4th Parliament · 3rd Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I wish to know from the Prime Minister if replies have been received from the British Government to the cable message of Mav last, and any sub-‘ sequent message, asking for information regarding the position of matters concerning the. Panama Canal, and, if so, and it is in the public interest that they should be made known, will he give the House the replies ?
– Two particular communications were sent, but no information is yet available. Immediately it is, I shall make a statement.
– Am, I to understand that the Imperial Government have not replied to the communications of this Government?
– Two communications of import were sent, the latter asking that we should be informed of any particulars that the Imperial Government wished to convey to us. His Majesty’s Ministers have not thought it wise to give those particulars yet, but I suppose that we shall get them in good time. We asked to be associated in’ any protest that theymight make.
– Has the Minister of Home Affairs given any consideration to the statements of the Victorian Minister of Public Works and his chief architect, regarding the cost of the new Commonwealth Treasury buildings, published in the Argus of to-day and yesterday, and, if so, has he any explanation to make to the House?
– The The officers in charge will arrive to-day, and we shall have a statement in a day or two that will show the real side of the case. It is all manufactured so far.
– Will the Minister lay on the table all papers connected with the offer of the Victorian Public Works Department to erect buildings for the Commonwealth Department?
– I h I have no objection to laying them on the table of the Library; but we do not want to lose them.
– Commenting on the agitation now taking place in Tasmania for an improvement in the mail service with the mainland, the Hobart Mercury says : -
The net result so far has been that this week the Wareatea took thirty-one hours to carry the English mails for Tasmania from Melbourne to Launceston, and that the Rotomahana was late, missed the tide, and stuck in the mud, so that again the mails were late.
Will the Minister kindly endeavour to remedy this state of affairs as early as possible, because all classes of the community in Southern Tasmania suffer great inconvenience by reason of the defects of the present mail service?
– I shall have the complaint submitted to the Postal Department, so that it may be seen what can be done.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs correctly reported in the Age to have said, during an interview with the Queensland Treasurer, that he is in favour of the equal division of the Excise and Bounty on sugar?
– The Age report is not correct. I did not say that I was in favour of the equalization of the Bounty and Excise. I am prepared to let the honorable member, or any other honorable member, have a copy of the notes of what was said at the deputation.
– In view of the chronic discontent and dissatisfaction in the sugar districts, will the Minister consider the advisableness of at once abolishing both the Excise and Bounty on sugar, leaving the industry to be conducted without the aid or interference of this Government?
– That would require an amendment of the law, of which I am not in favour at present.
– Yesterday I sought, and was refused, admission to the room of the Minister of Trade and Customs when the honorable gentleman was being interviewed by a deputation, although the press was present. I ask whether a precedent has been established under which members of this Parliament are refused access to a Minister’s room under such circumstances?
– I was quite willing that the honorable member should be present, but the principal member of the deputation said that its business was purely a State matter, and that he did not consider that any Commonwealth member should be present, although he had no objection to the press being present.
– Why did the’ deputation come to the honorable gentleman, if it concerned a purely State matter?
– Is it a map of New South Wales divisions that the Minister has had placed on the table? If not, will be inform us when the report and maps of the Commissioners for New South Wales will be ready?
– The The map referred to is that of a greater State - a map of Queensland.
– When will the Minister place New South Wales in the same position as the “greater” State of Queensland? When are we to know the boundaries of our new electoral divisions?
– V - Very shortly, we hope.
– -To-morrow I shall move the adjournment of the House to discuss the matter.
– Has the Minister received a report from the Queensland Commissioners, and, if so, is it his intention to proceed with its consideration at an early date?
– Y - Yes ; tomorrow, I think.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Home Affairs whether we are to understand that he wishes to withdraw from the promise he made last week that the redistribution scheme for New South Wales would be presented to the House at the end of this month, or whether he adheres to the promise?
– I t I think that my honorable friend is mistaken. I said that it would be ready on the 28th or about the 30th of this month.
Cadets’ Parades - Garrison Artillery Pay - Liverpool Manoeuvre Area - Pay of Area Officers
– Is the Minister representing the Minister of Defence aware that, in New South Wales, at any rate, certain Area Officers have no fixed dates or nights for the training of the cadets, and that, therefore, many cadets have been put to serious loss because of the interference which has resulted to their business training? If so, will he have the matter rectified, so that youths may know what time they must devote to drill?
– I am not aware that any Area Officer has failed to give notice of the parades he intends to hold. The instruction has been issued to Area Officers that they are to define the number of parades they intend to hold, and the hours and places at which they will be held for a period covering at least three months, and a notice conveying that information has to be given to the lads concerned. The Minister of Defence has furnished the following reply to a question asked on the 13th August by the honorable member for North Sydney regarding the pay of the Australian Garrison Artillery -
In reply to the question of the honorable member for South Sydney as to “ steps being taken to heal the breach with the Australian Garrison Artillery in New South Wales,” the following information has been furnished to me -
The regulations regarding the 17 days’ continuous training have been altered, as far as regards soldiers at present serving, to the same conditions as obtained before the introduction of universal training.
The regulations with regard to the supply of intoxicating liquor are those fixed by law.
The regulations regarding smoking refer only to cigarette smoking.
With regard to the other matters, it is trusted that in a few days some satisfactory solution of the difficulty will be arrived at.
– I wish to ask the Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, whether it is the intention of the Department to allow Area Officers to determine the dates and the hours of training for cadets, or whether the Department will take it upon themselves To institute a system, so that all cadets shall know the dates and the hours when they will be trained?
– A system is in operation. The channel of communication is the Area Officer, but the parades are settled by the District Commandant and his staff. The Area Officer is merely the channel through which the information is conveyed to the lads.
Mr.CANN. - Seeing that a conference has taken place with Mr. Holman, I wish to ask the Prime Minister whether a definite understanding has been come to with regard to the Liverpool manoeuvre area.
– The matter was not specifically discussed, but I think that it is nearing fruition. The Government will have to take action.
– - Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence state what reason, if any, there is why Area Officers should not be paid their salaries with punctuality, and will he look into the matter in order to insure that they shall be paid punctually in the future?
– I am not aware that any Area Officer has been deprived of his salary-
– That is not the suggestion.
– The salaries are a month overdue in some places-
– Or that payment has been in any way delayed. If payments have been delayed the matter will be inquired into, unless, perhaps, it has been owing to the exceptionally long time taken by honorable members opposite to discuss the Estimates.
– I have noticed in the press that Mr.Holman had a conference with Mr. Watt while he was in Melbourne the other day, and I should like to know whether they have since informed the Prime Minister of the rental which they intend to charge for the different Government Houses.
– I shall await a reply from the Government of New South Wales before dealing with the matter, when it can be dealt with as a whole. We know exactly what our policy is in this regard.
Area Officers : Society of Friends : Naval Bases : Railway Transport : Military Board
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are-
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers are as follow-
Excavation and quarries; cutting and forming new roads; forming and metalling surfaces ; wharfs for shipping ; forming parade ground and preparing sites for barracks, officers’ quarters, married quarters, and work-shops.
Extensive surveys and borings; opening up quarries; excavations and formation work for dockyard ; engineering works ; office buildings, temporary work-shops, and railways into quarries.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether any arrangement has been made with the Governments of the several States whereby members of the Citizen Forces may be carried free or at reduced rates upon the State railways when conveyance may be necessary for training purposes ?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is -
When members of the Citizen Forces travel by railway on warrants issued by the Defence Department, a concession of half ordinary fares is allowed by the railways in each State, subject to minimum fares of 3d. for 1st class single, 2d. for 2nd class single, 6d. for 1st class return, and 4d. for 2nd class return.
Members of the Citizen Forces liable to compulsory training are only provided with warrants for railway travelling when required to travel distances exceeding five miles for purposes of training.
The several State Premiers are being asked whether they will extend the concession of reduced fares to individual members of the Citizen Forces who pay their own fares when attending drill.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will, in view of the powers given or implied under paragraph XXXII. of section 51 of the Constitution, take control of a State railway or a portion thereoffor the conveyance of Citizen Forces, so that a case max be cited for submission to the HighCourt and an authoritative decision be arrived at regarding the powers of the Commonwealth Government under the said paragraph of section 51 ?
– No. The Commonwealth Government cannot take control of a State railway as suggested unless under the authority of Commonwealth legislation. No such legislation has been passed.
asked the Minister representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are - 1 and 2. No. Such functions are vested in the Governor-General.
asked the Minister of
External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are as follow : -
Statistics : Sugar Industry
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether any system has been in operation since the abolition of the bookkeeping system to check the imports and Customs revenue for’ each State separately, as well as for the Commonwealth as a whole? If not, will he give instructions to have such a record kept for statistical purposes so that the information can readily be ascertained by reference to the Com monwealthY ear-Book?
– Upon the cessation of the book-keeping system the State barriers were abolished, and from that time trade, commerce, and intercourse between the States became absolutely free. I presume that the honorable member desiressome alternative system which would afford a similar record. If that is the case, it may only be attained by a renewal of the restrictions and interference to Inter-State trade. That. I think, would prove to be a retrograde step, and foreign to the best interests of our national policy and sentiment.
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are - 1 and 2. I know of no such intention.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the questions are as follow -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will he give instructions, in connexion with the calling of tenders for materials required by the Government Departments that tenderers in all parts of the Commonwealth shall be given, as nearly as possible, equal time to prepare and send in tenders?
– I understand that it is already the general practice in the Departments to allow sufficient time for tenderers in all the capital cities of the Commonwealth to submit offers in connexion with tenders for materials, &c.
– Not always.
– It will be done always if that can be arranged.
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The The answers to the questions are -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The The answers to the questions are -
MINISTERS laid on the table the following papers -
Electoral Act- Further Report, with Map, by the three Commissioners appointed for the purpose of redistributing the State of Queensland into Electoral Divisions.
Seat of Government Administration Act - Ordinance of 1912 - No. 4 - Public Health.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulation Amended (Provisional). - Statutory Rules 1912, No. 146.
In Commitee of Supply (Consideration resumed from 23rd August, vide page 2630), 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.
– - Much has been said about a waste of time by the Opposition in this debate. I wish to say that I do not take that view.” I believe that the Opposition have endeavoured to do their duty. Every House of Parliament is the better for a good fighting Opposition. Honorable members opposite have made out as good a case as could well have been expected, considering the very faulty material at their disposal. If, in the circumstances, they have failed to be convincing the fault is not theirs. I cannot condemn them for their performance of their duty of criticising the actions of the Government.
– Does the honorable member not think that they should have discriminated between good and bad material, and should have stopped working when they found that their material was bad?
– I have no doubt that they would have been able to do more with better material. They have failed because the present Government have carried out their work so satisfactorily as to have left their opponents with very little on which to base an attack upon them. Honorable members opposite have- charged the Government with extravagance. They have said that the Government have been squandering money, but when they have referred to expenditure within the electorates with which they are individually associated they have claimed that the Government have been parsimonious, and have spent too little. Being human, our honorable friends have made their attack from their own stand-point. The honorable member for Bendigo attacked the Govern ment on their bank note issue, in spite- of the fact that all who give the matter anyconsideration must admit that it has conferred great benefits upon the people. It has given the people the profit which, iri the past, private banks have, in my opinion, unfairly derived from them. The whole attack of the honorable member for Bendigo was on the ground that the Australian note issue has deprived the ordinary banks of what he calls till money. At first I did not understand what the special till-money of the banks was composed of; but I have found out since. Under the old regime the banks issued what notes they chose during the week, and called in as many as possible on Monday morning, paying the tax only on the notes then in circulation. The notes put into circulation during the whole of the week and called in on the Monday never paid any tax at all to the State Government ; and I suppose this must have been legal, or it could not have been done. The honorable member for Bendigo told us that the gold in the Treasury is locked up, and not earning any interest ; but he forgot to tell us that the notes supplied to the banks are out at interest, and are being used. It would appear that honorable members opposite desire both gold and notes to bear interest, thus making £1 earn the interest of £2 ; and, truly, that is all that the cry about; “ till-money “ means. What have thebanks of Australia done for the people.that they should obtain profits from something which is really not their property? Governments in the past have been condemned for debasing the currency, so as to make £1 do the work of £2 but how much more deserving of condemnation is a private institution that does that sort of* thing ?
– Is it not wonderful1 that the Government should have an officer from one of those wicked institutions to manage the Commonwealth Bank?
– I consider that interjection quite irrelevant; but certain it is that we do not employ a shoemaker fc* manage a bank. My own belief is that one of the main grounds of the condemnation by honorable members opposite, and” particularly by their supporters outside, is the fact that the Treasurer obtained theservices of one of the best men in Australia as Governor of the Bank. At any rate, if Mr. Miller came from a private bank, he will be able to use the experience gained’ there for the benefit of the people.
– The banking laws are one of the means by which the people are “ bled”- so we were told in the Labour party’s manifesto.
– If the people have to be “bled,” the money had better go into their own pockets. While I was a firm believer in a Government note issue, I had not the least idea, at its inception, to what extent it could be used for the benefit of the people. Apart from the profits that are to be made’ there must always be more stability about a note, or any other currency issued by the State than about an issue by a private corporation backed up by bank magnates and their associated shareholders - the stability of the Government must always be greater than that of a private corporation. It is just about time that the Opposition, if they desire to obtain the credence of people outside, stopped attacking the Government in regard to their note issue.
– There is not the same security in a Government issue.
– Of course not; the security is better, and that is what I am so proud of. lt would take all the ability of the honorable member for Parkes to prove to a public gathering that there is not more stability in a Government note issue than in a note issue by a private corporation ; at any rate, I have no doubt as to what a verdict of a majority of the people would be. The Opposition very weakly attacked the Government on the Tariff question ; and we could not expect much less, seeing that there are so few Protectionists amongst honorable members opposite.
– How many Protectionists are there on the Government side?
– We have fewer Free Traders on this side than there are Protectionists opposite. I dealt with the Tariff on a former occasion, and do not intend to occupy time with it to-day; but I cannot help saying that, while we may suppose and admit the honorable member for Ballarat to be a Protectionist, it is possible that a good deal of the “sting” has been taken out of him by his association with the honorable member for Parramatta. I notice that we do not get the same beaming smile from the honorable member for Parramatta when the honorable member for Ballarat is dealing with the Tariff, as we do when that honorable member turns his attention to other matters.
– The honorable member for Parramatta walks out !
– Exactly ; and it is only natural. A majority of honorable members opposite are with the honorable member for Parramatta on the fiscal question ; and, hence, we have not heard much condemnation of the Government in connexion with Tariff reform.
– Has every man onthe Government side been genuinely converted ?
– Every one on this side is a new Protectionist; and we all understand our position on the question. As a Protectionist, I regard those who, whether workers or employers, ask the Government for unlimited preference for Australian productions, as not Protectionists but rather enemies of Protection. We have to fight Free Traders when they tell us that Protection makes commodities dearer. The scientific application df Protection should not make products any dearer, taking into consideration our advanced state of civilization as compared with other countries. One of the workers who attended a deputation to a Minister said, “I do not care what profit the manufacturers get so long as we are paid our wages.” That man I regard as an enemy to Protection, and foolish, because he is just the man to howl about the increased price of commodities. Yet he must know that if the manufacturer obtained all the profit that he desires, the price of the commodity which he produces would increase to such an extent as to seriously diminish the purchasing power of the sovereign. So that both, these classes of men are enemies of Protection. The true Protectionist declares, “ I wish a duty to be imposed upon this commodity in order to stop its importation, so that, taking into consideration the cost of living, my employes shall be assured of a wage which is fair in a civilized community, whilst at the same time I shall obtain a reasonable profit.” I have frequently heard it stated that our manufacturers have robbed the people of Australia. I admit that if they had their own way they would pocket abnormal profitsprofits which they do not deserve. But I desire to see them granted only a fair measure of Protection. I will not vote for the imposition of any higher duties on commodities in cases where the manufacturers are not prepared to consider the worker and the consumer. It . is at this point that I differ from many in the Labour movement, who urge that we ought to accord an unlimited protection to the manufacturers of this country. Nobody will claim that it costs less to bring in the manufactured article from abroad than it does to import the raw material. The only things, therefore, which we have to consider are the cost of a manufacturer’s plant and buildings and the wages which he pays to his employes. In cases in which the duties operative upon goods are higher than the difference between the wages paid here and those paid abroad, it is idle for the manufacturer to tell me that it is the increased wages which cause him t© charge abnormally high prices. We bave no right to consider these selfish individuals. Until they are prepared to adopt the course which I have suggested, we shall not have a scientific system of protection in Australia. To those who declare that the Government have broken their pledges upon the fiscal question, my reply is that they have done nothing of the sort. I have repeatedly told our manufacturers that in the future we must consider the difference between the wages paid in foreign countries and those paid in the Commonwealth. I have pointed out to them ihat they must allow us to enact a law to prevent them from obtaining abnormal profits, and also to insure that the worker shall receive a fair share of the protection accorded to them. Unless they concede these terms, they cannot expect any increased measure of protection. It is “up to Protectionists to view the question from this stand-point.
– The honorable member is making a small claim, namely, £hat, before a manufacturer can receive protection, he must lay his balance-sheet »n the table of the House.
– The honorable member forgets that, whilst we ask that, the Tariff Board, which his Leader was anxious to create, would ask the_same thing.
– Who says so?
– The Tariff Board, the creation of which was suggested by the Leader of the Opposition, would demand their balance-sheets from our manufacturers.
– I have ‘not asked them for their balance-sheets.
– No. While they would not supply certain information to the Minister of Trade and Customs in confidence, the honorable member for Bal larat declared that the Tariff Board, which he was anxious to create, and which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition would have to father-
– It is part of the Fusion programme.
– The manufacturers were asked to supply the information for which I asked to the Statistical Department.
– Exactly. The honorable member for Parramatta knows perfectly well that, when the Leader of the Opposition was Prime Minister, he told us that the Tariff Board would be created to take evidence upon all matters necessary to enable us to arrive at a conclusion as to what duties ought to be imposed upon imported commodities.
– So far as I am aware, he never suggested a limitation of profits.
– As a new Protectionist, the honorable member for Ballarat did impose a limitation on profits in the Customs Tariff Act of 1906. I believe that the Leader of the Opposition is a sincere new Protectionist - that he wishes to protect the consumer as well as the manufacturers and their employes.
– But that does not imply the fixing of prices.
– The only piece of new Protection legislation which has been enacted by the Commonwealth Parliament did fix the price of commodities, and did seek to regulate the wages of the men employed in that particular industry. I am aware that the Excise Act was declared ultra vires of .the Constitution. The honorable member for Ballarat, as Prime Minister, was responsible for that legislation -being placed upon our statute-book.
– That was a special case.
– Then will the honorable member for Ballarat tell me that only in connexion with agricultural implements he was going to apply that particular form of legislation?
– No ; but each case stands on its own merits. That was a very special and exceptional case, as the honorable member recollects.
– Then the honorable member for Ballarat will say to one section of manufacturers, “ I will place limitations on your profits,” and to others, “ I will allow you to work at your own sweet will.” The honorable member is an enemy to Protection if he takes that stand. I have described our position to-day, so far as Protection is concerned. I tell manufacturers, whether large or small employers, that it is in this side and not in the Opposition side that the industrial hopes of Australia centre. If any man wishes to get the right to manufacture in Australia in such a way that he can compete with the outside world under fair conditions, he must get that right from this side and not from the Opposition side, and must conform to a law that will not allow him to rob the public or his employes. That is the only form of Protection that will ever build up in Australia industries such as ought to exist. I suppose that this is about the last opportunity I shall have this session of dealing with that particular question, unless the honorable member for Ballarat manages to solidify the Opposition into the old Protectionist party, and to come at us again. If he does, I suppose we shall have to raise our still small voices in opposition to him, but I am rather inclined to think that he will not be able to amalgamate his party on that subject.
– In your strong Protectionist views, are you speaking on behalf of the party?
– I am -speaking on behalf of the party to this extent, that with the powers in the hands of this Parliament to make arrangements for the protection of the employer, the employ^, and the consumer, I will claim every vote on this side to give sufficient Protection against the importation of commodities, and members on this side will have to give that vote or leave the party. So strongly convinced am I of what can be clone on this side that I am sure not a member of our party will break his pledge when the time arrives to give effect to the principle of new Protection in Australia. We have heard a good deal in this House about “ the man on the job.” I suppose that is one of the cases where the Opposition consider it their duty to attack the Government in their administration, and one might even go so far as to say that, as the Government are human and the party behind them are human, if attention had not been drawn to certain things that do not exist, but might have existed, we might in the future have so far forgotten ourselves as to do what they say we have done. The Opposition, therefore, have kept us with our noses “ up the straight,” so to speak, instead of letting us go crooked. We will admit that they did so, or that that was their intention; but while that may have been their intention, I think it showed bad taste on their part, after getting conclusive proof that nothing such as was described existed, or at any rate nothing of any dimensions, to refuse to accept the proof. We know that in Government employment there are men who have loafed, just the same as there are in private employment. We know that there are men in Government employment who have looked on the wine when it was red, and become inebriated, just the same as has happened in private employment, and that men have been forgiven for it in Government employment as in private employment. A great fuss was made over these men who got drunk because leniency was appealed for on their behalf, but have not all of 11s known men who got drunk in private employment, ‘and were -still employed afterwards, whether it was in the workshop, or in a bank, or in an office? I think I may fairly state that, if every man in private employment was “ sacked “ because he hiccupped now and again, there would be a great many more alterations in the staffs in many private establishments than there have been. Whoever yet heard of a private employer who would deal harshly with a man because he found him inebriated? So long as a Government take strict measures to see that men do not rob the country that is paying them, why should they be attacked because they have been lenient in some case instead of giving a man the “sack”? lt is shameful to think that an Opposition would expect the Government to do it. These statements have only been made with the object of showing that under the regime of the Labour Government the man with the “ bowyangs “ can control the Government just as he likes, and compel Brother Fisher and Brother Mathews to do as he thinks fit. In reality, it has been an attack on the day-labour system as compared with the contract system. The members of the Opposition know just as well as we do that bad effects can be got under both systems. Under a day-labour system that is not properly supervised bad effects can be obtained; but you could not get such bad effects under day labour as you could under contract. Under the contract system all the peculation and underground engineering that you can possibly imagine is to be found. In buildings or underground work or anything else that is carried out by contract you will find faulty construction, faulty material and faulty work, and there have been methods of passing it that were a discredit to the officials that allowed it, not that their palms were greased, but because they wereinefficient inspectors, and did not understand their work. Who does not know that in many of the buildings that have been constructed by contract, when the inspector or clerk of works or architect was away, rubbish was poured in and covered over before it could be detected? That has been done in hundreds and thousands of cases, and under the contract system all the secret commissions that could possibly be imagined have been carried into effect. Only the other day in New South Wales one man sued another to recover certain money. He was a Government official, and the man he sued was a contractor for a certain work. It came out that the Government official had financed the contractor for a work that he himself was supervising, and so “ fishy “ was the whole business that the Judge nonsuited the plaintiff, and the case went by the board. That was a case under private contract, and it is only one of thousands to which that system has given rise. Work will always be better when done by day labour than under the contract system, so long as it is under efficient supervision. We have heard a good deal about the maternity grant, not so much in this House as outside. To the everlasting condemnation of the members of the Women’s National League, as women, be it said, that they have openly declared that the proposed maternity allowance of £5 is an inducement to immorality. They must have a very poor opinion of the chastity of our womanhood ; but if the women on the other side do dare to make such assertions, I hope that the men will not follow their example.
– The men have.
– If they have, they are a disgrace to their sex.
– Not the men.
– Yes, Senator St. Ledger.
– In our journey through life, we learn that womenfolk feel that it is commanded of them to condemn want of chastity on the part of their own sex, and that if they fail to do so, they themselves stand self-condemned. If members of the Opposition choose to speak of the maternity allowance as “a political dodge,” or as an extravagant or unwarrantable proposal, let them do so; but do not let them lower themselves to the level of the Women’s National League by asserting that it will be conduciveto immorality. The Council of Churches has followed suit.
– What churches?
– The Protestant churches, I believe.
– Very few of them.
– It is because of the actions and utterances of many men in the Christian Church to-day that the loss of child life is as great as it is. The trouble is that they will not take sufficient precautions to assist families at certain periods of their lives. The steps already taken in that direction are too limited. We all know that the Bush Nursing Society established in Victoria is designed to assist our womanhood at critical periods in their lives, and that our hospitals and benevolent societies also help in that direction. As a matter of fact, however, the assistance given is so limited that further help is absolutely necessary. The present Government, recognising that fact, have determined to grant a maternity allowance, and whatever may be said of the proposal by the Opposition, I do trust that they will always speak of it in a manly way. Whatever may be said of it by the Women’s National League, the people of Australia generally know very well that it is designed to give assistance to our womenfolk at a time when they are least able to help themselves. I trust that when it is discussed in future by our opponents, it will be dealt with from a political stand-point, and not as it has been by the Women’s National League. In conclusion, let me say that, whilst I recognise that the Opposition are justified in attacking any Government measure, the methods they have adopted, especially in persisting in making statements regarding matters on which the evidence is so strongly against them that they must have realized that fact, had they given it a moment’s consideration, are an indication of weakness rather than of strength.
.- It . has been frequently stated by members of the Ministerial party that it is the duty of the Opposition, in criticising the Budgetstatement, to adopt a constructive attitude, and to show what should have been done with the money which the present Government have expended in their own way. That is a contention which, I am sure, the. Opposition will not seriously consider. It is certainly no part of our duty to formu- late a policy for the Ministry. We aire in duty bound to point out, as the honorable member for Mernda has so ably done, the enormous growth of expenditure during their term of office, and to ask them for a justification of it. That we have done, but, so far, we have had the greatest difficulty in extracting from them any information respecting the huge votes that we have been called upon to pass. We have to complain of almost a. conspiracy of silence on their part, so far as any attempt to justify the huge advance in their expenditure is concerned. Owing to the way in which the Budget figures have been presented, it is impossible for us to ascertain from the bulk figures given whether certain expenditure is justifiable or not. It might be quite justifiable, for instance, to expend £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 in building up our great defence system, but, at the same time, the expenditure actually taking place in connexion with it may be in directions involving the greatest extravagance - directions in which it cannot be closely followed by the Opposition. Whilst we point out the enormous growth of expenditure since the present Government have taken office, it is not our duty to give the Government, with a view to a reversal of the present position in this respect, a constructive policy. The Leader of the Opposition has stated that our taxation has grown enormously, that the present Tariff is one of the highest revenue yielding Tariffs in the world - I think it stands second only to that of New Zealand - and that since the present Government assumed office our Customs taxation has increased by about 13s. per head. Our present prosperity is calculated to lull us into a false sense of security, but we should not lose sight of the fact that we are now being committed to an expenditure which will have to be carried on, more or less, when, the lean years return, and will involve, even then, the enormous taxation that we are now paying. We are paying that taxation now, perhaps, without feeling any serious inconvenience ; but the position then will be very different. I do not know that the present Customs taxation per head of the population was ever equalled, in preFederation days, in any of the States. The Leader of the Opposition has stated - and an examination of the figures will show it - that the great bulk of the taxation being paid through the Customs House at present is in respect of revenue duties, and that there is no attempt on the part of the’ Go-. vernment to reduce those duties. The honorable member who was put up by the Government to reply to the Leader of the Opposition said that if he had his way there would be no revenue duties. If the revenue duties were removed, it would be necessary, in order to meet the expenditure to which we are being committed by the Government, to increase our direct taxation. There should have been a statement by the responsible Minister as to whether the Government indorsed what was said by the honorable member for Corangamite when put up to reply to the Leader of the Opposition. We should be told whether the Government is against the imposition of revenue duties in any form, and whether Ministers are prepared to strike off all revenue duties, and to adopt the policy of prohibition. A responsible Minister should have replied to the Leader of the Opposition. His statements would have been known by the Committee to be statements of Government policy. The only alternative to the reduction of revenue duties is the imposition of more direct taxation, because our expenditure has reached the limits of our income. During its term of office, this Government has handled an income immensely greater than that of its predecessor. In 1909, during the term under the Deakin Administration, the’ total revenue of the Commonwealth was £15,588,000, of which £8,088,000 was paid to the States under the Braddon provision, and £3,231,000 came from services controlled by Ihe Postmaster-General, so that the net income which that Administration had to spend was £4,268,000. This Government, however, has had to spend £11,147,000, the total revenue being £20,546,000, of which £5,196,000 was returned to the States, and £4,402,000 came from- services controlled by the PostmasterGeneral. The income which this Government has had to spend has been £6,870,000 per annum more than that which the last Government had to spend, namely, £11,147,000, as against £4,268,000. The honorable member for Corangamite says that the Labour party will be prepared to increase the protective duties when the people have empowered this Parliament to provide for the new Protection. That is tantamount to a declaration that the Labour party will not do anything to improve the Tariff until the people have given this Parliament power which it only recently refused to give to us. It is an assumption, too, that nothing. has been done to bring about the new Protection, and that it can be brought about only by the legislation of the Commonwealth Parliament, whereas for many years past new Protection has been given in various directions by the States.
– Only in a limited number of industries.
– In a very large number of industries. The people, when appealed to recently, declined to give this Parliament unrestricted power to pass industrial legislation, and we should accept its voice on the definite issue which was referred to it. If the Labour party considers that there should be a re-adjustment of the Tariff, it is the obvious duty of members opposite to make a move in that direction. As they have made no move, the logical deduction is that they see no need for the readjustment of the Tariff. The Opposition has a distinct policy regarding the Tariff, which is in accord with that of the most advanced countries that have had experience in Tariff matters. We, on ‘this side, are of opinion that it is necessary for the Parliament, before dealing with the Tariff, to have full and accurate information regarding all our industries and . commerce.
– That is the policy of some of the Opposition.
– It is the policy of the whole party, and but for what I trust was only a temporary lapse on the part of the electors, the Deakin Administration would have been returned- to power after the last election, and a Tariff Board would already have presented a report to Parliament.
– Would it have been a better report than that of the Tariff Commission ?
– That is not the question. It was the policy of the Opposition, put before the country at the last election, that a Board should be appointed. A competent body would have inquired into the whole operations of commerce and industry, and presented a report containing the fullest information, and Parliament would have been armed with the necessary data to go in for a revision of the Tariff, if justified. This House has been in existence for two years, but it has done nothing in that connexion. On the information which it is possible for us to obtain, I am not here as an advocate of an increase of the duties. I am not here as an advocate of Tariff revision until the House is furnished with information which will enable it to proceed in a statesmanlike and a scientific manner.
– You are stirring up the Ministerial party.
– It is just as well that we should know where we are. The Government party is, in this matter, a party of do-nothing, and it shelters itself behind the statement that, if the people will not give Parliament increased powers, the party will not deal with the Tariff. That is flouting the direct instruction of the people. If they elected members to carry out specific duties, it is the duty of Parliament to faithfully carry out that mandate until such time as the people are pleased to endow it with a larger measure of power; and that is why I call this a spurious argument. It has been said here more than once that the manufacturers have been enjoying a large measure of Protection, and that the wage-earners have not participated in the Protection which hasbeen enjoyed by the former at the CustomsHouse. The Minister of Trade and Customs, who is, I know, well versed in this question, will be able to reply to the figures I am about to quote, if he thinks that the deductions are not as they should be. We have had presented to us in the Budget-papers a set of figures which, to my mind, prove very clearly and unmistakably that the wage-earners throughout Australia have participated equally with the manufacturers, under the system of new Protection as we have it operating through State Wages Boards. This table is, in my opinion, most instructive. I am not going to contend that the measure of Protection at the Customs House is sufficient. I do not wish to contend that the measure of Protection given to various employes is sufficient. What I contend is that the measure of Protection afforded to the manufacturers has been equally shared by the workers under the system of new Protection which operates through the Wages Boards of the States.
– Yes ; but what about the consumer?
– In this House, the consumer is generally brought in as a kind of third party, and he is generally left tothe last, I admit.
– He is generally squeezed by the manufacturers.
– If the consumer is being squeezed by the manufacturers, the wage-earners are participating in the squeezing. The Budget-papers contain a table which is taken from Mr. Knibbs’ work, and gives industrial comparisons for many years. I have picked out the figures for the period from 1907 to 1910 because those are the years taken to show the added value given to raw materials. In 1907, the number of factories in Australia was 12,555, and in 1910 this number had increased to 13,822. The hands employed in factories in 1907 numbered 248,859, and in 1910 286,831. In other words, during that period the increase in the number of factories was 10 per cent., and in the number of hands employed 15 per cent. The buildings and plant were valued at £49,444,882 in 1907, and £58,462,239 in 1910, showing an increase f about 18 per cent. The following are the items to which I wish to specially draw the attention of honorable members. The added value to raw materials in 1907 was £37,659,153, while in 1910 it had increased to £48,048,032, being an increase of about 27 per cent. During these four years the wages paid throughout Australia under the Wages Board system had increased from £18,323,977 in 1907 to £23,874,959 in 1910, or an increase of 30 per cent. So that under the present system of Wages Boards the wage-earners have participated in the increased value given to the raw material through the process of manufacture to a slightly greater extent than have the manufacturers. That is a very extraordinary lesson for this Parliament, and one which I think disposes finally of the claim which is constantly reiterated from the Ministerial benches, that the manufacturers have been enjoying, all the advantages of the high Protection, while the wage-earners under the system of State wages tribunals have not participated to a similar extent in the added value given to the products through the application of their labour and skill.
– Can you give us the average increase in profits?
– It is impossible to get anything beyond the added value to the materials. Anybody who is acquainted with the process of manufacturing knows that every manufacturer allows a certain percentage for carrying on his factory, a certain proportion for raw material, a certain proportion for labour, and a certain percentage for interest, profit, and what may be called factory burden, which is an unknown quantity.
– Have you got the output?
– I take it that the output was £48,000,000 ; that is the added value given to the raw materials.
– Oh, no. It was £86,000,000 in 1907, and £1:20,000,000 in 1910.
– On what page of the Budget-papers shall I find those figures ?
– They are not in the Budget-papers. I got them from Mr. Knibbs’ statistics.
– They should be included in the Budget-papers. The figures presented in the Budget-papers, however, cover the whole ground necessary. The Minister’s statement as to the output of the factories is of no value without a statement as to the character of the output.
– I have given the figures as to the production of the factories, as stated in Mr. Knibbs’ statistics.
– But those figures do not affect my argument at all.
– Yes, they do.
– We can place on one side the value of the raw materials used, and all we require to know is the added value given to those raw materials by the processes of manufacture.
– Do we not require also the percentage of wages?
– Certainly not in connexion with the raw materials.
– I do.
– I contend again that the output quoted by the Minister includes the whole of the cost of the raw materials, and, for the purpose of my argument, what we require to know is, What has been the added value given to the raw materials by the processes of manufacture?
– What we want to know are the actual profits of the manufacturers.
– That is not the question at all. It has been stated over and over again in this House, and on many platforms, that under the system of manufacturing operating in Australia at the present time the manufacturers, owing to the defective application of the system of new Protection, are building up large fortunes from enormous profits made at the expense of *:he consumers, and that the skilled workers of the factories are not participating in the increases of value due to the processes of manufacture.
– Why should not the workers participate in the added value due to their work?
– I believe they should. We should have highly skilled men paid high wages, and, in return for those high wages, they should give their best services. I believe that while we enjoy so large a measure of prosperity in Australia our skilled workmen should participate in the benefits flowing from that prosperity. No fair-minded man would contend that that is not a just view to take. I say that the figures prove conclusively that, during the last four or five years, under the system of Wages Boards operating now throughout Australia, wage-earners have participated equally with manufacturers in the added value given to raw materials by the processes of manufacture. That cannot be gainsaid. Under the Wages Board system, the wage-earners have participated in the general prosperity during the period named to the extent of an increase of 30 per cent., whilst an increase of 27 per cent, represents the added value given to raw materials during the processes of manufacture.
– Where does the honorable member get the 30 per cent. ?
– I have been supplied with the following figures : - The value of the output of Commonwealth factories is given at £120,000,000. We deduct from that the value of the raw materials used, which is given at £72,000,000, and that gives £48,000,000 as the added value given to the raw materials by the processes of manufacture.
– Half of that went in wages, and half to the bosses.
– That is a bald statement. I prefer to accept Mr. Knibbs* view of the matter.
Mr. Tudor__ That is what Mr. Knibbs says.
– If Honorable members desire to go behind the factories into the question of* the production of raw material, they will enter upon a different class of argument altogether. I am dealing now with factories that are affected by the operation of the Customs Tariff.
– Why deny the fact that the manufacturers derive advantage from the Tariff?
– I am not discussing that question at all. It is the practice of honorable members on the other side, when they are defeated in an argument, to try to side-track an opponent by discussing a different phase of the question.. Having disposed of that argument-
– The honorable member has disposed of it only to his own satisfaction.
– The Honorary Minister is an adept at interjections, but I have never known him to make any which threw any light on the subject under discussion. I should like to make a quotation from Mr. Spence’s Australia’s Awakening, in which he partly supports the argument I have advanced as to the great advantage derived by the workers from the operations of the Wages Board system in Australia. He was writing in 1909, and it will be found that on page 543 of his book he makes the statement that the Wages Boards in Victoria alone have increased the wages of the workers by something like .£343,000 per annum. He was showing the advantages derived by the Workers of Australia under the system of unions. He admits that the increase of their wages due to the operation of Wages Boards in Victoria alone amounted to something like ,£343,000 per annum, covering something like 40,000 workers. But that statement was written when only about one-third of the workers of Victoria were under the Wages Board system. We have had an enormous extension of the system throughout Australia during the last three years. I believe that it is now about to operate in, not the least, I hope, but the last, progressive State of Tasmania.
– Who were responsible for the increase of wages?
– According to Mr. Spence, the Wages Board system was responsible for the increase.
– Who demanded the Wages Boards?
– The Liberals.
– And the Liberal Upper House opposes them.
– The present Government and their supporters forget the fact that the Liberals are responsible for ninetenths of the beneficent legislation on our statute-books to-day. Sir Alexander Peacock was the author of the Wages Board legislation. I am not prepared to deny the Labour party praise or credit for having participated in passing some of those measures; but it has remained for the initiative and genius of the Libera;) party to give form and shape to measures which were gladly supported, when the occasion arose, or when it suited them, by the organized Labour unions.
– When the first Shops and Factories Act in Victoria was passed, there were only two Labour members in the State House.
– The honorable member is wrong.
– I am now discussing results; and I say that nine-tenths of this beneficent legislation is due to the initiative, statesmanship, and spirit of progress that have always animated the Liberal party of Australia. As a matter of fact, we have only to look back over the history of the Labour party to find that it has been a retarder of progress. If we had had no Labour party, the probability is that, while we should have had legislation in some respects more advanced, it would have been legislation in the interest of every section of the community, instead of only one organized section.
– The honorable member is speaking of something he knows nothing about.
– I suppose we must take that as settling the matter.
– Is it said that Sir Alexander Peacock did not introduce the Wages Board system?
– I say that he introduced it only when forced to do so by the Labour party.
– Does the honorable member mean the Labour party of two referred to by the Leader of the Opposition ?
– What I was speaking of took place long before the institution of Wages Boards ; I meant the first Shops and Factories Act.
– The Wages Boards were merely a development of the Factories Act system.
I should now like to say a word or two in regard to preferential trade, which is frequently regarded as merely one of sentiment. I appreciate the difficulties of introducing anything like an Imperial system of preferential trade while Great Britain herself is not altogether favorable to entering into serious negotiations. But I regard the furthering of trade relationship within the Empire as absolutely vital to the future safety, not only of Great Britain, but of the Australian Commonwealth ; and every opportunity should be taken by this House to, in some form or other, advance the policy laid down by Mr. Chamberlain many years ago. I fail to see how it is possible to expect our defence system to be the unqualified success we hope if we neglect its very foundation, namely, the trade and commerce between th~e” various parts of the Empire. The first thing we have to do is to lay down a defence policy; and the policy introduced by the present Opposition in 1909 contains a splendid scheme for fulfilling the aspirations and ideals of the Australian people in regard to a local form of defence, while keeping up the Imperial connexion. In this scheme, we have one of the grandest pieces of legislation passed within the Empire; but our system can be made strong, and to grow in strength, only by preparing proper and true foundations. By this, I mean Imperial trade reciprocity, with which we have only made a start, but which was one of the first planks in the platform of the delegates sent from this Parliament to the Imperial Conference in 1907. I believe that the discussion of this question at that Conference had a most salutary and beneficial effect on the minds of British statesmen; and I am seriously disappointed to find that our delegates at the Conference of 191 1 scarcely touched it. It is a question which, in my opinion, far transcends any other that could possibly be discussed at such a gathering; and the subject becomes more and more vital to the interests of the Australian Commonwealth, as well as to the interests of Great Britain, when we have regard to developments in the leading or first-class nations of Europe at the present time. At any time, Great Britain might be faced with war, and forced to defend herself against the aggression of any of those leading Powers ; and should this take place, and the food supplies of Great Britain be cut off, we should find the Old Country defeated ; and Australia, looking at the matter from a purely selfish stand-point, would be left as the prey of any Asiatic countries which chose to invade her. This is not a question that belongs to one party - it belongs to the whole of Australia. It is just as necessary that Great Britain should keep the high seas clear for her merchant marine as it is that we should have uninterrupted railway communication for our commerce between one State and another. At present, Great Britain is absolutely dependent for foodstuffs on other countries of the world; and we in Australia have territory and resources quite sufficient to supply all that she requires. We can give her food and raw material ; and it is our duty to foster in every possible way the development of Imperial trade, so that the money may be kept within the Empire, and we may be able to complete that great scheme of defence which is absolutely necessary for the safety of ourselves, and the Empire as a whole. We have only to compare the geographical position of Great Britain with that of the leading countries of Europe to be at once impressed with the rather parlous position of the Old Land. Some time ago, the splendid isolation of England was regarded as her real safety; but that day is gone. Great Britain is seagirt, and it only requires a strong foreign navy to cut off her stream of commerce in order to render her helpless ; and, therefore, we must have a strong Navy, to police the high seas and preserve the free interchange of commence between the Mother Country and the outer Dominions. But we should also have a system of trade reciprocity which would assist in building up the strength of the Empire productively and in every other sense. I would like to draw attention to one or two phases of this question which have impressed me with regard to the relative positions occupied by Great Britain and the other countries in Europe. Europe contains an area of 3,861,000 square miles, and has a population of 448,000,000, or a density of 116 persons per square mile. The United Kingdom, as a portion of Europe, embraces an area of 121,000 square miles, and has a population of 45,000,000, or a density of 372 persons per square mile. It will thus be seen that, proportionately to her area, the United Kingdom possesses three times the population of Europe proper. But she has no possibility of territorial expansion unless she embraces her oversea Dominions. This is not the case with other European countries. They have an enormous field for expansion in European Asia. There they have a country which is growing rapidly, which embraces something like twice the area of Australia, and which is increasing in production enormously. Every particle of that production can be conveyed by rail to the most populous countries of Europe proper. Russian Asia itself comprises, approximately, 6,500,000 square miles, or more than twice the area of Australia. At pre- sent it carries a population of 24,000,000, with a density of about four persons to the square mile. If we add Europe and Asiatic Europe together, we find that they embrace an area of 10,361,000 square miles, and that they carry a population of 470,000,000, or a density of forty-seven persons per square mile. The whole of this vast territory could be drawn upon in case of any European imbroglio. Food supplies could be obtained from it. But Great Britain would not occupy a similar position if she once failed to maintain her supremacy of the seas. These facts constitute one of the strongest arguments in favour of at once opening up negotiations with Great Britain with a view to furthering this great Imperial question of preferential trade. It is another very disquieting symptom that, notwithstanding our preferential Tariff of 1908, our trade with Great Britain has not increased as it should have done. Statistics show that ever since 1904 the percentage of all trade with Great Britain has steadily decreased from 71 per cent, to 51 per cent. That is a very serious matter, “and one which should afford food for reflection. Despite the fact, that we lowered our Tariff in favour of Great Britain, our trade with that country is decreasing, whilst our trade with other countries is increasing. I know that it will be urged, by way of reply, that our exports to other countries are increasing. I admit that they are. We send our goods to other countries, and we draw from them the. gold which is necessary for the development of our resources, and for the building up of our Defence Forces. We export wool to the value of £26,000,000 per annum, and as it is the best wool in the world, it commands a ready sale. The Fortnightly Review some time ago published a very able article, in which Mr. Benjamin Taylor puts the position very pithily. He says -
The political economy of ancient days was based on slavery, but the political economy of modernity must be based on reciprocity.
Now we know that that reciprocity is being practised at the present time in Australia, a homogeneous country in which we have abolished our Inter-State Tariffs, and in which a common Tariff is operative. . Why is it not possible for us to extend these reciprocal relationships to Great Britain in such a way as will, whilst preserving our own local market, enable us to offer large advantages to Great Britain?
– We cannot cure all the ills from which we are suffering.
– But we may cure some of them. I think that it is unfortunate that the Imperial Conference which met in 191 1 did not push forward the question of preferential trade more persistently. I know that the Free Trade Prime Minister of Great Britain is not a sympathizer with this movement ; but I believe that if the matter had been debated by the representatives of the Commonwealth on that occasion with the same fervour and eloquence with which it was discussed at the previous Imperial Conference, we should have made a long stride in the direction of preferential trade, the adoption of which can alone save Great Britain and the Empire.
– Trade is not languishing in Great Britain.
– All the efforts which it is possible to make, in order to develop the resources of the Empire, should be made with a view to securing the Empire’s future safety. The trade of Great Britain would be of very little value if her supplies were cut off as the result of any European complication. Before closing my remarks, I would like to refer to the question of taking over the State debts. This is a matter which will be dealt with more exhaustively, I hope, by succeeding speakers.
The present Government have been in office for more than two years, but no advance has been made in the direction of consolidating the State debts. I do not suggest that the present time is an opportune one to enter upon such a great work, because we know that money is hardening all the world over. The Government will be very fortunate indeed if they are favoured with a better opportunity for consolidating the State debts than has presented itself to them within the past two years. They had an abundant revenue, credit was good, and interest was low. This would have been the best opportunity to enter into this question, that has been talked about for so many years, but which could only be brought into practical effect in its fullest form after the referendum of 1910 gave the Commonwealth power to take over the whole of the State debts incurred up to that date.
– Only by agreement and arrangement with the States.
– That is a question on which I should like a legal opinion. It has never yet been properly shown to this House that the Commonwealth .Parliament has not the power to take the matter in hand itself. Why should not this Parlia-ment have that power?
– And allow the States to go on borrowing?
– Let me give the honorable member a very sensible opinion expressed by his own Prime Minister on the question of the States borrowing. Some three years ago, the present Prime Minister was twitted by the right honorable member for Swan in respect of taking over the £200,000,000 of State debts incurred prior to Federation. The honorable member then said that “ some authority was desirable,” but, with some confusion of thought, he said, in the same speech -
I am not one of those who declare that the States should be prevented from doing what they can do better than the Commonwealth. A little experience would soon show that the Commonwealth is the best authority to manage the renewal and conversion of the State debts and. the issue of future loans, and then the common sense of the electors will speedily compel the States to borrow only through the Commonwealth or through the body which the Commonwealth sets up.
That is a very sensible suggestion, probably based on sound reasoning, and experience may prove it right, but it does not take away from the Prime Minister and Treasurer the responsibility that has rested upon him for some time to take up the question of converting the State debts. It seems to me that it was no reason whatever for him to wait for the States to take action, especially when we remember that in regard to no other question that he has brought forward has he taken the trouble to consult the States, except when he had an idea that a particular project of his might prove a failure unless the States cooperated with him. This plea, therefore, of consulting the States seems to be only another excuse put forward to delay dealing with this most important public matter and public duty, just in the same way as the new Protection argument is advanced in order to cover up the inaction of the Government in regard to the Tariff.
– You would not have seven borrowers in Australia, would you?
– I am not here to formulate a policy for the Ministerial party, but the constitutional power to deal with State debts is, so far as I know, vested in this Parliament, and the PrimeMinister himself states that he has no fear of any serious trouble arising through thevarious States going on to the money market to borrow, because the credit of the Commonwealth would be so much better than the credit of the States, that the com- mon sense of the States themselves, and the pressure of the electors, would compel the States to do their borrowing, not on the open London market, but through the authority set up by the Commonwealth. How, then, is it that the Prime Minister has not acted on the policy that he enunciated so clearly in 1909? Why has he not supplied the House with cogent reasons why such a policy should not have been entered upon?
– The Prime Minister said last week that he was anxious and waiting to do it.
– The honorable member will find from the quotation I have made from the Prime Minister’s own speech that he does not look forward with any apprehension to the possibility of the States competing with the Commonwealth for loans in the open market. The Prime Minister then enunciated a very distinct policy. I do not say that he was on absolutely firm ground then, but he was on ground that was fairly substantial ; so that for him now, at the last moment, to declare that he has to wait on the States before he can embark on this important policy, is tantamount to burking the question.
– He said he viewed with horror the prospect of a seventh borrower for Australia going on the market.
– I know he has said so. He has advanced quite a number of reasons. He has told us, in two successive Governor-General’s Speeches, that* the matter is under consideration; and, when faced with the question by the Leader of the Opposition the other day, he meekly and mildly replied that he viewed with apprehension the possibility of a seventh borrower going on to the money market. Yet, in the speech I have quoted, we have his definite policy; and the House ought to know why he has departed from it, and why, having the Constitutional power which the Ministerial party have been prepared to use at every possible opportunity, with or without consulting the States, he delayed and postponed the settlement of this most important question - one of the chief questions with which this Parliament was elected to deal - from a period which offered the very best opportunity to any Parliament to take it up and settle it.
.- I feel rather tempted, after listening to the last part of the speech of the honorable member for Wimmera, to deal briefly with the question of the taking over of the State debts before entering upon the comparatively short discussion which I propose to address to the Budget. I have never yet taken an opportunity in this House of placing before honorable members certain views which I have formed, and which I think do not, perhaps, entirely coincide with those of honorable members on either side of the House, with regard to this question. The power which is given by section 105 of the Constitution is, as the honorable member for Wimmera has just stated, vested in this Parliament, and in this Parliament alone. The framers of the Constitution did not desire to impose any restriction whatever on the exercise of that power by making it subject to the consent of the States, or otherwise. It was a power given, like other powers, to the Commonwealth Parliament, and it was a power exercisable by the Commonwealth Parliament, not entirely or mainly for its own purposes. The power is one to take over the debts for the States. They are still the State debts. They are still the debts for which the States remain entirely responsible.
– In perpetuity?
– A very difficult question of interpretation arises where you come to consolidation; but where it is a matter of renewal or conversion, it seems almost impossible to believe that, when the Commonwealth takes over a debt, it is intended by the Constitution to relieve the State concerned of responsibility for it. For instance, if the Commonwealth takes over now a debt of £5,000,000, falling due on 31st December this year, and renews it, is it intended by section 105 of the Constitution that the State is not to be responsible after the debt is renewed ?
– I should think the State would be responsible.
– I am inclined to think so; but I confess to as much diffidence as any other honorable member of the House must feel in dealing with some of the difficulties of the Constitution; and I do not want to be at all positive on this matter. Section 105 of the Constitution provides - . . . The States shall indemnify the Commonwealth in respect of the debts taken over, and thereafter the interest payable in respect of the debts shall be deducted and retained from’ the portions of the surplus revenue of the Commonwealth payable to the several States, or if such surplus is insufficient, or if there is no surplus, then the deficiency of the whole amount shall be paid by the several States.
To take a simple example, does that mean that if we took over to-day £50,000,000 of the debts of the States, all maturing five years hence, that the States would be responsible, and have to pay interest in respect of them only for that five-years’ period, and that thereafter we should get nothing whatever from them? Surely it was not the intention of the framers of the Constitution, that, whether we renewed those debts, or consolidated, or converted them, we were to get nothing whatever from the States at the end of the five-years’ period ? If that is not the meaning of the Constitution, the only alternative is that, in taking over the State debts, we shall simply be constituting ourselves as brokers acting on behalf of the States, paying their interest for them, and, probably, making ourselves primarily responsible to the new creditors on a renewal consolidation or conversion of the loans; but, as between ourselves and the States, simply doing their borrowing for them with regard to the debts taken over. If that is the position it would primarily lead one to the conclusion that we have little or no interest in the debts so taken over. It would seem that, since we are. indemnified absolutely against them by the States, it is of little consequence to the Commonwealth when or how the debts shall be taken over. From a practical stand-point, however, I look at the matter very differently. We, too, shall be borrower’s. No matter what attitude the party at present occupying the Treasury bench may take up, it is absolutely inevitable, if the Commonwealth is not to stagnate - if it is to progress along the lines that every civilized Government having great works to carry out must progress - that we must be large borrowers on the money markets of the world. That being so, the question of by what means we can establish our credit in the markets of the world upon the most successful and promising basis is of the deepest concern to us. I am not one of those who think that the name of the Commonwealth of Australia would give us, at the present time, any better terms, or any higher credit than that possessed by some of the States.
– What if we were a seventh borrower?
– I think that the honorable member is labouring under a very palpable fallacy, to which I shall refer later on. I have had some personal experience in connexion with the London money market. It is a matter concerning which
I should not speak, but, when Treasurer of Victoria, I was brought into intimate contact with some of the leading lights of the financial world, and the conclusion to which I have come, after full consideration, is that, if we floated a loan now, Australia would have no better credit than would New South Wales or Victoria. The way in which we should ultimately have a greater degree of credit, however, may be briefly stated. The securities of the Australian States, and of States similarly situated, depend, as everything does, upon the law of supply and demand. The people who ultimately buy our stock - not the people who underwrite our loans, but those amongst whom they must find their market - consist, for the most part, of comparatively small investors. They include trustees for comparatively small, or, it may be, large settlements - persons who desire to obtain on an absolutely safe basis a somewhat larger income than would be obtained by investing in Consols, or in what are deemed the very highest stocks in England. There is at the present time only a comparatively small number of investors who know anything about Victorian or New South Wales stock. Those stocks loom large on the financial world here, but are only one of many similar classes of security in the Old Country. Ultimately, however, if we established a consolidated Australian stock which gradually mounted up, in the course of years, to £50,000,000, £100,000,000, or £150,000,000, our stock would be recognised and known amongst the whole class of investors. It is that which will give us a higher, credit, a higher standing, and a stronger position in the money markets of the world, as well as the right to get our money at a slightly lower rate of interest than any of the States can do at the present time. Canada has experienced the result of this system; but Canada it must be remembered has adopted a system which I think we might probably adopt with similar results. It has adopted a mode of redemption of its stock by which it buys in its own bonds, and with very great financial wisdom, those who have had control of Canadian finance, have so used their power by buying when the market is falling, that they maintain Canadian stock at what one might at first sight call an artificial, but what is really not an artificial, value. That system has placed Canadian stock in the very front rank of investments. Our stocks, however, are not in the very front rank. They are regarded in the same light as are investments in municipal stock in Great Britain. They tlo not even occupy a higher position than that of some American municipal stock. They are regarded as very safe investments of what might be called the second order ; but they are not in the very first rank of the first class stocks. I think that the honorable member for Mernda will bear me out when I say that there is that difference. The practical advantage which I believe we should ultimately obtain from taking over the State debts is not to be secured by the substitution of the name of Australia for that of New South Wales or any other State. It would result simply from the greater power and standing which our consolidated stock when it mounted up to £50,000,000 or £100,000,000 would have over any of the stocks at present existing, and the greater knowledge of it that would thus be secured. The honorable member for Maribyrnong touched another point upon which I venture to hold views differing from those entertained by some honorable members. I refer to the restriction of State borrowing. The Constitution does not suggest that the taking over of the State debts should be coupled with any restriction whatever upon State borrowing. Is a restriction practicable, necessary, or desirable? Why should we Stop municipal borrowing? What effect would it have? I can tell the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who takes the view that a seventh borrower entering into competition with the States or competition between the Commonwealth and any one State, would be bacl, that the present competition does not make even a ripple on the ocean of finance.
– People are complaining about there being so many borrowers.
– Excuses are very often put forward by people when it does not suit them to do business. Where the money market was depleted and where there was strong competition for a particular class of security at that particular time, that competition might in such unusual circumstances have an enormously appreciative effect.’ But ordinarily the competition of two or three loans of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 coming from Australia - I know that I differ on this subject from some of the members on this side of the chamber as well as others - is of no significance whatever.
– Would the honorable member permit this Parliament to control the borrowing of the States?
– No. Leave the States free to develop their territory in accordance with their own views. If their borrowing is to be restricted, the restrictions should be imposed by their constituencies. If the Commonwealth succeeded in establishing a consolidated Australian stock of £50,000,000 or £100,000,000, it would not only improve its own credit, but also practically compel the States to borrow through it.
– Then why not compel them at the first to do so?
– Because we have no right to do that.
– Why should we control municipal borrowing?
– We do not do so. The State Parliaments control municipal borrowing, because the municipalities are their creation. They limit the borrowing powers of the municipalities, not lest municipal loans might compete with Government borrowing, but because they think that, in the public interest, there should be a limitation on municipal borrowing. We have nothing to do with the municipalities. I was led from the line of my thought by the very interesting remarks on the State debts made by the honorable member for Wimmera. The difficulty I have in dealing with the Budget is that its figures are so vast. Ordinarily, in this debate, members attempt the analytical- criticism of portions of the proposed expenditure. In this case to deal with an expenditure of £10,000 or £100,000 is to deal with a drop or two in the flood with which we are faced. The mass of figures is so immense that the proper criticism of details is almost hopeless.
– They are so poorly classified, too.
– They are poorly classified. The figures have been placed before the Committee without any explanation, and to attempt an honest analytical criticism of any part of them is to risk being overwhelmed by a torrent while endeavouring to pick out a few floating particles. One is struck at once by the appalling recklessness of our financial administration. A stranger who returned to Australia after an absence of half a generation, seeing these figures, would say-
– That the country is going ahead by leaps and bounds.
– No. He would say, “ This is a people for whom history possesses no lessons, and to whom the most bitter experience conveys no warning.” Such an’ observation would, however, be unjust. Although the apparent lack of interest in public affairs is marvellous, there is a great and increasing body of thoughtful men and women who are becoming seriously apprehensive about the financial position, and are beginning to see that the stewards of our finances are, in some respects, not entirely faithful to the high trust reposed in them. The enormous increase in the number of public servants, coupled with the formal announcement that it is the policy of Ministers to give preference in that employment to members of the classes that placed them in power, is causing the public to see that public affairs are not being administered in accordance with honest stewardship. I warn honorable members opposite, and especially those who are new to politics, against the attraction of what I may call Yankee methods. One of our most valuable heritages from the Mother of Parliaments is the tradition that, no matter how much private members may push the demands of their constituents, those who accept seats on the Treasury bench must administer the public funds, which are subscribed by the whole people, equally and fairly in the interests of all sections of the people. When Ministers use these funds to reward members of the political associations that placed them in power, and to “ boycott “ citizens guilty of no other offence than their unreadiness to subordinate individual liberty to the control of political associations, and to subscribe to the tenets of those associations, we have a new and sinister element in politics, the results of which are not yet seen.
– - The honorable member knows how most appointments to the Public Service are made.
– In ordinary cases they are made through the legal channels provided by the Public Service Act, but the machinery of the Act has been twisted and tortured out of its ordinary course to enable preference to be given to one class. For no other reason than that they will not subscribe to the bondage of your trade unions, you place upon the people generally an incapacity for public employment which has never been known before in any British country since the time of the penal laws in Ireland; laws which have ceased for about a century to have effect, and are never thought of without feelings of shame and indignation. Trade unions, I am reminded, owed their strength to the fact that they were associations of workmen coming together to make honest demands in connexion with their industrial employment. They have gone beyond that; they have attempted - and succeeded in the attempt - not only in the placing of a Government in power, but in the placing in power of a Government which is obviously tied to the fulfilment of their demands and its own demands on the Treasury.
– We have heard that too often.
– My honorable friends have heard it before. and they shall hear it many times again ; but they cannot deny it.
– I do.
– Do not my honorable friends owe their election, do they not owe their position, to these very associations, whose members they are now rewarding out of public funds?
– Just as much as you do to the Women’s National League.
– My honorable friends owe their positions to these very associations, because they have tied themselves down to these unions, which were originally intended, as I have explained, for a certain specific purpose. I am not ashamed to confess - I have done it - in public - that I owe thanks to the Women’s National League, or any other association which has given me support ; but I say that neither the Women’s National League nor any other association, so far as 1 know, has ever attempted to impose any restrictions on the absolute liberty of honorable members who are returned to this side.
– Do you assert that any association is placing a restriction on our liberty ?
– You are making a statement which you know to be incorrect.
– They have tied my honorable friends with strings which they cannot loosen - tied them hand and foot.
– You are making a statement which you know to be incorrect.
- (Mr. W. Elliot Johnson). - Order ! The Minister has no right to say that.
– If there had been any doubt about the matter before, it is absolutely removed when we find these honorable members, who are placed in charge of the. public funds, deliberately saying to the officers who are employed for the purpose of seeing that fair play exists between applicants for employment, “ You must not employ those who are not members of trade unions.”
– Nothing of the kind.
– Why cannot my honorable friends have the courage of their opinion? What is the good of them saying that it is “ preference to unionists all things being equal.” That condition is always complied with. Once my honorable friends concede that, they must always give preference to unionists ; and that means that they must not give others employment.
– You have always given preference to non-unionists.
– The honorable member is, by interjection, using an argument which has been used here more than once, and which,I venture to think, is absolutely without foundation.
– Did you not discharge men from the railway service of Victoria because they were in a union ?
– I have always understood that you did. The men have told me so
– I am not responsible for the things which the honorable member has always understood. I certainly am not responsible for the greater number of things which he has misunderstood. In regard to the finances, we have presented to us for the first time a proposal for a maternity grant. It is claimed by honorable members on the other side that it possesses none of the elements of a political move. Of course, we are obliged to accept their assurance on that point; but to the unprejudiced observer it is a curious coincidence that it should be brought forward so very soon after the Government had deprived people who are to benefit from the grant of the right practically to vote. After all, these things speak volumes, and they are not answeredby a sneer or a laugh. I think that the people of Australia are quick-witted enough to see that the two things are not likely to be entirely without some connexion.
– It is evident that you do not know all the secrets of the Caucus.
– I should be very sorry to know them, but a few of them are revealed from time to time. With regard to the proposed grant of£400,000, I do not suppose for a moment that there is any honorable member of the House who will deny that the condition of a good many of those who are about to become mothers will be vastly improved by the gift of£5. I do not suppose that any one will deny that there are thousands of conditions in human life to which exactly the same consideration will apply. For instance, let us take one or two of the more important. The financial burden of child-bearing, and the attendant circumstances, though severe in many cases - I speak with great deference, as I do not personally know very much about the matter - I should think is, on the whole, rather less than the cost of burial.
– No; that is a different thing. The difference is that, when a man dies, somebody will take care that he is buried, else he will become offensive.
– That is the most curious argument I have ever heard. What a consolation to the dead man ! What I have always understood is that one of the great burdens, and one of the great hardships often, of a very poor class of people in older countries is to find the money for funeral expenses. But take other cases. Take, for instance, a case where the breadwinner of a family is struck down by sickness. There we have a much greater case of hardship. I might mention hundreds. But are all these to be met by grants out of the Treasury ?
– It is a pity that we cannot assist them.
– Honorable members on the other side will, sooner or later, have to bend their minds a little more seriously to this question than I venture to think they have yet done. I will not for a moment deny that all these hardships are matters as to which no section of the community can be indifferent, but the conscience of the community is becoming a more ever present thing as civilization goes on, and the best intellects in civilized countries are now engaged in seeing how it may be possible to assist people in these circumstances to help themselves.
– We are a long way behind some of them.
– We are.
– We are a long way behind Germany.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. But he will agree with me that this is a problem to which the best intellects of the age are, in many cases, devoting themselves, and the object, I think, of the most thoughtful people in many countries is, how it may be, under any circumstances, made possible, as I think it can, to assist people to help themselves without breaking down that individual independence which, after all, is the strength of every race. Whenever I have pointed out, as I did on a previous occasion, that this particular hardship or trouble to which the maternity grant is to be applied is only one of a host to which poor people in all circumstances are subject, and said, “ You have started, why not go on,” my honorable friends have cheered. I wish to ask them now, do they seriously put forward the view that all these hardships are to be met by the simple expedient of doling out money from the Treasury ?
– As long as the social system exists.
– I do not think that the honorable member will assert for a moment that the present system is the best one.
– I think I understood, from a speech or an interjection of the honorable member, that he is one of those who are in favour of some form of a contributory system. We have the social system, and we should make the best of it.
– We want to make a new one.
– Can it be said that any honorable member on the other side in his heart thinks that it would be possible to carry out a system which is to provide for the multitudinous hardships and wants to which individuals are subject by doing nothing else than ladling money out of the Treasury? It would be entirely out of place for me to put forward now the views I have formed as to the way in which these hardships might be met; but we have arrived at an extremely serious position when, with bur swollen money chest, we are actually prepared to start the process of dealing with these difficulties by what in ordinary circumstances would be huge payments, but which, under existing circumstances, may be considered small payments. I ventured on a previous occasion to deal with one portion of the ordinary expenditure of the year, namely, that in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department. I pointed out that not only had the party at present occupying the Treasury benches launched upon a most extraordinary course of creating new charges on the Treasury in favour of all kinds of people, merely apparently because they are people who want money, ‘ but that they are carrying on the ordinary government of this country with a degree of financial slackness that, to say the least of it, is unparalleled in our history. Honorable members will agree that the Post and Telegraph Department is the fairest Department which I could take for my purpose, because it is the greatest earning and spending Department of the Government, and the only one in connexion with which we can arrive at something in the nature of a balance-sheet.
I made a comparison between the year before the last Government went out of office, 1909-10, and the year 1911-12 which has just passed. I pointed out on the materials then available to me that, although the revenue had increased by about
II per cent., I believe it was, the ordi nary expenditure on salaries and contingencies had increased by 22 per cent.
– Is that an unfair increase ?
– A very unreasonable increase, and I shall tell the honorable member why. My criticism was at once met by some honorable members who chose to assume that I was taking into account the expenditure of some £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, which, during the administration of the Department by the honorable member for Bendigo, was considered necessary for extension and enlargement. Of course, as a matter of fact, I had excluded that expenditure. It was then said that my statement was open to criticism, because I had taken “contingencies “ into account, and that is a very vague item.
– They have to be paid for.
– Yes, but they cannot be regarded as within the current expenses of the Department. It was pointed out that new telephones and such things might come within the term “ contingencies.” In order to avoid all such criticism, I have, with the figures now fully available, recast my calculation, and brought it up to date for the last three years. I shall give the references, and honorable members will be able to see the result. If they examine pages 22 and 60 of the Budget-papers, they will find there all the material necessary for the calculation which I have made. I take into account only the increase of revenue and the increase of salaries in each year. A calculation on that basis cannot be open to any of the criticism to which my previous figures were subjected. The Honorary Minister has asked me whether I think the increase of expenditure which I mentioned was not a fair one. I should think that common sense would have told the honorable gentleman that any business which was carried on on the principle that the increase of expenditure in a growing concern should be at a greater rate than the increase of revenue must sooner or later look bankruptcy in the face. It is always reasonable to expect in connexion with a developing business concern that the increase of expenditure should be somewhat less than the increase of revenue. Here is what I find. I take the years 1909-10 to 1911-12, the last two years the Labour Government have been in power. The increase of revenue in the Post and Telegraph Department during the period named was 12.9 per cent. I have given the Postmaster-General the benefit of £300,000 for penny postage, otherwise, of course, the percentage of increase would have been shown to be less. The increase in expenditure on salaries during the same period was 24.5 per cent.
– On salaries only?
– Yes, I have left out “ contingencies,” because it was said, in answer to my previous argument, that they might include expenditure on extensions of telephones, and such things which should not be regarded as current expenditure.
– The honorable member for Parramatta means to complain that the salaries are not high enough.
– I do not see exactly what that . has to do with my argument.
– And as usual it is entirely a misconstruction of what I said.
– By the way, the Minister of External Affairs some time ago found the Post and Telegraph Department a very good place to get out of as soon as he could.
– That is rather unfair.
– I am not unfair, I think, in stating that the honorable gentleman was more inclined to deal with the easier matters covered by the External Affairs Department.
– That is not so.
– As compared with the year 1909-10, the estimated re venue for 191 2-13 shows an increase of 24 per cent. Whether that estimate will be realized or not is very doubtful. I shall read in a moment all that the Treasurer had to say about this vast business Department, and it will be seen that he presented the House with no reasons whatever for his belief that the Post and Telegraph revenue during the coming year will show an increase of 11 per cent, over what it was last year, and of 24 per cent, over what it was three years ago.
– Because the employes were seriously underpaid, during the term of office of the last Government.
– The honorable member overlooks the fact that I am talking about the revenue. The estimate to which I have referred is a very sanguine one, and I do not know that it is at all likely to be realized, but I will assume that it is, and that the revenue for 19.12-13 will be 24 per cent, above what it was in 1909-10.
– What was the percentage of increase last year?
– I have not that figure, because I am comparing different periods. I suppose that it must have been about 6 per cent., because the increase for the last two years was 12.9 per cent. The honorable gentleman will be able to make the calculation from the figures given in the Budget-papers. An increase of 24 per cent, is an enormous increase for the three years, though it is based on what is only an estimate of the revenue for the current year; but the salaries for the current year show an increase of no less than 38.3 per cent. What is the explanation? As the representatives of the taxpayers throughout Australia, met together to hear the Budget-speech and solemn statement of the dispensation of the public funds by the Treasurer, who is charged with the control of a great business Department, we might surely expect to hear some explanation of these figures. What do we get? In the Budget- speech, as reported in Hansard, page 1575, all that is said about the Post Office is as follows -
In connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, it will be seen that last year the expenditure, not including New Works and Buildings, exceeded the revenue by ,£385,0,54. The expenditure for New Works and Buildings was ,£1,442,475.
It is estimated that during the current year the expenditure, not including New Works, will exceed the revenue by ,£440,265. The expenditure provided for New Works is ,£1,152,275.
In addition to the amount of £830,000 provided this year for telegraphs and telephones and for wireless telegraphy, the Department will probably expend £429,460, the balance unexpended of the £600,000 specially provided last year, and paid into a special trust account.
The latter, of course, has nothing to do with what I am dealing.
– But £1,200,000 has to he spent.
Mr.W. H. IRVINE. - Yes; but I am endeavouring to cut the question down to a comparison of the annual revenue and annual expenditure on the ordinary carrying on of this great Department; and I say that it is not unreasonable that honorable members should demand from the Treasurer some explanation of this extraordinary result. As it stands, without explanation, it bears on its face evidence of the most reckless, lax, and irresponsible management of the affairs of this country. It may be said that salaries have been increased, and more men employed. But should we not be told how many men have been employed, and with what purpose, and what are the reasons for the increase in salaries, and to what extent the increases go ?
– The men are paid a living wage.
– Definite, clear arguments, based on figures, cannot be met by a broad generalization. The people outside who find the money in order to make good a deficiency in a Department, where, for several years before this Government came into power, there was no deficiency, are entitled to something more than mere platitudes such as that uttered by the honorable member.
– How was the surplus in the Department accumulated? By neglect.
– Do I understand the honorable member for Flinders to claim that the increase in the salaries should have been kept down to at least the increase in the income?
– I do not think there is any honorable member more skilful in framing what he considers a political trap than is the honorable member for Adelaide.
– I assure the honorable member that I am not framing any trap; I may have to reply to the honorable member, and I desire to understand him quite clearly, so as not to do him an injustice.
– The candour of the honorable member is only equalled by his generosity. In the meantime, on behalf of honorable members on this side, I insist, so far as it is possible for a minority to insist on any reasonable request, that some explanation should be given of those extraordinary figures; and that explanation should not be given by me, or by those who are criticising, but by those who are responsible.
– Is the honorable member’s contention that the increase is too great ?
– After all, there is a certain amount of method in this madness. It is not mere recklessness in finance which characterizes this or the preceding Budget. The end and object of the party now in power is State Socialism. They know that every addition to the everincreasing, and rapidly increasing, army of public servants, and every new employment created, is another step towards that condition of things in which we shall all be public servants. They know that every new charge - every new mortgage - whether in the shape of a maternity bonus, or anything else of the kind, that they manage to fix on the Treasury, is another step towards the necessity of imposing direct taxation in some shape or form; and direct taxation is their instrument for the destruction of the existing social order. The object of honorable members opposite is to sweat down and gradually destroy, step by step, the value of property, in order that they may be able to acquire it for nothing.
– Is this the exSingletaxer ?
Mr.W. H. IRVINE. - I never was a Single-taxer, I may inform the honorable member.
– Very nearly - tottering on the verge.
– I was certainly not far from it some twenty years ago, and if I have since been converted, I owe my conversion more to honorable members opposite than to anybody else. The people must recognise that this wild recklessness in finance is not at all inconsistent with the conscious pursuit of the end which honorable members opposite have in view. They do not deny that their end is State Socialism.
– We have a big field to work on.
– Honorable members opposite will not venture to deny that their political object and aim is the establishment of State Socialism in lieu of the existing social conditions. The cheers of honorable members opposite prove the accuracy of that statement. And, moreover, honorable members opposite cannot help themselves. No matter what their experience in this House may teach them, they dare not do otherwise, because there is another and a greater power threatening them, as it is threatening the State and society. The dark shadow of syndicalism, which is threatening society, is making them shake in their shoes.
– What is that power? Is it the power that called the honorable member to “book” for telling the truth?
– The jeers and laughter which come in such full chorus from the other side are sufficient to satisfy me that I am “ getting home,” and honorable members opposite know it. Even their leaders cannot conceal the fact that I have stated. The Attorney-General, not very long ago, if he was correctly reported, took a good deal of trouble to warn his supporters against the inroads of this power of syndicalism. This power we see everywhere, here and in other countries; and it is based on an absolute distrust of parliamentary methods - that is the main thing. It shows a growing feeling that the parliamentary methods df the party opposite, represented either here or by their compeers in other parts of the world, have proved ineffectual to carry out their views.
– It applies to the other side, too.
– Honorable members opposite are in the situation that they must show something for their positions - they must show that they are able to achieve something actual and something real in the direction of State Socialism ; and this expenditure is the only way in which they can show that.
– The land value tax is very real.
– This is the only way in which they- can meet the danger which threatens them, as much as it threatens the whole existing order of society.
– If the honorable member’s party got into power, they would drive the unions into syndicalism.
– Honorable members opposite can afford to laugh when syndicalism is mentioned here, but they do not laugh at syndicalism outside.
– We fight it.
– The Labour party did not fight it at Brisbane.
– Yes, what about Brisbane? That was the first instance in which the unions, who sent honorable members opposite here, absolutely discredited their authority, as well, as all other constituted authority, and took charge of a city, and for a time held it. Honorable members opposite know perfectly well what that means.
– Who employed force in the Brisbane strike?
– The honorable member for Flinders ought- not to mention Brisbane; his side wished to send soldiers to shoot unionists down.
– It is clear, from a hundred indications during the past two years, and especially of the past six months, that the party opposite are bound to go actively ahead with a view to realizing some of the fruits of State Socialism as early as possible; and that they know they can achieve their object only by using the weapon of direct taxation against the existing rights of property. The land tax was the first lick of the tiger’s tongue which drew blood ; and, unless the people of this country wake up before next May, those who have anything to lose will feel the teeth and claws of the beast, too. But, to allow honorable members opposite to cool down a little, I will turn to another topic - that of the enormous increase in our expenditure, which has already been referred to by other honorable members, and particularly by the honorable member for Mernda. We find ourselves in this position : We are spending an abnormal sum out of a very large and increasing revenue. We know, too, that there are immense expenditures which will have to be met. For instance, there is the continually increasing burden on account of the Northern Territory. I would warn honorable members opposite that if they attempt to develop that Territory by sending an army of public servants there, -they will open a vein in the Commonwealth which will bleed it white before they have done. No matter how the Northern Territory may be developed, _ it. will constitute a very large and increasing drain on the public resources of this country. Then we have an increasing expenditure upon the Federal Capital. In addition, we are about to undertake the construction of the great transcontinental railways. Even if these works be built entirely out of borrowed money, we shall have to face a vastly increasing expenditure . for very many years to maintain and run them, because nobody imagines that they will be paying concerns from the start. We shall have to provide the interest on the cost of construction, as well as the loss incurred on account of running. There are many other sources of developmental expenditure to which we have to look forward. But there is one which, to my mind, puts all the others in the shadow. We cannot look at the current news from other parts of the world without realizing that the sea supremacy of the Empire to which we belong is seriously threatened. In the future, the greatest single demand upon our public exchequer will probably be made in maintaining our share of the naval power pf the British Empire. What we are now doing is, to my mind, absolutely insufficient. It was agreed upon in 1909 as a beginning, and as one unit in a force which was to be supplemented and developed. But much water has passed under the bridge since then. There is not an honorable member upon the other side of the Chamber who is truly loyal to the Empire but must feel that the heavily-taxed people in the little islands of Great Britain* and Ireland are looking to us and to Canada to help them to bear their great burden.
– We will have no hesitation in doing that when we are called upon.
– I am very glad to hear that. But it will be too late then. I do not for a moment think that the political views of mv honorable friends opposite will prevent them from heartily joining in any movement for the advancement of the Empire. But our attempt to establish a Fleet Unit is an altogether insufficient task for us to undertake in connexion with the defence of the Empire. It is a truism that we are dependent on the maintenance of British supremacy on the ocean. But I would like to repeat what, has so often been said - that the advance of Australia as a continent does, not depend primarily, but absolutely - firstly and lastly - upon the maintenance of British power on the ocean. No military force that it would be pos- sible to create in Australia would ever enable a population even of 10,000*000 to maintain, unassailed, and in complete integrity, a continent with a coast-line of 8,000 miles.
– Ten thousand miles.
– While T. for one, am heartily in sympathy with the movement for compulsory military training - and I hope that none of us will do anything by which that system may fall to- the ground - I say that if Great Britain should ever be reduced to the position of one of several primary Naval Powers, our position in holding Australia would become extremely precarious. I do not think that the attack which would be made upon us would be in the nature of an armed invasion. I am inclined to think that if, in the course of years, Great Britain were obliged to centre all her Naval Forces near her own coast in order to protect herself, so that there would be no predominant British Navy on the ocean, what would happen short of an invasion would be that other nations, eastern and western, would continually put forward claims for concessions, for trading rights, and for privileges for their citizens. There would be a general attempt on their part to establish spheres of influence. ( That is the form in which a gradual hustling process would commence. The result would be that, in the course of half a generation, instead of being the possessors of a magnificent continent, we should find ourselves communities like Chili and Peru in South America, holding our own only in certain populated parts, and holding it with very great difficulty. I say, therefore, that we depend, firstly and lastly, upon the maintenance of the supremacy of the Imperial Fleet. I have heard it said - and to my mind a more meanly foolish argument I have never heard uttered - that Great Britain is obliged to impose upon her- people, who are poorer and much less able to bear it than we are, the enormous burden of maintaining her vast Navy, for the purpose of keeping intact her own commerce with the rest of the world. A falser or meaner argument was never put forward. Look at the interests of Australia in commerce. I have not the statistics by me, but I venture to think it will be found that, man for man, we have a much greater interest floating on the ocean than have the people of the United King-: dom. So that, not only our possession of this continent intact, but our safety in sending into the markets of the world our vast exports, which are greater, perhaps, per head, than those of any other country, are entirely dependent, not upon a few ships that we may keep in Sydney, Melbourne, or Hobart, but upon the continued supremacy of the great Imperial Navy in every ocean of the world. ‘
– -Do you think we are not spending enough .this year? . ‘
– I think we are not spending one-third enough.
– this year, V suppose, the Government are carrying out the Naval Agreement that was arrived at in 1909. I am not blaming them for not having started a new unit or two new units. I am merely putting before them this consideration, that in the immediate future we ought to join with Canada in showing all the nations of the world. that we are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with the centre of the Empire, as other parts of the Empire have done. I earnestly desire to impress upon honorable members that, in order to do this, we shall have to spend ultimately between £2,000,000 and £3,000,000 a. year - in fact, nearer £3,000,000 a year. Even with our existing swollen revenue, if we clog it with all kinds of mortgages and charges, if we allow the ordinary expenditure of our Departments to mount up, step by step, without control, we shall paralyze ourselves for the undertaking of such’ a great national effort. That is the worst danger of the present position. Apart altogether from those vastly important projects of territorial development which are pressing, that immediate pressing national necessity which lies before us ought surely to call upon us to exercise some caution in the way in which we spend our great revenue. Our revenue may not continue very long to be so very great. It is extremely unlikely that it will, according to all history, as far as we know it. There are many indications in that direction to which other honorable members have pointed. I am not going to prognosticate evil, but we must be prepared to meet it, and it is unreasonable to expect that the Customs revenue will continue to increase to the immense extent that it has done. What we shall need to apply our minds to, if we are ever going to meet the great national duties of Australia, is imposing, steadily and stringently, conditions of economy upon the ordinary management of the public affairs of the country, the ordinary carrying on of its public Departments. We should endeavour, as far as possible, not to cut down unduly or to starve any service, but to keep all the services well within the ordinary bounds which are necessary for their fulfilment, in order that we may ultimately be able to carry out what, to my mind, is our first and most urgent necessity as a dependent, but great, part of the Empire - the necessity of aiding the Mother Country in the defence of theEmpire as a whole.
– The taxpayer outside is very properly asking why there has been, particularly during the last three years, a continually increasing expenditure in connexion with thefinances of the Commonwealth. We are justified in asking those who have the control of the large Departments of the Commonwealth to give this House in a Budgetstatement the reason why there has been this enormous expansion. I .wish to illustrate this point, in the first place, fromthe votes which appear in the Estimates for’ this year for what are known as the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth. I propose to leave out the heavy special appropriations and the other extraordinary expenditure, and confine my attention to the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth, these being the votes that we may expect to see recurring year after year. If we take the year 1909-10 and the year 191 2-1.3, the contrast is very marked indeed. The total expenditure om the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth for the financial year .i909ioamounted to £4,962,262. The total expenditure proposed for those services for the year 1912-13 amounts to £8,910,178.
– That includes works.
– No. These are the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth. The honorable member will find’ them in the abstract of the Estimates, onpage 4, under the heading of “ OrdinaryServices - Annual Votes.” For the year 1911-12, the expenditure for these purposeswas £7,625,016, so that the proposed increase for the current financial year is- £1,285,162. The following table shows the expenditure on the various services towhich I am referring -
In the first year quoted there was no such Department as the Prime. Minister’s Department, and this year we are asked tavote for it £50,200. That is an entirely new creation, and we see that it has grown even from, last year. We must, of course, expect that, as the Commonwealth develops and progresses, there will be considerable expansion in the ordinary annual services.
– H - Have we not taken over our own works in two States?
– That fact does not account for the extraordinary advance from £4,962,262 to £8,910,178 in three years. Obviously we have to contemplate big expenditures in connexion with the expansion of the Commonwealth. Those, however, relate not so much with respect to the ordinary annual services as to the expanding necessities of our national obligations. We have to deal with such matters as the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the Northern Territory, the establishment of the Federal Capital, the provision of defence, quarantine, and lighthouses. All these, to a certain extent, involve an increase in our annual expenditure ; but even allowing for that vast expansion there remains behind an enormous amount of expenditure for which we are justified in asking the Ministry to account. It would appear, however, as if the responsible heads, the Ministers, were losing control of the vast organization that is growing up under their administration. They seem to nave no grip of it. Indeed, there appears to be such a lack of supervision that Ministers are incapable of telling the Committee why this large expenditure is going on. This continual growth of expenditure, notwithstanding the cry that is constantly made for economy, is a matter with which, quite irrespective of party, we shall have to deal. There is a willingness on all sides to make allowance for the natural expansions of our national life, but at the same time there must be a demand for economy, and a determination that the expenditure shall not go far beyond what is necessary. Our total expenditure has grown from ;£i5>993.5°8 in 1909-10 to £22,683,541 in respect of the proposed expenditure for the present year. This enormous increase has occurred within three years, and it is for the Government, who are asking the Committee to agree to this expenditure, to show why it is necessary. Then, again, we find that on this year’s estimated ordinary receipts and expenditure we shall have really a deficit of £2,261,541. That state of affairs cannot continue, and if my view is correct, the
Committee will soon have to demand a complete review of the whole financial position. The expenditure must be passed under review, and critically examined, so that the Committee will actually know what is absolutely essential for the carrying on of the Commonwealth as a business concern. The ordinary revenue’ ought to be based on the expenditure actually necessary for the services of the Commonwealth. The rule observed in other countries was that Parliament should be very careful to see that the revenues never exceeded the annual expenditure; but we have allowed our revenues in recent years to go beyond the actual necessities in respect of the annual expenditure. Only in the way that I have outlined will it be possible for us to keep a complete control of the expenditure that is intrusted to our care. Our revenue has increased from £15,538,440 in 1909-10 to £20,546,361 in 1911-12; whilst the estimated revenue for the current financial year is £20,422,000. Notwithstanding the enormous increase in the expenditure of the Commonwealth during the past three years, the Government are absolutely unable to point to any particular appropriation that is intended for the assistance or encouragement of our primary industries. I wish to emphasize that point.
– What about the sugar bonus?
– The bounty is not in— tended solely for the encouragement of the sugar industry. I thought that the honorable member had a better knowledge of the conditions regulating our White Australia policy than to believe “that it was. Then again, during the last three years not one piece of legislation has been passed by this Parliament that is in sympathy with the primary producers of this Commonwealth.
– What about the land tax?
– I have seen in the introduction of that measure a desire to tax rather than to assist the primary producers.
– To break up large estates, so as to increase the number of our producers.
– I find also that the land tax is falling heavily on some of the big “ factories of Melbourne, Sydney, and other cities. It is becoming a heavy burden on some of our manufacturing centres, so that it cannot be said that it is helping even the manufacturers of Australia. Insomuch as it has been a tax on city properties, its effect has been to increase the cost of living to the whole community.
– There are other reasons for the increase in the cost of living.
– Undoubtedly there are. It would need a Royal Commission to analyze all the different elements that go to make up the cost of living, and to enumerate their many distinctions.
– And another Royal Commission to examine that Commission.
– Judging by the number of Commissions that have been moved for by honorable members of the Ministerial party, I think we shall need an inspector of Commissions to see that they are doing their work. I repeat that we have in these Estimates no indication of any desire on the part of the Government to assist primary production.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to 7.45 p.m.
– The revenue from Customs and Excise duties increased from £11,645,352,in 1909-10,to £14,710,199. in 191 1-12. This expansion is due to the good seasons that we have enjoyed. But a note of warning has been sounded. We cannot expect prosperity to continue indefinitely, because history has an unfortunate habit of repeating itself. I am most optimistic regarding the future of Australia, but all connected with our rural industries and our commerce are beginning to fear that the present era of prosperity is drawing to a close, and, with any decline, there must come a serious shrinkage of revenue. Ministers, however, apparently are content to pile up expenditure without thought of the future ; they seem to utterly disregard its responsibilities. The attitude of Treasurers in the Mother Country has been quite the contrary. They try to lay down methods which may be followed by their successors.
– The Commonwealth has not such a long history.
– We should be guided by the experience of the Old Country in this matter, though Australia has enjoyed parliamentary institutions for more than half a century, and the Commonwealth may well be guided by the experience of the States. We hoped that, under Federation, saner methods would be followed, and that the mistakes of the past would be avoided.
– The honorable member has been in this Parliament for many years, but he has done nothing.
– I am here, not to make an autobiographical speech, but to criticise the administration of the present Government.
– The honorable member is here to say “ No “ to the other fellow’s “ Yes.”
– I have shown that I have a higher idea of the functions of an Opposition. No Government has been treated so well by the Opposition as this has been, and Ministers should . be the first to acknowledge how much their measures have benefited by our suggestions and amendments. Next year, when the Labour party is on this side of the chamber, it will be for them to follow our good example. The experience of Australia as a nation will be similar to that of the States. Our present financial danger lies in the fact that, although times are prosperous, the people are taxed to the utmost. When prosperity declines, the. revenue will decrease, and will not be equal to the expenditure. How shall we meet our liabilities then ? Let me show honorable members how the Victorian Customs revenue rose and fell during a period of ten years. In 1884-5,it was£1,919,539 ; and the following years, £2,004,460, £2,132,361, and £2,353,000, reaching its maximum of £2,879,830 in 1888-9. Then it began to decrease annually, falling to £2,658,010, £2, 525,572, £2,388,961, and£1,739,285, and in 1893-4 it had declined to £1,716,703. To show that the fluctuation was not merely in the Customs revenue, I shall take the revenue from taxation and services. The revenue of Victoria was£6,290,361 in 1884-5. It then rose to , £6,481,021, in 1885-6 ; £6,733,826, in 1886-7; . £7,631,778, in 1887-8; and £8,731,255, in 1888-9. That was the maximum revenue, and then it fell in a declining scale until it reached £6,712,152, in 1894-5. The fall was as follows : -
1889- 0, £8,636,065;
1890- 1, £8,343,588;
1893- 4, £6,716,814.
We should remember that the Commonwealth may’ have that experience. I hope sincerely that we shall never have it in so acute a form as did Victoria; but it is an experience that is universal. Australia is not the only country which has suffered in this way. What we should endeavour to dp is to build up our annual services to the ordinary needs and requirements that we want to be permanent. We do not want to have to do in this Parliament what has been done more than once in the State Parliaments, and that is immediately there is a wave of adversity to cut down the whole of the services, and get rid of men in consequence of the way in which the Departments have unduly grown up in periods of prosperity. We want to ascertain the actual needs of the nation, and confine ourselves to them. As regards our expenditure as a whole, we want it definitely divided into capital expenditure and the ordinary needs of revenue, making a distinct division between them, and not mixing them up hopelessly -as they are mixed up in this case - so that we cannot tell what is revenue and what is capital account. We cannot get a better illustration than the way in which our Public Service has grown during the last twelve years. I asked the Public Service Commissioner to tell me the number of servants we had when we started the Federation, and how many we have to-day. I find that we started with 11,191 permanent officers, 675 temporary employes, and 5,299 exempt persons. The Commissioner cannot supply the figures for this year; but he has informed me that last year we had 15,120 permanent officers, 3,867 temporary servants, and 15,472 exempt officers. In other words, we find that, whereas we started, in 1901, with 17,165 servants of all kinds, by 19 1 1 we had increased the number to 34,459. That is just double. Our population has grown from 3,733,801 persons in 1901, to 4,455,005 persons in 191:1. While our population has only increased by 721,699 in twelve years, our Public Service has doubled itself. Of course, we must make some allowance for the fact that we have taken over new services and increased our services. But let it be remembered that the figures I have quoted do not include the naval and military officers. Suppose that an ordinary business concern was being run throughout the Commonwealth, would that concern, in virtue of that small increase of population, have found it necessary in running its departments to have doubled its hands?
– Do I understand you to say that the Public Service is overmanned ?
– What I say is that the services have been growing in a most wonderful way. I believe that if an examination were made, it might possibly be found that the growth has been due to the fact that, although the men have had their work to do, there has been a lack of proper organization and control.
– That is rough.
– That is what I contend.
– That is a serious charge against the Administration.
– That is my view of the position. It is not for me to explain why honorable members opposite have increased the services to such an extent. All I am asking at their hands is an explanation.
– You ought not to make charges; you ought to have some ground before you do.
– I am inclined to think that it may be due to a lack of proper organization of the services. In his last report, the Public Service Commissionerdeals with the question of the importance of organization. He says -
A prominent English writer has truly re- marked that the problem of applying science to government becomes one of organization.
– Has he only just found that out?
– In matters of administration, there are many things which are obvious, but which are overlooked, and if the Public Service Commissioner finds that organization has not been followed, even if it is not a new thing, it is his duty to point out the want of its application. He continues -
Throughout the Commonwealth Service _ the scope for exercise of organized and trained intelligence in every branch of Departmental activity is boundless, and the inquiries recently made into the financial administration of the Postmaster-General’s Department have conclusively proved the necessity for continuous vigilance and expert direction in regard to methods . of working. The continuance of such an investigation in this and other Departments of the Service would, it is certain, demonstrate the need for improvement in organization. The application of science to administration is referred to by a leading British publicist (Lord Haldane), in the following words : -
Probably Lord Haldane has only discovered it recently - “ Organization is the key to success ; organization depends on steady thinking, and thinking depends on ideas - ideas which give birth to ideals. For inspiration, as well as guidance, those engaged in enterprise of every kind look more and more to the trained mind.”
This remarkable growth has taken place. I am merely asking for an explanation, and directing particular attention to the necessity of organization when we are dealing with the Commonwealth administration as a whole.
– Let us understand the honorable member. Is he not suggesting all round retrenchment in the Public Service ?
– The honorable member evidently has some idea of his own policy. I have said no such thing. I do not want to adopt his policy in that respect. This is an idea of his own, and let him keep it.
– Would you have the policemen running about?
– I would have a responsible Minister here replying to the important points which have been raised. It should be remembered that we are launching out into all sorts of avenues and increasing our governmental functions in very many ways. While it may have its benefits, it brings with it responsibility. In his report, the Public Service Commissioner sounds another note of warning. He says -
The demand for highly-trained officers of sound administrative capacity is greater than the supply, the extension of governmental functions by new legislation is creating openings for officers possessed of special qualifications, while the avenues of advancement throughout all Departments of the Service are such as to enable the fullest recognition” to be accorded meritorious officers.
There is another aspect of the Public Service which must, I think, be viewed with some apprehension. We have to-day some 3,867 temporary hands employed by the Commonwealth Government. We have a very large number of persons in our employ who are outside the operation of the Public Service Act. The Clothing Factory, the Small Arms Factory, and other Commonwealth factories, afford employment to persons who are not under the Act. Honorable members will admit the scope this affords for the development of patronage by the Commonwealth Government ; and it must be unhealthy for either political party to have the control of such patronage. Our Public Service should be administered on the lines of the Public Service Act. There should be proper examinations to secure admission to it, a proper selection of qualified persons, and the appointment of men to different positions should depend upon their merits and ability to fulfil the duties of those positions.
– Is the honorable member not certain that that course is being followed to-day?
– I say that that is the course which should be followed. A man’s qualification for a position in the Service of the Commonwealth is altogether independent of his political ideas, and equally independent of the fact that he does or does not belong to a union.
– I agree with the honorable member.
– No; that is a different matter.
– One honorable member opposite says that he agrees with that view, and the other says that the question whether a man belongs to a union or not is an entirely different matter.
– The honorable gentleman’s union is a very close one.
– Honorable members opposite frequently speak of the legal profession as a close union, and claim that it is the same as their own unions. Can any of them point to any great industrial and political union which would, as the alleged union of the legal profession does, include the Leader of the Opposition and the Attorney-General as members of the same union ? A man is required to pass an examination to become a member of the legal profession, but he is not asked what are his political opinions.
– The legal profession is not a trade union.
– I am glad to have the honorable member’s assurance on that point. One of his friends has said that it is, and the honorable member very properly chides him, and says that it is not a union. When we find that the temporary employes of the Public Service are excluded from the operation of the Public Service Act, and that in connexion with another branch of the Service the conditions of employment are based upon the rule that, other things being equal, unionists are to be preferred, and when we remember that most of the unions are political and Socialistic in their aim-
– I wish they were.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs frankly admits the position. He says, “ I believe that the unions are not all political and Socialistic, but I wish that they were, and I should give them preference all the time.”
– What is there wrong about that?
– Does the honorable member not see anything wrong in that?
– I do not.
– I put it to the honorable member in this way : Suppose he were not a member of a union-
– The honorable gentleman is not going to cross-examine me; he has not got me in the box.
– It is the honorable member for Maranoa who has been trying to cross-examine me. But he begins to see that I will not prove his case for him. The honorable member says that he sees nothing wrong in a member of a union having political ideas being preferred for employment in the Public Service before a man who does not hold the same political opinions.
– It is not because of his political opinions, but because of the fact that he is a unionist, that he is to be given preference.
– I think the honorable member is not altogether accurate. Are all the members of unions supporters of the Labour party?
– Are not the majority of them members of the Labour party?
– Yes ; because they are the most intelligent of the workers.
– Do not the rules of the majority of the unions require that members must subscribe to certain political newspapers ?
– Not one of them.
– All I need say in reply to that is that, if any honorable member will look up the last report of the Queensland Registrar of Friendly Societies, which may be seen in the Library, he will find that a large proportion of the funds of unions have been diverted from ordinary industrial purposes, and have been applied to political purposes. The rules of some unions require political action to be taken.
– Then, why did the Government repeal the section of the Conciliation and Arbitration Act excluding unions having such rules, if they did not operate? Did not Mr. Justice O’Connor refuse to allow preference to unionists to the Australian Workers Union because the rules of the union required members to subscribe to the Worker, newspaper ?
– The Australian Workers Union is only one union.
– I am referring to it as one case in point.
– I know some members of the Australian Workers Union who voted for the honorable gentleman.
– I do not find fault with them for that.
– I do; I think they were wrong.
– They evidently have a better idea of politics than has the Minister of Trade and Customs. My point is that most of the unions are political associations ; and, in the circumstances, for the Government to say that a man shall not be given employment in the Public Service unless he is a unionist, is to discriminate in a way which must lead to patronage in the Public Service, and to the destruction of its efficiency.
It is often claimed by honorable members opposite that the Labour party are against a borrowing policy. I have in my possession a leaflet issued at the last Boothby election on behalf of Mr. Jelly, in which it is publicly proclaimed that the Labour party are against borrowing. There has since been some modification, and the policy has become a restriction of borrowing.
– That is what was always in the platform.
– Not always; but it is at the present time. Many of our honorable friends opposite have claimed as a great virtue that they did not pile up all the public debts of Australia; but when they say that they were not responsible for that policy, they admit at the same time that they have done nothing to assist the development of the great resources of this country. During this Administration the Commonwealth has launched on a borrowing policy, based on the Act- which was passed last year. This Act authorized loans of £1,000,000 for the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, £600,000 for the acquisition of land in the Federal Territory, and £600,000 for the purchase of lands and the erection of buildings in London. Then there is a further sum of £226,000 in connexion with the redemption of Treasury-bills issued by the Government of South Australia, and £34,476 returned to that State for expenditure in connexion with the Oodnadatta railway. These sums amount altogether to £2,460,476.
– Where did we get the money from?
– It is a most extraordinary idea that we may take money from a public Trust Fund, and put it in our pocket, and yet declare that we have not borrowed. Does the honorable mem-, ber say that this money acquired by the Government is revenue? Is it not borrowed money all the same? ‘ Then, acting. under the authority of the Inscribed Stock Act, the Government last year borrowed altogether £700,000 from the general Trust Fund of the Commonwealth. Of this sum there is £19,524 for the construction of the railway from Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta, £20,000 for the acquisition of land in the Federal Territory, £400,000 for the purchase of land and the erection of buildings in London, £226,000 for the redemption of Treasury-bills issued by the Government of South Australia on account of the Northern Territory, and £34,476 to pay to the State of South Australia for money expended from revenue towards the construction of the railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta. These are the directions in which the loan moneys have been expended; but they do not represent the total public debt of the Commonwealth. The total public debt is £6,371,847, on which we are paying interest, though one has to hunt all over the Budget-papers in order to ascertain the particulars. Under the Department of External Affairs we find that this year we are paying£131,500 interest on the loan, and £8,600 towards a sinking fund in connexion with the Northern Territory, and in connexion with the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta railway we are paying £85,400 interest, and£5,610 towards the sinking fund. In addition we are now asked to vote , £60,000 as interest on loans, independent of the Northern Territory transactions. This item is to be found under the heading of Special Appropriations, on page 5 of the Estimates.
– What a. terror the honorable member is to find out things !
– I was under the impression, that it is the duty of the Government to inform the House of the facts, and I am sorry to find that I am committing a crime in telling honorable members opposite what is in their own Estimates. The interest on the £700,000 to which I have referred is put down at £24,500 in another part of the Estimates, and the item of , £60,000 indicates that another £1,000,000 loan is to be floated this year. The House is entitled to know where the money is coming from - out of what fund. On another page of the Estimates we find that large sums out of the general Trust Fund ‘ have been invested with various States. Is the new Savings Bank going to lend money to the Treasurer? Before we appropriate this , £60,000 for interest we are surely entitled to know on what money it is to be paid.
– The . £60,000 is for interest and sinking fund.
– Quite so, but we are still entitled to the information as to where the money is to come from. How long is the Trust Fund to supply the necessary money? What are the loans ahead; of us, for the purpose of carrying out our national obligations? The cost of building the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway is going to be £4,000,000 at the very least. If we are to have a transcontinental railway from Adelaide to the north, on a wide gauge, it will cost a great deal more than is estimated. There will be the conversion of the existing railway lines ; and for the works to which I have referred £10,000,000 would not be an excessive estimate. The Trust funds are not sufficient to meet such obligations; and honorable members opposite will have to admit that it will be necessary to abandon the idea of not going on to the public market, and that they will haveto borrow in the same way as do the States. The honorable member for Mernda was quite right in pointing: out that a splendid opportunity had been lost in connexion with the conversion and; consolidation of the debts. At the last general election we altered the Constitution with the special object of enabling that problem to be faced; and that is the reason why, practically, all parties throughout Australia conceded the power. Yet three years have elapsed, and not a step has been taken; instead of consolidating the debts the Commonwealth has initiated a borrowing policy on its own account. I hope that before this large indebtedness is; incurred, some efforts will be made to get the States into line, not on a restrictive, but on a regulative system, by which they will be enabled to approach the London market on the best possible terms to raise money for the development of this country. I should now like to refer to one or two other points suggested by the Estimates. We look almost in vain for a single item of expenditure which indicates any sympathy with those engaged in the primary industries.’ I have studied the Estimates carefully, with a view to discovering the particular items which indicate a desire on the part of the Government to do something to cause Australian industries to expand and to open, up markets for our produce. If honorable members will glance at the items relating to the High Commissioner’s office, they will find very little indication of expansion there. A sum of £5,000 is to be appropriated for the export trade to the Continent. For that, I applaud the Government. Another £200 appears upon the Estimates for a commercial agent in South Africa. For advertising the resources of Australia, it is proposed to expend a sum of £20,000, and an amount of £2,000 is provided for our representative on the Imperial Trade Commission.
– What is he doing? Simply having a four-months’ holiday.
– It is interesting to look at the personnel of that Commission, and to note what a fine stamp of man was appointed by Canada. That country acted on the principle that every member of that body ought to have the rank of a Cabinet Minister. I say nothing against him personally; but, obviously, our representative does not possess that knowledge of public affairs which distinguishes all the other members ‘of the Commission.
– He acknowledged that before he left Australia.
– That is so. It is disappointing to find that only £20,000 is to be devoted to advertising the resources of the Commonwealth. Last year, Sir George Reid expended £19,700 in this connexion, so that it is evident the Government do not intend to make any progressive movement with a view to placing the Australian position before the British public. On the other hand, we cannot but express our admiration for the efforts ‘ which the State Governments are making in this direction. I have always desired that in the external affairs- of Australia the Commonwealth should be the leading force. It is true that the High Commissioner speaks for Australia as a whole. But we do not furnish him with the adequate resources that should be ,at his command. The aim of the present Government has never been to co-operate with the States. The Commonwealth and State agencies were not created for the purpose of disputing each other’s jurisdiction, or of overlapping each other’s functions. The idea was that, as far as possible, they should co-operate for the well-being of the people of this country. Particularly does this remark apply to immigration. The very distribution of powers under our Constitution indicates that there should be co-operation between the Commonwealth and the States. For example, we find that the Commonwealth is vested with power to control immigration and emigration, while the States retain control of industries and” of the land. It is clear, therefore, that these powers should be exercised in sympathy one with the other. But as soon as the States, which for years seemed disposed to adopt a jealous attitude, offered to co-operate with the Government in the matter of immigration, what did we find? The Ministry at once raised the cry - “ We object to dual control.”
– All the States want us to do is to find the money.
– Is not that one of the functions relating to immigration and emigration? When immigrants arrive here, have not the States to find money in order to provide land and employment for them? Immediately they reach our shores, do they not become citizens of Australia ? It is essential that the Commonwealth should be the authority to bring them here. After all, are we not bound to people this continent for defensive purposes? To a large extent, the bringing of immigrants to Australia is a work purely of a Federal character. But, even in regard to industrial matters, the Government have endeavoured to bring everything into the Federal sphere. In establishing a Commonwealth Savings Bank, they have chosen to disregard similar institutions founded by the States. One of my most serious charges against them is that they have utterly failed to realize the Federal nature of the Constitution under which we live, and that they have ‘ consistently striven to bring about a system of unification. It is to be regretted that they have exhibited so little a desire to promote Australian interests abroad.- If we look at Canada or the United States, we shall find large centres which might be made to supply us with large numbers of desirable immigrants, but, so’ far, the Government have taken no steps to establish Commonwealth agencies in those countries. When Parliament first assembled, the Prime Minister made a suggestion which I interpreted to mean that the Government were in favour of the establishment of a bureau of agriculture. Up to date, however, very little work has been done in that regard.
– Nothing has been done.’
– Yes. The Government have appointed Mr. McAlpine. to make a report on bitter pit.
– He is not a Commonwealth officer. The Government have not appointed a permanent staff.
– The Government have not taken a single step in that direction;- and yet there is no Department in Australia more essentially Federal in its construction than the Bureau of Agriculture would be. The idea is to have a Bureau of Agriculture, not to take away from the States their existing powers and jurisdictions, but so that Australia may employ the highest and best-trained scientists who are capable of understanding diseases in plants and stock, and have proper investigations made, so that the heavy losses sustained from time to time may be avoided.
– And spend some more money.
– That is the proper way in which money should be spent. The honorable member will see that expenditure in that regard means the saving of money. If in Queensland, for instance, anything could be done to deal with the cane grub by spending a few hundred pounds, we should save to the primary producer thousands and thousands of pounds. That is expenditure of a proper kind, that is highly productive in its nature.
– Do you not think the States would resent interference by the Federal authorities in that direction?
– The States would not resent it. As a matter of fact, Mr. Swinburne, who was Minister of Agriculture in Victoria at the time we submitted the proposal, expressed himself in favour of it. The Queensland Minister also expressed an opinion in favour of it. It is a class of work that is of the highest value, and purely scientific. Diseases in animals and plants are not confined to any one State. They do not recognise State boundaries. The honorable member for Calare knows the wonderful work that has been accomplished by Departments of this kind established in the United States and Canada.
– What did the other States say about the proposal?
– I am not sure what they said. In fact, some of them expressed no opinion at all. However, the point is that, no matter what the States have said, it is a proper idea, which we ought to carry out, and the Department is one which I should like to see established at a very early date. We have to regret, not only in connexion with the Budget, but in general administration, that in their finance the Government do not take the House sufficiently into their confidence; that we cannot get necessary information from them; and that, while large sums of money are being expended, we ask Ministers in vain for an explanation of the individual items. The House seems to be losing control of the financial affairs of Australia.
– We have not reached the individual items yet.
– We have already passed votes amounting to some millions of pounds for public works. Our experience right through those Estimates was that we could not get any information. A sum of £830,000 was voted for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, but we could not get any information regarding, for instance, the construction of telephone or telegraph lines. Again, when we dealt with many items for the Defence Department, we could get no explanation regarding them. That failure to disclose information to the House is a failure to disclose the real position of the public affairs to the taxpayers of Australia. It is not an offence committed against the members of this party, but is a wrong done to the whole of the people of Australia, who are the taxpayers, and who sent us here to manage the receipts and expenditure of the .Commonwealth. The Government have got into a habit of secrecy. It is very hard to say what the cause of this is. I do not know whether it is due to the fact that the Government are being subjected to Caucus methods, and that, as these matters have been discussed elsewhere, they do not think it necessary to discuss them here. Whatever the cause is, it all points to the one fundamental fact that the vital principle of Ministerial responsibility has been seriously undermined during the three years of administration by the party opposite. Honorable members do not seem to look to this House as the source of their power and authority. They seem to have their eyes directed elsewhere. So long as that state of affairs exists, so long will we have the methods of financial administration that we have had from honorable members opposite. The policy seems to be, “ We have our majority, carry the vote through; it does not matter whether we explain it or not.” Such a policy undermines the principle of financial responsibility that ought to -guide us in this House in the administration of public affairs. Honorable members opposite seem, also, to have completely failed to realize their duty as members representing a Dominion in a great Empire in regard to reciprocal trade relations. They have done little or nothing to foster these, and it is deeply to be deplored that during the last few years, when the opportunity existed, they did not take advantage of it to try to link the Empire together as far as they possibly could in the sound bonds of finance, trade, commerce, and industry. On the whole, this Budget shows recklessness in its .preparation, and a lack of responsibility in administering the affairs of Australia. There is a failure to disclose to us all those guiding principles which should lead us in this House in the administration of public affairs. There seems to be a desire to keep from honorable members the trend of our expenditure. There seems to be a tendency to lump together large sums of money, amounting to thousands of pounds, and get
Authority to spend them; and when once the authority to spend is given, the House knows no more about them. We do not know whether the money has been expended according to any plan, system, or method. Take, for instance, the administration of our large railway system. We have authorized the spending of £1,000,000 towards the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. So far as this House is concerned. all control over the expenditure of that money has been parted with. We do not know whether the expenditure will be reckless. or whether it will be judiciously managed. All we know is that we have been asked to authorize the expenditure, and that is the last we shall hear of it. There seems to be growing up under this Administration a lack of proper control; and while that state of affairs continues there is danger ahead for the finances of the Commonwealth.
.- Whilst sitting here listening to the speeches of members of the Opposition, I have been wondering what I should do if I occupied a seat on the Opposition side. There are two things that I should never do if I were in Opposition. I should never belittle Australia, nor should I belittle the civil servants of the Commonwealth.
– Who has been doing it?
– The honorable member must be fairly deaf if he does not know what has been going on, My view of what a Budget-speech should be may, possibly, not coincide with that of other honorable members. My idea of how we should regard a Budget-speech is not to bother too much about the figures in the statements laid before the House, because those figures are compiled by the officers in the various Departments, in whom, so far as I know, the Government and the Par liament have the greatest confidence, and the money put down against the various items is expended for those items in each case; while every expenditure has to pass the Audit Department, which, so far as I have been able to learn, conducts one of the best audits that takes place in any part of the Commonwealth. With those facts before me, I hardly see why I should be called upon to delve into those figures. In the first place, I do not doubt them ; I believe they are accurate. In the second place, I believe that every expenditure put down in the Estimates is for the benefit of the people of Australia. In dealing with the Budget-speech, I should like honorable members to rise a little higher than the mere casting of aspersions from one side to the other. What I should like to know about a Budget-speech is what there is in it in the interests of humanity, and what projects it contains to improve the conditions of the people, to uplift the inhabitants of Australia, and to brighten their lives. That is my idea of how we should regard a Budget-speech, and I hope the time will come when a similar view will be taken by many others. The Leader of the Opposition, in criticising the Budget, had very little to say with regard to the figures contained in the Budget itself. I notice that the Age stated that he spoke for a long time, and that he might very well have compressed into thirty minutes all that he had to say. It also declared that the honorable member for Mernda, might well have been at home, seated by his comfortable fireside, instead of taking up as he did the time of the Committee. That is the criticism of a newspaper in no way identified with the Ministerial party. Like the honorable member for Hindmarsh, I consider that our official statistics ought to contain more information than they do regarding the wealth and progress of Australia. I think that attention might very well be paid to that matter rather than to many subjects that have been discussed during this debate. Whilst the Leader of the Opposition was speaking I could not help feeling that he was very anxious concerning the future of the Treasury. He seemed to anticipate that he would be called upon to take up the administration of the affairs of the country at a time when the Treasury coffers were empty. Let me reassure him. I do not think he need have any such fear. I do not think there is any likelihood of the Commonwealth having an empty Treasury during his lifetime or my own. The honorable gentleman remarked that the public appeared to take but little interest in the Budget. To my mind the reason for this is obvious. The people of Australia have so much confidence in those now ruling the destinies of Australia - they are so satisfied that the present Government have the welfare of the community at heart - that they think it well to give them ample opportunity to do that which will be in the best interest of Australia. The Government can take credit for the fact that the only new taxation which they have imposed is a tax on unimproved land values. It seems to me that the criticism that has been levelled at our Customs and Excise revenue has not been altogether fair. I speak now as a Protectionist. We must recognise that there will always be a certain amount of revenue from narcotics and stimulants; but I find that since the present Tariff was passed there has been an increase of 25 per cent. in the actual value of dutiable articles which should be manufactured in Australia. In other words, the actual value of these dutiable articles has increased by 25 per cent., and the increased revenue is largely to be accounted for by that fact. In some cases there has been an increase of 33 per cent., and I should not be surprised if it went up to 50 per cent., but I think’ we may fairly estimate the actual all-round increase at 25 per cent. The honorable member for Flinders dealt trenchantly this afternoon with matters relating to the Postal Department. If there is any expenditure that we are justified in passing it is that relating to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I look upon the Postal Department as one of those Government utilities in regard to which we have to see, not so much that it yields revenue as that it gives a proper service to the people. We have adopted the policy of giving increased facilities in respect of postal, telephonic, and telegraphic services to those living in remote country districts. Those increased services involve an increased expenditure, and some time must necessarily elapse before much revenue can be obtained from them. As the representative of a city constituency, I feel that it is my duty to see that residents of country districts secure the same facilities in the matter of telephone services as city residents enjoy. When we ask people to settle on the land we should be prepared to give them some of the advantages of civilization of which telephones form a part. To deprive the people on the land of reasonable telephone facilities is to impose upon them a burden which they should not be asked to bear. I cannot understand the complaint that has been made as to the expenditure in connexion with the Postal Department. Nearly every honorable member of the Opposition has blamed the Government for the increased expenditure, but it is a remarkable fact that whilst the new Works and Buildings Estimates, involving an expenditure of nearly £4,000,000, were under consideration, there was not one division on a proposal to reduce them. It is surprising that, while some honorable members opposite indulge in reckless statements as to the expenditure of the Commonwealth, they fail to take advantage of an opportunity to move that an item’ to which they object should be reduced or struck out. It seems to me that they are only talking against time, and that no one believes what they say in this regard. Coming to the question of the proposed maternity grant, I am astonished at some of the statements that have been made by certain honorable members opposite who attend afternoon meetings at which coffee, tea, buns, biscuits, and other light refreshments are served. At one of these gatherings the statement was made that the proposed grant was a bribe. One lady declared that the women did not want it, and that they were not going to be bribed to give their votes to a certain party by the offer of a £5 maternity grant. I do not know theseladies, but I do know that my wife and the wives of those who have to work have no opportunity to go out and take afternoon tea ; their time is fairly well occupied in attending to their home duties, and looking after the comfort of their husbands and their children. I see that some ladies-. - I do not know whether they are identical with those who have made these statements regarding the maternity allowance - recently applied for a wine and spirit licence to be issued in connexion with their meetings.
– What meetings?
– My honorable friend at tends more meetings of ladies than of men, both in his electorate and outside of it. I cannot understand his anxiety to attend such gatherings. The strong remarks made by these ladies at their meetings remind me of Burns’ Tines -
Man’s inhumanity to man
Makes countless thousands mourn.
I am satisfied that women to women are no good. If there is any proposal which will receive my hearty indorsement, it is the maternity allowance. I know what it means to rear a family on limited means. Men are inclined to be callous towards women. When children come, it is the women who. have to bear all the trouble, and it behoves the men to make sure that they get the assistance they need. We do not ask every mother in the country to take the allowance. Those who speak of it as a bribe will not be obliged to apply for it. But it would be very selfish of those who have plenty of this world’s goods to begrudge the bonus to their sisters who require it. It is the attitude of some women towards this proposal that makes me refer to the inhumanity of women. The honorable member for Flinders had a good deal to say about preference to unionists. Last year the Leader of the Opposition, speaking, I think, on the Address-in-Reply, said that organization played a very active part in our civilization. If that be so, surely there can be no objection to the community employing those who believe in organization. It must” not be forgotten that there are organizations of professional men. Recently we read in the newspapers of a strike of doctors, and it is not two years since an Adelaide medical man stated that he would not touch with a 40-foot pole a doctor who did not belong to the British Medical Association. I do not think that anything stronger than that could be said by a member of a miner’s union, or by a member of any other union. Even the recording angels of the press are now organized, and I believe that the best men in the profession belong to the Press Union. Organization is to be found in all trades and callings, and the honorable member for Flinders could have used his talent to better advantage than by casting a slur upon those belonging to unions ‘who try to obtain employment. A remarkable thing about his address was that, although in the early part of it he said that he viewed our expenditure with alarm, and he asked where was the revenue coming from to meet it, at the end he said that we are not spending half enough on defence. He forgets that there are other services besides defence. I hardly see the logic of his position, unless he is antagonistic to the Public Service, and thinks that we are spending too much money on it. I do not worry about the possibility of some other form of taxation. What I am concerned about is the best way of getting revenue after the Customs and Excise duties have been reduced. When the land tax was proposed, some honorable gentlemen feared that land values would decline, but I did not hold that opinion, and I find now that land values in every city of Australia, as well as in the suburbs and country, are higher to-day than ever they were before. The croakers used to say that Australia was going to be ruined, that capital would leave the country, and other stupid things; but in East Sydney, within the last twelve months, and within a distance of 300 yards, a block of land was sold for £20,000, and seven months later for £30,000, and for a mission hall for which £7,725 was paid seven years ago, an offer of £15,000 was made a few weeks ago..
– That is since the honorable member, began to represent the’ district.
– Exactly. Another block was bought for £17,000, and the purchasers were offered £20,000 for it before the deed was registered. Land in George-street has been sold for £56 the inch; that is the sum given for a piece not larger than a postage stamp. While Australia has a buoyant revenue, she is bound to prosper. The Governments that have caused progress have had a buoyant revenue; progress has never been made with a falling revenue. Instead of abusing those on this side for having belonged to trade unions in their young days, and having thus made their way into Parliament, honorable members would do well to study the problems which confront the community. In the great shipping disaster which took place in the Atlantic, there were twelve persons drowned whose estates were returned for probate purposes at being of the total value of £30,000,000. When we get these evidences of the unequal distribution ‘of wealth, is there any honorable member who is prepared to tell me that there will not be labour unrest? Does any honorable member expect that an educated Democracy like that of Australia is likely to sit quietly by and’ struggle to get a few shillings with which to eke out a mere existence when there is all this untold wealth in our country ? I feel confident that those who occupy the Treasury bench, and who1 will in future occupy it, will have to find out what is causing this unrest. It arises from the fact that men are not receiving that share of the world’s wealth which it was intended they should all have. I realize that on an occasion of this kind, having regard to the great work of the session, we cannot properly debate social questions. I do not intend to take up the time of the Committee in dealing as fully as 1 should like to deal with the great problems which are going to affect our revenue. I, like the (Leader of the Opposition, draw attention to them. I am one of those who are quite prepared to assist in solving these problems, which we shall have to solve sooner or later. After all, what is the real cause of a dispute now in industrial circles? What troubles the men is not so much the matter which has caused the dispute as the thought that they are not receiving that to which they are entitled. This thought causes them sometimes to very foolishly enter upon a strike, out of which they probably will not come as well as they ought to do. We, as leaders of thought in Australia, will have to exercise our minds on the solution of these problems, instead of picking up a mass of figures which every departmental officer has been through over and over again, which have passed from the Departments to the Treasury, and back again to the Departments to be cut down. There is not a member of this Parliament who is not aware that the expenditure of public money is required in his electorate, especially if it is a country one, for providing telephonic and telegraphic communication, or improving the postal services. Yet, to-day, the honorable member for Flinders drew attention to the increases in the salaries of the staff. Does he think that the men are prepared to work for nothing, or for the mere honour of the thing? They want to have a little comfort, and they are quite justified in asking for an increment to meet the increased cost of living. The great question which we ought to try to solve is, why is an increase of wages followed by an increase in the cost of living? If, for instance, a coal-miner receives a 10 per cent, rise, the coal proprietor increases the cost * of coal by that rate, and the manufacturers raise the prices of their wares. I think we shall very soon have to arrive at some conclusion as to the causes of the inequitable social conditions of the people in order to solve the unrest amongst the industrial classes.
– The recent restriction that was put on the duration of members’ speeches has induced* me to arrive at two conclusions in regard to future speeches. The first is to adhere strictly to my notes, with a sort of telegraphic brevity ; and the second is to resist the fascination of interjections, and decline to answer them. I say “ fascination “ because such honorable member’s as the honorable member for East Sydney are alwaysa strong inducement to give information. But I ask honorable members, when I decline to answer their interjections, to remember that I do it with no desire to withhold any useful information which I could give them, but rather to save my own time in order that I may not exceed the time limit. I never knew a debate in which such a resolution was more necessary ; because, quite apart from the limit of time, there has been an enormous number of interjections put tohonorable members to-day, which seemed to me to have no other purpose, whatever their good intentions may have been, thanto elicit some admission which might be afterwards used as a sort of electioneering “ gag.” I am not prepared to become a manufacturer of these aids to speech on the part of honorable members on the Ministerial side, and therefore I ask to beexcused if I pass lightly, but respectfully, over the interjections which are directed to me.
I take in this debate the usual hopeless view of doing any good so far as the Ministerial side of the House is concerned. Years ago, we ceased to be a deliberative assembly. We know that everything comes forward in this House, as I and others have pointed out long ago, crystallized and completed ; and, whether an honorable member spends his time on the benches opposite or in some more enjoyable parts of the building, it is immaterial ; because he knows what he has to vote for ; no matter how valuable the criticism may be, there is no inclination even to take a suggestion or to benefit by it. To-night, the honorable member for Darling Downs very properly pointed out that during the wholeof this debate, which has gone on for many days, there has not been one Ministerial expression. The Treasurer himself has not been in the chamber-
– iHe is sitting by your side.
– I am very much flattered to find that on this august occasion the Treasurer has taken a seat, and on my side of the House - no doubt owing to the great attraction of what I anr saying - and that I shall have his hearing ; but I am not thinking of myself so much as of honorable members. The Leader of the Opposition, has spoken, the Deputy Leader has spoken, the honorable member for Swan has spoken, and several other leading members of the party have spoken.
– All the leaders have spoken.
– I am perfectly willing to say that all the leaders of the party have spoken. It does not matter whether a man is a leader or a follower, so far as honorable members on the other side are concerned. They come here and they go by chance if it suits them. If there are less attractions in other parts of the building, they come here. If there are attractions elsewhere, they go there. It does not matter whether it is a leader or an unimportant person like myself who addresses the Committee. It is a fact that, although almost every aspect of the Budget has had attention directed to it in a very critical spirit, there has not been one Ministerial utterance during these many days in order to give the information which was asked for, or to answer the criticisms which were offered in regard to the Budget. Of course, it is cut and dried. The honorable member for East Sydney says he does not see anything to object to. I am very doubtful if he’ could see anything to object to in any Budget, whether it is one from that side or from this side; but it is very natural that, coming from the Ministerial side, he could not understand how anybody could see anything which was either difficult or objectionable. When the Leader of the Opposition moved, some weeks ago, the motion in which he formulated a very strong and drastic indictment against the Government, I entirely sympathized with the indictment. It was as strong as words could make it without being absolutely offensive. I wish to say here, because I had not an opportunity to take part in the debate on the AddressinReply, that I entirely indorse the most condemnatory counts of that indictment.
I propose to-night to deal with two or three matters which I should have dealt with had I spoken on the AddressinReply, but which are more appropriate to this debate.
Speaking generally, the answer which has come from the other side to the charge that there has been governmental extravagance, has been, “ Show us some item of expenditure that could be eliminated.” That stereotyped cry has suggested to me the case of a young man suddenly given the right to overdraw his banking account. He is so affected by the novelty of the situation that, instead of exercising his mind to discover what he can do without, he is concerned to determine how many things he can possibly buy. He surrounds himself with a great variety of very useful articles which his income does not entitle him to purchase; and when he is then charged with extravagance, he says, “ Point to any one of these articles, the purchase of which can be said to be extra- .vagant.” I admit that there are very few items of expenditure on the Ministerial programme which can be said to be extravagant in the sense of being useless; but I say that the Government have launched out into an aggregate expenditure which is wholly beyond. their means, and have taken the fullest advantage of the opportunity afforded by what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has described as “ piping times.” No thought seems to have entered their minds as to what the future may bring should the great tide at present in our favour turn in the other direction. Theirs is the policy of the spendthrift, who never looks forward to what may follow the good times he is enjoying. Although it may not be possible to point to anything for which the Government have paid an extravagant price in order to justify a charge of extravagance in that sense, it is possible to point to many things on which money has been expended recklessly, and to expenditure which a wisely-governed community would not indulge in at the present, time.
In the first place, I say that the Government have been guilty of what I unhesitatingly call vindictive taxation. That is a strong indictment. I charge them also with reckless expenditure. I say, further, that they have unjustifiably refused to distinguish between expenditure from revenue and loan expenditure, which should properly be distributed over a period of years instead of being charged to the present year or generation, or even to ….. taxpayers of the present year. Honorable members opposite need not imagine that their vindictive taxation in the shape of the Federal land tax is forgotten. They may have forgotten the novelty of it; but I can tell them that it lies like a piece of lead upon the chests of the people, and they will be made to feel their actionmore seriously than they imagine where an opportunity is given the public to express their opinion in regard to this matter. The Government imagined that, by making the exemption £5,000, they were putting something before the public which would act as a sort of political bribe to induce the small holders of land to indorse the tax because of the possibility of their getting cheap land for themselves. But the people do not forget that, almost at the time when the land tax was imposed, some members of the party opposite talked of the “ thin end of the wedge,” and told the public that, byandby, they would reduce the exemption to £500. The small holders of land remember that very keenly; and when the time comes, honorable members opposite will hear of it in a way which will make some of them laugh on the wrong side of their mouths. I look for no sympathy, and certainly for no intelligent attention, from the other side; but I do expect some, attention from the public. If the speakers who have occupied the attention of the House for the last seven or eight days were asked why they took the trouble to make such lengthy and painstaking speeches, they would say that it was because what they had to say would, to some extent, get before the public, and so inform them what we, as a party, think of the policy of the other side. Besides being a vindictive tax, the Federal land tax was a wholly unnecessary tax, as I think I can show. Whilst at the beginning of Federation the Commonwealth Government were taking 5s. in the £1 from the Customs and Excise revenue of the country, they are to-day taking r.6s. 8d. in the £1 from that source of revenue, in addition to what they derive from the land tax. When Federation was inaugurated, no one would have credited that the amount of 5s. in the £1 of the Customs and Excise revenue, which the Constitution provided the Commonwealth Government might have during the first ten years, was going to be so greatly increased that the States, instead! of taking 15s. in the £1 of that revenue, would have to be content with about one-third of that amount ; whilst the Commonwealth, . instead of taking 5s. in the £1, would take’ 16s. 8d. in the £1. No one would have credited a statement that, after gradually robbing the States of one of their most legitimate sources of revenue, on which, according to the debates in the Federal Convention, the States were largely dependent to carry on their institutions, the Corner. Bruce Smith. monwealth Government would put another £1,500,000 of taxation upon the people in the shape of a land tax imposed wholly on vindictive grounds, and m order to comply with a placard designed for them by a body of men not responsible to Parliament. This vindictive taxation and political robbery from the States has been carried out in such a way that, when they go before the electors, honorable members opposite will feel the pinch keenly, and learn, perhaps for the first time, what they might have learned long ago, that they must sooner or later pay for their abuse of the position in which they have been placed.
When the Land Tax Bill was before the House, a senator in another place said that it was absurd to stop at an exemption of £5,000, and he hoped the public did not understand that that was to be the limit. He went on to point out that the £5,000 exemption was only the “ thin end of the wedge,” and he explained, in the most graphic manner, the process of driving in a wedge until the log was completely severed, pointing out that the work would be completed when the £5,000 had been reduced to £500. I desire the public to thoroughly understand that the Labour party, through one of its prominent members, has thus practically threatened the public that, when the time comes, the “wedge”- will be driven in, until the exemption is so small as to include a large number of those who do not now pay land tax.
It was never intended, when we established Federation, that there should be a gradual “ steal “ of the powers and revenue of the States by the Commonwealth, but what was in view was merely a division of functions, the large national functions being left to the Federation, and the local and more limited functions, confined to State areas, going to the respective States. If this had been realized we should not have had this .appropriation - I would rather call it misappropriation - of the Customs and Excise revenue, a land tax realizing £1,500,000, and the taking away from the people of money required for works intended to benefit generations ahead of us, on whom the burden should fall proportionately with those of the present day.
In the ten years now closing, the expenditure of the Commonwealth has risen .from £3,700,000 to £15,400,000, exclusive of the money returned to the States. This ‘ is an advance .of £11,7.00,000 in Common: wealth expenditure, while the population in the same period has increased, roughly, by 700,000 people, including 400,000 infants. This increase in the expenditure represents 200 per cent., while the increase in the population is only 15 per cent. Then, if we deduct from the 700,000 population the 400,000 infants, the increase in the population is represented by 8 per cent, as against the increase in the expenditure of 200 per cent. The aggregate expenditure of the States has meanwhile risen from £29,000,000 to £40,000,000, making the total increase, State and Commonwealth, £23,000,000 per annum. All this seems to me to point to a complete absence of whatI should call business principle. We know very well that a man in business, in either a small way or a large way, recognises the difference between what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition called “ piping times “ and “ lean times.” If that man is of the stamp likely to succeed, he “ takes in sail “ when good times seem to be coming to an end, and takes care to be “ snug “ and ready for the bad times. The spendthrift shopkeeper or citizen, on the other hand, who has no business knowledge, follows a different course. He has money to his credit, and he does not consider very carefully where it comes from j nor does he know where the money to follow is to come from, and he simply says, “ I have money, and I shall spend it, and trust to good fortune to give me more.” The Labour party are not only spending every copper they possess, but actually borrowing money to the extent of , £15,000,000 from the people in note issue and direct loan, in addition to taking about 16s. 8d. in the £1 instead of 5s. out of the Customs and Excise revenue, and imposing a land tax of , £1,500,000 with the prospect of an increase. I heard the honorable member for East Sydney say in so many words, but in rather a clumsy way, that it was quite possible that in the future we should have an increased land tax; and I read between the lines when that honorable member said that honorable members had better think whether they would like a little more land tax. All I can say is that, if the Commonwealth Government are going to continue the present division of Customs duties by taking 16s. 8d. instead of 5s., and are going to float loans beyond the £15,000,000 already floated, in addition to increasing the land tax, they will live to receive the curses of the people from one end of Australia to the other. 1 have referred to the lack of business knowledge in failing altogether to distinguish between loan and revenue expenditure ; and I desire to show that I am not speaking entirely on my own authority. It is a recognised principle in every civilized State in the world -there may be one or two exceptions in the South American Republics, but even in every civilized South American Republic - it is acknowledged that a country should distinguish clearly between loan and revenue expenditure, and throw all loan expenditure over those generations likely to profit by the permanent or revenue-producing investments purchased with the money. The Daily Telegraph financial editor has summarized the amounts which, in his opinion, are being charged to revenue expenditure, which ought to come out of loans. He admits that if it come out of loan moneys, there ought to be a regular annual expenditure over the different years for interest and depreciation ; but he actually enumerated the items of £4,121,000 for defence in the two years 1909-10 and 1910- 11,£2,3 14,000 for post-office additions, and £328,000 for other items, making a total of £6,763,000. He contends that this expenditure should come out of loan money, and, with proper provision for distributing the expenditure over future years and making allowance for depreciation; that this £6,763,000 should not have been met out of the revenue of the years in which it was incurred. He showed that in 1911-12 no less than £4,306,000 had come out of revenue expenditure which should have come out of loan expenditure with similar provisions ; and he estimated that in1912-13 a sum of £6,000,000 would come out of revenue expenditure which should, again with proper allowances, come out of loan expenditure. These amounts in five years total the sum of £17,000,000, which, in the estimation of that authority, should have been distributed over a number of years instead of coming out of the pockets of the taxpayers of those in which they were included. I shall show presently that there are other authorities who support that theory.
I pass now to another contention, namely, that the Commonwealth is drifting in the direction of involving a duplication of the people’s services. I ‘am sure that it was never contemplated that this Parliament - created by the States - we have to remember that-
– Created by the people.
– The States granted the right to call the Federal Convention together, and agreed to bind themselves by the Constitution which it framed. But they never contemplated for a moment that this Parliament would attempt to create itself a sort of Opposition body for the purpose of running counter to themselves in a number of important public services. The land tax is one instance of this. We know that every State in Australia to-clay has its land tax. It is true that for a short time New South Wales had a hiatus in its land taxation as the result of handing over to the municipalities the right to levy rates. But -it has now reverted to a land tax. At the time we entered Federation the whole of the States had a local land tax in operation. But the Commonwealth has invaded that arena, and has practically duplicated the official machinery by which land is being taxed throughout Australia. Do honorable members imagine that the public ever contemplated that this Parliament would embark upon a system of duplicating services in order that two great bodies of officials might do what was already being done by one?
I come next to the matter of the Commonwealth Bank. I was not. one of those who denounced the establishment of that institution as a foolish procedure, but I did question the necessity for, and The wisdom of, establishing it. I questioned the necessity for it, because I knew that the people’s wants in the matter of banking were already being well served. The result has proved the accuracy of my contention, because, although the Labour party in their journals for a long time have predicted the probability that the Commonwealth Bank would produce millions of money for them, the fact remains that, although nearly a year has elapsed since the Bill was passed, the institution has not yet been started. It is true that a manager has been selected from one of the financial institutions which were accused of being a “ band of robbers,” but practically it has not yet opened its offices, except for the purpose of conducting small Savings Banks in opposition to the State Savings Banks. We have, therefore, entered upon a business which will involve the people of Australia in a useless duplication of offices, seeing that the private banking institutions were already giving complete satisfaction to the people. If the banks of Australia had wholly failed to fulfil their functions, the public would have allowed very little time to elapse before they would have established some institution which would have effectually served their wants. But existing institutions were satisfying the public as banking concerns, and in regard to the issue of paper money. Tho wants of the people in the matter of banking are no greater to-day than they were two or three years ago. There has been a growth, it is true, but only such a growth as the existing banks could well have grappled with. In the establishment of the Commonwealth Savings Bank is to be found the most objectionable form of duplication which can well be imagined. Later on I shall show that something like 1,800 branches cf Savings Banks existed at the time the Commonwealth determined to embark upon that business. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank has declared through the press that it is the intention of the Government to open branches of the Savings Bank in every part* of Australia where post-offices exist. On the other hand, the State Governments, in an equally determined spirit, have announced that they will open offices in every part of the Commonwealth. It is a very easy thing for honorable members opposite to gloat over that circumstance. It is like a man gloating over a fight between two others when he has not lo suffer the pain or the results of the conflict. But we have to recollect that we are here, not to please our own parties, or to satisfy our own placards or those who have made placards for us, but to do our utmost for the people. If in 1,756 townships of Australia we practically duplicate buildings, staffs, &c, the public will soon realize that we are throwing upon them a huge wasteful expenditure, which will make it more expensive for the State Savings Banks to do business with the poorer classes.
When the Commonwealth Bank Bill was before this Chamber I embraced the opportunity to show that if this savings bank business was entered upon it would enormously increase the cost of the work which was being performed so effectually by the States. At the present time there is a sort of competition being fostered l>etween the States and the Commonwealth with a view to determining whether the former shall retain the business which they already enjoy. I am not going to discuss, the question of whether the Commonwealth
Will succeed in its Savings Bank project or not. Up to the present the result of the experiment is a very poor one. When we make allowance for the large number 0i trade unionists who have felt bound to put their money into it, in order to vindicate their claim to have it established, we must admit that the result has been of the most wretched order, and in a private institution would have led long before this to the calling together of the shareholders and probably the windingup of the institution.
Under the head of extravagance, I want to say something about the Navy; because I do not think that honorable members on the Ministerial side of the House, or the public outside, are aware of what our naval defence scheme is going to involve us in. T.t is not generally known that under Admiral Henderson’s scheme, Australia is going to be called upon to expend £113,000,000 in the next twenty-two years. That is in addition to a possible £40,000,000, which he himself lays down as necessary for docks and other services of the kind, although he does not fix it as being necessary in the next twenty years. I have always been a strong advocate of a very solid expenditure on the part of Australia in naval matters. I was always more favorable to a subsidy for the Imperial Navy than to having a Navy of our own; because I felt then, and I feel now, that when the time comes we must stand or fall according to the fate of the Mother Country. Whatever happens to. her, happens to us; and it would be absurd to argue that if England fell, we could still stand. We stand or fall with her ; and, therefore, it becomes of vital interest to us that we should spend our money in such a way as to strengthen her hand wherever she is likely to be menaced. We read in the latest number of the London Times’ that Mr. Borden heralded his arrival from Canada by saying that at present he contemplates the building of “three Dreadnoughts to be added to the Imperial Navy. We’ know that New Zealand has added one to the Imperial Navy. We know that the Imperial service has asked New Zealand for permission to use her Dreadnought on the North Sea station, and that New Zealand has most patriotically consented without a word of doubt or hesitation. I have no doubt that when the Prime Minister of Canada is asked a similar question with regard to the three Dreadnoughts that he proposes to build, he will, with equal readiness and equal absence of hesitation, agree to their being also used with the Imperial Fleet either in the Mediterranean or the North Sea, wherever best suits the programme of the Imperial Government. We,- on the other hand, have adopted a different course. We are entering into an expenditure of £5,000,000 a year; and the men who are to-day carrying out the scheme are the very men, with one exception, who in this House only nine years ago refused to vote a paltry sum of £200,000 per annum towards the upkeep of the British Navy. Who originated this Australian Navy? The- Liberal Government. When the Labour people, as a party, found that they were compelled to carry it out, they did their utmost to’ belittle it, and make it as useless as possible for the Imperial Government, by making it a flotilla of mosquito vessels, which could do no more than hover about the coast of Australia, and would be incapable of crossing the ocean in times of necessity. It was the Liberal party that took this mosquito Fleet and converted it into one containing vessels which could be sent across the ocean to help the Imperial Navy to defend the Empire. When that was done, and the first of the ships arrived, the Labour party had not the common decency to invite one of the originators, the present Deputy Leader of the Opposition, to take a seat at the celebrating banquet. To-day we have them parading about the country as if they had originated this £5,000,000 Fleet, when the real value of their Imperial sentiment was shown in their refusal, by all but one man, to contribute £200,000 towards the upkeep of the British Navy. If I thought that our Navy, which is to cost £5,000,000 a year to the people of Australia, was going to be restricted always to the Australian coast, I should say it was a gross piece of extravagance. Unless the larger ships are going to be used for real Imperial purposes to assist in the first line of defence of the Empire, I should by no means be a party to the change from a money contriBution to a Navy such as we are having to-day ; but I am quite content to wait. I know that within a very few months the control of that Fleet will be in different hands, and I am quite sure that then the magnificent example of Canada and New Zealand, in offering to add to the first line of defence of the British Empire by handing over their Dreadnoughts, will be followed by Australia. Do we not all remember the attempt of the whole party to heap ridicule upon the proposal of New South Wales to give a Dreadnought to the Imperial service? I went round the suburbs of Sydney, and addressed eleven public meetings, in eleven separate town halls, presided over by their respective mayors; and, at every one of them, resolutions were passed without one dissentient voice, acknowledging the deep debt of gratitude of Australia to the Mother Country, undertaking to contribute, and authorizing Parliament to contribute, to the building of one or more Dreadnoughts for presentation to the Imperial Service. To-day the gentlemen who refused to vote for a Naval Subsidy are masquerading as patriotic advocates of an Australian Naval Service, as though they had something to do with the initiation of this great movement.
The question of the distinction between loan moneys and revenue moneys is one that ought not to be treated lightly. I confess that I have been disappointed that some of the earlier Governments were not able, through the exigencies of party, to introduce some such system. I have seen over and over again on our Estimates sums like £700,000 or £800,000 a year being used out of revenue to build new post-offices; where the purchase of land was involved that would inevitably increase in value by the mere establishment of a central post-office. The whole of this money was charged to revenue, instead of being put into a loan account, and the interest charged each year to the generations who used the works. A recognised authority on such matters as this is the Government Statistician of Tasmania, Mr. R. M. Johnston, who is one of the ablest statisticians in Australia. I propose to read what he has to say on this question, because I think it is so valuable that it should be recorded in Hansard -
The difficulties which now seem to stand in the way as a barrier to the successful discharge of Federal functions and financial obligations are entirely due to a submission to the notions of certain persons possessed with unsound views regarding the science of economics and finance as applied to investments of a profitable and permanent character, especially in relation to State borrowing.
The success of the Australian States in the past has undoubtedly Been chiefly due to the sacrifices which the earlier pioneers made, from time to time, in making timely provision for the opening up of Australia’s vast virgin lands, by means of public loans invested in roads, railways, bridges, jetties, harbors, &c, in advance of the settler. To any thoughtful person it is obvious that at the initial stage of a Colony’s history it would be financially impos sible to construct costly works and undertakings of the kind without the aid of borrowed capital.
Since the year 1842 the six States of Australia have practically entered into partnership with local and foreign capitalists in the construction of all such important works, and in no other way would it have been possible to have succeeded in making the initial outlay of over , £240,000,000 in a period of about 64 years, or at the rate of about £ 3, 750,000 per annum.
He says, further on-
A further justification of State borrowing for the construction and equipment of all great costly works, such as roads, railways, harbors, fortifications, navies, &c, from a financial and economic point of view, as well as from ethical considerations, is, that in no other way in the earlier stages of a young country’s development could a Government succeed in spreading the burden of capital investments over present and future taxpayer-beneficiaries equitably in proportion to the benefits they respectively may derive yearly from the use of the permanent valuable assets created by the original capital investments. It must be borne in mind that such assets are continuously preserved in their pristine value and condition by the current yearly provision for maintenance, repairs, and renewals, which, with other working expenses and interest on borrowed principal, should alone be a legitimate charge or burden upon the existing taxpayer, and against the Consolidated Revenue of the State for the current year.
Passing over another paragraph, in which he deals with other matters, we have the statement -
In addition, it would indeed be a great injustice to the existing taxpayer of the Commonwealth as well as an utter impossibility to the responsible Government of the day, to be continually forced to adjust its schemes of taxation to suit the revenue needs of each year, if it were seriously attempted by the Federal Government in the future to continue the improper method adopted by it in the past, viz., charging the whole of the principal of new costly works of construction against the Consolidated Revenue, and thereby the taxpayer of the year, instead of adopting the proper method and the more reasonable policy hitherto successfully adopted by the six States, viz., charging the revenue and the taxpayer of the year with the natural and fair share of the original cost, that is, the annual charge for interest and redemption fund, where necessary, together with all current expenditure relating to cost of maintenance, repairs, renewals, and other legitimate forms of charge upon the people and against the revenue of the current year.
If this reasonable and proper method were adopted by the Federal Government, it would at once be freed from all the self-imposed financial embarrassments. With existing sources of revenue it could discharge all its just obligations (old-age pensions, navy, and other defence requirements, subsidy of 31s. 3d. per head of population in aid of State revenue, sinking fund for redemption of debt incurred for new costly works, &c), and still have a surplus balance in the hands of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth amounting to nearly £900,000 each year.
I do not hesitate to say that Mr. R. M. Johnston, the Government Statistician of Tasmania, is one of the most competent men in Australia to express an opinion upon that “subject. Applying his principle to the abstract of expenditure given on page 206 of the Estimates, 1 find that expenditure amounting to no less than £3,985.000 in respect of additions and new works is of a character which, if we acted according to his teaching, would go to loans, and be distributed over the people, not merely of the day, but of subsequent years, in order to do fair justice to the whole of them. I have not time, in the hour and a-half at my disposal, to give all the items; but honorable members will see them set forth at page 208, and will notice that they are made up of additions, new works, buildings. &c. ; construction and extension of trunk lines ; of telegraphs and telephones ; of plant in the Department of the Treasury ; new works in the Department of Defence; and capital expenditure under the control of the Department of External Affairs. All come legitimately under this principle of loan expenditure as. laid down by all sound financial authorities. Hitherto, we have not observed that principle. I sincerely hope, now that parties are more clearly divided - now that we have a clear division between Labour and Liberalism - that when the change comes, and it will come quickly, some new principle will be adopted by which Australia’s finances will be placed on a wholesome and honest footing. I trust that they will be placed on the footing that prevails in England, the Australian States, New Zealand, the United States, and Canada. When that is done, I shall be quite satisfied. We are at present following a principle which has the effect of calling upon one generation to pay for the capital expenditure of several. That is wholly wrong, and, in a political sense, wholly dishonest. It is wholly inequitable, and it should strike every honest man, however ignorant of finance he may be, as a reprehensible scheme that ought not to be continued.
I desire to look at this question of expenditure from yet another stand-point. When the Braddon clause was passed, preparatory to our entering upon Federation, it was declared that the Customs revenue should be divided ‘for a term of ten years into two branches, the States taking 15s. in the £1, and the Commonwealth 5s. in the £1. No man who looks dispassionately upon that arrangement to-day could fail to recognise that, although it was provided that it should operate for only ten years, it was regarded then as a fair tentative scheme, which should prevail until some more equitable division should be made by the people. The reason given for it at the time was that nothing more scientific could be thought of. It was therefore arrived at as one which, although possibly a clumsy method, fairly stated - and this is my point - the respective obligations of the bodies politic. Fifteen shillings in the £1 out of the Customs revenue was regarded at the time as a fair proportion for the States to retain in view of the heavy expenditure which they had still to incur. A part of their original expenditure they were going to pass over, viz., that of the Military and Naval Forces, and old-age pensions. It was not contemplated then, I say, that, when the Customs and Excise revenue had risen to the enormous amount that it has reached to-day, a re-division would take place which would give practically the bulk of it to the Commonwealth. At the end of ten years of Federation, the Customs and Excise revenue was equivalent to about 50s. per head of population; and of this, 25s. was allocated to the States, and the remainder - about 25s. - reserved to the Commonwealth. Whereas, during the first ten years of Federation the States had been receiving three-fourths and the Commonwealth keeping one-fourth, the States and the Commonwealth during the next ten years were each to have one-half of the Customs and Excise revenue. The Deakin-Cook Government sought to embody an arrangement to that effect in the Constitution; but I took exception to it because of the impossibility of predicting what the Customs and Excise revenue would be. In times of prosperity, it might rise considerably, and in bad times it would fall. To-day, the Customs and Excise revenue is equivalent to 66s. 8d. per head of the population ; but the States, which formerly got three-fourths of it, and then were to have one-half, are now getting only fivethirteenths, .or a little less than one-third ; and the Commonwealth is retaining eightthirteenths, ot about two-thirds ; the States getting 25s., and the Commonwealth holding back 4ts. 8d. This year, the amount paid to the States will be £5,625,000, while the Commonwealth will retain £9,375,000, in addition to land taxation amounting to £1,500,000. Thus the Customs revenue of the Commonwealth will be nearly double that of the States. It is fortunate for the Commonwealth that it had the handling of the Customs and Excise revenue. Had that revenue continued to be collected by the States, an arrangement by which the Commonwealth gets twice as much as the States would never have been tolerated. But the Commonwealth, in its position of trustee, has the money in its possession, and thus is able to hand back to the States what proportion it thinks fit.
As T wish to -speak upon two or three other subjects within the space of time allotted to me by the new standing order, I shall refer now more fully to the Commonwealth Bank. When the proposal to establish that institution was made, I did not, as I have said , join with some honorable members in denouncing it as certain to be disastrous, pointing out that, so far as the safety of the note issue was concerned, everything would depend upon the gold reserve, and that the success of the bank would depend on the financial ability of its manager. I shall show how the Labour party thought that it should be managed, and how far from the thoughts of Labour members was the intention to appoint an officer of an existing bank to manage an institution which they looked upon as a sort of goose that would lay golden eggs for them. I quoted, three years ago, from some of the Labour newspapers of the day to show that the Labour party, and its press supporters, were under the impression that a Commonwealth Bank and note issue would produce untold wealth for them to play with ; but to-day, according to the Prime Minister, the profit of the note issue is only £180,000; and, deducting the £90,000 taken from the States by depriving them of their right to sanction note issues and receive a tax from the banks, the net gain to the people is only £90,000. When the Bill was under discussion, 1 predicted that the .gain would be £80,000. The Commonwealth Bank has existed on paper for twelve months ; and, notwithstanding that a competent officer from one of the private banks has been appointed to manage it at £4,000 a year, not a single office has yet been opened. This goes to show that another bank is not needed ; that the public did not ask for another bank, and are not showing any eagerness to take advantage of the proposed institution. This is what a body of self-constituted experts, called the Political Council of Victoria, all Trades
Hall men, a Mr. Cohen being president, thought and published in regard to a State bank -
Banking is one of the frauds by which capitalism bleeds the people. There are twenty-one privately-owned banks in the ‘Commonwealth, which virtually control the industry and commerce of Australia, and make ,£1,500,000 a year out of their operations.
Those gentlemen would have been surprised to learn that no less than £31,000,000 is invested to earn that £1,500,000, which represents 4J per cent, per annum. The Political Council continued -
The Labour proposal is not to nationalize the existing banks, but to establish a Commonwealth Bank with unlimited powers, which will have a branch in every considerable centre in Australia, and will enter into competition with the company-owned banks. The proposed bank will be one of the strongest in the world.
At the present time, its capital is £1,000,000, which has been lent to it. whereas the private banks own a capital of £3 T» °o°> 000 -
And it would, of course, manage the public debts of the Commonwealth. The gradual extinction without compensation of the present banks would follow as a matter of course.
That is an interesting statement, in view of the fact that, after twelve months, not even one office has been opened -
In 1893, before the rise of the Labour party to considerable power, a number of these banks swindled the thrifty classes out of an immense part of their savings. The deposits commandeered by the banks amounted to over ^40,000,000. The smash arrested Australian industry and caused widespread suffering and distress among the people for years, but did little or no harm to the perpetrators. Such a catastrophe could not happen under the Commonwealth Bank.
The financial editor of the Sydney Daily Telegraph, in commenting on that little statement, said that it “ teemed with falsehoods,” and he characterized as an equal falsehood the assertion that the smash did little or no harm to the perpetrators. I ask honorable members to consider the statement side by side with the facts. It is a fact that after 1893, far from doing no harm to the proprietors, the stocks and dividends, as shown by financial editors, fell 50 per cent., so that the shareholders, after that year, lost practically half of their own money. I shall take for a moment the Commercial Bank of Sydney. It is a common practice for members of the Labour party to use big words in attacking a big institution. If an institution is so big that they cannot grasp or understand it, they, call it “an octopus,” a combine, a swindling ring, or something of that sort.
That has been applied to the banks from lime to time. .1 should like to show honorable members what some of them do noi quite know - how widely the interests in these big institutions are spread among the people. The Commercial Bank of Sydney has 1,593 shareholders. Out of 1,053 shareholders drawing under ?300 a year 633 are women ; while of the total number of 1,593 shareholders 924 draw under ?50 a year, 323 draw from ?50 to ?100 a year, 188 draw from ?101 to ?200 a year, 68 draw from ?201 to ?300 a year, and only 90 draw over ?300 a year. What does it show? As I have stated in this House more often than I can say, these large institutions are not in the hands of the sort of typical fat man with a huge diamond stud, as represented in Labour journals, but in the hands of the small investing public - shopkeepers, trustees, and women. But that is not the only institution. Take the Australian Bank of Commerce, which was previously the Australian Joint Stock Bank. It has 4,354 shareholders. The shares fell to zero in 1893, and big calls followed. Two thousand five hundred and sixty-nine shareholders receive less than ?2 a year, ^738 receive less than ?40 a year, 41 receive less than ?roo a year, and only five shareholders receive from ?101 to ?200 a year. This is one of the “ fat “ institutions which serve as .splendid placards for honorable gentlemen opposite to aim at. The Political Council of Victoria said that the Commonwealth Bank would have “ unlimited powers “ and be “ one of the strongest in the world.” I want to point out to the public, if they can hear me, that, whereas the total capital of the Commonwealth Bank is ?r, 000,000, borrowed from the Commonwealth, the capital of the other banks is ?3 I,000,000. The Political Council says that the banks make ?1,500,000 a year. I find that this equals 4 5-6th, or ?4 17s. , per cent, on their capital. The Political Council says -
It will lend to the gradual extinction without compensation of the present banks. That will follow as a matter, of course.
But the present Minister of Home Affairs, who has been looked upon as the financial authority on the Ministerial bench, said -
There will be room for all the banks, and instead of weakening the private corporations, the Commonwealth Bank will strengthen them.
Then the members of this body say -
The National Bank was to be the key to open the door to a financial paradise to all believers in the Labour movement.
The Minister of Home Affairs said, after
Mr. Miller’s appointment
The chief function of a progressive bank is to facilitate production, transportation, and distribution of commodities through all stages to consumers. The bank will make it possible for small producers and traders of the country always to secure money at a reasonable uniform rate of interest.
The Prime Minister said -
It is to be a bank of banks, and not a moneylending institution.
The public will want to know, when this great bank opens - and it has had some months to do that - what it really is going to do. The Minister of Home Affairs said -
Credit’ is the legitimate spring of confidence. Destroy confidence and you paralyze hope and industry.
I find that, almost within a few days of that utterance, this cablegram from London appeared in the press -
The Economist estimates the new capital issues for the year at ?191,759,400, of which ?26,145,900 was for the United Kingdom, ?41,214,700 for Canada, ?16,676,900 for the Argentine, ?19,210,600 Tor Brazil, ?2i,3i4i300 foi the United States - and ?3,332, 900 for Australasia.
The Commonwealth Bank, as a National bank, was begun on the strength of ignorance and inflated expectation. I shall show in a moment what the note issue has done - one of the bubbles which have been pricked now by actual practical experience on the part of the Labour party. The bank itself not having opened, we cannot show what it has done, but we can show that the Savings Bank branch has been a fiasco up to the present time, in not having practically given the public any reports since about a month ago. I never opposed the measure, but I opposed the fact that it provided for no trustees, no board, and no-outside check. Although I know Mr. Miller very well, and regard him as a very capable banker, it was wholly unnecessary for the Prime Minister to go in the hysterical frame of mind in which he went into the banking world, to get a manager at anything like the salary he offered. He told us at the time that he was prepared to give even ?10,000 a year to get a banker of experience to conduct this institution. If, as this body of Trades Hall banking experts says, banks are fraudulent institutions in which the public are fleeced, why should the Labour party, with their new- fangled ideas, have gone to one of these fraudulent institutions to select a man at ?4,000 a year to enter upon their own little paradise and manage the Commonwealth Bank on the cold-blooded lines of ordinary commerce? That was a great tumble down from their high ideals. We could have imagined them handing the bank over to the Minister of Home Affairs, with his modern notions of humanitarian methods; but what would have been the result? They knew very well that, if they attempted any high-falutin methods of that sort, they would have this institution tumbling down about their ears like a house of cards. They took care, therefore, that, instead of jeopardizing the reputation of the Commonwealth abroad, where loans will have to be floated byandby, this institution should be placed in the safe hands of a nian who, coming from one of these alleged fraudulent institutions, would doubtless apply just the same methods to the conduct of the Commonwealth Bank that he had been accustomed to apply in a private bank.
I have spoken of these financial institutions, and the way in which their shares are held, and I should like to refer to one or two more of them. I take, for instance, that much maligned and very wicked corporation, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, and I am quite sure that honorable members opposite will be very much surprised, and it will open their eyes, when they learn how the shares of that company are held. I ask honorable members to listen to this statement, because the idea of the “ Fat-man Combine “ may be somewhat dissipated when the facts are laid before them, that is, if digested. The total number of shareholders in the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is 1,942. The number of shareholders drawing under £50 per annum in dividends is 1,058 ; from £50 to £100, 368 ; from £100 to £200, 232 ; from £200 to £300, 101. Individual shareholders drawing over £300 per annum number 100. Joint shareholders drawing over £300 per annum number 83, making up the total of 1,942. The number of individual women shareholders who receive less than £300 per annum from the company is 580. That is not the state of things which is depicted in this House in the imagination of honorable members opposite. I find that the Bank of New South Wales has a total share list of 2,107. Of this number, 1,183 shareholders draw under £50 per annum, 411 from £50 to £100 a year, 279 from £101 to £200, 91 from £201 to £300, and only 144 of the 2,107 shareholders draw over £300 pei annum. The Australian Gas Light Company, another of the “ Octopi “ that we have heard so much about, has a total share list of 1,599. There are 1,015 shareholders drawing from 18s. to £45 per annum from the company ; 281 draw from £45 to £90 ; 169 draw from £50 to £186; and 92 shareholders draw £270 and over that amount. The number of women shareholders receiving under £300 a year in dividends is 756. I could go on in the same way to quote share lists of Tooth and Company, Dalgety and Company, Sydney Ferries Limited, and other large financial companies. These facts were published in the speech delivered in the Legislative Council of New South Wales bv Mr. Ashton, and they have not been challenged. They go to show that, instead of being in the hands of a small number of millionaires, these are institutions which small investors regard as safe for the investment of their money, and from which they receive small incomes.-
I wish to say, further, with regard to the Savings Banks, that at the . present time no “ less than £65,000,000 are deposited in the Savings Banks of the six States. The amount of the deposits in New South Wales is, roughly, £25,000,000 ; in Victoria, £18,000,000 ; in Queensland, £6,000,000 ; in South Australia, £7,000,000; in Western Australia, £4,000,000; and in Tasmania, nearly £2,000,000. I take the figures for 1912. and I find that these moneys are invested in this way : £42,038,066 are invested in State Government securities, £2,880j537 in municipal loans, £5,277,926 in mortgages, £8,813,873 in bank deposits, £501,161 in bank premises. No less than 70 per cent, of the £65,000,000 is invested in Government securities. There are, as I have already pointed out, some 1,767 Savings Bank offices. The work of these offices has hitherto been conducted in the post-offices of the different States, and the banks have been lending money to the States, to municipalities, to farmers and settlers, and to various people on the security of their homes. The less expense they went to the more convenience they’ could give to the public, and the less they had to charge for interest. But since the new competitor has come into the field, in an endeavour to take away the business, they have been compelled to give 3J per cent, on deposits; and the people who borrow, whether fanners, settlers, or mere home-owners, have to pay more for their money. The effect is that the hundreds and thousands of people who have been borrowing from the Savings Banks will know by the time the next election comes round that the increased cost which they have to pay, either by reducing the capital amount of their mortgage, or in higher interest, is due, as will be properly pointed out to them, to this attempt on the part of the Commonwealth to duplicate those institutions in 1,756 centres - to double the cost of the buildings and the cost of staffs, thus making the Savings Bank an infinitely more expensive institution than before. If the Labour people think . that they are going to increase their popularity by starting those institutions all over Australia, they make a great mistake. All through Australia the public will have pointed out to them figures to show that the cost of management has been doubled everywhere.
I am not afraid of the future, but, when I look forward, I think of a few events of the past, all of which point to a condition of public opinion which will tell its own tale next year. I recollect, for instance, the appeal to the people at the last referenda to show confidence in the Labour policy, and how the public, by a quarter of a million votes, negatived the proposal to increase the Labour control of the legislative forces. I go back to the Adelaide municipal council elections, in which six Labour aldermen were rejected, and only one returned; to the Victorian general elections, where we were told the Labour people were to sweep the electorates, and they lost at least two seats; to the South Australian election, at which the Labour Government were bundled out of office, neck and crop, . and a Liberal Government substituted ; to Queensland, where a Liberal Parliament and Government are in power with a majority of two to one; to the Prime Minister’s own constituency, where the right honorable gentleman had lately been disporting himself during the Brisbane strike, and where the Liberal candidate beat the Labour candidate ; and to the flight of the ex-member for Werriwa from his constituency, because he had “ a call “ to a higher office, and the result of’ the election, which showed that the present Labour representative had a majority of two-thirds less than his predecessor. Then I read of Mr. Holman saying that “ it would be folly to profess to ignore the serious reduction in the Labour majority at Werriwa, as a fact that had to be faced, and could not be wholly explained, let alone laughed, away.” When we look at these events, and at the confession of the honorable member for Bourke about the Labour party “ marching to their Sedan “ ; when we look at the admissions made about the Labour party losing hold of the people;when we look at the Bulletin cartoons in which Mr. McGowen is ridiculed as figuring as a Labour Premier; when we look at articles in the same publication condemning the Brisbane strike, from the point of view of the poor women and children - all these facts inform me and convince me that, when the time comes, the party represented by honorable members opposite will be swept into political perdition.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
The further consideration of the Budget will be the business to-morrow, and we intend to finish this debate next sitting. I hope honorable members will conform to the wishes of the Government as nearly as possible.
Question resolved in the affirmative;
House adjourned at 10.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 August 1912, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1912/19120827_reps_4_65/>.