4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPENCE presented a petition from certain residents of Cobar, and others, praying for an amendment of the Constitution that would make the Commonwealth Parliament supreme in all matters except such as might be delegated by it to State authority.
Petition received and read.
– Is the statement of the Premier of Western Australia, that a contract has been let by the Common- ‘ wealth for the supply of sleepers, correct? Will the papers be laid on the table ?
– It is correct.
– Referring to his. answer yesterday to my question respecting the possible introduction into Australia of the stock disease known as the foot and mouth disease, is the Minister of Trade and Customs aware that it has been stated that the disease has been introduced into other countries by means of straw and other fodder ? Is it not possible for it to be introduced by means of straw used in various imported packages ? Will the Minister instruct his officers that, wherever there is any doubt, they must require that such packages be destroyed, or otherwise sufficiently fumigated or sterilized?
– I am informed that the foot and mouth disease has been introduced into some countries by means of straw packing. The Quarantine Department is looking into the matter with a view to the issue of a proclamation prohibiting the introduction of straw as packing, as well as for fodder, from infected countries. The Department is fully alive to the importance of keeping this disease out of Australia.
MINISTERS laid upon the table the following papers: -
Defence Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Universal Training (No. 28) - StatutoryRules 1912, No. 166.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at Queanbeyan, Federal Territory - For Commonwealth purposes.
Public Service Act - Postmaster-General’s Department - Appointmentof J. C.Radcliffe as Draughtsman, Class E, Electrical Engineer’s Branch, New South Wales.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questionsare-
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the reply to question No. 5 on the Notice-paper for yesterday, referring to the Commonwealth control of railways, was supplied by the Crown Law officers; if not, by whom was it furnished?
– The Attorney-General’s Department supplied the answer given.
asked the Prime Min ister, upon notice -
– It is not considered a menace. Representations have been made from time to time on the lines suggested by the honorable member’s question.
Letters Posted at Railway Stations - Uniforms - Overtime - Lighting and Ventilation.
asked the Minister representing the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
The following is the text of the instruction : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
What is the present position in reference to overtime of letter-carriers in respect of -
Mr. THOMAS (for Mr. Frazer).- Inquiry is being made, and the desired information will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Mr. THOMAS (for Mr. Frazer).- The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Assistance to Prospectors
Mr.HIGGS asked the Minister of External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. Monetary assistance to prospectors has been granted to one party only since the transfer of the Territory to the Commonwealth. The whole question of assistance to prospectors is now under consideration, and draft regulationswere recently drawn up by Dr. [Jensen, Director of Mines, which are now being considered.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– This information which will be furnished in the shape of a return, is in course of preparation, and is expected to be ready in a few days.
Debate resumed from 25th July (vide , page 1297), on motion by Mr. Mathews -
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced to provide a system of pensions to the members of the Defence Forces, and that the resolution be communicated to the Senate, with a request for its concurrence.
Upon which Dr. Maloney had moved -
That the following words be added : - “ and shall not come into force until the people who pay shall vote ‘ Yea ‘ by the Referendum.”
.- Is the abstention from speech of the Honorary Minister deliberate?
– I do not propose to speak now.
– Then how is this debate to conclude?
– I presume in the ordinary way,
– The motion has been moved from the Ministerial benches, and there is no desire to make it in any respect a party matter.
– It is not a party matter that I know of.
– But it is of great importance to those affected. The adjournment of the debate, as I understand, moved by the Honorary Minister, was granted, with a view of his being able to lay before us some statement which he had not then in his possession.
– I had not that idea.
– It was the idea current in the House when the debate was last adjourned. I am prepared to give my vote on the question. The proposal should be settled, dealt with, and, I hope, carried.
.- I have pleasure in supporting the motion. I know that, generally speaking, there is great feeling amongst the public against the granting of pensions, and the honorable member for Melbourne said the other day that he was absolutely against any system of pensions other than old-age and invalid, and possibly a child pension in the future; but I would point out to the honorable member that there is a very strong line of demarcation between a pension granted to the ordinary public servant and a pension such as we ask for to-day. The permanent force men have not the rosy billets that have been enjoyed by public servants in the past. They do not receive the same amount of pay, and at the end of their term they are cast adrift, practically like a worn-out horse, without any consideration. These men are engaged .in what is really our second line of defence, and are asked to give up their lives in the interests of their country if the country at any time requires it. Lord Kitchener realized that it was necessary to get men mentally and physically fit for our forces’. In one paragraph of his report he said that “ If men of the right stamp are to be attracted to the corps the pay of each rank must be good.” So far as our Permanent Military Forces are concerned, the pay is not good. Although some honorable members have said that the pay is high, I say it is remarkably low. If. we compare the rates received by artisans in Australia with those received by artisans engaged in similar occupations in Great Britain, we find that the rates of pay in Australia are from 80 per cent, to 120 per cent, higher. The rates paid to the military service in Australia are nowhere near 80 per cent, higher than those paid for corresponding positions in Great Britain. The following table compares the rates of pay in the Imperial Service and in our Permanent Military Forces : -
According to that statement, there is not one man employed in the Permanent Forces of Australia who receives even the minimum increase of 80 per cent, over the Imperial rates; and when we realize that the difference in the case of artisans goes up to 120 per cent, we can come to no other conclu sion than that the men of our Permanent. Forces are sweated. If we gave these men an increase of 80 per cent, over Imperial rates - which is the minimum increase in the case of artisans - the various divisions would be paid as follows : -
The position of sergeant-major of engineers, for instance, requires a high educational standard and expert technical knowledge. A position carrying similar responsibility is that of an engineer on a steamer; but, whereas the latter receives ^20 per month and his keep, a sergeant-major of engineers in our service receives only £16 a month, and has to keep himself. We pay our sergeants something like 5s. 6d. per day. To my mind, and from my personal experience, that is undoubtedly a sweating wage. These men, as Lord Kitchener pointed out, must be exceptionally good, mentally and physically. They have to attain a high standard of education and be physically perfect. They are often in charge of bodies of men, as they have to go out and take charge of the different gun corps. In outside employment gangers in charge of “bodies of men receive up to ns. a day for their services; but the men in our permanent service, in the permanent artillery in particular, who act as sergeants or gangers, are receiving only 5s. 6d. per day. Gunners, who must also be fit for special work, receive the miserable sum of 4s. per day. “That may strike the honorable member for Melbourne as being diametrically opposed to the’ opinion he expressed the other day when he said that our soldiers are paid more per unit than the soldiers of any other nation in the world. The figures I have quoted will, I am certain, bring honorable members to the conclusion that that statement is incorrect. Furthermore, in dealing with the report of Lord Kitchener, the honorable member to whom I am now directing attention said that it must be remembered that the circumstances of an officer’s service prevented, and rightly so, his participation in commercial ventures. What applies to officers applies with equal force to the gunner and the noncommissioned officer. Men outside the military service may engage in private enterprises, but the soldier must be kept rigidly to his profession. Then why is it that our soldiers, if they become dissatisfied with their conditions, have no opportunity to place their case before an Arbitration Court ? It is true that a number of gentlemen ridicule the idea that any such opportunity should be given ; but not many years ago the same argument was applied in connexion with the Public Service generally. Since then, however, the Government have permitted public servants to approach the Court ; and, in my opinion, the same privilege ought to be granted to men of the permanent Defence Forces. Lord Kitchener went on to recommend that, in view of the conditions, a compulsory deduction should be made in each rank sufficient to insure adequate provision for maintenance on retirement. It will be seen from this that Lord Kitchener was in favour of some such scheme as is to-day being proposed. These men, after they have given the best of their lives to their country, should not be turned adrift practically penniless, but some scheme should be devised whereby they can end their days in comfort and in peace. The honorable member for South Sydney, who is of opinion that the men in the military service receive adequate pay, has said that since the Government took office the pay of the rank and file has been increased from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. a day, and that, with clothing, food, and shelter, they receive the equivalent of 8s. a day. If the men were receiving the equivalent of 8s. a day, I am sure they could, amongst themselves, propound a scheme to provide for their old age; but, as a matter of fact, they receive nothing like that amount. They receive 3s. 6d. for seven days, and are provided with two suits of clothes, a pair of boots, a couple of flannels, and food, which is equivalent, at the most, to another 2s. 6d. ; bringing the pay to 6s. a day.
Mr. Tudor__ They are paid for seven days a week.
– Personally, I do not think that the clothing and so forth amounts to 2s. 6d. a day, but I have fixed on that amount, so as to allow a wide margin. Men in outside employment work only six days a week, and, very rightly, receive up to os. per day ; and if the military are paid for seven days they work seven days. Further on, the honorable member said that many men employed outside the service do not receive 24s. 6d. a week clear after paying the expenses of the maintenance of their families. My reply is that neither do the men within the service receive that amount clear. They are paid for seven days, and receive 24s. 6d. per week, but out of this many of them have to keep wives and families, whose position is not a very happy one in these days of high rents and high prices. Further on, the same honorable member said that, seeing the minimum military expenditure was 23s. per head, or about the third highest in the world “ we must be careful.” Careful of what? Careful of the increasing expenditure? Have we to sweat these men in order to make our balance-sheet satisfactory? That same argument has been applied by employers who could not, or would not, pay a fair wage; many a time has it been declared that increased wageswould result in the stopping of a business. The honorable member, and all of us, believe that every individual is entitled to a living wage, and, consequently, we supportlegislation which makes a living wage possible. The Government ought to act or* the principle that they have been indorsing for years, and see that the men in the Defence Forces have this right. Great Britain, which we generally regard as a Conservative country, does not forget her old soldiers, and has already provided a pension scheme. In the United States, owing to lack of foresight in this regard, the taxpayers are called upon to foot an enormous bill. After the Civil War, when the American people were silk of the whole proceeding, they had not the heart to refuse the (demands of those who had taken part in the war. The consequence has been that, whereas in 1861, the pension fund of the United States was .£200,000, it had increased by 1865 to ,£1,700,000, by 1875 10 £5,900,000, by 1885 to £13,000,000,. by 1895 to £30,000,000, by 1905 to the enormous sum of £34,000,000. In other words, the further we get away from the war period the greater the amount paid in pensions to those who fought, or to those dependent on them. In Canada there is a pension scheme under which, according to the Defence Act of 1901, no deduction is made from the pay of the rank and file, though in the case of officers there is a 5 per cent, deduction. In Canada, after fifteen years’ service, a pension is given at the rate of one-fiftieth of ,£100 for each, year of service, or £30 a year ; after sixteen years’ service, £32 ; after twenty-six years’ service, £[52; and after twentynineyears’ service, £68 a year. This question of defence pensions is a very importantone. We are practically in our infancy,, so far as military operations are concerned, and it is necessary that we should havesome guidance. Admiral Henderson, when, reporting on the Navy, particularly referred to the necessity of some system of pensions; and I was pleased to see theMinister introduce a scheme for what he calls “deferred pay.” So far as our military are concerned, however, a system of deferred pay will cause hardship to a number of men who have been many years. in the service, and are just about to retire. When this question came up, last sessionI think, the Minister of Defence gave themen permission to meet and devise some-. scheme ; and the men drew up a number cf resolutions to which the Minister replied as follows -
He Inn I recognised for some considerable time that the pay of the service was unsatisfactory, ami that he proposed making some provision in the next year’s Estimates. He expressed grave doubts as to whether a pension scheme would be acceptable to members of the present Parliament -
This motion gives honorable members an opportunity to express their opinions. We cannot agree with the honorable member for Lang, who regards this and similar proposals as so much talk, which will give no finality ; because, if we can possibly arrive at a favorable vote, I am satisfied that it will place a moral obligation on the Minister to introduce some scheme. The Minister stated to a deputation that -
He had discussed a deferred pay system with Colonel Wallack which he thought would’ meet the requirements of the deputation. He promised to favorably consider the requests made, and that he would bring the pension proposal before the Cabinet.
I wish to know whether the Minister has brought that proposal before the Cabinet, and, if so, what decision has been arrived at. Over twelve months ago the Minister of Defence promised the deputationists that he would submit the proposition to his colleagues. A second deputation waited on the Acting Minister of Defence, Senator McGregor, in regard to this scheme, and submitted to him certain resolutions to which the men had agreed. As a matter of fact, they were quite willing to provide for their own pensions. They desired to be paid a wage equivalent to that paid in the British service, taking into consideration the larger benefits enjoyed by the people of Australia, and out of that increased pay they were willing to contribute to a fund to provide for the payment of their own pensions. The Acting Minister of Defence told the deputation that -
He was pleased to have met the men and heard their position. He knew that a great man v difficulties existed as to the pay and other working conditions of the soldiers; but it must “be remembered that all these had come down lo the present Government as legacies from past Administrations, mid it had been impossible to put everything right during the few months -they had been in power.
I think th;ii the Government have been long enough in office to remedy this grievance. Senator McGregor went on to say that -
The men might rest assured, however, that early consideration would lv given to their representations, both respecting increased pay and future provision for the retired soldiers of Australia.
I find that the increased pay for which the Estimates provide relates only to themen of the Royal Australian Engineers, and that no provision has been made for an increase in the case of the Royal Australian Garrison Artillery. In that respect, therefore, I think that the promise of the Minister has not been kept. Senator McGregor, replying to this deputation, went on to say -
To begin radical changes right away would ‘ upset the calculations as to the cost of Military Forces, and the public was naturally anxious to keep in touch with the advancing cost.
If we cannot afford to pay our men at least a living wage, the sooner we do away with compulsory military training and other similar schemes the better for Australia, Dealing with the question of deferred pay° which was brought before him by this deputation, Senator McGregor said -
A man who had given thirty years to the military service would find the world very hard when he was suddenly launched on it without money. . The Minister was making inquiries into the European systems, and would see how the difficulty could be surmounted. Ministers had been considering how they could evolve some scheme satisfactory to the men and public. As to the’ request for a Board of Inquiry, that would be put before the Cabinet at once.
I desire to’ know what the Ministry have done in connexion with these matters, which it was promised, over a year ago, would be taken into consideration by them? The Minister, on the occasion to which I have referred, took up a sympathetic attitude, and one would naturally conclude that, having had eighteen months in which to carefully ‘consider the question, he would be prepared now to submit a scheme to the Parliament. As we desire to take a vote on this question before 4.30 p.m., I shall not detain the House further; but I sincerely trust that honorable members will emphatically declare in favour of the pension scheme outlined by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports.
.- As I am anxious that a vote shall be taken on this question, in order that we may learn how we stand, it is not my intention to make a long speech. I should like to be quite sure, in the first place, as to the exact meaning of this proposal. The motion reads -
That, in the opinion of this House, legislation should be introduced- to provide n system of pensions to the members of the Defence Forces, and that the resolution be communicated to the Senate with a request for ;k concurrence.’
– The honorable member has already spoken to the motion.
– I am speaking now to the amendment, which proposes to add to the motion the following words - and shall not come into force until the people whopay shall vote “Yea” or “Nay” by the Referendum.
As to the proposal embodied in the amendment, I say at once that I think it is only one to enable the Government to shirk their responsibilities. It is a cowardly way for them to attempt to escape their responsibilities in this matter.
– Order! The honorable member must not use such terms.
– Very well, sir. Let me say, then, that I think that the Government are shirking their responsibilities in proposing to leave this matter to the people. I do not know that it is of any greater importance than many other propositions that have been dealt with by the Government.
– This is not a Government proposal ; and the honorable member is most unfair in making such a reference to it.
– On a point of order, Mr. Speaker, I desire to know whether the honorable member is in order in imputing to the Government anysuch motive as he has just suggested, in view of the fact that the amendment was submitted by a private member, acting on his own responsibility?
– I did not understand the honorable member to impute improper motives.
– On the point of order, sir,I would remind you that the honorable member for North Sydney asserted that it was a cowardly act on the part of the Government to do a particular thing. The Government have not done that of which he complains, and is in no way associated with it. I. therefore, ask that the reference in question be withdrawn.
– I would remind the Honorary Minister that I called the honorable member to order when he used a certain word, and that he practically consented to withdraw it.
– I may say that the peculiar attitude of the Honorary Minister has given rise to my remarks. On a previous occasion, he moved the adjournmentof the debate, and we naturally assumed that he would resume it to-day. He has notdone so, and he refuses to give usany information as to why he then moved that the debate be adjourned.
– He wants to hear the arguments. If the honorable member has any arguments, let us have them.
– I want no interjections from the supercilious member for Capricorhia. I object to the proposal to submit this proposition to a referendum of the people. One of my chief reasons forthat objection is that I can see that there is not the slightest chance of such a referendum being carried. We know what attitude would be taken up by trade unions - by the Australian Workers Union, for instance - andby such people as were engaged in the Brisbane strike.
– I am a representative of the Australian Workers Union, and they have never questioned me on the subject.
– But I know how the great body of unionists will vote.
– The Australian Workers Union do not concern themselves about this matter. The honorable member has a nightmare so far as they are concerned.
– There is no chance of getting, by means of a referendum, a favorable opinion from the people regarding pensions, nor do I think the matter of sufficient importance to warrant that procedure. Scores of matters of equal importance aredealt with by Parliament.
– Although the honorable member says that we could not get a favorable opinion from the people regarding pensions, he wishes Parliament to provide for them.
– I think that the great body of the people and the trade unionists are opposed to pensions. I shall vote against the amendment, but shall support the motion, though I should like to knowdefinitely from the mover whether his pro-‘ posal is intended to apply only to the Permanent Forces. I am ready to vote for pensions to the Permanent Forces; and £ hope that other honorable members will be as brief in their speeches as I have been, so that we may have a division on thesubject, and know the opinion of the Houseregarding the proposal.
– I am sorry that the Minister has not given; the House a lead on this subject, because the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is an important one, affecting materially the well-being of the Defence Forces. We might have heard something from the Minister regarding its financial aspect. Personally, I am in favour of the principle involved. I do not know how far the honorable member for Melbourne Ports wishes to go ; but to obtain the best men for the military service we must offer inducements to remain in it. It is continuity of service that creates efficiency, and those who enter our service should be inclined to make it the serious business of their life.
– What about the Militia ?
– I should like a statement from the Government regarding the whole subject.
– This is a private member’s motion.
– The Government is supposed to lead the House on public questions to which attention is directed, and it is usual for a Minister to make an announcement regarding important matters of this kind. If the Minister representing the Minister of Defence says that the Government has not yet considered the proposal, but thaton the passing of the motion it will do so, with a view to submitting a definite scheme, I shall be satisfied ; but we have had no declaration of the views of the Ministry. The provision of pensions may have to be considered also in regard to civil offices, such as those connected with the administration of Papua. Manyof the civil officers in the Papuan service work under conditions of hardship, andreceive salaries which are by no means extravagant’. Their claim to pensions should deserve consideration at the proper time.
– I confess myself in somewhat of a difficulty, regarding the statement which has been made.Personally, I do not care much whether the Government does or does not express an opinion on the motion. I have no desire for any Minister to guide me in the matter, and I certainly would not accept dictation regarding it ; I prefer to make up my own mind. The rambling statements of the honorable member for North Sydney convinced me that he is trying to make political capital. He is evidently trading on his reputation as a colonel.
– That remark is not in order.
– I object in toto to the honorable member’s insinuation that trade unionists are opposed to any such proposal as that of the honorable member for Melbourne Ports. If they are opposed to the pension system, why is it? He is a poor student of history who does not know that the military has always been opposed to the workers, and on the side of patronage, privilege, and power. The working classes have had to fight the military classes for every advantage they have gained.
– The honorablemember wants mob rule.
– No; but we refuse to submit to the arrogance of such men as the honorable member. The trade unionists are not men of the kind he suggests. The working classes recognise that the members of the Defence Forces are their brothers, and entitled to fair and reasonable payment for their services to the country. We look upon every man who is doing anything for the country as a worker, whether he uses his hands, his feet, or his pen. The members of the Defence Forces are working for their living as best they know how, and are entitled to consideration. I rejoice in the fact that the Democratic principle, upon which this Parliament is founded, and by which the country is now being governed, is opposed to the payment of pensions. I hold the view that those engaged in the military service should, when they can no longer carry on their duties, be assisted by the State ; but the granting of pensions is another matter. The references to the pensions system of the United Kingdom and the United States of America were not helpful to those who support the motion. Nothing is more unfortunate than the way in which the Mother Country has treated those who have spilt their blood in her defence.
– Well, she makes some provision for them ; we make none for our soldiers.
– What is done is not to the credit of the Mother Country, and I should be sorry if we were to take her pensions system as the.basis for a similar system here. There must be a better way, and it is in that better way that I hope the pension will be given. The United States of America pays annually an immense sum in pensions.
– Because the Americans made no provision beforehand.
– I am ready to assist the Military Forces, but am hostile to the pensions system. I understand that the Minister of Defence and the VicePresident of the Executive Council have officially expressed sympathy with the proposal of the honorable member for Melbourne
Ports, but that they have not hit upon
– We need the best men that we can get for the protection of the country.
– There will be no difficulty about getting the best men, and as many men as we require.
– There, is difficulty now.
– It would be a most unfortunate thing if the military service were to compete with the industries of this country. The great objection to the military system is that it causes the expenditure of a large sum of money on a Department that is absolutely unremunerative, and withdraws from the work of developing the country able and capable men, who should be employed in rural or industrial pursuits.
– If they are able and capable, why not pay them properly?
– We must pay them enough to put them on a reasonable level with those engaged in industries, and guarantee that they will not be left to starve after they have given their best years to the service of the country.
– That is all the motion asks for.
– Honorable members who are supporting the motion are asking that the country shall provide a system of pensions. What I do hope to see before long in Australia is some system of State insurance, beginning with our own public servants, but eventually extending to the whole of the people of the country, whereby the whole of our public servants shall pay small amounts, by an easy method, into an insurance fund, from which they will be able to draw a. reasonable amount to assist them when they have to retire from active service. It is peculiar that we have over 30 per cent, of withdrawals from the Permanent Forces almost every year. There is a continual stream of men going out, the whole reason being that outside employment is more attractive in regard to its remuneration. If the proposal were to increase the remuneration of those men, and give them a reasonable payment for the time they put in, I should be heartily in support of it. I believe that the men employed in the military service of the Commonwealth, in view of the cost of living, are not being adequately remunerated, and I should be quite prepared to support any proposal, and approve of any increased expenditure, to assist them in that direction.
– Why not take this chance of doing them a service?
– Because I object to the principle of the payment of pensions. I have no other objection to the proposal, and if it went on the lines of a system of superannuation, deferred pay, or insurance, I should be prepared to support it every time.
– If we pass the motion, the Government can take that suggestion into consideration.
– I have not the slightest objection to the passing of the motion, and I am not going to ask the Government whether they approve of it or not. If the House passes the motion, and the Senate approves of it, T cannot believe that any Government would deliberately ignore the wishes of Parliament in the matter.
– There is no cut-and-dried scheme in the motion.
– No. The motion is so delightfully vague that everybody can vote for it and feel that it means nothing. It commits no one to anything. It is a pure bombardier’s blast.
– The honorable member is speaking of one of his own party.
– lt does not matter who proposed the motion. As the Leader of the Opposition said, we are all in favour of it, but what I regret is that there is nothing definite about it. It does not commit us to anything, and therefore we can all help to pass it, feeling as though we had done a good thing, and yet knowing well enough that we had done nothing. It is a mere matter of balloon legislation. The motion is being made a purely political move, and the time of the House could be better occupied with a definite proposal.
The Pensions Committee of the Service have themselves to admit that they have not yet been able to arrive at a satisfactory system.
– They lay down a definite system - increase the pay and they will find their own pensions.
-They admit that they have not been able to arrive at a satisfactory system yet, and the Minister representing the Minister of Defence in this Chamber says the same thing. I should hail with a good deal of pleasure any concrete proposal or definite suggestion putting the matter on a right basis. It is amatter that demands attention. It is one of those things to which we ought to give our very closest and most favorable consideration ; and 1 hope that, whatever the fate of the motion may be, the time is not far distant when we shall provide some means whereby not only every member of the Military Forces, but every public servant of the Commonwealth throughout Australia, whatever rank he holds, shall be protected when the time comes for him to leave his occupation.
– Do not bury it !
– I should never bury the honorable member. I should embalm him and put him in a political museum as a curiosity from Waverley. I am very much interested in the Opposition this afternoon. Finding that long-winded speeches have not done any good to their cause, they have evidently passed the word round to say very little. I never saw them so quiet before. We have not had a speech from the honorable and loquacious member for Wentworth this afternoon, although never on any previous occasion, I believe, has the honorable member allowed a motion to pass without making a speech of some kind. I cannot understand his silence to-day, unless it is that he hopes, as usual, to embarrass the Government. Honorable members opposite will not embarrass the Government very much by their tactics this afternoon. They are hoping to get this proposal through without any argument. The honorable member for North Sydney, who described me as supercilious because I wanted some information from him, did not put before the House a single argument why the motion should be carried. Members of the Opposition, by rising to speak and asking for an early vote, have indicated that they are very much in favour of raising the status and improving the financial position of a verypoorly-paid section of the community. I have never known them to take up that role before. During this session, at any rate, they have been relentlessly pursuing a certain poorly-paid class in the community who work in the trenches, endeavouring to hold them up to ridicule and contempt, and cast a slur upon them. Are honorable members opposite in favour or a pension for the man in the trench when he becomes too old to carry on his occupation? Are they in favour of a pension for the wharf labourer, who runs great risks in following his calling? I venture to say there is as great a percentage of mortality amongst those workers, from the risks which they incur through handling cargo on the wharf, as there isamong: the men who go out on active service. There is no proposition, however, to give the wharf labourers a pension.
Mr.Ryrie. - Those men are not retired at a certain age.
-I understand that the retiring age of the military is about sixty years. Look round the wharfs, and find how many men are there at sixty or even fifty-five years of age. They are mostly very young men. Men engaged in that occupation for any lengthened period are old before their time, and are compulsorily retired, but they have no pension to support them in their crippled and declining years. Are honorable members opposite in favour of a pension for them ? Are they in favour of a pension for sailors, deck hands, or firemen? The firemen who travel along this coast andoverseas have an abominably difficult time, and are compulsorily retired long before the age of fifty. Do honorable membersopposite favour a pension for carpenters, builders’ labourers, stone-masons, and others engaged in the building trade? There is no mention of them. Let anyhonorable member in this House, or in any other Legislature, where there is an Opposition of the same political opinions as those of honorable members opposite, propose to increase the wages of the workers in the building trade in order that they may have something to putby for their declining years, and he will find honorablemembers opposite opposing it to a man. Honorable members on theopposite side seem to think there is a very finechance on this occasion of getting a few votes at the next election.Theythink that the Defence vote will he a considerable one, and they are setting their sails to catch any breeze.
– Order ! I must ask the honorable member not to impute motives.
– I shall not impute any improper motives to honorable members opposite, and I shall not pursue that line of argument farther. My chief objection to the system proposed by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports is that it is of a class character. If we are going to do anything in the way of pensions, let it be general, and apply it to every citizen in the community.
– Would you pay it all out of the Consolidated Revenue, or would you have a contributory system?
– My idea is that we should have a system of national pensions. We are paying now from the Consolidated Revenue over ^2,000,000 per annum in the way of old-age and invalid pensions. Honorable members who come forward with a proposition like this should tell us how much it is going to cost. How much money will have to come out of the Consolidated Revenue, and how do they propose to raise the money? The honorable member for Flinders, and others, have already been talking about our extravagance in expending large sums of money ; but here is a proposition from the Opposition-
– I rise to order. The honorable member for Capricornia should withdraw his statement that the motion is put forward by the Opposition.
– I withdraw the statement. But where is the money to come from? Is it proposed to increase the land tax, or to impose an income tax and heavy probate duties? The honorable member for Illawarra had much to say the other evening about taxing the poor working man. Does the honorable member propose now to tax the millionaires of Australia in order to pay military pensions? No; honorable members opposite would take the money out of the general revenue which is contributed mostly by the general public, who will not receive pensions.
– Do away with Ministers’ travelling allowances !
– Did the honorable member see in the newspapers the other day that a sewing-machine company paid its manager the salary of ^4,000 per annum, with £2 a day expenses? I should say. that the great Commonwealth of Australia, in view of such facts as that, would be quite prepared to pay Ministers of the
Crown a very much larger sum than is paid al present. Once more I ask whether it is proposed to tax the millionaires of Australia ?
– I do not think there is one millionaire in Australia.
– There are a few in the Bundaberg district, who have made their money out of sugar. It is not proposed to tax the millionaire, but the wharf labourer, the deck hand, the miner, the servant girl, and other workers.
– Those are the people honorable members’ opposite have been taxing all their political lives.
– We have been doing our best to compel the large land-owners to pay their fair share ; and for our pains, we have received nothing but opposition from honorable members opposite. Speeches of hours in length were made to prevent our taxing the big landlords. If it were proposed to pay our defence workers a minimum wage of at least 9s. a day, I would support such a motion ; but we would not get the support’ of honorable members opposite.
– I, for one, would support it.
– If the honorable member for North Sydney will propose to pay the members of the Defence Force a just wage, such as we ask for every worker, we shall support him.
– It is for the Government to make the proposal.
– I know that the honorable member for Melbourne Ports submits this motion in all seriousness, having in his mind some of those military men who have to retire at the age of sixty after having acted, perhaps, as drill instructors for thirty or forty years at a salary of £3 or £3 1 os. a week, which leaves little to put by for a rainy day, or old age. I should support any proposal to establish annuitieswhich every one could obtain on payment of a regular sum by the week, month, or year ; I mean some scheme of national insurance such as will be on our programme next 3’ear. That is the sort of scheme, however, in regard to which we should find honorable members opposite opposing us tooth and nail.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the motion?
– The honorable member for Capricornia is having hard work to talk the motion out !
– I regard that as a most offensive remark, and I ask that it be withdrawn.
– The honorable member for North Sydney must withdraw the remark.
– I withdraw it, Mr. Speaker.
– What we require is a national scheme, and not a scheme merely for our unfortunate defence men, with their 4s. a day. Not long ago there was great objection raised to the giving of free railway tickets to Ministers of the Crown who had been in office for a certain period, and the ground of the objection was that the pass, regarded commercially, really meant a pension of perhaps £jo a year. In any case, that is not much to give the poor politician, who, after a long, strenuous life, leaves this festive scene and goes out into the cold world ; but we do not favour the idea, because it means a sectional pension. Our desire is that every man and woman shall share in any benefits we can confer. I sympathize very much with military and naval men who are engaged at an unproductive occupation at poor pay.
– They have very nice clothes.
– Perhaps; but their life is made weary in polishing up brass buttons and things of that kind, and in marching up and down like so many prisoners, half their time, or standing in certain postures for any period at the discretion of the officer in command. How very uncongenial their life becomes after a time is shown in the fact that in the United States, for instance, there are thousands of desertions from the army every year. Why is it not proposed to ameliorate the conditions of our soldiers and naval men - to make their life a little more bearable by giving them some trade or occupation which they can carry on in barracks after they have performed their ordinary duties, which become doubly irksome when imposed merely to keep them from being idle? There would then be no difficulty about paying them better wages, because they would, to a certain extent, become self-supporting. They would not be kept all day “ polishing up the handle of the big front door,” but would be doing useful work, and adding to the wealth of the country. I put that to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports as a practical business scheme for improving the lot of military and naval men. I am sorry to say that I cannot support the motion; but if the Government accept it, I am sympathetic enough to give due consideration to any scheme that may be in troduced. No scheme, however, has been laid before us by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports, who, doubtless in a most generous spirit, has merely in a casual kind of way thrown down the motion. The Government, with their programme of business -and the machinations of the Opposition, have not time this session to discuss any pension schemes of the kind. The honorable member for Melbourne proposes to submit this question to the referendum. For very many questions I believe in the referendum; but there are others which cannot be so submitted, such, for example, as that submitted in South Australia the other day in regard to increasing the salaries of State members of Parliament beyond ^200 per annum. That is a question on which the people cannot very well make up their minds, because they do not really know the work of a member of Parliament. People outside may be very much surprised to know that I have to write some sixty or seventy letters a week.
– The honorable member gets off very easily.
– Will the honorable member for Capricornia confine himself to the question ?
– I am merely pointing out how difficult it is to submit some questions to the referendum. It is quite possible, as the honorable and gallant - and, shall I say, “ ferocious “ - member for North Sydney said-
– Order ! The honorable member must not use that expression.
– The honorable member described me, sir, as “ supercilious.”
– I called the honorable member to order.
– Then I shall withdraw the remark that the honorable member is “ferocious.” The honorable member said that members of the Australian Workers Union, and trade unionists generally, would vote against this proposition if it were submitted to a referendum. If they did it would be for the reason that the vast majority of people outside who have to earn their daily bread, and to bear a considerable portion of the taxation of this country, would say that there was no pension for them until they reached the age of sixty- five years, when, provided that they had no property, they could draw an old-age pension of 10s. a week. Does it not seem rather unreasonable that we should give a pension of 10s. per week to the man who has saved nothing during his lifetime, and refuse to give any pension to the man who has saved £300 or £400? A deposit of £800 would provide interest amounting to about £26 per annum, and that is the amount which we pay by way of an old-age pension to a man who has, perhaps, every Saturday night got gloriously drunk, and never saved a penny ; while we refuse to give a pension to old people who, by saving, have secured a home over their heads.
– That is the present position in regard to the old-age pension scheme.
– 1 hope at a very early date to show why we should alter the system, and make some exemption in favour of those who have saved enough to put a home Over their heads. I trust that the Opposition will support me.
– What would be the increased cost ?
– T should he out of order if T made a Budget-speech this afternoon, and I am sure that the honorable member would not ask me to waste the time of the House, or to speak at such length that we should be unable to take a vote on this question. I am very anxious, as the honorable member for Wentworth knows, that we should proceed to a division.
– That is obviously incorrect.
– I wish this matter to be decided on its merits. I do not want any application of the “gag” by the honorable member. He spoke the other day of my embarrassing the Government. 1 hope that 1 am not doing so, and that I shall never embarrass this Government by making irrelevant and inordinately lengthy speeches, which might well be marie on the hustings, but not in this House, where we are expected to keep to the question before the Chair. I wish to emphasize the point that I am thoroughly in sympathy wilh those military and naval men who are being paid a sweating wage. People who are making huge fortunes in and out of Australia should contribute to the public revenue sufficient to enable us to pay naval and military men something more than a living wage. I do not take the view held by some of my friends outside, that the poor of Australia have nothing to defend; nor do I think that view is shared by many people in the Commonwealth. People prefer to live under the Australian Government-
– At present.
– At present, and, I believe, as time goes on, they will be more anxious than ever to defend Australia against a system of government that might oppress them or take from them the liberties they now enjoy. 1 hold the view that the big land-owner - men like Major Howie, who, with his family, lives in the Old Country, leaving the government of Australia to be carried on as best ii may, and who, because of the Federal land tax, recently returned to Australia and sold about £80.000 worth of land - -should contribute more to the revenue of the Commonwealth. Men who, like Major Howie, have inherited land abutting on Melbourne streets, bought some eighty years ago for £120-
– Is the honorable gentleman going to connect these remarks with; the question before the Chair?
– I hope to do so. I am pointing out how some people derive large revenues from Australia, but live abroad, and take no part in the government of the country. Australia has a leisured class, but it is a very small section of the community. In this country most of the people work, and work, most of them, in an honest way–
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the question before the (‘hair?
– There is a certain measure of interruption which makes my remarks rather diffuse. I certainly desire tobe concise and clear. I am pointing out why rich men, who draw large revenues from Australia, but live abroad, should pay more. We allow such men to escape taxation to such an extent that they are able to live in luxury at the other end of the world, without doing anything towards the production of the wealth that they enjoy. We ought to get more out of such men.
– Would the honorable member make them contribute to a fund of this kind?
– Is the honorable member in favour of an income tax ?
– Tn reply to die honorable member for Calare, I venture to say that it would not be a bad idea to impose a little more taxation on men with big. holdings, in order to get the money necessary for a pension scheme. We have a graduated land tax, and I would not favour a reduction of the exemption, ir» order to secure the money necessary for such a scheme as this ; hut I would impose a heavier burden On the hig landholder, and compel him to pay more.
– What about the capitalist?
– The big capitalist is the man who makes it necessary for us to have a h’g defence scheme, and he is the man who ought to pay. As I remarked a few days ago, 1 believe that the capitalists of the world could decide the question of peace or war. They could .so shape their actions as to render it unnecessary for us to hn ve such an extensive defence’ scheme as at present, with the result that we should have more money with which to pay our soldiers and sailors. As to the question whether I would raise the money necessary for this pension scheme by means of a Federal income tax, 1 can only say that I see no objection to such a tax, provided that a sufficiently high exemption be fixed. Under the Federal Land Tax –vet we have an exemption of £5.000 of unimproved value. I have not quite made up my mind whether such a large exemption should be allowed in the cr.se of a Federal income tax, but it might be necessary, in view of the fact that most of the States at present levy an income tax. Honorable members might think that we could not get the money for a pensions scheme of this kind by means of an income tax, because the amount gained at present is not very large; but I believe a good deal of revenue could be secured by taxing very large incomes. No man ought to be permitted to amass a fortune of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000 in his lifetime. Our social organization is wrong when it is possible for a man to acquire that amount of property, whilst we pay naval and military men only 4s. or 5s. a day. Are honorable members of the Opposition prepared to support a scheme to pay naval and military men 8s. or .9s. a day, and at the same time to tax the Australian millionaires who are able in a lifetime to acquire as much as £4.000.000 in wealth or property? Has it ever occurred to honorable members that if a man getting £1,000 a year saved the whole sum, it would take him 1,000 years, could he live so long, to accumulate £1,000.000?
-Is the honorable member going to connect these remarks with the motion ?
– I am pointing out that there is a way of providing for a pension scheme, namely, bv taxing our millionaires, who make thousands every year, and die worth £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. If we wish to help the naval and military men, we should give them a living wage, and should not require them to defend the property of millionaires for 4s. or 5s. a day. It is not to be thought that, because I refer to them as defending the property of millionaires, that is all they have to defend. They defend the hearths and homes of the poor as well as of the rich. 1 heartily sympathize with the desire of the members of the Defence Force to improve their position. In my opinion, officers who now have to retire at sixty years should, if in good health and mentally and physically robust, have their period of service extended by five or seven years, or so long as they are capable of good service. Nowadays we do not live the fast life that used to be lived, .when even kings died at the age of thirty. Military and naval officers, like others, take more ore of themselves, and many of them at sixty have ten years’ capacity for service. One of the means of improving their condition would be to enable them to remain in the service as long as they are fit for the duties of their positions. I hope that the honorable member for Melbourne will not press his proposal for a referendum. If he does, I fear that the public will be embarrassed, when called upon to vote at the next election, by the number of questions put before them. There is the allimportant question whether we shall find our way back here.
– The honorable member must deal with the question before the Chair.
– The question of our reelection, and various other questions, will be submitted to the electors - questions relating to the amendment of the Constitution. There will be at least five questions put before the electors. I hope that I am not embarrassing the Government in any way in saying that.
– Will the honorable member confine himself to the amendment?
– The amendment proposes the taking of a referendum, and I am giving, perhaps imperfectly, reasons why that is not a wise course to adopt. I have shown that I am thoroughly in sympathy with the- desire of the members of the Defence Force to have their rates of wages improved, and that the members of the Opposition would not support any attempt in that direction. I have shown that their support of the motion is a piece of electioneering dodgery. Having done that, I am ready to have a division taken on the question.
– I am totally opposed to the establishment of a pension system. This Parliament, in its first session, when providing for the appointment of Judges to the High Court, resolved that pensions should not be attached to judicial positions, and the people of Australia understand that we do not intend to revert to the pension system of the Old Country. Like the honorable member for Capricornia, I cannot forget that if 1 vote for pensions for the Military and Naval Forces, I shall have to ask the miners, the carpenters, the artisans, and other hard-working persons in the community, who are not so well off, to contribute to the pensions fund. Those persons would be justified in pointing out that, although their occupations are precarious, and they have no continuity of employment, pensions are not provided for them. In Sydney, during the last three or four- weeks, there are men in the building and engineering trades, with which I have been mostly connected, who have not earned 25s. a week, even at the present rates. The average labourer getting 9s. a day does not earn £go a year, taking into account public holidays and other lost time, and many mechanics, who are apparently in constant employment, do not make more than £148 a year. I am speaking of what I know, ‘because I have checked the figures on the time-sheets of contractors, and on my own time-sheets. The statements hold true in regard to men who have been employed by me for ten or twelve years. Could I ask such men to contribute to a pension fund for the benefit of military officers getting more than £200 a year? I could not, although many of these officers are personal friends of mine. I admit that a man who devotes his life to military service, and is retired at the age of fifty-five, is not fitted for commercial life afterwards. As a soldier, he is removed from commercial pursuits, and, in many cases, such men, having left the military service, have completely failed in business, and, where they have had a few pounds to invest, have been “taken down.” I should like to know why the military officers should .not, like the railway servants of New South Wales, be asked to contribute to a superannuation fund. The word “ pension “ I cannot swallow; it seems to stick in my throat. I therefore propose to substitute for it “ superannuation fund.” Of course, to give effect to that proposal it would be necessary to obtain actuarial tables. I have had experience in this matter in connexion with friendly societies and other bodies. A difficulty arises by reason of the fact that many officers are now comparatively near their retiring age, and very large contributions would be required from them to make provision for a superannuation allowance at all commensurate with their present salary. As for the proposal for a referendum, I do not know whether the honorable member for Melbourne has any idea of the opinions of the people of Australia, but, in my view, to give effect to his amendment would make him a laughingstock.
– Perhaps he wants that.
– I do not impute motives, and shall always consider that honorable members are sincere in their proposals, unless convinced that the contrary is the case.
– There is just time to take a vote on this matter now, and test it.
– Honorable members should not be too hasty about a matter of such grave importance to the public, and affecting such a great principle, because they may regret the- decision they come to. That is what I am trying to make them understand. It is of no use to deal with the question unless we do it in such a way tha* our action will be beneficial to those whom we want to benefit, while, at the same time, the people of Australia are not penalized by having to provide the pensions. Personally, I should like to see some provision made in this direction, but I am strongly convinced that the present Government are so anxious to do justice to everybody that they will not overlook a matter of this kind. They are determined that no section of the community, especially those in their service, shall be deprived of any privilege to which they are entitled, and if people have been in the military service for many years there will be a natural inclination on the part of the Government to treat them favorably. If I looked at this matter from the point of view of a politician, I should say, “ I must do something, because there are a large number of military officers in my electorate,” but I do not want to look at it in that light. I want to take the point of view of the man who represents the people of the whole of Australia, and not his own electorate only. As I should like to present to the House, some actuarial tables on the subject, I ask leave to continue my remarks o* a future day.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
– I move -
That this House, following the practice of the House of Commons, is of opinion, in view cf the unequal distribution of Federal properties in the various municipalities of Australia, that the Commonwealth should grant yearly to ach municipality as an act of grace an amount quai to the municipal rates and taxes which it would have to pay were it not exempt from taxation under the Constitution.
I moved this motion on a previous occasion, and, consequently, I shall not long detain honorable members in placing before them my reasons for asking them to indorse it this session. The proposal is so obviously in the interests of sound finance that it would be difficult for any future historian, digging up the musty records of the third Commonwealth Parliament, to understand why the Commonwealth ever showed reluctance to pay municipalities for the services rendered by them to its agencies. Apparently it is necessary to ask the authorities of the Commonwealth to carry out their simple obligations to the great municipal self-governing bodies «f Australia. On 30th September, 191 1, the Prime Minister, in answer to a deputation at Paddington, said -
If it were only a matter of his good wishes, they would have the grant, but it involved a principle that had never been admitted, and he doubted whether it would be legally admitted under the Constitution. . . .
I do not think the right, honorable gentleman could have read the Constitution; if he had, he must have thought the deputation had never examined it, because the statement is so eggregiously in error that no prudent person who knew the facts could have made it. Section 114 of the Constitution is as follows : -
A State shall not . . . impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to the Common wenlth, nor shall the Commonwealth impose any tax on property of any kind belonging to a State.
A State must not “ impose “ a tax upon any property of the Commonwealth, and, consequentially, no agency of a State - and municipalities are State agencies - has that power. The power, if it were given, might possibly be used for illegitimate purposes, in order, so to speak, to blackmail the Commonwealth for special rates which ordinary taxpayers had not to bear, but, whilst the illegitimate taxation of the Commonwealth is prevented, there is nothing in that section of the Constitution, nor can anything be read into it, which denies to the
Commonwealth Parliament the power to grant, as an act of grace, a sum of money to which the municipalities are entitled for the services they render to the public Departments. As if that was not clear enough, section 52 of the Constitution lays it down that the Parliament shall, subject to the Constitution, have exclusive power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Commonwealth, with respect to - (ii.) Matters relating to any Department of the Public Service the control of which is by this Constitution transferred to the Executive Government of the Commonwealth.
The question of payment for services rendered to Commonwealth Departments is undoubtedly a matter “ relating to Departments of the Public Service under the control of the Commonwealth.” We have, therefore, an .express power in that section, which is not taken away from us by section 114 of the Constitution. As a matter of strict fact, if there had been no provision whatever in the Constitution, the Crown - and the Commonwealth of Australia is the Crown in this connexion - would be exempt from taxation by any other body. The Crown is exempt from taxation whether there is a written Constitution, as in Australia, or an unwritten one, as in Great Britain. The Imperial Parliament, however, recognises its obligations to these great self-governing bodies, and pays yearly, as an act of grace, an amount to which it would have been subject in rates and taxes, were it not exempt through the exemption of the Crown from taxation. The amount given in the Imperial Estimates for 1910 for this purpose was £563,000.
Another statement made by the Prime Minister to the deputation at Paddington was as follows -
I cannot pledge myself to allow the Crown to be taxed. It would lead to enormous expense.
Apart from the principle that one ought to meet one’s moral obligations at any cost, I wish to show honorable members that the sum involved is not so great as the Prime Minister apparently imagines. In July, 1909 - I have no later figures, but there will not be any material difference - the unimproved value of Commonwealth properties in Australia was £2,035.855, and the improved value was £6,214,789. As far asI can find from the Statistical Department of the Commonwealth, the rates and taxes for the year 1909, if the Commonwealth. had not been exempt, would have been £51,542, but the Commonwealth already pays the sum of £14,139 per year for sanitation and water services, so that the new payment that would have to be made for common municipal services would amount to £37)4°3 - not a vast sum of money in order to recognise the obligation of the Commonwealth to pay for all services rendered to it by municipalities.
– We have paid the States far more for the buildings alone than the sum the honorable member quoted as the improved value of Commonwealth properties.
– I am giving the figures as they were given to me. There are, of course,’ many buildings that would _ not necessarily be rateable by the municipalities, such as fortifications, lighthouses, and so on.
Perhaps there is no agency in the world, as it is constituted to-day, that can render such signal service to the people as municipalities, if they are properly and intelligently run. During my last trip to England I went down into the “ Black Country,” where no tree will grow because of the chemical exhalations and the smoke from the chimneys.
– The honorable member must not slander my country 1
– My honorable friend, I am glad to say, found that country good enough to leave. The “ Black Country “ is a sight to make a public man think very hard. After all, the continued .greatness ot the people does not depend only on economic production, but equally on the maintenance of the individual physique and stamina of the people. In matters of health, sanitation, and housing, which present some of the biggest problems of to-day, we have to look to the municipalities. If we recognise this fact, the Commonwealth Parliament ought to pay the municipalities for the services they are rendering us in lighting our streets, paving our roads, and making the Commonwealth Offices accessible to Commonwealth officers. 1 shall not detain the House, because I should like, if possible, to have a vote taken this afternoon ; and, further, I addressed myself to the subject at greater length previously. On that occasion, unfortunately, one of the Ministers was opposed to this project. This question, however, is an absolutely non-party one ; and I hope I shall receive support from both sides of the Chamber.
The motion on a previous occasion was seconded by the honorable member for East Sydney, who showed, in the clearest way, the unequal bearing of the present practice as it affects municipalities. If every municipal area had an equal proportion of Government property within its borders, it might be urged that such an allowance would be merely putting money from one pocket into another. But, even so, the contention would be faulty, inasmuch as every governing body ought to pay for the services it receives, and be credited for the services it gives. In this case, the distribution of Commonwealth properties is, unfortunately, though necessarily, most unequal. One municipality may have a whole host of Government properties within its borders, as pointed out by the honorable member for East Sydney, and as will be recognised by the honorable member for Nepean and the honorable member for Maribyrnong ; and such municipalities should not be penalized because they have been chosen as localities in which to carry on the great services of Australia.
I commend this motion with confidence, asking both sides to give it their impartial consideration, and not to be led away by this or that prejudiced person in office, whose impressions have probably been gained from some public servant anxious to avoid the trouble of adjustments.
I ask honorable members to come to a vote this afternoon, and to make this grant, so that the injustice to the municipalities of Australia may be rectified without further delay.
.- I have much pleasure in seconding the motion. The honorable member for Wentworth has covered the ground so completely that it is not necessary for me to add very much. I cannot, however, understand the attitude of the Government. With a surplus, and more money than they know well what to do with, the Government could very easily recognise what seems to me to be the al )SOlutely just and reasonable claim made by the various municipalities, not for a tax on Federal properties, but for an allowance in lieu of taxation which, ‘ under the Constitution, cannot be levied. It is contended that the States in which these Commonwealth properties are situated get such service from them as to entitle the Govern^ ment to consider that the numerous municipal functions performed for the State generally should be given to the Commonwealth; practically, without charge. It is to be remembered, however, that these Commonwealth properties, situated as they usually are in the capital cities, do not give a service to the capital cities alone. For instance, the General Post Office and the various military buildings in the State capitals do not exist for the benefit of the capital cities alone; in fact, it may be urged that these buildings exist in a capital city very largely for the benefit of people outside - for the benefit of the State as a whole. Yet municipal authorities have to carry out expensive works in connexion with services which these properties enjoy, while the State as a whole gets the benefit. It is only reasonable that the Commonwealth should meet the municipalities in an equitable spirit. I feel that the precedent which has been already established in Great Britain could very advantageously be adopted here. The Commonwealth Government, with its Imperialistic tendencies, ought, I think, to welcome another opportunity to show its willingness to follow a good example. I hope that the motion will be carried, and that it will be an instruction to the Government to do something which is not unreasonable, but which may be fairly expected from them. If we make such a suggestion to the Government, I feel certain that, with their ordinary democratic spirit, they will recognise it as a direction to make haste to retrace the steps which they have taken in error up to the present time.
– I wish it to be understood that in opposing this motion I am not speaking on behalf of the Government, butmerely expressing my own personal opinions. The honorable member for Wentworth has embodied in the motion a statement to the effect that the practice recommended has been followed by the Imperial Government ; but he does not say for how long that has been so. It may have been for a few years or longer ; but I know that it was not always the practice of the Imperial Government to subsidize municipalities and shire councils to the extent of the rates that would otherwise have been paid on Government property. Another view, which I do not press as an exceptional one, is that, up to the present, no State Government, so far as I can gather, has yet initiated such a practice.
– The State Governments subsidize shire councils.
– The State Governments subsidize shire councils for particular purposes which are quite separate and distinct from those contemplated in the motion.
– It is precisely the same principle.
– Shire councils are subsidized for various institutions, for roads, and special purposes; but so far as concerns any specific subsidy which acknowledges that the municipalities or shire councils have any claim on the Government for rates, there has been no indication given of any State Government accepting the principle.
– The State Government gives the subsidies - never mind about their accepting the principle.
– I do not advance this as a particularly powerful reason why the Commonwealth should not make a grant, because 1 do not know that we should necessarilybe guided by the conduct of any State Parliament in any matter. We have to remember, however, that the State Parliaments have considered this subject from time to time, and that many honorable members, who now occupy seats in this House, must have discussed the matter when members of State Houses. At any rate, the arguments have proved sufficiently powerful to prevent any State Parliament accepting the principle up to the present time; and the arguments submitted this afternoon are not strong enough to convince me that it is the duty of the Commonwealth. Government to make any such grant.I cannot help overhearing the somewhat loud remarks being made by some honorable members who have certain Governmentbuildings within their districts. Why are those buildings there?
– Because it suits the Departments. to have them there.
– Not necessarily. It unquestionably suits the Departments to have certain buildings in a particular place ; and we may take it for granted that they were put in the best possible places, in view of the ‘ information available when their establishment was decided on. It does not follow, however, that the buildings are in the best places at the present time ; it may be that the buildings are left where they are simply because they happen to have been placed there at a time when it was thought by a majority that they were being put in the best places. Further, we may take it that honorable members have been particularly keen - and this is not to their discredit, but, on the contrary, to their credit - on securing the establishment of Government buildings within their districts.
– I told the Minister that we did not want the military stables in my electorate.
– I admire the enthuciasm displayed by honorable members in that direction. No doubt they are doing what each and every one of us does in certain circumstances - no doubt they are doing their very best for their electorates, when the Government are considering the erection of public buildings. But the very moment those buildings are erected some honorable members, not satisfied with the expenditure of public money, ask that there shall be an additional expenditure in the shape of a grant to municipalities. As to the interjection made by the honorable member for Melbourne Ports regarding certain military stables now being erected in his district, I may say that I have never known a municipal council to offer a word of opposition to the erection of public buildings within its boundaries.
– That is not the position in my case. The two councils in my electorate have objected. One of them asked for the removal of the rifle range.
– A rifle range is not a public building. If this motion is to extend to rifle ranges, then I venture to submit that its adoption will give a serious check to the rifle-club movement.
– Why should one particular municipality in Victoria suffer for the benefit of the others ?
– There is no particular reason why one particular municipality should suffer for another, and there is no especial reason why shire councils out in the back-blocks, that do not yet enjoy the privileges attaching to any public building, should be made to suffer in order that we may subsidize other municipal councils in respect of public buildings within their boundaries. We have to remember that there are areas outside of Melbourne Ports and Paddington. If I were to study my own political interests, I should support this motion, for, representing, as I do, the city of Adelaide, I have within my electorate several large public buildings, such as the General Post Office and the barracks, which occupy a prominent position, and srates in respect of which would amount to a considerable sum. The Adelaide City Council has been active in preferring requests for Government assistance in making pavements in front of public buildings, and carrying out like works, so that, if I studied my own political interests, I should certainly be found supporting this motion. I happen, however, to have had the unique experience of representing a country district for some years prior to my election as the representative of Adelaide, and consequently I am able to place myself in the position of a representative of a rural constituency, the residents in which do not enjoy the privileges of city life or the advantages that attach to the erection of huge public buildings.
– Residents of country districts in South Australia get the service of the Adelaide General Post Office.
– If the honorable member lived, for instance, in Blinman, South Australia, he would recognise how limited is the service which such country places receive from the General Post Office, Adelaide. If those who, like myself, are luxuriating, so to speak, within huge city boundaries, lived in some of the backblocks, they would find how limited is the service that people there receive from the public buildings in our large cities. Indirectly, of course, a general benefit is derived by the whole community from the establishment of public institutions, but a man living 1,000 miles away from Adelaide is very little concerned with the General Post Office there, and I fail to see why he should be taxed in order that an elegant footpath may be laid in front of the General Post Office in any city. I have not yet heard that the absence of a subsidy of this kind has caused any municipality to be seriously involved in a financial sense. No man, however, wealthy, will refuse to take more money when it is offered to him, and no municipality, no matter how good its financial position may be, would refuse to take this subsidy if the Federal Parliament decided to grant it.
– The question is whether it is fair or not.
– I do not believe that this is a fair request to prefer to the Government of any country. It would involve an expenditure of many thousands of pounds. I have not worked out the figures, but no doubt the Minister of Home Affairs, to whose Department the matter relates, has done so. Have honorable members considered the financial aspect of this motion?
During the last few months we have had many references to the expenditure of the Commonwealth. We have had remarks of a character that may be described in very warm terms. The expenditure of the Commonwealth has been described as enormous, and as rapidly increasing. No doubt honorable members are quite justified in making reference to the expenditure, but-
– I do not think that any member of the Opposition, or any Government supporter, has ever asserted that the Commonwealth is so bankrupt that it cannot pay its way.
– What expenditure would this subsidy involve?
– I said in 1909 that it would involve an expenditure of£37,000 per annum. I should say that it would amount now to under£40,000 a year.
– I am not taking into consideration the payment of water rates.
– We pay for all services.
– The Commonwealth pays water and sanitation rates, but not for street paving, lighting, or anything of that kind.
– The Federal Government pay for services rendered, but they do not pay ordinary municipal rates. The honorable member for Wentworth admits that this will be a gradually increasing expenditure, and the Minister of Home Affairs estimates that it will involve an outlay of nearly£60,000 per annum. I aim not prepared to say which estimate is correct, hut we may be sure that the adoption of this proposal would involve the expenditure of many thousands of pounds per annum. Some honorable members are constantly referring to the rapidly increasing expenditure of the Commonwealth, and we ought to consider whether, in the circumstances, we should be justified in adding this expenditure to that of which they complain. On its face, this motion seems to possess some degree of fairness ; but when we remind the elector, who has been considerably stirred by the outcry regarding the colossal expenditure of the Commonwealth, that the adoption of this motion would involve the expenditure of many thousands of pounds per annum, we shall put him in a fit frame of mind to ask whether it is a fair proposition, and whether, after all, the references which we have heard to extravagant expenditure are of a really conscientious character, or whether they have not a political aspect.
– Why raise party bitterness?
– I am not. I said in my opening remarks that I was not speaking for the Government. I have not asked my colleagues what position they intend to take up, but I shall vote against this motion. I thinkthat I am justified in asking honorable members to give special consideration to the expenditure which this proposal would involve, and to consider whether we could not spend the money to better advantage. This afternoon several honorable members have expressed their full and unqualified approval of a certain motion. That is an easy and a popular thing to do. The adoption of that motion, however, would mean the expenditure of some thousands of pounds, and, in all probability, a day or two hence some of the very honorable members who supported it will be denouncing the Government in general terms - but failing to specify details - because of what they describe as its rapidly increasing expenditure. There is no fear, so far as the Government are concerned, if honorable members will specify any one item of expenditure to which they object. But when honorable members time after time support motions which must add largely to the Commonwealth expenditure, and immediately afterwards denounce, at public meetings all over the country, the expenditure of the Government, I am justified in calling attention to their attitude.
– There is a difference between paying money that is fairly due and squandering money.
– Quite so; and when any honorable member opposite complains of the expenditure, and specifies the items to which he objects, no complaint can lie. In such circumstances, those who are responsible for the expenditure will, I am confident, be able to justify it. But I am justified in calling attention to the attitude of those who complain in general terms of the expenditure of the Government, and who, at the same time, are prepared to support motions the adoption of which would add largely to the expenditure of the Commonwealth. This is not a fair request to make in the circumstances. The money that is available can be better spent in other ways with more advantage to the community generally. The proposed expenditure would be in the interests of a limited number. I know how hard it is to withstand the pressure of municipal councils, having been for some years, before entering the political arena, a councillor myself. I remember how energetically we button-holed the local member of Parliament, and how incessantly we made requests to the State Government. Those requests were often refused point-blank, but I do not remember that we ever made a claim similar to that now being put forward. I hope that, in the general interest, apart from the particular interest of any council or shire which enjoys -the advantage of having a Commonwealth building within its boundaries, the motion will not be pressed, because it is not a fair one in the circumstances.
– I should not speak on this motion were not I strongly of the opinion that it is fully justified. In the division which I have the honour to represent, there are no ornamental Commonwealth buildings, nor any Commonwealth buildings that are not mere public necessities, conveniences which could not be refused to the community. There might not be so great a demand for rates from the Commonwealth were it not for the mean-spirited administration of the Commonwealth Public Works Department. When taxpayers are compelled to walk ankle deep in mud to get to a post-office, and can get no redress from the Commonwealth Government, some change should be made. Either the Government should keep in proper repair the approaches to its premises, or it should pay the local authorities for doing so. In one town in my division the public buildings occupy the frontages of two blocks, extending over 220 yards each. When, some time ago, I asked the Home Affairs Department to asphalt the footpath in front of this property, the reply came that it was the affair of the municipality. If that be so, it is the affair of the Commonwealth to pay the municipality for doing the work. Under the New South Wales Local Government Act, all owners of property in a shire or municipality are compelled to pay 50 per cent, of the cost of kerbing and guttering the footpaths in front of it, and are rated on its unimproved value. There may be in Victoria Commonwealth institutions which may be regarded as a benefaction bestowed by a generous Government on the municipalities in which they have been placed, but there are no such institutions in my electorate. Just outside the boundaries of a town in the Nepean electorate, there is a Commonwealth factory to which there is constant traffic along a road for which the municipality is held wholly responsible, but in a Victorian division, in a similar case, the local authority has been able to secure substantial contributions from the Commonwealth funds for the maintenance of the road. It is because in my division no consideration of this kind has been shown to the local authorities that I support the motion, though I do so with reluctance.
– I was surprised at the arguments of the Minister. If his contention that Commonwealth institutions should not be taxed because they often bring a large population into a municipality were to hold good, it would apply with equal force to the property of large employers of labour. In my division, there are iron works, coal mines, tweed mills, and other factories, the establishment of which has brought a large population into the neighbourhoods where they are situated, but that is not considered a good reason for exempting the proprietors from the payment of rates. As for the statement that there is no instance in Australia of a Government paying rates, I would remind the Minister that it is only recently that the Government of New South Wales discontinued subsidizing the municipalities of the State, and the shire councils still receive an annual subsidy, the land tax which used to be levied by the Government being handed over to the municipalities. The local authorities have nothing to thank the Commonwealth Government for in connexion with the public buildings erected within their boundaries. These buildings have been placed in positions convenient for Commonwealth purposes without consulting the local authorities. In my division, there is the Small Arms Factory, to which leads a road, about 8 chains of which is practically impassable ; and recently a motor car was stuck there for a week. The Commonwealth says that the local municipality should make the road and keep it in order; but the municipality replies, “ You ought to pay rates on your premises, or make a contribution towards the maintenance of the road, because it is used only to give access to your property, and any expenditure on it improves that property.” In thickly populated areas the existence of Commonwealth buildings is sometimes a hardship. The Paddington municipality, for instance, receives nothing from the Victoria Barracks, and if the land were used for other purposes, it would get a big income from the rating of it. The “ National “ argument is no argument at all, because the BritishGovernment makes an allowance to the local authorities. We need not be afraid of the cost; it would not be very much, after all. In New South Wales, the rating is on unimproved values.
– It would cost us something like £50,000 a year to pay rates on our properties.
– That is not a large sum. The contention that to pay rates would mean an enormous expenditure is a bogy raised to frighten members from voting for the motion. Why should the Commonwealth ask the municipal authorities to shoulder its burdens?
– The Commonwealth would get a quid fro quo for anything paid to the municipalities.
– Quite so. The Minister had a great deal to say about Adelaide and thickly populated centres; but I have received dozens of applications from persons in the municipalities in my division asking me to get the Commonwealth authorities to put the approaches to post-offices in proper order. The invariable reply to my representations is that the local authorities should do the work. The providing of access to Commonwealth buildings, and the lighting of the streets, should be paid for by the Commonwealth just as other owners of property pay for the services given to them by the municipalities. We shall be doing only what is fair by voting to the municipalities and shires a sum of money in lieu of rates. Every local governing body in New South Wales circularized its members, Commonwealth and State, on this subject, the desire being that both the Commonwealth and the State Governments shall pay rates on their properties, and thus bear their fair share of the burden of maintainingand lighting roads of access. I hope that the motion will be carried.
.- The wish just expressed by the last speaker is not echoed by me. I recognise the value of the work of municipal councils. It is one of the highest importance, and done by men without reward. Therefore the remarks which I shall make must not be regarded as disparaging of that work, but designed merely toproperly focus attention on this proposal, which is that the Com monwealth shall pay rates on its properties. That is not a fair proposal. In the matter of Defence, for instance, the Commonwealth is asked to spend millions on an unproductive undertaking. If we are going to give money to municipalities is it fair that we should give it only to those in whose boundaries the Government have spent the most money, and so improved the value of their property ? We have raised the value of the surrounding properties by the erection of big Commonwealth buildings. Honorable members are all eager to get these works in their constituencies, but when they get them they ask us to subsidize the councils because we put them there. If this National Government is to give any money to municipal councils, I would suggest that we should distribute it in the shape of a subsidy. There are places in my electorate which would get no money from rates under the proposal of the honorable member for Wentworth, but which would be very glad to receive Commonwealth money to spend on making military roads to the sea coast for defence purposes.
– I thought we should get the broad national aspect.
– The broad national view comes in, in the case of the honorable member, who has in his electorate two places which he thinks will get an advantage from his proposition. The honorable member for Nepean talked about the roads that were cut up. If any particular action of the Government has inflicted hardship on any place, we should deal with that case specially, but to lay down a general rule that we should pay rates on every public building is an absurd proposition. It will mean that in the large centres, where the municipalities are financially strong, and where the largest number of Federal buildings has been erected, we shall be paying out the great bulk of the subsidy, whereas in the back country, where the people would be glad to have a black stump with a kerosene tin on it for a post office, none of the money will be received. If we are to take the broad national view referred to by the honorable member for Wentworth, if we believe in a decentralization policy, we ought to spend any money that we have to spare on losing propositions in the back country. I can assure honorable members that shire councils in the bush part of my electorate, and of other honorable members’ electorates, would be very glad to have one-fourth of the money spent on public buildings, without looking for any rates. Even the largest town in my electorate, the town of Warrnambool, would be glad to have the Woollen Mills established within its boundaries, and not expect any extra rates on the property. I do not think even the Geelong council will turn down the proposition to have the Woollen Mills established in their territory, if they do not get any rates on the building when it is erected. The argument of the honorable member for Nepean with regard to the cutting up of roads goes right back to the old toll-bar system. I take it that the honorable member believes in the system of rating on unimproved values. The very first argument we are met with when we advocate rating on unimproved values is the argument we have heard from the honorable member for Nepean about the cutting up of roads. We are told that if a man raises sheep on a big property he should not be asked to pay as much in rates on the same area and the same value of land, as a farmer should pay, because the farmer grows potatoes and hay, and cuts up the road in carting them to market. The argument is that, because the farmer is progressive, he must pay more rates on the same quantity of land in the same locality. We advocate an enlightened system of taxation on the unimproved value, but we have not got it in Victoria. The honorable member for Nepean would go right away from that proposition.
– According to your argument, we ought to let them go free.
– Under our present system many land-owners go practically free, but when the Federal Government purchase land, put up a valuable building on it, and give employment in the district, causing houses to spring up all over the place to provide homes for the workmen, the rates received by the local council from that area are trebled and quadrupled. Land which was formerly returning only a few shillings is made to return as many pounds, but because the Federal Government have benefited the municipality in that way, they are to be asked to pay rates also.
– Where did that happen?
– It is happening all over Australia. The honorable member must shut his eyes to plain facts.
– The plain fact is that where you erect a big Commonwealth establishment you destroy the municipal roads.
– Where there has been any special hardship of that description the case should receive special treatment, but if the Government have any money to spare it should not be spent in paying rates to a wealthy municipality, such as the city of Melbourne, for the General Post Office and other buildings. If I want a telephone line put up away back in the bush, I get a letter like one I received to-day, to the effect that the Department cannot see their way to build the line, because the deficiency will be so much, but that if the residents will make up a sum of ,^40, they can have the telephone.
– Are not these country services carried on at a loss?
– Yes, sometimes.
– Are not these postal services often being paid for by the large centres of population?
– When the honorable member tells me that the services which the people in the back country are getting are being paid for by the municipalities and people of the large towns, I deny it. The services that the people in the city are getting are being paid for by the people in the back country. Cut off the country districts, and where are the cities?
– We were talking of postal services.
– If we get a postal service or a telephone line, say, at Port Campbell, on the southern coast of Victoria, the place is at once brought into communication with Melbourne, and, by that means, we make it possible for commercial men in Melbourne to make profits, erect buildings, and enhance the value of city properties, on which tribute is paid to the Melbourne City Council. Cut off that communication, break up the railway line, smash down the telephone, interrupt the mail service, and the value of land in the city of Melbourne will drop considerably.
– Surely you are not endeavouring to raise the issue of city versus country on a question of services rendered?
– It was the honorable member for Perth that raised the issue, by his interjection. Prior to the present Government coming into office, people in Mel bourne, Sydney, and other cities were getting their telephone services for practically a song; but when a telephone line was built in a country district, the people there, were charged every penny of the difference between the revenue and expenditure. At the present time they are charged 75 pec cent., the Government taking the responsibility for the other 25 per cent; while in the cities the people are asked, under the toll system, to pay something like a fair thing for the services they receive. Every telephone line and mail service the people in the back country get, although some immediately show a loss, shows an actual gain in the receipts of the General Post Office in Melbourne.
– Is the honorable member getting plenty of those backcountry lines? I am getting none.
– I am not getting half as many as I want; but I am getting considerably more than the district got before the present Government came into office, because the present Government have put about , £1,000,000 extra into those services since they took office. If we are to have a subsidy for shire councils, it ought to go to some of the places in the back country.
– It is not a proposal for a subsidy.
– What is it but a subsidy, no matter how the honorable member describes it? We do not charge municipalities the land tax. The State pays no land tax to us, and we pay none to them.. How would the honorable member for Wentworth deal with this kind of case: - Throughout the country we have post-offices in private houses; would he suggest that the Federal Government should contribute a portion of the rates those private houses pay?
– If you rent a place, you pay the rates indirectly.
– Does the honorable member believe it right that those private people should pay the rates?
– If the private people pay the rates they give you a service. Why not pay the rates on your own properties for services rendered?
– The honorable member says that if a post-office is established in a private house, it is all right, so long as the private people pay the rates.
– There is no constitutional escape for those people from the payment of rates.
– Is it worthy of the dignity of this Chamber to raise the paltry question of whether one public body should pay rates to another public body? One would think we were different entities, whereas the Federal Parliament represents all the municipal coun cils of Australia. If, as one honorable member has said, this is only a matter of bookkeeping, why “raise such a dust”? But it is not only a matter of bookkeeping, for it means that £50,000 or £60,000 for the first year at least - and this is advocated by honorable members who talk about the extravagance of the Government - will be paid by the Federal Government to some of the wealthiest municipal cities in Australia. The honorable member for Wentworth laughs, but it is a fact that the big city councils will get the bulk of the money.
– Can the honorable member name them ?
-Yes. Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Perth, and others. In the back country of Victoria and New South Wales there are shire councils which, even with heavy rates, find it almost impossible to provide a simple bush track cleared of stumps. These shire councils have no public buildings worthy of the name, and are wearing their hearts out trying to get a little post-office, or some public facility of the kind. To such councils this motion would provide practically nothing, and yet they are the very councils that should have our consideration. On the other hand, the bulk of the money, as I say, will go to the large city municipalities, with their highly-improved land values, with their magnificent buildings, on land worth up to £1,000 a foot, the rentals from which make their owners wealthy. We build great post-offices at the very front doors of these people, and give them three mail deliveries a day ; and yet this National Parliament is asked to subsidize great city councils in order to relieve wealthy ratepayers. Where is this money to come from ? The other day we were told by the honorable member for Laanecoorie that, in some way, the building of the Federal Capital had to do with municipal and shire councils ; and he justified the position by saying that every penny spent by the Federal Government meant so much less money for those municipal bodies. The honorable member pointed out that the money had to be raised from the same people, and that, therefore, if the Federal Government increased taxation, there would be so much less for the local bodies. At any rate, this motion means raising more money from people who will get nothing in return, while city congestion and centralization will be promoted. Yet when people in the backcountry ask for a telephone service, they are called upon to pay for it.
– They are called upon to pay for it now.
– My desire is to see the Government spend more money in providing facilities for the people in the back country, instead of subsidizing city councils. It is inevitable that the question of town versus country should be raised on this motion ; and my view is that, if £50,000 or £60,000 is to be spent on municipal councils, it ought, in all fairness, to be given to those councils which most require assistance.
– The motion only asks for payment in return for services rendered.
– What is the service?
– Are poor ratepayers in the cities to be taxed to keep up Commonwealth properties?
– The value of land in the vicinity of those properties is enhanced by their erection.-
– In some cases the value is decreased.
– There may be an isolated case of that kind ; but do honorable members believe, for instance, that the erection of the General Post Office in Bourke-street has decreased the value of property in the immediate vicinity? If so, all we have learned about the first principles of political economy is wasted. If that General Post Office were moved two miles out, would the value of land in Bourke-street remain as high as it is today?
– If the Central Railway Station were removed, with other public conveniences of the kind, would the people not follow them, and thus enhance the value of land elsewhere, while decreasing the value of that left behind? That is precisely what has happened, as I know, in towns in Victoria.
– Does the building of railway stations attract people?
– Then let us have a number of them in the country, and stop the centralization !
– I agree with the honorable member that we require more railways and railway stations in the country.
– Only “ it wouldn’t come off.”
– I am going to use my voice in this chamber, and elsewhere, in support of the principle that the cities should be charged more than they have been charged to help the people of the back country. I do not say that because I happen to represent a country constituency, but because it is a sound proposition - that when the cities are fed by the people of the back country, the latter should get something more of a quid, pro quo in return. 1 hope that there is no chance of this motion being carried, because it would be the first t.me in the history of Australia when one public body has been asked to pay rates to another public body. There is no more reason why we should pay rates to municipal councils than there is why municipal councils should pay the Federal land tax. From that tax we exempt the municipal councils, and rightly so ; and, in the same way, the State Governments are exempt. Those cities to which we render the greatest services are the last to which we should pay rates.
.- I rise to reply to some of the fallacies and peculiar statements of the Honorary Minister, and also to correct the honorable member for Robertson, who is under a misapprehension. The correction is one I have to make, not only every session, but several times in a session ; and it has reference to money already voted by the Federal Parliament for the construction of a particular road. I desire once more to say that this money is voted simply because the road is Commonwealth property ; and the other money which I desire to have spent is for another portion of the road within the territory of the poor, unfortunate, country shire known by the name of Braybrook. I have no desire to raise the question of town versus country ; but 1 can say that for quite a number of years 1 have been a ratepayer in both. I found that in one city area where I lived a few years ago I had to pay a rate of 2s. 6d. in the £1, and that when I shifted into the country all I was called upon to pay was is. in the £1.
– What about the valuation?
– The valuations were not too good. When I returned once more into the city I was called upon to pay 2S. 3d. in the £1 ; and if we analyze the rates paid in most of the country shires, and compare them with those paid in the cities, we see that the countryman pays much less, lt will be seen, therefore, that the argument of the honorable member for Corangamite does not hold water. A great “ mouthful “ has been made of the fact that the erection of some of these Commonwealth buildings enhances the value of land in the vicinity. That is not so in the case of the Cordite Factory in my constitu- ency, where the people do not desire it, and would be very glad if it were removed. As a matter of fact, owing to the presence of the factory, an Essendon or Braybrook citizen is debarred from the use of a boulevard which was made at considerable expense alongside the Saltwater River by the ratepayers, the Government having thought fit to “ warn off “ the people.
– Shall we move the Cordite Factory to the Capital area?
– The Government may do so if they like, and they will receive support from my district. The honorable member referred to the question of municipal endowments, and I wish to point out to him that nearly all the State Governments endow the municipalities to a considerable extent.
– This is really a proposal to relieve the States of those payments.
– It is not. The State Governments have been in the habit of granting a subsidy to municipalities in recognition of the fact that they render some service to them. In 1907 the Government of New South Wales paid out in this way £235-794; in 1908, £162,859; in 1909, £261.029: and in 1910, the last year in respect of which I have the figures,
– So that the State Governments are not so bad after all.
– Some of our State Governments recognise their responsibilities in this regard, and are prepared to make grants to the municipalities. When we come to the position in Victoria we find that it is even better than it is in New South Wales. Knibbs tells us that -
Under the Local Government Act 1874 an annual endowment of £310,000 wns provided for the municipalities. This amount ceased to be payable in1879, but a subsidy, amounting to £310,000, was voted by Parliament annually, and was increased year by year, until £450,000 was granted in 1889-90 and 1890-91. The Local Government Act1891 authorized the payment of an annual endowment of £450,000, but this amount was reduced year by year to £50,000 in1902, but was increased to £75.000 for the year1906-7, and to £100,000 from the 1st July, 1907.
To-day, by Act of Parliament, the Victorian Government make this grant apply to every shire council. I am in hearty sym pathy with certain sentiments expressed by the honorable member for Corangamite, and shall always do my utmost to give the man in the back-blocks some of the comforts of the more settled districts, and every facility to get his produce to market. I should like to point out to the honorable member, however, that the subsidy granted by the Victorian Government is distributed as follows : - In the case of first class shires, at the rate of 3s. in the £1 ; second class. 5s. in the£1 ; third class, 6s. in the £1 ; fourth class, 8s. in the £1 ; and fifth class, ros. in the £r. The way-back shires, which would include such a district as Beech Forest, are placed in the sixth class, and receive a grant equal to 12s. in the £1. These figures show how the country shires fare in comparison with city municipalities. Most of the municipalities within the city areas receive practically no subsidy, and whilst some of them levy a rate up to 2s. 3d. in the £1 - they can levy a rate up to 2s. 6d. in the £1 - the average rate in the case of country municipalities is1s. or1s. 3d. in the £1. In exceptional cases a rate of1s. 6d. in the £1 is levied.
– On the unimproved values ?
– No, I am sorry to say that that system of municipal taxation is not in operation in Victoria, but I believe that the day is coming when it will be. In Queensland the State Government instead of grantng a subsidy to municipal councils, have made it possible for them under a special Act of Parliament to borrow money from them on the best terms, and in that way, no doubt, they assist them materially in carrying out their works. In common justice the Commonwealth should be prepared to contribute to the cost of maintaining roads of which it is in some cases the chief user. In my own electorate roads have been made almost impassable owing to the heavy cartage in connexion with the Cordite Factory. Some roads out there are in a disgraceful state. I hope that next month a goodly number of honorable members will join me in visiting Commonwealth property in my electorate.
– Could not the honorable member induce the Minister of Home Affairs to drive out there nva vehicle without springs?
– I believe that he made an effort to travel along one of the roads in my electorate, but found it impossible to do so. It is a veritable quagmire as the result of the heavy cartage brought about by the Federal Government. The Government, however, expect the ratepayers of the shire to make the road in question as level as a billiard table to facilitate the cartage of goods to arid from the Cordite Factory. I do not know whether my case is exceptional, but I do know that at one time the Braybrook Shire Council received revenue from property on both sides of a road which has now been purchased by the Commonwealth, and from which the municipality consequently no longer obtains any income. The shire for which I am fighting is not a wealthy one. I dare say it would be found, if its financial position were compared with that of some of the way-back shires, that it has just as much trouble to make ends meet as have some other country municipalities. It is pounced 9n, however, by the powerful Commonwealth Government, which refuses to recognise its responsibilities in this regard. The Commonwealth acquires rateable property and refuses to pay rates in respect of it. It uses roads leading to this property, cuts them up badly, and then” has the unblushing effrontery, to say to the local council, “ Put these roads in proper order so that we may continue to use them.”
– But look at the people that are attracted to a district by the erection of large Commonwealth works.
– I have already dealt with that question, and I am sure the people of Braybrook would vote almost unanimously for the removal of the Cordite Factory. It has not enhanced the value of property in the district, but it has destroyed one of the most beautiful parks and boulevards in the metropolis. These are the drawbacks under which communities are labouring, yet the Commonwealth Government are putting their backs to the wall, and refusing to accede to what, after all, is a legitimate demand. If this question goes. to a vote, as I think it will, the Government will find themselves in a minority, whether the division be taken today or at any other time.
.- This debate has been responsible for a surprising reversal of argument. From time to time we have heard much noise in this House regarding the erection of big Commonwealth establishments in certain constituencies. A demand has been made that they shall be established in all sorts of places, and now we are told by the honorable mem ber for Maribyrnong that those who have secured the erection of such buildings in their districts never wanted them. I suppose we are to assume that Geelong has no desire that the Woollen Mills shall be erected there, and that we should proceed to establish them in the Federal Territory. Then, again, it is to be regretted that the honorable member for Nepean did not warn us when we proposed to erect the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow that we should be expected to make the roads leading to it. I am surprised that the honorable member for Wentworth should have submitted this motion. Representing as he does part of a city, . the roads in which are well made, he does not, perhaps, base his case on the ground upon which other honorable members have urged that this motion should be agreed to, namely, that the Commonwealth Government cuts up the roads leading to its various establishments, and should pay for their maintenance. The Commonwealth spends vast sums of money in purchasing land and erecting buildings for the convenience of the citizens.
– To carry on its own business.
– To carry on the business of the people. When the Constitution was being framed, the States took care to transfer to us many services that could not be made self-supporting. They were prepared to hand over to the’ Commonwealth all that gave no result, and there is now, apparently, a “ little game on “ to relieve the States of some more of their expenditure. These public buildings are necessary for the convenience of the people, and it is unreasonable for the people concerned to ask us to make the roads leading up to them. It would be just as reasonable to ask the Commonwealth to make the footpaths leading to the post-offices in our towns and cities as it is to urge that we should make the roads leading to other Commonwealth buildings.
– Why should not the Commonwealth do so?
– I have never heard of any argument in favour of the adoption of such a course, unless we are to socialize all the roads, and to have a complete Socialistic community. Whilst I believe that local government has done a vast amount of good work, I do not think any case can be made out for this demand. The honorable member for Maribyrnong has himself proved the case that I was going to put before the Committee, namely, that in this instance it is proposed to reverse the system under which municipal subsidies are paid by the States. Under that system the city municipalities receive practically 0 nothing, whereas the shires receive a subsidy amounting, in some cases, to £3 on every £1 locally raised. Such a grant is considered necessary to open up new country. The proposal which the honorable member for Maribyrnong is supporting is not based upon that principle. Property in towns and cities is worth far more than are country properties, so that the adoption of this proposal would mean that the biggest proportion of the grant would be paid to the municipalities that least required it. While the honorable member for Corangamite was speaking, the honorable member for Perth interjected that the residents of the cities were paying for the postal accommodation enjoyed by country districts. The honorable member is absolutely wrong. I do not desire to traverse the ground already covered by the honorable member for Corangamite, whose arguments were unanswerable, but I would remind the honorable member for Perth that the cities exist only because of the backing they receive from the country districts. Cities and towns consist of groups of business people, and also, in the case of cities like Melbourne and Sydney, of manufacturers. Where is their market? In the country. Their correspondence is paid for by the country consumers. The farmer pays freight on what he buys and on what he sells. It is he who is charged for the cost of running the railways, and the interest on the money borrowed for their construction. He also pays the rents of the city business firms, and the expenses of their correspondence. It is the man in the country who pays, and the man in the city goes scot-free. I could mention facts which tell against the proposal even more strongly than those adduced by the honorable member for Corangamite. Only yesterday, for instance, the residents of a shire in my district, far removed from the big cities, asked for telephone connexion, and were told that they could have it if they supplied £250 worth of material. This they are going to do, I believe. According to the arguments of those who support the motion, the shire council in which the line is to be constructed should be paid a subsidy for having the poles along its roads. If we agree to this proposal, the Commonwealth will be expected to make good the wear of country roads caused by mail coaches, and there will be no limit to the demands on it. I do not think that the House will be foolish enough to agree to the motion. Municipal councils, like other .bodies, look upon the Government as a sort of milch cow. They consider us good-natured people, from whom they can get money. In my eyes this proposal is an attempt to relieve the States of the duty of assisting the municipal authorities. The honorable member for Maribyrnong spoke about the high valuations. These would mean a very large sum out of the Commonwealth purse for city properties, if we were to make ourselves responsible for rates. At the present time, the State Treasurers are cutting down their expenditure, and if we subsidized the municipalities, the State Governments would decrease their subsidies, so that the municipalities would really be no better off. It must be borne in mind that we have no control over municipal authorities. We are not responsible for their constitutions. Their franchise has a Conservative basis, which no Labour man could support, it being founded on a property qualification. We cannot subsidize bodies over which we have no control. Only two instances have been mentioned in which special damage has been done to roads by the traffic to Commonwealth factories, and it would be foolish to subsidize all municipalities because of those two special cases. To say that £50,000 would be sufficient is absurd. In the big cities there are post-offices every block or two, although in the country postal facilities are not easily obtainable, and there are people in my electorate who pay £15 and £20 a year to get their letters forwarded. In the cities the people will not walk a quarterofamile to post a letter, and there are so many post-offices, and other Commonwealth buildings, that £50,000 would not cover the rating for one State alone. It must be remembered that in the future several big industries will be nationalized, and the Commonwealth will then own huge factories. It would be a nice thing to have to pay rates on that property, which might be worth millions of pounds. I should not oppose, on the ground of cost, a proposal which I considered just, but this is not a just proposal. We are here to protect the public purse, and, in view of the charge of extravagance which has been made against thi.s Government, I am surprised that some
Ministerial supporters favour the proposal.
Of course, one cannot be surprised at anything that the Opposition may do. If they can increase the troubles of the Government, they will gain a party advantage. I -am aware that the Municipal Association lias circularized honorable members with a view to getting a subsidy. For this it is not to blame, but it is none the less our duty to study the public interest. I agree with the honorable member for Corangamite that public bodies should not tax each other, seeing that they all work for the common good. The municipalities have done good work in Australia, though they have yet to take up questions which are handled by the municipal authorities in the Old World ; but their ratepayers would not benefit if this proposal were carried into effect, because, even if there were a reduction in rates, there would have to be an increase in taxes, and if the Commonwealth gave a subsidy, the State Governments would reduce their subsidies. No case has been made out for the motion.
.- The honorable member for Maribyrnong rose to correct the errors of the honorable member for Corangamite; I rise to correct some of his errors, and, if time will permit, the errors of the honorable member for Nepean, and those of other honorable members with whose views I disagree. I was surprised by the paucity of the arguments adduced by the honorable member for Wentworth, considering his wide reading and voluminous vocabulary. On no other subject on which he has addressed the Chamber has he shown himself so destitute of arguments and words.
– The honorable member did not hear his speech.
– Although I had not the good fortune to hear his speech, I know, from the shortness of the time he occupied, that he must have been gravelled for lack of matter. In moving the motion, he must have had some purpose in view. I cannot imagine that he was actuated by any but the highest national motives.
– Do not talk out the motion.
– A subject of such vast importance cannot be permitted to. pass without discussion.
– Ask leave to continue your remarks.
– My words of wisdom must be heard- in this chamber whenever I have the opportunity, and my opportunities are so few. The honorable member for Nepean said the question of the cost of the proposal was an absolute bogy, as the cost was hardly worth discussing. If a matter of ,£50,000 or ,£60,000 is a bogy so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, how insignificant must be the share which any particular municipality would get ! The honorable member for Maribyrnong, when correcting the errors of those who failed to agree with him,1 said the principle of endowing municipalities had been adopted in Victoria, and that they were graded into classes. That statement neither pointed a moral nor adorned a tale. In the first place, the State Government endows the shires in proportion to their poverty. The proposal before us is to allocate a grant of national money to the shires, boroughs, and municipalities that are the richest, because it is within their boundaries that the greatest proportion of Commonwealth buildings is established. There is an agitation in my constituency to secure a rifle range at Preston. The local council knows that the land on which die rifle range is established will be changed from private to Commonwealth property, and that, consequently, they will lose a certain amount of rates which they now collect on it, but they will consider that the loss is more than counterbalanced by the advantages that will be derived through people being brought to the district. The honorable member for Nepean, having secured the establishment of the Small Arms Factory in his constituency, having used all the means at his disposal to secure the largest expenditure of Commonwealth money in his district. and having brought into the district a large number of people, who will probably vote for him at the next election, now tells us that these things are of no value to him, and asks us to believe that he would rather have those men in somebody else’s constituency.
– I draw attention to the absence of a quorum. [Quorum .formed.]
Debate interrupted under sessional order.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.4.5 p.m.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 21st August (vide page 2487), 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.
.- I listened to the Budget-speech of the Prime Minister with very great disappointment - a feeling created by the fact that I expected the honorable gentleman to take this opportunity, in the last session of this Parliament, to take the House and the country into his confidence by a clear and definite exposition of the financial policy of the Government.
I think that was due to members on both sides of the House, even to those who are supporting the Government. The occasion was so important, and the interests so great, that the fullest and clearest exposition was expected from, and should have been afforded by, the Treasurer.
Instead of a Budget-speech, we had simply a long statement. It lacked every quality which a Budget-speech ought to have. There was hardly a reference to the previous year ; no attempt to bring before the minds of honorable members what the course of finance had been during that year, by calling our attention to the amounts which the Treasurer had estimated to receive at the beginning of the year, the amounts he had received ; the amounts which he had anticipated to expend during the year, and the amounts he had expended, to explain the sources of the excess of revenue and expenditure. These facts could have been given, with some clear exposition, which need not have been lengthy, to put honorable members en rapfort with the position and bring it up to date. Certainly, from the somewhat awkward way in which the Budget statement was introduced, it was very difficult for any honorable member to quite follow the Treasurer. A feeling of disappointment in that regard was exhibited on his own side of the House. I think, through hurry, or for some other reason which I cannot explain the Treasurer had not prepared himself, and we were, therefore, all left to find out for ourselves, as we best could, the real meaning of his statements. If he had told us what he might have told us, we should have learnt from him that last year he. expected to receive £19,515,000, and actually received £20,546,361, or a surplus over his estimate of £1,031,361. The expenditure he estimated at £19,515,000, and he actually expended £20,121,995. That is to say, he received £1,031,361 more than he expected, and spent £606,995 more than he anticipated, with the net result that he had a balance on the year’s operations of £424,366, which he appropriated under a method that has lately been adopted of putting moneys into Trust Funds. That sum was placed to the credit of Trust Funds in the proportion of £278,242 to the Fleet Fund, and £146,124 to the Pensions Fund.
That was the position when we started the year, and it revealed to us that we had had a second prosperous year since the present Government came into office, and that, although the balance was not so large as in the previous year, it was still substantial, and had gone to the credit of Trust Funds, to be dealt with as I shall show later on.
Having initiated the business and shown us where we were, we had a right to expect the Prime Minister to explain, on behalf of the Government, what his financial proposals were for dealing with the great engagements which the Commonwealth has undertaken; but we did not get one word of explanation.
Honorable members will recollect that on the Address-in-Reply I raised the question of the large commitments of the Commonwealth, and asked how the Government proposed to meet the obligations which would accrue therefrom. My remarks were received with a good deal of interjection and objection, as if I were objecting to the expenditure; but I clearly showed on that occasion that then, at any rate, I was not objecting to the expenditure, but was asking the Government to tell Parliament and’ the country how they intended to find the money. I was followed by the Postmaster-General, who, having acted for six months when the Treasurer was away, might have been supposed to know something of the subjects to which I had alluded, and, being the Minister to follow, might naturally have been expected to give some information. Instead of that, he asked a series of questions: “ What would the honorable member do? Does he object to old-age pensions? Does he object to defence ? Does he object to this, that, and ,the other?” As a matter of fact ‘it was the merest “gag,” and had no reference to the subject. It was simply a means of putting me off with the appearance of giving an answer, while giving no answer at all.
The Postmaster-General, when I repeatedly asked where the money was to come from, said that the Prime Minister would tell the House, and, later, that the Prime Minister would give the information in his Budget. I am here to-night to say that not on one single point I then raised, and on which I was promised an answer in the Budget, have I received any information. I do not think that is treating serious business in the way it should be treated. This is not, or should not, be a matter of party j it is one that concerns honorable members in all parts of the House, and for the consequences of our action at this stage we shall rightly be held responsible. To-night it is my intention, so far as I am permitted to discharge my obligation, to place before the Committee and the Government the position of our financial affairs as it appears to me, with the object that, whatever the consequences may be by-and-by, we shall know to what the state of things, which may exist, is owing.
– The honorable member does not ask for a one-year Budget, but for a ten-years Budget 1
– I am not going to answer interjections ; and the honorable member for Hindmarsh and others will excuse me if I ask them to allow me, without any interruption, to present what is a complex and heavy argument. I say now, as I said before, that the Government have lost or put aside the most magnificent opportunity that any Government could have to put the finances of the Commonwealth in a position which would do credit to themselves and to this Parliament. However, it is not my desire to dwell on that aspect; I have expressed my view, and I can only regret that the opportunity has not been availed of. The Government which had this opportunity, with a majority to carry its proposals, and which could, therefore, have afforded to take the Opposition into their confidence in order to get this important question settled on nonparty lines, have failed to do so.
Having entered into office, on, I think, the last day of April, 1910, this Government came into a heritage of great prosperity. We are accustomed to hear honorable members opposite tell us with great pride that it is only since the advent of the Labour Government that prosperity has exhibited itself. There never was a greater misrepresentation, as I shall show ; and the first witness I shall call in support of my view is the Prime Minister himself, who, on the 7th September, 19 10, in his first Budget statement, said -
The receipts from Customs and Excise amounted to £n,593..o50, showing an excess of £748,983 over those of the previous year, and of £793,050 over the amount estimated. The collection of this large amount was undoubtedly due to general prosperity throughout the Commonwealth.
That was two or three months after he entered office, and, as I say, in his first Budget-speech. I shall show that prosperity had begun, and was increasing, whenthe Government came into office, and I shall’ further show that it has increased since.
The question we have to consider now is how much longer it is probable that prosperity will increase, ‘ or whether it is not more likely to decline than to remain at the high point recently attained. I remind honorable members that this prosperity continued, as we know, right through 1910-11 ; and when the Prime Minister delivered his Budget on the 1st August last,, he said -
The financial, industrial, and commercial development of the Commonwealth since Federation must have been watched with considerableinterest by honorable members. The progress that has been made is astounding even to thosewho are most intimately acquainted with the subject, and it raises the question whether any of the public men of Australia have been overconfident in their anticipations regarding the advancement of the Commonwealth in these respects. We are sometimes inclined to be pessimistic, and in bad times we hear a great deal of the misfortunes of the country, but * think that all the evidence now before us indi>cates a continuance of progress and prosperity equal to that which we have hitherto experience* in Australia. In speaking thus, I have in mindnot the prosperity of this year or last year, but the average.
I shall show honorable members, a little later on, that the Prime Minister has altogether failed to carry out what he then indicated - that he has not taken the prosperity on the average, but on the particular, and that the particular is the highest point of prosperity which we have reached. The honorable member for Hindmarsh interjected just now that I desired a Budget; not for one year, but for ten years; and I suppose he meant that I wished to make a Budget-speech for that period ahead. I am not going to do that, but I am going togive a Budget-speech for six years back. I am going to cite some very important figures which I have taken the trouble to cast together, so as to focus as nearly as may be the actual position during two periods - one the period of three years (1907-10) anterior to the entrance intooffice of the present Government, and the three years (19 10-13), including the Estimates now before us, since they entered intooffice. I should have liked the Prime Minister to be present when I am discussing this matter. Although I am only a private member, I have given the subject consideration, and I think the right honorable gentleman ought to be here. It is only courteous and right that when the Treasurer’s Department, which is the main Department of all, is being criticised, the Prime Minister should be present. I do not consider that any plea of public duty elsewhere should be held to be an adequate answer. The Prime Minister’s place is here, especially when the Budget is being discussed, and I do not think it is fair that honorable members should be treated in this way.
– Did the honorable member notify the Prime Minister of his intention to speak?
– The right honorable gentleman made the arrangement for me to speak on this occasion - that is my answer.
– The honorable member for Mernda comes here when he chooses !
– There is a courtesy one is entitled to expect; but I shall say no more about the matter.
– The Prime Minister is here now.
– I am aware of the fact, and I am very glad to see him.
I propose to read, in order that it may appear in Hansard, a resume or analysis of the revenue and expenditure of the Commonwealth for the three years 1907-10 - prior to the assumption of office by the Fisher Government, and for the three years thereafter - 1910-13. It is as follows -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120822_reps_4_65/>.