of that the Commonwealth has to meet the following : -
The policy which has been followed for the last two years of providing funds for the payment of old-age pensions by cutting down the expenditure of the Defence and Postal Departments has caused great public inconvenience, and should not be continued, even if it were possible by means of it, which it is not, to provide sufficient funds this year for the same purpose. It has been proposed that the Commonwealth should abandon its policy of constructing works from revenue, and that a loan policy should be at once initiated. The Government is, however, averse to taking this step. It is considered that there is merely a temporaryshortage in funds pending the rearrangement of the finances after the termination of the Braddon section, and that the wisest course is to make temporary provision for the current year only. The Government have, therefore, come to the determination to ask authority from Parliament to raise the necessary amount, as required, by the sale of short-dated Treasury bonds, amounting to £1,200,000. A similar course has frequently been followed by State Treasurers, in order to tide over a temporary difficulty. In the present case, it is considered that there is every justification for adopting it, in order to meet emergencies which have been accumulating for some time,, and also to provide funds for the payment of old-age pensions. The bonds will be repaid in a period of four years, commencing in 1911-12, repayments of £300,000 each to be made on 1st January, 1912, 1913, 1914, and 1915. To those who are opposed to a loan policy, the present proposal of the Government should commend itself, for it is in fact equivalent only to an overdraft for a limited time, with the condition that the overdraft is to be repaid by annual instalments during the next few years. I have already stated the estimated revenue for the year at £14,555,765. Adding the proceeds of the sale of Treasury Bonds. £1,200,000, we have a total revenue of £15,755.765. Deducting estimated expenditure, £7,867,621, the balance available to be handed over to the State Treasurers will be £7,888,144, which I have already shown to be three- fourths of the net Customs and Excise re- the various States, from the 1st July, 1901, venue. The following table shows the to the 30th June, 1909, and the amounts amounts paid on account of each year lo estimated to be paid during 1909-10 : -
I have already stated that the payment of £7,888,144 to the States collectively will satisfy the requirements of section 87 of the Constitution, because, as honorable members are aware, the Commonwealth is compelled to return three-fourths of its revenue to the States collectively. It is estimated that during 1909-10 New South Wales will receive £191,568 more than three-fourths of the net Customs and Excise revenue credited to it, while the other States will all receive less than three-fourths -that is, “Victoria, £79,361 > Queensland, £50,486; South Australia, £2,036; Western Australia, £27,063; and Tasmania, £32,622. During the seven and a-half years ended 30th June, 1908, the States ‘ collectively have been paid j£6, 059, 088 more than the statutory threefourths which the Commonwealth is directed by the Constitution to pay ; that is, the Commonwealth has returned to them that amount out of its one-fourth. In 1908-9 the exact amount of three-fourths was paid to the States collectively, and in 1909-10 a similar course will be pursued. Coming now to old-age pensions, it is generally acknowledged that the care of the aged poor is a subject of immense importance, and in every civilized country some efforts are made to provide for them. Unfortunately, it involves immense financial difficulties. We have embarked upon it with a determination to do our duty to those who have not been successful in the battle of life, in many cases through little or no fault of their own; but it is necessary here to deal with this humanitarian measure only in its financial aspect. For various causes which need not now be referred to, no special pro vision was made for the necessary expenditure. Under the authority of the Surplus Revenue Act of 1908, and the Old-age Pensions Appropriation Act of 1908, the amount of £655,800 has been transferred to the credit of the Old-age Pensions Fund, the sum transferred in 1907-8 being £193,621, and in 1908-9 £462,179. During 1909-10 there will be transferred an additional amount of £850,000”, making a total sum of £1,505,800. That will be the amount available for paying the old-age pensions for the current financial year. As honorable members are aware, the Act came into operation by proclamation on the 15th April, 1909. Pensions are being paid, or will be paid, as from the 1st July last to all who held State pension certificates on the 15th April last, or who are entitled to pensions under the Commonwealth Act, and to all who applied for pensions on or before the 30th June, and have been, or will be, found entitled to them. It will be readily understood that the exchange of State certificates for Commonwealth certificates, issued under different conditions, was attended by a great amount of labour. It Was found necessary to examine every pensioner’s case afresh, in order to calculate the amount of pension due under the Commonwealth Act. I am glad to say that, in spite of the difficulties encountered, it was found possible to make the necessary exchanges of Commonwealth for State certificates in New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland during July. The ‘Commissioner informs me that in all States except, perhaps, one, satisfactory progress has been made in granting new pensions. The number of pensioners at present being paid by the Commonwealth is as follows -
The States of New South Wales, Victoria, and Queensland were, from the 1st July, relieved of the following approximate annual expenditure for old-age pensions -
Judging by the way in which the claims are coming in, the Commissioner states that in all probability, although £1,500,000 may be sufficient for the present financial year, that amount will be exceeded in future years, when the expenditure under the Act as now in operation will probably reach about £1,750,000. I need only add that the greatest care in administration will be necessary, so that, whilst all deservingcases are provided for, the expenditure shall not be allowed to expand in a way not intended by Parliament. I shall deal now with Inter-State trade. Honorable members are aware that Customs and Excise revenue is credited, in the first instance, to the State in which it is received. When, however, goods which have paid duty in one State are transferred to another, the latter is credited and the former debited with the amount of duty paid. The Inter-State Customs and Excise adjustment, therefore, is interesting, as it points out the States which are acting as distributing agents. The following table shows the net result of the entries made. T.he most remarkable feature last year was the heavy exportations from New South Wales to Queensland. It will be remembered that in the preceding year, the revenue from Customs was very large. Sydney and Melbourne are still improving their positions as distributing centres -
The trade between the States for 1908 was valued at £41,000,000, - Victoria and Queensland exporting respectively £2,277,000, and £2,279,000 more than they imported, and New South Wales importing £562,000 ; South Australia, £1,342,000 j Western Australia, £2,058,000, and Tasmania £594,000 more than they exported. In 1901, the total trade between the States was only £25,635,000, Queensland, South’ Australia, and Tasmania exporting respectively £2,055,000, £272,000, and £118,000 more than they imported, while New South Wales imported £228,000; “Victoria, £669,000, and Western Australia, £1,984,000 more than they exported. I wish now to refer briefly to a question which has greatly agitated Parliament and the public, the payment for transferred properties. The value of the properties transferred to the Commonwealth by the States has been fixed at £9,648,449. It would not, I think, be inequitable to reduce this sum by the amount paid, since Federation, by the Commonwealth to the States, in excess of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, namely, £6,059,088. That is an amount which the Commonwealth could have expended, and it reduces the indebtedness to £3,589,361. Whether this deduction is or is not made, I still consider that my recommendations, as to the best mode of settling this’ ques- lion - which were at the time presented to Parliament, and are to be found on page 1800 of Parliamentary Papers, Vol. 2, Session 1904, Appendix Ai - should be adopted, and the matter finally disposed of. A close watch on the working of the Tariff is being maintained ; and, when injurious anomalies are discovered, not capable of being dealt with administratively, they will be coped with. It is scarcely possible that an absolutely perfect Tariff will ever exist for any period ; but, since the Tariff was revised, it is obvious that not much in the way of amendment is to be expected from the House that passed it so recently, after very prolonged discussion. Fiscal stability’ gives great advantages to our trade and commerce, which can be preserved if anomalies are prudently provided against by well-considered action. This will be done wherever an opportunity can be found. It has been arranged that Australian silver coinage shall be established before the end of December. The Imperial Government have arranged to withdraw the British silver now in circulation in Australia, at the rate of £100,000 a year ; and the coin withdrawn will be replaced, with the new Australian coinage. The profit to be made by substituting Australian silver coinage for the £100,000 of the existing coinage, is estimated at £60,000 a year for the next twenty years, and, in addition, a profit of 60 per cent, will be made on any additional silver coinage issued. A proposal is before the Cabinet for the establishment of wireless communication with the principal islands in the Pacific under British influence, upon w7hich an agreement is anticipated. In that event, it- will be submitted to the House. In the meantime, £10,000 has been placed on the Estimates to establish this great modern invention on the coast of Australia. The cost of three stations is estimated at £20,000. The Government propose, as soon as this vote is passed, and the Pacific project has been decided, to instal the necessary appliances. Immediate action is desirable. The Waratah incident will serve to illustrate the necessity for a provision of this kind, which had previously been decided upon by the Cabinet. A great change has, I think, come over public opinion in regard to the proposed railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, -which will have a length of 1,080 miles.
It is now recognised that if Eastern and Western Australia are to be really federated, the present isolation of the Western State must be removed. The great claims of the Northern Territory, are also being admitted, and it may be noted that railway connexion with Port Darwin, by one route or another, forms part of every scheme. The survey for the railway from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie has been completed, and the amount voted for the work, namely, £20,000, has not been exceeded. The reports, so far, are very favorable, and the final report of Mr. Deane, M.I.C.E., the Commonwealth Engineer in charge of the survey, is daily expected. The authority of Parliament will then be required in order to carry out the- work. Every Government’ that has been in power in the Commonwealth has made the construction of this railway a part of its public policy. Its cost of construction and maintenance must, of course, be on a reasonable commercial basis. The national importance of connecting east and west in the interests of Federation for defence, for mutual trade, and commercial intercourse must always, however, be given great weight. Our only Territory at present - I hope that we shall soon have another - is Papua, the revenue of which is slowly increasing. For the current year, it is expected to be £30,216. The grant from the Commonwealth has been increased from £20,000 to £25,000, so that the total amount available there for the year 1909-10 will be £55,216. The proposed expenditure will absorb the whole of this amount. Since the passing of the Lands Act in 1906 about 300,000 acres have been taken up on lease for agricultural purposes There are about 120 plantations, the principal products being Para rubber, cocoanuts, and sisal hemp, besides sweet potatoes, &c. The prospects are considered excellent. The reports as to the general progress of the Territory seem very hopeful. The white population on 30th June, 1908, was 711, comprising 511 men, and 124 women and children. The native population is estimated at about 400,000. On these Estimates £455,968 is provided for sugar bounty and expenses, and £599,000 is expected as Excise. The Commonwealth Treasury pays out of its one-fourth of the Customs and Excise revenue £455.968 in bounty and expenses, and receives one-fourth of the Excise, namely, ,£149,750, making a clear loss on this transaction of £306,218. The State Treasuries, on the other hand, receive three-fourths of the Excise, namely, £449,250, a year, with no corresponding outlay on their part, for the benefit of this great industry. The quantity of sugar produced in 1908 was 146,429 tons by white, and 19,286 tons by black, labour, making a total of 165,715 tons, the amount of bounty paid being ,£477,090. For 1909-10, it is estimated that the sugar production will be 145,511 tons by white, and 15,742 tons by black, labour, making a total of 161,253 tons. The amount of bounty estimated to be paid is £450,000, and I think, sir, that we have every reason to be satisfied with the results that have flowed from our policy. The production of sugar by black labour is gradually lessening, and the total sugar production, although not so great as it has been, is still very satisfactory. The following table shows the amount of sugar produced under white and black labour conditions : -
In Queensland there was a decrease during 1909 of sixty in the number of farmers who employ black labour, and an increase of ninety-two in the number of farmers who employ white labour. Provision has been made in the Estimates for the sum of £25,040 to meet the necessary expenses of quarantine administration in the States. Owing to the intended transfer of over-sea quarantine to the Commonwealth, in several instances the States delayed taking action in reference to the building ‘and equipping of stations. These works are now very urgent, and partial provision is being made this year to build new stations where absolutely necessary, and to equip certain stations, especially first-call ports, with the latest scientific apparatus. I come -now to the question of bounties. The total payments during 1909-10 are estimated at £16,000, viz. -
I come now to a very important Departmentnamely, that of the PostmasterGeneral - which has received a great deal of attention on the part of honorable members, and in respect of which I am glad to furnish some information. For the financial year 1908-9 the receipts of this Department, amounting to £3>435>68o, were £364,086 in excess of the ordinary expenditure, which amounted to £3,071.594. The expenditure on new works and buildings was £541,184. The operations for the year resulted as far as the Treasury is concerned in”a debit of £177,098. For the vear 1909-10, the estimated receipts amount to £3,574,850, and the ordinary expenditure to £3,294,051, the estimated receipts being £280,799 m excess of the expenditure. The estimated expenditure for New Works and Buildings is £700,614. It is estimated, therefore, that the operations for the year will result as far as the Treasury is concerned in a debit balance of £419,815. During the nine years’ period ending 30th June, 1910, it is estimated that the total expenditure of the Postal Department, including Works and Buildings, will be £948,263 more than the total revenue received for the same period. The total cost of the Department for 1909-10 is estimated at £3,994,665, as against £3,612,778 for last year. The expenditure is made up as follows : -
Provision has been made in the Estimates for an increase of 1,461 new hands at a cost of £135,166. During last year only it2 new hands were employed, and 669 during 1907-8.
– Are these to be permanent appointments ?
– Most of them.
– The increased expenditure for this year is £381,887, made up as follows : -
Provision is made on the Estimates for £564,000 for new telegraphs and telephones, and I am informed by the Department that a similar provision will be neces sary for two more years in order to carry out the works now known to be necessary to put the system into fair working order. The Government is advised that it will be better and more economical to spread this work over three or four years than to attempt to rush it. A Committee consisting of Mr. Whitton, of the Audit Office, and Mr.- C. M. Holmes, accountant, has ‘been appointed to ascertain the capital charges, working costs, and other charges properly debitable against the telephone exchange services of the Postmaster-General’s Department under the several accounts an: headings with a view to determining ih., rates to be charged for such services. The report is expected to be received in about a month’s time. lt will be seen that foi the first time a determined effort is being made to place this service, so intimately associated with the daily life of the whole, people, in a thoroughly efficient condition.
– £2,000,000 was estimated as the amount necessary to pro vide for thorough efficiency.
– Spread over fiv years.
– This is a large slice or that amount.
– The new fortnightly service between London and Brisbane, under the contract entered into with the Orient Mail Steam-ship Company, will commence on 1st February next year, with magnificent steamers of 11,000 tons. The subsidy is £170,000 a year, being an increase of £45,000 on the present subsidy. The first steamer arrived here on 2nd in stant,and proved to be splendid in accommodation and otherwise. It is provided with refrigerating space for perishable products of over 2,000 tons. The existing contract with the Union Steam-ship Company for the conveyance of mails between Vancouver and Australia has been renewed for one year from 1st instant, at the same subsidy as formerly, namely, £66,000 a year, of which £26,627 is paid by the Commonwealth. It has been agreed by the company to replace the steam-ship Aorangi by a more suitable vessel. The Commonwealth’s share of the loss on thi Pacific Cable for the )ear ended Mardi. 1908, was £20,787. It is expected thai the loss for 1909 will be slightly less. From 1st instant the rates on press message:between Australia and Europe and Americ have been reduced from is. to 9d. per won’ by both the Pacific Cable Board and the
Eastern Extension Company. I come now to a very important Department, that of Defence. The total estimated expenditure on . this Department for 1909-10 is £1.575,109, being an increase over the expenditure of last year of £524,629. The proposed expenditure is’ made up as follows : -
The increase of £524,000 is principally made up of -
This large increase is justified, because, in the opinion of the Government, a complete reorganization of the Defences Forces has become an imperative necessity. The visit of Field Marshal Lord Kitchener in December next will be of the greatest assistance in enabling us to complete this all-important task. The number of members of rifle clubs is 56,000 and they are increasing every year. We are, in this important Department, striving to do what we are also doing in the Postal Department - making a determined effort to be equal to our responsibilities. Unity is strength ; and our determination to act in concert with the Mother Country in the defence of our hearths and homes; in the defence of our trade and commerce on the ocean ; in the defence of the Empire, is a course based on efficiency, on safety, on prudence, as well as on patriotism and affection. A Bil! will be introduced providing for the compulsory physical training of all boys from twelve to fourteen years of age in schools, and those from fourteen years towards manhood in elementary military exercises and organization. Arms and equipment for 75,000 Senior Cadets will cost, approximately, £,175, and £150,000 is provided towards this amount in the present Estimates. The full scope and significance of the new development of our land forces will appear in the amending Defence Bill, which will be submitted shortly. Under the Naval Agreement, it was provided that a maximum of 725 Australians should be’ employed as permanent crews, and that the Naval Reserve should have a maximum of twenty-one officers- and 583 men. On the 1st July, this year, there were 595 Australians employed as permanent crews, and there were seven officers and 414 men in the Naval Reserve. The crews are 130 below the maximum, and in the Reserve there is also a deficiency of fourteen officers and 169 men. I think the fact that we have, in connexion with the Naval Agreement, seven officers and 1,009 men trained in the Imperial Navy, and .available for service here, is satisfactory. I trust, however, that one of the results of the new scheme now being framed at the London Conference will be that the number of Australian sailors will be doubled, and that the number of officers born and bred on these shores will be increased in even a greater proportion still. At this moment, it is only possible for me to touch in a tentative way upon the development of our Naval Defence in its relation to the finances of the Commonwealth. So far, I have no information in my possession which will enable me to forecast our probable liabilities in this direction, though we are certain that they will total a very large amount during the next few years. We may soon have a more definite idea of our probable commitments, as, according to the cables, the Defence Conference in London is now engaged in considering this very matter. But to-day I have not even a general knowledge of the views of the Conference, and cannot, therefore, lay before you any figures. I am, of course, in a position to say that whatever the experts at that Conference may advise will receive the most earnest attention of the Government. We recognise our weakness in the seas immediately surrounding us, and the necessity for undertaking a share of the responsibility of guarding national interests in them and elsewhere in close co-operation with the parent State of the Empire and its Dominions. We are represented at the Conference because we desire to prove ourselves worthy of the freedom and protection we have enjoyed under the flag, and to prepare in earnest for a future which must de- pend upon our willingness and capacity to make an effective defence. What the people of Australia require to understand is, that they cannot have their homes and commerce safeguarded without adequate naval protection ; and that this may involve very shortly an expenditure amounting, perhaps, to a million sterling a year. Unless our force is sufficient for its purposes, it will be constituted in vain. What that sufficiency is, either this or the next Parliament will have to determine in the light of the recommendations of the Defence Conference, when these have been received, reviewed to the best of our ability, and decided upon by the people of the Commonwealth. In 1907-8, a sum of £250,000 was set apart for Harbor and Coastal Defence, and was placed to a trust account. Out of this amount, a sum of £12 1,000 has been expended, and there is, therefore, a balance of £129,000 still unexpended. A contract was let by our predecessors for two coastal torpedo-boat destroyers of 26-knot speed, complete and ready for sea, at £81,500 each, to be erected at the contractors’ works on the Clyde by the 14th June and the 14th July, 1910. A contract for a third similar vessel was also let, to be erected on the Clyde, and then taken apart, and delivered in Australia, for £72,500. This vessel is to be shipped to Australia on the 1st July, 1910. The total amount of the contracts is £235,500. In connexion with these contracts, nine workmen specially selected were sent to England, to be employed on the work, with a view to becoming acquainted with the methods of construction ; and, on the completion of the vessels, they will return with them to Australia. To maintain the integrity of the Empire, and that “supremacy of the sea “ upon which its very existence depends, this Government was proud to make, on behalf of the people of the Commonwealth, a definite offer to the Mother Country of a Dreadnought battleship, or whatever equivalent might be thought best suited to our needs. That offer has been- most cordially accepted. This action evoked much generous national feeling in the Motherland, and has been described by Mr. Asquith, the Imperial Prime Minister, as a “ splendid voluntary manifestation of cordiality, loyalty, and affection.” As far as I can judge, the difference between members opposite and ourselves is not as wide as some suppose. Honorable members opposite formally pro mised to place the whole resources of the Commonwealth at the service of the Empire in the hour of her need. I may say, in passing, that, when the hour of need arrived, no aid whatever could be rendered by those resources, unless they had taken the shape of armed ships and trained men. The flotilla they designed could never leave these waters, and the deciding conflict, even if fought here, could not be materially affected by the small craft proposed. We, on the other hand, have offered to provide now a Dreadnought, or some equivalent fighting machines, which will be ready and effective to prevent danger to the Empire arising, or to render effective help, should the necessity arise, in these waters or elsewhere. In point of fact, it is in the Pacific that we can best keep in touch with our section of the Imperial Navy,, and, at the same time, keep our Australianbom sailors of that Navy in touch with their homes and kin. But, apart from these very proper considerations, there is a patriotic ring in both offers, an anxiety to maintain unimpaired an Empire founded on justice, and peopled by a race animated by the true instincts of freedom. In even contemplating any disaster to the British nation - our own nation - the home of our fathers- we cannot but bow our heads in gratitude and affection to “ This other Eden “ . . . “ This blessed plot “ . . . “ this dear, dear land “… “England, bound in with the triumphant sea,” to which we owe our very existence as a people living in peace_and security, on this great southern continent. When the recommendations of the Defence Conference arrive, I hope we shall all be united in this matter. There should be no sign of partv feeling. What, after all, is the value of the voluntary offer . we have made compared to the benefits we have derived from being a part of the British Empire, and under the protection of the British flag? Realizing this, we should remember Lord Tennyson’s warning - which is applicable to every one of us, and to every one of our race throughout the world -
The fleet of England is her all in all.
Her fleet is in your hands,
And in her fleet her fate.
– What about ways and means for a Dreadnought?
– I thought I would be asked “ How is it proposed to pay for the suggested contribution to the power of the Empire’ s Navy ?’ ‘ The continuous inquiry of some honorable members, whenever any proposal is made by this Government involving expenditure, is “ How is it to be paid for?” I was bombarded a fewdays ago as to how old-age pensions were to be financed, as if there was any doubt as to our resources being sufficient for the purpose. Does any one suppose that Australia is unable to finance old-age pensions ? My answer to that, and all such inquiries, is that the resources of Australia, its revenue and its wealth, are all available for such demands. They are- amply sufficient to meet this, and all other obligations and liabilities, now, and in the future, as they may arise. Honorable members will be fully informed of the means proposed to be adopted to provide additional funds for any purpose. That is their ample safeguard. We’ shall not be slow in appealing to them once the course is clear. I want now to refer to a very important matter. The figures which I have furnished to the Committee in the course of this speech point clearly to the fact that, but for the near approach of the termination of the decade in which the Braddon section is unalterable, new taxation would be imperative. Considerable amounts have been withdrawn from the Postal and Defence Departments during the last years for the purpose of old-age pensions. If special provision had been made for old-age pensions, we could have, expended at least £300,000 more on Post and Telegraph and Defence Departments without having to raise money temporarily by the sale of bonds. I want honorable members to thoroughly understand that if there had been no old-age pensions we should have been able to spend £655,800 additional during the last two years upon those urgent services.
– The Government would have handed it back to the States.
– We could have voted it, or spent it on the Defence and Post and Telegraph Departments. We should also have had £850,000 this vear for those purposes, if we had taken steps when we introduced old-age pensions, to make special provision for them. I have the opportunity now, and I intend to take it, of expressing my own personal opinion with regard to borrowing money, although in this matter I am not necessarily speaking on behalf of any one but myself. My opinion is that we should borrow for reproductive works. Those who think that Australia ian be wholly opened up or completely developed from the proceeds of taxation, either direct or indirect, have not,
I fear, actually worked out the problems of the national development of a great new Continent. .We have neither the time nor the money to spare for such a Fabian policy. Those who have gone before us would never have seen the advancement that has taken place in Australia, and would never have had the opportunities they have had, if there had been no borrowing policy in this country from the beginning. In my mind, if Australia had been controlled by such ideas in the past, nothing like the advancement and prosperity we now enjoy could have been realized in our day. It is well known to honorable members that, while Premier of Western Australia, I did not hesitate to employ millions of loan money, principally for the purpose of providing me:ins of transit and water supply, and otherwise making available for settlement lands remote from ports and markets. The results of that experience are all in its favour, and I rejoice at the success of that policy. Hence, my conviction is that so long as the money raised is judiciously and carefully expended, only good can result. Without borrowed capital the railways, telegraphs, harbors, water supplies, and nearly all the great works throughout Australia could not have been constructed. I believe that the position ot Australia to-day is largely due to the expenditure of the £250,000,000 of loan moneys for which the States have made themselves responsible, and also to the immense expenditure of moneys borrowed by private individuals from capitalists, and others living beyond the limits of Australia, and used in the development of the Commonwealth. Whether these views will commend themselves to this Ministry, to Parliament, and to the electors, remains to be seen. When we fully realize our responsibilities and become fully aware of the necessities and demands of our situation, we shall have finally to make our choice. In anticipation, therefore, I have ventured to place on record my individual view of the remedy. The population of Australia, according to the Commonwealth Statistician, will be, on the 31st December next, 4,355,000, showing an increase, since 1902-3, of 480,878 persons. It is interesting to observe that the increase in the Customs and Excise revenue in the same period will be’ about £1,348,000. I wish now to say a few words about the financial arrangements with States. A Conference of State Ministers meets in Melbourne in a few days, to which this Government has accepted an invitation. The principal object of the Conference at this season is to discuss the re-distribution of the Customs and Excise revenue on an equitable basis after the end of 1910, and to invite our criticisms of their proposals. They have been assured ‘by my predecessor that they would not be deprived of a share of this revenue, and that their representations to him would meet with every consideration. We shall tender them the same assurance. This question is of the most vital concern to the whole people of Australia, and affects them, through the Commonwealth and the States, individually and collectively. I feel sure that after the discussion proposed to be held, the consideration of any plan that we may be able to recommend to this Parliament and people will be approached with a full sense of responsibility, and with an earnest desire that a just and equitable decision may be arrived at. It will be observed by honorable members that the Budget now submitted is complete in itself and leaves nothing dependent upon the interview with State Ministers in the approaching Conference. If the Conference were’ to be indefinitely postponed, the Budget proposals would not in any way be affected. No doubt the State Governments will take similar steps to inform and consult their constituents. It is imperative that the Braddon section - section 87 - shall terminate as soon as possible, and it is imperative also that the Commonwealth and States shall in the future be financially separated from one another. I feel - sure I may express a hope on behalf of all honorable members that a mutually satisfactory arrangement may be arrived at for submission to this Parliament, and thus the people will have an opportunity of considering it before the approaching general election arrives. We feel sure that the State Premiers will recognise the immense obligations resting now and in the future on the Commonwealth, including defence, naval and military, postal, immigration, Federal trans-Australian railways, Northern Territory, and all matters connected with our national development under the Constitution. We, on the other hand, must full, recognise the great obligations of the States in the opening up and development of the agricultural, pastoral, and mineral resources, by railways, roads, and harbor works, water supplies, the settlement and occupation of the land, the maintenance of law and order, and the education of the people. As is customary and necessary for presenting a clear view of the finances, 1 have dealt only with the current twelve months, although eighteen months must elapse between the beginning of this financial year and the end of 1910, when the Braddon section becomes alterable. The year 1910-ii can be better, judged in the light of the further knowledge of our receipts and of our requirements for expenditure within the Constitution twelve months hence. More especially is this desirable since, after the end of the financial year, there will be only six months to run to the time the Braddon section will be terminable - namely, on the 31st December, 1910. It seems clear that any re-arrangement of the finances of the Commonwealth consequent on that event can be made most easily at that time, unless the approval of this Parliament is given, before that date, to some definite financial arrangement .approved by the Commonwealth and by the States. I have now said all that seems necessary at this stage. I am much obliged to honorable members for the courtesy they have extended to me during the time that I have been speaking. In Committee I shall be “glad, and so will Ministers, to assist honorable members-with the fullest information. We have nothing to hide or keep back. We desire to take Parliament into our confidence so far as it is possible to do so. Before concluding, however, I should like in a few words to survey our .position as a part of the British nation on this continent - a continent “compassed by the inviolate sea,” a continent containing 2,000,000,000 acres, with a coast-line of 12,000 miles - all British territory, no other nation having any right or title to any part of it; a splendid .heritage in the Southern Hemisphere ; another home for the British race. Sixty years ago the population of Australia was only about 400,000, and there were no railways then constructed, so that it may fairly be said that what has been done has been accomplished during a lifetime. Our population has reached nearly four and ahalf millions - 96 per cent. British - and it is interesting as well as gratifying to note what these four and a-half millions have done and are doing. They have £112,000,000 upon deposit at the banks; they have deposits in the Savings Banks of over ,£46,000,000, and the number of depositors - 1,334,000 - is one out of every three of the entire population. They have produced minerals to the value of £713,147,000, of which £24,655,000 was produced in 1908. Of the total value of minerals produced, gold represents £501,487,000, and of that quantity £13,058,000 was produced in 1908. They have 10,000,000 acres under principal crops. During the last year they have produced 62,000,000 bushels of wheat, and have exported butter valued at £2,387,000. They have 90,000,000 sheep, 10,000,003 cattle, 2,000,000 horses, and 750,000 pigs. Their sheep have increased during the last five years, from 66,000,000 to 90,000,000, and the value of the wool exported last year was £23,000,000. Their oversea trade in 1908 represented £114,000,000, their imports being £50,000,000, and their exports £64,000,000. Of this trade, the imports were 73 per cent. British, or British Possessions, and 27 per cent, foreign. The exports were 60 per cent. British, and 40 per cent, foreign. In regard to both imports and exports the percentage of foreign trade, I regret to notice, is increasing, in spite of the voluntary preferences which this Parliament accorded. It is to be hoped that it will not go on increasing to the disadvantage of our own nation. The grand total of value of primary productions for last year, including manufactures, is estimated ‘ at £170,000,000. This is a splendid record for 4,500,000 of British people, on a great continent, and should give us cause for good hope for the future, and gratitude in reflecting on the past. Surely it is an answer to those, whether living within our own borders or beyond its limits, who seek to disparage the efforts of the men and women who have gone before us, after bearing the heat and burden of the day, while founding, guiding, and fashioning this country in its earlier years. This record of progress is the answer to those who say that the pioneers of this country had no policy. Their policy in the past stands realized before the world in the proud position which we hold! to-day. I trust and believe that the “goodly heritage” of which we are the heirs - many of us being able to proudly say, “ This is my own, my native land” - may continue to prosper and progress, so that by steady, well-directed efforts, by industry and perseverance, we, in our day and generation, may be able still further to promote its advancement, while always remaining knit in the closest unity and friendship with our kinsmen in the “ Old Land.” I move-
That the item, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– I offer to the Treasurer my congratulations upon the clear statement which he has made of a very difficult subject. The circumstances precluded any oratorical effort, and the speech was all the better because it was not attempted. Naturally we were unable to follow the details submitted to us, and criticism of these must be postponed until a later date, but I wish to say a few .words upon the broad general outlines of the statement. We were told by the Prime Minister that this would be the most important Budget yet delivered in the Parliament of Australia. We were led to believe that heroic, if not revolutionary, measures were to be resorted to. But nothing that the Treasurer said was either new or surprising. We were led to believe that as the difficulties were almost overwhelming there would be resort to remedies’ of an unusual character, but .the Budget contains neither surprises, in its presentation of facts, nor novelties in its method of dealing with the financial situation. I gather that, deducting the £650,000 to the credit of the old-age pensions account, there will be a net shortage of £1,200,000 in the finances of the year. That estimate makes no provision for the cost ot adopting the recommendations of the Imperial Defence Conference, whatever they may be, nor for meeting other obligations about which I shall speak presently. There is no reason to believe that our revenue from Customs and Excise will ever be greater, comparatively speaking, than it is to-day. The return from Customs and Excise duties is now normal, and, per capita, and subject to negligible variations, will remain very much as at present. In the Postmaster-General’s Department the expenditure is greater than the revenue by £419,815. I did not understand the Treasurer to say that he had made provision for putting the Department on a business-like and up-to-date footing.
– Seven hundred thousand pounds additional is to be spent upon the Department this vear - £,64.000 for telegraphs and telephones, and £136,000 for buildings.
– Had the (Fisher Government’s telephone rates been adhered to, there would not now be a deficit in the working of the telephone branch. We tried to place it on a business-like footing, by charging for the service an amount likely to cover the cost of management and maintenance. The Treasurer estimates the sum . payable for old-age, pensions Aus year at £1,500,000, and says that ultimately £1,750,000 will be needed to meet the claims that will be presented. Six hundred and fifty thousand pounds is now to the credit of the Old-age Pensions Fund, but it has to be remembered that the expenditure is an annually recurring one, and that the whole amount necessary to defray pensions ought to be charged to the current year. One might have thought from some remarks of the Treasurer that under no circumstances would the Government resort to borrowing. Indeed, he declared that it would not borrow. Yet, to meet this deficit of £1,200,000, he proposes to issue short-dated Treasury bonds, having a four years’ currency.
– The currency of the proposed bonds will be so short that a bad example will be set in the matter of exchange rates.
– I do not suppose that that will deter the right honorable gentleman from taking the action that he proposes. The only defence he could offer for1 his proposal was that State Treasurers had resorted to it. I venture to say that, not only State Treasurers, but every impecunious person has resorted since its first discovery, to this ingenious method of putting off the evil day by signing one’s name on the back of a bill.
– It is a pawnshop policv.
– It is a glorified pledging of the credit of the Commonwealth, and is as much a borrowing policy as would be the floating of a loan on the English market. It is, indeed, worse than a straight-out loan policv, and has all the defects, and none of the advantages of a loan policy to recommend it. The people will realize that, despite the efforts of the Government, they are practically committing the Commonwealth to a borrowing policy. Weshall have to pay handsomely for these short-dated bonds. The Treasurer savs his scheme is practically a bank overdraft. A bank overdraft is always the dearest way of raising money. It is unsound financing, and a more objectionable way of pledging our credit, which has not vet been tarnished, could not be conceived. The Treasurer is an advocate of the transfer of the debts of the States to the Commonwealth, on the ground that our credit would be better than that of the States. In other words, he believes that the Commonwealth could borrow more cheaply, and would be able to raise money at 3 per cent., or 3¼ per cent. Notwithstanding that belief, however, he proposes to issue short-dated Treasury bonds in respect of which we shall have to pay, what rate of interest ?
– Five per cent.
– It may be. The right honorable gentleman certainly will not be able to issue these Treasury bonds at 3 per cent. He also informed us that he estimated the cost of issuing them would be , £15,000. I presume that he meant that that would be the annual cost.
– That will be the cost for this vear.
– So that the total cost will amount to at least £60,000.
– We shall only payinterest while the bonds are current.
– Quite so. The right honorable member referred to the item of £15,000 in a way that would lead most people to believe that that would be the total cost of the accommodation, whereas, allowing for commission and other charges, we shall have to pay nearly 5 per cent, for it, which will amount to over £60,000 for the whole loan. The policy of borrowing is one against which this Parliament has resolutely set its face from the inception of Federation. Every Prime Minister has been opposed to it since the time when Sir George Turner, as Treasurer in the Barton Ministry, proposed to float a loan to provide for reproductive works. The House declined to indorse that proposal, and, whilst I am not going to declare myself wholly against a policy of borrowing, I do most emphatically say that, if we are to embark on a loan policy, it must be strictly confined to reproductive undertakings, and should be entered upon only when the necessary funds cannot be obtained in any other way. We certainly ought- not to borrow to provide for old-age pensions, which are properly a charge upon the revenue. The Treasurer has told us that we cannot pay our way. and continue to return to the States the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Braddon section. With the Prime Minister, he will attend the Conference of Premiers to endeavour to adjust our financial relations with the States after 19 10 when the Braddon section will terminate. It is in order to bridge over the intervening period that he proposes to resort to the temporary expedient of issuing short-dated Treasury bonds.
– There is a period of eighteen months to be bridged over.
– But the right honorable member proposes to bridge over that period by the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds, the last of which will not mature until 1914, or four years after the Braddon section has ceased to operate. His sole reason for proposing to reverse a policy that has been indorsed by this Parliament and by almost every member of it, is that owing to our having to provide for oldage pensions, we are faced with a deficit. The right honorable gentleman says that but for our having to make provision fu; old-age pensions we should have £300,000 available for new works and other undertakings. That statement is not quite in accordance with facts. If the right honorable gentleman had had his way there would have been no surplus available. It was in the teeth of the most bitter opposition on his part that the Surplus Revenue Bill was passed, and the appropriations that have been made in respect of old-age pensions have been possible only because of the action taken by the honorable member for Hume when Treasurer, and the Labour partv, who supported that Bill.
– The right honorable gentleman bitterly opposed the Surplus Revenue Bill.
– I said I thought it was unconstitutional, and that we should find the money in some other way.
– The honorable member for Flinders, who is a lawyer, whose opinions on questions of constitutional law are at . least as worthy of ‘ attention as are those of any other honorable member, declared the Bill to be constitutional, and yet the right honorable member did not relent in his hostility to it. If, therefore, we have any money available for the payment of old-age pensions, or for any other purposes, we have to thank not the Treasurer, but those against whom he is at present arraigned. I come now to the contention that it is because of our having to finance the old-age pensions that we are face to face to-day with a deficit. What are the facts? We have assumed obligations new to the Commonwealth Government. But these -obligations are not new to the people of Australia, for in two States old-age pensions have been paid for years past. The people in those States - over half the population of Australia - were taxed to pay them. By our action we have assumed the responsibility of paying these pensions to every citizen in Australia qualified under the Act. It is an obligation which belongs properly to the whole people, and which was met until 15th April last by three of the States, and. should have been met by the whole of them. We have relieved these States of their obligations, but we ought not to be asked to find the money out of our one-fourth. It is by every standard of sound finance, as well as in equity, a charge against the States’ three-fourths. The Treasurer asks us to consent to a departure from a policy time-honoured in this Parliament - a policy which has been indorsed by the people at every election - and to agree to what is really a loan proposal, because there is a deficit caused by our taking over old-age pensions, whereas he ought to tell the’ Conference of State Premiers that while it is not a legal obligation, it is such a moral one that no State Government should hesitate to credit the Commonwealth with! that portion of its revenue necessary to defray the cost of the scheme. In 1907-8, New South Wales Paid £503,030 in respect of old-age pensions, and Victoria paid away £233,000 under the same heading, making a grand total of £736,050. The Commonwealthhas relieved those two States of that obligation, and it is because we have done so, and are taking upon our shoulders an obligation which the whole of the States should liquidate, that we find ourselves to-day face to face with a deficit. The States still claim their three-fourths of the Customs and Excise revenue, although the Commonwealth has assumed in this connexion liabilities formerly discharged by theStates to the extent of nearly £1,000,000. And it is because the States refuse to meet their just obligation that we are asked toresort to a borrowing policy. This Parliament would be recreant to itself, and falseto every tradition that it has set up - it would ignore every canon cf sound publicand private finance - if it agreed to adopt such a policy. One would imagine that the Treasury was on its last legs, that everv expedient had been resorted to, every resource exhausted ; while, as a matter of fact, there exist vast unexploited reserves for additional taxation, and one plain and’ certain remedy of another kind. The Commonwealth Ministers hold the key of thesituation. They have but to insist uponthe States crediting the Commonwealth, with the amount necessary to defray oldage pensions out of their three-fourths share of the revenue, and there would be no .deficit. The States have no alternative but to agree to any reasonable proposal. The suggestion I am making is not only reasonable, but, in the last degree, just. Owing, however, to the pusillanimity of the gentlemen who, to the misfortune of this country, are intrusted with its finances, so plain and just a course is not even suggested. Because we saw many injustices, and were moved to pity at the condition of the old and the feeble, we, in a generous-hearted spirit, rushed in to help; and now the States propose to compel the Commonwealth to borrow £1,200,000 on a shortdated loan, rather than recoup the Commonwealth the amount which we have relieved them of in order to discharge this sacred duty to our old citizens. The mandate of Parliament to the Commonwealth representatives in the Conference should be that the States must assume those obligations which properly belong to them. If we take over £733,000 of liabilities, which were borne last year by New South Wales and Victoria, those States ought, by a cross-entry, to credit the Commonwealth with that amount out of their share of the three-fourths of the Customs and Excise, revenue.
– And those States .which did not pay old-age pensions ought to have paid them.
– Yes; the blame must not fall more harshly on those States which did realize their duty than it does on those States that have utterly neglected it. We have heard for months of this great financial scheme, and now we see the prodigious mouse that the financial mountain has brought forth. This is the monumental effort of the present Government to place the finances of Australia on a sound footing ! They proceed to the pawnbroker’s shop, float a short-dated loan, and call it an issue of Treasury bonds. I could go down the street and raise a short-dated loan on my watch and chain ; there is no real difference between the two transactions. But if I am a man of substance, and of standing in the community, I do not have to produce my security, but can raise a loan at a reasonable, and not usurious, rate of interest. I condemn most unsparingly this wretched “ temporary “ expedient of the Government. As a fact, it is so far from being temporary that we have heard from the Treasurer to-day a paean of eulogy in favour of a borrowing policy such as I never heard before in my life. If the Treasurer has behind him a servile ‘or pliant majority, it is clear that ihe future of the Commonwealth is committed to a wholesale borrowing pOlicy The Treasurer speaks of borrowing hundreds of millions., as though that were nothing. I do not deny that the result of the borrowing in the past has been the construction of public works of great utility throughout the Commonwealth; but, at the same time, there has been cast on millions in this country an almost intolerable burden. I do not say that there are not circumstances under which a borrowing policy is justifiable; but we do not find ourselves in those circumstances to-day. The Treasurer, whose financial policy amounts to nothing more than the floating of a loan, went on to tell us something about defence ; but before I deal with that matter, I should like to comment ‘ on the total absence from the- Treasurer’s statement of any reference to invalid pensions. The Prime Minister when he was brought in the other evening post-haste to save a desperate and disgraceful position, said that one reason why oldage pensions could not be paid to 300 or 400 poor unfortunate Asiatic subjects of the Empire was that the money was required to pay invalid pensions. Although the Prime Minister can float a loan rather than face the States, and ask, not a privilege or favour, but a right, he never gives a hint or holds out a hope to those thousands of poor unfortunates throughout the country, who are not old, but stricken down, and to whom every day is a living death. There is in connexion with this Conference a sinister exhibition of the true motives that actuate both parties. I speak, not of the States as States, nor of the Commonwealth as a Commonwealth, but of those who, while ostensibly and nominally representing the Commonwealth, are as much representatives of the States as the State representatives themselves. We are to be represented at this Conference by delegates who will not say one word as to the true position of the Commonwealth Parliament. Before turning to Defence matters, I should like to lay before the House and the country what the Labour party conceived to be a correct basis for Commonwealth finance. It was in order to introduce their financial policy that the present Government put us out of office: We were told that we were incapable of dealing with a financial situation so involved and grave. It required men of special qualifications, amounting almost to genius. I listened to the Budget speech with an interest shared by everybody in the country, in the hope of hearing ‘some evidence that the present Government possessed the necessary qualifications; but I heard none. No Budget has been more vapid, evasive, or unsatisfactory. The Fisher Government dealt with the situation - the gravity of which is admitted, and which cannot be denied: - in a definite, practicable, and statesmanlike way. And then there was the scheme put forward at the Labour Conference in Brisbane. Whatever may be the shortcomings of the Brisbane scheme, it had, at least, the merit of practicability. It was not merely a temporary expedient for the nextyear or two, but a settlement for all time. At the Brisbane Labour Conference, the financial scheme was set forth as follows : -
That this Conference expresses its approval generally of the following scheme as the basis for an adjustment of the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States : -
That the States should continue to receive a share of the Federal revenue.
That such annual share be paid to the States in the form of a fixed sum per head of the population, such sum to be ascertained during. or before the year 1910 on the basis shown in the fourth paragraph.
That the proportion of revenue allocated to the Commonwealth must he sufficient to cover -
All existing expenditure apart from reproductive services;
Old-age and Invalid Pensions throughout the Commonwealth ;
An additional sum, not to exceed one million pounds, for the expanding necessities of the Federal Government, such as the creation of the Federal Capital, railway undertakings, and the development of the Northern Territory.
Paragraph 4 referred to above is -
That the amount of the fixed payment per capita’ to be returned to the States be ascertained by -
That in view of the exceptional position of Western Australia, a further capitation grant should be made to that State, to gradually diminish upon a sliding scale until its share of the Federal revenue coincides per capita with that of the other States.
That was the scheme of the Labour Conference last year for the purpose of adjusting the financial relations of the Commontvealth and States up to 1910 ; and the Labour Government produced the scheme without waiting to hear what the States might have to say. The members of that Government did not go to a Premiers’ Conference cap in hand, muzzled, vague, vacillating, and uncertain, but stated plainly the needs of the Commonwealth, and told the Conference of Premiers that it was to Parliament, and not to them, that a solution was to be looked for. The Treasurer wishes to know how we proposed to finance until the expiration of the Braddon section. I will tell him. The Fisher Government put forward a policy which they were never permitted to lay upon the table of the House. It never received the courtesy even of discussion. It was gagged on the first day that we attempted to put it forward. That policy was so revolutionary and radical in its nature as to bring about a fusion of all the other parties in the Commonwealth, and to alarm those persons who to-morrpw will hail with satisfaction the resurrection of the wretched temporary expedient of my honorable friend - the resort to a loan, the cost of which will have to be paid, not by those who will receive the benefit of it, but by the consumers, the masses of the people. There is absolutely no difference in effect between collecting the interest on that loan, and imposing a purely revenue duty upon tea or kerosene. It is something of which no man or woman in this country who is a consumer of any sort can evade paying his share. The Fisher Government came forward with a policy of an entirely different nature. It proposed to resort to direct taxation, and to place the additional burden on the great vested interests of the country. I admit at once that we did hot propose direct taxation to the extent which the circumstances warranted, but we put forward a scheme that would have prevented the necessity of even considering this expedient of a loan policy. We proposed to impose taxation on the unimproved value of land held in large estates, with a minimum of £5,000. I do not deny that the chief reason that actuated us was the bursting up of big estates, but it’ is undeniable that a revenue running to anything from £500,000 upwards could have been looked for from such a scheme. But this Government have come into power, not to settle the people upon the land, but, “ to settle the financial problem.” How do they propose to do it? By short-dated Treasury bonds. That is to say, by borrowing money. And this is high finance ! ! Contrast the -methods of the British Government, confronted with a situation very similar to that of the Commonwealth Treasurer. Does Mr. Asquith, the Prime Minister of what the Treasurer calls the “ Imperial Parliament, “ propose to meet the difficulty by such a wretched expedient as borrowing? No. In the memorable, the epoch-making Budget of Lloyd-George, there is no mention of shortdated Treasury Bills, no mention of loans of any kind. There is rather such a radical, deliberate, and resolute attack on the entrenched wealth and vested interests of Great Britain, as has never been seen during the last half-century. It will furnish the battle-ground at the next election, and, no matter what is the immediate result, victory will inevitably incline in favour of those who declare that the time has come when accumulated wealth and vested interests must pay a greater share towards the cost of the government of the country. We are now faced by the necessity of financing the two great schemes of old-age pensions and defence. I ask honorable members opposite to what ‘cause must we attribute the necessity for the payment of old-age pensions? How is it that the aged poor of this country, those who escape the infinite number of dangers attendant upon industrial warfare until they reach sixty-five years of age, require pensions? It is because of the damnable industrial and social conditions of our time, which create such profound and impassable inequalities of wealth and division of the results of production. On the one hand we see the spectacle of wealth being piled up to ever-increasing heights, and on the other hand, in spite of the advancing progress of civilization, we see the poor going down into the vale of years, no better off than they were half a century ago, save only for the hand of charity, or of the State being held out to protect them, to soften the keen edge of their misery. At whose door is the blame to-be laid, if not at the door of those who benefit by the system which makes the aged poor require charity and State assistance? Yet it is proposed to finance old-age pensions by a loan for which the poor themselves will have to pay. This is Fusion finance with a vengeance ! But Lloyd-George proposes to tax accumulated wealth. In this country we have yet to face resolutely the position that has been faced at Home. It is humiliating, but true, that we have to take a lesson from, and humbly follow in the footsteps of a country which we decry as Conservative, speak of as effete, and have hitherto despised, so far as regards experiments in social legislation, as lagging behind us. We have not dared to attack accumulated wealth in the very citadel and stronghold of its power. Yet in Great Britain, Lloyd-George proposes to tax it to an extent which has not been dreamed of here, but which, I venture to say, before another twelve months have passed, will be one of those great necessities that will swamp all others. Accumulated wealth ought to and must pay its share towards the cost of the government of the country. For what is defence required? Who benefits to the greatest extent by it ? Is it not those persons whose property here needs the most defending ? And is it not right and fair that they should pay? In England it is proposed to raise the income tax to is. in the £1. There is to be a super-tax on incomes above a certain amount, but this great Fusion Government, with an enormous margin of untouched direct taxation at its disposal, hesitates - and it does well to hesitate, for it is the servant of those who would behead it if it dared to take a step in that direction - “to lay an iconoclastic hand upon it. It fears to raise by a solitary halfpenny the taxation upon great incomes in this country, whereas Lloyd-George proposes, in Great Britain, to increase the tax on incomes above £5,000 a year. The Treasurer, in his monumental Budget, passes that over in significant silence. While it is proposed in Great Britain to lower the minimum sum upon which the highest death duties have to be paid in Great Britain, the right honorable gentleman has not even hinted at taxing them at all. Accumulated wealth to-day breathes freely and will continue to breathe freely so long as my right honorable friend and his friends are in power. But let them look to the future, for the world awakes from its slumber. Lloyd-George’s Budget is not the only determined effort in this direction. President Roosevelt declared that it was essential that great wealth should be attacked, and that the question with regard to great fortunes was not what the State should take, but what the State should leave to those who inherit them In Germany Count von Bulow resigned his position as Imperial Chancellor because the Reichstag declined to accept a Budget which included a tax of, I believe, 33 per cent., but at any rate at least 25 per cent., on accumulated wealth. Whatever the percentage of the tax was, it climbed to a height which no Labour Government in these States has yet even ventured to contemplate. That great statesman retired rather than hold a position which he conceived to be incompatible with the true interests of one of the most progressive countries in the world - -a country whose strides threaten both our trading and national supremacy every day. The very mention of the Mother Country reduces the right honorable Treasurer to a state in which he shakes like the quivering aspen - he can hardly utter the name without bowing his head - and yet he does not propose to follow the example of that admirable Government which, according to his statement, received his offer of a Dreadnought with loud paeans of joy and thanksgiving. In dealing with industrial and financial problems, I pass over other matters which the right honorable gentleman mentioned, and come to the question of Defence. This Government came in on a Dreadnought policy. It came in on a financial policy. After indulging in a period of gestation, longer than that which, so far as I know, any other Ministry has ever required, it has evolved something in the shape of a financial policy which I will not call a monstrosity - monstrosity almost implies bigness and vigor - but an anaemic, decrepit weakling. It is a thing that, although born new, is older than the hills. In the .matter of Defence the Government came in upon the majestic programme of a Dreadnought. We were led to believe that throughout the whole of the British Empire banners waved and a day was set apart for universal rejoicing over this, the latest and most happy effort of the Fusion Government - “A Dreadnought or its equivalent,” and was an afterthought. And even this escaped the Prime Minister’s memory, and that of the Treasurer’s also, except so far as they say that the offer is there, and that they are willing to favorably consider any recommendation madebv the Imperial Defence Conference. The honorable member for Ballarat said that he would turn the Fisher Government out of office because it had not announced itself in favour of offering a Dreadnought, and the honorable member for Parramatta declared that he would have a Dreadnought or nothing. During that time of hysteria the honorable member for Parkes found himself in a particularly congenial atmosphere. For once he was able to forego his practice of addressing ladies on constitutional and other important matters during the intervals of refreshment at. afternoon parties, and to appear before public meetings upon matters of interest to the general public. The results were contrary to his former experience. To his intense amazement, his audiences, if we accept his assurance, accepted his opinions with such fervour that, quite unfamiliar to such manifestitations, it seemed to him to set a Divine seal on his mission. Consequently he was inspired to write to the present Prime Minister, deploring his attitude, and denouncing him as the enemy of the Empire. Of course, his diction was unexceptional. Like Dr. Johnson, he could not write on any subject without employing correct if ponderous periods. He informed the Prime Minister that he hari spoken at the Glebe, at Annandale, and other places, in support of the resolution, which had been received with enthusiasm. With him it was out Cossar ant nullus. He would have a Dreadnought or nothing. The honorable member for Parramatta was like him. The honorable member for Ballarat was almost persuaded to give us an option, saying, “ If von misguided persons who compose the Fisher Government will offer a Dreadnought to Great Britain, I shall support you,” but the honorable member for Parkes, was adamant, while the honorable member for Parramatta said. “ Dreadnought or no Dreadnought, out they go.” But, to-night, .the Treasurer made no mention of having provided for the giving of a Dreadnought, or its equivalent, which will mean an expenditure of £2,000,000, not in substitution of the expenditure on the local naval flotilla, but in addition to it. It is proposed to finance the deficit created by the old-age pensions payments by the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds. That is a deficit which properly belongs to the States, and they should have the decency to meet their obligations. But in addition we have to provide £2,000,000 for a Dreadnought. How will the Treasurer find that sum ? We are entering upon a road the end of which we cannot see. On each side avenues of fresh expenditure are opening up. Our revenue will not increase, whatever may happen to the Braddon provision. The States at the Hobart Conference rejected the Brisbane offer, under which about.’ £5,000,000 a year would have been returned to them.
They said that so small an amount would not enable them to meet their obligations. But more than that we cannot give them. We shall never be better off than we are now. Our obligations are increasing. This Government, which, although it has been in office for nine weeks, has not had the courage to put forward a policy, has had the audacity to commit the country to a further expenditure of £2,000,000, but dares not even hint as to how this is to be met. We are irrevocably committed to expenditure equivalent to the cost of a Dreadnought, in accordance with whatever recommendation the Imperial Conference may take. This obligation must be met within the near future. In addition, we shall have to provide for two trans-continental railways and a High Commissionership. Are all these obligations to be met by short-dated Bills? We are to have Treasury bonds issued to cover the old-age pensions deficit, but the construction of railways from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, and from Oodnadatta to Pine Creek, or any other line to serve the Northern Territory, will cost anything from £6,000,000 to £16,000.000. flow are these millions to be found? Old-age pensions and defence provision should be defrayed wholly out of revenue. In Great Britain, where the cost of old-age pensions is tremendous, threatening a deficit proportionally larger than ours, and where the increasing defence expenditure is also relatively greater, a manful effort is being made to find the necessary funds, by taxing the great vested interests of the country. Then the Treasurer has made no provision for the establishment of a Federal Capital, to which we are committed bv the Constitution. A great State looks to the Commonwealth to meet this obligation in the near if not the immediate future.
– Will the Labour party assist to bring the matter to a conclusion?
– The Labour party is the only one which has had the courage to make it a party question. The Administrations led by the honorable member for Ballarat have never done so, and! have consequently never got it beyond the region of theory and speculation. It is to the two Labour Governments that all practical achievement is due. Notwithstanding the fact that many members of the Labour party held views in this matter very different from my own, and from those of the honorable member for Wentworth, the whole party was true to the letter and spirit of the Constitution, and directly Parliament committed itself to a site determined! to push ahead. The honorable member for Wentworth, whose words and actions contrast so violently that he should have remained silent, is supporting a Government which does not propose to spend anything on the Federal Capital Site during the next twelve months.
– We provide for spending £5,000 there.
– On the Federal Capital, to which we hope in the near future to transfer our labours and our eloquence, there is to be spent during the next twelve months £5,000. More than that would be required to fence in a squattage of moderate size and to excavate a few dams upon it.
– I take it that the Government will have to pass an Appropriation Bill as soon as they conclude their arrangements with New South Wales in regard to the Capital.
– But I am dealing with the facts. Either the Government propose to expend only £5,000 on the Federal Capital, in which case there will be a direct breach of faith with the people of New South Wales, or they propose to expend upon it a greater sum for which no provision is made on the Estimates. I do not wish to labour the question, but must say that the position of the Government in regard to the great questions of finance and defence is as abject as “any of its enemies could wish. We hail with satisfaction their display of ineptitude, vacillation, and utter incapacity. We see no evidence in (lie Budget of ability on the part of the Government to deal with any question in a statesmanlike way.
– Look at the Government benches.
– The front Treasury bench is deserted. No doubt the Ministry are enjoying afternoon tea, which is about the only thing they are fit for. They have neither the ability to frame a policy nor the courage to carry one out. They propose to go to the country without a policy in regard to the future financial arrangement of the Commonwealth and the payment of old-age pensions. They propose to finance the year in a way that has only to be mentioned to excite universal condemnation. There has rung to-night from the lips of the Treasurer the death-knell of this Government. In these words I sum up the situation. On the honorable gentleman’s own showing, the Commonwealth has to face a deficit of £1,200,000 with which it ought not for a moment to be saddled. The Ministry have power to go to the Premiers’ Conference and insist that the States shall assume those liabilities with regard to the payment of old-age pensions which properly belong to them. The people realize that we are committed to an expenditure of £2,000,000 in respect to a
Dreadnought or its equivalent, for which no provision has been made on the Defence Estimates, and which we learn from the bald declaration of the Treasurer must be met and can be met only by the issue of short-dated bills.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
– I wish now to contrast the defence policy of the present Administration with that of the late Fisher Government. I gathered from the Treasurer’s remarks that it was proposed to expend during the current year £1,575,109 upon naval defence; but I was unable to. ascertain from him what form that naval policy is to take. We were net informed whether the Government intend to create a local Australian Navy, nor were we given any information as to the number of vessels to be ordered or their class and sphere of operations. Some eighteen months ago, at the close of a session, the Prime Minister, with a great flourish of trumpets, declared that we had already embarked upon our career as a naval power, yet we were not informed this afternoon whether the Government intend to increase the number of vessels ordered by the Fisher Government, the first and only Government who took a definite and effective step by accepting tenders for their construction.
– Will the honorable member tell us whether the Fisher Government did anything more than accept tenders that had been invited by their predecessors?
– Most emphatically we did. No tenders were called for by our predecessors. That Government, like the present one, confined themselves to orations and manifestos. They made no advance, and went out of office, leaving a barren record. The present Government came in with the avowed intention of remedying those failures, and to-day a Budget which has been incubating for nine weeks was delivered, in which no explanation was given of a naval policy. The Fisher
Government ordered three vessels, and proposed to place orders for twenty more. Of these, three, I think, were to be ocean-going vessels, and the remainder were to be of the river class. In this way a sum of £1,800,000, irrespective of the cost of upkeep and maintenance, was to be expended, but that expenditure was to be distributed over a period of three years. Our defence policy was definite, and was clearly put before the country. We were put out of office, however, before we had an opportunity of giving effect to it, yet our successors have evolved no policy of any sort or form. They propose to spend £1,575,109 on naval defence, but, although a few months hence this Parliament must cease to exist, do not tell us how that amount is to be distributed!. Representatives of the Government will next week attend a Conference of Premiers upon the result of whose deliberations their policy and the future of the Commonwealth will be largely moulded. They have not told us, . however, what their naval policy is. how they propose to finance the gift of a
Dreadnought, or its equivalent, or anything else. At page 71 of> the Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure there is a statement showing that for the year 1908-9 an appropriation of £63,531 was made in respect of the “ Central Administration, ether central staffs, and grants to cadets,” on the naval side of the Defence Department, and that the actual expenditure was £59,250. For the year 1909-10 it is proposed to expend £68,543- an increase of £9,293 on the amount actually expended last year, or £5,012 in excess of the appropriation. in view of the insistent demand of the people that the defences of Australia shall be placed on an uptodate and effective footing, this increase is so inadequate as to be farcical. The Treasurer contrasted the defence policy of the present Government with that of the late Ministry, and said that defence was a non-party question. I agree that- it is; but what is the attitude of this Government in regard to it? The Fisher Administration suggested the Imperial Defence Conference, and appointed a representative to attend it. It was, of course, a non-party matter. Yet. what was the attitude of the incoming Ministry? They appointed as a delegate to the Conference a notorious partisan, whose every public utterance they have repudiated, and who either received no instructions, or was instructed in such a way that the Govern- ment are ashamed or unable to give the details to the public. They declined to do that which ought to have been done by those who believe that defence is a non-party measure - they declined to send to London Senator Pearce, who had made all prepartions to go there as the representative of the Commonwealth at the Defence Conference, and who, further, was not ashamed to avow the policy of his Government. Every man in Australia would have known what the representatives of the Fisher Government were going to do in Great Britain ; and we were as ready as the present Government, to give every consideration to the recommendations of the Defence Conference. We had, moreover, committed ourselves to a definite naval, policy for Australia, and had laid before the country clearly the immense obligations involved as a result of that policy. We warned the States, and warned the people of this country, that the defence of Australia could not be securely established without such an expenditure of money as would mean other and fresh taxation. The naval policy of the present Government is vague and indefinite, and their land defence policy, with its compulsory training, is of the same type. The Prime Minister, two or three years ago, was converted to compulsory training, and no man has been louder in his advocacy of the necessity and effectiveness of such a policy. But he is now joined with an honorable member, in the person of the Minister of Defence, who, ever since the scheme was first mooted by me, in 1903, has been its determined and avowed opponent. The combination between the Minister of Defence and the Prime Minister has resulted in the present scheme - in this progeny, which is a monstrosity, anaemic, and contemptible. Youths are to start when between twelve and fourteen years of age, and be trained from fourteen ‘‘towards manhood.” At what particular point they are to stop we are not informed, but, at any rate, it is a point before they get to manhood, just at the moment when they cease to be boys and to play at soldiers and become men and citizens. The people of the country will not for a moment tolerate such a wretched makeshift and make-believe - such a farce and imposition. I should be the last to belittle the advantages of physical education for children, and the cadet system has much to recommend it. But that education in the duties of manhood and citizenship, which stops short just at the very point when it should go on, is useless. The Government propose that, just when the boy becomes a man, and he enters upon manhood, and is effective as a defender of the country, his training shall cease. They propose to spend about £300,000 odd in the training, equipment, and so forth, of the cadets, this being an increase of only £160,000 over the previous year’s expenditure. Compare this with the proposal of the Fisher Government. For naval defence we proposed to spend £747.000 in 1909-10, and £70,000 a year additional in up-keep. For land defence we proposed a further expenditure. The amount proposed to be spent by the Government, is so utterly inadequate for the number who will be at a suitable age to be compulsorily trained, as to show clearly the scope of . the proposed defence measure. No wonder that the Government are so long in laying it on the table. The Budget took nine weeks to prepare ; and reminds one of those brown paper parcels which, on April Fool’s day, are sent to credulous persons, their realistic appearance raising the most hopeful expectancy in the receiver. First one piece of paper and then another is removed, separated one from the other by sawdust, and so forth, and then, in the centre, is found, perhaps, an ancient, decayed, and horribly dead rat or mouse. This Budget, on being dissected, exhales an aroma which will provoke every manifestation of nausea and disgust. The military training scheme of the late Government involved an expenditure compared to which the expenditure now proposed may be fairly termed a “ fleabite.” The Labout Government proposed to deal with the question in a whole-hearted fashion, whereas the defence policy of the present Government is a fitting companion to their finance policy.
– Would the honorable member mind telling us how much the late Government estimated to spend next vear on land defences?
– Briefly, I desire to summarize the position. The Budget of the Ministry is a statement of their policy ; and in this Budget there is absolutely no feature deserving mention, except that dishonorable mention which arises from a recourse to an expedient that this Parliament has creditably rejected ever since its inception. There is nothing in this Budget that an ordinary person could not have assimilated and laid before this House in a week after taking office. Surely it does not require nine weeks to evolve such a brilliant conception as a short-dated loan of Treasury bonds? The Treasurer said that the late Government proposed to raise a loan by recourse to a note issue, and that the present Prime Minister objected to their programme, because that meant a loan. But the difference between the proposal of the Fisher Government, and that of the present Government lies in the fact that one was the foundation stone of an edifice nf sound finance, based on a system that has been in existence in Queensland for many years ; and there was the fundamental distinction too that the Fisher Government’s -proposal was aimed at the prevention of financial panics ; and that in Queensland this system had proved for many years a sufficient one. I now want to interpolate a little information in reply to the interjection of the Minister of Defence. As to the defence policv of the late Government in regard to military training, the following may be interesting to the honorable member -
There would be a preparatory outlay of £580,000 upon a compulsory ‘training scheme, and £400,000 upon existing forces ; both in addition to existing expenditure.
– Extending over three years.
– No, no; that is not so.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I must ask honorable members not to continue interjecting. Probably I ought to have interrupted the Treasurer when honorable -members were disturbing the Committee, but I was loth to break the continuity of the honorable gentleman’s speech. I have refrained from doing so. even in the case of the honorable member for West Sydney, but I must really ask honorable members to cease interjecting.
– The newspaper report of the Gympie speech- continues -
The scheme will cost, in the first year, £1,200,000, as against , £1,097,000 proposed in the scheme of the late Government. The second year will cost £1,248,000, as against £1,021,000 proposed in the scheme of the late Government.
– That £1,248,000 included a moietv of the £580,000.
– The amount for 1909- 10 was £980,000, additional expenditure upon the Military Forces. The estimate for thisyear is £1,400,000 for naval, military, cadets, and rifle clubs, and associations. That figure is from the Government’s estimates, so I suppose the honorable gentleman has not seen it, this being a Govern ment by Departments, in which one Minister does not know what the other does.
The third year, by way of similar comparison, gives £1,301,000 and £1,074,000. Our scheme, in the fourth year, will cost £1,325,000, in the fifth year , £1,399,000, and in the sixth year, £1,407,000 - and the latter would be the maximum. If the militia in country districts be retained - about 5,000 mostly light horse - at the same rates, it will be necessary to add , £25,000 in the second year, and £50,000 afterwards. The difference in the present expenditure in 1912, and this proposal (and we shall have a force six times as large as the present forces) will be only £600,000.
Our naval policy involved an additional expenditure of £1,800,000 in three years. What expenditure the naval policy of this Government will involve we do not know; they do not know themselves; and it is easy to explain their ignorance; for they have no naval policy. The Government ought not to resort to that expedient, unsatisfactory and unsound as it is. They have neither excuse nor justification for. it, since the added obligations of the Commonwealth should properly be defrayed by the States cut of their three-fourths, and not by us out of our one-fourth, of the Customs and Excise revenue, as every man in this country and every member of the Ministry must know perfectly well. The Government have the power, and ought to have the desire and the purpose to go into the Premiers’ Conference, and to lay that down as the basis upon which alone negotiations can be carried on.. Invalid pensions, about which we hear so many eloquent moans on that side, are not even mentioned. The invalids for the year 1909-ro are to get on as best they can. The Government will not help them. They do not propose to float a loan for them. I do not know upon which question the Government show the least courage - that of a Dreadnought or its equivalent, or that of invalids. What the equivalent of invalid pensions is, we have yet to learn. No mention is made of the cost of a Dreadnought or its equivalent, yet that will involve a loan of £2,000,000. A naval policy, if it be carried out as the Prime Minister laid down, or as the Minister of Defence, who has very properly just gone out, said of the military policy - that the Military Forces of this country are to be put on a sound footing - will involve a very much greater expenditure than that set down in the Estimates. Will any man say that the Naval and Military Forces of this country can be put on a sound footing for the amount mentioned here, which, at the outside, is only £280,000 more than the appropriation for last year? The Government’s compulsory training scheme turns out to be a scheme for training boys and not men. The future defence of Australia is to be intrusted to the hands of schoolboys, and men are still to be permitted to evade their just responsibilities and duties. Again we have heard nothing about the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. We did hear that the survey had cost under £20,000, and that it was satisfactory ; but we have not heard a word from the Government as to whether theypropose to go on with the railway. It is not a survey that the Western Australian wants. He cannot get from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta on a. survey. He wants to get there on a railway line. But the Treasurer, the champion of Western Australia, has said not a word about the railway. Naturally, we must assume that the Government do not propose to consider the question. There is no excuse for the right honorable gentleman, because, he said the report of the survey party was satisfactory. In that case, surely the only thing the Government could do in the matter was to go on with the construction of the line.
– I do not think any permanent survey has been made.
– If the Government are going on with a further survey, they ought to appropriate a sum of money to cover it : but there is not a word about that. We hear and see a great deal of the Northern Territory Acceptance Bill. We see on the map rival railway routes. The right honorable gentleman talks about filling the empty spaces of Australia. The Prime Minister, on those occasions when he attends banquets and permits himself to indulge in the high-flown generalities which have endeared him to everybody who does not think in this country, has descanted upon the Northern Territory and its illimitable potentialities. Not a solitary penny-piece is clown upon the Estimates to construct that railway or develop that Territory.
– »And not a penny for immigration.
– The Prime Minister, in the multitude of his engagements, and in the illimitable vistas opened up before him by this Fusion,, has forgotten the value of immigration, about which a little while ago he was so greatly concerned. Doubtless, in a little while, he will remember it, and then we shall have another great speech ringing through the country about immigration being the one necessity for Australia.
– And a memorandum.
– Give us, oh blessed word, more blessed than Mesopotamia, give us this day our daily memorandum ! When I consider the Fusion statement, when I go over that entrancing declaration of pious intentions, and remember how the Government were going to introduce, in a series of simple propositions, a settlement of the great financial problem to a dazzled and staggered country, and I look around for such a settlement and find a short-dated loan, an evasion of every real difficulty that confronts the Commonwealth, I hold my hand to my head and ask myself, “ Do I dream?” No mention of a transcontinental railway, of the Northern Territory, or of the Federal Capital, except that the Treasurer proposes to devote £5,000 towards carrying out that great work. So we get, as an earnest of his intentions, the sum of £5,000 on the Estimates for the Federal Capital. .1 shall look with interest to the attitude of my colleagues from New South Wales upon this matter. There is, and ought to be, no party with regard to it ; and I summon every- New South Welshman to the standard. I defy them to stand behind the Fusion on that proposal. That sum would not create a decent aboriginal camp.
– It would not even pay for a picnic.
– The honorable member is quite right. We have spent as much in looking for a Federal Capital, and I have no doubt that we would spend it again if we got the chance. That is the method by which the Government propose to settle this great question. The Budget may be thus summarized : No mention of a Dreadnought, or the Western Australian trans-Continental railway; a pious reference to the survey ; Northern Territory Bill, discussion, nothing done; compulsory training, children taught ; naval policy, in the air ; Federal Capital, £5,000; invalid pensions, no mention ; old-age pensions, loan. Then we have from the Treasurer a glowing eulogy of a borrowing policy which he sa,s is his own, as if he could div.est himself of the responsibility that attaches to him and every other member of the Ministry. The Postmaster-General, now the sole survivor in this Chamber of a Ministry which fades away upon any criticism being directed at it, is also committed to a borrowing policy. He, too, shares the responsibility for what the Treasurer saidHe cannot divest himself of it, because responsible government, which the Ministry came in to revive, consists in this, that every Minister shall be responsible for the utterances and doings of every other Minister - which in this case is a hard and tough contract. The Postmaster-General last year expended £2,985,000. This year £3,206,000 is required. He said that £2, 000,000 would be required for new works, and £300,000 is provided. Every estimate put forward is departed from. Every promise made is broken. No policy spoken of is put before the House. In the memorandum or statement which the Government laid upon the table of the House, they told us, amongst other things, that a Labour . Bureau was to be established as a solution of the unemployment question. I have listened for the faintest sound of any appropriation of money to start that Bureau, and I have failed to hear it. Not even £5, to say nothing of £5,000, is provided. The Government have positively forgotten and overlooked the unemployed. They announced that “ an active policy of immigration would be undertaken.” When they say “ undertaken,” they mean buried. They announced that ‘ ‘in the light of the knowledge made available by the Commission and the Bureau “ certain things would be done. The Bureau was evidently a condition precedent to immigration, yet the Bureau moves not from its long sleep. There it lies, and not even a “death penny” is put on its eyes. The price of the grave clothes is not provided. I give the Government all credit for providing for wireless telegraphy. At the same time, that is the kind of thing that one would expect of them. Flying machines and wireless telegraphy appeal to a Government of this, sort, because they are impalpable. There is nothing tangible about them. Where they cannot do something with wires, they do it without, and. as a last resort, take to flying, symbolical both of the manner of their exit and the rapidity of its approach. We are face to face then with” these great financial responsibilities : A deficit of £1,200,000 is to be met by a loan ; £2,000,000 for a Dreadnought is not provided; the creation of a Federal Capital is not provided for : nothing is provided for the Western Australian railway or for Northern Territorv railwav and development. ‘ The High Commissioner is men tioned, and that is all. If new post-offices are provided for that does not appear. There is not a word of the Inter- State Commission. Ministers will be condemned more by their sins of omission even than by their sins of commission. They have never lost an opportunity of omitting anything that could be omitted. Everything set forth in their manifesto is now clearly, proved to be a mere beating of the air, a displav, a placard.. This Parliament now has four months to run, and this programme stands before the country with not one solitary item on it achieved except the Old-age Pensions Amendment Bill. None of their important measures have even been placed before us. Their financial proposals, now that they have reached the light of day, are seen to be wretched, clumsy, hoary expedients which the people will condemn and despise. Nothing is appropriated for the Agricultural Bureau, whose establishment we have been asked to discuss. But I shall not further trespass on the time of the Committee. This is undoubtedly an occasion when the best brains of the country are required, men firm of purpose and resolution, capable of putting forward a clear-cut policy, and strong enough to stand up for the rights of the Commonwealth. It is deplorable that at such a time the Treasury bench should be occupied by men who have neither courage, resolution, nor policy, and are governed wholly by one determination - to remain in office, whatever may happen.
– I do not think it necessary to apologize for speaking so soon after the delivery of the Budget, because it contains nothing that is new.
– There is the loan policy.
– That is an old policy, which had to !be discarded several years back. A great deal was left unsaid, and I never heard a worse statement of finance. The Treasurer, when not delivering detailed figures of no consequence, in a manner calculated only to confuse, was quoting from standard authors, and corrupting the sense of the phrases which he borrowed. It was a miserable performance, and of little assistance to men who have a business problem to face. To me it was a disappointment. I was anticipating the greatest Budget that had yet been presented to this Parliament. The adjournment to allow Ministers to attend the Premiers’ Conference was justified because of the great issues involved, and I expected that the Treasurer would foreshadow the proposals to be submitted to the Premiers.
– The supporters of the Government ought to be here to listen to this criticism. (Quorum formed.)
– We were told nothing. Parliament should know what the policy of the Government is. In conferring w7ith the Premiers of the States, Ministers will not be conferring with the heads of foreign Powers from whom it is necessary to keep our position a secret. Hitherto, the States have been receiving millions from the Commonwealth every year, and they cannot do without a large sum of money. They need to be informed of the intentions of the Government respecting the future adjustment of the financial relations of the Commonwealth and States, so that they may make good the revenue of which they may be deprived by Commonwealth action. The Government should have fortified itself with the advice of the Opposition, and the support of its friends. If its policy be unsound, the weakness will be disclosed by criticism. But the Treasurer showed that we on this side are free men.
– Not free to vote.
– Every man should be free to vote as he thinks fit; Ill, it is necessary to bear and forbear, although we may express our indignation at that which we disapprove, and endeavour to give effect to our views. When a former Government suggested a loan for Commonwealth purposes, it WaS forced to withdraw the proposal because of its unpopularity. The counsel which conies from supporters is generally more beneficial than the carping criticism of opponents, though a great deal of what was said by the honorable member for West Sydney to-night should be productive of good; The Treasurer declares that he is not in favour of borrowing, yet, in my opinion, borrowing is necessary. But it is not statesmanlike to borrow on shortdated bills. To construct transcontinental railways, and to carry out other large national works for which the revenue is insufficient, we must borrow. But we should go to the London market, and provide sinking funds for the liquidation of the loans within the life-time of the work upon which they are expended. That is the policy adopted by Great Britain in her large undertakings, and one that anybody might support. On the London market, money can be borrowed at a low rate of interest, whereas if short-dated Treasury bills ‘be issued locally, the expense will be considerable, and the rate of interest very high. To raise money in such a way would be reckless finance. If £1,250,000 be obtained by means of Treasury bills, at least £1,000,000 of it will never be repaid, the obligation being met by repeated borrowings. According to the Treasurer, more money is needed than we now get in revenue for old-age pensions and public works expenditure. Of course, the oldage pensions must be paid. Ministers themselves acknowledge that. If they proposed to let the pensions system go, they themselves would go. But the Treasurers of the States have met them more than half-way. They anticipate being asked to provide for old-age pensions, and the Premier of New South Wales has stated that he will provide £500,000.
– When did he say that ?
– In delivering his pre-sessional address at Chatswood.
– He attached conditions.
– Of course, he is politic, and is not ready to part with money if we will find it for him. The people of Victoria, too, are willing to provide for the pensions paid in this State.
– Hitherto, old-age pensions have cost Victoria £280.000 per annum, but under the Commonwealth Act they will cost about £400.000.
– If Victoria pays £280,000, that will be a help to us.
– I think that the honorable member is wrong. The Premier of New South Wales offered to do it, provided that the Prime Minister and I would give them everything’ else they wanted.
– No doubt, after his interview with the honorable member, Mr. Wade would modify his proposal, knowing that he had a business man to deal with. The honorable member for Hume may have some defects, but he is certainly a shrewd business man, and Mr. Wade would take him at his true worth. If he will look up the speech delivered by the Premier of New South Wales, I think he will find he said that New South Wales could not repudiate her liability in- respect of old-age pensions. At the forthcoming’ Conference of Premiers, the Government will have a favorable opportunity to call on them to make good to the Commonwealth the liability of which we have relieved them in respect of old-age pensions. If that were done, it would be unnecessary for the Commonwealth to raise money by the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds, which, I am sure, would be unpopular, and destructive of the credit of the Commonwealth. The Government propose to continue to pay to the States the three-fourths of Customs and Excise revenue to which they are entitled under the Constitution; but’ I would remind the Committee that this year New South Wales will in reality receive something like , £500,000 and Victoria nearly £300,000 in excess of the sums returned to them last year, since we have relieved them of their liability in respect of the old-age pensions. That is not justifiable. The Treasurer has delivered a Budget statement which is unworthy of one occupying his high position. The Prime Minister has the oversight of every Department, and I fail to understand why he agreed to the proposal to issue Treasury bonds, since he was a member of a Government which refused to resort to the policy of borrowing. The surplus revenues which have been paid to the State Treasurers amount to something like £7,000,000, and the Treasurer said that possibly the States would consent to that sum being deducted from the amount to be paid in respect of the transferred properties. That is net a fair proposal to make. These surplus moneys have been received and expended by the States, and the transferred properties, which were paid for out of loan moneys, remain. When the debts of the States are transferred to the Commonwealth, an allowance should be made to each State in respect of the value of the property transferred by them to the Commonwealth. I come now to the defence proposals contained in the Budget statement. It must have been a severe disappointment to the Minister of Defence to have such scanty provision made for his Department. If there is one thing more than another of which the people of New South Wales are strongly in favour today, it is adequate naval defence. They have voluntarily contributed most liberally to the Dreadnought fund. I have known even men in moleskins to come forward at public meetings and contribute 5s. to the fund.
– That proposal is now scouted from every public platform.
– That may be so, so far as some parts of the honorable member’s electorate are concerned, but I have spoken from many platforms covering a very large area of New South Wales, where the proposal was enthusiastically received, and have seen large sums contributed at public meetings to the Dreadnought fund. I have rather discouraged the making of such contributions, believing that the money should be found by the State, and not by the individual, yet as much as £1,000 has been raised’ at one public meeting.
– How much altogether ?
– Over £80,000.
– A mere bagatelle.
– Honorable members must not forget that it was announced that New South Wales and Victoria would present Great Britain with a Dreadnought if the Commonwealth refused to do so, and that, in the circumstances, many people thought it was unnecessary to contribute to the fund for that purpose. The question, However, is still a very live one in New South Wales, and I am sure that the people of Victoria would also freely subscribe to such ‘a fund if the necessity for public contributions were shown.
– The whole agitation has gone bung.
– For party reasons, some people may say that it has, but the question is a national one. I repeat that the Minister of Defence must be greatly disappointed at the provision which has been made for his Department. It is singular that the policy of the Government in regard to the Dreadnought offer has not been made known. The presentation of a Dreadnought to Great Britain will involve a heavy expenditure, and there is a rumour afloat that the Government propose to provide for it by the imposition of duties on tea and kerosene. Colour is given to that rumour by the failure of the Government to make any provision for it on these Estimates. If they had such a scheme in view, they ought to have announced it to-night, so as to render it impossible for merchants and others to fill their stores with tea and kerosene in order to avoid the new imposts. If the Government did intend to impose such taxation, they cannot do so now, and I am sure that the people would rise up against it. How do the Government propose to finance the Dreadnought gift? We ought to know what their proposal is. Is it to be made known at the Conference of Premiers? I think not. This Parliament will not expire by effluxion of time until- March next, yet we are not to have an opportunity to deal with that question. Another set of men will be called upon to give effect to the Government policy in this regard; but I maintain that as the representatives of the people we ought to know what.it is, and should have an opportunity to express our views upon it. I am at a loss to understand why only £5,000 has been placed on the Estimates in connexion with the Federal Capital. Such a small appropriation suggests insincerity on the part of the Government, unless the explanation is that the Minister of Home Affairs has had his Estimates reduced by the Treasurer. The Minister of Home Affairs ought certainly to make a statement to the Committee. A. British Minister has resigned before to-day because his Estimates were unduly cut down, and I hope that we shall hear from the Minister of Home Affairs, as well as from the Minister of Defence, in regard to the provision that has been made on these Estimates for their respective Departments. The PostmasterGeneral says that £2,000,000 is required to bring his Department uptodate. What has he been granted ?
– £700,614. That is all that can be spent this year.
– That is a substantial vote, and it suggests that the honorable gentleman has a backbone. I am well-pleased with his administration of his Department. He is going about his work in a business-like way, and has induced the Treasurer to place on the Estimates a substantial amount, which is, after all, only an instalment of what he expects to have in order that his Department may be raised to a high standard of efficiency. If he says that an additional expenditure of £2,000,000 is necessary, I am sure that the Parliament will support him. A Minister should be prepared to ask for what he wants, and if there is a way of getting it ‘ he ought either to receive it or make room for some one else. I expect an explanation from the Minister of Home Affairs as to why he is satisfied with a vote of £5,000 in respect of the Federal Capital.
– Why is the Treasurer satisfied with absolutely no provision for the transcontinental railway ?
– He knows that it is impossible to obtain anything. The grant of £20,000 to provide for the cost of the survey was reluctantly made. I for one voted against it. Had I been in favour of the construction of the line, 1 should have supported that grant, but i was not in favour of it, and did not thin”,, that I ought to vote to throw .£20,000, to speak, into the gutter.
– Does the honorable member think that the Treasurer is not in earnest as to that line?
– I believe that he is honest and enthusiastic, but he is only one man in the Cabinet.
– What provision has been made for the Northern Territory ?
– We should need to spend £150,000 under that heading, and if the Territory is a’ success, ‘it will soon make good that expenditure. It has so far been debited with every penny expended upon it, plus compound interest.
– Would £150,000 be sufficient to provide for the developmental work necessary ?
– That, of course, is a matter of policy. If we sink hundreds of thousands of pounds in unproductive work, we must expect to add largely to the debt which has already been accumulated in respect of the Territory. I do not think it necessary to apologize for making few remarks, because there is nothing fresh in the Budget. Every proposal has been before us previously, and we are as familiar with them all as we are with the alphabet. That is the disagreeable feature. of this. Budget; there should be proposals that require time to think out, so that we may formulate our views to correspond if possible with the views of the Government. In this case there is no policy, and the Budget has been a disappointment to me.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. At an early period this evening, when the honorable member for West Sydney was speaking, I interjected in reference to the action of the Fisher Government in ordering torpedo boats. I conveyed by that interjection the idea that the Fisher Government had simply accepted tenders which had been called for by the previous Deakin Government ;-but I now find that I was not doing, justice to the position. The Deakin Government could not call for tenders, because they were bound by a decision of Parliament not to do so; but they had obtained prices for destroyers, and all the Fisher Government- did was to ask the same people to give fresh prices, consequent on a few alterations in detail. I have this as authoritative information, and I think it only fair to place it before the House.
.- One can hardly be expected to have read the whole of the Estimates and considered the Budget in the short time at our disposal since the Treasurer made his statement. But there are a few outstanding features on which I think the opinion of, at any rate, honorable members on this side should be made known to the Government. I agree with the statement of the honorable member for West Sydney last night that, before meeting the Premiers, the Government should endeavour to ascertain the views of honorable members in regard to the financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States. I am very much disappointed, indeed, with one portion of the Budget statement, namely, the proposal to raise money for old-age pensions by the issue of short-dated Treasury bonds. It will be an everlasting disgrace to this Parliament if, in the first year after the inauguration of old-age pensions, the Commonwealth has to resort to loan moneys for the purpose of financing them. Honorable members opposite cheer that remark, and, perhaps, that is one reason whyone should be careful iri pursuing the line of argument I have followed. The Fisher Government intended to pay old-age pensions by means of an overdraft, and there is, therefore, not much room on the Opposition side to criticise the proposal of the present Government. However, I arn quite satisfied that the States are prepared to shoulder their share of the responsibility for old-age pensions until such time as the Commonwealth has the means to take over the burden entirely. We are relieving the States of an expenditure of something like £1,000,000 per annum. It may be urged, perhaps, .that in three of the States old-age pensions had not been instituted; but they were’ only postponed in the knowledge that the Commonwealth was about to take the matter up. I venture to say that the people of those States would have insisted on oldage pensions being paid in the absence of any action on the part of the Commonwealth. We are told that in this connexion New South Wales has been relieved of an expenditure of something like £500,000, Victoria of an expenditure’ of £280,000, and Queensland of £250,000 ; but if the States refuse to assist the Commonwealth we should turn to some other means than borrowing for the purpose of raising the money. I do not say that I would oppose every proposal for loan expenditure, though we ought to be very careful in this regard!. Unless there is an absolute necessity for it, and the money is borrowed at short date for reproductive works, I shall oppose loan expenditure under any circumstances. There are many public works for which there is an urgent need at the’ present time, and which would pay handsomely if carried out. In my own electorate there are several works, in providing telegraphic and telephonic facilities, which have been hung up for want of fund’s, but which if provided are estimated to pay over 10 per cent.
– In some electorates similar works have been hung up for years.
– The late’ Government were not very accommodating in the matter of providing telephonic facilities. I regret that the late Prime Minister made it known in my electorate that “fat” was not in office and that the public need not look for the telephonic and telegraphic accommodation they had had in the past. I shall never associate my name with any proposal to borrow money to pav old-age pensions. I make that distinctly clear to the Government to-night; and I think it is only fair to do so in order that, when Ministers meet the Premiers, they may discuss the financial proposals in the light of past experience, and of the knowledge of the feelings of honorable members.
– Any arrangement can only start in 19 11.
– That is so, but I am quite sure, from what we know of the decision arrived at by the Premiers when they met in Hobart a few months ago, that they are quite prepared to come to a reasonable understanding with the Commonwealth Government. It is satisfactory to note that an earnest attempt is to be made to settle the financial relations of the Commonwealth and the States, and the time given fo the discussion in Conference will be well spent if a satisfactory solution is arrived at. I trust that the negotiations, so far as the. Commonwealth Government are concerned; will be conducted with a perfectly open mind, bearing in view the requirements of the States as well as the obligations cast on the “Commonwealth by the burdens that have been taken over. Having taken over those burdens we should not complain ; but I cannot help thinking that the Commonwealth was very unwise to undertake the payment of old-age pensions until we were free to finance the policy without going cap in hand to the States or anywhere else. - Three of the large States already paid old-age pensions, so that there was no necessity over the greater part of Australia for a Commonwealth scheme. Before Federation” it was never expected that the Commonwealth would commandeer the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue at the expiration of the Braddon section.
– What warrant has the honorable member for saying that ?
– I have my own knowledge, in the first place, and if I remember aright, it was proposed in the original draft of the Constitution that the Braddon section should operate for all time. We were told by some of the ardent advocates of Federation that the cost would be something like 3s. 4d. a head ; indeed, New South Wales supporters of the movement said it would not cost as much ‘as a dog tax in that State. It was expected that the experience gained during the operation of the Braddon section would give us such a knowledge of the financial requirements of the Commonwealth and the States as to enable us to arrive at an equitable arrangement. If the States had thought the Commonwealth would grab the whole of the Customs and Excise revenue, Federation would never have been consummated. The Commonwealth must face its share of responsibility in raising the revenue, if it is going to undertake heavv expenditure. If that arrangement is come to, it will have a considerable steadying influence on this and future Governments. We did not invent the system of collecting revenue through the Customs. That was handed over to us by the States, and is a system that has been in existence in Australia for all-time. If, when we propose any large expenditure, all we have to do is to take another bite out of the Customs and Excise revenue, we shall never feel our responsibilities, and will go on with reckless expenditure and speculation.
– Does not the honorable member think we shall feel the responsibility when we take over the debts ?
-It is not yet proposed to take them over ; although I believe the honorable member for Hume did make a proposition to that effect at the last Premiers’ Conference. Until quite recently, I was of the opinion that the Braddon section should be perpetuated for some time in a modified form ; but the experience I have gained since I came to this House, and have looked more closely into the financial aspect of the relations between the States and the Commonwealth, has led me to the.conclusion that that would not be a good . thing, either for the States or for the Commonwealth. I think that something should be done, and should take the shape of a per capita distribution.
– That would do a big injustice to New South Wales, under present conditions.
– I do not know that New South Wales has any cause of complaint. The amount of revenue she has had at her disposal since Federation has been considerably greater than it was before. If any State should complain about a per capita distribution, it is Queensland. I trust that an effort will be made to settle the financial arrangements in a fair and equitable way, both to the Commonwealth’ and the States. I am sure that this Parliament has no desire to ride roughshod over the States. Public opinion would not sanction any attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to do so.
– The danger is that the States may try to ride roughshod over the Commonwealth.
– I do not- think there is much in that contention. We have a Constitution which, happily, protects the Commonwealth, and the power of readjusting our financial relations with the States will be entirely in the hands of this Parliament within the next eighteen months.
– Does not the honorable member think the action of the New South Wales Government, in forcibly seizing wire netting from the Federal Customs, was high-handed?
– I do not justify the action taken at that juncture; but any State, or even the Commonwealth, has the right to take action to test a particular question. I believe the late Premier of New South Wales acted then with the object, not so much of grabbing the wirenetting, as of testing the question before the High Court, which was done.
– He did it for party purposes, before the election,
– Possibly he did. I have come to the conclusion, since I entered this House, that all parties work for party, purposes, and that the whole constitution of Parliament is made up of parties, each trying its best to outwit the other. I wish to make it clear to honorable members opposite, that there is at least one member on this side who will support’ measures that are for the good of the country ; and if, in my opinion, they are not for the good of the country, I shall hold myself at perfect liberty to vote against them.
– “Them’s my sentiments.”
– An American once said, “ Them’s my sentiments, and if they do not suit, they can easily be altered.” Even if we sometimes regard a proposal made on this side as an evil, we must remember that the proposals coming from the other side may be worse, and we sometimes have to choose between two evils.
– The one you do not know.
– We know what has been foreshadowed from the other side. The Labour Government evidently thought they were going to do something before they were turned out of office ; but the only measure they brought forward during this session was the Land Tax Bill, which I came here pledged to oppose. I was sent here to oppose the late Government. They are now out of office, and have made a good deal of fuss since they were turned out. They appear to take very unkindly to the treatment they received from this side; but I do not see very much in their proposals to induce me to help to put them into office again. I came here pledged to my constituents to turn them out at the first opportunity I got; and not only them, but the Government before them. I do not heed the accusation which honorable members opposite have often hurled at this side, that we have broken our pledges, or that we are bound or gagged by a caucus or any other rule. I am bound by my pledges to my electors.
– And the crack of the whip.
– I do not understand the meaning of the phrase. I am like the American bugler boy who never learned to play a retreat. I have been insulted on one or two occasions by the honorable member for West Sydney ; and when I supported him on one occasion, he took the earliest opportunity afterwards to insult me. However, we can put up with all that. Some of the pledges which I gave to my constituents were that I would put the Deakin Government out at the first opportunity; that I would not support the Labour party under any conditions, and that I would bring about a fusion of the anti-Socialist parties if I possibly could. I think I have done m’y little towards that ; and, now that we can show a solid front to our friends opposite, I shall support the Government,
– But the honorable member does not think much of their first offspring.
– J am just warning them that the offspring is not satisfactory to me. I regret that I have to strike a discordant note; but, as they are going to meet the State Premiers, it is well that they should know the views of their supporters.
– -There is no doubt, the Opposition left us a fine old mess.
– The burdens which this Government have to bear were left by the present Opposition.
– The Prime Minister has been in office for seven out of the eight years during which the States have been federated.
– While in office, he was supported by the present Opposition.
– He could not have lived a day without us.
– That is so. The Opposition is therefore largely responsible for what -has been done in the past. For electioneering purposes it forced the Government of the day to pass a measure which now involves us in an annual expenditure of £1,500,000.
– Would the honorable member have let the old people of Australia die?
– I said at the time that it would be a good thing for the Commonwealth to provide for the payment of old-age pensions, when it was in a position to finance the outlay, but had the States been allowed to manage this matter a little longer, the old people would not have suffered.
– When the Commonwealth could have financed an old-age pensions scheme, the Labour party did not move a finger in the matter.
– Three of the States had old-age pensions funds, and the other three would have been forced by. public opinion to provide pensions for their aged poor ; in fact, I think that they declared their intention of doing so. This Government has had to introduce a Bill to liberalize the measure passed at the instigation of the Labour party, but even now the Commonwealth law is not as liberal as the Queensland law was. Certainly, the Commonwealth legislation has conferred nc benefit upon the old people of Queensland. Notwithstanding that the control of old-age pensions has been transferred from the States to the Commonwealth, the Labour party in the Queensland Parliament is still making capital out of this legislation. In my opinion, the party use it merely for electioneering purposes. But politics should be conducted with sincerity. If my constituents are not satisfied with a straight go, the sooner they put some one in my place, the better.
– They will do that.
– If the honorable member’s return were as certain as mine, he would have no uneasy moments. My constituents like to have common-sense proposals put before them. I promised them that if, after my election, I had reason to alter my views, I should tell them so on the platform, and I shall keep that promise. Any measure which, is not in keeping with my pledges to my constituents will have my opposition. I hope that the Government will drop its loan proposal.
– If it does not, what will it do?
– There are other ways of meeting the difficulty. The States will not see the Commonwealth in a fix, and refuse to help it.
– If a couple more supporters say that the loan proposal must be dropped, it will be dropped. The Government, seeing the numbers against -it, would drop anything.
– That is a reasonable way of doing business. The remark shows that this is not a caucus-bound party. Oldage pensions must, of course, be provided for, and the Government will provide for them, but Ministers are on the wrong track in proposing to borrow money for the purpose. To do so would discredit Austraiia.
Debate resumed from this day (vide page 2412), on motion toy Mr. Groom -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- I shall, at the outset, intimate my intention to support the second reading of this Bill, though its details are of such a nature that the statement can be regarded only as formal. But, whilst we ought to make to South Australia a reasonable return for its outlay on the Northern Territory, we should be given a free hand in determining how best to develop that country. The agreement binds us, in some particulars, in a way in which we should not be bound. We are told that, if we do not adopt it almost as it stands, South Australia will not transfer the Territory, but will continue to develop it on its own lines. If it can do that, so much the better. The Territory could be better developed by the State than by the Commonwealth, supposing, that South Australia had the means, but her strenuous efforts to develop it have failure written largely upon them, probably due to the fact that she. had not the money necessary for the work. In this respect we should be better off, though it may be pertinently “ asked, “ Are the other States to be taxed for the development of the Northern Territory?” I venture to think that since the Government have intimated their intention to borrow money for the development of Australia, it is right that we should proceed to develop the Territory in that way.
– Is the honorable member in favour of the policy of borrowing ?
– I am, and regard it as absolutely necessary if progressive and permanent works for the development of Australia are to be entered upon. It is a sound business proposition, and must commend itself to every man who has raised himself to a position of affluence, which, had he not recognised the possibilities of borrowing, he would not have reached. A principle that applies to the advancement and progress of individuals must also apply to those larger issues which have to do with the government of the Commonwealth. If the Territory is transferred to the Commonwealth, then the Government should be prepared to initiate a sound and proper system of borrowing so that the ultimate cost of development will fall upon the country to be benefited, and it will thus be unnecessary to tax the people of Australia as a whole for this purpose. No valid objection can -be raised to our taking that step, and pledging the security of the Commonwealth in order to obtain the necessary loans upon the very best terms. With a sufficiency of money, in hand, there seems to me to be no reason why we should not anticipate the successful development of the Territory. Various statements of interest in regard to its possibilities have been placed before us, but it is difficult to determine w.hat part of this information is sound and what part is unsound. Some of the representatives of South Australia have quoted from a pamphlet entitled Territoria, in’ which the Northern Territory is painted in the most roseate hues. Here is a typical paragraph -
Here then is a Territory only waiting the expenditure of a few thousands of pounds to prove whether wheat can be successfully and economically grown, when, if it can, and there seems to be no reasonable doubt that it can, Australia can easily place 1,000,000 white farmers on the land by building . railways through it.
That is a sample of many paragraphs in the pamphlet, which purports to deal with the whole question of the climatic conditions of the Territory, and more particularly with those of the tablelands, andi its sheep and cattle carrying capacity. The whole description is a most glowing one, and so good an account of the Territory is given that I cannot understand why South Australia is prepared to part with it. I am an optimist so far as Australia is concerned. I believe in the vast possibilities of its development, but it is hardly fair for the representatives of South Australia to paint this Territory in such glowing colours and then to say to the Parliament : “ You must take possession of the Territory, or, if you do not, South Australia will develop it for herself. This is your last chance.” That is not a fair position to take up. Nor do I think it fair for the South Australian Government to say that we must construct a certain line of railway regardless of whether or not the route chosen coincides with our own view as to the best that could be selected. I have a perfectly open mind as to the best , route to be followed, but if we are going to incur the responsibility of administering the Territory - if we are going to discharge South Australia’s indebtedness in regard to it - the least that that State can be expected to do is to give us a free hand to make an investigation for ourselves, and upon the result of that investigation to determine what is the best line pf railway to construct. What are the conditions embodied in the agreement? There is first of all the provision that we must take over the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. That is a. narrowgauge line, and if it is ever to be of use for defence purposes it is essentially necessary that it should be of wide gauge so that troops may be rapidly conveyed over it from one point to another.
– What gauge does the honorable member prefer ?
– I am not going into technicalities, but having regard to the object we have in view a narrow-gauge line cannot commend itself to us.
– Then we may consider’ that from the point of view of defence’ Brisbane is not connected with any of the other eastern State capitals ?
– If mistakes have been made in constructing narrow-gauge lines there is no reason why we should perpetuate them. Another objectionable feature of this agreement is the provision that we are to maintain the line from Oodnadatta to Port Augusta, and are not to diminish the train facilities nor to increase the railway freights. We are practically to make no alteration in the existing system. We are to conduct the railway in the interests of the people of South Australia. That railway does not extend beyond the borders of the State, and I for one am opposed to the Commonwealth Parliament taking over a railway in any State until it is prepared to consider the question of the transfer of all the railways of the’ States.
– What ! With such a financial statement before us as has just been delivered?
– That does not trouble me in this connexion. I am merely questioning, as a matter of policy, the wisdom of taking over a railway line in one State, whilst we are not prepared to consider the transfer to the Commonwealth of railway lines in any other State.
– And this is a non-paying line.
– That, too, is an important consideration. Other lines of railway have been projected, and if we are to construct any, it seems to me that a railway running., in a more easterly direction should commend itself to the House from at least one point of view. If the Northern Territory were invaded by an Asiatic or other alien race, it would be our desire to amass a considerable number of troops at the shortest possible notice, and by carrying a line across the Territory into Queensland at some considerable distance from the coastline, the various capitals of the eastern States could be readily and easily connected.
– Does the honorable member think-
– I know that the honorable member as a representative of South Australia is restive under criticism, which seems, to question the wisdom of taking over this Territory on the conditions sought to be imposed. -I am not hampered by any State view of the question. I am here to represent the Commonwealth, and I hold that if we are going to incur an enormous expenditure in constructing a railway line in order that we may be able to mobilize our troops in the Northern Territory, and so check a possible raid, we should choose a route that would give us the shortest possible connexion with the capitals of the other States. It has been my pleasure and privilege to have a personal conversation with Mr. Lindsay, who is very much interested in the direct southern route or railway connexion between Port Augusta and Port Darwin, and he has - shaken my view to some extent by the presentation of his case. He has placed before me, and, no doubt, before other honorable members, certain information showing that the direct southern railway would open up a very large and valuable tract of country, which has been so well described, and would be of great service, not only for defence, but for developmental purposes. If, as he says, the construction of such a line can be justified, that furnishes still another reason why South Australia should be prepared to allow the question to remain an open one. In regard to all these large propositions with which we have to deal, if any one State seeks to hamper our operations with a view of advancing its own particular interests, it takes up an untenable position. On referring to the State memorandum which has been presented for the information of honorable members, we find that a Royal Commission was appointed by the South Australian Government to inquire why the State had not succeeded in developing the Territory. Some of the reasons given for this failure are, to my mind, most peculiar, if they are put before us in support of the adoption of this agreement.
– The reasons were given by witnesses, but were not indorsed by the Commission.
– I do not know whether the witnesses are credible or not, but one of the reasons given for the failure to develop the Territory is, “ Over-loading the Colony with expenses improperly charged by the South Australian Government.” The Commission, it is said, did not bind themselves to that opinion. We have a right to know whether, in the amount we are asked to pay, is included any considerable sum which may be brought under the head of “ Overloading the Colony with expenses improperly charged.” That is a question which ought to be investigated. It is peculiar that the Chinese population, in common with the white population, has been decreasing . for some time. One of the reasons for failure, as submitted to the Royal Commission, was -
High wages demanded by European miners, which led to the Government being induced to import Chinese labourers. 1
Of course, that evidence, I presume, was not too reliable.
– It is not correct, because the Government never did import Chinese.
– Another reason advanced for failure was the want of permanent water in many districts, and alsobad management and incompetence. These are all matters of which we should take cognisance, when asked to enter into an agreement. If we accept the Territory, we should at least have the right to develop it in the best possible way, according to our judgment. We should be free to make railways in those districts where they would be best calculated to further its interests. . In the memorandum placed before us, there is an estimate showing that the cost of the branch lines alone, necessary to the development of 80,000,000 acres of land, is £2,200,000. South Australia has, to a certain extent, made a gallant effort to secure settlement, but has lamentably failed; and, therefore, we must be careful to take a different course from that hitherto pursued. Before we consent to accept this agreement in all its details, we should have from the Government some statement of how they propose to go to work systematically to develop this country successfully in view of the failure of the South Australian Government,remem bering the old precept that it is only a foolish man who starts to build a house without first counting the cost. The more we read of the vastness of the Territory, and its productive possibilities, the more we can see the necessity for a very large expenditure being incurred before we can expect any return. That means that we shall have to pledge the credit of the Commonwealth in order to carry out the purpose and objects we have in view; and, therefore, as I say, the Government ought to submit a clear and concise statement of the means they propose to adopt to induce settlement, and the extent to which they do propose to pledge the credit of the Commonwealth. The Government have indicated in the Budget their intention to enter into a policy of borrowing for the purpose of carrying out developmental work ; and if they do so, they shall have my support. But, before I commit myself to any large expenditure, I claim the right to be fully informed as to the reasons. I do not question that this Territory will prove to be a ‘ most valuable asset, worth a very great effort, and that we shall be able to meet our South Australian friends on almost every point in the agreement. But I am not prepared to sanction the adoption of an agreement which commits us for all time to a definite line of railway policy, because I take the view that if South Australia desires the Commonwealth to develop the Territory, she ought to leave the matter of the railways to us ; indeed, I venture to say that South Australia will be prepared to do so in spite of the assertions, made by honorable members from that State.
– The honorable member may rest assured that South Australia will not do as he anticipates. The agreement embodies what South Australia desires.
– Then the position taken up by South Australia is . an unpatriotic one, and opposed to the best interests of the Commonwealth. Further, I would point out that, while the population has decreased, the expenditure in the Northern Territory has increased. In the year 1903-4, the revenue was £57,000, whereas in 1907-8, it had decreased to £56,000.
– Settlement is suspended owing to the fact that, in view of the negotiations, lands cannot be leased or sold.
– But if decrease of population is accountable for decrease in revenue, surely honorable members opposite will admit that decrease of population cannot be rightly accountable for increased expenditure. In 1903, the expenditure was £164,000, whereas in 1907-8, it was £207,000. I mention these facts because I believe the South Australian Government are seeking to drive a harder bargain than they should. I am prepared to go a long way to meet the South Australian Government, and give them pound for pound, on their expenditure in the Territory ; indeed, I think we might, perhaps, go even a little further, because we feel confident that, with the credit of the. Commonwealth behind us, we shall be able to develop the wealth within the Territory. But when the South Australian Government seek to bind us in a way that may be inimical, we . have arrived at a. position which demands the gravest consideration. If we are going to pledge the credit of the whole of the Commonwealth, and to be weighted with large responsibilities, we should be given a free hand in the matter of the railway. I have here a pamphlet by Mr. Gwynneth, civil engineer, who details, at considerable length, a scheme for a railway from Pine Creek’-into Queensland, and then south to the Murray. He shows that the communication between the capitals would be very much shortened by the line he proposes, as compared with the line from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. He gives a table comparing the times and distances by the three routes. The existing; speeds are accelerated to, and calculated at, 25 miles an hour on 3 ft. 6 in. gauge lines, and 40 miles an hour on, 4 ft. 8j in. gauge lines. By the Oodnadatta route he showsthat the distance from Rockhampton is- 4,1.86 miles; from Brisbane, 3,790 miles 7 from Sydney, 3,065 miles ; from Melbourne, 2,483 miles; and Adelaide, 2,000 miles.
– These comparative figures have already been given.
– Then I shall not trouble the House with them further. But Mr. Gwynneth shows how rapid would bethe means of communication on the route he suggests as compared with the lines, favoured by the South Australian Government. What would we think of a railway from Sydney to Port Darwin, which went by way of Melbourne and Adelaide? By the line suggested by Mr. Gwynnethall the capitals would be brought intocloser connexion, except that of Western Australia. The distance to Perth would be lengthened, but the distance to the- others would be materially shortened. The bulk of our population is centered in the eastern States, and, as we must view the question largely from the stand-point of circumstances as they now exist, it is essentially necessary that we should have a free hand to build the railway in a position which will enable us to bring our troops to Port Darwin, if it ever unfortunately becomes necessary, with the greatest facility and at the shortest possible notice. I think that, in existing circumstances, the Commonwealth should take possession of the .Northern Territory, and have the power to develop it, but while we are prepared to meet South Australia and consider her interests in every possible legitimate way, it is not fair or in the best interests of the Commonwealth to enter into an agreement which will tie our hands in a manner that may be inimical to the objects which we have in view.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Mathews) adjourned.
Order of Business - Old-age Pension Claims - Quarantine Inspection at Fremantle - Reprint of Speeches from Hansard - Boy Labour in
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In order to meet the convenience of honorable members who desire to leave for the other States early tomorrow afternoon, it will be necessary for the House to rise to-morrow perhaps a little earlier than usual. I understand that honorable members opposite are agreeable to the Budget debate being resumed immediately the House assembles, and continued so long as honorable members are willing to speak, but in any circumstances, to close the sitting in time for boats and trains at 3 o’clock in the afternoon.
– I am informed that some honorable membets on this side desire to speak on the Budget, while others opposite wish to get away at 3 o’clock. I understand that if any honorable member wishes to speak on the Budget in the morning, he will have an opportunity of doing so, but very few are ready to go on with it. For the rest, we shall be ready to go on with any other business until 3 o’clock.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to an old-age pension claim which involves an important principle. A man who was sergeant-major in the 14th Regiment, has been forty-three years in Australia, and is over seventy years of age. He applied for an old-age pension on 27th May, and the claim was approved by a police magistrate on 27th July. Now that it has been sent to the Treasury, he finds that he is not likely to get the 10s. a week, because he draws a pension of 9d. per day, or 5s. 3d. a week, from the British Government for war services. The Act provides that no deduction shall be made for other income up to 1 os. per week, but apparently a distinction is to be made in this case, because he draws a small pension from the London War Office.
– Will he not get the balance to bring the amount up to 10s. ?
– Under the Act he should have the right to draw 10s. a week as an old-age pension, and 10s. in the shape of other income. He has been recommended for a 10s. pension, but a difficulty seems to be raised because he receives another pension. I do not think there is anything in the law against his getting the full 15s. 3d. a week. The matter should be looked at very sympathetically, if we desire a number of ex-Indian pensioners to settle here. They should not be made to feel that they may lose rights which other citizens have because of their little pensions for war services. I shall send the Treasurer the man’s name and address, and as the case affects a large class, I hope he will be in a position to make a public statement regarding it when ‘the House reassembles after next week.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Government to the delay being experienced at Fremantle in connexion with examinations by the quarantine authorities. According to to-day’s papers, the Otway arrived this morning at Fremantle, and it was three hours before the mails were allowed ashore. lt seems that the health officers have to examine all on board, and as there were nearly 700 passengers and crew, the doctor could make only a cursory examination in two or three hours. It is further stated that the Otway remained anchored in Gage Roads for an hour before the doctor came out, as the regulations insist that no boat shall be examined after 10 at night, or before 6 in the morning, and that the greatest indignation was expressed by the passengers at the unwarrantable delay. I ask that the attention of the Minister of Trade and Customs be directed to this complaint, because it is a serious matter that passengers disembarking at Fremantle should be delayed so long, to say nothing of the delay which takes place in the delivery of the mails.
.- The Treasurer will remember that last week the House decided that honorable members who had already ordered their speeches with cross-headings from the Government Printer should be supplied with them. I was one of those, and I received the reprint of my speech to-day, but find, on looking through it, that some of the cross-headings have been cut out without reference to me. I should like to know who authorized that. Was it referred to you, Mr. Speaker, 01 the Treasurer, or the Chief of the Hansard Staff? If the Treasurer cannot give me a reply to-night, will he have the information when we meet to-morrow ?
– I would direct the attention of the Minister of Defence to the fact that some years ago the House decided that the minimum wage should be applied to all Cover ament contracts. I believe that direction 11 being faithfully observed, but my attention has been called to a matter of very serious moment. It is reported to me that boy labour, which, unfortunately, is not regulated in Victoria, is being almost exclusively used in connexion with a contract recently let by the Defence Department. The result is that, indirectly, the determination of the House is being defeated. Will the Minister look into the matter, and take any steps necessary to insure fair and just competition, and the preservation of the minimum wage condition ?
.- I am sorry to have to bring up further cases regarding the infamous list of questions put to old-age pensioners. I propose to read to the House the letter of a blind man over seventy years of age. I -am getting tired of filling up these ridiculous and unnecessary questions. All that applicants for pensions should be required to state is that they are over sixty-five years of age, and that they have no greater income than 10s. a week. To ask them whether they have grandmothers or grandfathers, or the maiden names of their parents, is the height of tomfoolery. This blind old man has a small annuity from London, anc cannot get -his pension because he cannot produce people who have known him for twenty-five years. One person whom he asked to fill in the questions for him was afraid of being committed for perjury. He was born in England in 1832, and the Prime Minister will recollect Sir George Turner’s statement that in England, half a century ago, it was very difficult to get records of births.
– If the honorable member will send the letter in, I think we shall be able to attend to it.
– I want to know if these questions are to me continued. If the Prime Minister had to fill them up, lie would be sorry for the old people. This old man writes from Geelong West as follows : -
To Hon. Dr. Maloney,
Thank you for your trouble in filling up the enclosed pension form, and as I am unable to find referees who have known me continually for 25 years, as most of them are dead, I have spent most time and expenses in writing to Adelaide and elsewhere, also to England, to get copy from Registry Office re my birth, and have not received an answer yet. Surely any doctor could see that I am over seventy years of age, and nearer eighty, without sending to England to prove the case. Also the Custom House in Melbourne might prove that I was a paid passenger on the ship Nimrod, and landed in October, 1853. Overend and Robb, contractors, could prove I worked for them over forty years ago in the Kapunda railway line. The “ Practical Guide for Gold Mining,” which I was the author of, and second edition of one thousand was printed and published in Adelaide by the Advertiser, Sir Langdon Bonython being the proprietor. The guide was published in 1886, after I became blind at Broken Hill, and there are a few hundreds of the guides in the Advertiser office. Would you kindly find out whether this is sufficient proof to justify my application. The late Sir Frederick Holder knew me, but I have no power to raise the dead; I cannot apply to the deceased honorable and highly-respected gentleman. He was a good man, and, when Treasurer in South Australia, helped me to obtain my present small annuity, by sending my letters to the Agent-General in London. In the meantime, I am compelled to apply to the public to preserve me from penury. I am not able to do much outdoor work, namely, exhibiting the pictures ‘which I have designed, as I have suffered from influenza eight or nine times, and will have to rest a little, being 78 years of age next February. -Please, sir, read this to the House, and may they amend the present nonsensical reference to the word “ continually.” A dog could not do it, let alone a human being. In fact, I would not like to ask any friends alive to sign such a document as this, and run the risk of undergoing two years’ imprisonment for perjury. The words “ off and on “ or “ periodically “ ought to be substituted for the word “ continually “ in the forms, as the latter is too much like perpetual motion. God bless you, and do the best you can for old blind Rogers.
The first question this man had to answer was, “Where were you born?” No one knows of his own knowledge where he was born ; he has to accept what he is told by his parents or relatives. Tn this case the applicant was born in Newcastle, England. Then he was asked, “ When were you born, giving the exact date?” What person could answer that question of his own knowledge? The next question was, “ When did you arrive in Australia ?” What is the pertinence of that question if a man’s belly is empty, and he wants a meal ?
– The Act requires that a pensioner must have lived in Australia for twenty-five years.
– So long as he can prove that, it is not necessary to give these dates. Is it necessary that a pensioner should say from what port he sailed, by what ship he arrived, at what port he landed, and whether he was a passenger, an immigrant, or a member of the crew ? It is proper enough to ask whether, since arrival in Australia, the applicant has visited New’ Zealand, or any other country, and, if so, how long he was away. He is also asked, “ Are you single, married, or a widower? If you are married, what is the full name of your wife? “ I do not know why an applicant 78 years of age should have to give the full name of his wife. “ When and where were you married ? “ What is the reason for that question? In another case, a man who had twelve children had to fill in twelve names in one part of the form, and eleven in another. The dates, places of birth, and places of registration of birth, are required in regard to all the children. The names and addresses of children living, and much other needless information is asked for. Why should a man be asked, “ Have you been refused within six months an old-age pension?” How can an applicant know of his own knowledge whether he was born a British subject? In all, there are 102 questions. Surely the Treasurer can see his way to simplify the inquiry.
– I did not frame the list of questions.
– The Government is not responsible for the framing of the questions, but if it allows them to be asked of applicants, it will be responsible for the continuance of this infamy.
– The Commissioner says that they are necessary.
– I wish that he had the filling up of his mother’s pension’s form. That might make him show more commiseration. He draws a. salary of £1,000 a year.
– And cannot give a reply to a question.
– That is not my experience. I have always found him a courteous gentleman. Questions relating to the granting of invalid pensions are also asked. The Victorian practice was to allow a clerk of a court to read out the questions, and the applicant to sign in his presence. The form was then sent to the head office, and an officer was despatched to make a further inquiry. But, under the present system, applicants have come to me trembling, because they could not get two friends to certify that they had known them for twenty-five years. I protest against the present system, and will do so on every opportunity, until this infamy is removed. I would speak as I have spoken- were my blood brother sitting on the Treasury bench. Why should not the Government appoint a medical officer to give an opinion as to the age of applicants, instead of making them tramp all about the city to find those who can certify that they have known them for twenty-five years? If it is difficult for Melbourne residents to get such testimony, how much more difficult is it for miners, and others in nomadic employments in the country? The Postmaster-General knows that many of the questions are absurd. The people desire that every aged man and woman who requires it shall be paid a pension if twenty -five years have been spent ‘in this country. But, to their unutterable discredit, the magistrates of Victoria have tried to put the stamp of pauperism on old-age pensioners. The people do not wish them to be regarded as paupers. Those to whom I have spoken scout the idea with loathing and contempt. I dare any member of the Ministry, or any supporter, .to express an opposite view on the public platform.
– Who prepared the questions ?
– The devil in hell must have had something to do with it. No one possessing the mercy of Him who lived nearly two thousand years ago would have been guilty of such infamy.
– They were prepared by the Labour party.
– They were prepared by the head of the Department, and the honorable member must know that the country is run too much by the heads of Departments.
– They were taken over from the practice of the States.
– Highly-paid officials should not have adopted any State practice that was infamous. The Victorian practice has not been followed’. No member of the late Ministry would have drafted the questions, nor would any member of this Ministry indorse them. I appeal to the Minister, because of the misery which the old people suffer, to draft a shorter list of questions, following the Victorian practice; and to separate the questions put to old-age pension applicants from those put to applicants for invalid pensions. The Ministers are spending, not their own money, but that of the people, and in a meeting filling the biggest hall in Melbourne not one hand would be held up in support of this infamous list of question.-.- I would stake my seat against that of any member of the Ministry on that assertion. If the Minister will simplify these questions, I shall pay him the homage of my thanks on behalf of the old people, but, if not, ‘I shall cover him with infamy. Any Minister may be misled by the head of a Department, but no righteous Minister will continue a practice which has been shown to be wrong.
– There is considerable justification for the warmth’ displayed by the honorable member for Melbourne. The simplification of these questions might well engage the attention of the Minister, and the provision requiring the testimony of two persons who have known the applicant for at least twenty-five years might also be relaxed.
– Witnesses are asked to testify that they have known the applicant for twenty-five years, or less. I have certified to having known an applicant for eight years.
– At any rate, the old people think that they must get the testimony of persons who have known them for twenty-five years.
– In New. South Wales, pensions have been refused where reasonable evidence could not be given of twenty-five, years’ residence. Great sympathy and tact should be. shown in the administration of the Act. Exact proof of age is difficult, even where the applicants have livedall their lives in Australia. In
New South Wales, the State registration of births has not been in existence for more than forty years. I have known old people to be unable to avail themselves of the. privileges of the State Act for the simple reason that they could . not prove to the satisfaction of those administering it the date of their birth. The officers administering the Act should have discretionary powers. As the writer of this letter points out, it is not difficult for a competent man to determine by the appearance of an applicant whether - he is of the age that he claims to be, and is in need of the assistance for which he asks. To insist upon direct proof means often to deprive a deserving man of a pension. . I wish to direct the attention of the Treasurer to what seems to me to be the unsatisfactory manner in which the Act is being administered in New South Wales. This is due, not to any shortcomings on the part of the officers themselves, but to the fact that additional work has been placed upon them, and that the central office at least is undermanned. The Treasurer seems to have forgotten that under the State Act claimants were only paid monthly, and that a considerable amount of clerical work in connexion with the examination of claims and passing of certificates ‘ which was not previously necessary has now to be attended to. I understand that the staff is smaller than it was under the State regime, that the officers are working overtime, and that unless thev are granted relief thev must break down.This is a matter of vital importance to the effective administration of the Act, and if anything is going to discredit the Commonwealth Government it will be an administration which is less effective than that which obtained under the State rule. I strongly urge the Treasurer to give this matter his early attention, so that the staff may be put upon a proper and effective basis.
.- I wish to impress upon the Treasurer the fact that a great deal of trouble is arising . in connexion with the administration of the Old-age Pensions Act in New South Wales.
– Why does not the honorable member write to me? General statements are useless, but if he will mention specific instances where trouble has arisen I will get rid of it.
– I have written to the central office, but have received no reply to my communication.
– Write to me and I will look into the matter.
– I do not wish at this stage to take up the time of the House, but I assure the Treasurer that many unnecessary difficulties are arising in connexion with the administration of the Act in New South Wales.
– Difficulties are sure to arise at the outset.
– If the present system continues we shall have to take some action to bring about a change. I think that, as the honorable member for Calare has said, the trouble is largely due to the fact that the officers of the Department have a lot of additional work thrust upon them, and that the staff is not large enough to attend to it. Communications from members are neglected, and applicants for old- age pensions are humbugged. I hope that the Treasurer will get into touch with his officers in New South Wales and ascertain whether greater expedition cannot be shown in dealing with applications and a little more sympathy extended ,to the old people as well as the officers administering the Act.
Mr. DEAKIN (Ballarat- Prime Minister), f 10.45]. - In regard to the inspection referred to by the honorable member for Coolgardie, Fremantle being the first port of call it is absolutely essential that the examination should be of a thorough character. It is admitted that the delays that take place are exasperating, and the chief officer in charge of quarantine is endeavouring to devise means by which they may be reduced. In reply to the honorable member for Yarra, I have to say that the Treasurer knows nothing whatever of any omission of headings in Hansard reprints, and will inquire to-morrow who is responsible for what has taken place.
– And supply me with an answer in the morning?
– If possible. . The Minister of Defence will lock into the question of the undue employment of boy labour alleged’ by the honorable member for Maribyrnong to have taken place in connexion with a certain contract, and the Treasurer lias made a special note of the war pensioner to whom the honorable member for Corio referred. As to the payment of old-age .pensions it is possible that in some cases the strain placed upon local officers has been very great, and that difficulties have arisen. But taking into account the fact that we are dealing with the whole of Australia, and that practically 50,000 persons have already been placed upon the old-age pensions list, it would seem that even the formidable list of questions to ‘ which the honorable member for Melbourne has called attention is not stopping the flow. As the pressure decreases every week there will be less and less friction.
– What is the good of pro-, mising these people pensions and not giving them?
– That has been due to the fact that it has not been possible to give every- case that personal attention which would have removed the difficulties. There have been others pressing forward to obtain pensions, and some have had to be temporarily set aside. . That is to be deprecated, and the Treasurer will look into the matter. Although the list of questions to which the honorable member has referred is to be taken into consideration, the matter becomes less important as the number of applicants is diminished. As honorable members will have gathered from the questions read, a number of them are merely alternative ques-tions.
– I am sure that if the Prime Minister ~ had drafted the list the questions would have been much simpler than they are.
– Our hope is to simplify the questions as much as possible. As to the position in New South Wales to which reference has been made, the Treasurer will inquire into the circumstances of the officers, and has promised to look into any cases that are brought under his notice.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned .it 10.49 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 12 August 1909, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1909/19090812_reps_3_50/>.