6th Parliament · 1st Session
The Clerk having informed the House that Mr. Speaker was unavoidably absent,
Mr. Deputy Speaker took the chair at 3.31 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. DEPUTY SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Deputy of His Excellency the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill.
Referred to Committee of the Whole.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral yet in a position to make a statement concerning the raid upon the offices of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company ?
– By leave of the House, I desire to make the following statement: -
The investigation into the position of the Broken Hill Company and other companies engaged in the metal industry has not disclosed any offence against the law, but it is, on the other hand, quite clear that a position of affairs exists quite incompatible with our attitude towards the vital interests at stake during the present war, the commercial and industrial supremacy of the Empire, and the development of the resources of the Commonwealth.
Shortly stated, the facto show beyond all question that German capital and German influence exercise a monopoly of the base metal industry of the civilized world ; that this monopolyis for all prac tical purposes so complete as to exclude effective competition ; that it covers the whole sphere of the industry, limiting output, controlling markets, determining the channels of distribution, and fixing prices; that the war, by closing most of the channels through which the metallic products were distributed and the markets in which they were disposed of, has very seriously affected the industry, throwing large numbers of working men out of employment, causing great loss of wealth production, retarding the development of our great resources, and seriously menacing the welfare of the whole community; that peace holds out no prospects satisfactory or even tolerable to British and Australian interests, since it would but revive that complete domination of the industry by German influence, which insures the building up of German instead of British and Australian interests.
No patriotic citizen can contemplate such a prospect without the most serious misgivings. This war will have been waged in vain ; the blood of our best and bravest citizens shed without purpose ; the Empire will have endured the dreadful horrors of modern warfare to no purpose, if, at its conclusion, when victory tardily and at a dreadful cost has been won, we are again compelled to pour into the lap of Germany the lion’s share of the wealth created by Australian enterprise and Australian workmen.
Before the war, German capital and influence had created a splendidly organized system by which it was enabled to levy toll upon the world. The cream of the profits arising out of the metal industry of the world - profits upon a turnover which, at a rough estimate, cannot fall short of £200,000,000- found its way through various channels to the pockets of the great German financiers, thus strengthening Germany’s position commercially, industrially, and nationally, enlarging the scope of her operationsin other directions, and maintaining and perfecting that terrific instrument of destruction by which she now seeks to batter all who dare withstand her, into submission. It is a humiliating but irrefutable fact that Australian capital, enterprise, and labour have materially aided the enemy in this dreadful conflict.
A few figures will clearly establish this position. The value of the metals, lead, zinc, copper, and tin produced annually in Australia, estimated upon an average price for the year 1912, amounts to nearly £13,000,000, or, including silver and gold recovered in the extraction of these commoner metals, £15,000,000. Even upon a fair average price for the past ten years the gross value is not less than £13,000,000. All this wealth was produced in Australia, but - with the exception of gold and silver - the industry was and is controlled by German influence, so that output, destination, and price were matters in which Australia had no say whatever.
The methods by which the industry was controlled are characteristic of the modern German spirit and enterprise. Everywhere agencies were established which assumed the cloak of the nationality in which they found themselves. In America, for example, it was known as the American Metal Company; in Africa, the African Metal Company.
A convention controlled by German influence fixed and fixes the price of lead. Lead can be sold only through a Germuncontrolled agency. The British Government is compelled to buy through this agency, which dictates the price. Lead cun only be bought through this agency, or with its approval, and at the price fixed by the convention, which is under the same control* as the agency. For all practical purposes, the agent is the convention.
Zinc is controlled as to price, output, destination, and manufacture into spelter, the zinc of commerce, by a German combine of three firms - Beer Sondheimer, Metallgesellschaft, and Aaron Hirsch and Sohn. British firms cannot obtain supplies of concentrates for purposes of making spelter, because the Germans have control of the supplies, and have contracts with the mines in this country until 1920.
Copper is controlled in much the same way, if not to the same extent. The same may be said of tin.
Germany thus levies toll upon the whole industry; it holds its destinies in its hands. We produce the ores, but we do so to the extent the Germans determine, and must be content with the price they fix. They determine - in effect - the output of our mines and the manufacturing processes of the products of those mines in which we may engage.
This is surely an intolerable position. Common sense, self-interest, and patriotism alike impel us to put an end to it.
The inducements to do so are very considerable. Wo obstacles that cannot be removed stand in the way. The metallurgical treatment of lead, copper, and tin can be successfully accomplished within the Commonwealth with an expenditure of an amount of capital easily obtainable. The treatment of zinc involves a very large expenditure. It is hoped that British enterprise may be induced to take this latter in hand without delay.
The basis of any successful undertakings of this nature here or in Great Britain must rest upon a market free from the control of that German influence by which it is now dominated. British capital can hardly be expected to invest in an enterprise so gigantic without an assurance of an adequate supply of concentrates, and these cannot be obtained while the existing contracts still hold good. We are communicating with the British Government, setting forth the position, and strongly requesting their co-operation in these matters in which the interests of the Commonwealth are so vitally concerned.
The present position in which the Australian and certain British companies are tied up by contracts with agencies dominated by German capital and influence may call for legislative action in Great Britain an’d here.
The success of any proposal to divert the control of the industry from German to British hands depends largely upon the co-operation of the Australian companies. If they prefer to be tied up by contracts which provide for resumption of business after the war, and if they prefer that the control of the industry shall rest with the alien enemy, the task before us will be rendered very difficult.
We hope, however, for their cordial cooperation - we have every reason to believe they are very ready to co-operate - and we believe that, with the aid of the British Government and British enterprise, much wider avenues may be opened for British and Australian interests, and for the employment of British and Australian workmen. We ought no longer to play the part of building up the power and influence of a nation whose avowed intention is to humiliate and crush us.
– With regard to the very important statement read to the House by the Attorney-General, will the Prime Minister take into consideration the advisability of conferring with the British Government to ascertain whether the Commonwealth is not entitled to take possession of the whole of the German interests in the mines, and establish an Australian trust to conduct the business in future ?
– The Government have already taken steps to communicate with His Majesty’s Imperial Government on this important question, with a view to joint action by them and ourselves to safeguard our common interests and those of the Empire as a whole; but I would suggest that, in the meantime, notwithstanding our general policy, we should not plunge on this question until there has been a full and ample discussion between the Mother Country and ourselves. I shall, however, be glad to communicate overseas the general desire of all parties in the House to co-operate in this matter.
– Section 10 of the Australian Notes Act provides that the Treasurer shall not pledge Australian notes or deposit them with any bank or person as security for money. Does not the Prime Minister think that the recent transaction whereby the Government obtained £10,000,000 in gold from the private banks in exchange for £10,000,000 worth of Commonwealth Bank notes, which are not to be presented for payment for twelve months, is a direct contravention of the section?
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs made any inquiries regarding the facts I brought under his notice last week concerning the removal of Red-Cross cargo, and the substitution of other cargo ?
– I asked the honorable member to put his question on the noticepaper, but he has not done so. I have mot made- any inquiries.
– Can the Assistant Minister of Defence inform me whether the final report and plans prepared by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice for Cockburn Sound Naval Base are yet available in Melbourne ?
– Yes, they are.
– Will the plans and specifications that have been received from Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice be placed on the table of the House before the recess, and is it the intention of the Government to carry out the works at Cockburn Sound in the way recommended by Sir Maurice Fitzmaurice?
– I shall obtain the necessary information from the Minister, and acquaint the honorable member.
– The Administrator of the Northern Territory, in his last official report, states that two prime essentials for the development of that part of Australia are means of communication by roads and railways, and water conservation, subterranean and surface. Will the Assistant Minister of External Affairs, or the Cabinet, take into consideration the advisability of sending an eminent engineer to report fully on the possibilities of water conservation and irrigation, covering the whole of the river system of the Territory, so that honorable members may have the facts before them, in view of a discussion of a general policy?
– The Government recognise the importance of the matter referred to. We are now considering the report of the Administrator, and due attention will be given to his recommendations. ‘
– I understand that the New South Wales Government, in connexion with the uniform gauge question, are making experiments with a third rail. If the Commonwealth Government are connected with these experiments in any way, will they also take into consideration the advisability of a third wheel?
– At the last conference between the representatives of the Com- monwealth - and of the States regarding strategic and other defence railways, the matter referred to was discussed. The Commonwealth was invited by the representatives of New South Wales to witness experiments with a third rail, and I thank the honorable member for now affording me the opportunity to inform the House that the question of a third wheel is also being considered.
– On Friday last the Assistant Minister of Defence promised that he would have inquiries made regarding statements which appeared in the Argus with reference to a visit paid to the Broadmeadows camp by three members of this Parliament. This visit was alleged by the newspaper to have caused delay to the training, and dissatisfaction amongst the men. Has the Assistant Minister received any report on the matter?
– Yes; I have made inquiries from the Minister, who informs me that the article, as it appeared in the newspaper, is, as regards himself, totally untrue. The Minister did not give any orders whatever; all he did was to rmg up the Commandant, and state that three senators proposed to visit the camp. No instructions were given that a march-past should take place in the presence of the senators.
– One did take place ?
– Whatever was done was done by the Commandant, who had no instructions from the Minister.
– In view of the facts that the Federal Government have failed to prevent wheat and other foodstuffs being held to the detriment of the public, will the Minister of Trade and Customs do his best to prevent bread and other foods being unduly raised in price?
– I have observed that in regard to certain commodities the power to deal with them has been taken from the Price of Foods Board. Last week I stated, in reply, I think, to the honorable member for Ballarat, that the Government has no power in this regard ; but the matter is at present under consideration.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs come to any decision in reference to the regulation that has been renewed at Newcastle, and is there hampering merchants and importers to such an extent that it is paralyzing the trade of the port?
– I am aware that a regulation, which is inoperative at other times, has been brought into force, pending any alteration of the Tariff, or in view of the fact that the Tariff is before Parliament. This regulation is necessary for the protection of the revenue.
– I am referring to a transhipment regulation which has been put into force previously in times of peace.
– All I know is that the regulation is one for the protection of the revenue under the circumstances I have indicated.
– What is the regulation ?
– It is the usual regulation that has been put into force previously; the revenue must be safeguarded.
– My question has no reference whatever to the protection of the revenue. The revenue could be protected just as well under the old system as under the present. Is it not a fact that the present regulation is so hampering business people that they are unable to carry on their affairs in the ordinary way?
– I have not the regulation with me here, but if the honorable member will put his question on the notice-paper I will let him have a reply stating exactly what the regulation is. I can assure the honorable member that the Department has no desire to hamper the trade of Newcastle or any other port of the Commonwealth.
– In view of the announcement that certain interests, hitherto exempt, are to come under the operation of the Land Tax Bill, will the Prime Minister make the schedule of that Bill available as early as possible, so as to enable those in distant parts of the Commonwealth to make any representations they desire before it finally becomes law?
– I shall have the schedule placed before honorable members as soon as possible.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed a telegram in the newspapers during the last day or two in reference to negotiations between what, I think, is called the Australian Zinc Corporation and others interested in similar industries in the United States, indicating that there is a likelihood of Australian and other metals being there treated ? Has the Department of Trade and Customs any power to prevent a country like America carrying on operations which may have the effect of preventing the establishment of industries in Australia?
– I saw the cablegram, but I confess that I had not time to read it. The only power we have is the power toprohibit the export of material; and we should be very reluctant to exercise it. If the industry referred to is a profitable one, I have no doubt that capital will be found to carry it on in Australia; and I am sure we should all be glad to see such industries established here. All we could do, as I say, would be to either impose an export duty or prohibit export altogether. Such a step as the latter might be taken in time of war, but it would certainly be rather a strong step to take at any other time.
– I desire to ask a question of the Minister of Trade and Customs, and it will be necessary to preface that question by a few explanatory remarks. Last Friday I sent my secretary to the Customs Department to ask for certain information concerning the probable exports for the year. I was given to understand that the information would be obtained. When my secretary called for the information yesterday the head of the Department quite properly said that he would let me have the information when it had been seen by the Minister. To-day, when my secretary again called, he was informed that the Minister regretted that he could not supply the information. I should like the Minister to explain why I cannot have the information. I want it for no party purpose.
– I assure the honorable member that I have not seen the information; it is not yet ready. As soon as I have an opportunity of seeing it I shall be pleased to let the honorable member for Parramatta have it.
– Will the honorable member inquire why an incorrect answer was given to a simple question ?
– I will certainly inquire, but I am afraid that there is some misapprehension about the matter.
– Is the Minister of
Trade and Customs aware that firms in Victoria are refusing to export oatmeal to Western Australia owing to the existence of certain regulations under the State law 1 If the Minister is not aware of that fact, will he make inquiry into the matter?
– I was not aware of these circumstances until the honorable member acquainted me with them to-day. I will make inquiry of the manufacturers whom he mentioned to me. In reply to a similar question last week, I informed the House that I would refer the matter to the Attorney-General in order to ascertain whether we have power to deal with firms or persons who refuse to export produce to other States.
Duty on Cornsacks and Ales and Spirits : Signed Declarations : Inter-State Commission’s Report.
– Can the Minister of Trade and Customs say whether his Department has received any application for the imposition of a duty on cornsacks? If so, will he lay a copy of the application on the table of the House ?
– I cannot answer the question from memory, but I will look the matter up. If any application was made, I will certainly lay it on the table. I do not think that any duty on cornsacks is proposed, but we do provide for a preference on cornsacks made in the Mother Country.
– Seeing that the proposed duty on cornsacks is estimated to yield more than £100,000, will the Minister inform the House if Calcutta will come within the preference given to the United Kingdom?
– Calcutta will not como within the definition of the United Kingdom, but Dundee, where I understand jute is manufactured, is in the United Kingdom.
– Is it a fact that the Attorney-General asked Mr. John Talbot to inform the Government what duty could be safely charged on beer and spirits? If so, why was it necessary to go outside the officers of the Department? Does the Attorney-General think that this course is the best method to adopt in order to protect the revenue?
– I have certainly written to Mr. Talbot, in reply to letters he sent to me, and it may be that I have sent a letter that could be construed into a request for information, but I am not prepared to say that any letter of mine could be so considered. I can give the assurance that the information supplied by Mr. Talbot was volunteered and very voluminous, and, in the usual way, I sent it along to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Trade and Customs. I know nothing of the matter beyond that.
– When the Minister of Trade and Customs was previously in office it was his rule, in connexion with all applications for Tariff relief, not to give any relief until he had in his possession signed declarations giving information as to the number of hands employed, the value of the machinery industry, machinery profits, and so forth. I now ask the Minister whether, in connexion with the preparation of the present Tariff, he insisted upon such schedules being presented as a condition precedent to any increases of duty.
– No. When the Labour party went to the country it was announced by the honorable member for Wide Bay that the Tariff would be amended if the party succeeded at the elections, and the Government have done their best to carry out their pledges in that regard.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs noticed that the Price of Commodities Board in Sydney has determined to take action in order to prevent an increase of price in regard to beer, ale, and other stimulants; and does he know whether a similar Board in Victoria is likely to take the same action ?
– I have noticed the action proposed to be taken in New South Wales. I have not noticed that a similar action is proposed in Victoria; I hope that it will be taken.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs received any recommendations from the InterState Commission as a result of the Tariff inquiry, and, if not, when does he expect to receive a report?
– I have not received any report from the Inter-State Commission. In common with other honorable members, I suppose, all I know has been gleaned from the daily newspapers, which inform us that the Inter-State Commission has finished taking evidence on Tariff matters. I presume that that evidence will soon be made available; but I have no knowledge of any recommendations.
– Can the Assistant Minister of External Affairs say whether the Board of Health at Port Darwin has been abolished, and, if so, for what reason?
– The Board of Health at Port Darwin has been abolished mainly because it would not perform the duties for which it existed. The action was taken on the recommendation of the local medical officer, who found it impossible to keep the town clean, owing to the way in which, he stated, the Board had ignored its duties.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs read the statement made by a Minister of the Crown in Now South Wales, when introducing to the Legislature of that State a Bill for the compulsory acquisition by the Government of the wheat crop, that if efforts were made to export wheat from New South Wales the Government would seize it, and that they would have no compunction about preventing wheat going to another State ? In view of that statement, and in view also of the facts that I brought under the Minister’s notice on Friday in regard to> the instructions to the Victorian Commissioners of Railways to prevent wheat going from Victoria into
South. Australia, will be Minister ascertain the powers of the Commonwealth with regard to these common carriers? If this Parliament has no power to deal with them, will the Minister introduce legislation under the Trade and Commerce provision, or is he content that section 92 of the Constitution shall be regarded throughout the Commonwealth as a mere farce?
– When this matter was brought under my notice by the honorable member for Ballarat last week, I said that it had been referred to the Crown Solicitor, from whom I have not yet received any reply.
– Has the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence noticed that the Premier of Victoria has stated that the announcement made in this House some time ago to the effect that the State Government had acquired a German motor lorry is not correct? “Will the Assistant Minister inform the House as to the source from which he got his information?
– I have not seen any statement made by the Premier of Victoria, but I have noted that Mr. Hagelthorn,a Minister in the State Government, has said that the facts given by mo in reference to this motor lorry were not correct. On the morning that the accusation appeared in the press, to the effect that the Commonwealth had imported a motor lorry of German manufacture, I made due inquiry into the matter. The Secretary of the Navy Office telephoned to the works, and the reply given to him was, as I told the House, that the Commonwealth had not imported a German motor lorry and had had nothing whatever to do with it, hut that there was a motor lorry at the works with which the State Government was concerned.
– I am not quite clear, from the Minister’s answer, whether he has yet satisfied himself as to the accuracy or otherwise of the information which he says the Defence Department gave him with reference to a motor lorry alleged to have been acquired from an enemy country by a State Government.Will the honorable gentleman clear up the matter?
– I made due inquiries from the Secretary of the Naval Branch of the Department, to whose administra tion the matter relates, and he informed me that the motor lorry was not imported by the Commonwealth Government.
– Is the honorable gentleman satisfied that the purchase was made by the State Government of Victoria?
– The Secretary of the Naval Branch informed me that the State Government had had some transaction in connexion with the motor lorry which we were alleged to have imported.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral have inquiries made to ascertain whether the Victorian Government has acquired a motor car of German origin since the declaration of hostilities?
– I shall make inquiries and acquaint the honorable member with the result.
– In regard to the promotions and increments granted to members of the Public Service, does not the Treasurer consider it unfair that, though the heads of some Departments have recommended and brought about increases in salary to the officers under them, the heads of other Departments have not done so, thus depriving certain officers of seniority and of their just dues generally?
– The question is a rather difficult one to answer. Where the Ministry have control of public servants they did not consider it advisable to increase salaries above a certain amount, but there was no interference with regard to officers controlled by the Public Service Commissioner.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House as to when the payment for overtime work done by the Electoral Officers in New South Wales in June, July, August, and September is likely to be paid ?
– I shall inquire, and shall let the honorable member know.
– In view of the great and urgent importance of the conservation of the Murray River waters to Australia, will the Prime Minister inform the
House whether he will, at an early date, introduce the legislation which is necessary to give effect to the agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States?
– I have repeatedly stated in the House that a condition of the agreement arrived at between the Commonwealth and the States is that the Sates should first pass their legislation, after which the Commonwealth will carry out their part of the agreement by passing the necessary measure.
– In connexion with the fitting up of troopships, has the Defence Department any representative acting in conjunction with the State authorities, or does the Commonwealth merely accept the accounts from the State authorities and pay them as they are rendered?
– Speaking from memory, I think that there are persons representing the Defence Department, and supervising the work to a certain extent. At Williamstown the work is undertaken by the State because the State has the necessary dock and men to enable it to be done.
– In regard to the report received by cable this morning relative to the sinking of three German battleships off the Falklands Islands, has the Assistant Minister representing the Minister of Defence any further information to give to the House?
– No. I think that honorable members know practically as much as I do about the matter.
– I am now in a position to inform the honorable member for Barker that His Excellency the GovernorGeneral has received a message to the effect that a British Fleet has sunk the three German warships to which he referred and concerning which a report has been published this morning. His Excellency has also been advised that the British Fleet is now pursuing other vessels of the German squadron.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear !
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence yet in a position to inform me as to the number of Benz motor engines that his Department, or the military authorities, have in view?
– I can give the honorable member the information, but should prefer to supply it to him privately, as well as to give him the reason for it.
– Having had several complaints from men who have left Australia to fight the battles of the Empire, I made inquiries from the Postal Department and was informed that there is no power under the Postal Act to allow the franking of letters posted by men while on active service. As soon as a member of the Imperial Forces goes on active service, his letters are franked by the British Government, for the reason that he cannot be expected to carry stamps with him, and that stamps are not always available at the nearest post-office. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he will introduce an amending Bill of one clause giving the Defence authorities power to frank the letters of men on active service?
– The question is an obviously fair and necessary one. It is unreasonable that soldiers should be required to burden themselves with the provision of stamps, and before the session closes I shall interview my colleague, the Postmaster-General, and see if what the honorable member suggests cannot be done.
– The Act must be amended.
– A very simple amendment of the Act will be necessary, and regulations will also be required to prevent any abuse of it.
– Touching the question of the congestion of exportable produce, I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs a question, and to preface it with the statement that one inland freezing company in Victoria, which has handled 117,000 carcasses, has been able to find refrigerated space on board ship for only 17,000 carcasses. Can the Minister take any urgent action to relieve this congestion, which is so. seriously affecting country interests?
– I do not know that we can do more than has already been done. We have done the best within our power to relieve the congestion, and I believe that it is less acute than it was.
– But here is an inquiry to-day on the subject.
– I know of the case.
– A few days ago 1 asked the Minister of Trade and Customs a question as to securing the use of some of the German vessels with freezing space which are now interned in oversea ports. The honorable gentleman said that he had communicated with the Imperial Government in regard to the matter. I wish now to learn whether he has yet received any reply?
– What I said was that the Defence Department had made representations to the Imperial Government. The only information that we have is rather adverse to the proposal. It suggests that we are not likely to obtain any relief in that direction.
– And the position is being relieved by increased congestion.
– No; it is not. The honorable member does not know what he is talking about.
– I desire to ask the Minister of Trade and Customs, who appears to regard himself as the embodiment of all knowledge, whether he is aware that 3d. per week per carcass is being charged for storing frozen mutton, and does he think that such a charge is consistent with the desire to relieve the present congestion ?
– I am not aware of the fact stated. If the honorable member can suggest anything that has not been done that can be done I shall be glad to have it from him.
– I suggest a little courtesy in the answering of questions.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether, as the welfare of the people is at stake, owing to want of action on the part of the State Government of Victoria to regulate the price of wheat and other foodstuff-
– Poor old State Government.
– It is the better for the honorable member’s retirement from it. I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he does not consider it urgent that the Commonwealth should have power, by means of the referendum, to deal with the matter.
– My views regarding the limited powers of the Commonwealth are well known. I shall never be happy until the Commonwealth Parliament has power to deal effectively with these matters.
– Following upon the statement made yesterday by the Minister of Trade and Customs to a deputation representing the cinematograph showmen of Australia that he had intended’ to place a duty of fl5 per cent, on cinematograph films the production of the United Kingdom, and a duty of 30 per cent, on films the production of other countries, whereas the duties in the new Tariff Schedule amount respectively to 37 per cent, and 50 per cent., I desire to ask the honorable member whether he will take steps to make the necessary alterations before the Parliament adjourns for the holidays?
– I told the deputation that the intention of the Government was to impose a fixed rate of duty per foot - that being considered the fairest basis, and that our intention was that there should be a duty equivalent to 25 per cent, on certain films of British production, and 30 per cent, on those of foreign production, and that the rate per foot would be based on that percentage. If the opportunity offers, I hope to make that alteration.
– Before we rise?
– Yes. I should mention that any alteration that is made will not be retrospective.
– I was present at the deputation which waited yesterday on the Minister of Trade and Customs, and I desire to ask the honorable gentleman whether I was right in taking him to say that educational scenic and industrial films will be allowed in duty free?
-Yes. Educational scenic and topical films - the “ Weekly Gazettes,” as they are called - including war pictures which cannot be taken here, are free of duty. The only dutiable films are pictures of dramas, comedies, &c.
– Is the Assistant Minister of Defence aware that at Beaconsfield, in this State, there is a small knot of very aggressive Germans, who are making themselves most obnoxious? Will the honorable gentleman make inquiries into the actual state of affairs existing there ?
– Wipe them out yourself.
– I would deal with some of them.
– I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Secretary of Defence. *
– I desire to ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether it is true that representatives of the Inter-State press have been denied admission to the House to-day; and, if so, for what reason has this action been taken ?
– Not being informed of the facts, I am not in a position to answer the honorable member’s question.
– Will the Prime Minister, ascertain if it is true that the representatives of the Inter-State press have been refused admission to the chamber this afternoon, and will he inform theHouse what is the reason for their exclusion ?
– I shall ascertain the information asked for. The control of the House is vested in Mr. Speaker.
– Is the Inter-State press excluded ?
– I do not know.
– This is a very important matter.
– The officers whom we have appointed are the guardians of the privileges of the House, and until the facts are known nothing more need be said.
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether information should not be available to the House as to the reason why the representatives of the Inter-State press have been excluded from the chamber, seeing that it is only by means of their reports that honorable members who come from other States can make their views known to their constituents? Surely the Prime Minister should have been communicated with in this matter. He ought to know whether the Inter-State press is excluded, and, if so, why.
– I am not aware of the exclusion of the Inter-State press; but I have promised to ascertain the facts, and to let the House know the result of my inquiry. I have no control in this matter.
– Honorable members themselves have control.
– The Ministry has control only of the business of the House; it is the presiding officers and the Committees that we appoint that -control its management.
– The presiding officers are the servants of the House.
– I cannot approve- or condemn anything that has been done until I have ascertained what has been done.
– I think the right honorable gentleman should have been communicated with and informed of what has been done.
– I ask you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, whether honorable members should not have been made acquainted with what has been done ? We are placed in a very difficult position when our means of publicity are taken away without our being made aware of the fact.
– ‘Personally, I know nothing of the matter. If Mr. Speaker has taken action, I apprehend that he had just reasons for doing so, and I shall ascertain those reasons, in order that the House may be made acquainted with them.
Financial Assistance - Safe Fittings
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Governor of the Bank advises: -
Cruises Brisbane - Appointments of E. Henshaw and H. H. Fanstone - Bucket Dredges
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Fowler) asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the House all papers connected with the appointment of E. Henshaw to a position at the Henderson Naval Baset Cockburn Sound?
– Yes, on the table of the Library.
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Fowler) asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
Will he lay upon the table of the House all papers connected with the appointment of H. H. Fanstone as Director of Naval Works?
– Yes, on the table of the Library.
asked the Assistant Minister, representing the Minister of Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister of Home Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The sketch referred to in No. 1 is not sufficient to enable the merits of the design to be investigated; or, if approved, to be projected upon the ground. I have asked Mr. Griffin for a completed plan, and action awaits receipt of the same.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
In view of the fact that estimates relating to the cost of construction of telephone lines are lately being prepared without the customary inspection of the proposed routes, will he inform the House the method which is being adopted to arrive at -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows : -
It is only in the case of certain classes of estimates, whore it is considered sufficient information for the preliminary quotation is already in possession of the Department, that the inspection of proposed routes is dispensed with. The basis of the estimate in these cases is the accumulated data as to the costs of construction of different classes of line, and the probable revenue to be derived, which is held by the Department’s officers. This new procedure has the twofold advantage of enabling preliminary quotations to be given to applicants with a minimum of delay, and of effecting economies in administration in the case of a large number of cases for which working estimates have in the past been prepared, but where the proposal has not been further proceeded with.
The following papers were presented: -
Defence Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Universal Training - Statutory Rules 1914, No. 167.
Military Forces - Financial and Allowance -Statutory Rules 1914, Nos. 166, 168. Public Service Act - Promotion of S. R. Ephraim, as Clerk, 4th Class, Accounts Branch, New South Wales.
War, The. - Documents respecting the negotiations preceding the war, published by the Russian Government.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - resolved in the negative.
Motions (by Mr. Fisher) proposed - That in lieu of the land tax imposed by the Land Tax Act 1910, there be imposed a land tax on the unimproved value of all lands within the Commonwealth which are owned by persons, at the rates set out in the following Schedules : - “ First Schedule.
Rate of Tax when an Owner is not an A bsentee.
For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £75,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny and one-fifteen thousandth of one penny where the taxable value is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling of the taxable value by one-fifteen thousandth of one penny.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £75,000 the rate of tax shall be Ninepence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £75,000 may be calculated from the following formula : -
Rate of Tax when Owner is an Absentee.
For so much of the taxable value as does not exceed £5,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be One penny. For so much of the taxable value as exceeds £5,000, but does not exceed £80,000, the rate of tax per pound sterling shall be Twopence and one-fifteen thousandth of one penny where the excess is One pound sterling, and shall increase uniformly with each increase of One pound sterling in the taxable value by one-fifteen thousandth of one penny.
For every pound sterling of taxable value in excess of £80,000 the rate of tax shall be Tenpence.
The rate of tax for so much of the taxable value as exceeds £5,000, and does not exceed £80,000, may be calculated by the following formula : -
That an estate duty be imposed upon the estates of deceased persons, at the rates set out in the following Schedule : -
– We begin the discussion of the Budget this year under circumstances that are quite abnormal, including the time of year at which it is introduced. I, for one, have no intention to open up a wide field of debate. I should imagine that, having regard to the fact that our proceedings are to be wound up on Tuesday or Wednesday next, the discussion on the Budget will be of limited duration. However, something needs to be said, and it is my duty to refer to some of the aspects of the Budget brought prominently before us and the country by the Prime Minister. One expects the Prime Minister in these years to begin all his discussions of finance with a reference to that blessed word “ surplus,” and on the present occasion we are not disappointed. In his very first sentence he solemnly calls the world to witness that on such-and-such a date in the year 1912-13 there was art audited cash surplus available for expenditure. That forms the subject of a distinct paragraph in his speech. What follows does not necessarily relate to the surplus, and we can only imagine that the Prime Minister, true to the instincts of himself and the party behind him, seeks to impress the country once more with his wonderful financing which gave him the surplus of £2,643,000.
There is no mention made by the Prime Minister of the wonderful inheritance which he received from those who went before him. He says nothing when speaking of the riches with which his “ rich Liberal uncle “ filled his coffers to overflowing.
– What about the deficit?
– The deficit of £450,000 had been increased to £1,100,000 in the same year, andall of it liquidated out of the rolling millions the Liberals left him for that purpose. One is apt to imagine, when rolling in wealth inherited from somebody else, that it is the result of one’s own merit, and, accordingly, the Prime Minister and his party plume themselves on their wonderful financial management. They never once refer to the fact that the whole financial dispositions were due to the arrangements made by previous Liberal Governments, who gave the Government the inheritance that they have tried their best to dissipate at the very earliest moment. In three years the Government increased the expenditure of the country by over 100 per cent. ; but the Prime Minister tells us nothing about that.
– Still he has a surplus.
– Still he has a surplus, thanks to the money we left him. The blessed word “ Mesopotamia “ is not. in it with the word “surplus,”no other word is in it except, perhaps, the word “referendum.” The Government remind us of that large number of people who have come down in the world ; and, perhaps, the Prime Minister’s intention, after all, is to show how, from the affluence of a year or two ago, he has reached the condition of being financially out at elbow. It may be his way of pointing out that the Government have now reached an unenviable position, in which every stratagem must be resorted to to make the Budget balance and to present the accounts in a way that they may be readable at all. This position is not wholly the Prime Minister’s fault, and I am not blaming him ; I merely wish to say that it is time the word “ surplus” was less on his tongue. I hope we shall hear less of the word from his party, for whatever advantage they may have gained by its use - and they have gained much in former times - they are now down in the financial world, and “making heavy weather.”
Notwithstanding the surplus and the wonderful financial ability which we are told is possessed by honorable members opposite, the present case is a desperate one, indeed. I am not now speaking of the calamitous consequences of the war. In what I have to say I shall confine myself to a review of events as they relate to the ordinary current expenditure of the Commonwealth. Prom that point of new, I say, the case is most desperate, and needs attention at the earliest possible moment. What are the facts ? Notwithstanding the surplus, and all the extra taxation which has been mounting up, the Treasurer to-day has to drag in the savings of former years, to resort to further all-round taxation, and to begin to borrow, in order to square his ledger, so far as the ordinary business of the year is concerned.
– Do you think it could be avoided ?
– I candidly think it could - in a large measure, at any rate. I cannot help feeling that this is a most unfortunate time to be imposing all this heavy taxation. Consider first the land tax, notice of which has just been given by the right honorable gentleman. It is a fact, made due note of by the right honorable member for Swan, that the people who are being hit hardest at this time are the people who are faring worst, the people who are suffering most from drought and other adverse natural conditions. That is a fact we may note, apart altogether from party views and feelings. Then there is the new probate duty, and the way in which that imposition appeals to me is this : we have men trooping away to the war to fight for us, and while they are absent from the country, notwithstanding all the risk they are taking, we are making it a little bit harder for their wives and families in the event of anything happening to the bread-winners. It is most unfortunate and inopportune that these taxes “should be imposed in the particular way in which they are being imposed. I shall say nothing to-day in regard to the general taxation per medium of the Tariff and Excise. That will come in for discussion later on, and, I have no doubt, will receive adequate treatment at the hands of honorable members on this side who have been studying these schedules, and all the wonderful doings of this most wonderful Ministry. I will only say, in passing, after a cursory perusal of these schedules, that it seems to me that the right honorable gentleman would have done better to have waited until he had received the report of the Inter-State Commission rather than present this thing of shreds and patches - this complete botch of a Tariff, as even his best friends outside, who clamoured loudest for Tariff revision, are beginning to see already. But the Government had to fulfil their obligations to certain interests and individuals from whom they gained large support in the recent election. I do not blame them for carrying out their election pledges, but I do think they should have gone about the matter in a sensible, reasonable, and business-like way. They are under no obligation to make fiscal fools of themselves for the purpose of carrying out any promise to the country, either now or at any other time.
An Honorable Member. - What about the tax. on beer?
– Beer! Honorable members opposite seem to know how to do the trick. Somehow or other, they can fix up the beer interests, and the temperance interests as well, as they are so assiduously trying to do just now in connexion with certain papers which every honorable member is receiving in such large shoals. I congratulate honorable members on their dexterity in exploiting every sentiment in the community.
– It seems to connote brains.
– It connotes something else than brains.
I am drawing attention to the way iu which taxation in Australia is towering up, particularly in those spheres where Labour men do congregate. I have in my hands a statement of what has been done in some of the other States under the agis- of Labour government. In Tasmania, for instance, the Government are withholding all increments from officers in the Government service who are receiving over £200 per year. In the Federal sphere we are increasing them. Then they are graduating the tax upon the unearned increment of land, and increasing the amount obtainable from that source. They are putting the screw on the income tax a little more, and by that means hope to get £14,000 extra. In regard to the taxation of deceased persons’ estates, there is a duplication of what the Federal Government are doing. They are taxing all tickets for public amusements and entertainments, and so getting a little more from that source. They are increasing the stamp duties, and the taxes on motor vehicles and such-like things. It seems to me that in Tasmania there has been an all-round endeavour to get a little more revenue somewhere or other. We are following after them with the same kind of imposition, and just where this double taxation is going to cease I do not know. It is becoming a very serious problem in Australia as to how far this doublebanking is to proceed.
– You want Unification.
– Lot the honorable member tell the people that he is a Unificationist, and be plain about it. The leader of the honorable member’s party is constantly condemning Unification and saying that he is not a Unificationist.
– I say that the honorable member wants Unification.
– I do not, but I want a little common sense and business management, and I may add that I should not go to the honorable member’s quarter for those qualities. t
In my own State of New South Wales the Liberal Government are resolving their difficulties by imposing a supertax on the income tax, which they increased only a few months ago. There is also an additional tax on motor cars. We are told that all this taxation in New South Wales is temporary, although how the war has hit the Government in that State I do not pretend to know. I rather see the way in. which they are throwing money about order to popularize themselves in thevarious electorates, and so make their own’ calling and election sure - a praiseworthy” objective, no doubt, within certain limits, but when you have to tax people in a’ period of stress and strain like the present, it is time to draw the line. I shall not go into the details of what the Government in Western Australia are doing, but there they are putting on the same kind of taxation as the Government arc proposing here in such large and generous measure.
I desire to refer to the Budget statement of the Prime Minister for a few minutes, in order to make apparent exactly what we are doing in the Commonwealth. The right honorable gentleman dealt with a period of three years - his last year in office, the year in which the Liberal Government were in power, and the present year - and he began at the point where his precious surplus was iu the Labour party’s safe and secure possession. I call attention first to the curious way in which the right honorable gentleman set out his figures when stating the anticipated revenue for this year -
J estimate that the total revenue for the currant financial year 1014-15, inclusive of the surplus balance of £1,222,401, will amount to £24,495,401. “ I estimate this to be the revenue for the year.” Not one word is mentioned of the extra taxation involved in the make-up of this revenue. He told us of the extra taxation in another part of his speech some time later, and the impression will be created outside, particularly amongst the honorable gentleman’s own followers, that these taxes do not go to make up this revenue, which is therefore deficient by the amount of such taxes. The honorable member adds the taxes first, and then says, “ I estimate that the revenue will be so much,” without saying a word about the taxes which are included in the estimate. I submit that that is a very tricky way of stating the figures; and, whether there be a political purpose or not in that method, the fact remains that it is not a fair way of setting out the revenue. What would 0have been a fair way would’ be to say: “I estimate the revenue for the year at £21,695,401, and I propose to augment that amount by £1,000,000 from land taxation, £1,000,000 from probate duties, and £800,000 from further fiscal taxation, and by issuing Treasury-bills for £1,346,000.” Instead of doing that, the right honorable gentleman said, “ I estimate that the revenue will be £24,000,000, the estimated expenditure is £25,841,000, and, therefore, the estimated deficit will amount to £1,346,000.” As a matter of fact, there is a deficiency on this year’s income and ordinary expenditure of £4,000,000 odd. That is a fact I desire to get before the country; a fact that the right honorable gentleman seems to be studiously covering up - the difference between the income of the year on the old basis and the expenditure for the year is over £4,000,000 sterling.
– There is no covering up, when the Prime Minister refers to the taxation to meet the deficiency.
– But he did not refer to the taxation until a long time later on in the speech. That is the complaint I am making. When he referred to the revenue was the time, surely, to have mentioned the taxation proposals. But not a word of them was mentioned at that stage. The right honorable gentleman assumed the taxes at this point, and gave the House the total figures - “ I estimate the income for the year at so much, the outgoing at so much, and the deficiency at £1,346,000.” People outside, when reading that statement, would naturally come to the conclusion that that is the whole of the deficit on the year’s operations.
– It is something like that surplus which your Treasurer claimed.
– Never mind what we did. I am discussing now the Budget of the right honorable the Prime Minister. Whatever the right honorable member for Swan did was candid and straightforward, and he would never have dreamed of stating the revenue of the year at what was to be the revenue after the imposition of taxation not yet authorized or collected. There is no statutory authority for such taxation so far, and I complain of this tricky way of presenting the Estimates of revenue for the year.
Here are the facts: Last year the revenue was £21,740,000. This year’s expenditure is estimated to be £25,841,000, a difference between last year’s revenue and this year’s estimated expenditure of £4,101,000. The right honorable gentleman has been very fortunate this year in regard to a number of items which we had to pay last year, but from which he is absolved this year. For instance, last year we had to pay £149,244 for sugar bounties, and £41,310 for other bounties. The Science Congress cost about £15,000 extra. Advertising in connexion with the London Office amounted to £36,979; but that expenditure has been completely wiped out this year. The right honorable gentleman gets credit for these amounts, which total £241,000, and if, in order to make a fair comparison between last year and this year, we add that £241,000 to the £4,101,000, the right honorable gentleman is short of his expenditure by £4,342,000.
– Are you not twisting figures?
– I am not twisting figures. I am making a plain statement, though a very different one, I admit, to that made by the Treasurer. My point is that, taking as a basis of comparison the revenue of last year and the estimated revenue of this year, the Treasurer is not financing the year’s ordinary expenditure by a sum considerably over £4,000,000. Else, why does he bring in these new taxes - the land tax, probate duties, and additional fiscal taxation amounting to £2,800,000 - and then, on top of that, need Treasury-bills for £1,346,000, giving a total of £4,146,000 extra to be got somewhere in order to finance the ordinary expenditure of the year ? The war has little to do with this kind of thing. The Minister of Trade and Customs says that the total effect of the war upon the Treasurer’s estimated income is £1,500,000.
– Would not the war interfere with the returns through the Customs House?
– That is precisely what I am saying. In order to liquidate through the Customs the deficit, which the Minister informs us is £1,500,000, extra impositions to the extent of £4,000,000 are to he placed upon the people. Clearly, therefore, had there been no war and no drought, the Treasurer would still have had to resort to this further heavy taxation in order to square his ledger for the year.
This new taxation is not war taxation. My friends on the other side will tell the people that it is all due to the war ; but, happily, the war expenditure is all earmarked and set down in the Budget, and the way in which it has affected our revenue has been definitely expressed in figures by the Minister of Trade and Customs. Clearly, therefore, the ordinary income and expenditure of the year, quite apart from the influence of the war and the drought, necessitate all this heavy taxation announced by the Treasurer.
– Two months after we came into office, I suppose, things commenced to go wrong.
– Here is a different tune. We came into office right at the end of a financial year, a little over a year ago, but, nevertheless, the right honorable gentleman took good care to saddle us with the whole of the responsibility for the year ; yet now, after being in office all these months, he is trying to get rid of the responsibility for the financial position this year, ite changes his tune as he steps from one side of the chamber to the other. Although we came in at the end of a financial year, the right honorable gentleman and his colleague, the Attorney-General, went all over the country denouncing our finances to some purpose; they piled up the millions and set them rolling in fine style, and got all they could out of them. I do not blame them ; but what are the facts? Last year the Liberal Government spent £1,636,000 more than in the previous financial year, but this year, for the ordinary purposes of government, not for the purposes of the war, and not to meet any falling off in Customs revenue, the present Treasurer proposes to spend £2,680,000 more than was spent last year. If the Liberal Government were extravagantly financing last year, the present Treasurer must be having a high old carnival this year, so far as the ordinary expenditure of the year is concerned. Making a comparison between the two years, putting them both on the same basis, and bringing in the £241,000 which the Liberal Government had to pay last year, and which the present Treasurer is exempted from paying this year, and adding the £2,680,000, there is a difference of nearly £3,000,000 between the financing of the two years in regard to ordinary expenditure.
– It is a good thing that we have the money to spend.
– The trouble is that you have not got it; you are going to your money lender for it; you are going to raise Treasury-bills to the extent of £1,346,000 in order to liquidate your deficit this year.
Taking the total figures of the Budget, the Treasurer needs to borrow £10,500,000 during this year for the purpose of war expenditure, and he proposes to aid his revenue by a sum of considerably over £4,000,000. In other words, if we take the full extent of his proposals, he is to borrow £18,000,000 and to tax the people to the extent of £5,000,000 in a full year.
– The right honorable gentleman should not limit the year’s war expenditure to £10,500,000.
– I am not doing so. It is £11,700,000, but I am giving the Treasurer credit for the extent to which he is aiding his war expenditure from the Treasury-bills:
– The deficit is £1,346,000.
– But the Treasurer is aiding his revenue by extra taxation. He proposes to bring as an aid to his revenue - land tax £1,000,000, probate duties £1,000,000, and fresh Fiscal taxation £800,000, which gives a total of £2,800,000; and then he has a deficit of £1,346,000 which he proposes to liquidate by means of Treasury-bills. The Treasurybills amount to £2,588,000, but I am only taking £1,346,000, the actual amount of the deficit, to aid the revenue. The total amount of the war obligation is £18,000,000, and the extra taxation is £5,500,000.
– Part of the Treasurybills will go towards making up the difference between £10,500,000 and the actual amount of the war expenditure.
– I am giving you credit for that.
– How do you arrive at the figures of £5,500,000 as extra taxation?
– There is to be £1,000,000 from the land tax, and -we are to have £1,000,000 from probate duties for the half year and double for a full year.
– I am afraid that we cannot get that amount for the whole of this year.
– If the Treasurer anticipates £1,000,000 from probate duties for the half-year, what amount will he expect in a normal year?
– We hoped to get eight months, in estimating the revenue at £1,000,000.
- Mr. McKay, the Commissioner of Taxation, in a statement he made public the other day, said that from the increment of the land tax alone he expected to get £700,000 or £800,000 for the balance of the year, irrespective of leasehold taxation. I cannot be told that ho is to get only £200,000 a year from the taxation of holders of leases. I should estimate that from this source he would get at least the balance of £2,000,000. Therefore, I think that my estimate of about £5,500,000 extra taxation per annum will be near the mark. This is to be imposed in a full year.
Taxation is towering up in Australia. The increase proposed by the Treasurer means about £1 2s. 6d. per head of the population on the basis I have named, and in New South Wales Mr. Holman has imposed another 12s. 6d. per head for the year. As New South Wales contains 38 per cent, of the population of Australia, I can take it as an example of the effect of this new kind of financing we are getting. With 12s. 6d. per head imposed by the State, and 22s. 6d. per head imposed by the Federal Treasurer in one fell swoop, this additional taxation will come out at about £8 15s. per family in New South Wales, and I venture to say that the figure will come out about the same in the other two Labour States. If Mr. Scaddan had had his way in Western Australia, the additional impost would be much more, and, in relation to her population, Tasmania would not be very far behind. All this taxation will be passed on. There can be no mistake about that. All experience proves the absolute impossibility of making watertight compartments in regard to taxation. Taxes filter through and down to the man who works for his daily living, and who has to bear the brunt of it.
– Will probate duties filter down?
– Even the effect of probate can be filtered down to a certain extent. Are these taxes to be temporary or permanent?
– Parliament alone can determine that.
– But the Treasurer is the responsible financier. What does he propose to Parliament?
– So far as I am concerned, these taxes have no limitation, because I cannot see the end of the expenditure.
– Then are they to be made permanent on the statutebook?
– I cannot see the end of the expenditure that these taxes are to meet.
– Will the right honorable gentleman answer a plain question? Will he say what is in his mind regarding this extra land taxation and these probate duties? Has he any intention of taking them off under any circumstances?
– I am not in a position to bind Parliament in any way.
– The right honorable gentleman is in a position to bind the action of his Government.
– These are taxes to provide for the proper carrying on of the King’s government.
– That is a perfectly obvious statement. I ask the right honorable gentleman whether he proposes that this extra taxation shall remain permanently on the statute-book, or does he propose to remove it when the war, with its resulting trouble, is over 1 There is no answer to that inquiry. We have, therefore, the clear, inescapable position
– The clear answer is that while I hold office as Treasurer I shall try to provide the revenue to properly carry on the government of the country.
– The honorable member could not remain in office if ha did not.
– There is no virtue in that.
– None at all. Such a statement is a mere commonplace. When Lloyd George came down with his increased taxation he told the people that it would be taken off when the war was over. Could not the right honorable gentleman make a similar statement here? Could he not tell us what is his attitude regarding this taxation and the war ? There are certain well-known war appropriations which have to be resorted to in every civilized country. Great Britain, for instance, always resorts to an increased income tax, and other taxation of the kind, but there is always given to Parliament a distinct intimation that such taxation is for war purposes only, and the anticipation of relief is’ always well founded. The relief, indeed, invariably takes place. I ask the right honorable gentleman if that is to be so in connexion with these taxes?
– These taxes do not provide for the liquidation of the war debt.
– That is a sufficient answer. The right honorable gentleman tells us that these taxes have nothing to do with the liquidation of war liabilities. We are, therefore, to assume that they are for the purpose of liquidating his ordinary liabilities - liabilities incurred in carrying on the ordinary services of the Government for the year.
– They carry that on their face.
– That is a declaration of their permanency.
– The statement is clear enough. We are imposing additional taxation on the people to the tune of nearly £3,000,000 in respect of the rest of the financial year, and probably to the extent of £5,500,000 for the whole of next year for the purpose of carrying on the ordinary government of the country.
– Is that more than the right honorable gentleman anticipated ?
– A great deal more.
– Does the right honorable member say he really believed that it would not be required ?
– I hot only believed it, but I told the people that we saw our way to getting through with little or no more taxation. We have only to study the Estimates to see that a great deal could be done to avoid the additional taxation now being imposed on the people. Is it not time to ask, in this National Parliament, where economical management comes in ? Is it an affront to my honorable friends opposite to ask if they propose to begin to exercise a little economy in, for instance, the Postal Department? The Treasurer tells us that these are the Estimates as presented to him - that he did not interfere with them in any way.
– I did not say that.
– The right honorable gentleman practically told us so.
– I did not.
– Then we are to take it that the right honorable gentleman cut down the Estimates. Let us see how he has cut down the Estimates of the two great spending Departments of Australia.
I shall deal first of all with the ordinary expenditure of the Defence Department - expenditure in no wise connected with the war. Let it be distinctly understood that I am speaking all through of the ordinary expenditure of the Department, the war expenditure being specially provided for by an additional sum chargeable to Loan Account. I find that the ordinary expenditure of the Defence Department this year is to be increased to the extent of £1,802,000.
– Twelve months ago the right honorable member blamed us for not spending sufficient on the Department.
– I am not aware of having made any such statement. Twelve months ago I told my honorable friends I thought they were not getting value for the money expended in the Defence Department. I still hold that view.
– Why did not the right honorable member’s Government cut down?
– The honorable gentleman knows that we did all that we could; that we went as far as we could go. We provided the present Government with the machinery to ascertain what goes on itf the Department.
– The right honorable gentleman’s Government cut down the equipment.
– We know all about that allegation. I think, by the way, that the honorable gentleman supported the motion submitted last year by the honorable member for Capricornia, in which he demanded that we should reduce by £500,000 the expenditure on the Defence Department. He was here, but no vote was taken.
– The right honorable member is romancing as usual.
– The honorable gentleman sat here supporting the honorable member for Capricornia. Not one word fell from his lips as to anything being wrong with the Defence Department, except that too much - had been spent upon it. He now says that we ought not to have cut down this expenditure.
– Nothing of the kind.
– What we did do, did not interfere in the least with the effectiveness of the Department, and we certainly saved a considerable sum.
– Ask some of the men who are at the front what they think of the equipment provided by the late Government ?
– I readily admit that it is the general opinion of the permanent officers that they never had so much money to fly round with as when Senator Pearce was at the head of the Department. It is by no means a popular move to try to circumscribe the range and scope of the Department’s expenditure.
– It will have to be done.
– The honorable member told us plainly from the Opposi- tion back benches last year that we must cut down our Defence expenditure.
– And the late Government did so.
– Here is the present Government putting it up again. They are actually increasing the ordinary expenditure of the Department this year by no less than £1,802,000. Is the honorable member going to help to reduce that expenditure, or is he going to remain dumb on this occasion)
– I shall not be dumb.
– We hear nothing from the honorable member this year as to the necessity for cutting down the ordinary expenditure of the Defence Department. He and all his colleagues will remain silent - like Jeremiah dumb dogs. I call attention to the fact that the ordinary Defence expenditure this year is 38 per cent, more than last year. In other words, there is an expenditure of £1 6s. 3d. per head in respect of ordinary services, having nothing whatever to do with the war. Last year we spent 19s. 6d. per head all told; this year there is to be an increase of 6s. 9d. per head, or a total Defence expenditure of £1 6s. 3d. per head on ordinary services. I hope that the Public Accounts Committee will get to work speedily and see if this expenditure is really necessary. If they find it to be absolutely necessary in order to maintain an effective organization, then no one on this side of the House will criticise it. But we ought to know the facts. We ought to know whether we are getting 20s. in value for every sovereign that we spend in the Department. We ought to know that the money is being well spent. We do not begrudge a liberal Defence expenditure, as long as we know that there is corresponding efficiency.
What are we obtaining just now for our expenditure? The Minister told us the other day that altogether we were sending 42,000 men to the war- that 20,000 had already gone, that 13,000 were to go this month, and that during the next six months 9,000 were to be sent, but only as reinforcements. The effectives that we propose to maintain on the battlefield, therefore, number only 33,000. If these represent the total proposals of the present Government, I do not think them adequate. I hope the Government will reconsider this matter. The war is for us a life and death struggle, and having regard to the purpose that we should have in view - the extinction of the enemy .-it the earliest possible moment - to say that we are going to maintain only 33,000 soldiers on the battlefield is to make an entirely inadequate proposal. We are under an obligation to do more, and I shall be much surprised if Australia does not expect us to do more. I hope that this statement by the Minister does not represent the final judgment of the Government on what is undoubtedly the greatest war in the history of the world. We must have more than 33,000 men on the battlefield. . It is idle to talk about giving our last man and our last shilling if this is all that is to be done. Our last man and our last shilling, if left in Australia, will bring the battle over yonder no nearer a conclusion. We must, if necessary, send our last man and our last shilling over there, where the fighting has to be done. If the proposal represents what the Prime Minister meant when he spoke of our last man and our last shilling being at the disposal of the Imperial Government, I venture to submit, with great respect, that it is time he revised his opinions of this war and of its range and scale.
I come now to the Postal Department, another huge spending service, and I do not hesitate to say that it must soon be tackled seriously. It is a perfect sink of money and something must be done to place it upon a business footing. It is not so at present. The estimated increase in the revenue of the Postal Department for the year is a trifle over £60,000, whereas the estimated expenditure is £546,000 more than was expended last year. These figures are exclusive of loan expenditure. I find that the ordinary expenditure of the Department this year is to be £6,845,000, while its income is put down at £4,604,000, or a deficiency of £2,241,000. If we add to that the loan expenditure of £459,000 we have a total expenditure of £2,700,000 more than we shall get out of the Department this year. In other words, leaving loan expenditure out of consideration, the ordinary expenditure for the year is to be £2,241,000 more than is earned by the Department. We are to receive practically no more revenue, whereas the expenditure is being increased by 81/2 per cent. If this kind of thing is to go on, the Department will be waterlogged and bankrupt financially. It really is so at the present moment, and I suggest to the Treasurer that he directs his attention to it.
Mr.Fisher. - I have.
– I say deliberately, after consideration of the whole of the circumstances that there is money to be saved in connexion with the Department. The question must be grappled with. We must not be content to talk; something must be done, and done at once in this Department, which is using up money which ought to go to the ordinary purposes of government. There is another fact in connexion with the Postal Department to which I should like to call attention. According to the Budget papers the salary expenditure of the Department has increased in inverse ratio to its income. In 1910 we paid an average salary of £124 per official, and earned an average revenue of £265 per official. This year we are paying an average salary of £140 and earning an average of £213 per official. Whereas in 1910 an income of £140 was earned in excess of each salary paid, this year the excess will be only £73.
– It has fallen one-half.
– Yes. Each official represents a departmental earning power only half as great as that of four years ago. The position may be stated in another way. Whereas in 1902-3 it required a salary expenditure of £51 to earn £100 of revenue, in 1909-10 that amount of revenue was earned with a salary expenditure of £47, and in 1914-15 there must be a salary expenditure of £65 to earn it.
– In those days the postal officials were very badly paid.
– I do not desire that our officials should be paid badly. I wish them to have the utmost farthing that we can afford to give them; but the position disclosed by the Budget papers shows an utter and absolute want of effective management in the Postal Department. I urge the Treasurer to take the matter in hand and to grapple with the difficulty confronting us. In my judgment he will not achieve anything so long as the present system of control is continued. In this matter he should listen to the voice of the honorable member for Gwydir. We require business men to control the Department independently of Parliament, so that the administration may be in accordance with business methods. Every year the situation becomes worse, and our efforts to remedy it only increase the muddle.
– What does the right honorable member suggest?
– I suggest that the Post Office should be put under a Commission, and managed like the railways and other big business Departments of Government. Under the present management the more we pour out money the worse things become financially. This is not a party matter; neither party can stand the present state of things for many years more, because the situation gets worse every year.
– Some of the services given by the Department are too cheap.
– Many bankrupts make that excuse for their failure in the business world, but the last thing that a real business man thinks of doing is to increase the price of the commodities of which he wishes to dispose, because he knows that that is not the way to business success. The business man knows that he can succeed only by selling his commodities comparatively cheaply, so that the consumers will give him the patronage that he desires
– Then there must be a lot of bad business men in Australia today, because the prices of all commodities have been increasing during the last two years.
– The business men have not been putting up prices arbitrarily and of their own iree will. They have had to put up prices because some one has forced them to do so.
– Who is that bad man?
– My right honorable friend is the bad man just now. That is what the wharf labourers of Sydney say. They regard him as responsible for the price of a glass of beer being increased by one penny.
– They have had the increase taken off.
– And the contents of the glass have been reduced, so I read, to thirteen ounces.
– How does the right honorable member know?
– I know what I read. Who is the bad man who has increased the cost of picture films, so that the price of admission to picture shows must be increased? Surely that will hit the working man and his family. The Prime Minister will not let him go to the pictures without making him pay more.
I wish now to refer to the general financial situation. I congratulate my right honorable friend on the firm stand that he is apparently taking in regard to the issue of paper money. I hope that lie will remain firm in this matter, whatever else he may do.
– The right honorable gentleman need not worry about that.
– I am inclined to worry, because I know the forces behind my honorable friend on the benches opposite. Listen to this : I find in The Worker of the 29th October this statement
– The Worker?
– Does the honorable member sneer at The Worker?
– No. The right honorable member said “these benches.”
– Listen to this quotation from The Worker -
We no longer believe that the earth would stop rotating on its axis if the fellow in London refused to loan us his bits of yellow dirt.
We can do without the yellow mud of the gentleman in London. We can produce the wealth which the people require by using the people’s credit, and the resources of the country, and giving employment to the unemployed. ‘Che war situation has given us a chance to demonstrate that the worst of all trusts is the Money Trust, and that any selfrespecting nation can make its own money to suit its own needs.
– Who is the writer?
– I do not know, but I understand that the honorable member for Bourke wrote the following article, which appeared in The Worker of the 5th November last -
The National Government has under its control the Commonwealth Bank. It has done good work, it ought to do better. It has helped the private banks.
It has helped, therefore, “ the money trust, the biggest of all trusts.” It has helped, therefore, the bleeders, those who, according to my friends opposite, are defrauding the people of the country. The honorable member says that it has done good work in helping the banks -
The moat we have claimed for the Commonwealth Bank is that it has helped other banks, banks that go tottering in every hour of trial, and are only kept upright by the organized credit of the community.
The Treasurer does not say that the private banks are tottering now. On the contrary, they have come to support his tottering footsteps with a loan of £10,000,000 in good, red gold-
It is the duty of the National Parliament, through its Bank, to issue to the States a national currency based upon the bonds and debentures of the States as guarantees of repayment.
Those are the deliberate opinions of a very eloquent man who sits behind the Treasurer. I am glad that the latter is not accepting the advice offered to him, and that he is resisting the pressure which is being put on him. I congratulate him on the sanity witn which he appears to approach the general question of nuance, and particularly the issue of paper money.
– A little while ago the Leader of the Opposition was opposed to the issue of paper money.
– Who told the right honorable gentleman that?
– I know it on the evidence of my senses.
– Then those senses must be turned upside down. No one on this side, so far as I know, has been opposed to the issue of paper money, which is quite proper so long as that money has an adequate gold backing and is easily convertible. I understand that the Treasurer proposes to issue about £30,000,000 worth of notes altogether.
– If necessary.
– Notes to the value of £17,000,000 have been already issued. The banks are to receive £10,000,000 worth of notes which are not to be circulated, and, in all, about £30,000,000 will be issued during the present financial year.
– Not quite as much perhaps, but I think that notes to that value can be issued without causing any disturbance.
– In my judgment, it will be going very near to the danger limit. The banks have now about £35,000,000 in gold in their coffers. If the Treasurer gets £10,000,000 of that gold, the banks will be left with only £25,000,000. Altogether there is just about enough gold in the banks of Australia and in the Commonwealth Treasury to back this note issue, and make it readily and easily convertible.
– I think you are too modest in your estimate!
– So long as that is the case, there is little danger.
Reference has been made to the issue of paper money elsewhere in this time of war. For instance, avo have heard of the issue of £1 notes and 10s. notes iu England, and it is quite true that such notes have been issued; but they are all convertible, and to-day there is a sovereign for every £1 note that may be presented at the Bank of England. The result is that the Bank of England note is worth its full value in every part of the globe. In these times of dislocation of financial credit and of war emergencies, the Bank of England note retains its full value, because behind it there is the value of the English sovereign. That is a lesson the Prime Minister is, I hope, learning; and, if so, I congratulate him on his prudence with regard to the issue of paper money. The right honorable gentleman, in his speech, made a statement that I desire to put right. He referred 1o an all-parties Conference, at which a unanimous agreement was made to give the States notes on the presentation of 25 per cent, in cash. It is due to myself that I should let the House know that when I placed the final proposition before the Conference, I told those present, candidly, that my judgment did not go with it.
– I could not reveal what was said at that Conference. The right honorable gentleman assented to the proposition.
– The right honorable gentleman told us what was done at that Conference, and said the agreement was unanimous.
– Exactly; it was unanimous.
– The Commonwealth was to lend to the States. I think £20,000,000 was what they wanted.
– I did not say anything in my speech, nor at any time, about the amount.
– The proposition, in my mind, was a very different one, as the Prime Minister knows.
– I said nothing about £20,000,000, but I told the honorable member for Flinders that the decision of that Conference was absolutely unanimous. I was voting with the Leader of the Opposition every time.
– I did not vote. I was in the chair; but I felt compelled to record my dissent.
– What Conference was that - the first one?
– There was no amount whatever mentioned.
– I did not say so.
– It was left to the discretion of the Treasurer of tho Commonwealth.
– It was made very clear that the whole of the terms were to be left to the discretion of the
Commonwealth Treasurer. That was in the agreement ultimately arrived at.
– Which was never agreed to.
– If the honorable member is going to raise that question, I shall have to reply!
– I am glad it was not agreed to.
– It was agreed to, surely. And I think it was acted on on some occasions.
– Do not raise that question unless you want to hear the rest about it!
– It was acted upon, I know.
– It was set aside. Is the Leader of the Opposition going to raise this question ?
– I am raising it, of course.
– Very well, then!
– I am not doing so in any spirit of complaint against the Prime Minister. May I not state my position ?
– Yes; but the honorable member is responsible for anything that comes out of this !
– I do not care what comes out of it. Let the Prime Minister bring out what he likes; be cannot bring out anything that I am not prepared to face. I say that the conditions we imposed were not agreed to in writing by the States or banks.
– Does the then Treasurer agree with that?
– The conditions were acted on.
– They were not acted on.
– They were acted on to a small extent.
– And flouted !
-No, not at all; in two States they were acted on.
– I know what is in the Prime Minister’s mind.
– It is a very serious business.
– I do not know anything about that, which possibly has reference to something that occurred subsequently.
– After the present Prime Minister came into office ?
– I am trying to say that the Prime Minister is going on better lines, and if he will keep on sound lines, I congratulate him-
– I suggest that we leave this matter aside.
– There is nothing to leave aside, so far as I am concerned.
– As I say, I congratulate the Prime Minister on resisting influences, which have been all round him lately, to persuade him to swell the currency of Australia.
– The question is - Has he resisted?
– So far as I can see, I think he has fairly resisted up to the present. I do not know all the details.
– What maximum of issue did you anticipate?
– I wipe out £10,000,000 as showing absolutely no risk to the Treasurer.
– It might go into public circulation.
– No. I understand it is not. It appears that the Treasurer was to give £10,000,000 in notes for £10,000,000 in gold; and that was a perfectly safe thing for the Treasurer, so far as that step was concerned. But I now ask the Treasurer - Does he propose to utilize this £10,000,000 in sovereigns, which he gets from the banks, for the purpose of paying over the loans to the States at the rate of £1,500,000 a month? I understand that the Prime Minister is lending to the State, for public works purposes, £1,500,000 a month, or £18,000,000 a year.
– Yes, about that; but that is the calendar year; whereas my Budget deals with the ordinary financial year.
– I put it to the Prime Minister that he is going to lend the States £10,500,000 for this financial year?
– What then?
– About £9,000,000 or £10,000,000.
– Have the States had any yet?
– Not of this loan.
– I understood the States were to begin to receive the money this month.
– The States have had a lot of money besides that.
– But this month ?
– Then that means seven months, and the amount is £10,500,000.
– I do not think the States will need so much in the first half-year.
– What does it matter about the details? I ask the Prime Minister whether he proposes to utilize this £10,000,000 in gold from the banks for the purpose of paying it over to the States in the shape of loan?
– No; we are going to utilize the public credit of the Commonwealth to lend money to the States.
– Then what does the Prime Minister propose to do with the £10,000,000 ? Why is he insisting on this £10,000,000 from the banks? He does not want it for his own purposes. What is it for ?
– It is to enable the Commonwealth and the States to get over a very difficult financial crisis without pledging our credit overmuch, and to obtain the assistance at a cheaper rate of i nterest
– That tells us absolutely nothing. I am asking a simple question as to the destination of this £10,000,000 in gold.
– The destination will be the Commonwealth Treasury.
– Is it to be kept there doing nothing?
– What, then ?
– It will be used for every Commonwealth purpose, both loan and otherwise.
– Loans to the States ?
– And otherwise.
– It is a pity that we have to drag out all this information regarding grave matters of public importance. Why cannot our public financing be done in the open, as in the Old Country ? Why have we to drag out all the details?
– They are all given in the Budget as plainly as can be.
– That is not so. What I am asking the Prime Minister is whether or not it is a fact that this £10,000,000 is going to the States for public works?
– It is not a fact. It represents only part of the credit of the Commonwealth which will be available for us to meet our obligations, and enable us to lend the States so much money.
– Then some of it is going to the States? Is the Prime Minister going to keep this gold in the Commonwealth coffers, or is it to be used for the purpose of making loans to the States ?
– I can assure the honorable member and the people of Australia that this is not an ornamental loan, but is for purposes of utility. .
– May I ask the Prime Minister what was in his mind when he pressed the banks to give him this £10,000,000 in gold for £10,000,000* in notes?
– It was to strengthen the credit of Australia, to support th« banks, and, particularly, to enable the States to go on with public works, and prevent financial stress and disaster.
– To support the banks ?
– By dragging £10,000,000 in gold out of them !
– Leave that to the banks; they know their own interests. I did not threaten them.
– Well, I shall have to leave the right honorable gentleman there.
– Leave it to the banks; they know their own interests.
– I am not troubling about the banks.
– Oh, yes, you are.
– I am asking whether the £10,000,000 in gold is to find its way to the exchequers of the States in the shape of loans for public works.
– Not necessarily.
– Very well; by so much as this gold does not find its way to the State coffers there will have to be further notes issued. Am I right there?
– The right honorable gentleman may make his statement, and I shall answer it.
– Is it not right that I should get to know what the right honorable gentleman is going to do? The country has a right to know.
– I propose to lend the States £18,000,000, commencing in the middle of this month.
– Is this £10,000,000 in gold part of the £18,000,000?
– It will be part of the credit to enable the Commonwealth to lend the money; and every child knows that. There is obviously sorrow over there that we have been able to do this.
– That is party clap-trap.
– There has been nothing but party clap-trap over there.
– This is the first time we have ever had a Treasurer who dare not tell what public funds are for, and where they are going.
– Sorrow, sorrow, sorrow !
– It is sorrow because we cannot get at the facts.
– Why should we sorrow ?
– This is the first time I have ever heard a Prime Minister so patiently submitting to crossexamination.
-I am not concerned or interested personally, except as a taxpayer, but does the honorable member for Batman think that the people of this country have no right to know what the Prime Minister is going to do with the £10,000,000 in gold at a time like this? We should not find a financier in any other country of the world just now covering up his transactions in this way. There is no need for this reticence; there is nothing secret about the matter.
– Hear, hear!
– It is a matter of public business.
– Hear, hear!
– Then, why not furnish the information, so that we may know exactly what the destination of the money is, and why the Prime Minister is resorting to these financial proposals to carry him through?
– This is how the Leader of the Opposition is redeeming his promise to help the Government over a war crisis !
– How can we help the Government when the Government will not let us help them - when they will not tell us what they are doing?
– You have all the facts.
– We have not the facts, and we cannot get them. I wish to know what the Prime Minister is going to give the States in the shape of the £18,000,000 loan.
– The Prime Minister has bold you a dozen times.
– If the honorable member for Kalgoorlie will hold his silly tongue, we shall get on very much better. Everything depends upon whether the honorable member is going to furnish the States with £18,000,000 worth of notes over and above the £17,000,000 now in circulation, and the £10,000,000 he proposes to give to the banks. That would be dangerous. It is a question of the difference between £30,000,000 and £48,000,000.
– That is a yarn. Your sponsor put it into the newspapers.
– Is it a yarn to say that if the right honorable gentleman gives the States £18,000,000 worth of notes, there will be £48,000,000 worth out, instead of £30,000,000?
– That is a yarn.
– Then thirty and eighteen do not make forty-eight?
– It is a silly yarn, too.
– I am very sorry that my right honorable friend begins to be so very impertinent and offensive.
– Perhaps the honorable member had better address the Chair.
– I am addressing the Chair, and I am asking for information about public accounts ; but I have received nothing but impertinence and insults. The reason I desire this information is to ascertain what the ultimate destination of this gold is likely to be. If it goes to the States, it will go back to the banks at once, and may ultimately find its way to London, and out of Australia altogether. These are operations that we are interested in, and any man who seeks to uphold the credit of his country is entitled to know what the destination of that £10,000,000 worth of gold is. It is a simple question, and ought to be susceptible of an answer which is not a piece of impertinence.
There is another aspect which makes this matter important, an aspect which I was referring to to-day in a question I put to the Minister of Trade and
Customs. Everybody knows that we are having a bad time in Australia, and our exports this year will be very much diminished. We are likely to have less wheat, to the value of about £12,000,000, to send away this year than we had last year.
– The wheat export will be £10,500,000 less in value.
– Can the honorable member tell me what the wool export will be ?
– I can let the honorable gentleman have the information about dinner-time.
– The honorable member will let me have it when it is of no use for the debate. I asked for this information last Friday. .
– And the honorable member ought to have got it.
– This is another instance of the way in which we are refused information. Then honorable members ask us why we do not help the Government? That is the last thing they will let us do j they will not give us information about anything.
– The information has just this moment come to hand.
– I see that the adverse balance ‘on skins and hides, &c, is estimated at £8,000,000.
– And the export of wool is estimated at £22,000,000, as against £26,000,000 last year.
– Only a falling off of £4,000,000 in the export of wool 1 Even calculating the falling off at £4,000,000, the three items I have referred to account for a decrease in this year’s export of nearly £20,000,000. It seems to me that the banks operating in Australia are not going to have an easy time in financing our imports during the next year.
– It is only fair to say that the imports have fallen off very considerably.
– To an extent which represents a decrease of £1,500,000 in duty.
– The falling off for the four months was £7,648,000.
– There is bound to be a shrinkage in imports, but to nothing like the extent of the shrinkage in exports during the next year. If our imports are to balance our exports this year, our consumption will require to be £20,000,000 less than it was last year, and I do not think that is at all likely to be the ease. I venture to say that we shall have a strenuous time in purchasing the imports which Australia will require, owing to the decreased value of our exports. All this is operating on the credit and resources of the Commonwealth, and bears, too, on the question of the destination of this £10,000,000 worth of gold, particulars of which I am asking from the right honorable gentleman. I may say that, so far as the honorable member has gone, I have no objection whatever to his method of financing if he will stop where he is with his paper money ; but he ought to tell us the whole of his proposals, and where he expects to ultimately find himself with regard to the credit and resources of Australia. This question of paper money has a very important relation to us in our present circumstances. While the Bank of England notes remain at par, the Bank of Germany notes have gone all to pieces. We are told that Germany made very elaborate and deliberate preparations for this war, but, notwithstanding all her foresight, her credit has been shattered, despite the war loans she raised so easily within her own borders.
These are some of the precautions Germany took in connexion with this war. She issued £15,000,000 worth of extra silver token money; during the first two months of the war Reichsbank notes to the value of £130,000,000 were issued, specie payment was suspended, and the notes were made inconvertible. Yet, early in October, only two months after the commencement of the war, in Holland and Switzerland, two contiguous and friendly countries, that note issue had’ depreciated 35 per cent.
– The Economist in its last issue says there is no truth in that statement.
– My facts were published by The Economist.
– And it was the Berlin correspondent of The Economist who contradicted the statement.
– Yes; and I understand that the Berlin correspondent of The Economist says that there is no trouble, that all the financial arrangements in Germany, including the late war loan, are a success.
– What is the date of TheEconomist you are quoting?
– I will not be catechized by the honorable member. That statement was taken out of The Economist, and it says also that Germany issued this paper money against the invested Savings Bank deposits; yet, despite that fact, there is a decrease of 35 per cent, in the value of the notes.
– That is not correct. The Economist does not say so.
– That is the statement appearing in The Economist of the 29th August, 1914, and this is the comment of the journal on those facts -
The Reichsbank has secured control of the gold in Germany, and depositors can only hoard bank notes, which were prepared in great quantities. They are inconvertible: but their depreciation was checked, as far as internal transactions were concerned, by fixing maximum prices.
Germany not only said that its people should have only paper money to buy with, but took care to provide that so much goods could be bought for so much money.
Every shop which would not accept the notes, or endeavoured to raise prices, was immediately closed by the authorities.
These are the things the Government have to do when they resort to paper strategy.
Every one who was short of money could raise a” loan on any of his securities or property from the bank, which issued notes against them, and special branches have boon opened to deal with this business. A moratorium has thus been rendered unnecessary. The whole position, therefore, has been placed upon an artificial paper basis, dependent upon the credit of the Government. That our less drastic methods will prove much better in the long run we cannot doubt. Germany’s method is. no doubt, imposed by her present state of financial isolation; but its ultimate effects cannot fail to be disastrous.
– Are those notes inconvertible at the present moment?
– Yes, but to preserve the maximum value of the notes the Government also fixed the maximum prices of goods which the notes could buy. Despite all that, in Holland and Switzerland, the notes have already depreciated to the extent of 35 per cent. That is a lesson to the right honorable memher for Wide Bav and his friends over there.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
– The honorable member ought to ask for an extension of time.
– I do not want an extension; I am finished. I desire to say only this, that in the extracts I have read are lessons right to hand which I hope my honorable friends opposite will take to heart. We can finance in war time prudently with paper money, but we may not run amok as some honorable members are anxious to do. . The one thing we .are under an obligation to do is to maintain effective government for all the purposes of government, to do that as economically as possible, and, above all else, to preserve our credit in the money markets of the world.
– It is usual for the Treasurer to wait till the general discussion is completed before making a reply, but some of the remarks which have fallen from the Leader of the Opposition this afternoon warrant my making a brief answer at this stage. I regret the manner in which the right honorable gentleman brought forward his interrogations with regard to the note issue, and the manner in which he referred to the Conferences, which I understood were quite secret, to emphasize his own position. It is necessary for me now to emphasize the position of myself and my colleagues. From the time that war was declared I stated publicly-
– What do you mean by secrecy ? The whole matter was disclosed to the press immediately afterwards.
– I can only say that the resolution of the first Conference was that no one was to say anything at all about anything that had taken place except the Prime Minister.
– That is correct.
– But it was made public.
– Whether that resolution was binding on any other person or not, I considered that it was binding on me.
– But it was published the same night.
– That did not absolve me one iota from my pledge to secrecy.
– The information was sent to all the Banks and to the State Governments.
– Publicly and privately I stated - and, as far as I could influence those with whom I was associated to adopt the same attitude, I did so - that my duty, as Leader of the Opposition, was to support the Government, no matter what their action was or whether I believed in it or not. I did so, even to the extent of effusiveness, as the honorable member for Flinders, who was then the AttorneyGeneral, described it in a remark attributed to him in the press, whether he uttered it or not. The right honorable gentleman knows that after I had expressed my views at the Conference, whatever the policy of the Government was, I supported it. I could not have done more.
– Not the policy of the Government, but the policy of the Conference.
– Whatever view the Government took, whether it was their policy or not, I held it was my duty to support them in their last statement as to what was their policy, and I did so. But the scheme adopted at that Conference broke down.
– It broke down after you came into office.
– It did not break down previously.
– Yes. I leave the matter there in the meantime - the scheme broke down.
– As some of the States and the banks took advantage of it, it does not look as if the scheme broke down.
– That some transactions took place is quite true. When the present Government came into office, the situation was, in their opinion, serious. Therefore, we conferred with the representatives of the Associated Banks, and came to a certain agreement whereby the banks will advance to the Commonwealth gold to the value of £10,000,000, which has to be repaid to the banks by the Commonwealth at the end of the war.
– You gave them notes for their gold.
– The agreement was contingent upon the Australian money market and credit being relieved at the other end of the world by raising sufficient credit there - whether it was in gold or in old boots does not make the slightest difference - to enable the credit here to be absolutely secure, and to prevent any difficulty to a financial institution, or to the States, or to the Commonwealth. . To find that credit at a rea sonable rate of interest was a difficult process, but ‘it was found, and, without demur, the banks agreed to advance £10,000,000 to the Commonwealth.
– Is that agreement in writing?
– Is there any possible objection to bringing that agreement before the House?
– If the banks consent, I have no objection. The agreement is not yet finally signed, although its terms have been agreed to by both parties.
– Does the Treasurer feel disposed at this stage to disclose the conditions attached to the £10,000,000 worth of notes that will pass to the banks ?
– The banks have no apprehension at all regarding the acceptance of notes in respect of the gold deposit, nor in regard to a considerable extension of the note issue in addition, which, in our opinion and their opinion, can be well secured, and will enable the States to be financed to the extent we have indicated, namely, £18,000,000, at the same time enabling the Commonwealth to be financed during this financial year. There is no reasonable doubt on that point. There is a substantial advantage in the fact that the advance will be in gold, because the statutory provision for a gold reserve against any note issue will thus be provided.
– Is that what you propose to do - to make this gold the basis of a further note issue?
– Apparently the Leader of the Opposition does not see how restrictive is the pinning of one down to one kind of action, and how it does not convey to the public the actual state of affairs. The gold is for all purposes, but particularly for the purpose of a further note issue, should such be necessary.
– Do the banks undertake to keep that £10,000,000 worth of notes out of circulation?
– Beyond question the banks may use the notes, but may not demand gold for them till the end of the war. That is the main factor.
– Does it appear in the agreement ?
– Is that for twelve months ?
– I have said that it is to be during the term of the war. I should like to have a conference with the leading members of the Opposition before entering upon another point with which I have been challenged to deal. All that I can say is that the financial position of the Commonwealth is infinitely stronger to-day than it was a little time ago, and that the people have reason to congratulate themselves upon that fact. The States have provided for their loan expenditure for twelve calendar months from the present month to the extent of £18,000,000, not including Queensland’s expenditure, a larger loan expenditure than has been incurred in any other year in the Commonwealth ; and this money has been provided by the Commonwealth at a lower rate of interest than the States have been able to borrow at during the last eighteen months. I am not in the position to say what will be the exact rate of interest, but it is almost certain to be less than £4 5s. per cent.
– Why does not the Treasurer know what the rate of interest is to be? He is to fix it. The rate is not dependent on the London loan.
– The rate is contingent.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– At the second Conference with the State Premiers, which took place after we came into power, an agreement was drawn up under which the Commonwealth undertook to advance to the States for public works purposes during the next twelve months a sum of £18,000,000. I was asked, just before we adjourned for dinner, what rate of interest was to be charged. I can only say that the agreement provides for a minimum of 4 per cent., or such higher rate as the Commonwealth Government may be required to pay for an equivalent amount, but for all practical purposes the States, in my opinion, will obtain this loan for about £4 5s. per cent. Under the arrangement made with the Associated Banks the Commonwealth undertook to carry out part of the agreement originally suggested and approved at the first Conference, to the effect that we should assist the banks, as well as provide loans for the States.
– Assist the banks should the necessity arise.
– On the application of the banks.
– On the same terms as were proposed at the Conference?
– Yes. As I remarked on a previous occasion I do not think it would be advisable to publish the names of the banks to whom this assistance is granted. In every instance we ask the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank for a report, and in each case his report has been favorable, with the result that the application has been granted. These are special times, and I think we should deal with them in a special way. I claim no financial ability beyond the capacity to deal with this matter from a commonsense stand-point, but from my knowledge of the position I feel justified in saying that there is no indication of any substantial failure of credit, either on the part of the banks or of any of the institutions of Australia. The depression through which we are passing is merely temporary. It arises from the development of a great war, drought, and from what may be described as an excusable apprehension in the minds of a great many people. But that the credit of the Commonwealth is sound no one who has taken the trouble to examine the actual facts can doubt for one moment. I repeat what I have said before in this House, that our financial position to-day is stronger and our credit more flexible than it was at the commencement of the war. I do not think it advisable to discuss the intricacies of the loan transaction any more than to say that part of the £18,000,000, which we advance to the States, will, of necessity, include some proportion of the £10,000,000 to which I have already referred. But to say that that £10,000,000 will be part of the loan of £18,000,000 would not be correct; it certainly would not convey a proper impression. The advance may be made partly in notes and partly in gold. I come now to a remark made by the Leader of the Opposition regarding a statement published by the representative of a large organization in Victoria that our note issue was going up to £45,000,000.
– I made no such statement.
– I am informed that Mr. Brookes has stated in a newspaper, with all his authority, whatever it may be, that the note issue must go up to £45,000,000 or £46,000,000.
– I did not say that.
– Mr, Brookes published in Stead’s Review an article on the note issue.
– I have not read the article, but a gentleman, whose word I can take, has assured me that the statement was made. I ask honorable members not to accept it. Eminent as the writer may be in other fields, I think this statement on his part may be discounted very considerably. Evidently he arrived at his statement by totalling up two items of £18,000,000, plus the existing note issue. As a matter of fact, there is only one item of £18,000,000, so that his statement is £18,000,000 out. So far as we can see there need be no apprehension at all on the part of the banks, the States, or the Commonwealth, for at least the next seven or eight months. Parliament will then be in session, and should any new situation arise it can then be dealt with. I do not think that honorable members can be too often reminded of the fact that the States themselves, in the matter of loan money, are in a stronger and better position to-day than they have ever been since the inauguration of the Commonwealth. Their position is secured for practically the whole of 1915. They can see ahead of them for the next twelve months, so far as the loan of £18,000,000, plus what Queensland may be able to raise, is concerned. The material part of the speech delivered by the Leader of the Opposition was a criticism of our expenditure at the present time, but I did not hear the right honorable gentleman make a single suggestion as to how that expenditure might be reduced, nor state in what respect any portion of it was unwarranted. It is true that he pointed out that certain salaries were high, but were not being attacked. I have already told honorable members, in answer to a question, that it is a difficult matter to deal with Commonwealth salaries and emoluments.
– I was not complaining that the Treasurer did not attack them. I merely pointed out that they had been attacked by the Tasmanian Government, and I contrasted their action with that of the Commonwealth Government.
– But the right honorable gentleman stated that these salaries remained untouched. Why is it? It has been the custom, as the right honorable member for Swan knows, for the Government of the day to deal only with the increments and so forth of the administrative heads” of departments. This Government felt that none of the administrative heads could be recommended for increases at the present time. The President of the Senate and Mr. Speaker occupy tlie position of the Public Service Commissioner in the matter of the salaries of the officers of Parliament, and the Public Service Commissioner ever since his appointment has been in the habit of obtaining the Estimates from the Treasurer and adding to them the increments, &c, due. The Estimates have then gone directly to the Government Printer.
– Does’ the Treasurer exercise no control?
– Treasurers have not done so, but I am not in agreement with that rule. Parliament is the proper place in which to discuss such matters, but it is not for me during a crisis such as that through which we are passing to inaugurate an entirely new practice without making the facts known to Parliament. I do not admit for one moment that the Treasurer has not power to deal with the Estimates as he thinks fit, and notwithstanding what any official may wish. But if he were to exercise the power which, as representing the Executive authority of the Commonwealth, he undoubtedly possesses, and if he were to discriminate, then the authority of the Public Service Commissioner in this respect would be at an end.
– It would be limited only to that extent.
– Quite so, but we must deal with this question according to the rule.
– And it is a general rule, too.
– I admit that. Nothing can take away from the Executive the power to deal with the expenditure of the country in any way it thinks necessary from time to time, and more particularly in connexion with the annual Estimates. I need not deal further with the matter. I understand that the Opposition do not intend to give us the Estimates before we adjourn for the holidays - that they want the Estimates to stand over until we come back.
– The Treasurer himself made that suggestion.
Mr.FISHER.- Only because I could get nothing better.
– I doubt if the right honorable gentleman’s own supporters would be prepared to give him the Estimates before we adjourned for the holidays.
– Very well. That will necessitate the passing of a Supply Bill - if we are to adjourn until April - covering a period of five months. I wish now to ask the Leader of the Opposition and his party whether they will give me that Supply Bill, if possible to-night, for the reason that we are close up to the midmonthly payment.
– Has the Treasurer no provision for the mid-monthly payment ?
Mr.JosephCook. - Then we must give it to the right honorable member.
– The reason of my request is quite obvious. A certain occurrence has led to the Supply Bill being a day later than would otherwise have been the case ; but if we cannot pass it to-night we shall have to take it to-morrow.
– I do not see why it should not be passed to-night. The Budget debate can then go on to-morrow.
– Quite so. There is nothing in the Supply Bill touching new payments. It will be based on last year’s expenditure. But I remind honorable members that in times like this the Treasurer’s Advance for a period of four or five months must be a considerable sum. That is made necessary by our constitutional limitations. In my opinion, it would be better, at this particular time, to intrust the Treasurer with too much than with too little. We may err in asking too much, but we shall not use the whole sum asked for unless its expenditure is necessitated by some emergency. Regarding the Post Office, its administration has been a matter of anxiety to me for many years, and, no doubt, has made every other Commonwealth Treasurer anxious.
– The right honorable gentleman has his remedy.
– The honorable member has done good work in this connexion. In the early days of Federation, the Post Office was starved, a fact that it is only fair to remember when criticising the administration of the Department. Developmental works were retarded at the time when there was most money.
– Money will not cure the existing evil.
– Later, money was made available, and spent freely, but it was not spent to the best advantage, because that can never be done when expenditure is made in a hurry to make up leeway. Notwithstanding, the Post Office is to-day in a better position than it has occupied before under Commonwealth administration.
– Millions of money have been spent out of revenue which ought to have been taken from loan funds.
– The honorable member is probably correct ; but it is no reflection on this Government that when we had money to spare we spent it on capital construction to help to make good the deficiencies and defects of the departmental equipment. The time is coming when money will not be available from revenue for that purpose, but the Department has been strengthened by the expenditure already made from revenue. It is only fair to say that the Department, in its balance-sheet of profit and loss, debits itself with interest on all expenditure in excess of its earnings.
– That has been done only recently, under the new accountant.
– Does the right honorable gentleman say that the Department debits itself with the cost of new works and buildings other than those paid for with loan money?
– It debits itself with interest on all its assets, including transferred properties. The loss that has been spoken of is in part made up of interest payments on works expenditure. The figures quoted to-day did not recognise this fact.
– Yes, they did.
– There is a difference between a Post Office work and a railway. The former, generally speaking, depreciates rapidly.
– A post-office building depreciates, but the site appreciates.
– A postal property should not depreciate.
– What about telephones ?
– They should not depreciate if properly maintained.
– If properly maintained. The railways have to be kept in a state of efficiency, and they appreciate with the development of the country; it is different with Post Office works. The desire in the administration of the Post Office is ever to give cheaper and better, and more facilities. When a new Postmaster-General institutes a reform which means a loss of revenue, he is cheered as a good man; but, following his reform comes the criticism of postal expenditure and revenue. I am in favour of making the Post Office a business concern. It must be a business concern with us, though it was not with the States. Were, we in the position of the States, I would not ask that the Post Office be made a business concern, that is, a profit and loss concern. If we had control of the land, it would be the duty of the National Government to provide the cheapest communication by telephone, telegraph, and post-office over the immense area of the Commonwealth, and we should get our reward in other ways besides, the direct earnings of our services. At the present time it is in the big centres of population that the losses are being incurred. That is worse than an anomaly; it is an injustice. We intend to do something to remedy this state of things, and to put the Post Office on a business footing. Having said so much about the Postal Department, I wish to add that, in my opinion, the Commonwealth has a great organized Public Service of which it should be proud. I think that it is a well managed Service, and has been well cared for by this Parliament. I am not accustomed to give praise, but I must give my word of praise for the devotion and patriotism of a great many public officers with whom I have come into contact since the war began. I have never known more loyal and faithful service than that which has been given by them without thanks, and without remuneration of any kind. We have no reason, as a Commonwealth, to be anything but proud of the character and efficiency of our Public Service. We cannot, before the Christmas vacation, deal with any of the larger financial obligations, but I ask members to accept my assurance that all the parties concerned are satisfied as to the strength, stability, and security of the Commonwealth, and believe in its ability to maintain its position unimpaired during the present struggle, and to assist the States, the banks, and all who may need help. I think that the Leader of the Opposition does not desire further information about the note issue than he has already had. As I do not wish to trespass on the time of the Committee, I shall only add that I shall be glad to answer any question of importance that may be addressed to me during the debate.
– Some rather heated words passed across the table before the dinner adjournment, it being evident to me now that the Prime Minister was, at the time, confused as to the point that I was trying to make, he having one thing in his mind, and I another. I assure him that I have not seen the report to which he referred, the knowledge of which, no doubt, coloured his remarks across the table. The point I was trying to make was that he had already arranged to issue notes to the value of £27,000,000, and that the note issue would, in all probability, reach £30,000,000, the understanding being that the £10,000,000 worth of notes which were to be issued to the banks were to remain in their coffers, and not to go into circulation.
– Until the end of the war.
– I said that I thought that that arrangement could not be cavilled at, but that, if it were proposed to make the 10,000,000 sovereigns which were to be advanced by the banks the basis of a further inflation of the note issue, that would be treading on dangerous ground.
As to a Supply Bill, if the Treasurer has not money to meet the usual mid-monthly payments, he must get it, and whilst asking for it, he had better ask for sufficient to cover the period during which Parliament will be in recess. But it must be remembered that the Estimates are those of this Government, for which Ministers must take responsibility; we, having explained our position in relation to them, can do no more. By passing the Supply Bill we shall probably agree to £10,000,000 of the year’s vote before the Estimates are considered, and, therefore, we shall not be able to re-open matters later by making reductions. However, that is the responsibility of the Prime Minister, and those behind him ; we have done our part. I see no objection to the passing of a Supply Bill to-night.
.- The Leader of the Opposition has dealt with many points of the Budget; I propose to discuss but a few of the matters contained therein. There is not much time at our disposal, and no advantage is to be gained by reiterating statements that have already been made! Before I go further, I may say that the difficulties of the Government owing to the war and the drought would have been much greater if they had not been fortunate enough to possess themselves of. practically, £28,000,000 in gold- £18,000,000 under loan for fourteen years from the Imperial Government, and £10,000,000 under loan from the banks for, at any rate, a year. Their position would have been much worse if they had not been fortunate enough. - and I use the word deliberately - to obtain possession without difficulty, as was stated by the Treasurer, of this immense sum of money. Had there been a normally good season, the position would have been far better than it is; and I nin sure we all like to see the Commonwealth in as strong a position as possible. We can only live in hope that the terribly bad season we are experiencing will soon pass away, and that our war and other difficulties will soon be overcome; and meanwhile we must all “be strong and of a good courage.” There are only two or three matters to which I desire to refer to-night; and, first, I should like to deal with the means of financing the country on ordinary account during the current year. It is not my intention to deal with the financing of the war, because that is provided for under an arrangement with the Imperial Government to lend us the money for a term of fourteen years, so that, until the time arrives for the repayment of the loan, all we have to do is to pay the annual interest. I shall, however, devote a little time to the means that have been taken by the Treasurer to finance the Commonwealth during the year, and I shall also say something about the effect of the new
Tariff proposals, and the inopportune time chosen for imposing extra taxation on our half -ruined, drought-stricken producers. In introducing the Budget, the Prime Minister could not help referring, for, I should say, the hundredth time, to the chance surplus of £2,643,305 which he left when his Government were defeated eighteen months ago. I refer to this because the Prime Minister and his supporters, not content with misrepresentation, in order to gain a political point, made a great deal of the fact, when they were before the country, that there was this amount to their credit when they left office, and endeavoured to disparage the efforts of their successors to economize and in doing their best not to spend the whole of this surplus. They forgot to tell the country that we could very easily have spent the whole of the surplus during the year 1913-14, but that we did not do so. On the contrary, at the end. of the year we left a sum of £1,222,401, which, ‘ I have no doubt, the Treasurer has found very useful in the terrible circumstances that have arisen.
– Hear, hear!
– I mention this in order to emphasize my view that it is time that we showed a little generosity to one another. The Treasurer knows very well that when he began the year 1912-13 he did not expect to have any surplus at the end. He brought down Estimates which absorbed the whole, but, owing to the fact that he received more revenue than he looked for, and spent less than ho anticipated, he was able to leave the large balance I have mentioned. This, it seems to me, is what, may have happened to anybody who is careful in the management of affairs; sometimes there is more, and sometimes there is less than is expected. I think the right honorable gentleman has been very fortunate indeed, as Treasurer of the Commonwealth, because on a previous occasion he came into office just when the operation of the Braddon section ceased, giving him, during his three years, a sum of £14,000,000 that he would not otherwise have obtained. Of course, I am very glad that he was so placed; but, when we know the reason of the greatly increased revenue, it is not well on the part of those who benefit to boast of the circumstances, and to endea- your to disparage those who preceded them and had not the same advantage.
There is a serious matter which was referred to by the Leader of the Opposition, namely, the simultaneous exercise of the power of taxation by the States and by the Commonwealth. This, it seems to me, is becoming a danger to the community. For a long time double taxation was never suggested; and it was held, times out of number, by our most eminent men that land and other taxation would never be part of the Commonwealth taxation policy, but would remain the business of the State, and that unless under dire necessity or of great calamity, when such a step was absolutely necessary to keep the country afloat, there would be no invasion by the Commonwealth of the avenues of taxation hitherto entirely within the control of the States. This was the idea acted upon continuously for many years in this Parliament; but it has now been departed from by the Labour Government. At present, the same piece of land is- taxed by three powers - the municipalities or shire councils, the State Governments, and the Commonwealth - and this, in my view, is a dangerous position. It is now proposed that the Commonwealth shall impose probate and succession duties; and it would appear that before long every source of taxation reserved for the States will be exploited by the Commonwealth. Personally, I do not see how this can be permitted, if it is desired, in the first place, to maintain the individual ownership of property. I am quite certain this dual taxation was never contemplated by the framers of the Constitution, nor do I regard it as justifiable or reasonable. If it is persisted in, it means the destruction of the States altogether; it means spoliation and confiscation and the abrogation of the Federal principle of the Constitution. Of course, if it is desired to destroy the Federal principle, and to repudiate the bargain entered into by the States when they handed over certain powers to the Commonwealth, that is another matter.
– Cannot the people alter an agreement they make?
– I do not think that my honorable friend realizes sufficiently that the people, as a whole, do not have the opportunity of altering the agreement. Absolutely, two States in the Commonwealth may, under the Con stitution, be coerced, and have their powers taken from them. That, no doubt, could be done under the Constitution; but, at the same time, I do not think it is either fair or justifiable.
During the elections nothing was said by the Prime Minister and his supporters about imposing any extra burden on land-owners or producers from the soil; indeed, I think the very opposite was conveyed.
– There was no war at that time.
– On the 1st August there was war, and, at any rate, before the 5th September there was ample time for our friends opposite to have intimated, in view of the war. that, if they were returned to office, they would impose this extra taxation.
– But the honorable member and his colleagues told the people that we would impose the taxation.
– And honorable members opposite denied it.
– Oh, no !
– I remember reading that the statement was denied.
I should like to say a word or two as to the system adopted by the Treasurer for financing the current year. I do not approve of the methods he has adopted, nor do I think them necessary in existing circumstances. Leaving out of consideration the war expenditure of £11,742,000, which is to be provided by loan from the British Government, it is proposed to expend during the financial year, from revenue, £2,680,338 more than was expended last year. In my opinion that is neither justifiable nor necessary.
– Where would you cut the expenditure down?
– That is for the Government to say. It is not justifiable, and it is not necessary to spend more this year from revenue than we considered it necessary to spend last year. While the revenue is decreasing the expenditure is increasing. Surely that is not prudence. We would not adopt that policy with our own private affairs, and we all know that the affairs of a country are not very dissimilar from a man’s private affairs. In both cases we must make both ends meet ; we must not go to leeward. I say emphatically that there is nothing in the position of the country at the present time which justifies us in spending more money out of revenue this year than wc spent last year. The increase of expenditure is made up of : Ordinary services, £1,540,299 ; works and buildings, £1,004,288; and increased contributions to the States, £135,751; totalling, as I have already stated, £2,680,338. While the present Government are piling .up the expenditure chargeable to revenue, and, as a consequence, imposing ruinous and unnecessary taxation, they are not increasing to any material extent the expenditure from loan funds in the construction of public works. Last year the expenditure from loan on public works was £2,154,564 ; whereas the proposed expenditure from loan this year is £2,162,580, while the expenditure from revenue is being increased by £2,6S0,338, as I have previously mentioned. It seems a strange sort of business that, in a difficult and disastrous year like this, you should pile up your expenditure from revenue, and relieve the expenditure from loan. Expenditure from loan only means that you pay the interest and charge it to revenue, whilst expenditure from revenue means that ordinary income has to bear the whole capital cost. In order to carry out this expenditure from revenue and make the accounts balance, the Government have found it necessary, to provide by increased taxation and borrowing £3,436,319. The additional land taxation is estimated at £1,240,000 a year, but it is expected to realize this year only £1,090,055 more than the receipts of last year. An additional million is to be obtained from probate and succession duties. Yet, in spite of that extra taxation, there is to be a deficit of £1,346,264. I would have made ends meet somehow. I would not have finished up with a deficit, as the honorable member proposes to do.
– Tell us how you would have done it.
– I will. I am not here to find fault without suggesting an alternative. Surely this is a fine piece of financing, to impose additional burdens on people who are already weighted down, and to then finish the year with a deficit of £1,346,264, which the Government propose to borrow, in aid of revenue, by charging Treasury-bills to the Note Account. The present Budget differs from : the ordinary Budget only iu respect of the effects of war and drought on trade and production, and the consequent falling off of revenue, especially from Customs and Excise. If we omit the estimated receipts from the proposed extra taxation, namely, £2,090,055, the estimated revenue for this year is £21,182,945. Adding to ihat the amount standing to credit at 30th June last, £1,222,401, the total amount available for the services of the year is £22,405,346. The estimated expenditure, excluding the war expenditure of £11,742,050 odd, is £25,841,665, and, as there is only £22,405,346 available, it follows that £3,436,319 has to be obtained in order to make revenue balance expenditure.
– What would you have done?
– I will tell the honorable member. There is provision on these Estimates for an expenditure from revenue on public works of an amount of £4,403,870, and if I had had the arranging of this Budget, instead of imposing ruinous taxation and finishing up the year with a deficit of £1,346,264, I should have considered it far easier, better and fairer in this year of war and drought, to have charged to revenue only £867,551 for public works, and paid the balance of £3,436,319 out of loan funds.
– That does not suit us.
– By that policy there would have been no deficit, and the charge on loan would have been a perfectly justifiable one, especially in a year like this, when the very first duty of the Government is to place as few burdens as possible on the people. At this period that course would have been the easiest and the best. The money could be obtained from the note issue, and would not have cost the Commonwealth anything at all, in the same way as the many millions which have been spent on the trans-Australian railway have not cost the Commonwealth a farthing. We might charge up the interest, and carry it to account, but there would be no actual charge on the people. I am absolutely surprised at the course which has been followed, more especially as the Treasurer has already arrived at the conclusion, which I have voiced in this House so often, that “ it will be necessary in the future that more of the expenditure for permanent public works shall be defrayed by means of loan.”
These works are of a permanent character, and are of a kind that are defrayed from Joan by every State Government in Australia at the present time, and it would have been easy for the Treasurer to have borrowed the necessary money by means of the note issue, which would have been no burden at all, instead of placing extra and ruinous burdens on the producers of the country.
I have now to say something which I do not care about saying, but the facts must be stated, because I feel that this is not a time when one should allow to pass without protest things of which he disapproves. Is this time of drought and war opportune for the placing of extra burdens on the people ? I am informed that, with the exception of Queensland and the north-eastern portion of New South Wales, the present drought is the worst in the history of Australia. The official rainfall figures show that the present year has been the driest on record in Western Australia, South Australia, the Riverina, Tasmania, and Victoria. In Victoria the season has resulted in the almost total failure of the wheat crop, and it has been very disastrous to the wheat crop in South Australia and Western Australia. The loss of stock has been enormous, and I am informed that, unless a break-up of the drought occurs in a month or two, the loss of sheep will be probably from 10,000,000 to 20,000,000.
– That is probably a low estimate.
– If it is for the whole of the Commonwealth the estimate is too low.
– That is the information that I have received. Such is the present state of affairs, and though one would like to be able to avoid publishing the fact, when we hear the Treasurer from his place of authority referring to the drought “ as a small one,” and minimizing the present adverse conditions of the producers of Australia, and on top of that bringing forward proposals to add to their troubles and make their conditions more desperate, all I can say is that if my remarks cause injury to any one the responsibilty rests upon the Treasurer and his unjustifiable, ruinous, and heartless proposals.
Bearing out what I have to say with regard to these ruinous proposals as affecting the producers from the soil, I wish to say a word or two upon the Tariff, and especially upon the serious burden whch the proposed Customs duties will place upon the primary producers from the soil at a time when the drought has reduced their earning power by considerably more than half, and in thousands of cases has reduced their capital owing to immense losses of stock. I have ascertained that the approximate amount of extra taxation the Government’s proposals impose on pastoralists and farmers is £1,413,779, made up in this way -
Cornsacks and woolpacks have hitherto been free. The value of imports in 1913 was - Cornsacks, £1,154,001 ; woolpacks, £295,877, totalling £1,449,878. Under the new Tariff there is a 10 per cent. duty on imports from countries other than the United Kingdom. The value of imports from Great Britain in 1913 was £974.
– Giving that preference is a mere sham.
– What sort of a proposal is it to give preference to the Mother Country in the matter of cornsacks and woolpacks when none are imported from the Mother Country?
– Only secondhand bags.
– Deducting the £974 from the total value of imports in 1913- £1,449,878- we see that it is proposed to place a duty of 10 per cent. on the balance of £1,448,904, which will mean that the producers from the soil must pay on cornsacks and woolpacks, which principally come from India, a tax of £144,890, based on the importations during 1913. The value of the imports of chaffcutters for 1913 was £124,164. Deducting the imports from the United Kingdom - £25,431 - we have a balance of £98,733, and as it is proposed to levy a duty of 5 per cent. upon chaffcutters, the producers from the soil will contribute an additional Customs taxation of £4,936 on this item.
– Cannot chaffcutters be made in Australia?
– I should think so. The harvesters imported in 1913 numbered 1,254, valued at £77,275. As harvesters are to pay an extra duty of £2 each, it will mean that a further £2,508 will have to be paid by the producers from the’ soil.
– There are no harvesters made in the “United Kingdom.
– You are wrong.
– If they are made there and they are exported to Australia they must pay an extra duty of £2 each. The value of mowers, reapers and binders, reapers, &c, imported in 1913 was £162,281. Deducting the value of the imports from the United Kingdom - £16,341 - we have imports from countries other than the United Kingdom of a value of £145,940, formerly free, but now subject to 5 per cent, duty, and equalling a further sum of £7,297 to be paid by the producers.
– Every one of these items can be made in Australia.
– But while the grass is growing the horse is starving. Perhaps the honorable member will presently give us some of his enlightened ideas. The value of the imports of other agricultural machinery iu 1913 was £175,486. Deducting the imports from the United Kingdom - about £34,000 - we have a value of £141,486 from countries other than the United Kingdom, which, with the increased duty of 10 per cent., will mean another £14,148 that the producer will be called upon to pay. Taking these items, cornsacks and woolpacks, £144,890; chaffcutters, £4,936; harvesters, £2,508: mowers. &c, £7,297; and other agricultural machinery, £14,148; we have a total of £173,779 increased Customs burden upon the producers from the soil. This sum, with the additional land tax, £1,240,000, makes an additional charge of £1,413,779. What justification can there be for imposing this burden on the 14,000 land-owners who are suffering from a terrible drought and great loss ot stock and income ? I urge that our drought-stricken producers have had a sufficient burden in providing, in the first instance, for the whole of the cost of the Australian Fleet, of which we are all so proud, and which has stood, and is still standing, us in good stead. This year £1,610,000 was paid by them as a Federal land tax. I should like to know what these land-owners have done that they should be singled out for destruction. The present proposal is to increase the land tax by £1,240,000, in addition to their paying increased land taxes in the respective States.
– They have taken the pick of Australia.
– And you have come here to enjoy it. I expect that you were born in some other part of the world, and came to Australia.
– I was born in Australia.
– You do not look like it. You look more as if you were made in Germany.
– That is not true.
– I know, because the honorable member has just said that he was born in Australia; but if he will interject, and say ungenerous things that are not nice, he must expect retorts. However, I apologize to the honorable member. I cannot see what the landowners have done that they should be singled out for destruction at this time of difficulty and partial ruin. Coming to that portion of the Tariff dealing with our farmers and graziers as producers from the soil, what justification can there be in a year of difficulty and drought for imposing additional taxation to the extent of £144,890 on cornsacks and woolpacks, and make a show of giving preference to the Mother Country of £97, while charging the producers £144,8901
– We will see where the Imperialists are.
– I should be ashamed to impose that burden on the producers from the soil. What justification is there for making a show of giving preference to the Mother Country of £3,788 on agricultural machinery while making an additional tax of £28,889 on the producers?
– A lot of the machinery comes from Germany.
– No agricultural machinery comes from Germany.
– I wonder why there are no interjections upon these points. I would probably be misunderstood if I did not explain my position. All my life I have been a friend and supporter of the wealth-producers from the soil. Whatever may be said to the contrary, it has been my aim to be a friend and supporter of the producers from the soil, and I desire that no burdens whatever in the shape of duties shall be placed on agricultural machinery, implements, and tools of trade of the primary wealth-producers from the soil.
– Are you a Protectionist ?
– You are riding two horses.
– I do not think so; and if I am given a little time, I shall explain my position. The primary producer has to compete in the world’s markets, and requires all the assistance we can give him by the removal of duties and burdens to enable him to do so. He has to compete with the cheap coloured labour of the world, and the price he receives for his products is often based on similar products in countries with the lowest wages, and with lower standards of civilization and conditions of living. Yet it is proposed to further tax him and make his burden greater. I wish to point out that my profession of a desire to help and do all I can for the producer from the soil does not mean that I am not most anxious at the same time to help the manufacturer of agricultural machinery, which is so valuable to the tiller of the soil. I am most anxious that the manufacturer should’ be protected ; but, at the same time, the primary wealth-producer from the soil should not be called upon to bear the whole of the burden of protecting the manufacturer as he has done in the past. I maintain that some means should be devised to save the primary producer from this unreasonable and unfair position.
– How do you propose to do it?
– Surely there is, in the brain of the honorable member, some fertility that will enable him to find a way of doing it other than placing the whole of the burden on the wealthproducer from the soil so as to make it impossible for him to compete in the world’s market, where he is opposed by all sorts of coloured and cheap labour. Is there no other way of protecting the manufacturer ? If there is not, the fertility of the brain of the honorable member for Maribyrnong is not what I thought it was. Could anything be more suicidal and unwise than that, at a time like the present - whilst we are in the throes of a ruinous drought - the producers from the soil should have additional burdens placed upon them to the extent of £1,413,779 a year?
– The right honorable member was Treasurer of the Common wealth for some time. Why did he not remove some of these burdens?
– The late Government did not deal with the Tariff.
– They could have dealt with the land-tax; but they left it untouched.
– It was not possible to do anything. We had very little time, and we had practically no majority. Given such a majority as the present Government have, we should not commence our Tariff proposals by placing additional burdens on a section of the community which is already more heavily weighted than it ought to be. Instead of placing only on the producer from the soil the burden of protecting the manufacturer, we should distribute it over a larger number of the people. From the interjections of honorable members opposite, it is clear to me that the Prime Minister and his party have no concern whatever for the producers from the soil of the Commonwealth. The extra burdens which they are placing on people who are now practically ruined, because of the terrible drought, show that the Government have absolutely no sympathy with our primary producers. I do not intend to say more on the Budget. There are others on this side of the House who will deal with different phases of the question, and I certainly do not desire to cover any ground that has already been traversed. There are many points with which I should like to deal; but I shall not attempt to do so at the present time.
.- I do not intend to occupy much of the time of the Committee at the present juncture, and I certainly feel that the speech just delivered by the right honorable member for Swan renders it less necessary for our party to talk than it was before. The right honorable gentleman has given the Government a certificate for capacity and efficiency of which we ought to feel proud. He has told us, although he did not say so in so many words, that the Government are to be commended for the manner in which they have organized the finances of the Commonwealth. He has told us that we might have done more by using the bank note issue in connexion with the loans to the States.
– The right honorable gentleman admitted that the Labour party, when they were in office on a previous occasion, accumulated a substantial surplus, which was inherited by the late Government, and he seemed to claim it as a virtue for his party that, during the twelve months they were in office, they expended only one-half of that accumulated surplus. One sometimes almost regrets that they were not returned at the late election, in order that we might have seen what they would do; but, whatever our curiosity may be in that respect, the people are to be congratulated on the fact that they are to have no such experience. The right honorable member for Swan has talked a good deal about the primary producer, and of those who are going to be affected by our revised land tax proposals. I admit that, to some extent, the rise in the maximum of the land tax will be an additional impost upon a large number of land-owners; but the class to which it will apply cannot be described as small land-owners. This tax will not affect the men who the right honorable member said were being ruined - the men owning land of the unimproved value of £5,000 or less, nor will it strike very heavily the smaller leaseholders. I think the Government are treading on somewhat dangerous ground in extending the land tax to the leaseholders of the States, but I do not propose to discuss that phase of the question to-night. I hold certain views upon it, and sooner or later we shall have an opportunity to deal with the whole question. I should like, however, to emphasize the point that the Federal land tax will not fall on the small man at all. No leaseholder will come within its scope unless his holding is worth £15,000 or more. And these are the men over whom the right honorable member for Swan has been shedding crocodile tears ! If there is one section of the community who, in all equity, should be called upon to meet the exigencies of the present position, it is those who have had the good fortune to secure the best lands in the country at very low rentals and in very large areas. Those who have more than a living area - those who hold either the leasehold or the freehold of more than a living area, and who are thus able to make large profits and build up fortunes for themselves - are the people who, ac cording to the Opposition, have a stake in the country; and we are asking them to bear their proportion of the cost of governing and protecting the country. No one can justly cavil, on economic grounds, at the methods which the Government are adopting to meet the exigencies of the present time.
– But the Government are making a very heavy charge on the primary producers.
– And at a time of drought.
-We have the element of drought ever present with us in some part or other of this vast continent.
– But this is a record drought.
– It is not.
– It is not as bad as the drought of 1902.
– Quite so. I fully admit that the present drought, in some parts of Australia, is perhaps as disastrous as was that of 1902, but it is by no means as widespread or as injurious in its effects as was the drought of twelve years ago. We in Australia often speak of droughts as if they were some malign visitation of Providence. We are inclined to rave at Providence for their occurrence ; but those who have studied nations and countries know that, just as in Great Britain, Canada, and elsewhere, it is necessary for the snow to fall and to lie upon the land to sweeten it, so it is held that in Australia the drought is Nature’s way of resting the country, which otherwise would never be rested by some men, who tear the very vitals out of the earth and return nothing to it. We sometimes fly in the face of Providence. We do not look for the reasons why the droughts come.
– That is a good tale to pitch when one owns no land.
– The opinion of a land-owner on such matters may be even more biased than is that of a nonlandowner.
– The man who has no money can always tell you how to make money.
– There aremany men who have not enjoyed the opportunities that others have secured, but who, profiting by their experience, are better qualified to talk of the uses of the land and of land administration generally than are some who have been so fortunate as to be dumped upon a good piece of land, since which they have never looked back.
– Better qualified to talk about it - yes.
– How does my honorable friend give expression to his views ?
– Sometimes by silence.
– That is not very often. Only since his election to the Federal Parliament has the honorable member come to learn the value of silence. I watch him carefully, because he has the reputation of offering a fine example to those who are looking for guidance in the political world. I rose more particularly to refer to the Postal service. At the commencement of the session I gave notice of motion relating to it, but, owing to private members’ business not being taken, I was unable to reach it to-day. I shall, as is my custom, give notice of it again as soon as possible after we return, and shall endeavour to impress the House with the necessity of making something more than a mere pretence to carry out the reforms that are much needed in that great institution. The Prime Minister stated tonight that the Post Office is now in a better position than ever before under Commonwealth control. So it ought to be. For much energy has been spent in trying to reform both its finances and its administration. Certainly, you can improve it by spending money, because almost anything can be made passable if you spend enough money upon it; but no permanent improvement will be made in the affairs of the Post Office while they continue to be directed by a man who receives only £1,000 a year. This great institution spends £5,000,000 a year out of revenue alone, and in no private business having a turnover of £1,000,000 would you obtain the services of a manager for £1,000 a year.
– What would the honorable member suggest?
– Before I had investigated the affairs of the Post Office, I strongly favoured the present system of control ; but, having gone closely into questions of administration over a lengthy period, my views have changed; and I am satisfied to-day that, without an independent board of management, we can not get the system, and the proper administration, that are so much needed.
– Would the honorable member import experts?
– I would get the best men available, no matter where they might be found. For an institution like the Post Office, we must obtain the best men and the best material, in the interests of the people of the country. 1 shall not refer to the Postal administration under the State regime, because that is not necessary, and it is altogether too confused a matter to speak of now. Out of the conglomeration of State systems arose the Commonwealth system which has caused so much trouble. During the first eight years of Federation, the PostmasterGeneral, the Treasurer, the Ministry, and the Parliament, had no information to guide them in controlling the Post Office. There was no such thing as an audited balance-sheet. No board of directors controlling any private business affair would allow the manager to continue year after year without presenting a balance-sheet and a statement showing what services were paying and what were not paying. Yet, until last year, we had not a balancesheet covering the operations of the Post Office. I am sorry that Mr. Haldane’s second report has not yet come to hand. He is the accountant who, for the first time in the history of the Department, has made an attempt to establish a system which will show the true financial position. During the first eight years of Federation, we lost £2,300,000 on the Post Office. That amount had to be written off when the Postal Commission’s report was presented to this Parliament. Since that time, we have been steadily going back, although our expenditure has increased. This expenditure has alleviated the trouble, but it has not cured the disease, and cannot do so. The first and only report on the finances of the Commonwealth which has been made by Mr. Haldane is a highly creditable production, though I have not time to deal with it to-night. It proved that what the Postal Commission recommended could be done, that is, that separate accounts should be presented showing the revenue and expenditure of the Postal, Telegraph, and Telephone Branches. While Mr. Haldane’s report is not complete, iE has gone a long way to solve the difficulties of those responsible for the proper conduct of the Department.
– Would the honorable member appoint a Commission to control the Department, and make it pay ?
– I claim that the postal service should, on the whole, be self-supporting. I do not say that every section of it should be self-supporting. Honorable members either must make the service self-supporting, or must tax the people to make good the difference between its revenue and its expenditure.
– What the honorable member suggests would leave the country districts out in the cold, and would benefit only the towns.
– This speech is tedious repetition.
– The honorable member has a penchant for remarks of that character; it seems to be almost a disease with him. But it is not seemly to act frivolously when serious questions are being discussed. I hope that Mr. Haldane’s next report will be as instructive as his first one was. In spite of his recommendations, we find, from a report of the Auditor-General, that the stores management of the Department is still far from satisfactory ; that there are leakages and inefficient control. That shows the difficulty of controlling the Department from Melbourne under the authority of one man. No one man could control so big a Department, the operations of which spread over a vast continent.
– The honorable member has delivered this speech six times to my knowledge.
– I should have to deliver it six times more to make the honorable member understand it. When I say a thing, I do it. If I said that I was going ib the war, I would go; I would not lead the public to believe that I was a warrior, a patriot, and a martyr, and having taken all the glory, get back into my shell for fear that the Germans were too strong for me. Were I to promise to go to the front, I would go there; I would not shirk it.
– I ask the honorable member to confine his remarks to the question before the Chair.
– War expenditure is provided for in the Budget; expenditure that would have enabled the honorable member to adorn himself, and to win reputation on the battle-field of Europe.
No doubt the telegraph and telephone services are of great value to the people of this country. Not only do they convenience the domestic life of the country, but they are also a source of profit to those who make use of them. No service gives so great a return at such a low rate as the telephone branch gives. Yet in one of the States an expenditure of £1 14s. was required to obtain £1 of revenue from the telephone service, and £1 7s. 6d. waa expended to obtain £1 of revenue from the telegraph service. The difference between the revenue and expenditure has to be made good out of the pockets of those who have not benefited either directly or indirectly from the service.
– This happens only in one State.
– The figures that I have used apply to one State only, but the loss on the two services in all the States ranges from 5s. to 14s. for every £1 of revenue. This has come about because of a mistaken idea of patriotism, and a mistaken idea of emphasizing Federation. One object was to make all telegrams one price throughout Australia, although there is no other country in the world that would entertain such an unbusinesslike proposition. We have immense distances to cover, necessitating repeating stations and the employment of a large staff, and yet Parliament decided that the charge for a telegram from the furthest west to the furthest east should be no higher than that of a telegram sent across the border from one State into another.
– -We are out to make precedents.
– But not precedents that involve us in great material loss. The Postmaster- General proposes to raise the price of telegrams within a State, and I ask the honorable member for Maranoa how he likes that.
– I do not like it at all, and I am one who will oppose the idea.
– I agree that the charge for telegrams within a State is too low, considering the distance covered and the service rendered ; and unhesitatingly I say that the charge over this vast continent is unjust, and far below that which would be fixed by any proper business arrangement.
Mi’. Laird Smith. - Who would pay the increased price?
– The man furthest away who got the advantage of the service.
– Would the honorable member do away with the flat rate?
– I would vary the charge according to the distance.
– Then the out-back man would be at a disadvantage.
– That is not so, under an equitable administration. The man out-back is not always the worst off when we compare him with many who live in the large centres of population.
– And who will not venture out-back.
– It is not for every one to go out-back, and I venture to say that the honorable member would not, if he had to “ hump his bluey.” We must always remember that a man who owns land in the back-blocks has got his land at a proportionately cheaper rate, and that he and his family have advantages which are not enjoyed by many who have to pursue unhealthy trades, and live in unhealthy surroundings, in our metropolitan areas. It will probably surprise some to hear that 1 represent a purely pastoral and farming electorate, but I am not always crying out about “ the man on the land.” The honorable member for New England thought he could easily dispose of me at the last election in such a constituency, but his opposition was about the best recommendation I could have to the people I have served so long.
– We both represent back-blocks.
– I know that I do, but I am not sure about the honorable member, although I know he tries to.
– I was returned by a bigger majority than at the previous election.
– But the honorable member had only a novice as an opponent. Be that as it may, the PostmasterGeneral, in my opinion, is doing the right thing in proposing to raise the rates within a State. Something, however, will have to be done to make the whole service pay better. The further we go afield, the more expensive our system becomes, and the larger the deficiency. It is of no use being patriotic with other people’s money; we have to do our best for the whole of the people and not only for a section. Any man who fails to recognise that duty does not comprehend the responsibility of a member of the National Parliament.
– If, in regard to telegrams and telephones, the charge were according to distance, would it not be only logical to charge postage on a similar basis?
– Postage is quite a different matter.
– I should say that 90 per cent, of telegrams are for business purposes.
– Yes; but who pays for those telegrams? The consumer, every time.
– That statement tells us nothing new.
– And still the honorable member would raise the rates to the consumers.
– Since the consumer pays in any case, and no one can save him from that obligation, it would be folly on my part to attempt to do the impossible
– The honorable member has not yet answered the question.
– Nor has the honorable member told what the difference is between postage and telegraphs.
– Letters and postage generally, as commonly understood, are purely a domestic matter - means of communication in our ordinary civilized life that have been absolutely necessary from time immemorial.
– Mostly for business.
Mi-. WEBSTER - There are, I admit, letters at times which involve profitable undertakings and business transactions, but they are not in the same category as telegrams; one is a special service, and the other is a general service.
– Penny postage benefited the mercantile community more than any other.
– I grant that, and if I had had my way it would not have been introduced under present conditions. In this connexion Victoria proved the stumbling block in anticipating Federation with penny postage; and this put the Commonwealth in an anomalous position, involving the necessity of raising the rate in Victoria or making it uniform at a penny.
– The Victorian Premier and the Victorian Postmaster-General at that time are in this Chamber now.
– We were both thrown out of office, and while we were out the thing was done.
– Then my statement is still true. Had they remained in office, possibly penny postage would not have been instituted, and the loss was that of the Commonwealth.
– We tried to persuade the electors that the loss would be tho Commonwealth’s, but they would not believe us.
– The electors do not believe everything we tell them, even if we tell the truth. I do not propose to discuss the general working of the Department, its relations with the Public Service Commissioner, and so forth, as I might have clone on another occasion, with some hope of tangible result, but have merely desired to mention a few matters that may help the Postmaster-General to mould his policy in a manner that will be of benefit to the Commonwealth and a credit to himself. This is not an appropriate time to deal with the question of the general reform and re-organization of the service on thoroughly practical business lines. On a future occasion I shall endeavour to show that what is absolutely necessary is a board of management consisting of a man of financial and organizing ability, a second member to take charge of telephone, telegraph, and wireless communication, and a third to take charge of the postal matters. With such a combination as this we ought to be able to prevent the recurring deficit, and do justice to the people of this country.
In. Committee of Supply:
– I move -
That a sum not exceeding £10,316,500 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1015.
– What advance has the Treasurer received already?
– I think the amount mentioned in the Bill will make the ad vance a little over half-a-million for the five months. This Bill will cover the next five months, and it is necessary to have Supply for that period if we are to adjourn till the early part of April.
– If you adjourn to the early part of April, you can do with Supply for four months.
– Suppose Parliament meets about the 7th April, the midmonthly pay will be on the 14th,’ and the Government will be immediately in difficulties in connexion with Supply.
– If you get Supply for five months, you need not meet till the end of April.
– We could do with Supply for four and a half months; but I assume -that honorable members do not wish to split a month in two. The Supply Bill does not in any way touch the increments provided on the ordinary Estimates. The payments will be made on the basis of last year’s Estimates, except as regards those officers drawing up to £210 a year. It is the rule, unless exception be taken, to pay officers of the fifth class their increments in advance of the passing of the Estimates. Increments for any officers drawing salaries above £210 are deferred until Parliament has approved . of the Estimates. This Bill, like the previous Supply Bills, has a clause to cover any failure to do the right thing prior to our coming into office. I think such a covering clause ought to he in all Supply Bills, until we get the annual appropriation. It makes sure that if there was any defect iii expenditure in the transition from one financial year to another, such defect is rectified and placed on a legal footing. In other words, if there has been a surplusage, it is a good surplusage. I shall be glad to give honorable members any information, and I shall be grateful for the cooperation of the Opposition in getting the Bill through.
– Somehow I cannot make myself understood by my right honorable friend. I should like to whisper in his ear that I had not in mind a question of Supply for four months, or four aud a half months. I know that four aud a half months’ Supply would be utterly and absolutely absurd; but may I suggest to the honorable member that to extend the recess for another fortnight in April would not be absurd at all?
– While the Tariff is open?
– I only want to say that, generally, I do not think the Government ought to ask the House to sit for nine months in the year.
– We need to be careful when you bring gifts.
– I am not bringing anything. I tell honorable members that had the Liberal Government been returned to power, there would have been no session of eight or nine months, perhaps not of six months. The sessions of this Parliament ought to be less than they are. We should do our work quite as effectively, and the country would be governed just as efficiently, if we sat for a less time. After all, the great functions of this National Parliament under our Constitution are largely administrative, and administration goes on just as well when Parliament is not sitting as when it is in session - perhaps it goes on a little better. I say quite frankly that I look forward in no spirit of elation to the prospect of sitting for nine months next year, because when we resume our work we shall sit on inevitably till Christmas time.
– We have work to do, and why not do it instead of being lazy?
– My honorable friend works harder than any other member of the House; he is blowing bis lusty bellows all day.
.- I hope that the recess will not be longer than the interval which is at present proposed by the Government; indeed, I hope it will be shorter.I quite agree that when the sessions are prolonged parliamentary work is hard on members who have to be continually travelling.
– It is hard on those who cannot travel.
– It is not so bad for members from remote constituencies, because their constituents do not expect to see them week after week.
– Then why does not the honorable member remain in Melbourne ?
– If the honorable member for Moreton represented a metropolitan constituency which is accessible at week ends he would find that his con stituents practically demanded his presence every week, and if he were not prepared to attend to his duties in the way they expect they would soon elect somebody else. At this time of widespread distress and unemployment it is more than ever necessary that a member should be accessible to his constituents. Travelling practically 1,000 miles every week is a great tax on members, and I feel it keenly; no doubt older men feel it more than I do. Nevertheless, a change has come over the scene. I had not anticipated that the Tariff would be introduced before Christmas.
– Did you not know ?
– I can honestly say that I did not. It was never mentioned to members of the party. So far as my influence might go in this matter I shall be no party to anything more than a temporary adjournment over the holidays, because a new Tariff dislocates commercial and industrial enterprises far and wide, and this in turn disturbs the great masses engaged in these pursuits. There is quite enough dislocation and uncertainty while the necessary discussions on a Tariff are taking place in Parliament, but when there is added three or four months of recess, during which the matter cannot be discussed at all, when the captains of industry do not know whether to go forward or backward, and business people are probably suffering losses of thousands of pounds, such delay is an absolute injustice.
– The business people are passing the loss on.
– I do not know that they are.
– They are passing it on all right. A whisky and soda costs 9d. now.
– If business people are passing the burden on and making the masses pay for the disturbed conditions, that is an injustice to a large number of people. Take, for instance, the matter of the duty on films. A deputation has waited on the Minister, and it is found that a mistake has been made. There ought to be an opportunity for correcting that mistake, instead of the matter being held in abeyance for months.
– The picture-show business is the most profitable in the Commonwealth.
– Probably it is. The question is not what profits are made by the picture-show proprietors, but whether this arbitrary act on the part of the Government, as it really is until Parliament decides whether the duty is to be kept on, inflicts an injustice on the industry. If it does, there should be an opportunity of correcting it. The Minister has assured me that, in this case, he proposes to endeavour to correct-
– Then he will correct the lot.
– The Minister proposes to correct an obvious mistake in regard to the duty on films.
– It is just as well that the Minister should tell the Committee what he proposes to do.
– I told the House to-day, in answer to a question.
– There are many serious aspects unavoidably associated with a re-adjustment of the Tariff. The Government are proposing duties on stimulants and narcotics, which will probably have the effect, not of bringing in more revenue, but of bringing in less revenue than we are now receiving. This will be a national loss. It should be corrected without delay if such is the case. Yet this matter will be held up for some months until Parliament has the opportunity of dealing with it.
– If that means that there will be less drinking, it will be a good thing for the community.
– It may also mean that there will be more adulteration.
– That remark does not speak much for the State laws.
– Gentlemen who know more about the business than I do tell me that spirits can be “ broken down.” I use the word “ adulteration,” which means something of the same nature. I should be very glad to have a holiday. I have done as much mental hard work as any other honorable member, and more than a number. Before the elections we had a very hard session, particularly those of us who were sitting opposite and bearing the main brunt of the fighting. The elections followed, and we had hard work in our campaigns: and in my own case I acted as campaign secretary in the largest State of the Union.
Immediately afterwards, we came to the House. To all intents and purposes, we have been engaged in a continuous and hard session for the whole of the year.
– Why do you come to Parliament - to play bowls?
– I have not played six games of bowls in my seven years in Parliament. The honorable member gets off some of those “gags,” thinking that his constituents will read them and regard him as a wonderful man, who is always seeking to work. The Honorable member may pass off that sort of business outside, but not here, where he is known. The endeavour of an honorable member to score off a colleague by an interjection is one of the meanest acts that I know of. There are some very big interests in my constituency affected by the Tariff who have made appeals to me to try to have certain matters dealt with; and I wish it to be known that,_ although I am as anxious as any other honorable member for some spell, for mental rest, so as to fit us for the long and strenuous session on which we must enter when we meet again in the new year, I shall be very glad, in- the interests of those who sent me here, to have the shortest possible adjournment, in order that we may deal with the Tariff. If that matter were not to be dealt with, I should not have so much anxiety about the adjournment. I hope that the Prime Minister, in fixing the dates, will take into consideration the fact that the Tariff is hanging over the community, and that the uttermost expedition should be displayed in meeting again, so that this particular matter may be dealt with.
– In my opinion, the adjournment should extend until the 7th April, immediatedy after Easter, subject to nothing; being decided as to a definite term. These are times when Parliament cannot be adjourned for any considerable time. Therefore, the adjournment must be contingent on Mr. Speaker, on the advice of the Executive, calling Parliament together at any time during the interval, provided that in no case shall it extend beyond the 7th April.
– If we adjourn to a particular date it will be difficult for the Speaker to make any alteration to that date. Will not a prorogation be necessary ?
– No; an adjournment is quite sufficient. This has been done before. It will be a contingent adjournment, not to extend beyond a definite date.
– Will the motion for the adjournment give the discretion?
– Parliament can adjourn on its own motion, and can delegate power to Mr. Speaker, or the Executive, to convene honorable members at an earlier date.
– When has that been done?
– In 1902, and again in 1907, when the right honorable gentleman was in the Ministry, in order to enable the delegates to visit the Old Country. An important point which must not be overlooked is the question as to whether, during an adjournment of this kind, honorable members will be considered to be absent from duty, and common sense and wisdom will be displayed, I think, by all honorable members obtaining leave of absence. That protection will cost them nothing, and at least assure them something of importance.
.- I am sorry that the Government have not adhered to their original intention of adjourning for two months. I am naturally suspicious when the Leader of the Opposition comes forward with schemes calculated to appeal to the Government.
– “ Suspicion always haunts the guilty mind.”
– That is quite true. When gentlemen of the type of the Leader of the Opposition make these suggestions, suspicion is at once generated. To have the Government loaded with all the inconveniences and all the extended trouble that will accrue from a Tariff in suspense - because that is the position - is a very fine thing for the Opposition; but while the Tariff is in suspense men will not know what to do. They must make temporary arrangements to temper its incidence to their customers or pass it on.
– If there are no rebates, no harm will be done.
– But there may be rebates.
– We can tell them not to look forward to any.
– There may be some variations.
– They will only operate from the day on which they are made.
– Will there be no remissions ?
– The Customs Department never pay out anything.
– I have heard the Minister say that if any inequality or injustice was discovered there would be recompense made.
– No injustice will be rectified.
– That makes the position so much worse, and the sooner we know where we are the better it will be for the whole of Australia. We owe the duty to the whole of the business community to end the suspense they are working under as soon as possible. There may be additions to the Tariff, or reductions made. At the present time we need to have our industries stimulated. Before we meet again unemployment will be extended and suffering will be more intense. There is already tremendous poverty and distress. In New South Wales, with men on half time and others out of employment altogether, there are 70,000 people suffering from the effect of the crisis through which we are passing. The effect of the Tariff should be to alleviate matters to a considerable extent by stimulating our industries and so creating work, and the sooner the Government undertake the task the better. Whether we get to work early or late matters little to the Leader of the Opposition; the responsibility is not his, so that I am sorry the Ministry has retreated from their previous position. There is much to be done. Even if the war ends shortly, Australia will suffer from the effects of. the war, and this suffering can be best remedied by stimulating our industries.
.- As the Treasurer intends to introduce a Bill amending the Land Tax Act, I wish he would consider whether it is possible to do something which will give relief in the matter of appeals. Under the law as it stands now, no matter how small may be the amount in dispute between the taxpayer and the Government, the taxpayer has to go to the Court. That is his only means of relief. In a case brought under my notice recently a man who appealed against avaluation and lost the appeal would have been infinitely better off if he had paid the tax for ever instead of going to Court. Even if an appeal is successful the expense is so great, particularly as applying to comparatively small men, that, however great an injustice may be done to them, they prefer to pay up rather than go to Court individually, and risk the chance of losing. I ask the Treasurer also to take into consideration the remarks recently made in New South Wales by Mr. Justice Ferguson.
– I have seen those remarks. They are on the files in the Department.
– I ask the Treasurer to consider whether it is not possible to institute some other Appeal Court. In my district, where there is a large area of valuable land, there are small holdings that come under the tax, the owners of which pay amounts vary ing from £3 to £30 a year. These people may be paying twice as much as they should pay, but the cost of appeal is frightfully expensive, and the experience of those who have gone to Court has been such that if they happened to lose they would have been infinitely better off in paying the tax for ever. There should be some alteration to relieve the position of these taxpayers. They are quite willing to pay any tax they should pay, but in some cases the valuations are too high, and yet they have practically no redress under the law as it now stands.
.- I think that the House and the country ought to know the mind of the Ministry with regard to the Tariff. I am anxious to learn whether the Government intend to bring down an amended Tariff Schedule.
– Is it as serious as all that?
– We were told to-day by the Minister of Trade and Customs that a mistake had been made in respect to one item. I have an idea that a mistake has been made in regard to fifty or sixty, and if the Minister of Trade and Customs intends to ask the Parliament at once to amend the item in regard to cinematograph films, others who think that they are being overtaxed in respect of certain commodities should also be given a chance to interview the honorable gentleman and to secure redress of anomalies. I have taken part in several Tariff revisions in this Parliament, and have never known a Minister to interfere with an item in a
Tariff Schedule once it has been introduced.
– But duties have been reduced.
– If any alterations are to be made, let them be made by the Parliament. My view is that, once a Tariff is presented to Parliament, the Ministry have nothing more to do with it - that it becomes theproperty of the Parliament, and that the Parliament alone can amend it. If the Government are going to tinker with the Tariff, as the Minister of Trade and Customs told us to-day they intended to do, then other people should be given the same chance as the picture-show people have been given to place their grievances before the honorable gentleman.
– Then let us sit right on.
– I do not care whetherwe do or do not. I am here to do the work of my constituents, and do not wish to shirk my duty. It is all very well for the honorable member for Maribyrnong, who is able to return to his own home every night, to talk about sitting on; but I remember how, after the first Tariff session in this Parliament, which extended over something like eighteen months, I went home, and my youngster wanted to know next morning who was the strange man in bed with mother. There are in this House some honorable members who have not seen their homes for several months. During the last two years I have not spent six weeks at home. No one can say that that is a fair thing. Is it any wonder that so many of us break down ? If the Government are going to bring down an amended Tariff Schedule, there are five or six different deputations from the several State capitals which I could introduce to the Minister of Trade and Customs to submit reasons why certain increased duties should not be imposed. One item which particularly affects the poor man in the western part of Queensland is that of cane-bottomed chairs, on which a duty of 175 per cent. has been imposed. These chairs are not made in Australia. When the first Federal Tariff was under consideration, some of the Protectionists in this House went wild. They wanted Protective duties on various articles of trade, and we had Mr. McColl, then the honorable member for Echuca, appealing for the abolition of the duties on three-legged glue-pots, on the ground that they could not be made here.
– How about having a Caucus on the Tariff?
– Never mind the Caucus so far as this is concerned ; you are better without it.
– These canebottomed chairs are manufactured in Canada.
– They are made in some parts of the British Dominions, but no attempt is made to manufacture them here. They cannot be made here, and yet in this scientific Tariff they have placed on them a duty of 175 per cent.
– They can be made here.
-Will the honorable member for Indi, who takes a broad, national view of these matters, tell me where canebottomed chairs, or any substitutes for them, are made in Australia? I heard the Prime Minister tell the House the other day that he was going to protect the industries of Australia. If this is how he is going to protect them, God help the Commonwealth. What I, and every man with any Australian backbone would like to see is an attempt to encourage the iron and steel industries. We could not place too heavy a duty on iron and steel in order to encourage their manufacture here; yet the Tariff provides for a duty of only 5 per cent. This is not a Protectionist Tariff. I do not pose as a Protectionist, but I should like the iron and steel industries to be developed in all the States. We have the material, the brains, and the money to establish such industries in the Commonwealth. These are the sort of industries to protect - industries that will do some good for Australia. The Minister of Trade and Customs poses as a really good Protectionist, and yet he puts a duty on cane-bottomed chairs which can not be made here, and which are in daily use all over the country. I do not profess to know anything about Tariffmaking, but I venture to say I could compile a better Tariff than that put before us last week.
– Let me assist the honorable member.
– If the right honorable member and myself were left to frame a Tariff every one would wake up next day to find a Tariff that would delight them. I could pick from both sides of the House a Committee which would frame a Tariff that would give satisfaction to the whole of the people, and not to only a section, as this Tariff is doing. The Age - the great Protectionist organ of Australia - says that it is not a Protectionist Tariff, and when the Age is not satisfied with it, how can I be expected to be? Several red-hot Protectionists in our party, who are always clamouring for more Protection, were members of a deputation which waited on the Minister yesterday to ask for the removal of the duty on cinematographs. What is to be said of their consistency? If there is one enterprise in Australia that is making money in these hard times it is the enterprise of the picture-show man. Great fortunes have been amassed by some picture show proprietors, and the records show that shares in the picture-theatre companies are continuing to rise. I know a man who has made over £60,000 out of the picture-show business. One has only to walk down Bourke-street on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday night to see how such shows are paying. If ever there was a fair tax imposed it is the tax on cinematograph films, and if the Minister goes back on it he will have less backbone than I think he has. If the Government are going to bring down an amended Tariff schedule let them tell us at once, so that we may introduce to the Minister deputations of those who desire that various alterations shall be made.
. Like the honorable member for Maranoa, I was under the impression that a Tariff schedule once having been submitted to the House could not be amended except with the approval of Parliament. I heard the Minister of Trade and Customs say yesterday, however, that he proposed to alter the duty on cinematograph films.
– I told the deputation - an d the honorable member was present - that we found that a mistake had been made in respect of that item, and I believe I would be doing right in asking the House to alter it. If honorable members, however, do not desire such an alteration, then I need not trouble to propose it.
– I was present at the interview, but was not a member of the deputation. I found that most of the members of the House were attending, and I went along with them to hear what was to be said. I dare say that the House will promptly rectify any mistake shown to have been made in the Tariff, but I was under the impression that the Minister claimed to have discovered some means whereby he could alter the duty without appealing to Parliament. If he is going to bring down a Bill to alter the duty on cinematograph films, let him deal at the same time with the duty on cornsacks. There must be a mistake in that respect.
– There has been no mistake there.
– We hear complaints on all sides concerning the high prices that producers have had to pay for cornsacks during the last three years. I reside in a farming district, and know that these complaints are well founded. Cornsacks from Great Britain are free, but those from other parts of the world are dutiable at 10 per cent. I understand that sacks are not made in Great Britain, save at Dundee, and oven there the output is not very large. I am advised that nearlyall our imports of jute sacks come from India. While this item will not in any way protect an Australian industry, it will place a heavy burden upon the primary producers. If the Minister intends to submit an amended Tariff schedule before we rise for the Christmas vacation, I hope he will include the item of cornsacks in it, and give us an opportunity to review the duty as soon as possible. The producers have been hit hard enough this year, and as the season for the use of these sacks is now upon us, action should be taken at once. The producers throughout the Commonwealth have been badly hit, but, notwithstanding, they are being asked to pay a higher land tax, and to pay through the nose for the cornsacks they use, although the duty on cornsacks will not increase employment in Australia.
.- I hope that the Government will take into consideration the simplification of the methods of appeal against land tax assessments. At the present time the difficulties in the way of appealing are stupendous, cases having to be brought before the High Court or before a Supreme Court Judge. I suggest that where £20 or under is the sum at issue, appeals should be heard before a police magistrate. The magistrates in the Small Debts Court deal with civil claims between man and man in regard to such sums, and I do not see why cases between a man and the Government should be treated differently. It is not to be understood that 1 support the proposal to increase the taxation of the people on the land;I am wholly opposed to it. This is the most inopportune time in the history of Australia in which it could have been brought forward. The drought this year is a record so far as Victoria, Western Australia, and South Australia are concerned, and it affects also many parts of Queensland and two-thirds of New South Wales. I travelled from Melbourne to Adelaide recently without seeing any grass at all, and in many places in my constituency that I visited during the electoral campaign it was impossible to distinguish fallowed land from sown land. Many graziers have lost all their sheep, and have no pasture, and no corn, wheat, or other produce. That is the state of things in many parts of the Riverina. How can people in such districts afford to pay higher taxation ? We were told by the mover of the AddressinReply that, with the advent of the Labour party to office, the farmers would come into their own, yet the Labour party is putting a tax upon the producers by levying £144,000 in duty on cornsacks, and £28,000 in duties on farming implements, and is also imposing a graduated land tax, which is expected to return £1,250,000. Seeing that the banks have lent the Government £10,000,000, and that it has other money, it might well forego this taxation, and leave the farmers alone.
– What farmers will pay the land tax ? Only 12.000 persons in Australia pay land tax.
– That makes the tax a class one.
– Much of the taxation will be levied on city land.
– It will be passed on to the workers.
– It cannot be.
– When big firms, like Anthony Hordern and Sons, Parmer and Company, and David Jones and Company, are charged extra taxation, they increase the price of their commodities. Certainly this is not an opportune time for increasing taxation. I do not know where the people in the cities would be if it were not for the people on the land. Without produce from the country, a city like Melbourne could not last for two months. We have had quite enough of high protective duties. We have reached high-water mark in this respect. I was elected on the Free Trade ticket, and I say that the Tariff will injure the poor and the working classes. It is all very well to talk about the trusts and combines injuring the workers; the Tariff will do infinitely more to injure them. The duty on wheat sacks, at8s. 6d. a dozen, means8½d. to the user. We are told in the Scriptures not to muzzle the ox that treadeth out the corn ; but our friends opposite are muzzling the farmer, the producer of the corn. It is in the interest of the country to encourage the primary producer as much as possible, and I put an record my emphatic protest against the proposal to tax them further.
.- I do not intend to enter into a debate on the Tariff, but I wish to say that never before, in my experience, has a Tariff been introduced, and then left several months before being considered by Parliament. The present arrangement may be a good one for the Treasury, but it is a bad one for the people as a whole. Even the most rabid Protectionists - and we have a lot of them here - will find out that duties have been imposed on raw material which must increase the cost of manufacture. That is a left-handed sort of protection for the manufacturer. By leaving the Tariff unconsidered for three or four months, an opportunity will be given to traders generally to rob the public. Nothing could be more barefaced than the action that has been taken by the publicans. It is proposed to increase the duty on whisky by 3s. a gallon, and the public is to be robbed of over 30s. a gallon, there being at least ninety-six nobblers in a gallon of whisky. No Tariff has ever been introduced which did not contain a lot of anomalies and mistakes. The present action of the Government will more or less paralyze trade. No man will start a new industry until he knows how it will be treated. From whatever stand-point one views the matter, it is a bad thing to allow the question of the Tariff to stand over.
– Why was the Tariff introduced now ?
– I do not know; that is a matter for the Government. We should all be prepared to come back, even at an earlier date, in order to get the Tariff out of the road, so that we may know exactly where we stand.
– It seems impossible to get any satisfaction out of the Postal Department. A case has come before me where two poles erected in a town in my constituency were placed on the footpath, and, under section 85 of the Act, the Department claims that the local municipality should pay for moving them, and asks the municipality to pay £35 before they send the necessary men. Then, at Apollo Bay. down the coast, the shire council found it necessary to cut away sand along a roadway in order to make a formation. On this work being done thePostal Department considered it necessary to lower four telegraph poles each 2 feet, owing to the road having been taken away to a certain extent. The Department would not allow the shire council to do the work, but sent down two men from Melbourne, with the result that a bill for £11 7s. 4d. was sent in to the council, although two of the council’s own men could have done the work in one day. The bill was made up of the following items : - Two men for 3½ days, and one man for 2 days, £4 10s.; travelling allowance, £2 12s. 8d.; coach fares, £2 ; cartage of tools, 10s. ; hire of horse and dray, 5s. ; and, as this did not make up the £11 7s. 4d., the Department carefully put in, “ office expenses, £1 9s. 8d.” Of course, the shire council have refused to pay : and the case is a beautiful example of how the Department carries on its business. The public are not getting the value for their money from the Department, while a lot of money is being wasted.
– After what has been said tonight, principally from the ether side, I find it necessary to add a few words. So far as I am concerned I am prepared to come back at any time the Prime Minister summon us, and to stay as long as he pleases to ask us. There is a very adroit move on the other side to place the whole responsibility for the postponement of the Tariff on to our shoulders; and I repudiate any such responsibility. It comes with particularly bad grace from the honorable member for Macquarie to lecture me in the way he did. The honorable member, we know, is a perfect “whale” for work - while he is here. No man knows better than he does that there is no hope for the unemployed in this kind of Tariff.
-It can be improved.
– Then I hope to see the honorable member here to improve it - it will be quite a novelty if we do. I suggest that when the honorable member begins to throw these kind of “ stones “ he should move out of the “ glass house “ in which he lives, because such remarks from him are excruciatingly funny.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
In Committee of Ways and Means:
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That towards making good the Supply granted to His Majesty for the services of the year ending 30th June, 1915, a sum not exceeding £10,316,500 be granted out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
– I should like to know why the expenditure for loan on the Expeditionary Forces is mixed with the ordinary appropriation. It seems to me that the course that ought to be followed, and which . I understood would be followed, is to introduce a Loan Bill in connexion with the Expeditionary Forces, and keep that expenditure free from the ordinary appropriation.
– The method suggested by the honorable member for Swan would be very convenient up to a certain point, but we cannot tell how much we may require, although we estimate our requirements. A Loan Bill would make the position much more difficult. Although we are voting the money here, it will be my duty as Treasurer to introduce a Loan Bill later on. If we introduced a Loan Bill now, the amount might prove insufficient, whereas, if we charge the expenditure as part of the general appropriation, we can later on bring down a Loan Bill covering the whole amount. According to the promises I made, the accounts are being kept separate.
– You have no money to meet the expenditure if it is done in this way.
– We have funds on which we can draw, and we shall ask for the necessary authority.
– I notice that there is an item of £40,000 for a repeat order for rails to replace those lost on the steam-ship Hektor. Why are we voting this additional sum? I take it that the loss is either on the people who were sending us the rails, or on ourselves, and that, if it be our loss, it is covered by insurance.
– The policy of the Commonwealth Government has been to insure its own goods by not insuring them at all - that is, they take the risk of the loss.
– I never knew that before.
– There are some goods which may be insured, but the policy of all the Governments with which I have been connected is to take the risk. I think we benefit by that policy, which is sensible and logical. We can afford, as a Government, to take the risk, because our business is so large that the percentage of loss is small.
.- This question of insurance came before us in connexion with the High Commissioner’s buildings in London, and I came to the conclusion that it is bad policy not to insure. I thought there was a fallacy underlying some of the assumptions, and, if I am not mistaken, an insurance on the Commonwealth building in London has been effected. In regard to the Expeditionary Forces, I may mention that in the case of the South African war the Imperial Government periodically gave a statement to the House of Commons of the expenditure incurred beyond the ordinary annual expenditure. This statement did not include merely loan expenditure, but all expenditure, whether from revenue or loan, caused by the war itself.
– There is a good deal of incidental expenditure chargeable to the war.
– We do not know what the eventualities of the war may be, though we hope that it may result in a big monetary compensation; and, unless the accounts are strictly kept, there may be difficulties.
– When I asked a question about the increased old-age pensions, I was told I should have the information afforded in the Budget, but I have not yet got it. I seem to be particularly unfortunate in the asking of questions. I asked the Minister of Trade and Cus- toms an important question about Red Cross cargo having been removed in favour of other cargo from a Peninsular and Oriental Steam Navigation Company’s boat, and informed him that, in my opinion, this company were not treating people well, inasmuch as when it was proposed that some contributions of clothing and so on, that had been made in Melbourne, should be sent over with a soldier going to the front, it was treated worse than ordinary cargo. This shipping company should remember that, if it were not for men fighting at the front, they might not be able to carry on their business. When I ask questions about important matters of this kind, I do not desire perky replies from the Minister of Trade and Customs. It is a time-honored custom, when a question is asked without notice, for a Minister to make some inquiries, but the Minister in question seems to be a law unto himself. If the honorable gentleman continues this sort of thing, and is offensive when asked questions, I shall exhaust the forms of the House in order to get my rights. I ask the Prime Minister whether Red Cross cargoes have not been removed in the way I have indicated, and suggest that the flippant Minister of Trade and Customs should be required to make inquiries? The Minister of Trade and Customs may grin, but he does not know all there is to be known on these matters. The honorable member takes it upon himself to promise alterations of the Tariff when he knows very well that he cannot make an alteration without the approval of this House. He knows that, in some instances, the duties on raw materials are heavier than the duties on the finished article. That is what he calls Protection. The honorable member may gull his own constituents in that way, but he cannot gull me.
– You are not a Protectionist.
– The honorable member does not know what he is talking about either. He may interrupt with his flippant interjections, but I know as much about Protection as he does, and perhaps more. The Government policy of imposing high duties and thereby getting plenty of revenue is not Protection. That is what the new Tariff does, and as such it is not a good Tariff. It is the high revenue duties that are killing this country. I have heard the Minister of Trade and Customs speak about differentiating between Protection and a revenue Tariff. I ask him to let us see something of genuine Protection. I would like him to give me the information I want before we go any further; otherwise, I shall feel it my duty to divide the House. He may think that he can follow the German policy of “ Might is right,” but I will show him that he is wrong. I ask him now whether he does not know that some of the duties are heavier on the raw material than they are on the manufactured article. I ask the Prime Minister if, when big increases in high salaries are being given, and when German prisoners are being paid by the Commonwealth £1 a week to do nothing, he thinks that 10s. a week is enough for our old people and invalids to exist on. We know that the cost of living has risen, and some of these old people will not be able to have their Christmas in comfort. Honorable members opposite had a very different cry when they were on the hustings. If they will treat honorable members on this side unfairly when they ask for information, they must expect unpleasant things to be said about them. I regret that we cannot proceed with the Tariff at the present time, because I believe that we would have some interesting disclosures. This Tariff is a hybrid affair for the purpose of imposing taxation, and is not based on genuine Protection at all. The Minister must admit that the purpose of this Tariff is not to encourage Australian industries, but to fill the Treasury to- overflowing; and if the Treasury is to overflow, is it not right that we should give a fair deal to our old-age pensioners? If the Minister thinks that he can treat honorable members in the flippant way he has adopted to-night, we will show him that might is not right, and that we are entitled to fair consideration, which we have not received from him to-night.
.- I think this measure ought to be entitled the “ Contingency Bill,” because of the enormous amounts which have been put down opposite the word “contingencies.” On page 13, for instance, under railways, there is provided for salaries and various items, £1,575, and then follows £70,125 for contingencies. It, is an insult to our intelligence to put down so little for particular items, and then to put down £70,000 for contingencies of which no details are given.
– You should have said that last session.
– I choose to say it now, and if the honorable member does not intend to listen, he may go home. The treatment meted out by the present Government to the producers on the land is characterized by great severity, and in the land-tax proposals the Government are quite indifferent as to how much these poor unfortunates have to pay. We find in this Bill that the cost of collecting the land tax is an inordinately large item, salaries alone accounting for £15,000. Here, again, our intelligence is insulted by £15,000 being put down for salaries, and £22,000 being provided for contingencies, in regard to which no information at all is given. That is not a reasonable procedure, and I raise my protest against it. Under the heading of “Military Purposes,” various contingency amounts of £20,000, £27,000, £81,000, £7,000, and so on are provided. In the postal expenditure the amount allowed for contingencies is greater than the cost of the conveyance of mails. Surely there is something radically wrong when the business of the country is transacted in this way. We are asked to carry this Supply Bill for over £10,000,000 through all its stages to-night, and I suppose one-half of that total amount comes under the heading of contingencies.
– The items are all set out in the Estimates.
– What is the good of setting out the information in the Estimates when the money is to he expended before the Estimates are dealt with? In regard to the Tariff, one of the great defects and glaring evils in Australia is the continual growth of the cities as compared with the country. That evil is becoming more marked every day, and the present Government, as far as I can judge them from their Estimates, their Budget, and the Supply Bill, appear to “be determined to make the city still more attractive by making the country less attractive.
– Why not make the rural conditions more attractive, and you will keep the people in the’ country ?
– Let the honorable member keep silence until he knows what he is talking about. The Government claim that part of their policy is to settle the country and increase its production, but all the time every effort is being made to penalize those who go to the country. They are being penalized by the increased land tax and by the duties on cornsacks, farming implements, wool bales, and various other articles. All these items are inserted for the express purpose pf injuring the man on the land.
– The Government are making their own coffin.
– I hope they are, and I hope that they will soon occupy it politically.
– You are getting quite humorous in your old age.
– And so is my honorable friend, who, because he is a builder in Sydney, claims to know everything about the producer in the country. He is the comic gentleman of the House, and is always speaking with a plum in his mouth. I am a country representative, and I believe that the prosperity and welfare of Australia depends on encouraging the people to develop the back country. Therefore I would give mail facilities even in places where such services would not pay, and I would decrease the taxation in every way possible. The more we can produce, the more we can have to export, and the more produce we have to export, the better for the community. I am grieved to find that the present Government are apparently determined to adopt the very opposite policy, and think that they can foster the best interests of the people by imposing taxation on those who undertake the hardships incidental to work in the interior. Their conditions are naturally harder and less attractive, and the Government seem determined to make them less attractive by imposing additional burdens upon them. Why should the producer be singled out by the Government for special notice when, all the time, we know that there is an incentive necessary to attract people into the country?
– Better conditions there are wanted.
– According to the honorable member’s argument, he would make the conditions better by taxing the people. Honorable members cannot increase the wealth of the country by taxation, nor can they tax any one into a happy state. The people who are unduly taxed, and who are beginning to realize that fact, are resenting the conditions, and flocking into the cities. Every one recognises that the evil is being intensified.
– Would you tax tea and kerosene?
– Let the honorable member give notice of the question, and in due time it will be answered.
– You would tax sugar ?
– Certainly, if the wealth of a country is what it produces; then people must be located where the production can be brought about. It cannot be brought about in the cities; it must be done in the country. The manufacturing interests are being fostered by the protective incidence of the Tariff, and, to a certain extent, we would concede that that is right and proper. But when a Tariff is adopted which administers a snub to those who venture to go on the land, and prevents them from getting a fair return, honorable members are not acting in the best interests of the country, but are bringing about conditions which are fatal to those interested. Therefore, I, as the representative of a country constituency, consider that it is my duty to point out to town members who do not understand the position how the question is regarded from the country point of view.
Mr.FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer) [11.12]. - The main charge which the honorable member for Echuca brought against the Supply Bill is the large amount for contingencies. But every itemexplains itself. The honorable member is on a Committee of the House, I think. He will find that items for contingencies are a necessary part of a Supply Bill in order to prevent the measure from being a replica of the Estimates. The Bill is founded on the Estimates. Take the vote for the Library, which is governed by a Committee of the House. The amount set down for salaries is £1,370, while the amount required for contingencies is £1,700.
– What about the items for the Royal Military College - £9,000 for salaries, and £17,000 for contingencies? That is pretty strong.
– I can give a better illustration than that. On page 5, under the head of the High Court, £1,700 is required for salaries, and £2,900 for contingencies ; but does any one maintain that the High Court is dipping its hands into the contingencies ?
– Will you explain why the amount for contingencies should be greater in each State than the amount for conveyance of mails?
-I am quite unable to give the reason why the expenditure under contingencies is greater than the expenditure under salaries.
– The next item beats that one easily. For the Court of Conciliation and Arbitration we are asked to vote £70 for salaries, and £2,000 for contingencies.
– Obviously, the amount is required for the expenses of witnesses or assistance.
– On page 43 of the Estimates, you can see every item set out.
– On page 12 there is an item under the head of the InterState Commission. No exception can be taken to the probity of its members. A sum of £1,000 is required for salaries and £1,150 for contingencies. The references which have been made to contingencies prove nothing. It would be to the credit of honorable members if, instead of using terms that might mislead honest electors, they would simply address themselves to the more solid affairs of Parliament and give the public the facts of the case.
– On page 13, under the head of Railways, we are asked to vote £1,575 for salaries and £70,125 for contingencies.
– In all likelihood, the sum of £1,575 covers the salaries of the permanent officers who have charge of the men. There will be, I suppose, an officer to every twenty or thirty men engaged in construction ; so honorable members can quite understand what the contingencies are likely to be.
– Is it suggested that the House is not to be taken into the confidence of the Treasurer with regard to items under contingencies.
– The details are all set out in the Estimates. The items are grouped under the head of contingencies for the sake of simplicity instead of repeating what is contained in the Estimates. Regarding the question raised by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, it is not possible, with the present means at our disposal, to increase the invalid and old-age pensions. It is not possible, without fresh taxation, to add thereto the widow and orphans pension which it is the intention of the Government, as opportunity offers, to bring into existence. All the sentiment which may be expressed about what should and would be done can be given effect to, not by talking about reducing the taxation, as is proposed on all sides, but by providing means to raise the necessary taxation to provide the pensions. It cannot be charged against this Govern.ment, or any Labour Government, that they have failed to carry out social legislation when opportunity offered. It is only the stress of circumstances occasioned by the war that has prevented this legislation being carried into effect. I sympathize with invalid and old-age pensioners in the position they occupy; but it will, perhaps, be some satisfaction to them to realize that the matter of the expansion and extension of the principle has only been delayed by circumstances over which we have no control.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Fisher and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented (by Mr. Fisher) and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Will the Prime Minister give me an answer to the question I raised about Red Cross goods ? The Red Cross Society in Sydney put some goods on a Peninsular and Oriental steamer, expecting that they would go to the war: but these goods were bundled off the steamer at Melbourne and other cargo put in their place, and they will probably be lying about the wharf in Melbourne until the winter is over, and the soldiers will not get the benefit of them. As a young French soldier who is going to the war has an aunt who is in charge of a field hospital, certain people collected comforts, clothes, and goods, and were anxious to send them direct to the hospital, but the shipping company has given them no consideration or facility to do so, apparently forgetting that the efforts of the men at the front have rendered it possible for them to carry on their trade. But the flippant Minister of. Trade and Customs has declined to take any notice of the matter, though I brought it up in Parliament last week, and it was reported fully in Hansard. If he continues to do this sort of thing I shall make it uncomfortable for him. Members coming from his own State probably do not resent his attitude, but I shall have to teach him that he cannot treat honorable members in this way, and I shall have to use the forms of the House to block business until I can ascertain why this action has been taken by this shipping company. It is an outrage. The Minister has neglected his duties in not making inquiries. When I asked the Prime Minister about the matter he referred me to the PostmasterGeneral, and then I was referred to the Minister of Trade and Customs, who, with a flippant sneer, passed me off, and said that I would have to give notice of the question.
– There is no desire on the part of any Minister to be flippant with the honorable member, who, having been a Postmaster-General, knows that the Government have no control over the Peninsular and Oriental Company from a postal point of view. I do not know what power the Minister of Trade and Customs has from a trading point of view.
– You can make inquiries about the matter.
– If the company did what the honorable member has said it was an action they should not be proud of.
– The Minister of Defence might make inquiries into the matter.
– The Minister of Trade and Customs said he did not believe my statement.
– The Minister tells me that he did not say that to the honorable member. I ask the honorable member not to pursue the matter now. If the statement is true that the company have unloaded goods of that kind and taken on other cargo in its place it was an action they should not be proud of.
– Will you make inquiries?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That Mr. Wise take thechair as tem porary Chairman.
Bill reported from Committee without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 11 a.m. to-morrow.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
To-morrow the first business will be the resumption of the debate on the Budget in Committee of Ways and Means. It is proposed to sit to-morrow night and also late on Saturday night, and on Monday morning, afternoon, and night, when I hope we will be able to finish our business and adjourn. I thank honorable members opposite for the consideration they have shown. I hope that we shall be able to co-operate as far as possible and get the work through early.
.- I understand that a large number of married men volunteered for our Expeditionary Forces under the impression that in addition to their daily pay an allowance would be made to their wives and children. That allowance was paid whilst the members of our First Expeditionary Force remained in camp, but ceased immediately upon their embarkation for active service abroad. If it be essential that an allowance should be granted to their wives and children during the time that the men are in camp, it is equally essential that that allowance should be continued during the period that they are engaged on active service. I hope that the Government will take this matter into consideration, with a view to continuing this grant to the wives and children of our soldiers.
– I shall have the matter to which allusion has been made by the honorable member referred to the Minister of Defence, who will ascertain the facts with a view to seeing what can be done.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.33 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 10 December 1914, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1914/19141210_reps_6_75/>.