6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
The following papers were presented : -
Report on the Business Management of the Postmaster-General’s Department by R. McC. Anderson.
Sugar Supply - Memorandum of Arrangement between the Government of the Commonwealth and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company about the Sugar Supply of Australia.
Ordered to be printed.
Defence Act - Provisional Regulations for the Conduct and Management of Government Factories - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 141.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Land acquired under, at -
Amnngnla, partly in Federal Territory and partly in the State of New South Wales - For Federal Capital purposes.
Avoca, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Botany, New South Wales- For Postal purposes.
Goorooyarroo, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes (2).
Kalgoorlie, Western Australia - For Railway purposes (2).
Warracknabeal, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Public Service Act -
Promotions of -
Prohibition of Intoxicants : Encampment at Kerang : Probate : Inspection of Encampments.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, in view of the fact that a number of soldiers have recently been about the streets in a disgracefully drunken condition, the Government will take into consideration the advisability of regulating the supplying of intoxicating drink to men in uniform, either by abolishing the dry canteens, or by prohibiting the sale of liquor to men in uniform?
– The Commonwealth
Government has no control whatever of the sale of liquor, except in areas that have been proclaimed to be within Com monwealth jurisdiction ; but it is the duty of all the Governments of Australia to do their best at the present time to get rid of the drinking habit altogether. Certainly, every decent person who is in charge of a liquor retailing establishment will avoid giving liquor to any soldier who has already received enough. I shall be glad to co-operate with all parties to prevent unseemly conduct, though it is not to be assumed that our soldiers in general are anything but sober, honest, well-conducted patriots.
– Will the right honorable gentleman, for the honour of the Australian uniform, request the Premiers of the States to introduce legislation to prevent hotels from supplying intoxicating liquor to men in uniform ?
Mr.FISHER.- I should like my reply to be taken as a public statement that my opinion is that it is the bounden duty of those who have the power to govern the conduct of the liquor-selling business, and to regulate the hours during which liquor may be sold, to exercise their authority in the interests of the country, and for the protection of our soldiers.
– Will the right honorable gentleman cause one or two chaplains to attend at the recruiting office to administer the pledge to the soldiers ?
– The pledge that I should like to see taken would be a pledge on the part of the public to protect our soldiers from dishonour. There are only a few men who give way to intemperance, and if there were not scoundrels in our midst who are only too ready to take advantage of their weakness, the trouble that has occurred would never have arisen.
– Will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of introducing this session a short Bill to abolish probate duties on the estates of persons killed at the front?
– The matter will be dealt with later. It is not so simple as the honorable member seems to think.
– In view of the statements of Mr. Justice Rich as to the condition of affairs at the Liverpool Camp, will the Minister of Defence consider the advisability of appointing two members of this House - say, the honorable member for Maranoa and a member of the Opposition - to constantly visit the military encampments in the various States, and report to the Minister as to their condition?
– That would be a big order. The War Committee, which is composed of an equal number of members from the two political parties, has the power to make inquiries into, amongst other things, the matters of which the honorable member spoke, and, therefore, I think that his suggestion has been met in another way.
– Has the Minister for the Navy yet come to any decision in regard to the establishment of a military camp at Kerang?
– I hope to have a reply to the question this afternoon.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral, recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
– In view of the AttorneyGeneral’s statement last Friday that recent shipments of eau de cologne consigned to Mr. Blau were improperly admitted, does the Minister of Trade and Customs propose to seize such shipments?
– I have no intention of doing so, but I have given the instruction that all shipments of eau de cologne and other things which come from neutral countries are in future to be held up until it can be ascertained that they are bonâ fide the product of such countries. As there seems to be very great suspicion regarding Mr. Blau’s shipments, no doubt special attention will be given to them.
– As it is considered impossible that cattle, after a sea voyage of a couple of thousand miles, can introduce tick, will the Minister of Trade and Customs resume negotiations with the Victorian Government with a view to the removal of the prohibition of the importation of cattle from the Northern Territory, so that the abnormal price of meat may be reduced?
– I have every reason to believe that after a long sea voyage tick disappear from cattle.
– That is rubbish. Victoria will be very sorry if it introduces the tick pest.
-I shall be pleased to make representations to the Victorian Government, but I am afraid that they are hopeless.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. In the House on Friday last I complained of waste of money in the Department of Defence, and referred in this connexion to the purchase of tables from Messrs. Craig, Williamson and Company at a cost of £10 10s. each. In the Age on Monday last the following letter on the subject appeared : -
A QUESTION OF PRICES.
To the Editor of the Age. - Sir, - Regarding the remarks of Mr. Mathews in the House of Representatives, as reported in your issue of to-day, that “ tables for use in connexion with sick beds were supplied by us at£ 10 10s. each, that would have been fairly paid for at £3 each,” we have gone carefully through our books, and cannot find any trace of our having supplied “ tables for use in connexion with sick beds at £10 10s. each,” and we cannot understand what Mr. Mathews refers to. - Yours, &c., Craig Williamson Propty. Ltd. (E. T. Cross, secretary) . 21st August.
I wish to state that I attached no blame to Messrs. Craig, Williamson and Company; I blamed the Department. I referred to operating tables, for which I said a charge of £10 10s. had been made, although I thought that tables suitable for the purpose could have been made for £3 each. If the firm look through their books they will probably find a record of the sale of operating tables at the price named by me.
– I desire, by way of personal explanation, to refer to an article appearing in a leading Melbourne journal, which appears to have access to the secret reports of the Defence Department, and is evidently in the confidence of the censors.
– Order. The honorable member is now going beyond a personal explanation.
– In the article in question this newspaper, theA rgus, reflects on me, referring to me as “ Erny.”
– There is no reflection in that.
– The reflection is not in the mere mention of the name; the point is, that I am not the person referred to as “ Erny.” Fortunately, I am not the only citizen of the Commonwealth whose Christian name is Ernest, but the Argus, seeing a reference to “ Erny “ in the correspondence in question, evidently jumped to the wrong conclusion that I was the individual concerned.
– As a large number of men have been compelled to leave the Liverpool Camp owing to the conditions prevailing there will the Minister cause to be published a notification that these men, on reporting themselves to the Camp Commandant within a certain period, will be allowed to re-enlist?
– I cannot make any promise. I shall bring the honorable member’s question under the notice of the Minister ofDefence, whose duty it will be to decide the matter.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral yet in a position to inform the House of the result of the deliberations on the wheat and wool freights question? Can he give us full details of the proposed agreement, and state whether finality has been arrived at?
– A decision has been arrived at subject to the approval of the Ministers of Agriculture of the various States, with whom I communicated yesterday. I expect to receive their replies some time during the day, and if they are in favour of accepting the arrangement, the proposal will be ready to lay on the table of the House.
– Is the AttorneyGeneral ready to table the agreement in regard to wheat charters ?
– I have already replied to the honorable member for Grey that the agreement has been arrived at, but is subject to consideration by the various Ministers for Agriculture. As soon as they have approved of the agreement it will be available for perusal by honorable members.
– In view of the great public interest taken in the appointment of a successor to Sir George Reid as High Commissioner, and the number of names mentioned in connexion with the matter, will the Prime Minister make a statement to the House in regard to it?
– I can assure the honorable member that all the information I have on the subject is obtained by me from the press.
Continental Rubber Company - Siemens Bros
– Will the AttorneyGeneral state what is the true position in respect to the Continental Rubber Company, what are the quantities and value of the goods held by it, and whether the Controller has been instructed to wind up the whole business as early as possible so that the British and Australian manufacturers may be relieved of German competition ?
– The Continental Tyre Company has not been singled out for special treatment. The same principles have been applied as in the case of all other companies on the enemy list. The circumstances of the company are somewhat different from those of other companies, and especially the nature of its wares; but it has been dealt with on exactly the same principles as are being applied, for instance, to Siemens Bros. and the Australian Metal Company, the scope of whose transactions is much larger. This Government decided to declare, as having enemy character, a class of companies owned or controlled by enemy subjects, with whom trading had not previously been legally forbidden; and in initiating this policy it was necessary to avoid injustice and injury to our own people. The rules of international law relating to enemy property on land must be considered, and applied evenly all round, and the difficulties of applying a general rule in such a way as not to cause serious industrial and commercial disturbance to the community are very great. With regard to Siemens Bros., for instance, if all pending transactions were to be terminated without regard to circumstances, some enterprises of great importance to the community, undertaken by Commonwealth, State, and municipal authorities, would be abruptly terminated. The same principles apply to certain large contracts and indents with the Australian Metal Company. When it is stated that the total value of the transactions referred to reaches some £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, it will be readily understood that the whole matter requires very careful consideration. It is receiving careful consideration, and the public bodies concerned are being communicated with. As to my honorable friend’s second question, I am unable to say definitely what are the quantities and value of goods held by the Continental Rubber Company, but I shall ascertain the figures, and advise him to-morrow. Coming to the third part of his question as to whether the Controller has been instructed to wind up the whole business as early as possible so that British and Australian manufacturers may be relieved of German competition, I desire to say that the Controller has been instructed to wind up the business. The only business that he is now permitted to transact is in that direction. The question of whether he shall remain in his present position or whether the policy of appointing controllers is desirable is also being considered. In my opinion, the policy of appointing controllers is not good, and will be discontinued.
Nurses’ Uniforms : Parcels and Letters for Soldiers : Fitting up of Transports : Liverpool Camp : Mr. Justice Rich’s Report.
– Is the Minister for the Navy yet in a position to make a statement in regard to the contract which David Jones and Company claim to have with the Defence Department for the supply of nurses’ uniforms ?
– I have asked for a statement to be prepared by the Defence Department, and I will endeavour to let the honorable member have it to-morrow.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether it is a fact that parcels intended for soldiers at the front may now be sent through the agency of Thomas Cook and Sons ? If so, will the Minister take steps to give that information to the public?
– I shall obtain the information and supply it to the honorable member.
– In view of the statement that many soldiers at the front have been regularly communicated with every week, in one case, to my knowledge, for the past twelve months, and have not received any letters, will the Minister for the Navy inform the House what steps are being taken to rectify that state of affairs ?
– That question relates to matters controlled by the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– A statement was made some time ago in regard to the arrangements which have been made for the receipt at this end of soldiers’ correspondence. Why it does not reach the addressees at the front we, in Australia, cannot tell.
– Will the Minister for the Navy lay on the table all papers connected with the fitting up of transports by certain contractors in Melbourne ?
– Yes; there is no objection to that being done.
– In view of the reports that are current in Melbourne that the report of Mr. Justice Rich, in regard to the administration at the Liverpool Camp will be censored, I ask the Prime Minister whether that course is proposed ; if not, will the report be soon available for the public ?
– The report of Mr. Justice Rich was handed to the GovernorGeneral late on Thursday night, I think. It was sent to the Prime Minister’s office, and immediately copies were typed for this House and the Senate, and the report was tabled in the Senate at 3.30 on Friday. I did not see the report; it is on the table unabridged.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether there is any arrangement which permits of a military censor dealing with private correspondence reporting his discoveries to the Argus?
– I am inclined to think the honorable member’s question conveys an impression which is not quite accurate. The Department would not countenance any such action, and I doubt whether such a thing has occurred.
Original draft of the arrangement between the Commonwealth Government and the Colonial Sugar Refining Company laid on the table by Mr. Hughes.
Ordered to be printed.
– Has the Prime Minister noticed that the South Australian Government are selling inscribed stock which is advertised as being free of income tax? Has the State Government made any arrangement with the Federal Government that such stock shall be exempt from Federal income tax?
– No, I do not think it is within the power of the Commonwealth Government to agree to any limitations as to the application of Commonwealth Acts. I presume the South Australian Government advertisement relates to their own proposed legislative action. I suggest that that matter might well be dealt with at the forthcoming Premiers’ Conference.
MR. McC. ANDERSON’S REPORT ON THE POSTAL DEPARTMENT.
– I should like to ask the Postmaster-General whether it is customary for departmental reports to be handed to the press before being submitted to this House. I refer to the report of Mr. McC. Anderson in regard to the Postmaster-General’s Department. I have unsuccessfully applied for that report several times, though it is in the possession of the press?
– As far as I am aware no pressman saw Mr. McC. Anderson’s report until this afternoon. The report was kept under lock till it was laid on the table of the House. It is not an uncommon practice to send copies of big reports of public importance under seal to the Deputies in the various States to be handed to the press on a certain date.
– Will the Attorney-
General state whether, by the formation of a metal exchange, it is intended that all metallic ores shall be exported only through that organization, or its members ?
– The scope of the operations of the metal exchange was considered at a conference of those interested this morning. The draft rules have been referred to a committee. The conference is to meet again on Monday to consider the report of the committee. When the scope of the exchange has been delimited it will be possible for me to give a definite answer to the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Batman addressed an audience on the subject of ‘ ‘ Peace ‘ ‘ on Monday night. I notice the honorable member is not in his place to-day. Has the Attorney-General interned him ?
– Not to my knowledge.
Recruits from Hospital for Incurables : Collection and Delivery of Letters : Liverpool Camp : Parcels Rates : Medical Attention.
– Will the Minister for the Navy make inquiries as to whether it is a fact that patients from the Hospital for Incurables at Heidelberg have been accepted, and are in camp; and, if so, will the Minister have inquiries made with a view to insuring the safety of others who have volunteered for the front ?
– I shall make the necessary inquiries.
– In view of the statement made by the Postmaster-General last week that it is the intention of the Department in the near future to send postal officials with the troops in order to avoid the present dissatisfaction in connexion with the collection and delivery of letters, would it not be advisable to utilize the services of a number of sorters and others who are already at the front, so that time may be saved ?
– I can assure the honorable member that the Minister of Defence is dealing with this question now.
– Is it the intention of the Government to have the evidence taken by the Royal Commission on the Liverpool Camp printed, and, if so, when will it be available for distribution amongst honorable members?
– The Government are not aware whether or not the evidence of the Royal Commission has been printed, but if the honorable member will place the question on the notice-paper the necessary inquiries will be made.
– Is the Minister for the Navy aware that a postal inspector in Queensland has offered his services free of charge to go to Cairo or Alexandria in order to make such arrangements that the correspondence of officers and men may be satisfactorily dealt with ? This officer has offered to devote his furlough to this work; and I ask whether the Government will entertain the proposal ? I may say I have had five letters returned to me from Egypt.
– The offer made by this officer came under my personal notice in Brisbane some few months ago. I think, however, that the Minister of Defence is doing everything that is possible to insure the proper and prompt collection and delivery of mail matter in Egypt and at the front. To my knowledge, the Minister proposes to utilize the services of postal officials who are enlisting, not only in Egypt, but almost in the firing line, ,in order to make certain that letters from here shall be quickly delivered, and that the men shall be able to reply. The Minister is also making use of postal officials already at the front in this way ; and I do not think he can do any more.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral take into consideration the high rates charged for parcels sent to soldiers at the front? Even the smallest parcel is charged at the rate of ls.
– I shall see if anything further can be done in this connexion.
– It has come, not only to my knowledge, but the knowledge of many members of the House, that in almost the whole of the camps the medical fraternity neglect the men there. Will the Minister for the Navy take from me the information that the men are not properly looked after, and cause some inquiries to be made, without resorting to such an investigation as was conducted in the case of the Liverpool Camp?
– I think we may now take it that the Minister of Defence will be quite alert to everything that is going on, and will be very chary about taking a mere “ yes “ in answer to any inquiries made as to the conduct of the camps. The Minister will, I think, insist on holding the officers absolutely responsible, and will see that everything is carried on in such a manner in the future as will prevent his being called to account, as he has been recently, owing to certain officers not obeying their instructions. Any officer who does not at once carry out his instructions will find dismissal, and nothing else, the result in the future. The honorable member may rest assured that all the medical men in the various camps will have to do what is right.
– I desire to direct the attention of the Attorney-General to a telegram I have received, and to ask him whether he can do anything to prevent what appears likely to become a serious labour trouble. The telegram is as follows: -
Position serious. Without Court starts to hear case within three weeks, men cease work midnight, August 28th. Can you use your influence to hurry on conference with Registrar?
– I have heard of this matter, and the Registrar of the Arbitration Court has been in communication with me regarding it this morning. I understand that the Registrar is also communicating with Mr. Barnet, the secretary of the union at Broken Hill. I prefer to say nothing more definite than that just now ; but the honorable” member may rest assured that the Court has this matter in hand, and will give it most speedy and favorable consideration.
– Has the Minister of Trade and Customs definitely fixed the basis for the imposition of the duty on cornsacks? Is the duty to be on the invoiced price or on the value of the goods at the time of shipment? The Minister will see that this deals with the question of forward contracts on cornsacks, as also immediate sale.
– A definite basis has been fixed. We are taking the freeonboard value, at the average value of the goods within four weeks of the date of shipment. This has been done on account of the sacks being bought ahead, and of the difficulty in getting at the value at the time of shipment.
– May I ask the Attorney-General when he will be able to place on the table of the House the sugar agreement? Will the Minister also state - as he has already informed the House - whether the country will be involved in no expense whatever in the arrangements that have been made?
– I have already placed the sugar agreement on the table. As to the second portion of the right honorable member’s question, I am not aware that I made any statement in such terms.
– The right honorable gentleman will be able to gather from the agreement exactly what the obligations of the Commonwealth are.
– Will the AttorneyGeneral explain why he selected a director of the firm of Julius Blau and Sons, a son-in-law of Mr. Blau, by name Curtis, to appear for the Crown in a case against a German for attempting to leave the Commonwealth without the permission of the Defence authorities?
– I am not aware that Mr. Curtis has ever appeared for the Crown. He may have done so, but, in any case, I certainly did not know that he is the son-in-law of Mr. Blau. I am not at all astonished at the information contained in the honorable member’s question, but it is the first time I have heard that Mr. Curtis is a son-in-law of Mr. Blau.
– And a director of the company.
– I can only give a general expression to a general regret that such should be the case.
– If it is his intention to increase the rate for telephone calls, may I ask the Postmaster-General if he will make the new arrangement apply only to the city exchanges, where the telephones do not pay, and not to country exchanges, where the telephones do pay ?
– The honorable member will learn what is proposed very shortly.
Additional. Camp : Discharged Soldiers and their Uniforms.
– Will the Minister for the Navy say whether any development has taken place consequent upon the representations I made to him some three weeks ago regarding the establishment of a military camp at some suitable centre in the north-east?
– I have conferred with the Minister of Defence on the subject mentioned by the honorable member. The Minister was inclined to regard the request sympathetically, and I think something may be done in the near future.
– I should like to bring under the notice of the Minister for the
Navy a matter affecting soldiers who have been discharged from the Army. When I was in Sydney this week I learned that certain men who have been discharged - I need not state the reasons why - have been conducting themselves in such a manner as to bring disgrace upon His Majesty’s uniform. Will the Minister see that when men are discharged from the Military Forces in the future no opportunity is given to them to use their uniforms for other purposes than that for which they were intended ?
– The question is one of some importance. I will confer with the Minister of Defence to see if it is possible to bring about the object desired by the honorable member.
– The honorable member for Calare on Thursday last directed my attention to what he conceived to be an improper alteration of the official record of an interjection by the AttorneyGeneral while the honorable member was addressing the Chair. I promised the honorable member that I would inquire into the circumstances under which the alteration was permitted to be made. I find that, by the direction of my predecessors in the Chair, the AttorneyGeneral, in consideration of his wellknown infirmity and the difficulty he sometimes experiences in hearing the purport of questions addressed to him, has been permitted, where a misunderstanding has arisen from that cause, to amend his recorded reply to the question or interjection. I propose to continue that permission to the honorable gentleman in regard to questions addressed to him without notice; but I am of opinion that, in the case of a misunderstanding arising through his mishearing of an interjection in the course of a speech, the most convenient course to adopt would be to omit from the record both the interjection and the erroneous reply. Speaking of interjections generally, I have noted with regret the disregard by honorable members of the requests often preferred by myself, in common with other occupants of the Chair, that interjections may be less frequent. The persistence of honorable members in this disorderly practice not only protracts debate by introducing comparatively irrelevant matter, but is particularly unfair to the member addressing the Chair, in view of the standing order limiting the duration of speeches, rendering it necessary to resort, as I have recently pointed out, to an informal and very irregular suspension of the standing order. On many occasions in the course of the present session the interjections have been so frequent that the debate has been practically interrupted by a dialogue conducted between members on the front benches of both sides of the chamber, inaudible to a large section of the House, and frequently to the Chair. I hope that honorable members will show a greater disposition to assist me in securing the more orderly conduct of debate.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
That, in addition to the present system of enlistment, in future men may be enlisted as follows : -
The recruit will be medically examined, and, if fit, sworn in with an arrangement, if he so desires, that he shall have leave of absence, without pay, to a date to be stated bv him; but the Department shall also have the option, with due notice, of deferring the date upon which a recruit shall enter on duty.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The. following replies have been furnished by the Commonwealth Public Service Commissioner: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
Will he issue instructions that all wireless messages to and from troopships be charged at the rate of 6d. per word, instead of at the present rate of lid. ?
– This matter is not within the province of the PostmasterGeneral to decide. I will, however, communicate with the authorities concerned on the subject.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
asked the Minister of Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
If he will obtain a return from the respective postmasters giving the number of hours each censor has attended the post-office during the last fortnight?
– This is a matter concerning the Department of Defence. Advice has been received from that Department that the information is being obtained, and will be furnished as* early as possible.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are -
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to alter section 13 of the Constitution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from 20th August (vide page 6040), on motion by Mr. Fisher -
That a sum not exceeding £16,195,469 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916.
.- There have not been many speeches on this financial statement, but, with the exception of the honorable member for Balaclava, honorable members of the Opposisition have not treated the Government as generously as they promised to do in connexion with war expenditure. The Government is faced with a very difficult task, a position which the people recognise, and Ministers are to be complimented on the manner in which they have performed their duties, and on the Force that they have raised and equipped for the defence of Australia during the present crisis. The Leader of the Opposition, however, found fault with many items of expenditure, though he did not suggest any definite economy. When he was in office similar complaints were made, but he did nothing to effect improvements. The last Government could not be complimented on its financial administration. Although the Opposition has had much to say about postal maladministration, its members have had no suggestions of any value to offer for the improvement of things. Honorable members have not yet seen Mr. Anderson’s report upon the Postal Department. Possibly it may contain recommendations the adoption of which will place the Department on a paying basis, and may result in a better service. For a considerable time past, the Department has caused a great drain on the public finances. I hope that the Government, in making changes, will have the courage to charge the large business houses for the services which the various branches of the Department render to them, and thus reduce the deficit. The Leader of the Opposition also found fault with the expenditure on the Northern Territory. In my opinion, not enough money is being spent there. We must develop the country to make it productive of revenue. According to the right honorable member, it is the duty of the Government to curtail expenditure in every possible way; but, in my opinion, a serious curtailing of Government expenditure would lead to retrenchment in business houses and factories, which would create stagnation. It is necessary to continue giving employment to labour. We could not afford to have a big army of unemployed, and there are many men who, if out of work, could not enlist, either because they are too old, or because of their family responsibilities. Therefore, railway construction must be continued. The war may last longer than we expect, and we must be careful to do nothing to hamper our industrial progress. But, if the Leader of the Opposition and some of his supporters could get their way, there would be retrenchment that would create an army of unemployed. I am confident that the financial administration of this Government is giving satisfaction to the people. The Leader of the Opposition criticised the proposed expenditure on the referendum for the amendment of the Constitution. It is well known, however, that this Parliament is without powers that many other Parliaments enjoy, and that if the Constitution is amended as we desire, money will have been well spent in securing that amendment. There are many subjects about which we ought to legislate with which we cannot now deal. If, for instance, we could deal with the meat question, the people of Australia would to-day be getting an adequate supply of meat at a reasonable price. Under the Constitution as it stands the Government are quite powerless to take action with respect to the sale of this, one of the most necessary commodities of the Australian people. That, in itself, is a sufficient reason for submitting the Constitution Alteration Bills at the present time. The Leader of the Opposition also contended that the Government were about to incur an unwise expenditure in connexion with the War Census Bill. I can hardly believe that the right honorable gentleman has given serious consideration to the subject. Germany’s great power - indeed, her whole strength - is centred in her complete system oforganization. We have waited over twelve months from the outbreak of war before proposing to follow her example in this regard, and I would remind the Committee that the British Government has decided that the United Kingdom shall be organized in a similar way. We wish to ascertain the extent of our wealth, the numbers of our stock, the area under cultivation, the extent of our production, and information on other subjects of equal importance. In respect of all these matters, we need to have uptodate information; yet the Leader of the Opposition would have us believe that our proposed expenditure in this direction will be of little value to the Commonwealth. I takethe view that the benefit derived from this expenditure will be greater than has been secured from any like expenditure on the part of the Commonwealth. When we know what our assets actually are, and have ascertained how they can be put to the best use, we shall have secured results which the people of Australia will applaud for all time. Australia is not the only country that takes a war census, even when not at war. The United States of America takes a war census every five years, and I have no doubt that the Commonwealth will proceed to establish a permanent office for the collection of complete statistics under these headings, say, every two years. The statistics at our disposal to-day are not of sufficiently recent date to be of any real value. The Y ear-Book, our only reliable authority, contains statistics that are usually two years old before they are made available to the public. This expenditure, it will be seen, is therefore well justified. The right honorable member for Swan also severely criticised the new taxation proposals now before Parliament, describing them as entirely unnecessary and unwarranted. Had he seen our noble heroes who were accorded a welcome upon their return to Melbourne this morning - had he noticed how many of them were completely disabled, and likely therefore to draw a permanent pension - he would have recognised that even the taxation which the Government are now proposing is hardly likely to be sufficient to meet our complete war pensions scheme. Although that scheme is liberal as compared with the war pensions scheme of Great Britain, it is by no means as liberal as is that of New Zealand. If a small Dominion like New Zealand can afford to do so, we should be prepared to widen our present legislation by providing for the widowed mothers of soldiers killed or disabled at the front. At present, they are not provided for as they should be, under the War Pensions Act. I am confident the people will cheerfully pay whatever wartaxation is necessary. They feel that it is their duty to subscribe liberally to provide for the comfort of those who have been maimed for life while fighting in the defence of the Empire. The financial statement submitted by the Treasurer does not set out what is likely to be the complete expenditure of the Commonwealth for the year. It is merely a forecast, and I believe that we shall need considerably more revenue than is now anticipated to meet the demands made upon us. The Government have adopted the best means of which I know to raise the necessary revenue. I hope that the taxation at present proposed will prove sufficient, but should the war continue for any length of time, I fear that more urgent taxation will have to be imposed, and that the people of Australia will feel the financial pinch much more severely than at present. I wish now to make one or two suggestions regarding the Income Tax Bill, and am sure that even if they be not adopted at the present time the Government will find them of some value when they are searching for new avenues of taxation. By a re-arrangement of the proposed exemption, the tax could be made to press less heavily on the married section -of the community. T take the view that the unmarried men of the community should not be allowed any exemption, and that the exemption in respect of married taxpayers should be raised from £156 to £204.
– What about the honorable member’s proposal to tax bachelors?
– I am giving a new name to my old proposal, because a tax on bachelors seems to be objectionable to some of my bachelor friends. I am confi dent that after the war the British Government will impose a special tax on the unmarried men of the community. In 1876 the unmarried men in Great Britain numbered 386 per ‘thousand, but in 1908 they averaged 420 per thousand. It is believed that the proportion of bachelors has since then considerably increased. Then, again, if, as we are told, ‘65 per cent, of the men in Kitchener’s Army are married, we can only conclude that the unmarried men in Great Britain are scarcely doing their duty by the nation. They are neither subscribing a fair proportion of the taxation of the community, nor are they accepting to the full their responsibility to actively assist in the defence of the Empire. T hope that honorable members will give consideration to my proposal, which has been previously brought under the notice of the House, and that they will agree that a tax on bachelors is desirable.
– Is it not a sufficient penalty to be unable to obtain a wife ?
– I know of no man in that position. I also hope that the Government will agree to amend the Income Tax Bill by allowing taxpayers an exemption of £26 instead of £13 in respect of each of their children. We have been told that it is considered that since a pension of only £13 per annum is allowed in respect of every child whose father is killed or permanently incapacitated while on active service, it is considered that an exemption to the same extent is all that should be allowed under the Income Tax Bill. That argument, to my mind, is unsound. The pension of £13 per child is a gift paid out of the revenue of the Commonwealth, but if the exemption under the Income Tax Bill were increased to £26 per child it would be sufficient in the case of a man with a family of five or six children to prevent his paying by way of taxation money which is really necessary to buy food and clothing for his little ones. The Government would be well advised in reconsidering the whole question. I hope that honorable members will fake up my proposition, and that their arguments will be sufficiently powerful to convince the Government that, in limiting the exemption to £13 per child, they are hardly proposing to do the right thing by those who are rendering a great service to the nation by rearing large families - the future citizens of the Commonwealth. I believe that by abolishing the exemption in respect pf unmarried men, and raising the exemption to £204 in the case of taxpayers who are married, the Government, instead of losing any revenue, would gain from the tax an additional £250,000 per annum.
– What you advocate is a tax on bachelors.
– Yes; but one must not say that it is a tax on bachelors, because the title is objectionable. I hope honorable members opposite who have evidenced some interest in this proposal will voice their opinion in support of it, because unless they do we shall not get the additional revenue that is required from the proper source where money is plentiful, and where it could be easily subscribed. I am confident that almost sufficient revenue could be raised from this source to supply the money which the Commonwealth is endeavouring to raise by taxation at the present time. Other nations have attempted to legislate in this direction. The British House of Commons has already discussed a tax on bachelors, and, although such a measure has not yet been adopted, I feel sure that in the near future legislation of . that character will receive the indorsement of the British Parliament. On the day after some generous member of the Labour party disclosed to the Age the Government’s taxation proposals, a letter appeared in that journal advocating the imposition of a tax such as I am recommending to this Committee to-day. The writer said -
The proposed exemption of £156 will allow one section well able to bear taxation to go scot-fee. I refer to the single man. A bachelor at £3 per week is better able to bear a share of war taxation than a married family man whose income is £250 or £300. The bachelor at £3 is infinitely better off at £3 keeping one than the married man keeping himself, wife, and one or two children. If, of course, a bachelor at £156 per year can prove he is maintaining a relative, then let him go free of tax. It is a burning shame to tax the married man whose net income is so small and allow able-bodied bachelors with a larger net income escape.
Many other letters of similar purport have been- published from time to time. If the Government would agree to refer this matter to a referendum of the people I am sure that more than three-fourths of the electors of the Commonwealth would subscribe to the principle that a bachelor should pay a special tax towards the requirements of the nation. When I first mooted the proposal in this House I was accused of advocating marriage by those who were not receiving a salary sufficient to enable them to marry. But we find the Brisbane Worker, probably the oldestestablished and most widely-read Labour newspaper in the Commonwealth, advocating this tax. I think that organ is powerful enough to exercise some influence on members of the Labour party, and make them realize that they are not following the right course iu allowing to go scot-free so many men who are well able to pay additional taxation. Instead of following that policy, the bulk of the taxation is being levied on the married men of the community, who probably have difficulty in clothing and feeding their children properly, whilst bachelors are allowed to escape their proper share of the burden.
– Do you advocate any exemptions 1
– None whatever. This is what the Brisbane Worker has to say on the subject -
Another sore point with “ Father “ is the application of the £156 exemption to unmarried men. It is thought by many who have given hostages to fortune and prospective citizens to the State that the bachelor should not be exempt beyond £100 per annum.
The argument concludes with these words -
The merely married man without a family is also a tender plant who merits affection, for he has undertaken the support of another unit, and it may not be his fault that he is not a father. The bachelor with an income of over £500 a year should, it is thought by family enthusiasts, be taxed at double rates.
An article on that subject appears in the Brisbane Worker every week, and it must be remembered that probably that form of taxation will be subscribed to by a greater number of supporters of that journal and the party it represents than by the members of any other union or political organization in the Commonwealth. However, the Worker recognises that the unmarried man owes a duty to the Commonwealth, and unless he is prepared to accept his responsibilities as the nation desires him to do, the only way to reach him is to compel him to pay special taxation.
– Many bachelors are supporting dependants.
– I admit that; but there are also many married men and women who are supporting their parents.
I would be prepared to allow an exemption to a bachelor who was supporting other members of his family. I have no desire that this taxation should operate harshly. There are in the Commonwealth 613,000 unmarried men between the ages of eighteen years and forty-five years. On this subject I have collected statistics from Mr. Knibbs, and I find that the proportion of marriageable bachelors is greater in Australia than in any other part of the world. That is a serious state of affairs, not only in regard to taxation, but also in regard to the future population of Australia. This is a matter to which we should direct attention, because after this war Australia will be very bare of people, and it will be impossible for us to look to any other country to supply us with population with which to fill up our empty spaces in a satisfactory manner.
– Is your proposal a war tax?
– My proposal is to levy a tax on every man who refuses to get married.
– But would you make an exemption if a man could not get a wife?
– In such a case I would double the taxation, because any man in Australia who cannot get a wife ought to be deported. Fortunately, statistics show that the females in the community are increasing much more rapidly than the males. We cannot expect our women to provide the taxation which the male portion of the community should pay. The unmarried man who has refused to accent household responsibilities, does not pay local rates and taxes, and thereby throws a greater burden on the married men; he does not prove so useful a member of society as the married man; he does not take the same interest in the nation’s welfare, nor is he held as high in public estimation. Honorable members may feel inclined to joke about this proposal, but when the time comes for devising fresh means of taxation they will in all probability be inclined to give attention to a bachelor tax in preference to being called upon to disgorge more money from their own pockets. Further taxation may be imposed in the near future, and I know of no means of raising additional revenue that would give such great and beneficial results to the community.
– Does the honorable member know how many firms are refusing to employ single men ? How can these men pay the tax if they are not working ?
– They will not be called upon to pay the tax if they are not earning money.
– Some of the banking companies will not allow their clerks to marry until they are earning £200 a year.
– The interjection of the honorable member for Capricornia reminds me that after I had mentioned this matter and my remarks had been reported, a letter appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, and a bank clerk wrote directly to me asking me whether it was not possible to have that regulation rescinded. I am sorry to find that the authorities of the Commonwealth Bank favour a regulation of the kind, because many clerks who are earning less than £4 a week may probably have an opportunity to marry a lady with a little money, and thus be enabled to get a comfortable home together. It is high time that the Government rescinded this regulation, at any rate so far as the Commonwealth Bank is concerned, for it would certainly be a step in the right direction. Some of our most successful business men married before they were earning even £3 a week; and it certainly does not follow that marriage is a hindrance to a man’s progress.
– A man starts to hustle when he gets married.
– At any rate, I do not think that marriage makes it harder for a man to get on. Many working men in Australia are supporting wives and families decently on incomes of under £3 a week, though, of course, they are, perhaps, not as comfortable as we would like them to be. Then some attention should be given to married couples without families; and the exemption may induce those to bring children into the world. Dr. J. Foreman, chairman of the medical staff of the Royal Hospital for Women, Sydney, speaking at a general meeting of the Benevolent Society on 24th February last, made some remarkable statements -
We find that 1,277 cases were treated in the Gynaecological wards. That is quite apart from other, diseases peculiar to women. Among this number we have 124 from what is termed the septic block. Deducting these from the total, we have 1,153 cases that are the outcome of that most abominable practice of criminal abortion, which, I am sorry to say, is becoming a flourishing industry. Doctors, chemists, nurses, and irregular practitioners compete in every part of the city. It is simply a shocking state of affairs, and one that is increasing at a great rate. Those that we have are not onetwentieth of the cases which occur. They are all over the place.
I am of the opinion that the unmarried portion of the community are responsible for a great many of these cases; and this only makes the subject more worthy of the serious consideration of honorable members. Knibbs tells us that the unmarried men in Australia, between the ages of 21 and 54, represent 43.66 per cent. as against 33 per cent. in England and Wales, 31 per cent. in the United States of America, and 32 per cent. in Germany. These figures are sufficient to show the rapid rate at which we are declining in this connexion ; and it is to be feared that in a comparatively short time the unmarried section of the community will be in a majority. These figures should engage the attention of honorable members who have been sent here to do some practical work; because there are many who never attempt to do anything of value, so far as the people are concerned. The Labour party, as we know, are pledged to a policy of pensions; and this subject ought to be of a special interest to the honorable member for Lang, who is most energetic in his advocacy of an increase of 2s. 6d. per week in old-age pensions. The honorable member cheers that remark; but I ask him to offer a suggestion as to how the necessary money is to be raised. It is all very well for honorable members when in Opposition to suggest that increased pensions should be paid, but they should be prepared to suggest something to meet the cost, and I am looking for the support of the honorable member I have mentioned when this special tax is proposed. Another class of pensions to which we are pledged has reference to widows and orphans; and I hope that such pensions will become law before this Parliament comes to an end. If my support is of any value, it shall be given to any proposal for imposing additional taxation in order that these pensions may be provided. We cannot pay additional pensions to our aged friends unless we obtain money from some source; and honorable members opposite ought to be prepared to offer suggestions to that end, for the money cannot possibly be found out of the present revenue. The cost of living, although it may be reduced a little in the near future, will never be what it was twelve months ago, because many years must elapse before the supply of produce in the Commonwealth can overtake the demand. This is a reason why old-age pensions should be increased at once; and I hope that the Labour party will remain faithful to their platform pledges. I also favour a scheme for paying a special allowance to old people who are in the benevolent institutions of the Commonwealth. Many of those old people have given great service in developing the resources of the Commonwealth, and making it easy for those who follow them; but many of them spend, perhaps, ten or fifteen years in these places, and never have an opportunity of handling an additional penny from the time they enter until their death. The Commonwealth can, and should, pay these people some little allowance in order to enable them to live in some sort of decent comfort in their declining days. We, as a party, are not pledged to pay full pensions to the blind, but the Government should set themselves to the task of providing for the few people who deserve consideration in this way. This matter has been discussed; and many members of the Opposition support a scheme of the kind. The Government will shirk their duties if they do not provide adequately for our blind citizens, so as to prevent their begging and singing in the streets; and any pension they receive should be irrespective of their earnings. A few blind people in the institutions earn, perhaps, £1 per week, and I understand that an expert man may earn as much as £2; but, in many cases, when a man receives a rise in his wages from 12s. 6d. to 15s. a week, a sum equivalent to the rise is deducted from his pension. Naturally, blind people are a little irritable, and do not take that care to improve themselves that they would if the pension were irrespective of what they earn. This reform, I understand, would not cost more than about £40,000, and, as many are receiving pensions already, that sum, of course, may be considerably reduced. I shall now leave that matter, and refer to another with which honorable members are already familiar. I am going to say a word now in regard to the Beef Trust. This is not a new matter for the people ofthe Commonwealth.
– Nor for the House.
– It is not new to the House, hut I arn. sorry to say that honorable members do not give the matter the attention it deserves. All that they can do is to refer to it, because we are absolutely powerless to deal with it. “When I first mentioned the matter here eighteen months or two years ago the gentlemen then occupying the Government benches treated it with ridicule.
– So did the Judge in Brisbane.
– If the honorable member says that he cannot have read the Judge’s report. I propose this afternoon to quote extensively from it to show that the Judge found that the Beef Trust is in Australia, and is operating extensively and to the detriment of the best interests of the people.
– I was referring to the honorable member’s evidence, and what the Judge said about that.
– My evidence before the Commission was the same as that which I gave in this House, and as I am going to give to-day. There is no change whatever in it. I could not prove before the Commission that the Beef Trust existed in Australia, nor can I do so today, but the honorable member for Wakefield and I know that it is operating here, and that the people of the Commonwealth are suffering as a result, because they have to pay ls. 6d. per lb. for beef steak which they should be able to get for 6d. per lb. The honorable member for Wakefield is one of the men who has been crying out because Queensland has not sent meat to the State from which he comes, and because no live cattle can he sent there from Queensland. Yet he says that the Beef Trust is not operating in Australia. The honorable member knows better than, perhaps, any other honorable member of the House that the Beef Trust is here, and that the people of South Australia are suffering because of its presence. The shortage of cattle and meat in South Australia to-day is due to the operations of the Beef Trust.
– Is there not a Labour Government in Queensland now?
– Yes, and a very good Labour Government.
– Can they not deal with the Beef Trust?
– They are dealing with it within the borders of Queensland. The Beef Trust are not killing cattle at the present time in Queensland.
– And they cannot export; there is a prohibition against it.
– They have exported extensively. They exported more meat than the British Government required. I did not expect that honorable members opposite would be such champions of dear meat as they apparently are. There may be many reasons why meat is dear in Australia. I have discussed the matter with many persons, who can arrive at no satisfactory conclusion about it. My reason for the scarcity and dearness of meat is that the Beef Trust is operating in Australia. I am prepared to say why I think so. The Commonwealth Government have gone into the matter, and have applied to the Governments of the different States to make some attempt to pass legislation to insure an adequate supply of cattle in Australia within the next year or two. The State Governments have not thought it worth while to move in this direction, but in the United Kingdom, where they cannot produce any more cattle than we can. produce in Australia, the Imperial Parliament has already passed a Bill to prevent the slaughtering of female cattle, sheep, or swine under a certain age. It has done so because ©f the operations of the Beef Trust in the United Kingdom, and the prevention of the export of beef from South America. I shall submit extracts from different newspapers in support of my contention on this question. When we find that the State Governments are apathetic in the matter, it is high time that the Federal Government had the power to deal with it. It is the only authority that can deal with it effectively. Our cattle, according to statistics, have been falling off during the last three years. Apparently we may look for a very considerable shortage for the present year. We will not have sufficient meat to feed our own people in Australia, let alone having any for export. When such a condition of affairs exists it is time we organized to increase our supply of cattle, so that we may be able to feed our people with wholesome meat at a reasonable price, instead of having meat, as it is to-day, at a price which is prohibitive to 50 per cent, of the people of Australia.
– Why not start to do something, instead of merely talking?
– We have no power to do anything, but the State Parliaments have the power to do something.
– There are Labour Governments in New South Wales and Queensland.
– We cannot compel them to do anything if they fail to take action. They have the power, but so far they have refused to act. The Queensland Government have been in power for but a very short time. Perhaps the honorable member for Wakefield will say how long the South Australian Government have been in power.
– How long have the New South Wales and Western Australian Governments been in power? They have done nothing.
– They have been in power a long time, but if my honorable friends opposite, who have so many supporters, “are not satisfied with them, why do they not displace them ? It is because the State Governments have not dealt with the question that I suggest that the Commonwealth Government should have the power to deal with it. Until they have that power the question will never be satisfactorily settled. If the Federal Government had the power to deal with’ the Beef Trust, instead of having cold storages and meatworks in Queensland full of meat, ‘as they are at the present time, it would be distributed to the people of the different States at a very moderate price, at which it could be bought by people who are now compelled to go without meat altogether.
– The honorable member thinks that we are wiser than are the members of the Queensland Parliament.
– I think we have more wisdom here, and could do things better. I desire that some action should be taken to deal with the operations of the Beef Trust. The reason why meat is so dear in Australia to-day is because of the extensive shipments of meat from Australia, for which the Beef Trust has been responsible. Quite recently, the Trust was exporting a great deal more meat than the British Government required. They were compelled to enter into an arrange ment with the Trust to let them have 2 per cent, to sell the surplus of meat imported to the United Kingdom from Australia, while the people here have been practically starving for the want of meat. I am of opinion that the meat which the British Government allowed the Beef Trust 2 per cent, to sell was re-exported from the United Kingdom, and some of it was intercepted by British men-of-war in vessels that were making their way to Scandinavia with the object of feeding the German army with meat grown in Australia. Yet our honorable friends opposite tell us that the Beef Trust is not operating extensively in Australia. Little they care how the people of Australia have to suffer for the lack of this necessary food. If the Federal Government had had the power to control the Beef Trust, none of that surplus meat would have been allowed to leave Australia. . It would have been distributed throughout the Commonwealth.
– The Federal Government have the power to prevent the export of meat.
– They have not that power.
– They are exercising it, at any rate.
– I shall be glad to tell the honorable member for Wakefield what the Judge to whom he has referred thinks of the Beef Trust. When I give him the information he may agree with me that the Trust is operating in Australia, but it is probable that the honorable member does not desire to be convinced on the point. Perhaps the honorable member will listen to what the Judge had to say.
– I have read it.
– I propose to read a passage which the honorable member may have missed. Under the heading “ Advantage of Control over Australian Supplies,” I find that he said -
The suppression of competition, and the control over supplies, is not only a matter of serious concern to Australia, but it is also a matter of Imperial concern. It is improbable that the American companies have any intention of engaging in the distributing trade in Australia. Their object in coming here is to obtain supplies for their trade in the United Kingdom and the United States, and, assuming the existence of a desire to exercise a determining influence on the price markets of the United Kingdom, the advantage of a control over Australian supplies is obvious
We are told that meat is so dear in Australia because the drought has had a very serious effect on the cattle and sheep statistics of the Commonwealth. When honorable members learn that the figures do not prove that statement, they may be inclined to agree that the drought was not so very injurious as many of them would have us believe. Whether it has affected the number of cattle and sheep in the country since the beginning of the vear, and after the statistics were published, I am not in a position to say.
– The honorable member knows that it has had such an effect in, unfortunately, too many places in Australia.
– I am referring to the figures up to the end of the year 1914, and they do not prove the contention. I find that, according to those figures, New South Wales shows a shortage of cattle to the number of 583,140; Victoria, 166,011; South Australia, 52,326; Western Australia, where the drought is supposed to have been very severe, shows only a shortage of 10,291; the Northern Territory, 3,085; and the Federal Territory, 627. In Queensland there is shown an increase of 47,709. These figures give a total shortage for 1914 of 767,771.
– The honorable member must know that when the statistics from which he is quoting were prepared the drought had hardly made its abearance.
– We have nothing else to quide us. I know my own State has suffered very little from the drought.
– It is suffering now.
– Not very extensively. The statistics for sheep show a shortage during the year of 3,247,749.
– They have lost 20,000,000 in New South Wales alone.
– Honorable members must to a certain extent be guided by these statistics. I know they are not absolutely correct, but we must accept them as far as we can.
– The honorable member might just as well quote the figures for 1900 as the figures he is quoting.
– We shall know the exact position very shortly, when the war census is taken. Other figures, however, are more important than those I have already given. The records of the number of animals slaughtered, and those giving the natural increase in the herds, show that the number of cattle slaughtered has exceeded the increase. That is a state of things which cannot be overlooked. In 1911, 450,000 quarters of meat were exported; in 1912-13, the number was 1,066,000; in 1913-14 it was 1,275,000; and last year 1,876,000. This huge increase of from 450,000 to 1,876,000 has taken place since the establishment of the Beef Trust in Australia. The figures show plainly how far the trust is responsible for the big export trade, and give some indication of how the trust has obtained control over all the meatworks in the Commonwealth. If the trust has not absolute control over all the meat-works in Queensland, it is in a position to buy practically the whole of their output at the present time.
– Is that a fair thing to say when there is no output at the present time?
– They are not killing, but there is an output from the works.
– Where is it going 1
– It is going through Armour and Company to the British Government. °
– It could not go anywhere else.
– Probably not, because that is the best market.
– No. It is because the Government have said the meat cannot be allowed to go anywhere else.
– The Government have not said that.
– I know they have.
– Previous to the outbreak of the war, Armour and Company obtained control over the majority of the meat-works in Queensland other than those controlled by Swift and Company. By that means it was proposed to corner the world’s markets. The trust increased its stall space in the Smithfield Market, and is now in a position to control prices in London. When honorable members know how extensive the power and influence of the trust is, does it not strike them that it is time the- Commonwealth Government made some serious effort to obtain power of control. It is quite true, as has been suggested, that the State Go- .vernments have power, but it must be remembered that that power does not extend beyond the boundary of each individual State. What is required for the control of this trust is a central authority possessing full power of action. Otherwise, in a few years, the Commonwealth will not be in a position to cope with the great financial resources of the Beef Trust. There are other figures that I should like to submit for the consideration of honorable members opposite, who apparently do not pay very much attention to the manner in which the Beef Trust is operating. I should like, at the same time, to draw attention to the attitude of the New South Wales Government in this matter. That Government has taken a keen interest in the export of wheat. It lias prevented butter being sent into any other State, but it has not prevented cattle being sent over the border into Queensland, with the result that one of the works on the northern rivers of New South Wales has been compelled to close down. The State of New South Wales cannot afford to allow its cattle to be sent into any other State, seeing that it is itself so short of meat that it is begging Queensland to be generous enough to send shipments; but during the first five months of this year no fewer than 30,181 head of cattle were taken into Queensland from the northern rivers district of New South Wales and a small portion of the northern part of the State.
– That would be mostly dairy cattle.
– It was. I am quoting these figures in order to show the extent of the operations of the Beef Trust and Swift and Company, not only in New South Wales, but throughout the length and breadth of Queensland. I am convinced, as the result of my experience, that every meat works in Queensland today fears the next move, knowing that they may be compelled to close their doors, just as the Aberdeen meat works and the Byron Bay meat works have been compelled to close.
– Why should it be necessary for the honorable member to plead with his own party like this ?
– I am not pleading with my own party. I am telling the people what they do not know. My Government are anxious and willing to do what is desired, but I think it is also right that the people of the Commonwealth should know why they cannot get cheap meat. They cannot get cheap meat because of the presence of the Beef Trust in Australia. When the Beef Trust first came, we were told that before very long it would fix the price of the miner’s) breakfast in Charters Towers, just as it would also fix the price of the professional man’s breakfast in Melbourne. If we follow the history of the trust, I think we shall discover that it will very soon be powerful enough to fix the price of every meal of every individual in the Commonwealth. The trust has done that elsewhere, and it is doing it now in Australia. I do not know whether honorable members saw the cable appearing on the 14th of this month - I think it was that date; 1 am speaking from memory - announcing that the American Beef Trust had entered into a combination with other beef trusts in Argentina for the purpose of forming a world-wide combination to deal with the meat supplies of the world. Knowing that, every member of this Parliament ought to use all the influence at his command to prevent this trust gaining more power over the Australian meat trade. If the people will not give the Commonwealth Government the power to do what is necessary in that direction, I am afraid the result will be that the people will not again have the opportunity of obtaining adequate supplies of that wholesome food which has made Australians such a sturdy race. That our soldiers in Gallipoli and elsewhere have been able to show such great bravery and endurance is owing, in a large measure, to the fact that Australians are big meateaters. The present operations of the Beef Trust suggest that in the future the same plentiful supplies of meat will not be available, and our people may become weaklings on that account. If the people of the Commonwealth are anxious to do the right thing by themselves, they will assist the Government to deal with the situation by giving them greater powers for the purpose of controlling the American Beef Trust, and preventing the trust from operating in Australia in the same manner that it is operating in other parts of the world. In the Old Country, it is almost impossible to buy a decent piece of meat under about 2s. per lb.
– Draw it mild.
– I wish the honorable member would not interject, because he knows nothing of this subject. The honorable member states that he has read the report of the Commission which inquired into the operations of the Beef Trust. That report stated definitely that the
American Beef Trust - with which is associated the names of Armour and Company, Swift and Company, and Morris and Company - is here; yet the honorable member would deny that this trust has brought about the present shortage that has been responsible for the action of the South Australian Government in pleading to the Queensland Government to help to feed its starving community. The honorable member for Wakefield laughs. He always laughs when he hears of the existence of poverty, and of the squeezing out of the people of money that they should not have to pay. Let him read the summary of the Judge’s report and then state his opinion as a man whether the Beef Trust is in Australia.
– The Judge laid out the honorable member in one act.
– I am not so easily blown out as is the honorable member for Wakefield, who, I am sure, is delighted to know that many of the workers in South Australia arc paying ls. 4d. a lb. for meat. I invite him to listen to these statements which appear in the report -
The past history- of the so-called Beef Trust in other countries renders it necessary that the development of the activities of these three companies in Australia should be carefully followed, and I recommend that for this purpose the Government of the Commonwealth should communicate with the Governments of the several States, and invite their co-operation.
It is improbable that any of these three companies has any present intention of engaging in the local trade in Australia. Their immediate object in coining here is to increase their supplies of refrigerated meat for distribution in the course of their trade in the United Kingdom and the United States.
At the present time they control upwards of one-half of the beef exported to the United Kingdom from South America, and if, in addition, they acquire control over a large part of the output of frozen moat from Australia, the power which they are said to possess already, if acting in combination, of influencing prices in the United Kingdom will be very largely increased. If they combined for the purpose, their organization and financial resources would probably enable them to acquire control over a large proportion of the output from Australia.
The matter is one of Imperial and Argentine, as well as Australian, concern, and I recommend that the Government of the Commonwealth endeavour to arrange with the Imperial Government, and with the Government of the Argentine Republic, for a frequent interchange of communications and opinions in connexion, with future developments, with a view to concerted action, if necessary and practicable, in the event of any detrimental combination of forces being reported.
– According to the last reports which I have had, the trust owns three-fourths of the South American meat.
– It owns the whole of the South American output. Armour and Company are buying from Baines Brothers, the Queensland Meat Export Company, Brisbane, and the Ross River and Lakes Creek Meat works, and Burt and Company’s establishments in Brisbane, and on the Burdekin River as well as the output of the Ocean Beach Meat Works of New Zealand. Swift and Company have two meat works in Queensland, and sufficient evidence was submitted to the Judge to support the belief that the whole output of Sims, Cooper and Company, of Melbourne, passed into their hands on the London market. These facts, and the prices of meat throughout the Commonwealth, show that it is time that we organized the meat industry to insure an adequate supply of meat, and that we prohibited the slaughter of female cattle, imitating in that respect the British Government. It has seen fit to do that because of the operation in the London market of the Beef Trust, and we should take similar action. The shortage of milk and butter in Australia is largely due to the presence of the Beef Trust, which has offered such high prices for live stock that many useful and profitable dairy cattle have been slaughtered, and dairy farmers find that they cannot make good the loss to their herds. It is not surprising that Victoria should be short of cattle, seeing that last year she slaughtered nearly three times as many female beasts as bullocks.
– Many of the beasts were dying because of the drought.
– Victoria is in a poor position regarding stock, because of the extensive slaughtering of female cattle and calves. This State has been practically the largest exporter of veal, and now cannot provide meat for its own people, much less export any. No State should be allowed to export until its own people are assured an adequate supply of meat. I hope that the citizens of the Commonwealth will give this Parliament power to deal effectively with the Beef Trust. We shall then be able to insure to the people an adequate supply of good, wholesome meat at reasonable prices, seeing that, per head of population, we have more cattle and sheep than any other country in the world. I trust that the result of the referendum will be the amendment of the Constitution in a way which will give us the power that we need.
.- Having read the pre-Budget statement of the Treasurer, having listened with interest to the subsequent debate, and having given as close attention as I can to the financial position of the Commonwealth, I have come to the conclusion that the imposition of an income tax is without justification, and I shall oppose the proposal as unnecessary and unwise at this juncture. I shall state as briefly and succinctly as I can my reasons for thinking that we can finance both our war and our ordinary expenditure this year, without the imposition of an income tax, chiefly by the exercise of reasonable economy. I appreciate the difficulty of the Treasurer’s position, and recognise his desire to do his duty by the Commonwealth. This is not the time to criticise financial administration as closely as it should be criticised under ordinary circumstances, but obviously the Government and the Caucus behind them are taking advantage of the war to propose crushing taxation, not only to raise revenue, but also to advance their policy of Unification and Socialization. The direct taxation proposals of the Government are inextricably associated with great constitutional questions. I am of opinion that we need important and substantial amendments of the Constitution, but if it is the desire of the Government, of the Labour Caucus, and of the Labour Conferences that meet periodically in the large centres of population to bring about Unification by the imposition of the crushing taxation now proposed-
– The honorable member must not pursue his present line of argument.
– What I desire to show is that, not only will the proposed income taxation seriously interfere with private enterprise by taking from the citizens large sums which they would ordinarily devote to industrial investment, not only will it fall crushingly on the primary producers who have just suffered from the most disastrous drought in our history, but it will also have a direct effect in bringing about Unification. There are two ways in which Unification could be brought about : it could be brought about by an amendment of the Constitution in the manner provided for in the amendment clauses of the Constitution itself, and it could be brought about by the subordination of the States to the Commonwealth by the invasion of their avenues of taxation. The effect of doubling direct taxation must be to subordinate the States to the Commonwealth, and to so harass the taxpayers that they must demand some new form of government, and will probably be compelled to accept some kind of Unification. This is a most unworthy method of bringing into existence a form of government which, if it is to bc established by the Government’s lead, should be brought about by means for which the Constitution itself provides. I cannot but think that this crushing form of taxation is brought forward largely in accordance with the instructions of the Caucus itself, and that it has for its object the Unification of the Commonwealth. I believe also that it must necessarily have the effect of bringing about that form of Socialism to which the Government and the Caucus, which receives its instructions from the various Labour Conferences, are pledged. By the imposition of direct taxation of a crushing character on the enterprise of the Commonwealth, they hope to tax the value out of that enterprise, and so to make much easier the path by which the Government may reach the policy of Socialism, which is their real objective. The Government have made no genuine attempt to finance the war and the peace requirements of the Commonwealth without resort to direct taxation. Such form of taxation I hold to be unnecessary, and at least it should not be imposed during the present financial year. The Government have already invaded State avenues of taxation by the imposition of a heavy land tax, and by a super-tax on estates in the form of probate duties. That is a source from which the States have derived large revenues. We now find the Commonwealth Government making an attack on the only other important avenue of direct taxation upon which the States rely, to provide for the ordinary machinery of government. This avenue of taxation is being invaded by the Federal Government under the pretext that the war renders it necessary to do so; but their primary object, in my opinion, is» that of bringing about the dominance of this Parliament, and of advancing its own Socialistic policy. I regret to make these observations; but I believe that the Government, in framing their present taxation proposals, have regarded their own policy rather than the necessity of raising revenue to meet the exigencies of the war a3 the most important consideration. There is another reason why this form of heavy taxation should not be imposed. The primary producers of Australia have recently suffered the most serious drought in our history. Many of them have been ruined. Some of our pastoralists, in addition to paying a heavy land tax, have had to incur an expenditure running up to £60,000 and £70,000 in order to keep alive a portion of their flocks. Throughout the pastoral and agricultural districts of Australia tens of thousands of primary producers have been able to carry on during the last twelve months only by increasing their indebtedness, and they are relying on their returns during the present year to enable them to repay the temporary loans so raised. I do not wish to he regarded as holding a brief for the large land-owner, but it is only fair to point out that in the back country, where the land is suitable only for grazing, it is necessary that our flocks should be raised, as soon as possible, to their normal numbers, in order that our production and exports may be increased. Those who have had to incur this heavy expenditure - our wheat and wool -growers, and our stock-raisers - have just passed through the most severe and bitter experience in our history. The Prime Minister has frequently said that the recent drought was not nearly so severe as was that of 1902. The complete returns as to the losses in connexion with our flocks during the last twelve months will not be obtainable until next year, but as the result of careful investigation by the Pastoralists Association and other agencies,’ it has been estimated that the loss of sheep throughout Australia during the recent drought was, at least, 25.000,000. That, in my opinion, is really an under estimate. In my own electorate from 50 to 80 per cent, of the flocks have been lost, and I do not hesitate to say that graziers in the Chairman’s constituency have lost more than half their total flocks. The increase this year is not likely to be considerable; in all probability it will not amount to more than 15 per cent, or 20 per cent. I propose to compare the losses sustained during the drought of 1902 with those of 1914-15. As I have already mentioned, the lowest estimate of the loss of sheep during the last twelve months is 25,000,000, whereas, according to Mr. Knibbs, the total losses in 1902 were 16,000,000.
– That is not including Queensland.
– It is for the whole of Australia. When the full statistics for 1914-15 are available, it will probably be found that our loss of sheep in 1914-15 was more than double that of 1902. Then, again, the loss of cattle in 1902 was 1,400,000, whereas, according to the latest returns - and they are not complete - the losses of cattle throughout the Commonwealth in 1914-15 total 2,500,000. Let me give yet another illustration of the severity of the recent drought. In 1902, we had in hand 1,800,000 tons of hay, whereas in 1914-15 we had 3,300,000 tons of hay, yet during the last twelve months the price of chaff has risen to double that prevailing in 1902. The highest price paid for chaff to my knowledge, in 1902, was something like £8 per ton, whereas in 1914-15 the price rose up to ‘£15, and even £18 per ton.
– Seeing that the production of hay during the last twelve months was nearly double that of 1901 the price of chaff should have been lower.
– The fact that the price was so much higher than in 1902 goes to show what enormous sums were expended in the purchase of fodder with which to keep our herds alive.
– It shows that the middlemen were manipulating the fodder market
– That is an old cry It is indeed the only reply that the Labour party can make when any increase of prices is mentioned. Leaving that aspect of the question, I wish now to point out that if, as I contend, no income tax should be imposed by the Commonwealth, it is necessary for me to show how the war can be financed in other ways. I agree partly with the statement made by the right honorable member for Swan that we should not resort to new taxation. It might be necessary to impose certain taxation in other directions, but certainly not to anything like the extent forecasted by the Treasurer in respect of the income tax. I shall give what I consider are sound reasons for my contention that we should finance the war by loan. I propose to make a few comparisons between the financial conditions of Australia and those of Great Britain. In the Commonwealth Tear-Hook, page 724, it is shown that, at the end of 1914, Australia had. a total indebtedness of £317,000,000.
– It is now much greater.
– Quite so ; but I can only quote the latest statistics published in the Tear-Book, and it is shown in the T ear-Book that most of this indebtedness has been incurred in respect of reproductive works. At page 724 it is set out that £192,188,206 was expended on railways and tramways; £4,224,733 on telegraphs and telephones; £42,611,856 on water supply and sewerage; £29,738,314 on roads and bridges, rivers, harbors, &c. ; £2,389,782 on defence; £3,935,851 on immigration; £7,913,391 on other public works and purposes; and £16,849,203 on land purchases for settlement, advances to settlers, &c. The only item that might be challenged as not being reproductive is that of £13,229,339 loan expenditure on public buildings; but if we were carrying on business in a proper way we should probably find it necessary to make some charge by way of interest and rent in respect of public buildings occupied in carrying on the services of the country. From these figures it will be seen that all our borrowings have been in respect of public works, public institutions, and public trading operations, and that until the outbreak of this war we had no national debt in the ordinary sense of the term as understood in Europe. On the other hand, at the beginning of the war, Great Britain had a national debt of about £750,000,000, and it is estimated that, at the end of the present financial year, that debt will have been increased by at least £1 ,250.000 000, making a total war debt of about £2,000,000,000. On a population basis of 45,000,000, this works out at about £45 per head as the war debt which the people of Great Britain will have to carry. Let us turn now to our own position. To finance this war for this financial year we shall probably require to borrow, including the British war loan, about £45.000,000, which, with the carried-over indebtedness of about £15,000,000, will make our war loans at the end of the present financial year about £60,000,000, or £12 per head of population, as against the United Kingdom’s war indebtedness of £45 per head.
– Are you including the note issue?
– No, the amount will be increased if it is necessary for the Commonwealth to borrow at the end of the war in order to reduce the note issue. We do not know whether the Treasurer has utilized the note issue in order to finance the States, or has received from the Imperial Government as much of the loan of £18,000,000 as has been advanced to the States, or the position of the Government with the banks. Even if we assume that £20,000,000 will be borrowed at the end of the war in order to reduce the note issue, the -per capita indebtedness of Australia will be less than half that of Great Britain.
I admit that Great Britain can cope with a larger public debt than Australia. A comparison of the per capita taxation in Great Britain and Australia is not altogether conclusive, because Great Britain has a bigger income per head and can afford to pay a great amount of taxation and a bigger interest bill than Australia can. The income of Great Britain is estimated at £2,300,000,000 per annum, equivalent to £51 per head. The income of Australia is difficult to arrive at. But assuming it to be about £100,000,000, it is equal to about £20 per head of population. Therefore, whilst we will have at the end of the present financial year, that is, the middle of next year, a war debt per head less than half that of Great Britain, our income per head also is less than half that of Great Britain. It must be remembered also that Great Britain is a credit country, and has not the developmental work to do which is before Australia, and which requires that a very large amount of the money won from Australia’s production must be employed in developmental work in order to bring about further production.
– Do you say that Australia has an income of £100,000,000 per year?
– Mr. Knibbs in one of his publications of last year states that the incomes of over £200 per annum total from £63,000,000 to £65,000,000, and it is roughly estimated that the inclusion of all incomes would increase the total to about £100,000,000. I desire now to deal with the present revenue. From the stand-point of revenue, the imposition of the income tax is not necessary. I have already expressed my opposition to the introduction of a form of taxation which represents an invasion of the States’ sphere of revenue-raising, and which, in my opinion, is introduced on this occasion for the purpose of furthering the policy of the present Government. However, I do not wish to deal with that matter further. The Treasurer forecasted a total expenditure of £74,043,104. Deducting the anticipated war expenditure of £45,748,450, there is an anticipated balance of ordinary expenditure of £28,294,654. Deducting the estimated revenue of £23,540,654, there is left a debit balance of £4,754,654. That is exclusive of the £3,000,000 to be expended on the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta railway, which is financed through the note issue. That deficiency must be provided for. The right honorable member for Swan made the suggestion that certain savings could be made, and that these would reduce the total deficit very considerably. I think substantial savings should be made. But I am not taking them into consideration at present. I am basing my calculations on the Estimates submitted by the Treasurer. There are several items of expenditure that should be transferred to loan account. These include land purchase for defence, £98,000 ; Home Affairs, now works, £800,000; PostmasterGeneral, new works, £850,000; and External Affairs, £24,000. Then there is the estimated deficit of about £600,000 on the operations of the Postal Department. During this time of war, no loss in the Postal Department can be defended. There are opportunities for economy in the Department, and I am sure the PostmasterGeneral is looking very closely into that phase of the question. We require legitimate economy in postal expenditure, and there are ample opportunities within the Department itself to obtain sufficient revenue to wipe out the yearly deficit. To dip into the Consolidated Revenue’ in order to make good the losses on the Postal Department is not permissible in this time of war. If that £600,000 of estimated deficit is wiped out by economies and increases of postage, as the Leader of the Opposition very properly proposed, there is no reason why, with the transfer to loan account of the items I have mentioned, the deficit should not be reduced by £2,372,000 leaving a final debit balance of £2,382,000. The latter sum includes £1,200,000 for interest and £500,000 for war pensions; and I think it represents the total amount of revenue which the House should be asked to raise during the next twelve months. I believe that a large proportion of that deficit might be wiped out by judicious economy in public expenditure, and I am sorry that a greater effort is not being made by the National Parliament to give a lead to the State Parliaments and also to the people of Australia in reducing their business and living expenses. I am not one of those who believe in cutting down expenditure on reproductive public works because we happen to be at war. We should continue, as far as practicable, a proper policy of public works ; but wise economy in expenditure might reduce very considerably the deficit of £2,372,000. Such economies cannot be effected piecemeal, but probably a sub-Committee of the Cabinet appointed to go into the whole question would be able to suggest reasonable reductions in expenditure in many directions. But even if the £2,372,000 must be raised, there is no need whatever to impose any form of income tax. This Parliament has complete control over Customs taxation, and it is our duty to exhaust our opportunities in those fields of taxation we have already exploited before we attempt to encroach upon other forms of taxation which are necessary if the States are to carry on their share of the business of the country. Whatever may be our opinions about the extension of the Commonwealth’s legislative powers, we know that throughout Australia the State Parliaments alone are the legislative bodies charged with the important questions of production, control of railways, provision of water supplies, establishment of irrigation works, land settlement, and agricultural and ordinary education. Those are functions of the highest importance. I make no particular appeal for the States. Whatever opinion I may have as to the submission of the referenda proposals at the present time, I believe that certain, amendments of the Constitution should be made. The Commonwealth must grow; and we should use the constitutional machinery to increase our legislative power and widen our constitutional ambit. But if more revenue is required, by the imposition of a supertax in connexion with the Customs we can easily raise another £2,000,000. The New Zealand Tariff in a time of peace represented £3 4s. Id. per head, while the Commonwealth Tariff now represents £2 12s. 3d. per head.
– Would the honorable member go on the lines of the New Zealand Tariff, and tax, say, tea and kerosene ?
– That is a suggestion for a proper adjustment; and these, of course, would be revenue duties.
– Does the honorable member suggest that tea and kerosene should be taxed ?
– I am not here for the purpose of framing a Customs policy, but to suggest that the Commonwealth in war time can surely afford to pay through the Customs an amount equal to that paid by New Zealand in time of peace. As the matter stands at present, there is a difference of lis. 3d. per head between the two, and, as I have said, if we were to attain the New Zealand standard, it would bring us in another £2,000,000 or £2,500,000.
– But would that not increase the cost of living t
– I am not discussing the effect of Customs duties; my proposal is one to raise revenue. As a matter of fact, there is no form of taxation that will not increase the cost of living, though that is a point which seems to be lost sight of altogether ; there seems to be an impression that we may continue to tax, and that it will make no difference beyond increasing the revenue. We should remember, however, that every £1 per head of new taxation will lessen production throughout Australia, and, at the same time, increase the cost of production and the cost of living of every person. I do not assume for one moment that the whole of the requisite revenue could not be obtained through the Customs, but there is the fact to be remembered that £6,500,000 is paid annually to the various States. Why was not some endeavour made by the present Treasurer to consult the State Treasurers as to whether it would not be advisable for the States to relinquish some of this payment?
– The States cannot spare a penny !
– What I mean is that the States should relinquish some of the money if such were found necessary to avoid further direct Commonwealth taxation. I am not stating this as a course dictated by final necessity or contingency. If more money is required than can be raised through the Customs - though, as I have said, I think £2,000,000, which is more than sufficient, can be raised - there might have been a conference with the State Treasurers with a view to a suggestion that some of the £6,500,000 should be relinquished, leaving it to the States to impose additional income tax if necessary. My own opinion, however, is that no such step is necessary. We have the Customs to work on ; and whatever the shortage in the revenue may be, it ought not to exceed £2,000,000, or, indeed, reach anything like that amount, and there is no justification for going outside the Customs for the necessary increase. If it proved necessary next year to revise the whole system of taxation, then would be time enough to do so; but for this year no income tax ought to be imposed. Such taxation is without justification, and it is sinister, inasmuch as it fosters the policy of Unification and furthers the objective of Socialism. It is a double form of taxation which is a crushing burden to the taxpayer - a burden which will ultimately cause those who have to bear it to reconsider the whole position with a view to a revision of the Constitution. This is a means taken by the Government in a time of war to invade further the State arena of taxation ; and the effects can only be those I have indicated. I am sorry to find throughout the Commonwealth a sentiment that, because this is a time of war, we must have Llew taxation. As a matter of fact, now is the time to increase our production ; and we shall not satisfactorily finance the war if we seriously interfere with enterprise. The great primary producing elements are the main factors which will enable us to return to something like normal conditions of prosperity. These primary industries have recently come through the worst drought in our history, in the face of great financial difficulty, and in a great patriotic effort are endeavouring to produce as much wheat as possible, not only to finance the war, but to feed our own troops abroad. Under these circumstances, I hope that the Ministry, even at the eleventh hour, may be induced to reconsider the imposition of this crushing taxation, which, if imposed, will, as I say, seriously interfere with enterprise, and must have a very prejudicial effect on the production of the Commonwealth - a production without which we cannot make progress, to say nothing of financing the war, and which alone can bring back prosperity to this community.
.- The honorable member for Wimmera must be congratulated on taking a very broad outlook on the present financial situation, which, as he says, has been brought about by an unusual and novel set of circumstances. War, for the first time in the history of this country, throws us upon our own resources; and I do not know that it is a bad thing that we should realize what it means to live upon our own income, instead of adopting the profligate habit of the past, and indulging in too lavish borrowing and spending. I do not say Chat Australia could have made the progress she has, or that we could have attained our present position, without the advantage of the cash reserve of the Old Country, which was the credit or nation of the world, and, by reason of that fact, has been enabled to extend the Empire round the globe. As it is, we have the power and the will now to send to the front 100,000 men equipped, trained, and maintained by ourselves; and these men have brought credit, not only on themselves, but on their worthy parents. If there is one thing more than another that makes us realize our duty at home, it is the noble service rendered abroad by that small quota of our manhood which has gone to the front. We, as politicians, may do much, according to our lights, to advance the economic development of our country, and to put our house in order ; but what we have done is very little compared to that which has been done by our men abroad, and which has placed them on a pinnacle of fame impossible to us who remain here. No matter what sacrifices we in Australia may be called upon to make, we should take care that they are sufficient to meet the present necessities of the country. The Treasurer has called his financial statement a rough estimate of the income and expenditure for the year 1915-16; but it is a statement which, I regret to say, does not, to my mind, deal with the present exigencies of the country in a manner that the people have a right to expect.
The outstanding feature of the financial statement is, in my judgment, a failure to recognise that economy in the expenditure of public money is one of our great needs. I do not wish to suggest that there should be less efficiency, but, rather, that there should be greater efficiency, at a less cost than in the past.
– You want to “ eat your cake and have it.”
– That has not been the habit of my life. As I have already said, we have by this war been cast on our own resources, and we have to consider the means available to vigorously prosecute that war, and, at the same time, carry on our government. We are promoting an Australian war loan of £20,000,000, and the terms of that loan are, I think, generous. Those in charge of the liquid capital in the country - or that capital which lies most closely to liquid form - would be failing in their duty if they did not recognise the fact that they should place at the disposal of the Government the means necessary to enable us to take our share in this great world contest. The terms associated with the loan are very generous, particularly in view of the drought conditions which have been associated with the industries of the country during the past twelve or eighteen months. Roughly speaking, the wealth of Australia is about £1,700,000,000, the bulk of which is invested in the primary industries; and, in calling for the cash reserves, which the Government should have no difficulty in securing, recognition should be paid to the conditions under which the balance of the country’s wealth is invested. The loan interest rate has been fixed at 4£ per cent., which, judged by various computations, means that the loan, with exemptions from taxation, will be equivalent to an investment at 5£ per cent. This is a very generous rate of interest compared with the returns that have recently been obtained. During the period of drought, much capital invested in the primary industries, not only returned no interest, but was only partially preserved after a severe struggle. Those people whose wealth took the form of liquid cash suffered no loss of capital, and they will, no doubt, be able to take full advantage of the high rate of loan interest; and the effect will be that those members of the community whose wealth is immovably invested will not only have the privilege of paying on their own account whatever taxes are imposed as a result of the expenditure on the war, and any consequent financial stringency, but they will also have the privilege of paying the taxation which would in other circumstances be imposed upon the interest of the capital now invested in this loan. I believe all sections of the community will rise to the present occasion, for I know of no better form of investment than that provided by the war loan, considering the immunity from taxation which interest income will enjoy, but I hope that the Treasurer, when allocating loan bonds, will, as far as possible, endeavour to make allocation in favour of that capital not now at the disposal of the primary or fixed industries of the Commonwealth. Large sums of money are now held by friendly and other societies, and I think these societies cannot help the country in a better way than by placing their funds at the disposal of the Government.
– It is already invested in mortgages.
– Some of it is, I know, but there is a good deal of reserve for which I do not think that a better or more liquid form of investment, bearing in mind the requirements of the societies, can be found. My reason for emphasizing this point is that, as has been pointed out by the honorable member for Wimmera, during the past twelve or fifteen months the country has suffered an internal loss of, at least, seventy or eighty million pounds, and at the present time, when the country is cast upon its own resources, everything possible should be done to further the extension of internal credit. The country has lost 30,000,000 head of sheep, which may be put down at £1 per head.
– If they had been sold they would not have realized that amount.
– The honorable member will probably know that in normal seasons the fair average value of a sheep is 15s. in the wool. To-day that average has gone up to 30s., though I do not believe there is sufficient money in Australia to maintain such’ a price. It will certainly not be produced by a broken or dishevelled clip, for the effects of the drought will be reflected in the weight of the wool clip. Another heavy item of loss is the shrinkage in the wheat harvest- from 100,000,000 bushels in the previous year to 25,000,000 bushels last year. That represents a shortage of 75,000,000 bushels - approximately, £20,000,000. Then there is the shortage of dairy produce, of fruit, and losses in other directions, which may be put down at about £10,000,000, in addition to which must be reckoned the enormous amount expended in maintaining the stock that survived the drought. Very few people, except those actually engaged in pastoral industries or in the associated financial undertakings, know the strain that was experienced in preserving the country’s stock.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– In the past we have relied far too much on borrowing, and we have now to make a choice between what I might call the voluntary system of obtaining revenue, that is internal borrowing, and the compulsory system, that is the imposition of taxation; or we may have a combination of the two. As I have said, the terms on which the war loan has been issued are very generous, and I advise all who have the welfare of the country at heart to make sacrifices, if necessary, to secure the successful flotation ofthe loan, about which I have little doubt. In addition to the losses which the primary producers have recently sustained must be mentioned the losses in connexion with the lambings of 1914 and 1915. Next year we shall be in rather a worse position, so far as our holdings of stock are concerned, than we occupy now, because of consumption in the meantime. We must all deplore the loss of national assets. The country depends for its prosperity chiefly on the export of wool, wheat, beef, mutton, and lamb. The primary producers do not ask for immunity from war taxation, but I ask on their behalf that that taxation may be imposed equitably and fairly. I am not convinced that in the present state of our finances the imposition of an income tax is necessary for war purposes. The rough estimates of the Treasurer show that the public works and general expenditure for the year will be about £3,250,000 in excess of that of last year, and I am not satisfied that by judicious economy a considerable saving could not be effected. I have always advocated in principle the taxation of incomes, and if it can be shown that income taxation is necessary, the proposals now before Parliament will have my support. But I must be satisfied that it is necessary. I recognise that the income tax must be contributed to by all sections of the community. The land taxation of the Labor party discriminates unfairly between those who have invested their money in land, taking the risks of the season, from which no one can protect either his income of his capital, and those who have invested in other securities. Not only does the investor in land often run the risk of losing much of his capital, but he also suffers from depreciation of values, particularly as the result of taxation. While Labour members have advocated the destruction of trusts, combines, and monopolies, they have so far refrained from taxing these combinations. How much of the land taxation is contributed by the shipping ring, the tobacco combine, or any of the great associations of manufacturers and financiers of which they complain ? It seems to me that, under the income tax proposals, there is to he an improper discrimination against the land-owner, there being two rates of tax, one to be imposed on incomes resulting from personal exertion, and the other from the incomes obtained from property. The taxation of an income of £600 - the remuneration of members of this Parliament - the result of personal exertion, is to be a little over £10, but if the produce of property, is to-be over £30. That seems unfair. By the terms of a will, a widow and her family may be dependent on the income of money that” has been invested in property, and should such an investment produce £600 they must pay a tax of over £30, while a Federal politician drawing the same income will pay only £10.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss in detail the provisions of the Income Tax Bill.
– The Government should recognise before finally asking Parliament to pass the schedule that, in the case of money invested in property, while the owner of the industry may pay at personal exertion rates on, say, 50 per cent., he will really pay at the higher rate on the other part of the money subscribed by the capitalist, because the lender will adjust his rate of interest according to the tax. I trust the Government will alter the income period to make it run instead of from the 1st January to 31st December, 1914, to the 1st July, 1914, to the 30th June, 1915, be cause it is a bad principle to legislate for the past, and while the primary industries got fair returns from the harvest of 1913-14, and the subsequent shearing, that money, and more, was exhausted before 31st December, 1914, in an endeavour to save the stock. The income period should, therefore, be reconsidered in fairness to those who are really carrying the chief taxation burden of the war, because those who have their money immovably invested in land or secondary industries, will have to bear the burden of the taxation on the war loan, while those who have free money, and invest it in the war loan, will be exempt from income taxation on it, even if the total borrowed to meet war exigencies reaches £100,000,000. Consequently those engaged in primary and secondary industries will have to pay not only their own taxation, but the taxation which the interest upon the war loan would carry. The honorable member for Wimmera made, I think, an overestimate in computing the total income of Australia at £100,000,000. Our total production is about £230,000,000, coming from primary and secondary industries, but from the value of the production of the secondary industries, there must be deducted the value of the raw material imported. I do not believe that from such a total production we have an income of £100,000,000 a year; £80,000,000 would be nearer the mark. On the figures I gave, the annual production per head would be about £45 - a fact which destroys a good deal of the political capital made by those who advocate the equal distribution of wealth and industry in this country. If we had a highly socialized community with an equal annual distribution of all our wealth on the basis of £45 a head, and that money was spent in the ordinary way, who would fight a war for us ? “Where would the war fund come from 1 Where would the cash reserves be? I understand that the most ideal Socialistic doctrine has never yet made provision for fighting a war.
– No man who knows what Socialism is would be such a fool as to say that.
– The honorable member should not interject if he cannot use different lauguage. With a production of £45 a head, and a war on top of us, we have to deal with three spheres - production, States expenditure, and the war zone. We cannot supplement our activities at present by borrowing from outside, and there is a clamour that public expenditure and public works should proceed at the old rate. There has been a natural diminution of the resources which support and stimulate production, and enable us to extend it, and the present position is most serious. I am not a pessimist, but we cannot pursue a lavish policy of public expenditure, and also in these times of restriction and financial stringency develop primary production. On the one side economy is the need and obligation of the Government, and, on the other, increased production is the obligation of every citizen who wishes to serve his country at home.
– Tell us where you would economize.
– In all public Departments. As regards the items of public works to which the nation is committed,! and which cannot be abandoned, if they amount to £2,000,000 or £3,000,000, I would make them the basis of an internal loan.
– More borrowing !
– The restriction of public borrowing is one of the planks of the Labour platform into which the white ants got long ago. It has gone, and a wholesale borrowing policy has taken its place. Next, I believe strict economy is necessary on the part of the Government. Take, for instance, the maternity allowance. I would give it only to everybody who absolutely requires it.
– Make it a pauper dole!
– I will take up the honorable member’s interjection. The Government have calmly and coolly, at war time, with pressing needs on top of them, laid down the principle that an income of £156 is a fair margin for immunity from taxation. All those in receipt of an income over £156 should, I believe, make provision for this matter them selves, and I would let all those under it receive the bonus. If there are special circumstances in cases where the income is more than £156, they can be met. Why, to use the honorable member’s own words, pauperize the people ? Only the other day the Minister for the Navy defended the Government policy with regard to war pensions on the very ground that the honorable member objects to now.
– He slipped there.
– But the whole Government is with him. It is the Government policy, and the honorable member is behind the Government, and has to help carry the matter through.
– I am against them there.
– The honorable member raises only a faint and distant voice in the matter. The highest form of service that can be given to a country is war service, but the Government which the honorable member supports have determined that there shall be a limit in regard to war pensions, in these times of financial stringency, and have actually fixed that limit. If it be a right principle to pursue in respect to one set of pensions, it should apply equally to those who, perhaps, have less claim to a pension than has the man who has fought for his country. In every Department of the Commonwealth, with the exception of the Treasury, provision is made in the Estimates for an increased expenditure; but I am confident that if the Government and their supporters had to go before the country immediately on the basis of these figures, they would quickly discover that economies could be effected. I recognise that the Government are up against the position that their policy is that of the development of a system of State enterprise, which naturally carries with it the burden of responsibility for State employment in a time of trouble and trade dislocation like the present. How often have we heard earnest appeals made by the honorable member for Cook regarding the responsibilities of the Government in connexion with employment? If I mistake not, there is going to be in Australia an acute struggle for employment. We must all regret the fact, but it cannot be denied that we are face to face with the prospect of much unemployment. It is a matter that we cannot lightly brush aside, and the Government must choose between State enterprise and private enterprise as a means of helping us over our difficulties. The various State Labour Governments are daily launching State enterprises, and levying taxation on private enterprise to enable’ them to be carried on. What’ is more, they are launching these State enterprises and taxing their rivals in trade. The test presently will be as to whether those enga”“‘1 in private enterprises are to dismiss their employees in order that the State may launch and carry on its industries. How many of these new industries are prosperous? We can hope to pull through the present difficulty only by increasing our production.
– And not by stifling it
– Quite so. That is one way of helping the country.
– What is the honorable member doing in that direction?
– Unlike the honorable member, I am doing a great deal more than yelling about the Beef Trust.
– The honorable member is yelling for the “ boodleiers.”
– It cannot be said that I have ever done that. I listened for three-quarters of an hour this afternoon to a tirade against the Beef Trust bv the honorable member for Oxley, who has discussed the subject again and again in this House, but has never once shown how we should deal with the trust. Under the Constitution the Government have power to “ scotch “ it. It is open to them to prevent the export of any of its products. They can prevent it from carrying on. In Queensland, of which the honorable member for Oxley is a representative, there is in power a Labour Government which could invalidate the Beef Trust’s contracts, and cast its corrupt directors - if there be any - into prison.
– Not if those contracts were made in Victoria.
– Even then, the Commonwealth Labour Government could prevent the Beef Trust from carrying on by prohibiting the export of its products. They could also introduce a system of licensing under which it could determine every condition relating to that export trade. I hope we shall hear no more of this yelling about the Beef Trust. We have had enough of it without any suggested remedy.
– Like the honorable member’s theory of making two blades of grass grow where only one grew before.
– I commend that theory to my honorable friend, and to the Government of which he is a supporter. That is one direction in which they mav overcome our present difficulties. We certainly shall not do so by taxing those who are struggling gamely to carry on the business of production, and who, yielding to the promptings of many Go vernments, have increased their areas under cultivation. It is not by a process of further taxing these industries that the Government are going to help Australia. They must provide for an equitable system of taxation and not, as the honorable member for Wimmera has pointed out, for a discriminating system of taxation under which the burden has to be borne by the primary producers. An income tax has my absolute support. It is an equitable means of raising revenue, since it reaches every citizen with an income, and in these days all who are enjoying the privileges and the protection of the country should contribute their fair share to the cost of its defence and government. The Government, however, have now an opportunity to show that they recognise that the primary producers have had to contend with very hard times. I have carefully prepared a balance-sheet dealing with the grazing industry in some of the choicest districts in Victoria on the basis of, not a year of drought, but a normal year. It shows that the income from some of these properties in normal times, allowing fair rates for their products, and deducting only trade expenses, is 4 per cent., and in some cases slightly less. The Government have told the country that in these times 4J per cent., plus exemption from income tax, is a fair rate of interest to allow on the war loan. This exemption from- income tax in some cases will mean a return of per cent. If 5£ per cent, is a fair return in the case of a man who does not carry on an industry, but merely holds cold cash and stands on the vantageground of past effort and previous earnings, surely a man who is carrying on grazing operations, and who has had to face a very severe drought during the last twelve months and provide employment, is entitled to a little more than 4 per cent, net when he shoulders such a responsibility. I hope, that the Government will be reasonable, and will exempt from the payment of income tax during the war that proportion of income that is subject to land taxation. That is all I ask. The men on the land have been up against hard times, and many have been ruined. The Government now propose to call upon them to pay an income tax in respect of the worst period they have ever experienced. That is unfair. This wretched discrimination at a time like the present makes one feel a little bitter. With every desire to assist in raising revenue by an equitable system of taxation for defence purposes, I cannot but feel annoyed that the Government should in these times resort to such wretched discrimination.
– If the man on the land has earned no income, he will have no income tax to pay.
– That interjection is right, and yet wrong. In respect of part of the time to which the tax will apply, the primary producers earned no income, but in respect of the remaining part they have had some income. The income from the harvest was secured in February and March ; but long before the twelve months had passed the whole of that income, as well as additional capital, had disappeared. There was an exhaustion of capital, and practically an exhaustion of spirit, The honorable member is too level-headed to be a party to the “little drought” theory.
– I should like to see the basis of the balance-sheet to which the honorable member has just referred.
– I shall not only show the honorable member that balancesheet, but will undertake to place the entire proposition at his disposal, for a fortnight, at the valuation put upon it by his own Federal valuer, and allow him a 10 per cent. discount upon it.
– None of them surrender very willingly.
– I would like to ask the honorable member if he has taken the trouble to scan any of the lists which set out contributions amounting to £3,000,000 that have been voluntarily subscribed since the outbreak of the war? There he will find the names of many generous donors of whom it ill becomes him to say that they will not readily pay their share of taxation.
– I was not referring to them.
– As far as those donations are concerned, I think we may well recognise that every section of the community - rich and poor alike - have generously contributed to the patriotic funds, and it ill becomes anybody to say that they have not realized their obligations.
– I did not refer to the patriotic funds.
– The honorable member was referring to taxation, I presume.
If they have contributed large sums for patriotic purposes of their own volition, it is only reasonable to suppose that they will gladly pay what is required of them by way of taxation. I have said before that in time of peace, I am an ardent individualist, but in time of war, if we are going to put the responsibility of government
– The honorable member is aSocialist.
– The honorable member is welcome to any admission I give him. He may use it freely. If we are going to hold those who are in charge of the affairs of this country responsible for the conduct of the war, it is only right that we should yield to them whatever they may reasonably require to prosecute it to a successful issue. All that we require to be satisfied about is that this taxation is necessary. I come now to a matter which I mentioned a little time ago, and upon which, I venture to say, neither the House nor the press was at that time so well informed as it is now. I allude to the taking over by the Commonwealth Government of the entire chartering of freight in connexion with the forthcoming harvest. On that occasion I spoke with some warmth, because I was honestly of opinion that a mistake had been made. Having reviewed all the circumstances, I am still of that opinion. I recognise that freight is the king-pin of the entire wheat trade. If that king-pin be disturbed, the trade, in all its ramifications, will be disturbed. At the time, the AttorneyGeneral handled this matter in a manner which I believed to be a very casual one. We have to recollect that the undertaking will probably involve an expenditure of from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 for freight. He claimed to have the authority of the States and the cordial co-operation of the entire trade in the arrangement which he had made. I affirmed that he had not made a good bargain, and that it was a mistaken policy on his part to select two members of the trade, to the entire exclusion of their competitors and to say to them, “ Come on. You shall be my elect in this matter.” I also advanced many reasons in support of my view that the bargain was a bad one. The Attorney-General did not attempt to combat my arguments, but, rather impudently, I think, turned upon me, and endeavoured to make it appear that I had levelled an accusation against some of the firms connected with the “ trade. I did nothing of the kind. All I did was to quote from the business-paper for the purpose of showing that an honorable member had placed a certain question there relating to this matter. For three days afterwards the Attorney-General met the representatives of the wheat trade in each State. He interviewed the representatives from the Chambers of Commerce, and others. I know what happened at those interviews, for I have been in close touch with the whole of the interests connected with this business. Until the third day the Attorney-General was unable to arrive at a basis of action. Even to-day he told us that he has not yet concluded the terms of the transaction - that he is still submitting terms as between the various representatives. Without having consulted Parliament, or the whole of the interests concerned, the honorable gentleman has committed the Commonwealth to a possible expenditure of £5,000,000 or £6,000,000 in the chartering of freight. His answer will, doubtless, be that the States are in partnership with the Commonwealth, and will share the financial responsibility in connexion with this matter. But the Age newspaper of the 17th August - and that journal stood as sponsor for the Attorney-General in the bargain which he made - states -
Mr. Hughes had to fight hard to secure the approval of the States’ representatives to his scheme, even with the modifications mentioned. They all admitted that the State Governments had agreed that the ship chartering should be centralized for the season, but at the outset they gave no allegiance to the details. Gradually, by argument and compromise, their resistance was worn down, and at lunch-time yesterday their final approval was given, subject to ratification by their Cabinets - at least the Victorian representatives made that a condition of their approval.
I do not think that the arrangement made by the Attorney-General was the best one that could have been made in the interests of the farmers. However, the Government have ratified his decision, and at the point of the bayonet he has succeeded in getting his unwilling partners into line with him.
– What does “ at the point of the bayonet “ mean ?
– That is about on a level with the honorable member’s usual interjections. As a matter of fact, I had a private chat with the Attorney-General on this matter, and I told him that I did not believe in the arrangement which he had made. But, assuming that all the interests concerned now cordially concur in that arrangement, what does it mean? Freight is one of the first lines of the wheat shipper. His ability to buy freight better than his competitor is a matter of material importance to him . His ability to sell cargo cheaper than his competitor furnishes him with another means of operating successfully. But under the arrangement which has been made by the AttorneyGeneral, his ability to operate will be crippled. While the Attorney-General disturbed that arrangement, he was unable to get from those who accepted this responsibility on behalf of the Commonwealth an undertaking that they could secure the whole of the freight necessary, or a definite agreement as to the price at which they could secure it. I have previously stated that I have no interest in this question except that of the producer. I have no interest in the operators, although, of course, the producers are always in touch with those who buy their wheat. The AttorneyGeneral has previously posed as the antagonist of trusts and combines, and now he undertakes to fight the biggest shipping combines on the other side of the world. He is acting as the representative of the Commonwealth, which is responsible for 3 or 4 per cent, of the world’s production of wheat, and he claims that by his entry into the business he can fight those combines in such a way as to be able to secure for the Commonwealth freights much cheaper than they would be provided by private enterprise. The commercial world will be very interested in seeing how the Attorney-General emerges from this contest, and many of those who support him in politics will wonder why he chooses to fight the shipping combines by employing the agents of those combines. Messrs. Elder, Smith, and Company are agents for many big companies, including one line with a total tonnage of 221,500,’ whilst Messrs. Gibbs, Bright, and Company represent the Commonwealth and Dominion Line, which controls 259,000 tons of shipping. Consider the peculiar position that Australia stands in when the producers have to rely on the Attorney-General to make the best bargain possible for cheap freights for their wheat, and the Attorney-General, in turn, must depend on the agents of some of the shipping lines in order to make that bargain.
– The Ministers of Agriculture approve of the scheme.
– It took the AttorneyGeneral, with all his strategy, three days to get the agreement ratified by the State Ministers at the point of the bayonet. Here, again, we have another illustration of the fact that Parliament is to be committed to its proportion of a liability of from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000 in respect of freights. The whole Commonwealth will anxiously await the result of the bargain that has been made. If the results show that a better arrangement has been made for the farmers by the Attorney-General than could have been made by private enterprise, I will be surprised, and I will be generous enough, to admit to the AttorneyGeneral in this chamber that his means were better than those previously employed. My conviction is that ultimately, as a result of this scheme, Australia will lose the genuine competition of wheat shippers; those who previously employed their capital in the wheat business will operate less freely, and the ultimate loss will fall on those engaged in the farming industry, and nobody else.
– In the course of this debate excellent speeches have been delivered by the honorable members for Cook, Balaclava, Oxley, and Wannon. I have always regarded finance as a non-party question. I have had no feeling against honorable members opposite because they are the creators and inheritors of the present system of Australian finance. They have never made any claim to be the champions of great financial reforms. They have entered this Parliament solely on the reputation of their ancestors They did not come here because of great ideas regarding financial, industrial, and commercial progress.
But ever since 1893 I have heard the members of the party to which I belong advocating reform, not alone in legislation, but also in administration, finance, and industry, and in the whole commercial and social world - organization, mobilization, utilization, and spiritualization.
All those proposals I have listened! to for twenty years, and when I entered this Parliament, fourteen yearsago, having been elected in Tasmania as an independent Protectionist, I thought that long before fourteen years had’ passed, if the Labour party attained1 power in the Commonwealth, the financeeof Australia would be organized in such’ a way that there would be no unemployment. Yet here we are to-day, and, lo’ and behold, Australia is the same as shewas. She wears the same dress, and the same kind of hat; she looks into the samemirror, and she uses the same paint and! powder.
After five long years of Labour government we are simply stepping into the market again in the good old Conservative game of borrow, boom, and: burst. To me such a state of affairs is sad; it may not be so to men who have not given consideration to this question.
I find that this year there will be a deficit of £53,500,000, and we have no solution to offer except the old one of floating a loan, and asking the “boodleiers” to put up the boodle. Then we propose, in this time of stress, a system of taxation, which, I admit, is the only expedient to adopt owing to lack of foresight in the past.
– The cardinal error was made when the Government failed to accept your scheme of 1908.
– The scheme of no man is accepted until he is dead, and then it is regarded as a new scheme. The war will cost us this year £47,554,000. We cannot avoid that expenditure ; that is legitimate. We cannot remain part of the great British Empire unless we fight for it, and that we ought to do, and are doing. Are we doing all that we should 1 The honorable member for Swan the other night complained that we are not doing it in the most economical way.
– What is system but crystallized uncommon sense? Can it be said that we are applying it to the conduct of this war? I suppose that anywhere from £5,000,000 to £10,000,000 of waste has occurred since the outbreak of hostilities. This is the fault, not of the Minister, but of the departmental financial experts who advise him.
Look at the beautiful1 advice they gave with regard to the horses, as the result of which we have” sent from 25,000 to 30,000 horses to Egypt. Horses are dear in Australia, and yet this immense number was sent to Egypt on the advice of the financial experts of the Department. Evidently it was thought that these animals would be wanted in the trenches to keep the men warm ; that the men could lie up against them just as we used to do with the “broncho busters” in the Rocky Mountains. This is an illustration of the system we are operating ! The first man who ought to have been put into the Defence Department, a month or three months after the war broke out, was one of the best and keenest business men to be found in Australia. We have been able to see that even in Prance horses are not wanted.
– Such a man ought to have been put there irrespective of the war.
– These things cannot be changed in a second. I had three years of administration, and God knows I look back with sadness at my experience. Experience is the germ of knowledge, and knowledge is the science of power.
– Anyway, you did very well.
– Well, they did not seem to think so. Unfortunately, I could nut be an animated or automatic rubber stamp, and so I was not popular.
In this great crisis, two months after the first battle was fought, every American expert travelling with the armies in France and Russia wrote leading articles in the American papers setting out that the day of cavalry was past. They stated that horses were of no earthly use in this war, even for hauling materials, because this could be done much more cheaply with motor trucks. The British Government promptly realized the position by giving an order for 40,000 motor trucks to Mr. Ford, of Detroit, Michigan. Three months after the war started I received those American papers containing the articles referred to, pointing out that horses were not wanted in this war; yet we have 25,000 or 30.000 of them in Egypt now, eating tucker. God deliver us from such business capacity ! What happens if a suggestion is made to the experts of the Department? If my friend, the Minister for the Navy, makes a suggestion, he will become as unpopular as I became.
– I will take the risk, anyhow.
– I know the Minister will do that, because he is a business man. Three or four experienced business men are badly needed in the Defence Department, and I do not care what wages or salaries are paid to them, because their presence is essential to the economic management of that Department.
I am with the Minister with regard to the policy of providing employment in Australia. At present there are 33,000 men out of work in this country, and many of them do not know where the next meal is coming from. This economic waste is a very serious matter, and in order to improve the situation I am strongly behind the Government with regard to the proposed loan, so that the various undertakings in Australia may be continued, thus preventing thousands more men being thrown out of employment.
In days gone by the curse of Australian banking was that just as soon as a few men were out of work, or a few withdrew their balances, the banks became scared and called up all their loans, thus precipitating a crisis. That, however, has not been the experience in England, for in times of stress the Bank of England expanded its credits and helped the crowd.
The Commonwealth Government must do the same thing in Australia, but it ought to be done on an organized system, and not under the direction of the ordinary officials, who are not business men. They are not business men because they have had no chance to be. They are honest and sincere enough, and they mean well, but they do not understand anything about such’ matters as this.
Shortly after the war broke out, Sir George Paish, the financial expert, was sent to America to arrange the finances and the international medium of exchange between the Old Country and America. Unfortunately, the Allies had to make immense purchases in America of all kinds of supplies. At the beginning of the war the people of the United States of America owed the Old Country some §400,000,000. This money was met by letters of credit, bills of exchange, sight drafts, acceptances, utilized in England and yet not paid in America. The business men of England were so corned over the situation that they declared a moratorium for a month. Sir George Paish was sent to America, and, under arrangements made by him, $200,000,000 were sent to Ottawa to liquidate the obligations in England. In the meantime a start was made to get supplies, and the balance of trade changed until at the end there was $1,000,000,000 in favour of America. At that time you could go to any broker or banker in the United States - east, west, north, or south - and if you had a British sovereign you could get in return for it $4 87 cents. ; but the exchange became so strong against Great Britain that the value fell to $4 5 cents. Pierpont Morgan came out of his sick room, where he had been suffering after being shot by a German ; and he was able to take his part again, to liquidate his obligations, and exchange is rising in the market. But what I say is that the international system of exchange is an international method of fraud; and the reason is that the capitalists of the world have made gold the basis of the world’s credit.
The total gold ,in the whole world is not a fortieth part of the wealth of the world. In other words, the United States to-day, according to the last financial census, is worth $200,000,000,000, or about £45,000,000,000, while the total gold in the United States is about $3,000,000,000, or £600,000,000. Yet the whole of the wealth of the United States is based on this £600,000,000.
As to Australia, Mr. Knibbs is very careful not to give a statement of the wealth. When I was in the Ministry it was proposed to bring out a statement showing the wealth of this country; but we could never arrive at it, and when we did get a little forward, the Senate upset the idea, Senator St. Ledger asserting that we were going into people’s private pockets. Now, however, it is proposed to go into people’s private boots, and to do it under a scare which did not influence me at the time of which I have spoken.
I calculate that the public debt of Australia, including that of municipalities, boards of works, and so forth, is £450,000,000, while the private debt is £300,000,000, so that the people of Australia owe publicly and privately - though, of course, we have great assets in our railways and other works - about £750,000,000. Of course, this includes deposits in the banks, private and public, representing about £250,000,000, against which there is a paid-up capital of about £25,000,000- all beyond the paid-up capital and reserves is liability. However, it is owing to our own people. Then, we have the mortgages of the nation. If we deduct the £750,000,000, I calculate that Australia is worth about £1,200,000,000 sterling, which would give a clear asset of about £450,000,000. That’ is what we are worth - that is the wealth of Australia.
The total gold in Australia to-day is about £34,000,000, and the whole of the £450,000,000, and the debt of £750,000,000, rests on that gold. Supposing that to-night, Divine Providence sent forth a cyclone which split the earth just where the vaults of the banks are, and the whole dropped on the upper crust of Hades - would the business of Australia stop ? Would we get our salaries next month? Would the tenants pay up? Would anybody pay up ? I am only saying this to show the folly of a nation - the folly of an intelligent people - basing the wealth of the nation on a gambling proposition that is in the hands of a few gold-bug monopolists.
Why? I shall tell you why; and it is easy and simple to understand. If you purchase goods in England, while another man purchases goods in America, and a third purchases somewhere else, under our present international system of liquidation it is not a debt at all. It is only a banker’s proposition - only a banker’s extension of credit. Let us look at the position for a moment. Australia is the biggest wool producer on earth. Australia is the second tin producer on earth. Australia is the third or fourth copper producer on earth. Australia is about the fifth wheat producer on earth. Australia is about the third lead producer on earth. Australia is about the-fourth silver producer. Australia has all these natural inherent productions - they are here and belong to the country - and yet, to-day, Australian business is tied up on a little bit of gold.
John Bull represents the second richest nation on earth. The world owes John Bull to-day some £3,500,000,000, and the world has to pay John Bull about £160,000,000 net in interest every year. John Bull has been the world’s banker, and London is the chief city of the world’s exchange. When I was in a bank in New York, and we desired to settle with Russia or Prance, we used to buy on London. There are two kinds of exchange - direct and indirect. If you wish to settle with Russia, you buy on London, and London settles with Russia; because every nation in the world keeps an account in London, though I believe that now the centre has changed to New York.
The total gold in England is not over £160,000,000 or £170,000,000. Why? Why should John Bull, to whom tie world owes £3,500,000,000, and who has financed every nation on earth, stop his business now for the want of gold ? Why should the exchange be against England ? Simply because John Bull himself laid it down that he was the gold bug of the world. He used to raise the exchange, and everybody loosened their purses and let the gold flow to London; and when he had all the gold he wanted, he lowered the exchange, and the gold went out again. Gold is a woman - gold is timid; indeed, money is always timid. Now, if that be so - and no one will deny it - why should the British nation make its basis gold ? If ever there was a time in the history of the world when some one should have the courage to change the whole of the ramifications and fabric of the system of finance it is the present.
Suppose that we were buying from America, could not our Government arrange with a great bank in America to pay for the things we need until such time as our wool is shipped to Boston or New York, when we should draw bills and cancel them, and thus pay off the debt, we, in the meantime, paying interest in New York? Why should not that be as good a system as shipping gold ? I have preached this gospel in Australia for years. I preached it in the South Australian Legislative Assembly twenty years ago, but I was laughed at. Men always laugh at what they do not understand .
– No one has ever understood the honorable member.
– They never will understand me, because I know too much about finance. I remember when Edison invented the telephone thirty-five years ago. He and Bell applied to the United States simultaneously for the patent, but they agreed to compromise and not go to law, and the point as to whether Edison or Bell invented the telephone has never been decided, though the credit is given to Bell, and Edison saysthat it is right it should be so. However,. I remember that when I was on a visit toNew Jersey a tailor whom I met said, “ There is Edison going by. I thought he was a lunatic. Fancy a man speaking’ about a machine talking.” Then came electric light; every one at the timethought that Edison was crazy.
– Many people thought that the honorable member was a fool.
– I admit it; but it takes a strong man to be a fooL Barnum paid his clown $300 a week. What is life ? Real life is labour, laughter, and love.
– Why put love last?
– Though nothing in the world is worth having except love, we have to labour before we can winit. They say that love is blind, but marriage removes the cataracts from the eyes. However, I wish to keep to my subject.
I was talking about the creation of an international system of exchange, and when I drafted my banking scheme in 1908 I had? in view all contingencies, such as war and financial crises of all kinds. I ask honorable members to consider how one clausein my scheme appears in the light of the seven years that have passed since I drafted my scheme. We have borrowed* £10,000,000 from the private banking corporations in order to swell or maintainon r gold reserves.
– Without interest.
– We have done that, and to the honour of the Banks let it be said that they have come forward with the gold. But I had another experience in America which I did not like. Experience is the unerring test of all human undertakings. I remember (when the order went out to demand payment for all goods in greenbacks, and I remember when £300,000,000 worth of these greenbacks was thrown over the Treasury counter with the demand for gold in exchange. The United States Treasurer could not pay. All’ he could do was to get a postponement for a month, and get a gold loan floated in London with which he metthe demand made upon him.
– There was no gold backing behind those greenbacks.
– There was a gold reserve in 1879. The honorable mem- ber can have a hundred to fifty on that. No one can contradict my figures. In 1S79 the United States of America resumed specie payment, and the trick that I narrate was played very shortly afterwards. In the light of that incident, I do not like this £10,000,000 which the Commonwealth Treasurer has obtained from the private banking corporations.
– The notes that the honorable member referred to were not what were known as greenbacks.
– It was the redemption of the greenbacks that were in circulation that was in process.
– That was a later scheme.
– Why was specie payment resumed except for the purpose of withdrawing the greenbacks from circulation, and redeeming them in gold? General Sherman was Secretary to the United States Treasury at the time, and the Act was known as the Sherman Act. I can assure my honorable friend that I know what I am talking about. I do not make any statement in the House that I cannot guarantee, and he can have anything up to £1,000 to £20 on the matter.
– The honorable member had better keep his money for the purpose of paying his income tax.
– I shall be able to pay the income tax, or any other tax I am called upon to pay. The honorable member need not worry about me. I did not come to Australia for my health.
I was saying that I did not like this £10,000,000 from the banks. The Commonwealth should not be at the mercy of private banking corporations whenever they think the occasion suitable to call up their loans.
– Why does not the honorable member let us have his own scheme ?
– Had my scheme been in existence there would have been no need for this difficulty. Clause 7 of it was -
That the bank shall be empowered to issue notes, which shall be throughout the Commonwealth legal tender at all places except the head office of the bank in each State, and that at such head office payment of the value of notes presented may be made in gold, or Commonwealth consols at the option of the ComptrollerGeneral of the bank.
There could never be a run on my bank. That clause was framed as the result of experience. I know it is like a tiger baying at the moon to try to move this House. They say the system is perfect. We ought not to be at the mercy of private banking corporations.
Take another clause -
That the banks shall provide for temporary advances by way of overdraft to the Commonwealth, State, and municipal Governments.
And so this Bank should be ; but the present Bank is a little one. It is a very little Bank to face a great crisis, and it is a little Bank, because the national income of the Australian States is not flowing through it. If the income of the Australian States had been there flowing through it, we need not have borrowed £20,000,000 from the Australian people. We might, instead, have given a credit on the ledger of that Bank for £20,000,000. You do not spend £20,000,000. You only spend a part of it, and long before the £20,000,000 would have been spent most of it would have been back in the Bank.
– How would you have paid for the troops in Egypt and Gallipoli 1
– By arranging with the bank in England or in Egypt.
– But they would not have taken notes.
– Surely the honorable member does not consider that notes are everything. I consider that notes are only a subsidiary power. Notes are only the capital of a national bank. We hear too much about notes in Australia. A cheque currency is infinitely superior to notes. An acceptance currency is infinitely superior to notes. A bill of exchange and a promissory note are both currency. A deposit currency is superior to notes. The note is not the only currency. We have gone note mad in Australia. Every one talks about the notes. I do not know that I would issue notes1 at all. I see nothing in it. How many notes are there in circulation ? Is there £20,000,000 ? Is there £10,000,000 ? I made a calculation a few years ago, and, in my opinion, the total money required in all the continent of Australia to carry on the whole of the business of Australia is about £6,000,000. The medium of exchange is money; but it is only in little transactions that you use money.
The true medium of exchange is fortified credit. You huy for the purpose of selling, and you sell for the purpose of liquidation, and credit expands in proportion to the expansion of business, ‘and contracts in proportion to the contraction of business. So tEat a note issue cuts no ice. But I do say that with a National Australian Bank, in which the States were interested, and in which the representatives of the Savings Banks of the different States sat round a table with the Governor of the Bank, each man bringing to the table his ripe experience, each having equal voting powers with the Governor of the Bank, “the Governor of the Bank having the casting vote, you would have had a great, consolidated amalgamation of financial Australia. You would have had the collected financial power of the nation utilized from this Bank for the benefit of the individual. Instead of that, you have got a nice little circus down here : but she is so small that she is not able to see herself. I think the foundation is all right, and you can build from it.
Take another clause - my scheme -
That the Bank shall be the Bank of reserve for the deposit of the reserves of the banking companies operating in the Commonwealth.
I desire with the permission of the House to read a few paragraphs from the London Statist - Sir George Paish’s magazine - of 6th August, 1910. This was given to me by Mr. Knibbs, our eminent Statistician, and I wish to read a leading article which appeared in it on my banking proposals -
In April, 1900, the Hon. King O’Malley, M.P., submitted to the House of Representatives of the Commonwealth of Australia a memorandum for the establishment of a national postal bank
That is the heading. Then the article goes on -
In this memorandum Mr. O’Malley proposes that the Bank shall be conducted purely as a Government Department, free from political control; that it shall have all the powers and immunities requisite to its security, the recovery of its debts, and the disposal of its property.
Then it says -
He proposes, further, that the Bank shall act as the agent for the Mint in the purchase of raw gold and silver, and the issue of coin.
Is the Commonwealth Bank doing that? -
That it shall be empowered to issue notes which shall be legal tender throughout the Commonwealth^ at all places except the head office of the Bank in each State; and that at each head office payment of the value of the notes presented may be made in gold or Commonwealth consols at the option of the ControllerGeneral of the Bank.
I hope the Committee will follow me so as to see how this great British financier ends up.
The sting is in the tail -
In addition to this, Mr O’Malley proposes that the Bank is to be the Bank both of the Commonwealth and the States, and also that it is to be authorized to carry on ordinary banking business, receiving from the public moneys on current account and fixed deposit, and making advances on good security; that the management of the Bank shall consist of a Controller-General representing the Commonwealth, and one representative of each of the subscribing States.
I -want the Committee to listen to this -
That the Treasurer of the Commonwealth shall be entitled ito attend all meetings and inspect all proceedings of the board of management; that all payments made in London by the Commonwealth or State Governments shall be through the medium of the Bank; that the General Post Office in each capital shall be the head office of the Bank in that State; and that any post-office within the Commonwealth carrying on the business of a money-order office may be constituted a branch of tlie Bank.
I am reading these extracts for the purpose of showing honorable members that this great Britisher put everything in. He was not deceived. I do not suppose that he was ever a member of the Labour party-
That the Bank shall be a bank of reserve for the deposit of reserves of the banking companies operating in the Commonwealth, and that the regulations requisite for controlling the bank reserves shall be drawn up by the Board of Management of the Bank and the Council, of the Associated Banks of Australia and approved by the Governor-General in Council.
I thought it was only right that the leading man of the associated banks should be at the table, even though we did not take his advice. His advice may be good -
Mr. O’Malley ‘s scheme was probably suggested to him by the agitation in the United States which followed the banking crash at theend of 1907.
It was not suggested to me then. It was suggested -to me after I had been two years in my uncle’s bank. I saw that there ought to be a service outside different from that of private men. I did not understand how a man could start with §10,000, and, after a period of forty years, have $15,000,000 at pure banking, unless “she” was a pretty good business. Continuing, this financier says -
There has long been in the United States a strong opposition to a State Bank, but for some years now the opposition has been growing weaker and weaker.
Even the Americans, the great individualists of the world, have realized at last that it is necessary to have a central banking system whereby you can back up the other institutions, whereby you can back up the nation, whereby you can help to develop the resources of the country and furnish employment to the masses -
Indeed, since 1907 the notion of a State bank has been waxing in favour. It will be further recollected that Congress appointed a Commission to inquire into the whole question of banking, and though the Commission has not yet reported, it is believed that its report will be in favour of the establishment of a State Bank.
– I think that the report is in now.
– I know that the report is in. They have twelve original banks, and my honorable friends see that in the crisis now there is no trouble, for there is money to burn there -
AIT- that, no doubt, is true; but probably Mr. O’Malley would reply that there was a great banking crisis in Australia. Seventeen or eighteen years ago which proved the need for reform; that now when Federation has taken place, and a Labour Government is in office, eager to carry out far-reaching reforms -
– Did you not carry out what you promised ?
– I do not think that I got my training as a banker to come out here and toady to some one. I would be ashamed of myself if I did not stand in this House and say what I believe. I think that my honorable friends will all admit that when I was Minister of Home Affairs I was the Minister, and not a rubber stamp. Never mind whether I am liked or not.
– When did you bring in the Banking Bill?
– My right honorable friend has been long enough in office to know that in a Ministry there is only one man, and that is the Prime Minister. o
– That is right.
– The others are muzzled dummies. The writer continues - is the time to put the banking system, as well as the other important systems of the country, in proper order
Sir George Paish, at the head of the article, says that this is a debtor country. I admit that I drew a banking system for a debtor country. A lending country, that is, a country which is lending credit to the world, need not bother about this, because everybody must come to it, but we must go to everybody, because ours is a developing country. We have a territory comprising 3,000,000 square miles. We are a nation second to the United States of America in geographical dimensions, yet we have a population of only 5,000,000, and a very small amount of capital. After all, you cannot develop a country without capita) any more than you can without labour. Labour and capital must go together. For years the men of Australia never recognised that it was necessary to placate Labour.- If they had only sat round a table and talked to the Labour men, there would have been no trouble. Labour men are humans with hearts. Sit down and talk to them. Often and often, when I was in the Camperdown district, I used to hear every one speak well of the honorable member for Corangamite. Why? Because his rule was to go round and talk to the tenants, to have a yarn with them, and help them if it was necessary.
– How these landlords love one another !
– No; it is no such feeling. This financial writer continues -
It will be seen, from what we have said above, that Mr. O’Malley’s proposal is to establish a Government Bank more nearly resembling the Imperial Bank of Russia than any other great State Bank we know of. The Bank is to be the Government Bank just as the Bank of England, the Bank of France, and the German Reichsbank are Government Banks. But the Bank of England, the Bank of France, and the German Reichsbank are all owned by private shareholders. Mr. O’Malley proposes that the new Bank shall be owned by the Commonwealth Government and the Governments of the States if the States agree to subscribe. If they do not, then it will be owned by the Commonwealth Government alone. The Imperial Bank of Russia is owned by the Russian Government; indeed, is practically a Department of the Russian Treasury. It appears to be a fairer plan than the German; for, while the shares of the German Reichsbank are owned by private investors, the Government begins to share in the dividends with the shareholders when the latter receive a certain rate of dividend. But it remains to he seen whether a purely Government Bank will work as satisfactorily as a bank founded on the principle of, let us say, the Bank of England or the Bank of Prance, or the Imperial Bank of Germany. Will it be possible to exclude party considerations from the management of the bank, and especially from the selection of the ControllerGeneral?
He emphasizes the question, Will it be possible to exclude political interference with the bank I
– That has been done.
– There has never been political interference in connexion with’ the Commonwealth Bank.
– Wait until the Bank authorities do something that the honorable member’s party does not like.
- Sir George Paish said -
If the Governments of Australia are public spirited enough and independent enough to refuse to listen to party, there is no reason why a great officer selected by the Government should not manage a bank to the benefit of all interests in the Commonwealth. But if the Governments listen to party, it is to be feared that the proposed bank, if established, will excite strong party opposition, and that it will, like the bank of the United States a couple of generations ago, come to be regarded with great distrust by a large portion of the community.
We can hardly believe that the Government intends to take away from the shareholders of the existing Australian banks the right of note issue. We know of no evidence that shows that these banks have abused the right; and it would bo a high-handed thing to deprive them of a privilege which they have not abused. A fairer course would be to adopt some such principle as was adopted by Sir Robert Peel in 1844-5, namely, that if, for any reason, any of the existing banks should cease to issue notes, the right of issue should pass to the Government Bank. In any case, if the proposal really is made, we presume that compensation will be awarded for the right taken away. Assuming that the existing banks are treated with justice, as we take for granted they will be, we see no reason why they should be less prosperous in the future than they have been in the past. A’ great Government bank will, of course, have great prestige, and if the Government follows out the idea of Mr. King O’Malley, and makes the postoffices in all important towns branches of the new bank, it will be able to compete formidably with the old banks. But Australia is only just about to enter upon the period of expansion. That is to say, if, by every justifiable means, it encourages the immigration of desirable settlers, if it conducts a great policy of irrigation, and if it opens up every part of the territory by railway construction, then art immense impulse will be given to the trade of the country, and one great bank, even though it be the Government bank, will be incapable of supplying the needs of the population. The existing banks need not fear that they will be unable to play a great part in thaisland continent. In France, for example, the Bank of France is required by law to supply accommodation in every portion of the country. The Bank of France stands as high in credit as it is possible to conceive, and it does its work in a most admirable manner. Yet it does not prevent private banks from doing .a very large business. For example, the Credit Lyonnais has a much larger capital than the Bank of France, and does an immense business outside France, as well as within it. Furthermore, a great Government bank holding the reserves of the other banks would be a tower of strength to them in time of crisis.
– What about the option to redeem the notes in gold or consols? What does Sir George Paish say about that?
– That arrangement was suggested to meet a possible run upon the Bank. Sir George Paish praised it. He knows that the scheme was drafted by a trained man, not by a heaven-born, untrained financier - I am glad that the members of this Parliament have time to look into this matter now. I do not blame my party for not having given effect to everything that I suggested.
– It paid the honorable member a great compliment by adopting part of his scheme.
– I admit that; but the Brisbane Conference of 1908 accepted the whole scheme, and had effect been given to it, we should not now need to borrow in the manner proposed, because we could get a credit on the ledger of the Bank. As it is, we have to withdraw £20,000,000 of the operating capital of Australia, and to expend it in the production of material for destruction. I admit that I have applied for a portion of the loan myself. Several persons have told me that they will not renew loans at per cent, which they have made on the security of farm and suburban property.
The Commonwealth war loan has increased the value of money, and when renewals are asked for they will be, in many cases, refused, and in others 6 and 6-£ per cent, interest may be charged. The value of money is determined by the rate at -which it will accumulate, and the value of property by the rent obtained from it. If the rent of a property will not amount to the estimated value of the property in as short a time as the interest on a given sum of money will equal the principal, that property will depreciate until its rent hears the same proportion to its value as the rate of interest on money bears to the principal that produces it. These are ideas that were inculcated in my mind in the bank in which I was trained. The interest on money governs rents and property values, money being the legal representative of property and the standard by which its value is measured. If interest on money be fixed at a just rate, rents will be equitably regulated, and labour will secure its fair share of production. But the value of property depreciates in proportion to the increase of the value of the money that registers it. As the value of money increases by the rise of interest, the value of property falls correspondingly. The movement may be compared to that of the beam of a scale on the fulcrum. Enough property must be added to the scale to make the income from it equal the income from interest, otherwise no capitalist would invest his capital in property. Men who have been battling to secure an income from property will do their best to invest their money in the war loan. As soon as I can get my money in I shall put it into the loan, which really equals a 5£ per cent, investment, free from battling or bother. The question, however, is what will happen if all Australia does the same.
We have in this country £250,000,000 of deposits and £34,000,000 of gold. A paid-up capital of £26,000,000 more makes altogether £60,000,000, which, deducted from the £250,000,000 of deposits, leaves £190,000,000, really representing debts, because it is a mistake to think that bank deposits represent wealth.
They represent merely the extension of credit. The fact that .we have £190,000,000 of bank deposits simply means that our producers and traders have exchanged their credit for bank fortified credits, and thus these deposits mean simply an expansion of credits or debts, with the exception of the little gold that the workers put in.
I remember that on one occasion in America the deposits decreased in less than a week in a time of crisis by $500,000,000, and yet we had $30,000,000 more gold in the banks than ever we had before. It simply meant a contraction of credit. I have been preaching this gospel for twenty-five years now to the people of Australia, my first letters being to the South Australian Register; but I cannot rouse the people to a real sense of the position.
We hear constantly that trade and commerce follows the flag. It does not. It follows fortified credits, which follow the lines of banking operations. The flag makes no difference to the bankers of the world. If they think their bills of exchange and letters of credit can be cashed at a reasonable amount they do not trouble about what flag is there. No one will deny that interest is the damnation of the human race. We have paid over £300,000,000 in interest, and still owe £450,000,000. It means practically that we owe it for ever, and therein lies the danger. If we had had the gumption and determination to organize Australia financially, and mobilize our instruments of exchange and credit for the benefit of our people, so that we would have control of all the available resources of the nation, there would be no necessity for the States to worry next December about what they are to do with the thousands of men they have employed.
I do not represent Darwin only in this Chamber.
– Which end of the link does the honorable member represent? “
– In this House I do not worry myself about what prehistoric freaks have said. My only regret is that God allowed them to come into the world without stretching them.
I regret that we have been plunged into a great war, for war is absolute savagery. When the Indians were fighting in western America, we regarded a dead Indian only as a good Christian. They were savages, and it is awful to see the most intelligent nations of Europe struggling to annihilate each other. When the war is over, the nations of Europe will be practically bankrupt, and millions of our people will be starving. Germany has been organized, not only industrially, but financially. All over Germany to-day there are credit banks, backed by the Government, which assist the farmers, and they do this by credits.
– But have the Germans learnt the difference between right and wrong?
– I admit that they are savages, but if a system is good we should adopt it, no matter from where it comes. Germany has given the world one of the greatest systems of organization ever known. The three great systems of -the world are the Roman Catholic Church, the Standard Oil Company, and the German Empire.
Interest is the governing power or leading standard, and, although a man may not be in debt, if the rates of interest in the country in which he resides are high, be has to suffer. Interest forces all the producers of a nation to involuntarily contribute to the maintenance of all the nonproducers. A keen old North of Ireland man, who would climb a greasy pole for “ a bob,” and who, by the way, was my uncle, once gave me the best definition of a banker that I have ever had. He had a strain of Scotch blood in him, and such a cross is sufficient to “ beat the earth.” He defined a banker as “ a dealer in debts and a seller of credit.” That is absolutely true.
Interest is the standard or governing power which forces all the people of a nation to pay it whether they are in debt or not. A man who is selling goods or operating a big business is probably in debt, and, in order to pay his own interest, and to live by the purchase and sale of goods, he must buy at the lowest price, and when he sells to the producer he must add a certain percentage to pay his own interest bill, as well as to maintain himself and his family. There must be a certain difference to enable all those who live by income from interest to live without labour. That being so, interest must be the governing power.
Interest at 1 per cent, doubles itself in sixty-nine years, at 2 per cent, it doubles itself in thirty-five years, at 3 per cent. in twenty-three and a quarter years, and at 4 per cent, in eighteen years. How much money have we in Australia at less than 4 per cent. 1 Interest is an appalling tax on the people of Australia. Every debt that we pile up in this country falls on the backs of the workers, and is for all time a heavy mortgage upon them. That is what I have endeavoured to avoid in this House.
Before closing, I wish to refer to the proposal to erect a Rifle Factory at Canberra. This has been recommended by the Government experts. I wish they would keep themselves well posted up in what is appearing in the American newspapers. Here, for instance, is an article on “The Passing of the Rifle,” from which we learn that British, as well as German and American, experts declare that tlie rifle, except for sport, is a thing of the past -
The rifle is doomed, the Germans say. and its place is to be taken by the machine gun. The present war has demonstrated that this deadly instrument is a most effective weapon of offence, though up to now it has been regarded in the British Army, at least, purely as a means of defence…..
– Experts used to say that the bayonet was obsolete.
– It really is, but, owing to want of ammunition, the British have had to use it. They ha ve had to close with the enemy in order to do some fighting. Let honorable members react the whole history of the war, and they will see that if it had not been for the bayonet - owing to lack of ammunition - - it would have been a case of God help the British’ Army. Listen to this -
Why do the Germans no longer pay much attention to the cult of the rifle? Why ‘are the Germans working night and day to turn out a machine gun no heavier than the old Brown Bess, and more deadly than the concentrated fire of an entire company? The answer to these questions was given at Neuve Chapelle and La Bassee, and at the sector of Ypres; it is an answer driven home with deadly effect from many ruined cottages, many dismantled farm-houses, and many coveted trenches, wherever the hordes of Germany are facing the armies of the Allies.
One man with a machine gun, it is said, fires 600 shots while a man with a rifle fires five. I do not believe in war. These aeroplanes and other deadly weapons have been manufactured by Americans. They ought to have kept out of it. I am sorry that they have invented machine guns and aeroplanes with’ which to murder men. I hardly know how they will face their God in the light of these facts.
Where is the argument against the gradual substitution of the light machine gun for the rifle ? After all, a Maxim is merely an improved automatic rifle with a water jacket. The .soldiers who won and lost Waterloo carried a weapon heavier and more clumsy than the latest machine gun. A man who could fire a kicking gun of the period of 1815 could fire and carry a Maxim with less effort than lie could fire and carry the old smooth bore. And are Ave not told that the concentrated fire on one side of an English square emptied less than ;i score of French saddles’ at effective range? One modern machine gun would have wiped out an entire squadron.
Where is the utility of manufacturing more rifles in this country for arms ? In about five or six years our Small Arms Factory will be useless. But the taxpayer will be paying for it.
– I am. afraid it is on the same level as the conversion of war vessels into cargo ships.
– It was a good thing to have our war vessels carrying cargo in time of peace, but we ought always to keep our guns in readiness. I wish now to touch upon the question of monopolies. An American paper says -
The securities of countries at war with Great Britain have been changing hands recently at lower prices compared with the level of July, 1914. Germany 3 per cents, have declined from 74 to 484; Prussian 34’s, from 83 to 54*; Prussian 3’s, from 74 to 504; Austrian 4’s, from 774 to 48; Austrian 44’s, from 87 to 55; Turkish unified from 80 to 58.
So that honorable members will see that securities have fallen.
– New South Wales 3 per cent, stocks have declined to 67.
– That is not bad. I wish to make a suggestion in regard to monopolies. I believe that if we had the courage to institute a system under which we could purchase 51 per cent, of their stock, force them to register with the Commonwealth, and have a valuation made of their properties, we could place a director on their Boards, regulate their prices, control them, share in their profits, and let the men who created the industry carry it on. But God forbid that we should hand over the control to civil servants. In the first place, I wish to impress on honorable members that there is a vital difference between the intrinsic value and the value of money. I believe that combinations of capital on a magnificent scale are both inevitable and desirable; that the consolidation of Australian industries is a foreordained fact of natural economic evolution.
– Who said that?
– One of the Christians. I believe that under existing local conditions such combinations would be an intolerable tyranny, and that, therefore, it is necessary to change those con ditions by Commonwealth action along one or the other of two specific lines, to wit : the Commonwealth should proceed to nationalization by legal condemnations and governmental purchases of the listed shares of all combinations which have been declared monopolies.
– That sounds like the Caucus.
– No; the Caucus would not listen to that. The sane way to meet the case is by the following plan: -
.- I do not intend to attempt to follow the honorable member, who has just delivered a long and interesting address on a subject with which he is very familiar. But I think that he will have to preach his gospel for a long time before he will make converts of a majority of his own party. They have had a golden opportunity of putting his principles into force, and, so far, they have not made the slightest attempt to even give them a trial. I have risen mainly for the purpose of replying to what was said by the honorable member for Oxley on the subject of the Beef Trust. The honorable member showed a good deal of courage in returning to that subject, having regard to the inglorious part he played before the Commission presided over by Mr. Justice Street. It was mainly because of the speeches made by the honorable member, inside and outside this Parliament, that that Commission was appointed ; but what was his attitude towards it? He did not present himself for examination until the day before the Commission left Queensland. When the Commission opened its proceedings, the honorable member did not come forward and say, “ I have made these accusations, your Honour, and I am prepared to prove them; I desire that Soandso be called.” No; he lay low for a time, and when he did give evidence, what did it amount to ? Let me quote to the Committee an illustration of the sort of evidence which the honorable member tendered -
He did not know of any act which showed that the Trust was receiving direct aid from the Queensland Government.
Be it remembered that it was part of the honorable member’s stockintrade to accuse the Queensland Government of wrongfully supporting the Beef Trust-
Hie understood that Armours were having ^cattle treated by Birt and Company. It was understood that that was so, but he had no specific facts or definite information beyond that; he must have seen in some newspaper that the Beef Trust controlled the meat market in Berlin, but he could not say just then where he got the information; his reference to Swift and Company having secured the Ross River and Lake Creek works were based on rumours prevalent at the time; he was not in a position to give any facts to support his statement that the Trust had bought the Biboorha Meat Works, or the Burketown Meat Works; his statement that Swift had purchased Baynes’ works was based on a report received from a man working for him; he knew the statement had been denied; he could not support with facts his statement that the Beef Trust had secured all the meat works on the Brisbane River except one.
– The honorable member for Oxley repeated that information tonight.
– That is so. The fact of the matter is, that although the honorable member poses as an authority on the meat question, he knows precious little about it. He had an opportunity of proving before Mr. Justice Street what his opinion was worth, but he failed to take advantage of the opportunity, and to-night he had not even the decency to quote correctly from the report submitted by the Royal Commission. This is what Mr. Justice Street said in the summary of his report -
Since the removal of the import duty on meat by the United States Government last year, these companies, and others engaged in the trade in the United States, have made purchases through distributing agents in Australia and elsewhere for shipment to the United States.
All the foregoing purchases have been made in the ordinary course of business, and there is nothing to indicate that they were not made under ordinary competitive conditions.
There is no evidence of anything in the shape of combination) or concerted action, on the part of these companies in Australia.
The rumours that these companies, or some of them, have (a.) purchased pastoral properties, (6) paid higher than ruling rates for live stock, (o) endeavoured to purchase unborn stock, and (d) endeavoured to secure an option over young stock for future delivery at maturity, are all without any foundation in fact.
The past history of the so-called Beef Trust in other countries renders it necessary that the development of the activities of these three companies in Australia should be carefully followed.
– That is the point.
– If that is the point, would the honorable member justify (by that statement the outrageous allegations which were made last year ?
– That statement means that the companies are in Australia, and we must watch them.
– We shall be none the worse for watching any combination, but it is the greatest absurdity to say that the scarcity of meat in Australia to-day is due to the operations of the Beef Trust, when we know that it is due to the demand that has arisen, and to natural causes, which have shortened the supply of cattle and sheep. It has been truthfully pointed out that the loss of stock in the last drought was greater than in the big drought of 1902. It is also absurd to say that the States have not ample power to deal with this trust. The Queensland Parliament passed in an hour last year a Bill under which the Government commandeered for Imperial use the whole of the meat and stock of Queensland, and practically took the control of the flocks and herds of that State. In the same way the Federal Government, if they choose to exercise their powers, can bring down on its marrow bones the strongest trust that is ever likely to appear in Australia, and if they do not take such action their supporters ought to be silent regarding the Beef Trust. In regard to the financial statement submitted by the Treasurer, it is no part of the policy el members on this side to advocate any form of retrenchment which would result in throwing men out of employment. Neither has any such policy been advocated from this side of the House. What we have contended is that the Estimates have been inflated ; that it is proposed to expend more money’ than can actually be expended; and that the inflation of the Estimates is used to justify the drastic taxation proposed by the Government. We say that the Government should keep the estimates of expenditure clown to the level of the actual expenditure last year. If they do that, they will have sufficient work to carry out, and will be able to employ an immense number of men. Instead of imposing the most drastic taxation ever known in Australia, they could relieve the people by borrowing money for the purpose of carrying out a number of the works on the schedule, and they could then be satisfied with the imposition of a lower income tax than is proposed. I wonder whether honorable members really realize what this income tax will mean to Australia if it is imposed in the form in which it has been placed before the Committee. I maintain that we should be content to levy sufficient taxation this year to provide interest and sinking fund -on the war expenditure, and that we should bring our ordinary expenditure down to the level of that of last year. If we do that, we shall be achieving as much as we are justified in attempting. This is not the time to impose crushing taxation. We do not know what the present situation may develop into, but this much is certain, that it is not patriotic to propose fresh imposts which will cripple industry.
.- Whilst I agree with a good deal that has been said with regard to restricting expenditure, retrenching, where that can be done without interfering with the efficiency of the Public Service, and making the burden as light- as possible for the people who have already enough taxation to carry, yet there is one feature pertaining to the finances of Australia which, to my mind, should have received very serious consideration many years ago with the object of remedying it. For several years in this House I have been pointing out the position that ‘exists in the Postal Service, which is the largest spending institution outside the Defence Department in Australia, but, in spite of the recommendations made by the Royal Commission in 1911, after exhaustive inquiry into this great Department, no Government up to the present have yet seen fit to put those recommendations into force. Members to-day had placed in their hands a report by Mr. Robert McC. Anderson, a gentleman who was appointed by the Government with a view, I presume, to getting evidence in confirmation of that which was obtained by the Commission to which I refer, and of which I was ai member. Members will, no doubt, b<s interested in the perusal of Mr. Anderson’s report, and I am pleased to notice that it is practically an indorsement of the finding of the Royal Commission, except with regard to two or three details in which I think the framer of the report is wrong. Here we have a Depart1ment with a cash turnover of £46,000,000 sterling in one form or another.
– Including, postal notes and everything.
– In this Department the expenditure is year by year rapidly increasing, and the debit has been growing in like ratio, until to-day we are faced with a deficit of £500,000 on last year’s transactions. In 1911 it was found that certain expenditure was necessary to make the service effective, and to give to the public a better return. The mere finding of the money was only a means to an end. Any Government could find the money, and I will undertake to say that any Department will spend it, but whether it is spent wisely or not is another matter. From Mr. Anderson’s report I find that in 1911-12 the percentage of expenditure, excluding new works, to revenue was 109.74; in 1912-13 it rose to 112.27; and in 1913-14 it mounted to 113.62. For that increase we ought to be getting better results in the efficiency of the various branches of the Department, but we find that the administration and the operations of the whole Service have not been made more efficient. If ever there was asatire on administration, it is contained in Mr. Anderson’s report, but, after all, it contains nothing more than the findings of the Postal Commission. That Commission pointed out that circumlocution in the Department was rampant, and that the method of doing business was of a character which no ordinary business man would countenance for five minutes. Mr. Anderson has given illustrations that would almost make men weep when they read that such things are possible after the warning we gave in 1911. There was no mistaking the character of our report, and there was no mistaking the character of the findings ; but yet we have had PostmasterGeneral after Postmaster-General, and nothing has been done along the lines of the Commission’s findings, except. where they involved the expenditure of more money, to increase the efficiency of the Department. Neither Liberal nor Labour Governments have shown any initiative with the object of removing the cancer that has been eating the heart out of this Department for years. It is no use mincing matters on a big question of this character. I notice from Mr. Anderson’s report that, outside of two branches, there has been no improvement practically in the methods of the Postal Service. In the Accountant’s Branch, which was remodelled after the exposure it received during the examination by the Commission, an improvement is reported. It has been put under, at least, efficient control, and the accountant is endeavouring to bring about a system which is having good results. A balance-sheet is now presented from which we can form some idea of how the Department stands and where defects exist; but, although the accountant has been engaged for four years in this undertaking, his work up to date is not yet perfected, thus showing the magnitude of the task and the intricate question he has had to solve. The Stores Branch, which was in a deplorable condition at the time of our inquiry, is better than it was, but is not yet what it ought to be. As I have said, PostmasterGeneral after Postmaster-General has been seemingly helpless to do anything. They have not shown initiative or sufficient force of character to do what was found to be necessary on the most extensive evidence that could possibly have been heard by any Royal Commission. To-day, we have Mr. Anderson drawing attention again and again to the circumlocution of the Department, which is of such a character as to startle even the most optimistic man in this House. Centralization, he points out, and as we pointed out in 1911, is the kernel of the whole trouble. When the Postal Commission were making their investigations the Central Office wasa very small one, with not a score of officers, whereas now there are 100. It would appear, however, that as the numbers grow so does the inefficiency - that the more officers we have the less valuable is the service they render. If the Government have not hitherto given any credit to that Postal Commission, probably they will take some little notice of the man from outside, Mr. Anderson, who verifies all that the Commission said five or six years ago. As we recommended at that time, so does Mr. Anderson now recommend the training of engineers for the Service; and he points out that the evil in this connexion is just as great as when the Postal Commission sent in their report. Mr. Anderson makes it clear that men are introduced from abroad who do not fit in with our local requirements, and who, with their lack of local knowledge, are a source of annoyance rather than of assistance. There may be something in that view; and a Department of this character can never be what it ought to be unless the brightest of our young Australians are taken and properly trained and sent abroad to gain experience which will be of value to the Service and the Commonwealth as a whole. However, I shall not pursue that matter further, for the report will, doubtless, come up again for discussion. I am particularly pleased that Mr. Anderson has gone into details very closely, and has given illustrations which show most clearly the urgent necessity for reform. At the commencement of his report he does the Postal Commission more honour than has ever been done to it by the Government, who have never given that body the credit which it undoubtedly deserved. In the first clause of his report, Mr. Anderson says -
Since the Postal Department has been under Commonwealth control, there seem to have been many inquiries, including a Royal Commission (1908-1910), and I feel it fair to say that I have studied the finding of that Commission with interest and profit; and, although I do not entirely agree with their recommendations, had they been carried out in general, most of the difficulties which beset the Department would have passed away.
That is the opinion of Mr. Anderson, who is regarded as a man with a keen business mind; and he tellsus that if the recommendations of the Postal Commission had been adopted in general, the difficulties of the Department would have passed away. In saying this, that gentleman is merely saying what I have repeatedly said since 1911. He goes on to say -
That they had merit is evidenced by the fact that many of them had been carried into effect.
But the Postal Commission did not make those recommendations with the idea which, apparently, has actuated the Government. The recommendations which have been carried out merely by the expenditure of money were made in view of the necessity for a general change; they were made to fit in with a change of management, system, organization, and discipline; and if they had been adopted with that in view, they would have produced the result we expected. As it is, the changes made by the Government are merely palliative, and afford relief only for the time being. Where Mr. Anderson differs from the Postal Commission is in suggesting that the whole business should be under one general manager, with the present Deputy Postmasters-General a8 deputy managers. Mr. Anderson regards the term “Deputy Postmaster-General” as an anomaly; and this is what the Postal Commission said in their report. We also regarded these gentlemen as an anomaly, being of opinion that the real Deputy Postmaster-General is the Secretary at the Central Office. In this recommendation or suggestion I do not agree with Mr. Anderson. He shows the infirmity of the whole Service when he illustrates what the results have been under the Deputy Postmasters-General. I notice that the Postmaster-General is engaged in conversation on, apparently, quite a different subject from that which I am discussing; but this is the attitude that Postmasters-General have assumed as long as I can remember. However, that will make no difference, because, I suppose, Mr. Anderson will be the guiding star, and not any member of the Labour party.
– That is pretty hot!
– It is true. However, as I was saying, Mr. Anderson” suggests one manager and deputy managers; and that is where I think his conclusion is weak. In my judgment no man, however able, could manage the Post Office, with all. its ramifications, over an area like that of Australia. This is a Department with an expenditure of £5,000,000 ; and I feel sure that no private company or enterprise would intrust such a vast business to the control of one man. I do not wish to in any way speak of the Deputy Postmasters-General in a personal way, but I feel certain that a change of name would not make the position any better. There is one hurdle at which this and other Governments have always balked. What I mean is that in order to have efficiency in the Postal Service responsibility and power must be brought together; any separation must mean trouble. To-day the Public Service Commissioner finds the men, assesses their value, and places them in their positions; and the officials, who are responsible for the result of the work, have no voice in regard to the staff.
– What are you going to do about it?
– Mr. Anderson favours what the Postal Commission recommended. The only cure is the abolition of the Public Service Commissioner.
– You are not going to be content with that, are you?
– That is the kernel of the trouble; the restoration of power, combined with responsibility, is what should be aimed at. We should eliminate the conflicting powers of to-day, put the control into the hands of the management, and reward those who are worth rewarding, while getting rid of those who are an incubus. The difficulty in our Public Service is1 that, no matter how inferior a man may be, there is practically no means by which he may be got rid of. He may loaf or impose on his fellows, he may do things “which he would not be permitted to do outside the Service, but the Public Service Commissioner and the Central authorities say that they are helpless ; they cannot get rid of him. Merit does not control advancement. Very little success has followed any endeavours that have been made with the object of insuring advancement by merit. The honorable member for Balaclava has asked what I propose to do. I do not propose anything more than was recommended by the Royal Commission in 1911. The report of that Commission holds to-day even stronger than it did then.
– I wish to know whether the honorable member’s party is about to have anything done ?
– It is not my fault that nothing has been done. For years I have been battling on this subject. I have never lost an opportunity of drawing attention to the necessity for reforms, and I shall continue to do so until some change is made. I am hopeful that, since Mr. Anderson has indorsed what the Royal
Commission recommended, the Government will do something. Had the recommendations of the Royal Commission been carried out, we would not have had chaos in the Postal Department, nor the present deficit, nor any of the conditions now prevailing there. I would like to know whether the Postmaster-General has read this report, and whether he realizes the fact that the present system of centralization is eating at the heart of the Department. I am sure that if he realized it he would move in the direction of remedying this state of affairs. If any PostmasterGeneral should bring his Department into such a condition as would give the best service to the public at the least possible expense, without doing any injustice to the officers employed, it would be a lasting credit to him. Yet that is the problem that has to be solved. Mr. Anderson points out that there is a deficiency of £501,000, and he recommends how it should be made up.
– How would the honorable member meet the case of a State such as Victoria, which is showing no loss?
– The difference between Victoria and New South Wales is largely explained by the vast area which has to be covered by the Department in New South Wales. The distances over which services have to be rendered in New South Wales are much greater than in the case of Victoria. Mr. Anderson proposes to make up the deficit by increasing the charges. He proposes to increase the rates on newspapers from1d. for 20 ozs. to1d. for 10 ozs., and in that way derive £50,000, and to increase the telephone rates. Had the recommendations of the Postal Commission been adopted five years ago that trouble would not exist to-day.
– An increase in the calls will mean a reduction in the rents derived.
– That is a problem that I am not here to answer. This is how Mr. Anderson proposes to meet the deficit -
He proposes to increase the telephone charge from½d. per call to Id. per call, irrespective of the number of calls, and to charge 2d. instead of1d. per call on slot machines. He also proposes to alter the telegraph rate from sixteen words for1s. to1d. per word, with a minimum charge of1s. I am afraid, however, that while we stop the gaps either by making grants from the Treasury to cover deficits in the Department, or by increasing the charges to make up for inefficiency, things will rest quietly as they are, and the real cause of the trouble will be left untouched. To gloss over things by calling on the Treasurer or the public to make good a deficiency is the easiest task in the world, but the task of bringing about such a reform as is needed in the Post Office, and to carry it into effect, requires great courage and knowledge. However, it must be done if we are to be worthy of our places in this Parliament, or if Parliament is to expect the appreciation that the public should give it. If the public did not know of the state of affairs that exists, it would not expect anything from Parliament, but the position has been stated, and restated by different authorities who have indicated the source of the trouble, and what remedies they propose. The people know what is happening, and they will not shut their eyes to the fact that Ministers appear to be blind to the need for reform, which is so patent to everybody. I hope that the Government will now take some steps to bring about radical changes in the Department, not so much in regard to rates as in regard to organization, system, method, and control, and the elimination, as far as possible, of that which prevents merit from rising to the top. Mr. Anderson says that a man can be found in the Department who could manage the Post Office, but if he will read the evidence of Mr. McLachlan, who is supposed to know every individual in the Department, he will find that some years ago he said it was, not only hopeless, but also impossible to find in tie Department a man who was at all qualified to do so.
– The Department has a very fine officer in the person of Mr. Haldane.
– Mr. Haldane is an accountant, but an accountant will not fill the bill in this regard, though I admit that the officer is making a very fair fist of a very difficult task.
– He is a veryable man.
– He is a good man, but he has not completed his work, and until he has done so, I am not ready to pass judgment on him. A man requires more qualifications than those of an accountant in order to look after a big affair of this kind. We have a secretary who, personally, is all right. I have nothing at all to say against him, but he cannot possibly fill the bill. He has been a clerical officer all his life, and he has no opportunity to broaden out, or to grasp the many essentials with which a managerial position in a great Post Office like ours is concerned.
– Would the hon.orable member go outside the Commonwealth in order to get the best men ?
– I say now, as I have said before, that no matter where we have to go, we should have the best men possible - men possessing all the qualifications necessary to carry out the work. It is because I realize the impossibility of getting all these qualifications in one man-
– The honorable member would have two?
– I would have three. The chairman should be an organizer, a man of financial authority possessing knowledge of the management of affairs. Then we should have a man capable of managing the telegraphic, the telephonic, and the wireless branches of the Post Office, a mechanical mind, a specialist in his business, so as to secure the best results. We should also have a third man capable of grappling with the multitudinous postal problems that exist now and will exist in the future.
– Where could you get a better man than the present PostmasterGeneral ?
– The present attitude
Of the Postmaster-General on this question seems to be displayed by the contempt with which members are treated when they say anything bearing upon the Department. The Postal Commission urged the necessity for the employment of three men, each possessing special knowledge of the various branches of the Postal Services, and I think any reasonable man will agree that underlying that suggestion was the germ of practical common sense. I do not know how that position is regarded to-day. I do not know whether the view is held that the time has arrived when changes’ should be made or not, or whe’ther the Department will be content to merely put on the proposed extra charges, and then continue in the same old groove of centralization and circumlocution that is both strangling the Department and undermining the ability of its officials. Mr. Anderson points out that from the top of the Service right down to the bottom the same thing is crushing the effectiveness of the Post Office. There is no incentive; there is no effort at initiation. There is a crushing down all the way. In my judgment, ‘we are 40 per cent, below par at the top, either with the Deputy Postmasters-General or with the Secretary ; and if there is not efficiency at the top we cannot get efficiency in the grades lower down. We must have material and radical changes in the management of the Post Office, and unless that is done and a board of management appointed, I shall have no word to say of the Government except that, notwithstanding the advice now given, they hesitated to remedy the defects that were pointed out. I deplore the fact that all these years have been wasted. Mr. Anderson tells the Prime Minister and the Government, in effect, that if the recommendations of the Postal Commission had been adopted five years ago, there would have been none of the present trouble.
– I ask leave to temporarily withdraw this proposal. It will be more convenient if this debate is adjourned to a later period. In the meantime I desire to introduce another message in order that the Senate may have business to deal with.
– Is the course suggested by the right honorable gentleman really in order, seeing that the Committee has not risen and that the Speaker has not been summoned to the Chair? I suggest that progress should be reported before any second message is introduced. I think the proceeding is quite irregular.
– The course suggested by the Prime Minister may be somewhat out of the ordinary, but it is not out of order. The Committee is still a Committee of Supply, and a second message may be referred to it, the other matter having been temporarily withdrawn.
– We have not the authority of the House to deal with a second message.
– Mr. Speaker takes the same view as the Chairman - that the proceeding is quite in order.
– It has never been done before.
Motion, by leave, withdrawn.
Motion (by Mr. Fisher) proposed -
That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1915-16, for the purposes of additions, new works, buildings, &c., a sum not exceeding £1,419,925.
– In agreeing to this proposal I only want to say that to some extent honorable members are the victims of circumstances. I sympathize to the full with the right honorable gentleman’s desire to provide work for the unemployed in another place. I understand there is nothing for them to do to-morrow, and that is why the extraordinary course has been taken of postponing thegeneral financial debate in order to put through these works proposals. In ordinary circumstances, I would have felt myself perfectly justified in debating this schedule, for I come back to the point round which debate has waged for some time past, and that is the extent and character of these public works items. This is a proposal to put through works chargeable to our ordinary revenue to the extent of £1,200,000 more than we actually spent last year. Therefore, I hold that the proposal is a swollen one, and I am afraid that we are voting money in this way which will not be spent during the year. It is the inflation of the estimate that I protest most strongly about. Here is a proposal, for instance, to spend money on public works out of the ordinary revenue to the extent of £3,827,000 for the year, whereas last year we spent only £2,670,000.
– Are they new works?
– Yes; “new works” is the designation.
– Out of ordinary revenue?
– Yes. This, therefore, is a proposal, roughly, to spend £1,200,000 more this year than we were able to spend last year, notwithstanding the herculean efforts of the Minister of
Home Affairs, and all the other Works Departments, for there are many of them. It seems to me that nothing is more needed in the way of economy and efficiency than the establishment of a Public Works Department to centralize and efficiently grip and control the expenditure on public works. Here the whole thing is set down again this year as before, and various amounts are allocated to each Department. The Home Affairs Department, which should be the constructing department pure and simple, proposes to spend £800,000 out of a total of nearly £4,000,000. It will be seen that the whole thing has only to be put in that way to show the gross anomaly which exists to-day in connexion with our spendings on public works. We cannot have efficiency or economy under this method of separate and distinct control.
– What do the other Departments spend?
– The Defence Department is to spend £98,000 on land purchases alone; the Home Affairs Department £800,000, and the PostmasterGeneral £850,000. Under the control of the Defence Department £1,353,000 is to be spent. The Naval Board is to spend the bulk of that sum, I understand, in connexion with bases and construction works of one kind and another.
– Do you object to that expenditure?
– I object to all these Departments spending money on. their own account. I think that there is need for a searching inquiry, even into this expenditure this year, inasmuch as last year the Government only succeeded in spending on the same items £539,000, although it was a year of war. I am pointing out how the Estimates are swollen this year, when, in my judgment, there ought to have been the strictest attempts at economy. Here are the items, and, as usual, they are spread over the Departments. They are neither being concentrated, nor gripped, nor controlled. Therefore, we cannot have efficient spending and economical administration. My point just now is to stress the fact that we are asked to vote £1,200,000 more than we were able to spend last year, no matter how much we made the attempt to spend every penny which was voted. In. these circumstances, I hope that the Government will promise to make an inquiry into some of these amounts, to see, before the final Budget is presented to the House, whether it will not be possible to make some savings in connexion with this very huge vote for new public works chargeable to revenue. My own opinion is that there ought to be a loan system judiciously applied to these expenditures, particularly in this time of war. I am only pleading now for economy and for cutting out every shilling in these Estimates which can legitimately be saved. We want all our money for the prosecution of the war, and any economy we may exercise in connexion with administrative efforts of this kind will naturally help the efficiency of war measures and the financing of our war obligations. Having expressed that opinion, I shall offer no further objection to the passage of the Works Estimates.
.- I desire to know exactly where we stand in regard to these items. The vote of nearly £1,500,000 which is now asked for is, I understand, to be put through to-night. Is that the idea of the Treasurer?
– I want to know the position in regard to the Small Arms Factory before I sit down. I indorse what the Leader of the Opposition has said in regard to the free-and-easy granting of large sums. If it is the intention of the Government to go on with the construction of a Small Arms Factory at Canberra, I object most strongly. That proposal needs to be threshed out more fully, and we want to take a vote of the House before any of this money is spent on the creation of a Small Arms Factory at Canberra. As has been well said, what we need now is economy. We do not want to wait two years for a building to be put up there at an enormous cost and waste £28,000, which Mr. McKay in his evidence said would be the amount wasted by shifting the Factory from Lithgow, though, in my opinion, it will be nearer £100,000. We do not want to sanction any item which is going to entail that waste. We need guns, and we need them promptly. If the money is going to be spent in extending the present Factory bv utilizing machinery now available in Australia to turn out guns, I will support the proposal, but I desire to obtain an assurance from the Prime Minister. I intend to talk if I do not get one. I hope that he will let me know whether in voting for this proposal I shall in any way prejudice the chance of the House having an opportunity of voting on the question of whether the Small Arms Factory shall be at Lithgow or Canberra. “
– Give me an opportunity and I will soon tell you.
– Will that affect my right to speak again?
– No ; the honorable member will have another opportunity.
– The Government do not intend to take any advantage of the honorable member for Macquarie or of the House in that matter. They will put it to the test after I have had an opportunity to say a few words when I am fit to speak. Regarding what the Leader of the Opposition said about a vast expenditure out of revenue, it is not an expenditure out of the ordinary revenue in the true sense of the term..
– It is out of your ordinary yearly income.
– We have at the present time to pay money into the revenue, as the right honorable gentleman knows very well, to make it good. It is our own money, of course.
– These are ordinary works which are to be constructed out of revenue.
– Not all.
– I do not want to discuss that question now, as this is not the time.
– We must be clear about that. I take it that these are ordinary works which usually are paid for out of revenue. There is nothing else included in the schedule.
– Yes. I agree with honorable members largely; probably with a good harvest it will not be necessary, or perhaps advisable, to keen all these works going, but it is advisable to have a vote of this Parliament in excess of our requirements, for the obvious reason of the difficulty of getting works in hand after the money has been voted. Parliament has declared, and made it mandatory, that the Government shall not proceed with any works until the votes have been taken authorizing the beginning of their construction. It was easy in a State with a limited area to plan and initiate public works immediately authority was given. It is not practicable to do so in the Commonwealth. In many instances, much money has been lost through the system that we have adopted.
– It badly needs altering.
– It is not on a sound basis. Difficulties have arisen out of constitutional provisions as much as from the ineptitude of various Governments. The Commonwealth was without a constructing Department, and had to depend on the States, and on a circumlocutory method of construction.
– Early Governments had not the necessary courage.
– These are times when we should take our courage in both hands. But the Government cannot spend money without proper authority.
– The Treasurer means that, although we are being asked to vote this large sum, much of it, in all probability, will not be spent.
– That is so. Even if less were voted, a large amount would not be spent, because it could not be spent before the works which were sanctioned had been properly started. I do not know any better system than that which I inaugurated when last in office. I then gave the Post Office an advance of £600,000, and provided for a policy for the construction of conduits that was continuous for the years 1911-12, 1912-13, and 1913-14. By that means a good deal of money was saved.
– Is that practice still followed ?
– Unhappily, the fund has been exhausted.
– What reply did the Prime Minister make regarding the Small Arms Factory?
– Nothing will be done in the matter until a vote has been taken in this House.
– A factory will not be started at Canberra ?
– I again state, in regard to these Estimates, that the Treasurer has not shown any justification for increasing the expenditure on works and buildings this year to £3,827,000, the amount spent last year having been only £2,670,000. Such a proposal is, to my mind, evidence that economy is not being practised, and that the Estimates have not received from the Treasurer the critical examination that is expected in these times. I am altogether opposed to the increase of the expenditure on works and buildings this year by £1,157,000. Furthermore, the amount that it is proposed to expend on new works and buildings this year should have been charged, if not all, for the most part, to loan funds. Had that been done, it would have required an expenditure of only £191,000 a year to provide interest and sinking fund at the rate of 5 per cent. I regret, and protest, that this sum of £3,827,000 is to be charged against ordinary revenue this year, instead of against loan funds, and that it should be in excess of the expenditure of last year by £1,157,000.
– The Treasurer’s reference to the Post Office conduits is unfortunate, because the expenditure on this work is now chargeable to ordinary loans; it is not chargeable against the new works account.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and report adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, founded on resolution of Supply, 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 passed through all its stages.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of a message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation of revenue for the purposes of this Bill.
Operations at Gallipoli - National Stocktaking of Food Supplies.
Mr. FISHER (Wide Bay- Prime Minister and Treasurer [11.16]. - In moving
That the House do now adjourn,
I wish to thank the Leader of the Opposition and honorable members generally for permitting one section of Supply to be passed in order to enable another place to deal with. it. I tak© the opportunity to read the following brief extract from a communication received from the CommanderinChief at Gallipoli: -
Extract from despatch from Sir Ian Hamilton on recent fighting at Gallipoli begins: The Australians and New Zealanders cannot be praised too highly.
Their magnificent night march over country, a march so near absolute impracticability that the Turks had evidently not believed such a feat would bc attempted, and their dash and vigour in attack at the end of that march reflect equal credit on their officers and on themselves.
.- As it is proposed by the Government to take away the time remaining for private business, it becomes necessary to take advantage of the motion for the adjournment to refer to certain matters of public importance.
On 3rd June I moved in this House a motion dealing with the national stocktaking of food supplies, and asking that the Government should formulate lines of action upon the information disclosed, as follows: -
– Order I The honorable member must not quote from Hansard of this session.
– I proposed to quote the motion from Barnard to save time. Apparently, if I had kept a copy of the motion and read it I should be in order.
– The honorable member would then be no more in order than if he read the motion from Hansard. He cannot quote from a debate that has taken place in this Chamber during the present session.
– Am I not entitled to read the motion without quoting it from Hansard t
– The matter was dealt with on a previous occasion, and the honorable member cannot go over the same ground that was covered before.
– I had no intention to traverse the previous debate, but a certain promise was made by the Minister of Trade and Customs, who was then in charge of the House, and certain action has since been taken by the Government, to which I desire to refer. I have stated the purpose of the motion. Mr. SPEAKER. - The honorable member is distinctly dealing with a matter that has already been dealt with. Standing order 266 clearly lays it down that -
No member shall allude to any debate of the same session upon any question or Bill not then being under discussion, nor to any speech made in Committee, except by the indulgence of the House for personal explanations.
– On 3rd June I moved a certain motion, and the Minister of Trade and Customs said it would be submitted to the Government for their favorable consideration. He promised to announce to the House the result of the deliberations of the Cabinet in regard to
– The honorable member is distinctly trying to evade my ruling.
– I want to ask the Government what they have done about it
– If the honorable member desires merely to ask a question, I can allow kim a certain amount of latitude; if not, he can have no purpose in mentioning all these details.
– I want to show what promise was made, and ask why it has not been kept. I am sorry I am so restricted by your interpretation of the Standing Orders that I cannot refer even to so much of the debate as would show precisely what the promise of the Minister was. I have no desire to debate the merits of the question. The Minister in charge at the time-
– I must ask the honorable member not to go over the same ground. If he does, I shall have to take another course.
– If I cannot speak on the question-
– It is undignified for me to enter into an argument with the honorable member. He must either obey my ruling or move that it be disagreed with.
– Shall I be in order in referring to the subsequent action of the Government as stated in the daily newspapers? It is reported that, on the 17ih June, the Government decided upon a national stocktaking of food supplies. In the Melbourne Age of 23rd June the following statement appeared: -
The Federal Attorney-General is prosecuting inquiries under the powers recently granted to him by the Executive Council under the War Precautions Act, with a view to ascertaining what stocks of foodstuffs are held in the Commonwealth. In order to secure the necessary information, notices have been sent out requiring those who are supposed to hold stocks to supply details fully and unreservedly within a period of seven days from receipt of the notice The order is being enforced in respect of frozen and preserved meat of all descriptions, grain and other cereals, fodder,- sugar, and food of that type; in fact, practically every food commodity which is regarded as a necessity in the community. Mr. Hughes last night said he believed the information to be so gathered would be invaluable to the community both in regard to the stocks held and to the extent to which the prices which were being charged were warranted by circumstances.
That stock-taking was to be carried out within seven days. The order was given by the Cabinet on the 17th June, so that these returns are some seven weeks overdue. We have heard nothing of them.
The Minister of Trade and Customs has been asked several times in the House what was the result of thiB reference to the Government and their consideration of it, but we have been met with evasions, and’ not with a reply
It appears that, although ‘the Minister said nothing could be done, the result of Cabinet consideration of my motion was to show that action could be taken, and the Government ordered an inquiry to meet the case.
I should like to know what has been the result of this national stocktaking. The matter is bb urgent now as it was then - in fact, every day increases its urgency since the prices of the necessaries of life are advancing.
On 24th June the Age reported that a detailed investigation in regard to the meat shortage was to be made as the result of this same Cabinet meeting, and in its issue of 30th June it stated that these returns were due. It also published the following comment by the AttorneyGeneral : -
Mr. Hughes states that for the present schedules arc only being sent to the larger firms, but it is the intention eventually to pursue the investigation with respect to both wholesale and retail places. He describes the inquiry as being something in the nature of a national stocktaking. “When we And out what we have,” said Mr. Hughes, “ which we shall do in about a week or ten days’ time, we shall know how far exports may be restricted, how far imports may be encouraged, to what extent the prices charged are justified, to what extent production in certain directions requires encouragement, whether the channels of distribution are clear, and how far ‘ foodstuffs and necessities are being cornered or held up. On this data the Commonwealth and State Governments will be able to take action.”
This matter is now ‘ six or seven weeks overdue, but a sepulchral silence has been maintained in regard to it. We do not know what has been the result of the investigations, nor what the Government propose to do.
I put forward my proposal because I believed that something could be done, and, seeing that the Minister promised in the House that it would be considered by the Government, and the result made known to honorable members, I have exercised patience in waiting for something more than eight weeks for the result of the Cabinet’s consideration.
I have been able to glean it from the public newspapers, although the Minister has not seen fit to make any announcement to the House in reply toquestions addressed to him on the subject.
I wish now to- ask what has been the result of this national stock-taking - what disclosures have been made, and whether the matter will be submitted to the House for the information of. honorable members and the public generally.
Further, I wish to know what action the Government propose to take in regard to the situation disclosed as the result of these inquiries. Apparently there is still no reply.
– In reply to the honorable member, I have to state that certain action has been taken, but I am not in possession of the facte. I shall obtain and furnish them to him.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 25 August 1915, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1915/19150825_reps_6_78/>.