4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m.., ‘ and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Minister representing - the Minister of Defence if steps are being taken ‘to heal the breach with the Australian Garrison Artillery in New South Wales, from which 200 or 300 men Have retired?
– The Minister has the matter under serious consideration, and will be able, in a day or two, I hope, to nuke a statement satisfactory to all concerned.
– I wish to ask the Minister of Home Affairs - 1. Did he ‘direct .the Queensland Commissioners to prepare a fresh distribution of the electoral divisions of Queensland? 2 Did he, as. the result of his direction, receive from the said Commissioners a fresh distribution of the said electoral divisions? 3. Did the Minister return to the Commissioners the said fresh distribution,’ and, if so, why did he return it before consulting Parliament?
– My reply to the first question is “ Yes.” We asked the Commissioners to make a redistribution. The reply to the second and third questions is that the Commissioners sent to us a report dealing with only four divisions. We asked them to send us in a report dealing with all the Queensland divisions, which number ten. That, I suppose, will be done within a few days.
– Has the Minister any further information regarding the New South Wales redistribution ? When will the report and plans be available ?
– I think that everything will be ready about the 30th of this month. The Commissioners are certain that everything will be ready about the 26th, but, if I say the 30th, that will give two days’ grace.
Residential Quarters - Letters Posted at Railway Stations - Assistant
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will take into consideration the advisability of altering the present post office plans “to allow of a door between the business portion ami the residential quarters, and will he make the necessary alterations in the offices recently built ?
Mr. THOMAS (for Mr. Frazer).Doors between the office and residential quaiters of postal buildings are provided, where special circumstances are held to justify it. It is not considered advisable to do this in every case.
asked the PostmasterGerneral, upon notice -
Whether the proposed regulation imposing a late fee on letters posted at railway stations in Victoria will be laid on the Table of the House, and will the House have an opportunity of reviewing such regulation when approved ?
Mr. THOMAS (for Mr. Frazer).The regulation imposing a late fee on postal articles posted in the Commonwealth has been in operation for years. No new regulation is proposed, but the arrangements in Victoria are being brought into line with those obtaining in other States of the Commonwealth.
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the new regulation relating to late charges on letters ‘posted at railway stations that such charges should be enforced at places where there are no post offices Apart from the railway station itself?
Mr. THOMAS (for Mr. Frazer).At a place where the post-office is at the railway station, a letter posted after the closing time of the mail, and deposited in the box on the train, or in a box giving it the benefit of a later clearance than is effected at such post-office, would require to bear a late fee.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Is it correct, ns stated in the Melbourne Argus of Monday, 19th August, 1012, “That Mr.
– The Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– No; but the Parliament of the Commonwealth has power to make laws with respect to the control of railways for naval and military purposes. The only law passed in pursuance of this power is section 64 of the Defence Act. which authorizes the Commonwealth to assume control of any railway in time of war for naval or military transport.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I lay the reports on the table.
asked the Minister re presenting the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
If conscientious objections to military service are held by citizens of the Commonwealth, as in the case of the religious body of “ Friends,” &c., would drill in the Ambulance or Army Medical Corps be taken in lieu of the ordinary service ?
– Yes. See section 143 (3) of the Defence Act.
asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
What is the tonnage, according to the latest returns, of -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are : -
The tonnage of American and foreign vessels entered for the same period at all ports in the United States of America from foreign countries is given as follows : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
When is it proposed to publish the electoral rolls for the State of New South Wales that formed the subject of police collection some months ago?
– The rolls will be printed and issued with the utmost possible expedition ; but, owing to extraordinary pressure in the Government Printing Office, Sydney, which is at present working three full shifts, the commencement of the printing has had to be deferred until the 17 th prox.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The High Commissioner was informed by cable accordingly on 18th July.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Colonel Owen is the Director-General of Works, possessing wide experience in engineering questions and in architecture.
Mr. Scrivener is the Director of Commonwealth Lands and Surveys, a surveyor of the highest ability.
These three officers have been members of the Departmental Advisory Board in connexion with the Federal Capital City, appointed by the honorable member for Illawarra, when Minister of Home Affairs. Their valuable reports on the subject have been laid before Parliament, and speak for themselves.
Mr. Murdoch and Mr. Oakeshott are eminent architects.
Mr. Hill is a civil engineer with exceptional qualifications.
Colonel D. Miller, Secretary, Department of Home Affairs, Chairman.
Colonel P. T. Owen, Director-General of Works,’ Department of Home Affairs.
Mr. C. R. Scrivener, Director of Commonwealth Lands and Surveys.
Colonel Owen to have the assistance of Messrs. Murdoch, Oakeshott, and Hill on Board.
Should in future it be advisable, in the opinion of the Board, that further consultative assistance be obtained, representations in the matter shall be submitted to the Minister.”
Mr. FISHER laid upon the table the following papers : -
Public Service Act - Regulations amended, Nos. 60 to 63 (provisional). - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 167.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 20th August, vide page 2386), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That the first item of the Estimates under division 1, “The Parliament,” namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
.- The Bud- get affords us an opportunity to take a short survey of our position. Nations, like men, occasionally take stock. They must endeavour to ascertain the proportion between their effective resources and their responsibilities - to what extent they can meet without any undue disturbance of their normal social and industrial conditions, the calls that an emergency may at any time make, which must, of course, with becoming fortitude, be faced. Were it not for the continued change we are undergoing in international relations, I personally should not be much disquieted by the perceptible fastness of the financial pace. But we must remember that we are part of an Empire, the stability of which directly touches at least one-fifth of the human race - an Empire so colossal in its proportions, and so vast in its extent, that there is, perhaps, scarcely a moment of our lives when it does not touch or affect the enterprises or ambitions of some other country or people. There is no doubt that the Imperial Government are becoming conscious of the. fact that the Imperial supremacy is challenged both in regard to the material resources by which it is maintained and its effective power of defence. I notice from one of the papers which recently reached us by mail that Mr. Asquith said - I speak now from the Imperial point of view, as, in Budget matters, we ought - that the material prosperity of the Empire was never greater than at present ; that, in fact, testing it by the price of consols, our prosperity is as stable as it was in 1872. But we must remember that if, through any disturbance arising between nations, this prosperity receives a . sudden or sustained check, it will be found very difficult to withstand the strain. I again say that the Imperial prosperity is exceptional ; and the same may be said about our own. Should war arise, then, the test of our capacity to meet our responsibilities will be applied. War, we know, is always wasteful ; and, on one side at least, is generally wanton-. At the same time, we are proud to feel that the Empire makes for peace ; but the maintenance of peace depends on conditions arid” circumstances which we ourselves cannot prescribe or control. Even if the issue of peace or war did lie with the Imperial choice, we must recognise the fact that, at any time, the incapacity, haste, blundering, or petulance of a Foreign Minister may precipitate a crisis big with the fate of nations.
– Does not the honorable member think that the capitalists of Europe can decide the question of peace or war?
– If the honorable member will excuse me, I must say that I am afraid that question is irrelevant to my purpose. If I may give a few figures to suggest the significance of the position to which my prefatory remarks are applicable, I find that the national expenditure of the United Kingdom in 1895-6 was £98,000,000 ; in 1904-5 it was ,£147,000,000; and for 19 12-13 it is estimated at £187,000,000. Then, if we take the naval expenditure, we find that, in these years it has been _£i 7, .000,000, then. £36,000,000, and is now £44,000,000 odd. I have heard it stated in this House that all the money required at Home for defence is, as it ought to be, perhaps, spent out of revenue. But it is a little significant that, chiefly under Conservative management, as a recent White Book shows., for the nine years ending 1909, there was borrowed £28,000,000 for defence purposes. But, happily, under Liberalism, which is always enterprise coupled with economy, no less than £[78,000,000 of the public debt has been discharged within the last three years. We have also to remember that there are conditions, healthy in their significance, of unrest at Home which may make the nation divided in itself. I say “ healthy,” because there is a class of discontent which shows a. legitimate dissatisfaction with existing conditions, and, ultimately, when manifested with sufficient strength, becomes the precursor of reform. But this unrest has to be taken into account; and the very last Times that came to hand shows what it may amount to in case of war. I find that the International Conference of Miners indicated in a declaration the probability of a general strike should war be declared by any nation against another.
– What is the object of the strike?
– To prevent the war. I do not justify that attitude one way or the other, but am merely dealing with conditions that may at -any time arise. What I say is that, if such a strike did take place, it is not always the nation that leads in morals that succeeds; one nation may refuse to act, and another will act; and we know what the result will be. The Dominions, of course, are deeply interested in the strength of the central power. We have an interest arising from sympathy - an interest connected,. I should rather say, with citizenship rather than with race, because we are, to some extent, a composite people out here - and we have an interest arising, from interdependent security. What this means is suggested by Captain Mahan:, who says that, so long as the Imperial Fleet is maintained, there will be no danger to the territories of the British self-governing Dominions. The point of these observations is. that we must,- viewing this matter from the Imperial point of view in which we are so interested, endeavour to economize our resources against the strain, which may, perhaps without anticipation,, arise; and, personally, I have no fear of the result if we do that. With, as the Budget- papers show us, an external trade of £146,000.000, a production which is not given, but which amounts to something over £200, 000,000, the1 investment of something like £200,000,000 of the public debt of the States in reproductive works, which return, in round figures, a revenue of £8,500,000, or more than sufficient to cover the necessities of working expenses and; interest - with a remarkable power of recuperation, which Australia always shows after a stroke of disaster, with a people homogeneous in character applying their eager energies to many varieties of soil and climate, and, above ali, with the liberal character of our institutions, I say that, so long as we do not mistake prodigality for enterprise, or niggard parsimony, that restrains and paralyzes, for that proper economy which renders all things possible, we need have no fear or deep-seated anxiety for the future. Were it really germane to the matter, I might say that Australia can give as good an account of itself in finance, and show, on the whole, as economical management of its resources, as any other part of the Empire. We must, then, remember our increasing responsibilities. I notice that some critics are taking this Parliament to account for the tremendous increase in the expenditure since . Federation was inaugurated. My attention was drawn to the matter last week in Adelaide by a general fulmination thrown at our heads- concerning the alleged excessive Federal expenditure. But a state- ment of comparative figures is utterly meaningless unless it is analyzed. The estimate of £300,000, with a margin of .£54,000 in .respect of new expenditure, which was given to the Federal Convention in 1 897 was confined to the cost of the machinery which at the start was absolutely essential to get the Federal machine going. Honorable members will also find that the estimated transferred expenditure was the minimum of what, at the time of transfer, would have to be met by the Federal Treasurer, and that was fixed at £1,550.000. The largest outlay was in respect of defence, which,, as far as T can remember, was then something .like ,£750,000. Since then, expenditure has undoubtedly gone up. If honorable members turn again to the Budget figures and other data, they will find the increase dates from the year after the great depression of .1902.’ It has really succeeded the disappearance of “the depression and also the ^establishment of the uniform Tariff. Let us ta.ke a few of these figures and see what their significance is. Our .production of wheat, in 1902-3, amounted to 12,378.068 bushels; in 1910-n, it amounted to 95.111,983 bushels; and, in i<9ii-i2,’ to 71,664,97,1 bushels. During the same period, the area under crop has increased from 8 472.000 acres to 12,105 000 acres. The production of wheat per acre, under better methods of tillage, the application of- phosphates, and so forth, has also, I believe, largely increased, and increased, I think, even on the average of all the acres under crop. Our wool exports have gone up in value from £12,744,000 in 1902 to £26,000,000 in 191 1, and the deposits in the banks of issue have increased from £’89,705.000 to £147,103,000. Wages in factories - another sign of our increasing prosperity, and one that we all welcome - have risen from £14,139.000 to ^”2^,874.000. Our exports of the principal articles of Australian produce have likewise increased from a value of £45.658.000 in 1003 to £76,482.000 - and that notwithstanding the. fart that our increase of population since Federation has only averaged 1.77 per cent. Curing the same period, the State expenditures and revenues have also largely increased. They balance each vear, so that I am able to give the expenditure in 1903-4 as amounting to /”2q.’;,;?.282 ; whilst, in 1910-11, it amounted to £-77.240.315. Our critics must remember the fact that, rightly or wrongly, progress is always .accompanied by an increasing expenditure, because it renders possible enterprises, works, and a policy that otherwise could not be carried out. Let me make a comparison of our position with that of Canada. We hear a great deal said to our detriment as to the marvellous effect of enterprise in the sister Dominion - a Dominion to which we must always refer with respect, and of whom we must only speak in terms of generous and inspiring emulation. I find that the population of Canada, as given in the Budgetpapers, is 7,192,338, whilst the population of Australia is 4,588,707. The population of Canada, therefore, is .nearly double that of Australia. Coming to external trade, we find that that of Australia, as I have already mentioned, is of the value of £146,000,000, whilst that of Ca.nada is of the value of £158,000,000. There is not a .marked difference, and I believe that in recent years the two countries were practically equal in this respect.
– -Do the honorable member’s figures include Canada’s trade with .the United States?
Rightly to be great, Is not to stir without great argument, Hut greatly to find quarrel in a straw, When honour’s at the stake.
Or. if the Minister of Defence would think that perhaps too bellicose, as we differ in our opinions of what honour is, and very often misinterpret it. perhaps a more wholesome one would be that from Burke, by which the Japanese, our allies, seem to be guided -
Humanly speaking, that people which bounds itf efforts only with its being must give the law :to that nation which will not push its opposition beyond its convenience.
The world undoubtedly is still arming. Russia proposes to spend in five years no less than £45,000,000 in the reconstruction of its fleet. How transitory maritime greatness may be is shown by the fact that Russia lost seventy-three vessels in the war with Japan. In 1901, the GovernorGeneral ‘s Speech said that “extravagant expenditure on defence must be avoided, and reliance placed to the fullest extent on a citizen soldiery.” Let us see what has occurred, and the probable cost of the citizen soldiery. In 1901-2, leaving works out of account, the military and naval expenditure was £86,1,218; in 1902-3, it was £734.354; in 1907-8, it was £890. 55 7 ; in 1911-12, it was £2,127,056 ; and the estimate for this year is £2,869,693 ; a pretty substantial and gradual increase. With works, taking only the last two years, the expenditure on defence was, in 1911-12, £4, 080, 039, and is estimated to reach, this year, £5,438.364. That increase we may regard, although it includes construction, as being permanent, if we are alive to our responsibilities. Admiral Henderson, assuming that his scheme is carried out, gives an estimate of annual naval expenditure, in 1922-3, of £4,494,000. I find, looking up the report of Lord Kitchener on land forces, that he gives an estimate of the cost of a fighting force of 88,000 men, which was the number upon which the Defence Act of the Liberal Government was based. Our defence expenditure in the last three years, it must be remembered, has been automatically and necessarily increasing under the policy inaugurated in 1909 by the Liberal Ministry. Lord Kitchener was asked to come out here by the Deakin-Cook Government to report upon the working of the Act of 1909, so that it is altogether beside the question to quote the increases of the last three years as amounting to a recognition by any Government - although it is claimed for the Government at present in power - of obligations which their predecessors had ignored.
– There is £700,000 more for land defence this year than Lord Kitchener said it would take.
– I should like to know the cost of this military business, but whatever credit is to be assigned in connexion with the increase of the military vote during the last three years— -
– /You can get all the credit attached to that expenditure.
– I only want to discount what was said last night in a very clever speech, which was well received by the House, by the honorable member for Corangamite. I listened to him with pleasure, but I think he misinterpreted the situation when he assigned the increase in defence in the last three years to the credit of Labour enterprise and to a recognition of obligations by the Labour party.
– I think he referred to the fact that we proposed amendments to your Act of 1909 which were not put in, but which subsequently formed portion of Lord Kitchener’s report.
– Those amounted to practically nothing in substance.
– They are fairly material.
– My point is that the increased expenditure has not been caused by any amendment of the Act of 1909.
– I am not dealing with that feature.
– My point is that so far as the recognition of our Imperial and local obligations in defence is to be assigned to the credit of any Government, it should be to the preceding rather than to the present Government. Lord Kitchener’s report says that in seven years’ time the expenditure to give a fighting force of 88,000 men would be £1,884,000. That is for the land force, so that we may reckon in eight or nine years on a minimum expenditure - because these estimates are always outstripped by fact - of £6, 400,000 in round figures on naval and military defence. One significant fact is that, leaving works out of account, the actual increase of naval and military expenditure for the year 1912-13 over the previous year amounts to £739,407, which is actually more than the total expenditure in 1902-3, when the vote perhaps was at its lowest. The Treasurer told us in his Budget-speech that the increase is partly caused by the necessity to provide for the largely increased staffs required for administration and instruction in connexion with the universal training movement. That is a commentary upon the anticipation of the first GovernorGeneral’s Speech that under a citizen soldiery we might look to the avoidance of what the Government then described as “ extravagance in defence.”I wish the Treasurer had given us materials for estimating the comparative cost, in the light even of a year or two’s experience, of the present method of compulsory training. I have given Lord Kitchener’s estimate. What I say is that we must be prepared to face these responsibilities and pay. Our economy must be directed to that certain fact, and I should like to know the comparative efficiency of the system which is costing us all this money, and its comparative cost, because we did adopt the method of compulsory training rather hastily. There was a feeling in the House a year before that, if the matter was put to the vote the vote would have shown an adverse opinion. We had a report from some experts that went Home, pointing out the merits of the Swiss system, but it ought to have been borne in mind that Switzerland is a land power wedged in between four military Powers. It has, I believe, something like 230 persons to the square mile against in Australia something under two persons to the square mile. It has had practically to defend itself againstthe aggression of European Powers since the nucleus of the first alliance, which developed into Federation, was formed in, I think, 1215, by three cantons, Zurich, Schwyz, and UnterWalden. In the circumstances, it was a very false precedent to accept for our guidance in connexion with the military system the scheme adopted by the sister federation of Switzerland. I hope our defence system will succeed. All I want, in speaking on finance, is to have some light thrown, first upon its comparative efficiency, and, secondly, upon its comparative cost, because my opinion always has been that, if we face the facts of defence, if we had increased our defence expenditure four or five years ago to the limits it has now reached for a fully trained force, we should have all that we require in the way of land defence. Defence, unfortunately, has been always the field of the empiric. Lord Curzon, speaking on “ True Imperialism “ on the11th December, 1907, said that every fresh War Minister sought to distinguish himself by inventing a brand-new military system, which. commonly passed into oblivion with its author. We have had many Ministers of Defence. In England they have the “ land “ school and the “ blue-water “ school, and so have we. We have had the policy written of by Arnold Foster, who believes in a small army, thoroughly well paid, and well equipped. Men cannot be got to fight now under the conditions that prevailed twenty or thirty years ago. Things are very different from what they were in the days when Nelson settled, for all time, I hope, the question of naval supremacy. In those days the seamen were housed worse than dogs, and wretchedly paid. Since 1906 there has been a marked change in the recognition of our obligations to those who man the Navy. Lord Roberts, believes in an army of something like 1,000,000. There have been various estimates of the number of troops that could be landed in the United Kingdom. We have had an estimate of 5>000> and an estimate of 70,000, which was considered by Mr. Balfour, about which time Lord Roberts stated that 150,000 fully-equipped men could be landed on the shores of the United Kingdom within thirty-six hours, and that the force required to repel them would be 600,000 Territorials. That was an estimate of four Territorials, or partiallytrained men, as equal to one properlyequipped and fully-trained man. In regard to the efficacy of our system, we must remember’ what has been said by experts in regard to partially-trained men. Lieutenant Pollock says that -
History may be searched in vain for examples of volunteers, however brave and patriotic, defeating or holding their own against regulars, unless, having enormous numerical superiority, or some special advantage in. their favour.
– Was that written since the South African war?
– Yes ; it was written as the result o’f experience gained during the war. Lieutenant Pollock undertook to train, in six months men who would give their whole time to the work, and a. company, called the Spectator Company, was formed. It was in. that connexion that he made the statement I have read,, which, I believe, was. justified by the event. We need to be sure that we are getting the best value tor our enormously increasing expenditure on. defence. Major-General Sir Edward: Hutton estimated that we need in peace 25,000 men, and in war 45,000. men. Lord Kitchener put the number at 127,000-,. to make provision for reserves. He was considering, the Deakin policy, which is that, which we are now developing, and which would have given a land force of 88,000. Some years ago our Ministers were advised, apparently, that a. land force of 100,000 would be sufficient, and that for its maintenance an expenditure of £1,500,000 was. required. That was in 1906-7. One of the best foreshadowings of what was coming in defence, and what would be necessary, was made by Lieutenant-Colonel McCay, in. a speech delivered in this chamber in 1905, when he. pointed out that it was certain and inevitable that our de fence, expenditure would increase. He was subsequently Minister of Defence, in the Liberal Government. He stated, that Major-General Hutton.’s estimate of £525,000 as the defence expenditure in 1905 for the equipment of the forts should be supplemented by additional expenditure amounting to £800,000; and his anticipations have been more than borne out bv the events. If,’ as a non-expert, I were asked to offer an opinion, I should pin my faith to the encouragement of the Navy. We must never forget, in our military enthusiasm, that we are a sea State as well as a sea race - a continent like the centre of the Imperial system, bound in by the triumphant sea ; triumphant, too often, in the sense so well suggested by the ugly sights of Clarence’s dream -
Methought T saw a thousand fearful’ wrack?; A thousand men that fishes gnaw’d upon.-, Wed-es of gold, great anchors, heaps of pearl, Inestimable stones, unvalued jewels,, All scattered in the bottom ot the sea.
Captain Creswell reported in 1.906 tha* a land’ force of 40,000 would be useless until the sea supremacy was lost. We were told by the Prime Minister of the day that a large invasion was not to be expected; but that we must be prepared for sudden raids. The report of the Naval Officers in. 1906 stated, on the authority of Major-General Hutton, that in the absence of a requisiteforce in the Pacific, an expeditionary force of 30,000 or 40,000 men could carry with ease any of the Australian Capitals. Lond Kitchener, in a report signed 12th February, 19.10, said, “ It is. an axiom, held by the British Government, that the Empire’s existence depends primarily on the maintenance of adequate and sufficient naval forces.” As long, as; that contention is fulfilled, as long as British superiority is assured, it is an accepted principle that no British Dominion can be successfully and permanently conquered, by an organized invasion from oversea. So. much for the opinion of experts. In all. human probability our defence, expenditure will be inci eased. Major-General Edwards, a few years before Federation, said that the interests of the whole Continent demanded that railways to connect Port Darwin and Western Australia with the- other coloniesshould be made as soon as possible; We are beginning to expend money on one; and I hope that there will be no hesitation about commencing the other project.
– Nothing was done by the last Government.
– I am not attributing either credit or blame to any Government; I arn dealing with this matter on non-party lines. Among the obligations of the near future should be, in accordance with the agreement with South Australia, the construction of the line recommended by Major-General Edwards in 1909, and indorsed almost with enthusiasm by Lord Kitchener in 1910.
– He said that he would come out and open it as soon as it was finished.
– Then I hope we shall cive him an opportunity to do so very soon. In all probability there will be an increase in our military and in our naval expenditure, and, incidentally, in our expenditure on railway construction. A large sum will have to be spent on the Capital, though, perhaps, not large in comparison with these other expenditures. I do not grudge the present expenditure on oldage and invalid pensions, and possibly there will be an increase in the cost of the Public Service. Practically none of our Departments is revenue-producing as the State Departments are, about 58 per cent, of the revenue of the States coming from public works. The revenue and expenditure of the Postmaster-General’s Department practically balances. These facts point to the necessity for economy, and the avoidance of extravagance. The expenditure on old-age and invalid pensions for this year is set down at £2,405,000, and the maternity allowance would bring it up to £2,805,000. Personally, I disapprove of the latter. It would be far better, by our legislation, so far as this is possible, to improve industrial conditions, and to increase the means of the people, so that they may make this provision for themselves, than to debilitate character by giving monetary help in a country where it is not needed. Under Lloyd-George’s scheme, although their earnings are poor and their conditions such as we deplore, the masses make -provision themselves for maternity allowances; and surely what is done in England can be done here. We should endeavour to increase the purchasing capacity of our people by wise legislation, co-operating with private enterprise.
– How can we <lo that?
– That is the problem which our statesmen have to face; and it is a difficult one. We shall make many blunders, but we must do our best to approximately attain our ends. We shad! never accomplish them absolutely. The aspiration’ of Lear, that “ distribution should undo excess, and each man have enough,” may never be fully realized. But far more can be done than is done now, though our people will not have the spirit to accomplish it, if we debilitate their character by uncalled for subsidies, proposed, one might also say, in connexion with party aims. The expenditure on the Postmaster-General’s Department during the last eight or ten years has been legitimate. On the Department of External Affairs, £532,000 has been spent. That expenditure could not be avoided, nor could the expenditure on other Departments incidental to our policy. We have beenaccused of undue extravagance, by comparing the Estimates made in 1897 with the actual expenditure; but I say that the greater part of the actual expenditure could not have been avoided, because it was not intended that our policy should be stopped. The burden of what I have to say is that we must be cautious. When we increase our avoidable expenditure by maternal allowances and fancy schemes of that sort, we are not displaying that commendable caution which in our circumstances is so necessary. In 1912 our revenue was £20,546,361. We must remember that the States use the same sources of taxation, excepting Customs and Excise, that we do, and the State taxation, which falls on the same people, has risen from 14s. id. per head in 1 901-2, to 19s. per head in 1910-11. Some of the State sources, if they wish to avoid oppressive taxation, are nearly exhausted. They have nearly exhausted their stamp taxation and their income taxation - unless it is wished to make the latter unduly burdensome - and the same may be said of their dividend taxes and land taxes, which, though moderate, perhaps, would reach very nearly the point of oppression if there were placed on top of them a Federal land tax of a progressive and rather severe incidence. As I mentioned, 58 per cent, of the revenue of the States is obtained from services; and they get 14 per cent, from the Commonwealth, so the shrinkage in our revenue will tell against us, and not very much against them. Both Commonwealth and States have to use sources of taxation that cannot be very much resorted to without almost reaching the point of oppression. Customs and Excise represent practically the only source of revenue from the Commonwealth. In 1902-3 that revenue was £9,451,588, while in 1911-12 it was £14,710,199, or £2 8s. gd. and ,£3 4s. 5½d. per head in each year respectively. There has been no substantial difference caused by any change in the Tariff as between 1906-7 and last year, so that the comparative results cannot be affected. It is significant, however, that in the ten months ending in April of this year, our imports were considerably less than the exports, whereas in the corresponding month of 1910-11 there was a substantial excess of imports over exports. The only conclusion I draw from this is that, inasmuch as imports are in excess now, it is almost certain that in the near future there will be a shrinkage of imports; and, if so. there must be a shrinkage in our Tariff revenue, which, as I said, is the only really substantial source from which we can meet our largely increased expenditure.
– The honorable member says that increased prosperity means increased revenue at the Customs House?
– It does undoubtedly, always considering what the character of the Tariff is. Personally, I believe that the more revenue items there are in the Tariff the better in the long run. I know there is a difference of opinion on this point, though at present we are letting the matter rest. There must be some cessation to the fight in controversial politics in order that we may push on with matters on which we are agreed. I am offering my personal qualifications of what has been said in regard to this matter ; but if we are going in for a purely prohibitive Tariff, as some say we should, we shall have to find some source of revenue to take the place of the Customs ; and that is one of the things to be remembered when the people are considering the parties who are entitled to their support at the coming elections. I do not desire to make any reference to the elections, but we heard a good deal last night on the effect of the speeches in this debate on the elections next year. Our land tax cannot be regarded as a very reliable source of revenue. It is progressive ; and if it attains its object, it must disappear as a revenue producing fax. It is not very productive at present, however heavy it may be in its incidence, the amount realized being, I believe, a little over £1,200,000. As to the note issue, I have heard credit claimed for the wonderful achievement of its introduction, and its effect on the revenue. On the 29th July, 1912, we were told in the Budget-papers that the note issue - it is called a “circulation,” which it is not - was ,£9,389,599, and that the interest on the investment, less expenses, was £156,880. The circulation is not given for this year; but in 1 9 10, before the Commonwealth note issue was introduced, the note circulation in Australia amounted to ,£4,325,000, and on this the State taxation of 2 per cent, fell, leaving out, of course, the note circulation in Queensland. This taxation of 2 per cent., together with the profits of the note issue in Queensland, realized for the States, in round figures, £95,000 in 19 10. The circulation at the end of 1911, which, as I said, is not shown in the Budget-papers, was £4,367,397, or only a little more than that of 1910. There was at one time a tax of 3 per cent, on the notes in one or more of the States; and it was given in evidence before a Banking Commission some twenty years ago, that, without destroying the issue, the banks could bear such an impost. There is very little profit on the note issue as a rule, though the issue is a convenience and saving to the banking customers. The only difference made by the introduction of the Commonwealth note issue is that, instead of the States, which had not used their full power to tax the note issue, receiving £143,000 this year on the circulation of September, 191 1, the Commonwealth Treasurer has received £156,000 at the expense of the States. As a matter of fact, this note issue is not producing anything more than it did before, because the additional £10,000 is more than counterbalanced by the inconvenience to the banks, which now have to keep a good deal more gold, or notes substituted for gold, and so involving loss of interest, than formerly, and have to make corresponding charges to their customers. It is held by all banking authorities that the profits of the note issue ought to belong to the banking public; and, if that be true, the banking public have lost the convenience which they had in the way of profit when the note issue was in the hands of the private banks. The simpler we can get results the better ; and the fair way to get proper results out of the note issue was to tax it, and let it be regulated by the ordinary needs of commerce and exchange. In regard to the management of the note issue, we last year had an attempt to reduce the reserve. That attempt, however, has been postponed until after the election ; so I suppose there is some excuse for alluding to the elections and endeavouring to educate the electors on the subject. I find that the reserves in all banks are increasing. I do not wish to go into the gold question, or otherwise I could quote figures which might throw some light on the export of gold this year. The latest figures I have show that the Bank of France, on the 12th January this year, had in coin and bullion £160,000,000, as against a circulation of £219,000,000, while the Bank of Germany, in round figures, had £59,000,000 in coin and bullion, as against an issue of £100,000,000. These figures are from the periodical tables published in the Economist. We cannot expect much profit on the Commonwealth Bank here, and I doubt whether such an institution was necessary as a central bank operating as the Bank of England does, if we assume that the Commonwealth Bank was instituted with a view of making it of the same type. What is going on in the Old Country is the consolidation of the banks ; and I think that, during the last ten or twenty years, the number of banks in England has decreased by one-third. At the same time, however, the bank branches have increased in number, thus affording greater facilities to the public. The latest figures by mail in regard to banking profits show that thirty-nine banks in England average a profit of 15J per cent, on their capital. This is commercial banking which the Commonwealth Rank is not to undertake - commercial banking on a quick turnover and wonderful exchanges. On the figures published by the Treasurer last year, we find that twenty banks in Australia show a profit of 7.74 per cent, on their paid-up capital, but, taking into account capital and reserves, a profit of 5.77 per cent. There is not much scope for profit if we compare the profits of the twenty bunks here with the profits of the banks, having regard to the different classes of business they do, in the United Kingdom. I notice that the Attorney-General recently spoke on the question of fixing prices; and this is another matter that may affect the revenue. I suppose that the Attorney-General spoke with Cabinet authority, and that the question has been mooted if it is not part of the policy of the Government. If we fix prices, we must e either stop competitive imports or limit them. We cannot fix local prices without affecting the prices of com modities from other parts of the world, and the result is that, in order to carry out effectively a policy of fixing prices, we must stop imports by law, because the fixing of prices must affect Australia as a place to which the exports of other countries are sent.
– With a protective Tariff we can fix prices more easily.
– A protective Tariff is the machinery for fixing prices, but I am now dealing with the policy. The fixing of prices means making the prices lower than they are under competitive conditions; and the inevitable result must be to interfere with competitive imports. In order to make the plan thoroughly effective, we could, of course, exclude imports altogether ; and then the results would be perceptible in the Customs and Excise revenue. This brings me back to the necessity for caution in connexion with our finances. Look at some of our policies which at present are not settled. The policy in connexion with the sugar industry has decreased the revenue from £790,000, in 1901-2, to £334,000 in 1910-11, taking into account Excise and Customs and deducting the bonus. This year, under peculiar circumstances, owing to the poor sugar crop, the position will be a little better; but the net revenue will still be only £480,000, instead of something like £1,000,000 under the old condition. Still, the sugar question is unsettled ; and if, by any adjustment we make, we are unsuccessful from a revenue point of view, all I can say is that our capacity to meet our increasing responsibilities will be correspondingly affected. My whole object in speaking as I have done has been to indicate the necessity of avoiding extravagance. I do not wish to lay the blame for the figures, so far as they are the subject of blame, upon either side of the House. I do say, however, that some blame must be taken by the Government that introduces unnecessary and fanciful policies, which must certainly develop our expenditure, and make the pace even much faster than it is at the present time. What we ought to do is to recognise the legitimate expenditure on defence, and obtain from the Government a report that will show to what extent the system that we are supporting by our large expenditure is successful. Having done that, we ought to see whether a modification of policy will give us, on the whole, better value for our money. I do not wish to detain honorable members any longer. If, by what I have said, I have indicated that on the whole, perhaps, the working of Federation has not been marked, as compared with the working of the States, by undue extravagance, but that we are under an obligation in the future to pull in a little, and to avoid such extravagance as will prevent us from realizing our many responsibilities, I shall have been justified for having imposed this trespass on the Committee.
– The Committee is indebted to the honorable member for Angas for the very able and exhaustive speech to which we have just listened. Although honorable members on this side may not altogether agree with the conclusions at which he has arrived, we must at least recognise that he has been at great pains to carefully analyze the financial situation of the Commonwealth, and to review the general prosperity of the community. I am rather inclined to think that the last word has not yet been spoken in reference to the defence of Australia. There is undoubtedly a great deal to be said regarding the honorable member’s remarks as to the amount that we should spend in connexion with our land and sea defences. There can be no doubt that we must all look forward in the future to an increased military expenditure. It is possible that some mistakes may be made. We have ample funds at the present time, and there is, perhaps, a temptation for any Government with ample funds to be rather lavish in its expenditure. There is also a tendency, I do not say on the part of naval men, but undoubtedly on the part of military men, to magnify their office, and to be constantly going with demands for an increased, expenditure to the man who has the misfortune to be Minister of Defence There will always be a tendency in that direction, and I am afraid, whether it be popular or unpopular, that we shall have to realize that we must share in the duty of defending the Empire by providing, out of our own pockets, for the defence of our own hearths and homes. That fact, however, does not prevent honorable members and the public generally from insisting that our money shall be spent judiciously, and upon that arm of the service that is likely to give us the best results. 1 have no desire to follow the honorable member for Angas in his criticism of the policy of the Government in regard to the note issue. The subject has already been amply discussed m this Parliament, and for that reason, and not because of any disrespect to my honorable friend, I shall not further allude to it, except to say that there may be a great deal of truth in his criticism that the States have lost a lot, while the Commonwealth has gained from the note issue.
– There is no doubt about the States having lost.
– Then let us say that the States have lost a lot of revenue, and that the Commonwealth has largely gained. We must not forget, however, that the people of the community have reaped a great advantage.
– What advantage?
– I do not suggest that the honorable member, or any Melbourne merchant, has been advantaged by the introduction of the system.
– What has been the advantage to the country ?
– If the honorable member will have a little patience, 1 shall tell him. What are commonly ‘called the working classes have been greatly advantaged. To reply to the honorable member’s question, it is unnecessary for me to go beyond my own experience. I m self on presenting at a Melbourne branch of a bank doing business in Adelaide an Adelaide note, and asking for gold, have been coolly told that I should have to pay 6d. exchange.
– How long ago was that?
– The system obtained until two or three years prior to the advocacy of the note issue by the present Government. Until then they were in the habit of charging 6d. on every Inter-State note changed.
– How many millions have the community gained by the doing away of that system?
– We must not lose sight of the convenience attaching to the change.
– Quite so. The honorable member for Parramatta cannot see that, whilst this change mav not have proved a great convenience to merchants or members of Parliament with banking accounts, it is a great convenience to thousands of working people who have to travel. Those who have had any experience of the working classes know that they do travel very largely.
– They had only to pay that charge when they went from one State to another, and took .notes with them.
– The change meant a lot to residents of Broken Hill.
– No doubt. .The workers who carne down from Broken Hill to Adelaide and presented New South Wales notes at the banks there, had to pay <Sd. in the £1 exchange.
– I suppose none of them carried gold.
– Like myself, a great many miners, bushmen, and other workers will never carry gold when they can secure notes. It is easier to carry a large sum in notes unknown to others, thane it is to carry a considerable amount in gold. It is also a good thing when the people of any country know that they can safely carry paper money with them, because the security of the country is behind it. The altered system has proved of great assistance to the community. It may not have advantaged bankers or merchants, but they are not the only people in Australia.
– Is that the only advantage to which the honorable member can point ?
– I cite it as a setoff against the mischief that has been attributed to the system by State Righters and those who claim that the note issue is a mistake. I do not expect most honorable members of the Opposition to have any sympathy with the type of men to whom 1 have been referring. The Treasurer is to be congratulated on his submission to the Committee of a Budget that certainly* shows a tremendous increase of revenue, although, at the same time, it indicates a very large expenditure. I am not an alarmist, but it is a matter of surprise to me that our wonderful prosperity should have continued without check as long as it has done. Whether there is any check to it at present is difficult to say. But our experience would lead us almost to* imagine that there is some, truth in the contention of those economists who assert that if you increase the wages of a community and the standard of comfort, you’ must at the same time increase the prosperity df that country. The fact that we have increased the wages and the comfort of the community, and so increased their purchasing power, is, in my opinion, the only reason why we have not been called upon to face such a panic as that from which trade and commerce suffered many years ago, It may be a paradox - I do not profess to be able to explain all these peculiarities - but it is remarkable that there has been no check upon the prosperity that we have been enjoying for many years. In years gone by, such a measure of prosperity was usually followed by commercial panics, which gradually disorganized not only the commercial, but the manufacturing section of the community, and undoubtedly led to thousands of men walking about in search of work. That has not been our experience of recent years, and I trust that it will not be.
– We saw it twenty years ago.
– Yes, when the [“honorable member and those who agreed with him placed a high value upon the principle of introducing loan money, believing that the only way to make the country prosperous was to pile up loan moneys, and thus create an artificial prosperity. When this had been done, they were surprised that the prosperity so created did not last for ever. I hope that there will be no check upon the prosperity that we are now enjoying… Turning from this question, let me say that no Opposition ever agrees with the Estimates of the Government. That has always been, and always will be, the case; so that the average person who has some idea of public life, does not worry because of the complaints of the Opposition in this regard. There was a great deal in the contention of the honorable member for Ballarat that in times past the Budget was looked to to disclose the financial policy of the Government. It was the financial statement of the year, and contained a review of the position of the country and its progress, and a forecast of the future, with an adjustment to meet either prosperity or contraction, according to the anticipations of the experts: I hope that this is the last time that we shall have what I call an incomplete Budget, because the Budget that is now before honorable members is an incomplete statement of the condition of our finances, our prosperity, and our general conditions. We hear a great deal about our revenue amounting to £20,000,000, and our receipts from Customs and Excise to £14,000,000; but we do not hear particulars of the general’ prosperity of the community. I should like very much to know who it is that pays this taxation. Where, does, it come from, and are we, as a civilized, intelligent, community, putting, the burden of taxation upon the right shoulders ? I make no charge against the present Prime Minister and Treasure!, because in this Budget he has simply followed suit to all previous Treasurers. There has never yet been a Budget delivered in the Empire that has given the information that it ought to give. No one is in so good a position to give us this information as the Government are, because they have their army of trained officials ; but it is excessively difficult for any individual, who has to depend entirely upon his own industry, to collect these facts for himself. We ought to know from the Budget statement what wealth was earned last year in Australia, to what section of the community it has gone, what portion of it has gone to the worker, what portion has gone to the welltodo class, and what portion to the rich. Honorable members may ask, “ What business is that of ours? Why do you want to set class against class? Why do you seek to excite jealousy of rich people?” T have no desire to do so, but I say that, in a community like this, where the wealthy have their wealth guaranteed to them by the love of order by the people, and by the civilized conditions under which they live, we ought to see that taxation falls equitably upon them in proportion to the benefits which they receive from the community. Here let me say that there is no feeling of jealousy or resentment that I know of. amongst the Australian working people towards those that are rich, but there is a feeling that the rich do not pay their fair share of the taxation of the community. My contention is that the incidence of taxation should be so adjusted as not always to fall upon the poorer classes. Of course, the present Government can plead, if they like, that their supporters knew the lines on which they were working. They knew that the Government were practically following out what has been recognised as the financial policy of Australia for years past. This ought not to be a party question at all. We ought to be in a position to know what wealth has been earned in the community, where it has gone, and who is spending it, not as individuals, but as groups of individuals. It is a very difficult matter to get any information at all under those heads. It ought to be in the Year-Book, but that publication contains absolutely no information of that kind of value to any public man. It gives the number of horses and sheep, and the amount of wheat and barley produced - all very valuable information to a man who is going to lecture on some academic subject - but when one comes to the questions I have asked, one fails to get the slightest indication of any information regarding them. I am reluctantly compelled, therefore, to refer back to a debate that took place some years ago in this House for information on these matters, because I have no up-to-date figures relating to them. Honorable members on this side say that while there has been a tremendous increase in the prosperity of Australia, and the wages of the working people have increased, the cost of living and rents have gone up correspondingly, so n that the working classes are practically no better off than they were before. I do not believe that that is so, but I have no means of proving it. I say that there has been a rise in prices and a rise in rents; but, taking it all round, I do not believe that that increase has been proportionate to the rise in wages. Of course, honorable members who do not share my view say that it is very easy to make assertions, and very difficult to prove them. That is my position to-day. My contention is that, side by side with the increase of wages received by the working people, there has been a corresponding increase in the wages and profits shared by other sections of the community, and that their wealth has increased proportionately with the earnings of the workers. I hold that the wealth of the rich and well-to-do classes to-day is considerably greater than it was five or six years ago. No honorable member in this House should be placed in the position of having to make a statement of that kind without being able to prove it, but the fact remains that I have not the materials to prove it. Those materials ought to be furnished to us by the Government. I am driven back, in their absence, upon the speech delivered by the honorable member for Coolgardie, on 5th November, 1908, on the subject of national defence. In that deliverance the honorable member reviewed the condition of Australia at the time, and certain deductions can be drawn from his figures as to the conditions df todav. The honorable member stated -
The private property in Australia was valued in 1903 by Coghlan ‘ at ^981,979,000, land and improvements on land accounting for ^683,944,000, or nearly 70 per cent, of the total. Coghlan admits that this, which takes no account of good-will and other items, is an under-valuation, and that ^36,000,000 might be added to his estimate of the wealth of New South Wales and Victoria alone. Using round figures, the private wealth of Australia may therefore be safely set down at ^1,000,000,000. One thousand millions ! One needs pause to realize the colossal proportions of this accumulation. Yet the owners of it do not directly contribute a shilling to the fund which guards it against confiscation. “ Confiscation “ refers, of course, to the case of an invasion, when property would have to pay the war indemnity ; while, of course, if the defenders were totally defeated, its value to its present owners would probably be nil -
The whole case might be allowed to rest on. the statement of this pregnant fact. At 4per cent., £1,000,000,000 will earn £40,000,000 per annum. Three-fourths of it probably earns more than 4 per cent., because Government securities yield almost that rate on anaverage, and the return from private investments is generally a point or two higher. Now, it may be admitted that if this wealth were held in equal or nearly equal shares by the units of the community, there would be no great hardship in paying for defence out of indirect taxation. But it is notorious that the wealth of this country is held by comparatively few individuals. Mr. Coghlan points out that in 1903 half the private wealth of New South Wales was owned by some 3,000 persons. The figures he supplies suggest that his estimate was well within the mark. The assessment was £368,778,000, of which 81 per cent., or £300,000,000, belonged to 3,073 individuals. The rest of the population of New South Wales, numbering 1,424,269, possessed less than 19 per cent, of the wealth- under £69,000,000. Applying this deduction to the wealth and population of all Australia, it will be seen that 8,450 persons own £810,000,000; while the remaining £190,000,000 is divided amongst 3,918,540 persons. Carrying the analysis further, as Coghlan’s researches enable us to do, the results are even more striking. In 1903, New South Wales contained 739,589 adults, of whom no less than 544,972, or nearly 75 per cent., possessed no property whatever. The corresponding numbers for the Commonwealth would be - total adults, 1,308,000 ; adults without property, 981,000. Here it may be remarked that the word “adult” is not the equivalent of “ breadwinner,” since there are many breadwinners who have not reached adult age. As every 100 adults maintain 125 dependants, it follows that 2,635,000 persons must be deducted from the number who own the £190,000,000 worth of property. So that the anomaly may be more clearly perceived, let me summarize the position : -
Owned by 8,450 persons - £810,000,000.
Owned by 1,283,540 persons - £190,000,000.
Owned by 2,635,000 persons - nil.
Totals - (population), 3,926,990; (wealth), £1,000,000,000.
It is, unfortunately, not possible by any data from Coghlan to trace further the distribution of the £190,000,000. A more exhaustive examination would probably disclose that the owners do not exceed half-a-million persons. Indeed, this conclusion is strengthened by a study of the annual incomes of the people, so far as statistics are available. The census of 1901 fixed the number of breadwinners in the Commonwealth at 1,652,280. Allowing for the increase in population since 1901, the total breadwinners should now be 1.684,000. As the position of the Commonwealth is substantially reflected in that of one of the older States, the statistics of Victoria, which are the completest available, may be used as a measure of the incomes of the Australian people. The standard may not be absolutely exact, but Victorian conditions do not differ so materially from those of the other States as to vitiate the estimate. As. the Victorian quota of our total population is about 30 per cent., the number of breadwinners in this State may be taken at slightly over 505,000. Yet the. last income tax returns,1906-7, show that only 8.7 per cent. of the breadwinners, that is, 44,262 persons, earned sufficient to warrant attention from the Income Tax Commissioner. This leaves 461,000, or over 91 per cent. of the breadwinners in this State, whose earnings did not reach the taxable minimum of £151. Income tax is collected on wages, salaries, fees, profits, and other earnings - “personal exertion-“’ is the orthodox term - but the tax is also collected on incomes from property. Now, we find that, excluding those who pay on property income, the number of Victorian income taxpayers dwindles down to 39,753, or 7.9 per cent, of the total breadwinners. Thus we see that 92 out of every100 engaged in industry receive less than £151 per annum, a fact which deserves the strongest emphasis. The returns show that £12,709,857 earned by personal exertion was taxed, of which 34,822 persons earning under £500 yearly paid on £5,086,688; and 4,931 persons earning over £500 annually paid on £7,623,169. As to property, 8,348 persons paid on an income of £2,929,544. The significance of these results will be apparent at a glance. An income of over 10½ millions was received by property owners and others earning over £500 annually; while a group nominally over four times greater divided little more than five millions. As this latter group induces all receiving from £151 up to £500, the letter being an exceptional income, it is a fair inference that the bulk of the’ taxpayers in thisgroup earn less than £250 per annum. Had the statistics shown the number who pay on earnings between £151 and £300, the disparity in the incomes of the several groups would be still more pronounced. However, in the incomplete forrn chosen by the Government Statist, the Victorian results prove that the masses, who pay so much for the protection of wealth, possess an insignificant share of it. In the following table,I have sought to apply . the Victorian data to the popu- lation of the Commonwealth. That is to say, the results shown would be obtained if the rate
and conditions of income taxation enforced n Victoria were extended to Australia : -
Dealing first with the taxable income from personal exertion, it will be seen that 60 per cent, of the total is divided amongst 12.4 per cent, of the taxpayers earning over £500 ; and 40 per cent, amongst the remaining 87.6 per cent, of the taxpayers. Those receiving more than £1,000 per annum constitute only 4.3 per cent, of the taxpayers, yet they receive over 40 per cent, of the total income. Passing to the incomes from property, 68 per cent, is received by those with incomes over £500 - although they number less than 17 per cent, of the taxpayers - while 32 per cent, of the income is divided between 83 per cent, of the taxpayers. Interesting as these comparisons are, they do not arrest one’s attention so forcibly as the meagre return which property apparently yields to its owners. We have seen that Coghlan estimates the capital value of lami and improvements at nearly 684 millions, -which, at 4 per cent., would give £27,360,000 annually. Does the discrepancy in the return of twenty and a half millions in the annual revenue mean that three-fourths of the land and improvements earn nothing? Such an assumption is negatived by common knowledge. Or is it that ownership is spread over so many individuals that the income of each does not reach the taxable minimum ? That theory is contradicted by the officially attested fact that 75 per cent, of the adults in this’ community possess no property whatever. A more likely solution,
I think, than any, lies in wholesale exemptions and gross under-valuations.
– Is the honorable member speaking of incomes?
– No, property. For instance, the annual rateable value of land and improvements in Victoria in 1906 was £ii,795.’43> yet its assessment for income taxation is under three millions. From this it is clear that a tax on land and improvements throughout Australia, if based on that of Victoria, would permit five owners out of six to evade their liability to the community. What emerges from a review of the position is briefly this : That a large majority of adults possess no property at all ; that as to the remainder, those of small incomes are in vast preponderance ; and that the lion’s share of the wealth belongs to a very small group numerically.
I have referred to that speech for the sake of the data it gives. In 1903 the wealth of Australia was in the hands of a comparative few ; a section of the community was possessed of property, but a much larger section had none at all. That is practically the position to-day, as is borne out by the following figures, which are to be found in Part II. of the Victorian Y earBook for this year -
These Victorian figures prove that the preponderance of income taxpayers are found amongst those who earn incomes between £156 and £500. On the occasion of the next Budget, or the next issue of the Year-Book much more information should be given on this score than we have hitherto had. In the Year-Book at present we are simply told that the income tax in Australia yields £1,432,271. What on earth is the value of that? Such a return as I suggest could, I think, quite well be made up, and would prove infinitely useful. We ought to be told, for instance, how many pay income tax between £156, or whatever is the minimum, and £200, and so on, for every £200 additional income, until, perhaps, incomes of £1,500 a year are reached. No information is required or desired about individuals, but only as to groups and classes of individuals, in order to show by whom the income of the Commonwealth is really earned. I admit that there may be some difficulty about the matter ; but we Australians are accustomed to meet difficulties. The income of Australia in 1903 we estimated at £1,000,000,000, and I estimate the income to-day at between £1, 200, 000. 000 and £1,300,000,000.
– That is only guesswork.
– I quite admit that. This is a matter which is in no sense a party one; and in discussing this and similar questions we ought to have some source of information utterly irrespective of party. Of course, such information need not be mathematically correct, but it ought to be reliable and present the position. The incidence of taxation ought to be adjusted. From this £1,300,000,000 I contend that at least £5,000,000 should be obtained by way of income tax, relieving to that extent the pressure on those who now pay the greater part of the Customs and the Excise duties. I say, unhesitatingly, that more than two-thirds of the Customs and Excise revenue is provided by those people who do not pay any income tax.
– What the honorable member desires to know is what proportion of taxation falls on each section of the community.
– Exactly. When we talk about our advancement and improved conditions of life, we ought, at the same time, to see that the incidence of taxation is adjusted. I do not agree with the view that every one should pay income tax, but we should, as I say, look to the income tax to provide at least £5,000,000 of the revenue now obtained through the Customs House. Of course, this income, taxation is a province of the State Governments for all practical purposes ; and I admit that there may be difficulties in the: way. At any rate, the information 1 have suggested should be provided, and the people of the country educated so that they may be able to say what alteration, if any, should be made. Undoubtedly there is no justice or equity in the way in which the burden of taxation is distributed at the. present time. But from time immemorial,: in various parts of the Empire, the masses, have been regarded as those on whom taxation should fall. Of course, in the past there have been propertied Parliaments,, composed of well-to-do people, who ran the government in their own interests, though 1 do not say that that has been theintention of the Governments of the Commonwealth. We have, however, a tendency to run on the beaten track ; but the time has arrived when the people of the country should be consulted. We shall be very lucky, as Australians, if we are never called upon to make a bigger sacrifice than to provide, out of income tax, £5,000,000 of the revenue now raised through Customs and Excise. Of course, it is not my businessto set forth in detail how this change can be brought about, seeing that 1 have no official information, and at present am really groping in the dark. The Year-Book, for informative purposes on this point, is simply useless ; everything is averaged so that, even the aggregate income of the country is parcelled out so as to make it appear that every man, woman, and child earns a certain part of it. Averages in groups is scientific and accurate, but the old method has nothing to commend it. For instance,, we are told in the Year-Book that in the year 1910 there were 286,831 people employed in the various factories in the Commonwealth, and that they earned an aggregate of £23,874,959. That is all we are told ; and it appears to me almost as if there had been a deliberate policy on the part of statisticians to show all the averages that tend to show the wealth of the community, but never any that disclose the actual conditions. I do not profess to be a statistician, but if we average that income at £90 a year for adult men, £50 ayear for adult women, and 5s. a week for the youngsters, we find that considerably, more than £24,000,000 would be required^ to pay them. If in the Budget statement we are simply to have set forth the revenue and expenditure, it might as well just be laid on the table and left for us to read at our leisure. We hear a great deal about the increased cost of living, but we are given no authoritative information on the point. Under the British Board of Trade the prices of commodities, wholesale and retail, are shown on what is called an index number. The Board takes a dozen or more of the leading commodities, such as bread, meat, sugar, rice, and so forth, which find their way into the homes of rich and poor alike, and average the price over seven years, the price thus obtained being used as an index number by means of which the prices for fifty years past may be readily ascertained. Why should we not have a similar plan in Australia ? Of course, it may be said that the Statistician sends out a number of queries with a view to eliciting information ; but everybody is not prepared to reply, if only because there are usually about three times as many queries as there is any necessity for. Two or three intelligent clerks, familiar with the community in which they were living, could easily _ secure, within a few months, tables of these prices. If the authorities do not know how to obtain the information in Australia, let them ascertain through the High Commissioner how the work is done by the British Board of Trade.
– We should have, in addition, a table showing how our progress is made up - whether in price increase or volume increase.
– Certainly. We need all the information it is possible to obtain. If we secure it, Labour men and Liberals alike will be in a better position to ascertain the actual position. We shall then have scientific data on which to adjust the incidence of taxation. As it is, we have none. All that we can say is that we have followed the beaten track which has been pursued for many years, and that what has been good enough for our predecessors must be good enough for us.
– It is not good enough for us.
– I do not think that it is ; nor do I think that the Opposi-tion will say that it is good enough for them. I have no desire to reflect on the statistical information before us as to the number of horses, cats, and dogs in the Commonwealth. Such information is cer tainly interesting, but it does not help us much in ascertaining the real prosperity of the community, nor does it help us in adjusting taxation. One would think that the necessity for further information in regard to the estates of deceased persons would be recognised in the Government Statist’s office. It would be of great value, not only to the public men of Australia, but to literary men and other inquirers, if tables were prepared showing the number of estates of deceased persons of the value of £500, and the number of the value of £1,000, £5,000, and £10,000, and upwards. We all know of many people who have but little property, and of others who have a few hundred pounds in excess of the amount at which estates are brought under review. Detailed information such as 1 have suggested would be very valuable. There ale two methods of ascertaining the wealth of the community - one, by calculating on the income tax returns, and the other by recourse to the value of the property of deceased persons. The results so obtained should balance within a million or so. I have here some figures as to the value ot the estates of deceased persons in 1906 and 1910 which have been prepared according to the principle laid down by some of the old economists, and favoured very strongly by Mr. Chiozza Money. This principle is based on the fact that there has been a demise of the Crown eight times in the past 200 years, or once in twenty-five years, and taking the mean of a large number of actual cases it is estimated that, on the average, estates change hands every thirty years by reason of the decease of their proprietors. Taking the estates of some of the nobility in England, it is found that they change hands in this way every thirty or thirty-one years. Mr. Chiozza Money, in his work Riches and Poverty, estimates that the change takes place once in thirty years, and it is assumed that there are thirty living property owners for every one who dies. The idea is not original. It was followed by some of the older economists forty years ago, and it affords a rough-and-read) method, possibly open to objection, of ascertaining the wealth of the community. I am satisfied that the income tax returns of Australia are considerably undervalued, and that the position is the same in regard to the estates of deceased persons which come under review. There must be an immense number of deeds of gift, otherwise the figures would work out differently.
– In the case of Victoria, deeds of gift can be traced at the Titles Office.
– That may be so; but we do not desire to start anything in the shape of an inquisition. All that we desire is to secure facts so reliable as to justify their use in making calculations. To return, however, to the system which I was describing, let me say that, in order to ascertain the wealth of the community on the principle I have stated, you ascertain the values of the estates of deceased persons in any one year, and multiply thai value by thirty, on the assumption that there are thirty living property owners tor every one who dies. Proceeding on that basis, we rind that in 1906 the wealth of Australia was £570,000,000. In 1910 the value ot the estates oi deceased persons was £22,000,000, and that amount, multiplied by thirty, shows us that the wealth of Australia in that year was £j66o, 000,000. This calculation cannot be mathematically accurate, but it shows that since 1906 there has been an increase of £90, 000,000 in the value of property in Australia. Has there been a corresponding increase in the case of those who do not pay income tax? Here, as in England, a clear-cut line can be drawn between those who pay income tax and those who do not, and we ought to have information which would enable us to ascertain what has been the increase in the wealth ot both sections of the community. If the information for which I asked were furnished, as it should be, by the Statistical Department, we should be in a position to analyze these figures, and to prove from them the comparative increase of the wealth of the community. I do not wish to detain the Committee any longer, and I must apologize for having read at length from the speech delivered ‘ by the honorable member for Coolgardie. My object was to get into Hansard some data which would be useful to honorable members. There is no reason why this should be made a party question. We never know when the fortunes of war may lead to honorable members opposite returning to office, and the Treasurer of the day, whoever he is, should be possessed of information which will enable him every’ year in delivering his Budget statement to show the amount of wealth that has been earned in the community. In formation so obtained would be valuable to us in adjusting taxation. If the community are satisfied with existing conditions, and with the present incidence of taxation, well and good ; but neither honorable members nor literary men would be disadvantaged by having at their disposal valuable information of the character to which I have referred. I am confident that they would prove of considerable educational value to the public at large, and would save honorable members a great deal of time and labour in dealing with phases of public policy that we are anxious to bring before the people for the benefit of Australia.
– I am sure that all who have listened to the honorable member will agree that he has discussed a very important question. Although it may be, from one point of view, somewhat foreign to ^ the Budget, it certainly has a very important, if indirect, bearing upon our financial discussions. All our policies are supposed to be summed up in the Budget presented from time to time, and 1 agree that the more light is thrown upon the economic questions of the day and their relation to social welfare the better it must be for the community. I should welcome nothing better than some statement such as the honorable member has indicated, and which ought not to be impossible at this time of day in Australia. I am looking forward to a great development of our statistical literature, and am one of those who believe that statistical literature can be turned into a more practical channel than that in which it is at present. I have been trying to look up some statistics in connexion with the Budget, and have found it impossible to get anything later than figures some twelve or eighteen months old. One has to search and discriminate and distinguish before one can get hold of the real facts of the situation as they present themselves to-day, and even when one has done one’s best, one has to draw inferences, and, shall I say, make guesses at some of the facts. That ought not to be. We ought to get a little nearer to the time in which we are living, so far as our current statistics are concerned, than we are able to do at present. The honorable member has done good service in calling attention to this aspect of affairs, and I hope that his remarks will -bear good fruit. We have had on this Budget a number of speeches of great utility and importance, but largely of a general character. Listening to speeches like that which we have just heard, one might imagine that there was nothing in the Budget to discuss in detail. I desire to make an effort to bring back the Committee to the details of this Budget, because, after all, that is the matter immediately important to us, and with which we have immediately to do. When the financial statement was being delivered, I remarked that it was more of a’ political than a financial Budget, and despite the censure to which I have been subjected by the honorable member for Corangamite, I must adhere to that statement, even at the risk of ruffling, just a little, the surface of the political waters. I say here and now. that I think this is a political Budget, framed with an eye to the election that is so soon to come upon us. How else may we account for the belated appearance of the baby bonus ? Why has it taken the Government nearly three years to discover that it was necessary? The whole matter has been agitated for many a long year up and down this country, but only now, on the eve of the election,, does it make its appearance in the Budget, and then only in a tentative form.
– The honorable member says the matter has been agitated in this country for years; did he ever speak in favour of the baby bonus anywhere?
– I should be delighted to have a dialogue with the honorable member if time permitted, but I hope he will excuse me on this occasion, as my time is limited. The matter” has been agitated in the community for many years, and it is only on the near approach of the general election that the baby bonus appears in the Budget. We are told nothing about it by the Prime Minister except that I think he said it was to be paid on the registration of the child. Quite a crop of questions will need to be very seriously considered before we commit the country to an expenditure of this kind. For instance, is the money to be paid prior to the birth of the child ?
– On registration.
– I see. Then that will not help the birth of any more babies. Neither will it, so far as I know, tend to the birth of better babies. lt may be paid a long time after birth, if it is to be paid on registration. What about the child which does not live at all after birth? Is the money to be paid in that case? I am only throwing these matters out because they will have to be seriously considered when the Bill which crystallizes this important part of Ministerial policy comes down. We shall want to know from my honorable friends opposite something about the non-discrimination between children. What is to be our relation to the man who is responsible for bringing an illegitimate into the world? Are we going to relieve him of his responsibility? Are we going to relieve him entirely of what he has done to put a stigma on the child?
– It is society, and not the father, that places the stigma on the child.
– I am only suggesting a few of the questions that will have to be faced. Then there is the question of who is to get the money. Is it to go to the father ? Is it to go to the authorities of a lying-in home? What is to be the position of the doctor or the nurse? A group of questions of this kind, obtrude themselves when we come to discuss the matter seriously. Its consideration also leads to the consideration of that larger question of eugenics, and the relation of the State to the character of the child. The Home Secretary in Great Britain has just put through a very drastic and important Bill bearing on the question of the relationship of the sexes to each other by ties of marriage. All this means that my honorable friends opposite have, in my judgment, deemed this a very good piece of business to propose to the House, in view of what is coming. Otherwise we should have known something more about it. We should have had some scheme submitted before we were asked to vote the money.
Mr.- Riley. - You are not asked yet to vote the money.
– The money is provided in the Budget ; and we are asked to vote it before the Bill is passed. We are asked to affirm the principle before we know anything about the measure or its details. That is not treating the House fairly, and the fact that the proposal isso belated as to prevent the possibility of our exercising our responsibilities as guar.:….. of the taxpayers’ money is an indication, to my mind, that the Ministerial party think it a good proposal to make inthe present circumstances. The Budget isplentifully bestrewn with other items, like the Socialistic laundry which the Minister of External Affairs is going to set up in the Northern Territory. He is setting up to- be the champion launderer now. In addition, there are all the Socialistic enterprises in connexion with the various Departments which are not intended to have any serious effect for a long time to come. They are just little bits of things dropped out here and there through the whole of the Budget, and one cannot resist the conclusion that they have been put in for political purposes only, and in view of the election that is immediately ahead. I must, therefore, hold to my statement that I think the Budget has a very strong political significance in its make-up and presentation.
I am glad, as all honorable members are, that we are living in piping times of prosperity, and that the seasons are still good, although they seem to have been modified a little, judging by the Estimates presented to us. I should like to remark in passing that already some of the champions of the Government have claimed that the figures show the success of government in Australia as contrasted with the times of previous Governments, and the revenues earned and expended in previous years. If the Government are going to lay claim to the prosperity which has come upon the country for the last two years, surely they will take the blame of the falling revenue which they predict in this year. If they take the good years, I hope they will take the bad. If they will persist in saying that they have brought about these piping times of prosperity of Australia, with our rolling revenues and our equally rolling expenditures, I trust they will forgive us if we suggest that it is their fault that this year we are to have a falling revenue. Some reference has been made to the tremendous exports and imports of the country. I am glad to see both of them. They mean prosperity. They mean a full basket and store for all the workers and others in Australia, as far as it is possible to secure it.
– Oh, this is the other side of the fie from yesterday I
– Whoever else may criticise honorable members about fiscal matters, it does not lie in the honorable member’s mouth to do so. Honorable members will recollect the strong Free Trader of only a few years ago, but hear him now, as I heard him at the last Chamber of Commerce banquet in Sydney, talking as though he had been a Protectionist all his life I
– That is good enough for you.
– The facts are there. The honorable member told those present what “ we “ were going to do in the shape of Protection, so soon as “ we “’ had taken care that the worker had got his fair share.
– And the consumer.
– Yes, I do not want to do the honorable member any injustice, but the major fact remains that he promised that he would give them any amount of Protection. Whoever else, therefore, may criticise honorable members on the fiscal question, my honorable friend has done a little adjustment on his own ac(ount during the last few years. While the imports have been large, 1 fail to discover how they have adversely affected our industrial interests. I am speaking now in general terms.
– This is different from what your leader said yesterday.
-I cannot help what is said. I am only putting my own reading of these facts. When I look at the industrial facts as they relate even to the State of Victoria - I have not had time to collect them, so far as the other States go - I find that the factories in Victoria are full almost to bursting point. What is the use of blinking these facts? In two years, owing to nothing that my. honorable friends opposite have done, there has been an increase in the employes in the factories in Victoria of 8,100. There has been an increase in the wages paid of £1,220,000. There has been an increase in the value of the materials used of £3,279.000. There has been an increase in the value of articles produced or work done of nearly ,£6,000,000 in those two years. The figures as a whole indicate a state of healthy normal advance all along the line. Honorable members have said that we have nothing but a revenue Tariff. That has been said a number of times over there as well as over here, and will be said again before this debate is over by the champion Protectionists on the other side, but, so far as I san ascertain, we have in Australia a Tariff that, taken altogether, is not far, if at all, behind the Canadian Tariff. Everybody knows that it is not a high Tariff, but it is a substantial Tariff, and our industrial enterprises are going ahead, particularly in Victoria, while at the same time these tremendous importations are occurring. It all means that we are in times of great prosperity, and no Tari!! that could be interposed would, in my judgment, owing to other causes, bring about any great diminution in the imports. According to to-day’s newspapers, agents sent by this State to the Old Country, to try to get 1,000 women and girls, have been unable to get more than 400. Our factories are undermanned, and cannot turn out the orders given to. them.
– Yet I know of girls who cannot get work.
– That may be. I do not say that the Tariff does not need adjustment. I believe that it does, and am willing that as searching an inquiry as is possible should be made into the industrial conditions of Australia. But that inquiry should be made by persons independent of party politics, who would have no interest but to ascertain and present the facts. The sooner such an inquiry is made the better will it be for all concerned.
While employment outside the Service is increased, the number of public servants has also increased. Whatever other distinction this Ministry may have, it will always be remembered for having appointed a larger number of persons, at larger salaries, than was appointed by any of its predecessors. A return laid on the table the other day shows that, whereas within the hist two years the Public Service Commissioner has appointed fifty-six persons, at an average salary of £430, Ministers have appointed 134 persons, at an average salary of £558. This is a matter which should be inquired into. Ministers are getting into their hands a patronage such as should not exist under the Commonwealth regime.
– A good many of those appointments have been Defence appoinments
– Perhaps ; but 1 do not think that the Defence Department is responsible for a large proportion of them. In two years the permanent employes of the Commonwealth Public Service have increased by 2,316, and the temporary employes by over 3,000. We have now between 37,000 and 38,000 Commonwealth public servants, and tlo not seem to have come to the end of the appointments. According to the Estimates, there are 112 public servants in the Northern Territory, where the white population is only about 900. I do not say that the salaries paid to these persons are too high.
– The honorable member said the other night that some of them are too low.
– The appointments to the Public Service should be scrutinized closely. The Commissioner is not now controlling nearly half of them. He is responsible for about 16,000 public servants, and Ministers for 20,000. We have, therefore, to make up our minds whether the principle of control by a Commissioner is to be applied effectively, or whether the Service is to be permitted to gradually drift into the patronage of Ministers.
While our revenue has been booming, our expenditure has been booming still more, and we propose to spend next year over £22,000,000, of which £2, 000,000 is a surplus from last year.
– Six millions will be returned to the States.
– The Commonwealth will get rid of £22,000,000, and the amount received by the States will only be a trifle more than they received . last year, whereas our expenditure will be increased by some millions. In times of prosperity, Governments usually put their surplus revenue out of the way, to preserve Ministers from the temptation to squander it. The money is used for purposes of liquidating liabilities, the reduction of debts, the construction of public works, and schemes of development of a special character, and is sometimes put into trust funds, so that it cannot be got at. Statutes have been passed in many of the States to enable surpluses to be dealt with in this way. This Government does not believe in these practices. It carries millions forward year after year. If anything would tend to extravagance, it is that policy. Last year the Government collected fi om the taxpayers 9s. 2d. per head more than was needed to govern the country, money which might well have been left in the pockets of the taxpayers. From each family, 45s. more was taken than was needed to govern the country. Nothing is gained by amassing huge surpluses by wringing unnecessary revenue from the taxpayers.
– Yet the honorable member says that he is in favour of imports.
– T have not said so. In years like those through which we are passing, I should like to see a remission of revenue duties. To collect from the taxpayers more than we need is bad finance, and a wrong to the community. Every Protectionist supporting the Ministry says that he would abolish the revenue duties, but does not dare to tell the Government to do that. The honorable member for Corangamite said that he would abolish all the revenue duties. That is cheap talk. He condones on the part of this Government acts which he denounces on principle, declaring them to be wrong in every particular. He told us that he would abolish the revenue duties and raise to the point of prohibition the duties on articles that can be made in Australia. He would, therefore, destroy the Customs revenue altogether.
– And have direct taxation.
– To the extent of another ,£14,000,000 a year?
Mi. JOSEPH COOK.- That is what the honorable member’s party would do.
– I did not say that the party would do that.
– The honorable members for Corangamite and Indi would support that policy. These two members, with the honorable member for East Sydney, have pledged themselves to the abolition of the Customs revenue. The honorable member for Indi last night, in reply 1o an interjection made by me, said that be was in favour of prohibition, and the honorable member for Corangamite said the same. Therefore, those honorable members would abolish the Customs revenue, and raise £14,000.000 more by direct taxation. I challenge them to put that in their programme at the next election. The same thing has been said by many members opposite, and by responsible Ministers, who have pledged themselves to go to any lengths when they can get new Protection. It is only right, therefore, that this should be in their platform, so that the people may know exactly the issues that are being put before them in regard to finance. In three years this Government will have spent over £18,000.000 more than was spent in the three preceding years.
– That hurts!
– lt hurts the taxpayers, who have to pay £5 a head in Commonwealth and State taxes. This country is about the most heavily taxed in the world.
– And yet is prosperous.
– The “housewives, when at the end of the week they pay their bills, and find that the cost of everything is increasing, are not of the opinion that this betokens prosperity. The honorable member will not get them to say that it does. During the last ten years there has been an increase of 35s. per capita, or £8 15s. per family. In live years, including services, the increase in the cost of governing Australia has risen 55 per cent., or over £20,000.000, though the increase in population is only 10J per cent. One would imagine that in prosperous times, with a growing population, the per capita cost of government would not increase ; but it is a sinister aspect of the present condition of affairs that, while revenue is pouring in, the cost individually to the taxpayer has grown immensely. During the last two years the people of this country have been called upon to pay 18s. per head, or £4 per family, more than they did before; and for this the Government is responsible.
– Does that include the land tax ?
– It does.
– That is the only tax this Government have imposed, and it does not touch a poor man or woman in Australia.
– Does not the honorable member think that if, as suggested last night by two or three honorable members opposite, revenue duties are to be abolished, this is the time to do it ? The land tax was imposed, but no attempt was made to lighten the burden on me working people of the country by removing any of the indirect taxation. We were told this afternoon by the honorable member for Hindmarsh that the working classes are paving more than their proportion of taxation ; and yet. during the Inst three years, the Government have not been “ game “ enough to lessen their burdens.
– Yes we have; we have repealed the Loan Act
– On the contrary the burden of taxation is increasing every year in volume and per capita.
– If the Commonwealth hari borrowed under the Loan Hill, the people would have had to pay more in interest.
– Of course, the honorable member has to find some answer, and he finds a totally irrelevant one. I know of no other country like ours where, along with abounding prosperity, the per capita cost of government is increased.
Coming to the details of the Budget, I desire to say a word or two about the Post and Telegraph Department. Honorable members opposite are always boasting of’ the way in which they have played the good friend to this Department; but the more I look into the Estimates, the more I see that those there employed have very little to thank the Government for. The figures in this connexion are very striking. The total estimated expenditure on the Post and Telegraph Department this year is £5,826,000, while the estimated receipts are £4,234,000, showing a deficit on the year of £1,592,000.
– Is that the Labour party’s fault?
– I am going to say where I think the trouble is, if I am permitted to proceed. The deficit will be bigger than has even been the case in any preceding year. On page 48 of the Budgetpapers we are given- a “ Summary for twelve years - 1901-2 to 1912-13,” in which we are told that the receipts over expenditure have Been £1,447,259, while the expenditure on new works and buildings has been £5,817,366. This must be a joke, for there never have been any receipts over expenditure in any year at any time under Federation. The figures here show a debit of over £4,000,000, and if we add, as we are quite entitled to do, interest for the nine years - seeing that interest has been added to the expenditure of the Department for the last two or three years - at £250,000 a year, we get a total debit for the twelve years of £6,620,000, or about £500,000 a year.
– New works are all paid for out of revenue.
– Of course, but why should works which are to last for many years be paid for out of revenue. At the present time the Government are erecting a concrete building at the Military College, and charging the work to revenue.
– So they ought to do; both the English and German Governments do the same.
– It is unfair to take money out of the taxpayers’ pockets, for buildings which ought to be paid for in due proportion by those who come after us.
– Absolute nonsense !
– That is always done in any business establishment in the world.
– And it has always been wrong.
– The honorable member is setting the world right, but, apparently, it is going wrong at a faster rate than he can follow, and he is beginning to whine for “more power.”
– Did the honorable member for Parramatta refrain from paying for his home because his children, after him, would inhabit it?
– There is no analogy; I build my home with my own money, whereas the honorable member and his party are building, not with their own money, but with the money of the taxpayer, and, at the same time, making him believe that the more he pays the better off he is.
– The honorable member ought to get a prize as a “ twister “ I
– I ask that that remark be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for East Sydney must . withdraw that remark.
– I withdraw it, and apologize; I regarded the remark as only jocular.
– I do not think that the deficit of the Post Office is due to the wages that are paid. Honorable members opposite sing a great song about the way in which the postal officials have been dealt with since they were transferred at the inception of Federation ; but I think a better comparison than that can be made. Postal officials ought to be treated on the same broad equitable plan as that on which employes outside the Service are treated. In the Department there do not seem to have been increases in wages equal to those given in other services outside. In the year 1903-4 I find that the average wage iri the New South Wales Postal Department was £124, while today it is £128; that is, in nine years there has been an average increase of is. 6Jd. a week. In Victoria there has been an average increase of 5ta. a week; and in Queensland an average decrease of 5s. a week.
– All this shows that there is no policy of “ spoils to the victor.”
– It may or may not ; but, in any case, the interjection is irrelevant. I may say that I take these figures from page 59 of the Budget- papers. In South Australia I find that, during the nine years, there has been an average increase of 3s. 5½d. per week, and in Western Australia an average increase of is. 6½d. per week. In other words, on the average, on the figures here presented, the wages in the Service are less than in 1906-7, and just about the same as they were in 1907-8. There has really been no average increase in the pay of postal employes; there have been sectional increases of course, but, owing to the great number of people employed, the average pay is just about what it was five years ago. The deficit of the Department this year represents 6s. <gd. per head ; or, in other words, it will require each family in the community to pay £t 13s. 9d. in order to balance the ledger. It is said that the taxpayer must bear all this burden for the sake of posterity ; but my opinion is that this £1 13s. 9d., and his share of the surplus, of which we have heard, ought to go to the support of his family.
I find that for the Defence Department it is proposed to vote £750,000 more than Lord Kitchener estimated would be the cost of the institution of the new defence scheme. He said that when in full working order it should cost just about what I had estimated it would cost before he arrived here. We have in his report the statement -
The other items of the estimate work out at almost the same as that estimated in the fourth year of the Government scheme…..
The honorable member for Corangamite said last night that the Government of which I was a member did nothing for defence. Here we have the statement of Lord Kitchener that we had done something. We had a scheme with estimates which he said were ample for the building up of an adequate defence system in Australia.
– Did he not condemn the honorable member’s cadet system ?
– No; he made no alteration in it. He simply provided that, on reaching the age of twenty years, they should he kept in training until they “had reached the” age of twenty-five years.
– But the honorable member had no provision as to that.
– Nor had the Minister, whom the honorable member praises so much, in the scheme which he detailed to the country when he was previously in office. Does the honorable member desire that scheme? If he does, I will give it to him, so that he may study it. The present Minister of Defence went into details in the scheme in question, showing that no man was to be compulsorily trained after reaching the age of twenty years. When my Bill was being put through the Senate, he did not desire that a man who had reached twenty years of age should be required to undergo more than four days’ training per annum. It was his opinion some two years ago that four days constituted a sufficient training ; but after Lord Kitchener came here, he became a glutton for training, and provided for the system now in force. Honorable members had better let that defence scheme alone, because before the close of the. session I intend to occupy an hour and a half in telling them the facts of the case. When I do, I shall surprise them, and surprise none more than the Prime Minister, who is now smiling. Only a few years have elapsed since the right honorable member declared that not more than £500.000 a year -should be spent on the land defences of Australia. We shall hear him. boasting presently all over the country what he has done for the defence of the Commonwealth; but he will never refer to his Gympie speech, or to the speech that he made in this House four or five years ago. He will take care to quote me, but will not quote his own remarks of those days. I shall oblige him, however, with a few facts.
Here are three items worthy of consideration. First of all, we have the Postal Department, which, in my judgment, is taking from every man, woman, and child in the community 6s. 9d. to square accounts. I shall not say that the whole need not be taken, but a proportion of it is certainly unnecessary. Then, again, I find that the surplus amounts to 9s. 2d. per head of the population. That need not have been taken from the pockets of the people whilst the defence scheme is costing 3s. 2d., per head more than Lord Kitchener said it ought to cost. Adding, together these items, we have a sum of 19s. per head of the population, or nearly £4,250,000, much of which might very well have been left in the pockets of the people.
– Does the honorable member include new postal works?
– Of course I do. It is in that connexion that a large proportion of the trouble arises. That is one of the elements that are vitiating the finances of the Commonwealth, and have led to this burden being placed upon the taxpayers. The sooner the system is placed upon a business-like basis - the sooner the taxpayers know that they are paying more than they need for the adequate discharge of governmental functions - the better for themselves, their pockets, and their families. I say that this is extravagant finance. Time after time honorable members opposite have asked us to point to an item that we would strike off. Here is a sum of over £4,000,000, much of which, I say, is due to extravagant and unbusiness-like financing on the part of the Government.
– Would the honorable member borrow?
– I would apply ordinary business methods to the business of the Commonwealth.
– But would the honorable member borrow?
– Wait until this party returns to office. The honorable member will then hear what we intend to do. He, like others of his party, has asked that the charge of extortionate taxation and extravagance be substantiated. I show him a sum of over £4,000,000, the bulk of which might very well have been left in the taxpayers’ pockets.
– Would the honorable member stop all new works?
– I would stop none, save a few that I think are entirely unnecessary. I would stop carrying out Socialistic schemes that I think we can do without for some years.
– Does the honorable member refer to new telephone Pervices? ?
– Judging by the way in which the honorable member is catechizing me, he must think that he has that school pf his at work again. I have not time to go into all details even if I wished to do so. Indeed, I recognise no obligation on the part of any member of the Opposition to give honorable members opposite all the details of the statements we are making. It is sufficient that we make out a case for inquiry and investigation, and the sooner we have a Finance Committee the sooner will the experience of the House be harnessed’ to our financial car, and the sooner shall we be settling down to a safe method of financing the Commonwealth.
It is true, as the honorable member for Corangamite said last night, that a tremendous amount has been expended on the defence of Australia during the current three years. The honorable member said, “ Only £9,000,000 was spent in the first nine years of Federation, whereas we have spent over £12,000,000 in the three current years.” Who was responsible for the failure to spend more during the first nine years of Federation? The fact is that honorable members opposite would not permit more to be spent. They were not in office, but they were in power, and they would not permit the money to be spent. .
– Not in the way it. was proposed to spend it.
– But in another way which I shall set before the Committee. I do not make statements without having authority for them, and I make the broad, general statement that , honorable members opposite were responsible for the starving of the .defences of Australia for the first eight or nine years of Federation. The present Prime Minister said, in 1903 -
Personally, I think that £500,000 is ample to expend on our Defence Forces.
Mr. Watson, then Leader of the Labour party, took the same view. When opposing the ratification of the Naval Agreement with Great Britain, he said that he opposed it, not that he did not appreciate the value of having a sea-going squadron here, but because in his view it was absolutely essential that all the money we could’, spare for naval defence should for some time to come be devoted to putting the harbors in an impregnable state. It was useless, he said, to talk about defending the coasts of Australia with one squadron. The money which was then devoted to the auxiliary squadron, and additional money, should be devoted annually to provide a proper floating harbor defence right round the coast. These are the schemes which were in the minds of my honorable friends opposite a few years ago. They sing a different tune now, and I wonder that they do not talk with a shamed face when they try to show that some honorable members of the Opposition have changed their opinions of recent years. There was never a more marked change of opinion in the matter of defence than that which has taken place on the part of honorable members opposite. The Prime Minister himself just about this time declared emphatically in this House that he would not subscribe to compulsion of any kind in connexion with the Defence Forces of Australia. 1 have had statements thrown at me so often that I think it about time a reply was made. I have excellent company in all these matters. Let me quote what the present Prime Minister said in the days to which I have just referred. I should not make this quotation, but that the other day the Minister of Defence quoted with great gusto some remarks that I made about the same time. He thought that he had scored a great triumph over my humble self in quoting something I had said as to compulsion.
– What did he quote?
– A statement of mine a few years ago, in reply to the honorable member for West Sydney, when he was agitating those crazy schemes of his, the principle of which has been adopted, although the schemes themselves have been heaved overboard. I then ventured to say that the time was not ripe for compulsion as applied to our military defences.
– We did not think it was ripe then ; but it has since ripened.
– Quite so. I feel a little lonely in this regard; I need some company, and I had better make this quotation from a speech made by the present Prime Minister -
This is not a joking matter.
He was chiding his then leader, Mr. Watson - and I venture to tell the Leader of the Labour party that it is not a question to be dealt with without an appeal to the electors. . . . Here we have a proposal which has not been discussed by the people, but which is of the very first importance. It should be carefully put before the electors before it is dealt with by us. . . I seriously protest against the proposal to compel young men to undergo continuous training for a fortnight in three consecutive years.
The right honorable member was not content with that statement, but went on to say that he would not adopt the principle of compulsion - that even after it had been submitted to the electors he would not then support the principle of compulsory training.
-“ Barrack life.”
– Oh, no. There was then no more ardent denunciator of the principle of compulsory training than was the present Prime Minister. When next his Minister of Defence sets out to quote opinions of mine in regard to defence, let him quote his own, and I shall also quote the opinions of members of his own party. No man has been more patient with this Government in matters of defence than I have. Year after year I have put up with complete misrepresentation, and have always said that, so long as the Government would carry through honestly this scheme of defence, which is not theirs, and never will be-
– That is the trouble.
– They cannot patent this scheme, because it was the late Government that put it into operation.
– And you said that you would nail your colours to the naval subsidy.
– That is another of the statements I have let go.
– You said that in the Town Hall, Sydney, in April, 1910, when you were a Minister.
– I was not then a Minister; but I said something else which the honorable member leaves out every time. He has mouthed that statement here two or three times. Next time he goes about mouthing it, will he tell the public also that I advocated at that time the beginning of an Australian Navy in addition? That is the part they all leave out. My position was very clear at that time. I was in favour of something substantial being done immediately to meet the menace which was abroad at that time regarding doings in the North Sea. 1 tell my honorable friend, and he can make as much out of it as he likes, th?.t I feel convinced that something will have to be done shortly by the Empire as a whole to meet that growing menace in the North Sea.
– There is nothing to worry about there.
– Is there nothing to worry about when your margin is reduced to 60 per cent. ? The last statement of the First Lord of the Admiralty at Home is that he is only counting now on a 60 per cent, margin. It . is no longer a policy of two keels to one. While we here are making ourselves comfortable, and rejoicing over these rolling revenues, the situation was never more serious from an international point of view.
– A greater power than that will prevent it.
– I do not know to what power the honorable member is referring, but I hope something will occur to prevent this madness which seems now to have afflicted the nations of the world, but until something does interpose to meliorate the present conditions our duty and obligation is to get ready for any emergency which may come. We shall be allowed to possess ourselves in peace only so long as we can compel it with our Dreadnoughts and our land defences.
– And yet you infer that we are spending too much on the defence system, or that we are collecting too much from the people of Australia for the purpose.
– I am sure the honorable member understands that we can have efficiency and economy. That is all I am suggesting. I am not suggesting that our efficiency is more than it ought to be. I am suggesting that perhaps it is less.
– You will rarely get efficiency with extravagance.
– Quite true. The honorable member has had an excellent experience of that in connexion with the Postmaster- General’s Department. Money is being poured out like water there. There is a debit of , £1,500,000 on the Department this year, and yet there is no extravagance in the paying of wages in the Department, as 1 have just shown. Whoever else is getting this money, the employes are not, and altogether in that Department there is still the most tremendous problem of management that the Commonwealth has yet faced. It is not getting any easier. It is not being solved at all. It is not even being touched, nor will it be until there is an entirely different attitude on the part of the Government in power towards the conditions that are occurring there. Efficiency does not mean extravagance. It does not require a huge spending of money. Lord Kitchener said the whole of the new land defence scheme could be carried through for practically the amount that I had already arranged for in connexion with my scheme. I know of no better authority on military expenditure in the Empire than Lord Kitchener, and, in his report, after going carefully into the matter with all the officers of the Defence Department who were responsible for defence finance, he made the statement that £1,884,000 per annum would suffice for the whole scheme when in full working order. Yet this year no less than . £2,550,000 is set down for land defence alone. I am not criticising these things adversely, but am calling at tention to them, because they want explaining. I have an idea that a good deal of that money is special defence expenditure, which, when the scheme is in full working order, can be dispensed with.
– Then why not admit it?
– I suspect that it is so, but I do not know it. Is it not the duty of the Minister, when he asks us to vote £700,000 more than is required for the scheme in full working order, according to Lord Kitchener, to tell us what that special expenditure is for? How much is normal? How far is Lord Kitchener out with respect to the ordinary pay and emoluments of the Forces, and the general expense of running them? How much has been added on to the cost of running the Forces, and is it necessary for the purpose of securing efficiency ? These are questions which we have a. right to put to the Minister, and a right to have answered when we are asked to vote all these millions for Defence. I hope I shall not be accused of an act of sacrilege in venturing a criticism of this kind on the Defence Department. Every other Defence Department in the world is raked every year with regard to its expenditures, and they ought to be when expenses are piling up in this way. It is the duty of the Government to justify every £1 they spend. If they do so, I believe that this House will always be generous in the way it votes money for Defence, because there has been an awakening in Australia in this matter. W e have all changed our tune, and we may as well admit it. It does not lie in the mouth of the present Minister to quote what other people have done. We were all in that business, and none more so than members of the present Government.
A word in conclusion about the policy of this Budget. The land tax, which is a serious item in the Budget, was going to do a lot of things. It is giving us this year as much revenue as it did at the beginning, or only £4,000 less, with all the legitimate adjustments that have been made with a view to evading taxation.
– Readjustments of assessment account for that to a large extent.
– That may be. Then the land tax has not cheapened land to the poor man?
– The assessments were not up to the standard.
– The tax was to break up big estates and make land cheap. I am pointing out that it has not given us cheaper land, nor has it given us more land. There has been no more settlement in the last two years throughout the length and breadth of Australia than in the previous two. The figures show that there has been less.
– That is not correct.
– Let the honorable member read the speech delivered by the honorable member for Wimmera the other day regarding this State alone, and showing that in Victoria there has been less settlement in the last two years than in the preceding two. Again, the Government were going to bring about decentralization. That was their watchword at the last election. Figures were quoted showing how the cities were growing at the expense of the country. We were told that our civilization would be in danger unless this unhealthy state of things could be ended ; but the figures up to April, 191 1, show that every big city in Australia is getting proportionately bigger, and not smaller. Centralization is increasing under the reign of this Government and their land tax.
– It is not this Government. It is the policy of the State Government, so far as Victoria is concerned.
– The Labour party said they were going to burst up the centralization tendency, but they have not touched it except to make it worse. In New South Wales there is a Labour Government in power; but up to April, 191 1, the percentage of the population of Sydney to that of the State had grown from 36 to 38 per cent. I venture to say that it has now grown by 3 or 4 per cent, since the Labour party issued their famous manifesto. They have not touched the problem of centralization, except to make it more acute.
– Nine out of every ten immigrants remain in the cities.
– It is immigration now, is it? Then I hope we shall hear no more of this claiming credit for immigration on the part of the Govern- ment, such as the Attorney-General and the Prime Minister delight in. They have been going about the country saying that the Government have done more for immigration than any other Government; and now their supporters are telling them that it is an evil and must be stopped, as it is making the cities bigger.
– The honorable member for Bass did not say that it was an evil.
– Is it not an evil that the cities should be made bigger at the expense of the country ? Mr. McKay shows that two-thirds of the land tax is being collected in the cities.
– An error of one-third is nothing to the honorable member.
– I should have said one-third. They are not my figures, but Mr. McKay’s. I was about to say that the bulk of the land tax is finding its way on to the shoulders of the working men of the cities in the shape of increased rents.
– -Conroy’s houses !
– If I were my honorable friend I should not say that.
– It is a very fair reply to the awful pamphlets your party issued.
– lt is a pity the honorable member has not something better to do than to go rooting round people’s back yards. I would remind my honorable friend that it is not only his side that can do with effect the business that he speaks of. It is a game that both sides can play at, but it is a dirty game that I hope we shall not have here.
– Honorable members opposite started it. I possess copies of scurrilous leaflets issued by their side.
– To return to. the land tax, it is being passed on in the cities by increasing rentals, and has not done what the Labour party declared that it would do.
– We cannot do everything in a day.
– In the meantime things are being made worse. The cities are growing larger, the problem is becoming more acute, and the remedy is yet to seek.
The Labour party promised greater efficiency in the Post Office.” Have we got it? Greater contentment in the Public Service. Have we got it? Cheaper and better services. We have not got them.
– What, about penny postage?
– In 1906, when, the honorable member for Eden- Monaro proposed the adoption of penny postage, Mr. Watson, the then Leader of the Labour party, said sneeringly, “ We shall have half-penny postage by-and-by.” This is an extract from the subsequent discussion -
– I believe tlie honorable member was one of those who, as a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, advocated penny postage.
Mr. Watson. ; That is not correct.
– Did not the honorable member vote for the proposal that I submitted to that Parliament?
Mr. Watson. ; 1 am sure that T did not.
– The honorable member, at All events, has been an advocate of penny postage.
Mr. Watson.; That is not correct.
The honorable member for Grey, who followed the honorable member for EdenMonaro, said - lt is all very well to say that the people are in favour of penny postage. Every one of us is in favour of it ; but I am not going to give business men a great advantage at the expense of the ordinary taxpayer who posts comparatively few letters in a year ; and in the present state of our finances, the proposed change is not justified.
The present Postmaster-General. whose illness we regret, asked -
Has the Minister had any representations made to him as to the necessity for reducing the postal rates ?
He added -
I suppose that the Government will impose a t.ix upon tea and kerosene to make up the deficiency.
The honorable member for Herbert said -
Tt is proposed to make a free gift to a small section of the community at the expense of the rest of the people of Australia.
On the 23rd July, 1907, on the first reading of the Postal Rates Bill, introduced by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, the present Prime Minister said -
I must express my regret that Ministers are apparently exceedingly anxious to be able to institute penny postage during their term of office rather than to conserve the interests of the old people of Australia. This Bill particularly concerns the commercial community. I admit that the Postmaster-General has manifested his eagerness to afford facilities to the country districts in the matter of extension of telephonic communication, but at the same time 1 must remind him that there are people living in parts of Australia who would willingly pa.- a shilling on a letter if they could get mails regularly Hut they are denied such facilities, and while that is so. it appears to me to be idle to talk about penny postage.
– I supported penny postage.
– The conditions to-day are what they were when the Prime Minister made the speech just quoted.
– Yet the Labour party then fought furiously against penny postage, and would not permit those on this side to give it to the people.
– Did not the’ existence of the Braddon section make a difference?
– Who made the arrangement regarding the cessation of the Braddon provision?
– The Fusion Prime Minister.
– The Labour party, after denouncing our agreement, and declaring, through the present AttorneyGeneral, that not more than L1 should be given to the States, turned round, and, a few months later, gave 25s. Honorable members opposite adopted our scheme’ in every particular, except its embodiment in the Constitution. They are coming to believe that the statements that they have made all over Australia are true. When next they tell the people of what they have done, they should let them know that they have not settled the troubles of the Post Office, and that, so far as Defence is concerned, they are merely carrying out what was put in train for them. As to penny postage, the money for it is provided by an arrangement which they originally denounced, but afterwards accepted. The means enabling this Government to carry on so flourishingly were derived from arrangements made by this side of the House.
– Honorable members were always going to do everything, but did nothing.
– I did more during the eleven months I was in the Defence Department than the honorable member would do in as many years, and before the Estimates have been finished with, I shall have a few more little bubbles to prick regarding Defence.
– The honorable member claims all the credit for the compulsory training system, but I can quote remarks of his against it.
– I have shown that the Prime Minister is in my company in that matter. As to the results of the Budget criticism, they reveal the existence of high prices, favoritism, and extravag,ance. I can find no trace that the resources of Australia are being husbanded carefully as they should be, or that business principles are being applied to the government of this great country. I see.no looking ahead to meet the serious problems that will have to he faced. The problems that the
Labour party set out to solve are still unsolved, and have become more difficult by reason of their amateur financing and legislation. The people of the country will come to see that they are paying more for the government of Australia than [ney need pay, and when they get the opportunity will remove the present Government from their positions of power and responsibility, and put in their stead men who will look after their interests in a better and more business-like way, and will help Australia to go ahead.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Parramatta, when analyzed, will be found to contain a considerable number of mistakes. We, on this side, endeavoured to correct his error regarding the land tax, snowing him that two-thirds of its revenue came from the country, and one-third from the cities, but he would not accept the correction. If he in like manner intends to adhere to all his statements, most of them must go by the board.
– The honorable member is hard-up for objections if he has to seize on an obvious slip.
– I presume that the honorable member for Parramatta desires to place the true position before the people ; but he would not correct his misstatement. If there is any honorable member here who is always speaking to the electors, and playing to the gallery, it is he. He spoke of the great increase in the Commonwealth Public Service, but just before doing so, he used figures to demonstrate the manner in which the output of Victorian factories has grown, how the number of employes has increased, and how the rates of wages have been raised. Although he recognised this boom state of affairs, he complained of the increase of employes in one of the biggest business concerns in the Commonwealth - the Post Office. In view of the extra services which have had to be given to the people, there has had to be an increase in the number ot postal employes. The honorable member quoted from . the Budget-papers to show that the average salary in the Postal Service is to-day less than at the inception of Federation, ignoring the fact that of recent years many persons under the age of twenty-one years have been appointed. The young girls and lads employed in connexion with the Sydney telephone service, for instance, number scores, and, perhaps, hundreds The same remark applies to Melbourne, and, in a lesser degree, to Brisbane, Adelaide. Perth, and other centres of population. When a vast number of girls and youths pass the examinations, and are engaged at 15s. a week, we must expect the figures to disclose a low average wage.
– That was the suggestion 1* made.
– But the suggestion was that, with the increased number of employe’s, a lower wage per capita was being paid ; .and it only needs a moment’s reflection to show how fallacious such an argument is. The honorable member for Parramatta complained of the increased cost of the Department ; but it is only natural that all public Departments should progress, stride for stride, with general business outside.
– If there were depression, would the honorable member decrease the services?
– We will not meet trouble half way; but should it arise, both the honorable member and myself will apply the best business means at our disposal. The signs are not too good at present, in view of a considerable lessening in primary production in the coming year, with a consequent decreasing revenue ; and those who preach caution are preaching a wise doctrine. Of course, there is no need to give way entirely to pessimism, but rather, with characteristic Australian hope and courage, let us be ready to meet trouble should it arise. The honorable member for Parramatta made a mistake in his analysis of the postal balance-sheet. Practically there are two balance-sheets, one dealing with the ordinary service, and another dealing with new works. As to the latter, there never was. so much expenditure, and never so much necessity for it ; and I hope that, so long as the revenue is coming in, we shall continue to supply the people with the services they require, even though it may mean millions of expenditure.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7-45 p.m.
– The honorable member for Parramatta, in endeavouring to show a debit balance of nearly £1.500.000 in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, evidently included the cost of new works and buildings ; hut, as 1 have already said, there are really and practically two ha la nee- sheets, one nf which refers to ordinary revenue and expenditure, and the other to new works. I find, on reference to the Budget-papers, that if the honorable member for Parramatta had confined himself to what 1 call the ordinary balance-sheet, he could not possibly have shown a debit balance. Of course, if, during the last four years, he included new works and buildings, a balance on the wrong side must be shown; and, while we have money to spend on new works, we ought to be prepared, for some years to come, to see a debit balance. In 1908-9 the revenue was £3,300,000; in 1909-10, _ it was £3,400,000; in 1910-n, it was £3,700,000; and in 1911-12, it was £3,948,000 ; and for these years the expenditure, respectively, was £2,918,000, £3,069,000, £3,231,000, and £3,559>00°These figures show a credit balance on what we may call the ordinary revenue and expenditure for the years, respectively, of £381,000, £366,000, £528,000, and £388,000.
– That is apart from new works and buildings?
– Yes. The new works and buildings really present what I may call an extraordinary position of affairs. In recent years we have been expending freely, and the money is well spent on permanent works designed to give the public generally greater facilities. I admit that for the year ending 30th June, 1912, there is a debit balance on the ordinary revenue and expenditure; but over five years, instead of a debit of nearly £1,500,000, it appears to me that, on the ordinary services, there is a credit almost equal to that amount. I shall not follow the honorable member through many of the windings in which he indulged; but I was very persistent in interjecting when he said that, instead of carrying out postal and other public works out of revenue, he would, I suppose, had he been in power, have borrowed the money, and saddled posterity with some of the responsibility. As I intend to deal with the question of borrowing under another phase, I shall leave it for the present.
It seemed a great cause of complaint on the part of the honorable member for Parramatta that our defence scheme is this year to cost £750,000 more than Lord Kitchener provided for in his report. I should say, however, that when we have an expenditure running into something like £5,000,000, it is quite possible that, owing to local circumstances and conditions, the defence authorities have found occasion to depart from the scheme laid down by Lord Kitchener, great authority as that gentleman is ; and this may well account for the extra £750,000. If Lord Kitchener himself were here, and took into account local circumstances, he might see fit to depart from his scheme, not only to the extent of £750,000, but considerably more; and, therefore, I do not see in the. remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta any great argument against the proposed defence expenditure.
I agree that it is time some decisive steps were taken in connexion with the State debts ; and I may say that, personally, I do not blame the Federal authorities for any delay that has taken place. I believe that’ Sir George Turner, when Treasurer in the early history of Federation, made a very earnest effort to come to some agreement with the States, and successive Treasurers have taken similar steps; but, unfortunately, we seem to have got no further forward. It is suggested, as one reason why the negotiations have not been successful, that this Commonwealth Government, in particular, have seen fit to enter into what some honorable members opposite consider to be the peculiar domain of the States. That is not my opinion, however, for I would go considerably further in that direction. The pledge made to the people of Australia at the initiation of Federation has not been redeemed ; and this is a statement I shall make, not only in this House, but on the platform. The’ pledge was that the creation of this seventh Parliament would decrease, and not increase, the national expenditure ; but the expanding revenues and expenditure of both State and Commonwealth has not brought about that result. I do not know what we ought to do if the State Governments will not consider the question. Possibly they realize that if they once give up the management of their State debts, it will lead to their giving up some of their services, and that thereby their dignity will be lessened to such a degree that the people will demand a considerable reduction in’ the expenditure on the State Parliaments. The Commonwealth electors and the State electors are one and the same people ; and the only question for them is which Parliament, or Parliaments, can best manage their affairs. For my part, I should say that if it were possible the Commonwealth should at oner take over the State debts of £270,000,000, and with them the State railways. By some it is thought that the Commonwealth ought to take over the debts without the railways ; but my opinion is that the temper of the people is such that the day is not far distant when there will be a demand for considerable reform in our parliamentary institutions. On this debt of £270,000,000 the people of Australia are every year paying interest to the extent of £10,000.000. This means, of course, that in ten years we pay no less than £100,000,000 in interest. If this state of affairs is allowed to continue - if the present interest bill be continued - for another twenty-seven years, we shall have paid in that time, by way of interest, no less than £270,000.000 on the present amount of the national debt.
– And the debt itself will still remain.
– Precisely. I cannot fathom the mind of some honorable members of the Opposition who, even this afternoon, have at least inferred that, had they remained in office, they would have borrowed to construct works for which we have provided out of revenue. In the last Parliament the late Government carried a Bill enabling them to borrow £3,500,000 for the construction of warships, as well as for other defence purposes. When we went to the country we denounced that Loan Act, and on the people returning us with a majority, we took great pleasure in repealing it.
– And in launching another Loan Bill.
– Such an interjection is of no value. It is true that we have obtained from the people some money by means of the note issue, but that is simply a transaction between the Commonwealth Government and the citizens of Australia, representing really a transfer of money from one pocket to the other. Had we gone to London or elsewhere to raise money by loan, and so to increase our interest bill, it would have been almost a criminal act on our part.
– It did not necessarily follow that we should have gone beyond our own Trust Funds to borrow.
– It is strange that honorable members opposite profess to have had in view all sorts of schemes about which we never heard a word until we came into office and initiated reforms. One way of bringing the State debts question to a head would be for the members of this Parliament to unite in refraining from listening to the chirping of State-righters. If we were to do that, the electors would quickly come to the conclusion that the time had arrived when the State debts should be taken over by the Commonwealth, and the interest bill thus materially reduced.
– The late Government missed an opportunity when they made the Financial Agreement with the States Premiers.
– The honorable member for Corangamite dealt effectively with that point. The late Government then had the States Premiers, as it were, in a vyce, and could have kept them there till they came to our terms.
– But they coalesced.
– They did, although that was the psychological moment for the determination of this question.
– Did not that psychological moment remain when the present financial arrangement was made by the Government now in office?
– No. The State Governments drove a very anti-national bargain when they claimed that the provision as to the payment of 25s. per capita should be embodied in the Constitution for all time. When that demand was made, the late Government had a golden opportunity to effect a reform for which the people have been looking since Federation.
– The position was the same when the present arrangement was made by the Government now in office.
– The position was different. When the late Government conferred with the States Premiers the expiration of the Braddon section was in sight, and they could have said to the representatives of the States, “ If we agree to the arrangement for which you ask, you must in turn allow us to take over the State debts and to control the future borrowings of the States.”
– The present Government could, by financial pressure, have done the same.
– The honorable member, as a member of the late Government, apparently realizes that they placed the people in a very awkward position when they failed to make such a proposition as that which I have just suggested. I am not surprised, therefore, that he should try to transfer to the shoulders of others the responsibility for that failure. Honorable members seem to have forgotten that a referendum on this question was taken in connexion with the general election in1910, and that all the States, with the exception of New South Wales, gave a pronounced decision in favour of some action being taken. No less than 715,000 electors voted in favour of the Commonwealth taking over the State debts, whilst 586,000 voted against that proposal, the majority in favour of the course proposed thus being a very substantial one. That may have been only the affirmation of a principle, but it gave a pronounced indication of the desire of the people that the National Parliament should take over the State debts and control the future borrowings of the States. I have no desire to transfer to the shoulders of others any matter for which I am responsible, and I am sure that honorable members generally on this side will take up the same attitude. But, while there may be some reason for reform in Federal management, there are certainly very strong reasons for great reforms _ in the management of State affairs. During the next three years no less than £30,000,000 of State loans will fall due, while in the next ten years loans to the extent of nearly £89,000,000 will have to be met. In the circumstances, it seems to me that the States are afforded a splendid opportunity to display a National spirit, and to say to the Commonwealth, “ Take over the re-arrangement of our loans - the meeting of those falling due within the next ten years - and so set about the reform for which the people have been long waiting.” At the inception of Federation the national debt amounted to something like £200.000,000, and the Constitution en> powered us to deal with those loans. But what would be the use of the National Parliament taking over £200.000,000 of State debts, and having nothing to do with the debts amounting to £70.000,000, borrowed by the States since Federation, while, at the same time, allowing the State Treasurers to continue to borrow as they please ?
– We can deal with the whole of the debts of the States in view of the alteration of the Constitution, to which the electors agreed in April, 1910.
– I am glad to hhear it. A big obstacle has thus been removed. Since Federation no less than £64,000,000 have been borrowed by the States, while they have received from the Commonwealth Treasury £82,000,000.
– We took away all their Customs revenue.
– But we also relieved them of some great responsibilities.
– New South Wales had only a few revenue duties.
– It is surprising to me that the magnificent object-lesson which Sydney affords as to the beneficent effects of a Protectionist! policy has not caused the honorable member for Illawarra and others to forsake their Free Trade principles.
– The honorable member and others of his party have been growling about the revenue duties in the present Tariff.
– I shall have something to say as to them.
– Why does not the honorable member vote to remove them, and so give poor people a chance?
– I would do so. As the honorable member for Hindmarsh pointed out very effectively this afternoon, a great burden–
– Why does not the honorable member remove it?
– I have only one vote, and I would remind the honorable member that I have never accused him of neglecting his duties because he has failed to get the ear of his leader or to influence the Liberal Caucus, with the object of bringing about reforms. I trust that we shall not see so much of this siding with the States as has been evidenced. One would think that the States were little brothers who needed to be protected by their big brother the Commonwealth.
– They can look after themselves.
– Yes, and they have been doing very well. They have borrowed £64,000,000 since Federation, and during the same time have received £82,000,000 from the Commonwealth. The last figures show that they are enjoying a revenue of over £12,000,000 in excess of that which they had at the inception of Federation. Yet they complain that certaindeductions have been made by the Commonwealth. This Parliament, as well as previous Parliaments of the Commonwealth, has treated the States very handsomely.
– And the Labour Government of New South Wales is the biggest borrower we ever had there.
– New South Wales had a big Loan Bill before the Labour Government took office. Since Federation she hasborrowed ,£29,000,000;
– Loans raised’ mostly by the Labour Government, or byGovernments supported by Labour.
– The honorable member knows that that statement is not in accordance with facts. The Budget-papers show that the greater proportion of the £29,000,000 borrowed by New South Wales since Federation was raised by Governments previous to the present Labour Administration taking office in that State. During the same time, Victoria has borrowed £20,500,000.
– Mostly in respect of renewals.
– Never mind. Some of the money so raised was, perhaps, in respect of renewals.
– Almost all of it was.
– If they are renewals your figures are very unfair.
– I do not know where the unfairness comes in. It seems a Micawber-like way of paying your debts, to pass the IOU’s on and call them settled. The other figures are: Queensland, over £9,000,000; South Australia, over £6,000,000 ; Western Australia, nearly £9,000,000; and Tasmania, £2,750,000. In the pre-Federal days, promises were made to the people of Australia by the leaders of the great Federal movement, and by other speakers, who took . their cue from them, that the setting up of a Commonwealth Parliament would not involve the taxpayers in more expense, but would actually lead to a curtailment of the existing expenditure. That pledge has never been kept. The expenditure has gone up by leaps and bounds, until to-day it is certainly time to call a halt, and look into matters. If there are any balancesheets which need scrutinizing with all the keenness possible, it is the balance-sheets of the State Parliaments.
– Would it not be as well to look at our own first?
– We cannot consider the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth without considering those of the States as well. We are handing over to the States this year over £6,500,000, including the interest upon the transferred properties, and we are also giving Tasmania ,£95,000 as an instalment of a vote of £500,000.
– And lending the States a lot also.
– If the money which has been lent by the Federal Treasurer to the State Treasurers is being wisely invested, it ought to be giving employ rr,ent to a large number of men on reproductive works. If the State Treasurers are sensible, that is the way in which the money is being spent, and if that is so, we are doing a good work in lending it to them.
I do not care whether we call our present system a Federal system of government or not, but it comes home to me that the Federal Parliament has not all the power that it ought to have. I am one of those who are looking out for greater powers to be given to this Parliament. We are a Federation within the British Empire, but I do not believe in playing second fiddle to Canada or South Africa. The South African is the latest form of Federation within the Empire, and when the South Africans were thinking of forming a Union they decided to get an idea of how the Australian Constitution was working. Our legal advisers were instructed by the AttorneyGeneral at the time to draw up a memorandum on the subject, and this was forwarded to the South African people. General Smuts, one of the brainiest men in the Union Government of South Africa, analysed the memorandum, and finally said, when they had drawn up their Constitution, “ We have avoided the mistakes made by the Australians in their Constitution, and have taken full power for the Union Parliament to deal with industrial matters, State debts, and State railways.” I may be met with the interjection that the South African is a unitary form of government. I am not particular as to terms, but to all intents and purposes I regard it as a Federation of the best type within the British Empire.
– The United States of America have taken a long time to find out the mistakes the honorable member speaks of; in fact, they have not found them out yet.
-The honorable member’s interjection is rather unfortunate, because, if there is anything we are suffering from in our present Constitution, it is the fact that it has been too much Americanized. Its framers seem to have taken a great slab out of the American Constitution, which was drawn up about 122 years ago, and put it into our modern Constitution, with the result that, as a Parliament and a nation, we are suffering from our Constitution being too much Americanized. So far as my voice and vote will go, I want to eliminate those undesirable elements from our Constitution, and give this Parliament the freest right to deal with those subjects which come under the heading of national.
– You want unification.
– I am not at all particular in regard to names. The honorable member can call me a Unificationist if he likes, so long as this Parliament is freed from its fetters, and given the powers that the South African and Canadian Parliaments have to deal with questions in the best interests of the people they govern. The brief analysis which I have given of the operations of our State Governments during the period of Federation proves conclusively that it is time a halt was called in regard to them, and the people are awakening to the fact. At any rate, I find that there is always a very handsome response to sentiments on the lines that I have endeavoured to express to-night.
– Except at the last referenda, where the question was distinctly put to the people.
– When the referenda are submitted to the people again, about this time next year, I do not think the honorable member will have as must justification for his interjection. I have travelled somewhat in Australia, and I find that, both in rural and city communities, there is a very strong opinion growing, and I hope it will grow to such an extent that an overwhelming majority will be recorded in favour of the amendments of the Constitution which we propose to make.
– The result of the referenda was an answer to the honorable member’s argument.
– It was one answer; but the people are not going to be asked to tlo a good thing only once. We asked them to do one good thing for themselves, but they did not know sufficient about it. They had their “ doors,” but, I am thankful to say that now the scales have fallen from their eyes, and they can see through the devices of those who opposed the referenda on that occasion. Next time they will use their own judgment, and when they do so the people of Australia, as a rule, do the right thing.
– You are not game to put up the same referenda next time.
– Their complexion will be very similar to that of the last submitted.
– Then you are going to stuff them down the people’s’ throats?
– We are living in a British community, and do not wish to adopt Russian methods. We do our best to place our case before the people from the public platform, and have been fairly successful in that regard during the last twenty years.
I do not know the exact policy followed with regard to immigration in other States,, but I claim to know something of what has been done in Victoria, and, if the immigration policy of the other States is being mismanaged like that of Victoria, then an undesirable class of immigrants is coming in, and an awful mess is being made of the attempt to distribute the immigrants to the places where they ought to go. Ostensibly the Victorian immigration policy was initiated to obtain people to settle on the lands of the State.
– No; it was to raise rents and lower wages.
– I stated the ostensible reason, as given out officially. The latest statement made by Mr. Hagelthorn, M.L.C., who has charge of the immigration business in Victoria, is most interesting. In an interview the other night, he was asked how many immigrants he expected to bring to Victoria during the current year, and his answer was 30,000. He was then asked what percentage of them would be placed on the land. Would 5 per cent, go upon the land? His answer was “No; I do not expect that more than 2J per cent, will go upon the land.” That means that about 750 people out of 30,000 will be settled upon the land ; and, even making a very liberal deduction for the number of children in that total, a large percentage of them are going to be kept in our centres of population, aggravating the very trouble of centralization from which Australia is suffering. If anything like the same policy is being carried out in the other States, all I can say is that it is a disgrace to those responsible for it. We want people in this country, and if anything is required for Australia, it is the vigorous settlement of population upon our rural areas. We do not wish them to crowd into our already large centres of population. We want to give them breathing room on our broad acres, where they will increase the production of the country.
– The honorable member knows that there is a splendid settlement going on at the present moment in Victoria.
– In making that statement, the honorable member for Kooyong is contradicting the honorable member for Wimmera, another member of his party, who is said to have proved the other night that there are fewer people on the land in Victoria than there were prior to this Government coming into office.
– That is, apart from the operations of the Closer Settlement Act.
– If we could get honorable members opposite to speak with something like one voice, we might have a chance of answering their statements. I shall have to leave that matter for the honorable member for Kooyong to explain, because it is beyond my power to find out exactly what honorable members opposite do mean with regard to immigration, State debts, and the financial policy of the Government generally. The latest pronouncement of the man in charge of immigration in Victoria is that he will put only 2J per cent, of 30,000 people on the land. The rest will swamp the cities, and compete for employment with artisans and others who are here now, many of whom are at present out of work. I do not know if the idea behind the movement is That of union-breaking or wage- lowering, but if it is, I am afraid the Victorian Government are making a big mistake, because a good number of those who are coming out here are staunch trade unionists - somewhat more staunch than some of our Victorians are. The Government will find that their action will come back on them, boomerang fashion, and hit them politically. Mr. Donald Mackinnon, the honorable member for Prahran’ in the Victorian Parliament, a gentleman on the same side in politics as the Opposition, stated recently that -
The Labour party deserved credit for its defence system, which would have an immense influence on Australian character. As to the baby bonus, Australians would be better at £5 each than imported people at £lS each.
That gentleman is not on our side in politics, but his opinion may console the honorable member for Kooyong.
– According to the honorable member for Fawkner, the maternity allowance is a political dodge.
– There is no doubt about that.
– If that is the honorable member’s opinion, I am afraid that he may come into conflict with one of the most prominent men in his electorate.
– We are in agreement on the subject. He was supporting me when he made the statement just quoted.
-The statement seems to me a rebuke to the honorable member.
The following table contrasts the revenue of the States and the Commonwealth in the financial years 1901-2 and 1911-12 -
– The year 1902 was the worst Australia ever had.
-The financial year 1901-2 ended on the 30th June, 1902, and was better -than 1902-3, because the effects of the drought had not been fully felt. I hope that we shall never have another year like t902. 1 do not think that in future droughts will do so much injury, because preparation is being made by way of irrigation to counterbalance their effects.
– If we have another such drought as that of 1902, I hope that the fodder duties will be remitted.
– I shall not shake hands with trouble before it arrives, but if it comes, I shall do my best to soften its blow to the people affected. To my mind, there are ways of reducing the burden on the citizens of the States which should commend themselves to general acceptance. I believe that the GovernorGeneral is the only representative of His Majesty that we need in Australia. We do not need six Governors for the separate States. Again, the Commonwealth has a first-class man in the position of High Commissioner in Great Britain, where this country should speak with one voice ; why, then, have half-a-dozen representatives of the States who may contradict him?
– It would be better to reduce the number of the members of the State Parliaments.
– By abolishing the Councils.
– 1 would have but one House in each State Parliament, and fewer members in that one House, and WOUld give the Commonwealth control of the railways and the debts. Under the Canadian Constitution a number of States have but one House, and the Governor- General has power to appoint Governors for Provinces.
– Let us do away with the ‘ Senate.
– If the party representation in the Senate were reversed, the honorable member would say, “ Thank God we have a Senate,” just as persons in Victoria have said, “Thank God we have an Upper House,” when legislation for the benefit of%the people has been blocked. With the exception of Tasmania, half the revenue of each of the States is obtained from the, railways and tramways, which are managed by Commissioners. According to the last figures available for New South Wales, those for 1910-11, while the revenue of the State was £13,000,000, the revenue from railways and tramways was £7,412,000.
– What did it cost to earn that amount?
– I have not worked that out, but 1 believe that in Victoria the profit from the railways is between £300.000 and £500.000. and in New South Wales it must approach £1,000,000.
– Nearly all the railway revenue in New South Wales, after working expenses have been deducted, goes in payment of interest on borrowed money.
– In New South Wales there is a profit of about £300,000 from the railways and tramways.
– The railway revenue is included in the revenue returns of each State. My point is that in every State, except Tasmania, the railway revenue amounts to half the total revenue; that the railways are managed by Commissioners, the office of Minister of Railways being practically a sinecure; that the State Parliaments have little to do with them; and that that is a.i argument for reducing the number of State members, and thus decreasing State expenditure. The railway revenue of Victoria in 1910-11 was £4,887,000; of Queensland, £2,706,000; of South Australia, £2,033,000; of Western Australia, £1,858,000 ; and of Tasmania, .£276,942.
– There is no proposal by the Labour party to hand over the State railways to the Commonwealth.
– 1 do not say that then* is, but, personally, I favour the transfer of the State debts - £270,000,000 - and the State railways to the Commonwealth.
– Hear, hear.
– I have advocated that on the public platform.
– But it is not a proposal of the Labour party.
– No ; I am merely expressing my own opinion regarding the matter.
The tight honorable member for Swan was disposed to be critical about the Commonwealth Bank, and especially the opening of a Commonwealth Savings Bank. Surely he knows that the Prime Minister gave “the Premiers of the States the opportunity to join with us, making them the magnificent offer, when in conference in Melbourne, of 75 per cent, of all new business, participation in the remaining 25 per cent., and .the use of the post-offices for the conduct of banking operations. For that he was only snubbed, though the offer would have been snapped up 1 1 v any one possessing a knowledge of finance. There was to be no disturbance of the Credit Foncier systems of the States. My opinion is that if the State Treasurers persist in their present methods, they may find themselves in difficulties, and may have to come cap in hand to the Commonwealth for assistance. 1 hope that that will not happen, but that is the tendency in Victoria, at any rate. A spirit of vindictiveness has been displayed in this State, the man in charge of its affairs considering himself a Pooh-b.ih, who by a wave of his hand, can dispose of everything. He committed a grievous error, and a great injury to the people of Victoria in refusing the offer of the Prime Minister.
– “ Will you come into my parlour said the spider to the fly?”
– Suspicion ever haunts the guilty mind. There was a hint by the right honorable member for Swan about dear money. I do not profess to be at the bottom of things in the financial world ; but when the Commonwealth Bank gets into full operation, and there is anything like a tightening of the money market, I know that the people of Australia will look to this institution to get them out of any difficulty. It is the savings of the people which carry on the banks; but I shall not go into that question more than to sound a warning note. It was, I believe, the honorable member for Angas who told us this afternoon that in the Old Country the banks are amalgamating; and, in my opinion, that is what they ought to do here, with a view to more economical working. The people here are Britishers, and will not be controlled by financiers, bankers or otherwise. However, in order to show what eminent bankers think of the Commonwealth Bank, I should like to quote from the speech of Mr. J. C. Hamilton, Director of the Bank of Australasia Limited, in London, who presided at the annual meeting of that institution. He is reported as saying -
So far as he knew, there was no other instance of a State owning and conducting a bank, and the experiment would be watched with interest. Of course, they did not welcome a new and powerful competitor -
Here we have a banker, with all his shrewdness and financial ability, recognising that in the Commonwealth Bank there is a strong competitor - but if the Commonwealth Bank was managed on sound financial lines, with the intention of ranking profits for itself arid not of becoming a burden on the taxpayer, he saw no great reason to fear it. Such an institution, if ably managed and backed by the State, might become a source of great strength to the community, and be able to afford valuable assistance to other financial institutions in time of trouble. He hoped that the Commonwealth Hank might some day hold in Australia somewhat of the position that the Bank of England holds in the United Kingdom.
When we have a financial expert like this, presiding over a meeting of shareholders in London, the heart of the financial world, indulging in words such as I have read, it. ill becomes croakers on this side of the water to endeavour to show that the Com monwealth Bank is not a really good proposition. At all times I would take the opinion of men like Mr. Hamilton, in preference to the opinion of those who in this House profess to be financial experts.
As to the Customs Department, there is a great deal of talk about the amount of revenue received ; and I do not think there is anybody who deplores the fact more than myself, especially when the revenue is derived from articles that could be manufactured here. I do not know whether the idea originated with the present Minister of Trade and Customs, or with his predecessor, the honorable member for Kooyong, but I believe that, in view of the trouble about undervaluation, officers were sent not only to London, but, I believe, to Germany and to America in order to see into the matter ; and I am glad that their investigation has proved of exceptional value. So much is this the case, that I am told we are to-day receiving £750,000 more per annum than previously.
– It was the honorable member for Kooyong who initiated that idea.
– Then I give the hon.orable member all credit for it, and have only to say that the present Minister has vigorously carried it out. The investigations show that goods were being sent here from the Old Country, Germany, and other places at considerable under-value, with the result that the revenue was seriously depleted. Latterly, however, under the new system, it is said by some that we are benefitting to the estimated extent of £1,000,000 in increased revenue.
– Who pays for all this eventually ?
– I know the stock Free Trade argument; but if trade is to be conducted with the Commonwealth, we ask for reasonable honesty. The honorable mem-‘ ber for Parramatta said this evening : “ You are going to wipe out all the revenue duties and impose direct taxation.” The honorable member knows, however, that in the case of luxuries, either imported or manufactured here, there is the first right to taxation. From imported stimulants and narcotics there is a revenue of £3,788,000. To these duties I suppose no honorable member on either side of the House would object. From the excise duty on similar articles manufactured here we receive a revenue of ,£2, 380,000 ; and if we deduct these amounts from the total revenue of ,£14,511,000, we have left a balance of ,£8,343,000. It is this revenue of £8,343,000, or a portion of it, at any rate, that shows an unfair competition, from the manufacturers’ point of view, against Australia. I once more express my regret that we have not had an .opportunity to thoroughly analyze the Tariff, and cast it upon truly scientific lines. It is the revenue duties, which weigh so heavily on the people, that need looking into; and I indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Hindmarsh, who gave us some very valuable information this afternoon. That honorable member, who indorsed the utterances of the honorable member for Coolgardie in regard to the incidence of taxation, estimated that the private wealth of the country is about £1,000,000,000, of which 8,500 people own £810,000,000. The right honorable member for Swan and others have complained about the land tax ; but, so far as I can gather, that tax is one of the fairest ever imposed in Australia. Some years ago in the State Parliament, Sir George Turner, as Treasurer, was criticised for imposing stamp and other similar duties, because these touch the business man, and the man with money every time; but Sir George returned the very apt reply, in the question : “ Whom else am I to tax except the man who has money?” That is the principle on which this Government acted when the land tax was imposed ; and the returns show in how few hands is the wealth of the community. The unfair incidence of our taxation is disclosed in the fact that those who own onefifth of the private wealth contribute fourfifths of the taxation, while those who own four-fifths of the private wealth contribute only one-fifth of the taxation. The present forecast of the Customs revenue indicates that the people with one-fifth of the wealth will contribute £11,600,000, while the people with four-fifths of the wealth will contribute only £2,900,000.
– Where did the honorable member get those figures?
– I must confess that when these figures were first presented to me they seemed to be so startling .that I could scarcely accept them.
– Are they Australian figures ?
– -Yes. I went to the very best officer in the Statist’s Department, and asked him to analyze them for me - he is the gentleman who prepares some of the most intricate figures for the Victorian State Treasurer - and, after going through them, he told me that, instead of the figures being presented in lurid colours, they were presented rather in drab colours.
– Then they are official figures?
– Yes; it is two years since the figures were supplied to me, and I have worked the present figures out on the same basis.
– Has the honorable member taken into account how many men these wealthy people employ, and the money paid to them in wages ?
– How much wealth do the employed men create for the money paid to them? I support the suggestion made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh, and supported by the honorable member for1 Parramatta, that we should be supplied with figures showing us clearly where the wealth of the country lies; because, until we are in possession of that information, it is certain that the incidence of taxation will operate harshly on a large number of people. I may tell honorable members that investigations are being made which will more than bear out some of the figures presented this afternoon. As to Federal taxation, I may say that a family of five at present pays £16 per annum. If we were to add State and municipal taxation, the amount would reach a high figure for people who, many of them, receive remuneration that enables them merely to live from band to mouth. I am taking the figures given by the Leader of the Opposition last night, who stated that Federal taxation amounted to 64s. per head, so that, allowing for five in a family, we have a total of £16 per family. In conclusion, let me say that we should keenly analyze the Budget figures, and all that come before us in reference to the financial position of the various Departments. I am one of those who are not prepared to accept a mere ex -parte statement, even if it be made by a Minister. We need to delve deeply into these matters - to get beneath the surface - and to see that all is Tight. In that way alone can we hope to bring about a government of the country that will be of an equitable character. We all desire that the Commonwealth shall prosper and go ahead. I am glad that we have an abounding revenue, and that the people are now to be supplied with services for which they have long been waiting. I am also glad that, in connexion with our defence and other operations, the workers of this country are obtaining a very large percentage of the money expended, and I am sure that honorable members of the Labour party, and, 1 dare say, of the Opposition, will do in this House, as well as in the -country, that which they conceive to be- in the best interests of Australia.
– - The concluding statement made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong, that the great bulk of our taxation is borne by the poor people of the community, is a most surprising one, and requires to be carefully analyzed. I presume that the honorable member bases his assertion on the fact that our Customs taxation is apportioned amongst every member of the community. I would remind him, however, that the real necessaries of life, such as flour, meat, and tea, are free. None of us proposes to reduce the taxation on spirits or tobacco, which are luxuries, and these, or, speaking generally, stimulants and narcotics, are the great revenue-producing items in “(he Tariff. Those who consume large quantities of such luxuries bear the bulk of the taxation ; but, as Sir Philip Fysh pointed out in this House some time ago, a man can live fairly well in Australia - he can live on the lines that would be adopted, I dare say, by the honorable member for Brisbane, who is a teetotaller - without paying any taxation.
– A man like the Minister of Home Affairs could do so.
– He is absolutely abnormal, and cannot be compared with ordinary men. A man can live fairly well, however, without paying any taxation, and that is as it ought to be. We know very well that honorable members generally are desirous that our taxation shall fall upon those best able to bear it.
– Does the honorable member think that a teetotaller pays no taxation?
– He pays very little. In criticizing this Budget, we have to keep in mind the fact that some menacing features are appearing on the financial horizon. The banks are charging more for overdrafts than they used to do, whilst another very significant fact is that money is hardening. That is a world-wide movement, arising, very likely, from the fact that trade has overtaken the gold production of the world. Our enormous trade is based upon our gold production, and when that gold production is overtaken, we must experience a period of dear money. Whatever the cause, the result is very alarming, having regard to the State loans that will mature in the near future. Queensland,, for instance, has to redeem in London, in 1915, a loan of ,£11,385,000, which was floated many years ago by Sir Samuel Griffith, lt is rather significant that in the same year New Zealand has also to redeem loans amounting to some £9,000,000. lt is unnecessary for me to mention all the State loans that will shortly fall due, and which appear in table J of the Budgetpapers ; but they certainly require our unceasing attention. The honorable member for Corangamite asked last night how it was possible for us to deal with the State debts when the State Premiers refused to make a bargain with the Commonwealth ? I would ask, however, whether we are going to stand on mere trifles of dignity? Has the Prime Minister ever approached the State Premiers with a request to meet him on this matter?
– Both this and the previous Government have done so.
– If the Prime Minister would ask the State Premiers to meet him in conference, I am sure he would find them prepared to fall in with any reasonable proposal. The States would have to give up the right to conduct their own borrowings, otherwise there would be no possibility of achieving the object we all have in view - the raising of cheap loans to repay those which will shortly fall due. Whenever I turn to the figures relating to the State debts, I am always impressed bythe remarkably small amount standing to the credit of the Sinking Funds of the States. Our public indebtedness amounts to about £267,000,000, whereas we have in our Sinking Funds only ,£5, 000, 000.
– Half of which belongs to Western Australia..
– One-half of that amount stands to the credit of the Western Australian sinking fund, and for this, I dare say, the right honorable member for Swan is responsible. No doubt, with his usual regard for sound finance, he intro’duced the system in his own State. This is a very striking fact. The Victorian Parliament at the present time is considering a Bill to provide for a loan of £1,500,000 to be spent on the main roads of the State; but so far as I have been able to ascertain, that Bill makes no provision for a sinking fund. The money will be spent, and the roads worn out, before the loan has to be repaid. From that standpoint alone, the Prime Minister would be justified in asking the State Premiers to come to some agreement in this matter.
– I shall be delighted if they will touch it at all.
– I am glad that the Prime Minister thinks of taking this course. We all naturally desire that the credit of the country shall be kept as high as possible, and that at the same time the people shall be called upon to pay as little interest as possible. We have before us in the matter of finance an exceedingly difficult time. Borrowing daily becomes more difficult, and I look forward with a considerable degree of alarm to the happenings of the future.
– We can do nothing but appeal to the States to meet us.
– If the Prime Minister would make another appeal to the State Premiers I am sure that this Parliament would back him up if he failed. I do not think, however, that he should attach to such an appeal any ridiculous proposition.
– He should, I suppose, let the States have all their own way.
– No. I would say, for instance, that they must give up the idea of borrowing for themselves. If we are to effect any saving in the interest bill, the borrowings of the States must be conducted through only one channel.
– Does the honorable member think that the States would meet us with a proposition of that kind?
– I am hopeful that they would ; but I certainly would not make the ridiculous suggestion that has been put forward that in taking over the State debts we should take over the railways of the States. Such a step is not necessary to secure the moneys borrowed by the States. We should have the credit of the States behind that of the Commonwealth. The Commonwealth would hold each State and all it possessed as security for the bond-holder; and that being so, I see no force in the argument that these bonds should be backed up by ear-marked securities. Another matter of grave importance concerns the Minister of Home Affairs. We are to spend on new works and buildings, according to the Budget, no less than £3,985,921. That money is to be expended in every part of Australia; and I should like to know how the Minister, who is going to control that expenditure, can exercise any proper supervision over it. If it were his own money, he would devise some means of securing reasonable supervision. I believe that he is a young man, willing to learn, and that if he had to hire a man he would secure one of greater experience than himself - a man who had handled bigger propositions - when he proposed to spend, as in this case, nearly £4,000,000. This money is to be expended not only in an ordinary, but in an extraordinary, way, since the works for which it provides are to be carried out by day labour. Under the contract system, we should know where we were ; but how is the Minister going to control the carrying out of all these works by day labour from the Gulf of Carpentaria to the southernmost part of Tasmania? Such a system is not possible, and must break down. For instance, I know that excavations at Williamstown have cost 9s. per yard.
– What was the estimate ?
– Two shillings and threepence per yard.
– They must have struck Milestone.
– I think not. I believe that the increase on the estimated cost is due to some extent to the fact that a good deal of wet weather was experienced in making these shallow excavations for the butts at Williamstown. Then, again, how is the Minister to control the building of the trans-Australian railway by day labour in the centre of Australia ? It can never be done. We have also to consider how these men are being taught, and what ideas are being put into their heads. Some of the men 1 have spoken to are quite as confident as I am that these works can never be carried out under this system. Mr. Jahn Curtain is not an ordinary man of the street. He is secretary of the Woodworkers Union, and therefore a responsible individual.
– Does Mr. Curtain admit what is attributed to him?
– I shall simply quote what he is reported to have said. According to the Age of the 19th of this month, Mr. Curtain, in the course of a lecture, said -
It was only human to give as little as possible and take as much as possible. There was not a man in business who was not engaged in the extraction of values above what he was entitled to.
The world was suffering from too much work. (Hear, hear.) Workmen were mad to get work, mad to get something to do, and when they got it they were mad to finish it. They rushed pellmell to get a job and rushed to get it finished. The speeding-up process was wrong, lt aimed at getting out of the worker all that was in him ; at crippling him, and eventually breaking his back. The workers worked too hard, too long. They produced too much and got too little for it. Loafing was a good thing. Jesus Christ said it was. He said, “ Consider the lilies of the field how they grow ; they toil not, neither do they spin.” If that was all right the people had a right to loaf, because it was a doctrine of Christianity.
Those are the words of a man in authority who is instilling those doctrines into the men whom the Minister has to employ.
– What is the difference between a man who makes money by loafing and another man who makes money by adulterating his coffee with chicory?
– Those conundrums are beyond me.
– The poor man gets very little of this world’s goods.
– I quite agree with the Minister, but he has to spend nearly £4,000,000 of the people’s money - the money of the poor people as well as the rich people - and he will have to do it with men into whom that class of doctrine is being instilled. He must see that what I have just read is not likely to conduce to good work. The Minister has not told us what inspection system is adopted, and I hope he will give us some enlightenment on the point, because the matter is most serious. When a work is done it has to carry its own capital, or the community has to lose its capital. If the work is badly done Australia suffers, and I am certain that no man can carry out £4, 000,000 worth of work in this slipshod way with any success to the community. It. is not only that I am complaining of. The Minister of Works in New South Wales is confronted with the same problem as the Minister of Home Affairs here, and feels himself in a very tight place. He has only a limited amount of money to spend, and wants to do the best with it. Our honorable friend, the Minister of Home Affairs, does not make any complaint at all, but seems to go along with a flowing sail. The New South Wales Minister of Works has adopted a system of rewarding men for getting through their work promptly. I read that-
The Minister for Works has established a system of rewarding men for getting through their work promptly at Burrinjuck. Pay under the new arrangement is in accordance with the award rates, but it is supplemented when work is performed quickly and expeditiously.
We do not find any proposal of that sort in the programme of the Minister of Home Affairs -
Where a foreman gets his work done promptly he is to meet with special recognition by the Department.
The proposal is not regarded favorably in union quarters. The railway workers are in a state of violent indignation.
I do not believe the honest railway worker is in the slightest degree .perturbed by having to do a decent day’s work for a decent day’s pay, and that is all they want him to do -
The matter was alluded to at the last meeting of the Railway Workers and General Labourers’ Association, when the secretary (Mr. D. O’sullivan) was instructed to write to the Minister for Works, protesting against the introduction of the piece-work system at Burrinjuck.
That shows that the Labour Minister of Works in New South Wales is afraid that the day-labour system will break down with his enterprises, which are small compared with the enormous expenditure that has to be handled by our Minister of Home Affairs for works scattered all over the continent. We all wish to see our work well done, but in my opinion we are going to have some revelations out of the spending of this £4,000,000 that will stagger every Australian in the community.
– Why anticipate trouble?
– It behoves us, as reasonable men, to look ahead a little. There is no doubt about what is going to happen. I suppose there is no chance of getting any information from the Home Affairs Department as to how much it costs, for instance, to do a yard of excavation ?
– Oh, yes; I will give you all that information.
– I should like the honorable member to lay it on the table of the House. There ought to be a special schedule of these matters.
– We have all that information. 1 am working on that plan.
– I expect the Government are almost alarmed at the extraordinary results that are being produced.
– The work is being done at less than the contractors’ cost. We are saving the contractors’ expenses, and the law suits, and the extras; and we do not have any “ jerry “ work.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong quoted a remark made by Mr. Donald Mackinnon at a meeting at Prahran recently, regarding the maternity bonus, but he did not quote Mr. Mackinnon’s further remark to the effect that the community was liable to become what might be called white-ant eaten.
– He did not say that in connexion with the baby bonus.
– I was sitting alongside of him, and heard him say that all that class pf legislation referred to the same thing. He meant that, just as a piece of timber which looked very fine on the outside might be riddled by white ants underneath, and crumble into dust at a touch, so the community was apt to get ‘into a whiteanteaten state by the giving of various doles. I should like to see a comprehensive scheme on the lines of Mr. Lloyd-George’s industrial insurance scheme in the Old Country. That is a self-respecting and all-embracing scheme, not the sort of patchwork remedy that is being applied here. The honorable member for Angas, than whom there is not a milder-mannered man in the House, said this afternoon that the maternity bonus proposal almost savoured of political corruption. That is a very strong remark, but we cannot help seeing that the sudden desire to please the mothers of the community must arise from something.
– It is to save the mothers, not to please them.
– I think I am just as kind-hearted as is the honorable member. We have to explain these things, and when political proposals are made, must look for motives. What is the motive for the s’udden offering of a £5 bonus for babies? To my mind, it is that honorable members opposite have found that the mothers are angry at having been deprived of the opportunity to vote provided by the postal system,, and desire to placate them. They say, “ We will give every mother a fiver.”
– Surely the honorable member does not believe that?
– 1 do, and I shall repeat the statement on every platform from which 1 speak. Had the honorable member for Maribyrnong quoted the whole of Mr. Mackinnon’s speech, it would have been seen that he is opposed to this maternity allowance. The Budget contains no statement as to future developments. Expenditure on defence is a thing which we all know must be faced. Every honorable member admits its necessity, and I hope that we shall not have any more such whining as came from the Trades Hall the other day. A deputation waited on the Minister of Defence to put forward grievances regarding the drilling of cadets. We know-that there have been a number of matters to complain about, but both sides are doing their .best to put things right. Mr. G. Dupree, one of the deputation from the Trades Hall, said that he did not see what the lads had to defend beyond the property and the machinery of the employers, who used it for their own advantage, ‘ and Mr. Strahan, another wellknown Trades Hall man, said that it was a question, from the boys’ point of view, whether they had anything to defend, and whether it was worth while stopping an invasion. The Minister of Defence rebuked them, answering very properly that, in his opinion, they had a great deal to defend.
– Does the honorable member wonder that they said that, when they have been told time and again that the workers have no stake in the country?
– That has never been the case in this country. Contrast the utterances of the Trades Hal] deputation with the behaviour of the Japanese during the Russian war. The Japanese who captured Port Arthur might have been excused for saying that they had nothing to fight for.
– Their standard of civilization is lower than ours.
– When they got back from their military service, they had,1 most of them, little better than a hovel to live in, and little more than a loin cloth to wear, and no “ say “ in the government of the country.
– The Japanese have votes.
– The franchise is high; the ordinary Japanese do not vote. We are not spending too much on defence. . Those who have read General Homer Lea’s recent book know that our situation is a critical one, and, in view of our vast un-‘ occupied areas, our first move must be to encourage immigration. Whether you take the narrow view, that every immigrant displaces some one already in work here, or’ the broad view, that he increases employment, the latter being the Canadian view,1 you must admit that we need more population to retain this country.
– Canada is overrun with, unemployed.
– Why do not the “ upper classes “ have bigger families?
– It is a long time since I heard the term “upper classes.” Does the honorable member refer to his friends as the lower classes? I have not heard the term “ upper classes “ since it was made use of in the Queensland Parliament twenty-five years ago, and the user of the phrase did not get in again. In my view, there is not an upper and a lower class in this country. I am as great a Democrat as there is in the Chamber, and have done what I could in my lifetime to bring about equality of conditions. I ha,ve made as many friends among the men with whom I have worked in the bush, and good friends too, as any man in this Chamber possesses.
– The honorable member was a good boss.
– I have not noticed any difference between myself and the men with whom I have worked, and I shall never recognise class distinctions, and therefore do not like the term ‘ ‘ upper classes.” It is only by increasing our population that we can continue to hold this country. The sum put down for the assistance of immigration, however, is a paltry one. When the Premiers desired the Commonwealth to spend £25,000 a year on assisting to bring population here from abroad, they met with a nasty rebuff. They had been assured beforehand that if they made a suggestion it would be carried out, but the Prime Minister told them that the Cabinet having considered the matter, he did not believe in interfering in any way, but that he thought that there ought to be one management, escaping on a quibble. Consequently the States have had to muddle along as best they can in their efforts to fill up the great waste Spaces of the Continent. Mr. Higgs. - Is not the honorable member aware that the immigrants now cannot get houses to live in?
– Then the solution of the difficulty is the importation of more artisans.
– I know that houses are scarce and difficult to get ; but high taxation and Socialistic legislation have created consternation among those who have money to invest, and made it impossible to build houses. I wish to know why the Government does not issue proper balancesheets regarding its operations. For instance, we should know what a cadet’s uniform costs. The new uniforms are a hideous colour, as the Minister representing the Minister of Defence must admit, if he has any eye for colour. They are not a credit to those responsible for them. We should have a balance-sheet showing the financial position of the Telephone Department. When I last mentioned the subject, the Minister of External Affairs, who, a little while ago was in charge of the Post Office, agreed with me. We should also know what our small arms cost to manufacture. We are spending the people’s money, not our own.
– Every Commonwealth factory will issue a balance-sheet and a report each year.
– We have had promises year after year about the telephones, and nothing has been done.
– Not one of the factories has been going for twelve months.
– I only desire >o” impress on the Government that we must have proper balance-sheets. Unfortunately, the Postmaster-General is not here, and we cannot ask him in regard to the telephones.
– We should be as glad as the honorable member would be to see a balance-sheet.
– What is in the way? If I were Postmaster-General I should have a balance-sheet in three weeks, or know the reason why.
– It would take three weeks to get the balance-sheet started I
– What penalties would the honorable member inflict if the balancesheet were not forthcoming?
– Leave that to me; 1 should do it myself.
– I used to think that way one time.
– I did my best as PostmasterGeneral to get it.
– And did the honorable member get tired of trying?
– T did.
– I thought so. I suppose that honorable members are beyond making an amendment in the land tax, although there are weaknesses in it.
– We are going to increase the ratio.”
– If so, the enterprise will he wrecked. A great deal of the tax falls on people who are not able to bear it. ‘ 1 can assure honorable members that, in some cases, there has been drought, and sheep have died, and the tax has been paid, not out of revenue, but out of capital.
– Can the Commissioner not deal with such cases under section 62 ?
-I do not think there is any remedy in that section, because we were told on the floor of the House that before a man could take advantage of it, he must practically go insolvent. At any rate, if there is a remedy in that section it has never been acted upon.
– It has never once been put in action.
– The Commissioner has administered the Act sympathetically.
– The Commissioner has acted most fairly from beginning to end ; indeed, the Act could not have been better administered than by the present Commissioner. We are spending a tremendous lot of money in good times, but, in a few years, the conditions may alter, and then our public works will have to cease, whether we like it or not, with the result that a large number of men will be thrown on the labour market, thus accentuating the depression. My own opinion is that there are some works which might be held over until the bad times, though I must say that there are agreat many which have to be done straight away.
– Which works would the honorable member delay?
– I cannot be expected to do the work of the Government, and specify these works on the spur of the moment ; hut if the honorable member will give me half-an-hour at some time or other, we could settle the point.I might say, however, that the works on the Federal Capital might be delayed, getting the plans all ready in case they were required. We ought to be able to do much better than spend money like water in good times, with the result of flooding the labour market in bad times ; and the Ministry ought to decide which works should be delayed. I cannot say that there are many works to be delayed, because nearly all are very necessary.
– In the case of delay in the Federal Capital works, suggested by the honorable member, the majority of his party complain that the Government are not spending enough.
– Not the majority.
– Yes, the majority.
– Then the Minister must not attend to them on this particular point.One work which might be de layed is the building of Savings Banks. The Premier of Western Australia, who is a man after the hearts of honorable members opposite-
– A very able man!
– Yes, and honorable members opposite ought to follow his advice. Mr. Scaddan says that if Western Australia, in order to retain her Savings Bank deposits, has to raise the interest to 3½ per cent., the State Savings Bank will not pay ; and if the State Bank does not amalgamate with the Commonwealth Bank, the former will have to make concessions to the depositors that will take about £3,000 a year from the profits. This means competition between the State Bank and the Federal Bank, with the result of making the State Bank a non-paying concern.
– They will all be amalgamated by-and-by.
– But we shall not be here “ by-and-by “ ; and we desire to have a little in our own time. Do the Government not see that their policy will pievent the State Bank lending money to enable people to build their own houses, and that this lending of money is the way to solve the question of high rents?
– If every one owns his own house there will be no chance for the landlord !
– We have not all got terraces of houses and tenants galore, I am sorry to say. My own desire is to assist in every way institutions that enable men to own their own homes.
– How can a man buy a house out of9s. a clay ?
– Many men have done so ; they have to save only £50, when enough can beborrowed to build a house.
– It takes a long time on 9s. a day!
– The first step is always the most difficult; but “ where there is a will there is a way.” Mr. Scaddan went on to say that if the Federal Bank offered better interest, and the depositors withdrew from the State Bank, it would be awkward to have to provide some millions to pay the depositors. That is a very strong statement; and, indeed, it would be very awkward. Supposing the Victorian depositors - though I can hardly conceive their doing it - were to withdraw from the State Savings Bank in order to deposit in the Commonwealth Bank, the State would have to borrow some millions of money.
– The Commonwealth Bank could finance the State - there would be no trouble I
– I think there would be the greatest possible trouble. Another point is that British money is flowing into our great competitive States to the extent of £36,000,000 into Canada last year, as compared with £[3, 000,000 into Australia; indeed, quite as much as that left Australia, owing no doubt to our legislation. There is a want of confidence in Australia, and enterprise is to a great extent killed here. Honorable members may take it from me that otherwise, instead of 4,500,000 people, if there had not been alarm as to what was to happen next, there would have been 10,000,000 prosperous people here.
– More people have come here in the last two years than in the previous ten years, owing to confidence in the Labour Ministry.
– Did the Labour Ministry, or Providence, bring those people? The country has succeeded in spite of the Labour Ministry; but I am sorry to say that I think we are getting near the end of the period of success, and that, in twelve months, we shall see a different state o± things. At any rate, it appears an extraordinary thing that Canada should receive £36,000,000 of money, and Australia only £3,000,000. However we may disagree about immigration, we certainly agree that capital must be good for everybody, seeing that it stimulates enterprise, and gives working men jobs ; in short, it is like pouring water on dry land. It seems to me deplorable that money does not come here, not only directly, but indirectly, because the capital that flows into Canada and the Argentine is simply building up competitors against us. Some £[18,000,000 of capital has gone into the Argentine, and has built up enormous factories, a great frozen meat industry, and developed the country generally. If that money had come here, what a difference it would have made to us !
– And, in addition, capital is going out of Australia.
– Nonsense !
– Of course, my friends act on the principle that everybody should hope for the best. Personally, I like to be cheerful; but, while taking an optimistic view, I prefer to be prepared for another state of things.
– What evidence has the honorable member that capital is leaving Australia ?
– I shall tell the honorable member privately.
– The honorable member cannot do so, seeing that £18,000,000 has been invested in Australian bonds, thus showing that capital is. coming in, and that we are getting rich.
– But a great deal of capital has left here recently.
– But the land and the people are all here.
– And King O’Malley is here ! Our friends opposite think that all they have to do in bad times is to put on more direct taxation. In j 901-2 the total of direct taxation by the States was £2,686,645, while in 1910-11 it was £4,195,485. On top of that, we have the Federal land tax, which last year yielded £1,366,454. During the last ten years the direct taxation of tha States, prior to Federation, has been absolutely doubled. I wish to warn honorable members opposite, that if they think that that amount of direct taxation can be largely increased, they are making a serious mistake. So far as direct taxation is concerned, they have come to what is practically a “ dead-end.” They- will find that any further taxation of this sort will cause the discharge of a great number of men, and must do far more harm than good.
– - Where does the honorable member propose to get the revenue when the scientific Tariff, of which he speaks, is put on?
– The experience of countries which have adopted a scientific system of Protection is that it makes everyone prosperous, so that all are able to spend more money.
– That is why they have so many paupers.
– I said that it makes every one rich. The Honorary Minister asked where was the revenue to come from if we imposed a scientific Protectionist Tariff. My answer is that the experience of the United States is that, under such a Tariff, local production is increased, and that the people, becoming more prosperous, import more largely, with the result that the Customs revenue is increased.
– Then the honorable member thinks that if we had a scientific Protectionist Tariff, we should import more than we do now?
– Exactly ; because we should be more prosperous. The last subject to which I desire to refer is the note issue. The expenditure on the note issue for 191 1- 12 is set down at £31,000; but I ascertained - I think that it. was from the Minister of External Affairs - that that amount did not include the cost of the military guard at the Treasury, which comprises twenty-four men. It is reasonable to assume that the cost of that guard amounts to about £5,000 per annum, so that the expenditure in connexion with the note issue is thus raised to £36,000. Looking at the issue from the point of view of not only the Commonwealth Government, but the community as 1 whole, we find that we have not profited largely bv it. We have to compare the profit made by the Commonwealth with that previously made by the States and by the banks, which are, to a great extent, the property of the community. If, as the honorable member for Angas pointed out, a 3 per cent, tax had been imposed on Bie note issue, we should have raised about £150,000 per annum; whereas the amount earned by way of interest on the gold reserve last year was £185,000. From that amount we have to deduct about £36,000 in respect of full working expenses ; so that the net result is about equal to that which we should have secured by means of a 3 per cent, note tax. Undoubtedly the note issue has had a great effect in tightening up the money market in Australia. The withdrawal from the banks, which are the great advancing mediums of the community, of over £9,000,000 in sovereigns for the purchase of Commonwealth notes has had a very crippling effect on their lending powers. I think, therefore, that we have no reason to be proud of the note issue. .
– That is not what the bankers say at their annual meetings.
– They think it, at all events. We have not yet had the strain of any financial crisis upon our paper currency system ; but when such a strain is experienced we may look for stormy days in connexion with it. The community as a whole has not benefited to any appreciable extent by the note issue.
– Have they not the use of £5,000,000 without interest?
– I have already given the Commonwealth credit for the £185.000 earned by way of interest on the gold reserve; but it must not be forgotten that the States used to collect a note tax of 2 per cent, which could have been raised to 3 per cent.
– The same result could have been secured by a note tax.
– That is so; whilst at the same time we should not have had that unhinging of finance which has taken place. Under the old system, it was necessary for the banks to keep what are called “ till notes “ to accommodate the public. Honorable members will recognise that under the old system a note, as soon as it was returned to the bank that had issued it, became dead, and required no financial backing. Let me illustrate the position by pointing out that if I gave any one an I O U, it would be of no value once it was returned to me. If another person held it, however, I should have to keep a reserve to meet it if I desired to remain solvent. And so with the banks. Their I 0 U’s, in the shape of their notes, became dead when they were returned. They were therefore called “ till “ notes, and were kept to be used when required. Directly they were put into circulation they became subject to the note tax, because they were live notes, and gold had to be kept against them although they were a first charge on the assets. The new system means that the banks have had to part with something like £10,000,000 in sovereigns.
– To buy Commonwealth notes.
– They need not take them if they do not require them.
– The banks desire to carry on business, and they have to buy these notes to meet the demands of those who require them. The fact that £10,000,000 in gold has been taken from the great money-lending institutions of Australia is one of the drawbacks of the Commonwealth paper currency. To-day we are experiencing the inconvenience of a tight money market, caused by a great variety of circumstances, and the note issue is one of them. As a business man who, in his time, has been in many tight places, I think it is only right to say that we have financing rocks ahead. I felt it my duty to point them out, and have done so to the best ‘.( my ability, but if my honorable friends opposite will pay no attention to the warning the responsibility must rest with them.
Mr. ATKINSON (Wilmot) [10.5J.–I am not prepared to deal with the Budgetpapers as fully as I had intended ; I ut even if I were, I should not do so at this hour of the night. There are, however, one or two features of the financial statement that call for special attention. I agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that the Commonwealth is fast running into financial difficulties, and that we have rocks ahead that it is the duty of the Government to try to avoid. A careful examination of the Budget shows that it is a mere statement of accounts. Surely we have a right to expect something more. It certainly imparts some information, but the Treasurer should have told us how he views the future, and where he expects to get the money that he will require to find during the next year or two to meet the expenditure of the Commonwealth. Our revenue since Federation has steadily increased, but we cannot overlook the fact that our expenditure has kept pace with the rising revenue, and that there are many large and serious items for which we shall have to provide, wherever the revenue comes from. The present Government came into office on the flood-tide of prosperity. Everything in Australia was moving ahead, and our primary industries, which constitute the great source of our wealth, were particularly flourishing. Our wealth is drawn largely from our primary industries, and since our exports have been very great the people have imported largely, so that the Customs revenue has been materially benefited. The history of Australia shows, however, that a serious drop in the Customs revenue is by no means uncommon, and if we have a series of lean years we mav expect a serious falling off in this, our chief source of income. In such an emergency, what does the present Government, if it remains in office, intend to do?
– The Customs revenue has not yet commenced to drop.
– The prospects are not too reassuring.
– Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.
– But the taxpayers like to be able to see at least twelve months ahead. My great complaint, which I think is shared generally by the people, who are becoming aware that financial danger is ahead of us, is that we have nothing to indicate how the Government intend to meet a slump in our affairs and balance the ledger for the future. The Treasurer should be prepared to give us something in the shape of a forecast. When a balancesheet is drawn up for an ordinary company there are generally some remarks indicating its probable future. The Treasurer should have given us some information of that sort, but outside of a statement of accounts, in the shape of a sort of balancesheet, he simply said, after referring to the fact that Federation had increased the trading capacity of Australia -
We are sometimes inclined to be pessimistic, and in bad times we hear a great deal of the misfortunes of the country, but T think that all the evidence now before us indicates a continuance of progress and prosperity equal to that which we have hitherto experienced in Australia. Iri speaking thus, I have in mind not the prosperity of this year or last year, but the average.
He assumes there that he is always going to have abounding revenue. Apparently the expenditure is being increased so widely because he thinks we are going to have a continuance of the exceedingly good seasons that we have enjoyed in the past. I say the prospects are quite the other way, and we have only to look at the commercial affairs of the country to see it. Australia is a debtor nation. It has to pay a large amount of interest to the Old Country for money borrowed there, and consequently has to export a good deal more than it imports in value if it is to keep the balance of trade. But in Australia to-day our imports are increasing and our exports decreasing. For the first time for a good many years our imports have actually exceeded our exports. When that happens, or when we do not export sufficient to meet the imports and cover the interest on our debts, we have to export gold, and there has not been for a long while so much gold exported from Australia as recently. These facts ought to appeal to a business man, as the Treasurer of the Commonwealth certainly ought to be. The position is getting very serious, and the people of Australia require a great deal more to satisfy them than a bald statement that we have had good times, that the Government have been lucky so far as revenue and general prosperity are concerned, and that, so far as the Treasurer can see, the Government are going to con-‘ tinue to be lucky. It seems to me that we are not going to have a continuance of our bounding prosperity, and, therefore, we cannot look for the heavy revenues we have had in the past. If the present Government go out next year, what will happen to their successors? They will be committed to all this expenditure, a great deal of which is permanent and unproductive. Are they to tax the people to make up any deficiency, when the people are already taxed sufficiently heavily for a young country, or must they retrench, as has been done before in Australia? To what unfortunate straits are the successors of this Government to be reduced? If such a state of affairs as that came to pass, and the present Ministerial party were sitting in Opposition, they would be the first to howl against any resort to retrenchment. They would be the first to make trouble if it was suggested that old-age pensions should be reduced, because the money was not available to pay them.
– Is that the first line that occurs to you for reduction?
– No, but I shall show later that old-age pensions stand a very good chance of being reduced if the Labour party are allowed to remain in office, because they are making no attempt to buttress up the system. They are relying solely on the general revenue to pay the pensions, and have made no effort whatever to establish a contributory system of old-age pensions or a compulsory insurance scheme. Without these, the oldage pensions fund stands a very good chance of being reduced in lean years. The Government had a revenue in the year just closed of over £20,000,000. They had a surplus on hand from previous years of over £2,000,000, but they estimate to spend in the financial year 1912-13 the whole of that £22,000,000. It is only fair to admit at once that the Government were bound to increase expenditure greatly. That has been forced upon them. I admit also that in the Postal Department they have spent a great deal of money that ought to have been spent years ago. My charge, however, is not so much that they intend to spend so much, but that they do not show us how they are going to finance the country after this year, because we must be prepared for a falling revenue, and we shall have heavy commitments. Our expenditure on defence has jumped almost at a bound to over £5,000,000, or 24s. for every man, woman, and child in the Commonwealth. That is a per capita expenditure almost equalling that of the older countries of Europe. I admit that it is perfectly legitimate and necessary, and I am simply calling attention to the fact that it will have to be incurred year after year. We have a liability of £2,250,000 for old-age and invalid pensions, and there is a proposition to absorb £400,000 during the current financial year for a maternity bonus. These are expenditures which are also likely to continue. There is also the Northern Territory, which in the distant future may be a mine of untold wealth to Australia, but which,
I am afraid, for many years to come, is going to be a handicap on all the southern States, which have to provide the sinews of war. We have heavy expenditure to face in other directions which are not reproductive. We have come to a crisis in the financial history of the Commonwealth. We are committed to an immense expenditure, whether the party opposite or this party occupy the Treasury bench. I want to know where the revenue is coming from to meet these heavy outgoings, and if the revenue is not there, what the proposition is to make up the deficiency ?
– Would you suggest dropping the subsidy to Tasmania in order to help to lighten the burden ?
– -I am not prepared to forego it.
– Then is there any other item to which you object?
-I am not objecting to any item of expenditure at the present time. I am pointing out the heavy liabilities we have to meet, and contending that it is the duty of the Treasurer to tell us how he proposes to meet them. Our imports of merchandise for 1911-12 amounted to £71,278,986, while our exports of merchandise for the same period totalled only £66,602,964.
– What does that prove?
– Probably that we are living beyond our income. Our exports for that year were less than those of 1910- ii by £1,182,179. If our exports go on diminishing in that way, it shows that our Customs revenue is probably going to fall. That is our chief source of revenue ; and if we go on in that way, with our present heavy expenditure, we must be faced with a deficit. Honorable members opposite take a most optimistic view of things; but the history of Australia is one of sudden climatic changes.
– The country has never been so well governed before.
– Does the honorable member attribute its present prosperity to the Labour Government?
– Undoubtedly. No country is prosperous without good government.
– Our prosperity is due purely to bountiful seasons. What are the prospects of the coming year? A few months ago we were threatened with a drought, ?nd things looked serious, but rain came, and the crisis was averted. The outlook for this season, however, is not as good as that for last season and the season before. This year our production of wheat will probably, and of wool will certainly, show a falling off, and our exportation of butter will not increase, so that there will be a diminution of revenue. The Treasurer evidently is of that opinion, because, although last year he received from Customs duties nearly £[1,000,000 more than he estimated that he would receive, this year he estimates the revenue at a lower sum than was received last year. If the land tax has the effect that is desired, there will be a considerable falling off in the revenue from it. Indeed, the Treasurer estimates a substantial falling off.
– £111,000 only.
– That is a considerable decrease, and as the tax brings about the breaking-up of estates, the revenue from it will continue to diminish. I have already referred to the large export of gold consequent upon the value of our imports of. merchandise exceeding the value of our exports. For the year ending 30th June last, the net export of gold and specie was £13. ‘37.597. or over .£2,000,000 more than the value of the gold produced in 19 11, the last year for which figures are available. There has been a gradual decrease in the production of gold in Australia from 1903 to 191 1. As our exports increase, our bank deposits grow, and as our imports increase, the advances become larger and the deposits decrease. In 1909-10 the bank deposits increased by £16,063,691, and the advances by .£1,728.045, but in 1910-11 the bank deposits increased by £15,293,567, and the advances by £[14,496,637, while last year the bank deposits increased by only £4,953.718, and the advances by .£12,976,189. These facts should be made plain to those whose money we are spending. The attempt is being made to get the community to believe that all is well, and that the present prosperity will continue. No business man is satisfied that this is- so, and business men must be very concerned about the. future prospects of the country.
I agree with the honorable member for Fawkner that there are financial rocks not very far ahead. The Commonwealth expenditure increased gradually from the beginning of Federation until the Braddon section ceased to operate, and then there was a sudden jump. This year the expenditure on Federal purposes alone is to be £14,100,749. The population of Australia from the beginning of Federation until April, 1911, increased by only 700,000, a very small increase in comparison with the increase in expenditure. During the last year or two, the population has increased more rapidly, because of the meritorious efforts of the State Governments to encourage immigration. Although the Budget-papers show a vast expenditure on non-reproductive works, very little is set down for the encouragement of immigration by the Commonwealth. Immigrants of the right type are the serious want of Australia at the piesent time. We have a population of less than 5,000,000, and should have more than 20,000,000. A larger population of the right stamp would increase the development of our resources, and make our land defences stronger. Ministerial supporters tell us that they are not opposed to immigration, but no suggestion for its encouragement has come from them. Many of them, however, emigrated from Great Britain. They found this a good country, and did well for themselves in it, and surely there are still in England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales similar men who, if they followed their example, would, in a few years, be as prosperous as they are. The charge can be levelled against the Government that they have made no attempt to induce people to come here. I do not care how much is spent on immigration so long as suitable immigrants are selected.
– Is it not a fact that the native-born are leaving Tasmania?
– What has that to do with introducing people from abroad ? In any case, it is for the Government, and not for me, to keep Australians in this country.
– If we cannot hold the native-born, how can we get immigrants ?
– I am not aware that the Australian-born are leaving Australia in any great numbers.
– The immigrants are.
– Perhaps that is due to faulty selection, in which respect I think Australia has somewhat failed, as, indeed,
Canada has, if one may judge by what one reads. There are many immigrants into Canada whom we should be sorry to see come to Australia. At present it seems to be fashionable, on the other side of the world, to turn attention to Australia as a land of promise, and Australia is certainly one of the great outposts of the Em;pire, and should be the chief hope of the British people. I should now like to say a word or two in regard to old-age pensions. Honorable members opposite seem to think that these pensions can be increased to any amount ; but they may find their mistake when the revenue has a sudden drop, as, unfortunately, may be the case. I have heard nothing from the Government of a contributory system or of compulsory insurance. At present the money is taken Out of the general revenue, and numbers of people are led to think that their future is practically assured, whereas, if every adult person in Australia were made to contribute to a fund, the idea of thrift would be inculcated.
– Good old thrift !
– The honorable member is pretty thrifty I know. It is not the intention of this, or any other, Government, by means of the old-age pensions system, to lull people into a sense of false security. It is not the desire that the people should rely on old-age pensions, but that every one should endeavour to place himself in such a position as not to need this kind, of assistance.
– The longer the present Government remain in power the lower will be the percentage of the people who require pensions.
– I hope so, but at present there is no indication of the sort ; indeed; as I look at the figures, I am satisfied that the tendency is the other way. If we load the country with taxation, and take more than is reasonable out of the pockets of the people, we are going in the right direction to produce paupers, and to drive people of determination, energy, and brains away. If such should be the result, 1 do not know how the people who remain will be provided for, rendered helpless, as they must be, by reliance on some spoon-fed scheme. Never was there a time when the tackling of a question of this character was more urgent.
– Does the honorable member object to the present scheme?
– I do not object tooldage pensions. I am only too glad te* see any decent citizen, after his life’s work,, or at a certain age, have the evening of hislife made comfortable, though I am afraid a pension of ros. a week will not have that result. If some system such as I have indicated is not brought into operation, I fear that in times of stress the old-age pensions may be reduced in order to balance the national ledger.
– Then the honorable member objects to the present system?
– I have always advocated old-age pensions, but I think the present system is founded on a wrong idea, and stands a good chance of breaking down of its own weight. I think 1 have said enough to show that the financial outlook of Australia is not as rosy as it might be.
– Croaker !
-The man whoblinks the truth, and is afraid to say what he thinks, is not a friend or guide of the people. In some of the Departments, the expenditure has increased in what may be fairly called an extravagant manner. Much money has been spent on Socialistic schemes and experiments, although there are many directions in which expenditure ismore urgently needed and can be more usefully incurred. The estimated expenditure in the Post and Telegraph Department this year is £5,826,990, which, as the honorable member for Parramatta pointed out this afternoon, is £1,500,000 in excess of the estimated revenue. I admit that large sums have been properly spent on new works that ought to have been provided some years before, but that does not account for all the difference. We have heard that the Government have increased postal salaries by £270,000 during the last year, but so many have been added tothe staff that the average salary works out at a figure somewhere about that before the new expenditure was undertaken. It seems to me that there is room here for an explanation as to where the rest of the money has gone, and we ought to be told whether we are to anticipate each year a deficiency of £1,500,000. In other Departments, we see large expenditure, and we are not given any satisfactory information as to what we may expect for the future. At any rate, the Government seem to have undertaken a number of Socialistic experiments which will cost much in the near future, while the Departments are not being made any more serviceable. For instance, is it easier to get telephones now than it was two or three years ago?
– It may be for honorable members opposite, but I do not think that it is so for honorable members on this side.
– Point out where there has been any discrimination.
– I do not say there has been discrimination, but honorable members opposite say that it is much easier 10 get telephones now than it was two or three years ago, and I merely say that it is not the experience of honorable members on this side. It seems to me that, notwithstanding our increased expenditure, we experience no less difficulty than we did two or three years ago in securing the carrying cut of any public work.
– Does the honorable member have any trouble in obtaining news about works in bis electorate?
– No ; I receive, from time to time, the Minister’s digest of works, but that news does not bring works nearer to completion than before. The old routine has still to be followed. If you go to one Minister about a work, you are told that nothing can be done until the Department of Home Affairs has taken certain action ; and when you make inquiries in that Department, you are told that something has yet to be done by another Department before the work in question can be proceeded with.
– The sooner the honorable member resumes his seat the sooner will Tasmania get her first instalment of what is known as the Customs Leakage grant.
– I do not propose to detain the Committee further. I regret that I have had to overlook some rather important matters to which I had intended to refer ; but possibly at a later stage I may have an opportunity to bring them under the attention of the Committee
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
– In moving -
That the House do now adjourn,
I desire to intimate that after the Budget debate, which we hope will be brought to a conclusion in the next two sittings, we shall proceed with the debate on the motion submitted by the honorable member for Illawarra regarding the Land Ordinances of the Northern Territory, and with the Bill relating to the survey of a railway line from Pine Creek to the Katherine River.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 21 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120821_reps_4_65/>.