6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER informed the House that he had received a return to thewrit issued for the election of a member to serve in the House of Representatives for the electoral division of Wide Bay, in the place of the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, resigned, endorsed with the certificate of the election of Edward Bernard Cresset Corser, Esquire.
Mr. Corser made and subscribed the oath of allegiance.
– During the absence of the Prime Minister in England the following allocation of Ministerial duties has been made: - The Minister for Defence to be Acting Prime Minister, the Minister for External Affairs to be Acting Attorney-General. All matters in connexion with the wheat scheme and the War Precautions (Prices Adjustment) Regulations to be controlled by the Assistant Minister, Senator Russell. Matters arising under the sugar agreement to be administered by the Commonwealth Treasurer. In the absence of the Prime Minister I shall be the Leader of the Government in this House.
– By leave - On the 26th November, 1915, the Commonwealth Government cabled to the Imperial Authorities offering to increase its contribution of troops by 50,000, and also undertaking to supply each month the necessary reinforcements. On the basis upon which reinforcements were then required, it was calculated that, with the additional number named in this offer,
Australia would have raised by the end of June, 1916, for active service abroad 286,000 men.
On the 17th February, 1916, the War Office cabled advising that the percentage of reinforcements required was substantially reduced.
On the 28th January, 1916, the Secretary of State for the Colonies cabled that-
As a result of communication with the General Officer Commanding in Egypt, and on further consideration of the offer of the Commonwealth Government, conveyed in the cable of the 28th November, to provide three additional Australian Divisions, War Office suggest that as there is at present in Egypt a large accumulation of Australian and New Zealand personnel, surplus to the establishment existing Divisions, the formation of two of the three additional Australian Divisions should be begun in Egypt at once. It is hoped that your Government will agree in principle to these proposals.
On the 30th January, 1916, General Birdwood, the General Officer Commanding, cabled expressing the hope that the suggestion contained in the War Office cable, for the organization of two divisions in Egypt and only one in Australia, be adopted and put in hand at once, and stating that the question of the disposal of the large accumulation of reinforcements and returned convalescents in Egypt was urgent, and in the interest of the discipline and well-being and training of the troops of the Commonwealth required early settlement.
On the 2nd February, the Commonwealth Government cabled the Secretary of State for the Colonies agreeing to the War Office proposals.
On the same date General Birdwood was informed of the Government’s decision, and he replied as follows on the following day : - “ Thank you very much for your cable of 2nd February. Am most grateful for all the consideration which has been shown me.”
These communications had an important effect on the numbers which it was contemplated would have been required, and also on the period over which they would have to be raised, as they meant that, in order to comply with the promise of the Government, as modified at the request of the War Office, 209,000 troops would require to be despatched by the end of June, 1916. It will bo seen that these modifications were made at the request, and on the suggestion, of the War Office, and were not proposed by the Commonwealth Government. At the same time, the Government does not take the view that its offer of the 26th November, 1915, exhausts the possibilities of Australia so far as contributions of fighting troops are concerned, and the Acting Prime Minister, in statements made, has endeavoured to make this point clear, and has appealed to the various recruiting organizations throughout the Commonwealth to continue their efforts to gain recruits.
The latest available figures show that, up to 6th May, 1916, there had embarked from’ Australia 189,000 troops, and there were in training throughout Australia approximately 62,000, making a total of 251,000. Divided into military districts, the figures work out as follow : -
The following cable has been received from the Secretary of State, dated London, 8th May, 1916: - “ With reference to my telegram 3rd May, news may now be published that Australian and New Zealand troops have arrived in France and taken over a portion of the front.”
On the 12th April, 1916, the Federal Government referred to the Federal Parliamentary War Committee the following minute : -
While Government takes entire responsibility for deciding as to voluntary or compulsory service, and does not invite the Federal Parliamentary War Committee to make any recommendation thereon, it is desired to ascertain from the Committee whether, in view of the necessity of efficiently maintaining our industrial and commercial life, together with the responsibilities of Australia in this war, and in comparison with the contributions of other Dominions, the Committee is of the opinion that’ the Commonwealth is adequately represented at the front. The Committee is therefore invited to offer any advice or recommendation with a view to the improvement of the present system of recruiting.
On the above, the Federal Parliamentary War Committee made the following recommendation : -
The Committee notes that the Government does not submit to it the question of voluntary service as compared with universal compulsory service.
The Committee, without expressing any views on the question of the comparative contributions of th* other Dominions, is of the opinion that Australia is not adequately represented at the front.
It recommends that the Government fix an early date for a minimum number of new recruits, accompanied by a public intimation that if the number be not forthcoming by the specified date the whole question of the voluntary system will Be reviewed.
The Commonwealth Government cannot see its way to adopt this recommendation for the following reasons : -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Joseph Cook) adjourned.
– By leave - As to the business of the House, it is proposed thatto-day the Treasurer shall make his Budget speech for the financial year ending June, 1916, the debate upon which can be adjourned. It is proposed to introduce and pass a Supply Bill for one month for the payment of salaries, &c., falling due this week, and to introduce a further Supply Bill at a later stage to cover any adjournment that may be decided upon. If the Houses are willing to pass the Estimates within a reasonable time, it is suggested that the general debate on questions of policy and administration can take place thereon. Other Bills to be considered will be: - A Bill to amend the War Pensions Act, to make better provision for the relatives and dependants, and deceased or incapacitated soldiers; a Bill for a further war loan; a Bill to provide for the appointment of trustees for the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, and for the regulation of the fund; a Bill to provide for the taxation of war profits; a Bill to make provision for the difficulty caused by the expiry of the term of the Public Service Commissioner’s appointment. Some other Bills amending existing war legislation, of an urgent character, may be required. It is then proposed to adjourn until the return of the Prime Minister to Australia.
– I wish to remind honorable members that to-day is the anniversary of the first assembling of the Commonwealth Parliament.
Assent to the following Bills re ported : -
Income Tax Bill 1915 (No. 2).
Income Tax Assessment Bill 1915 (No. 2).
Iron Bounty. Bill 1915.
Officers’ Compensation Bill 1915.
Quarantine Bill 1915.
Referendum (Withdrawal of Writs) Bill.
River Murray Waters Bill.
Supply Bill (No. 3) 1915-16.
Supply Bill (No. 4) 1915-16.
Supply (Works and Buildings) Bill (No. 3) 1915-16.
Supply (Works and Buildings) Bill (No. -4) 1915-16.
War Loan Bill (No. 3) 1915.
The following papers were presented : -
Inter-State Commission Act -
Paper, Paper-boards, Manufactures of Paper and Wood-pulp.
Miscellaneous Group V.
Miscellaneous Group VII.
Brushware, Brushmakers’ Drafts and Brushmakers’ Woodware.
Corks and Cork Manufactures.
Copper, Refined, Bounty.
Electrotypes, Stereotypes and Matrices and Machinery connected therewith.
Glass, Glass Bottles, Glassware, and Stained Glass Windows.
Grain and Pulse.
Leatherware, namely, Harness, Travelling and Sporting Goods, Belting, &c.; also similar goods in canvas and fibre.
Locks and Lock Furniture.
Machinery, Weighing and Testing.
Marble and Granite.
Miscellaneous Group IV.
Miscellaneous Group V.
Miscellaneous Group VI.
Miscellaneous Group VII.
Printing Inks and Printers’ Roller Composition.
Slate Slabs, Roofing Slates, and Roofing and other Tiles.
Tin Ores and Unrefined Tin (Export duty).
Type, Printers’ Metal.
Vehicles and Parts, including Motor Vehicles.
Vessels, Ships, Dredges, &c.
Works of Art, Modelled Statues and Coloured Printed Pictures.
Writing Inks and Ink Powders.
Postmaster-General’s Department - Fifth AnnualReport, 1914-15.
Ordered to be printed.
Audit Act -
Naval Account Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 175.
Treasury Regulations Amended - (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 243.
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 24, 39.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Commonwealth Bank of Australia - Aggregate Balancesheet at 31st December, 1915, together with the Auditor-General’s Report thereon.
Commonwealth Bank Act Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 4.
Commonwealth Workmen’s Compensation Act-
Regulation Amended - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 92.
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 34.
Estate Duty Assessment Act - Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 66, 73, 97.
Income Tax Assessment Act -
Regulations ( Provisional ) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 213.
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 245.
Invalid and Old-Age Pensions Act - Regulations (Provisional) - Statutory Rules.1915, No. 254.
Defence Act -
Employment of Persons in a civil capacity -
Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 221.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 43.
Military Forces - Regulations Amended -
Regulati ons - ( Pro vi sion al ) Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 220, 257, 258, 206.
Financial and Allowance - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 263. (Provisional) -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 250.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 7, 18.
Royal Military College -
Provisional Regulations - Statutory Rules 1916, No. 17.
Universal Training - Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 271. (Provisional) Statutory Rules 1915,
Nos. 226, 255, 256.
Dominions Royal Commission (Imperial) - (Natural Resources, Trade, and Legislation of certain portions of His Majesty’s Dominions) -
Memorandum and Tables relating to the Food and Raw Materials Requirements of the United Kingdom - Prepared by - (Paper presented to the British Parliament.)
Fisheries - Zoological Results of the Fishing Experiments carried on by F.I.S. Endeavour, 1909-1914. Vol. III., Part 7.
Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway Act - Goods Rates.
Lands Acquisition Act -
Lands acquired under, at -
Adelaide, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Amungula, Federal Territory- For Federal Capital purposes.
Amungula, partly in Federal Territory and partly in New South Wales - For Federal Capital purposes.
Armidale, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Ballarat, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Ballina, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Bherwerre, New South Wales - For the establishment of a Port, and for Defence purposes.
Brighton, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Broome, Western Australia - For Quarantine purposes.
Bulli, New South Wales - For Postal purposes,
Camperdown, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Chippendale, New South Wales - For Postal purposes (three Papers).
Corowa, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Cottesloe Beach, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Cronulla Beach, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Darwin, Northern Territory - For Railway purposes.
Enmore, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Enoggera, Queensland - For Defence purposes.
Fremantle, Western Australia - For Quarantine purposes.
Ginninderra, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes (two Papers).
Ginninderra, New South Wales - For Federal Capital purposes.
Ginninderra and Bedulluck, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Glebe, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Glenelg, South Australia - For Postal purposes.
Goorooyarroo, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes (two Papers).
Hampton Location 42, Western Australia - For Railway purposes.
Holbrook, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Lawson, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Liverpool, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Majura, Federal Territory - For Federal Capital purposes.
Merigal and Fairy Meadow, New South Wales - For obtaining building material for use in the Federal Territory, &c.
Mount Barker, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Mundaring, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
North Perth, Western Australia - For Defence purposes.
North Sydney, New South Wales - For Defence purposes.
Northcote, Victoria - For Postal purposes.
Ooldea Water, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Phillips Ponds, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Pialligo, New South Wales - For Federal Capital purposes.
Port Adelaide, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Port Pirie, South Australia - For Defence purposes.
Sandgate, Queensland - For Postal purposes.
Sydenham, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Sydney (Crown-street), New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Tarcoola, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Toronto, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Trundle, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Wagga Wagga, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Wilgena, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Williams, Western Australia - For Postal purposes.
Willochra, South Australia; - For Railway purposes.
Woocalla, South Australia - For Railway purposes.
Woy Woy, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Yarraville, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Naturalization Act -
Return of number of persons to whom Naturalization Certificates were granted during 1915.
Regulations - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 227.
Naval Defence Act -
Regulations Amended -
Royal Australian Naval College - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 230 (Provisional ) .
Naval Forces -
Employment of Persons -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 249 (Provisional) .
Statutory Rules 1916, No. 44 (Provisional) .
Financial and Allowance -
Statutory Rules 1915, No. 248 (Provisional).
Statutory Rules 1916, No. 69 (Provisional).
Northern Territory - Ordinance of 1916 -
No. 1 - Liquor.
Ordinances of 1915 -
No. 4 - Succession Duties.
No. 5 - Places of Public Entertainment.
No. 7 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 3), 1912-13, Amendment.
No. 8 - Appropriation, 1915-16.
No. 9 - War Precautions.
No. 10- Pearl, Pearl Shell, and Beche de Mer.
Ordinance of 1916 -
No. 1 - Rules Publication.
Infirm and Destitute Natives Account -
Statement of the Transactions of the Trustees, 1914-15.
Post and Telegraph Act -
Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 194, 201, 231, 236, 239-242, 268, 269, 270.
Statutory Rules1916, Nos. 3, 5, 9, 16, 23, 33, 58, 59. (Provisional) -
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 198, 214, 215, 233, 234 , 235, 237.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 2 10, 31, 50, 51, 68.
Public Service Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 223, 246, 265.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 56 and 57.
Regulations Amended -
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 225, 232, 251, 252, 262.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 6, 20, 21, 25, 32, 60.
Auditor-General’s Office - Promotions of -
Crown Solicitor’s Office - Appointments, &c., of -
Department of Trade and Customs - Promotion of A. R. Townsend, as Clerk, 4th Class, Central Staff.
Department of Home Affairs - Appointments of -
Department of the Treasury - Promotions of-
Department of Defence - Promotions of -
Postmaster-General’s Department - Promotions of -
Bar along Case - Memorandum of the German Government in regard to incidents alleged to have attended the destruction of a German submarine and its crew by H.M. Auxiliary Cruiser Baralong, on 19th August, 1915, and Reply of His Majesty’s Government thereto - (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
Commerce (Sea-borne) of Germany - Statement of the Measures adopted to intercept - (Paper presented to the British Parliament) .
Execution of Miss Cavell at Brussels - Correspondence with the United States Ambassador respecting - (Presented to the British Parliament).
Konigsberg - Copy of Second Supplement to London Gazette, dated 7th December, 1915, publishing Despatch, dated15th July, 1915, containing Report of operations against.
National Relief Fund - Report on the Administration of, up to the 30th September,1915 - (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
Poland - Correspondence forwarded by the Secretary of State for the Colonies relative to proposals for the relief of.
Prisoners of War and Interned Civilians (British) in Germany - Correspondence with the United States Ambassador respecting theTreatment of -( Paper presented to the British Parliament) .
Returned Soldiers - Report of the Resolutions, Proceedings, and Debates of the Conference of Representatives of the Commonwealth and State Governments and of the Federal Parliamentary War Committee (together with Appendices) in respect of the settlement of Returned Soldiers on the Land, &c. - Held at Melbourne,17th19th February, 1916.
Suvla Bay - Arrangements made for water supply to the troops during landing at - (Paper presented to British Parliament) .
Trade - Report of a Sub-Committee of the Advisory Committee to the Board of Trade on Commercial Intelligence with respect to Measures for securing the position, after the War, of certain Branches of British Industry - (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
Von Papen, Captain - Selection from Papers found in the possession of Captain Von Papen, late German Military Attache at Washington, Falmouth, 2nd and 3rd January, 1916 - (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
German Possessions in Western Pacific - Correspondence respecting Military Operations against - (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
War Pensions Act -
Regulation Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1915, No. 244.
War Precautions Act -
Regulations Amended (Provisional) - Statutory Rules 1916. No. 29.
Regulations Amended (Provisional) -
Statutory Rules 1915, Nos. 228, 229, 238, 253, 260.
Statutory Rules 1916, Nos. 1, 8, 12, 15, 19, 22, 24, 30, 37, 48, 67.
Statutory Rules 1916, No. 47.
Wide Bay Election,11th December, 1915-
Detailed Return of Voting.
– According to a cable message printed in the daily press of today, Mr. Ryan, Premier of Queensland, has bean making some observations in London. He stated, among other things, that Australia had had an opportunity to make what he called a “ safe peace” with Germany, but that she preferred the more “ perilous “ course - I am again using Mr. Ryan’s own adjective - of identifying herself with the Mother Country. As the cable makes it appear that Mr. Ryan was speaking on behalf of Australia, I wish to know whether this is the case, also whether the Commonwealth Government have had this consideration before them in any shape or form, or whether Mr. Ryan was simply trying to get into the limelight that is at present monopolized by Mr. Hughes.
– I have not seen the cable to which the honorable member refers. No one but the Prime Minister is authorized to represent the Commonwealth Government in Great Britain.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs lay on the table of the House the report of the engineer, Mr. Combes, on strategic railways, also the maps prepared?
– The report will be laid on the table of the Library.
– Do I understand that the Minister declines to lay on the table of the House Mr. Combes’ report so that it may be printed ?
– The honorable member asked for the production of big maps, and I wish to point out to him that when maps are laid on the table of the House the Department loses control of them. I am willing to lay the maps on the table if Mr. Speaker will consent to their return to the Department.
– Any documents laid on the table of the House become the property of the House.
– Will the Minister of Trade and Customs consider the ad visability of minimizing the embargo on the coal trade ? Will he also expedite his decisions when applications are made by coal agents and ship-owners for permits to carry coal ?
– All along I have been anxious to expedite these decisions, but unfortunately the matter concerns more than one Department. Where it has been possible to expedite the matter and give a definite decision one way or another, I have endeavoured to do so; but honorable members are aware of the difficulty of obtaining freight in order to shift our wheat. The trouble is to get vessels. Recently I pleaded with the Wheat Board in regard to this matter, and it was agreed that the transport of coal should be expedited as much as possible. But the difficulty lies in getting vessels to carry the coal, and not so much in the embargo upon it.
– Can the Minister in charge of the House say whether there is any truth in the rumour that Sir Edward Carson has been arrested for having been the cause of the rebellion in Ireland ?
– I have not heard of any such rumour; I know nothing about it.
Employment of Girls
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that girls employed in the Sydney General Post Office are being transferred out-back to places such as Cobar and Broken Hill ? As these are young girls who are being taken away from their families, will the Minister look into this matter and see whether steps cannot be taken to prevent this state of things ?
– I shall make inquiries.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs, before the
Financial Statement is delivered, have prepared a progress report upon the construction of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, the expenditure upon the railway up to date, and the anticipated amount required to complete the line; and for the information of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth, will he have that information laid on the table of the House ?
– In reply to the honorable member’s question, the information which he desires is contained in the following statement supplied by the Engineer-in-Chief .
The above figures are inclusive of particulars as per costing statements up to the11th March, 1916, in the Eastern Division, and up to the 12th February, 1916, in the Western Division. Owing to the industrial trouble with the clerical staff at Kalgoorlie no costing statement at11th March, 1916, was prepared. The statements showing the particulars at 8th April, 1916, in each division are now on their way to Melbourne, and on their receipt the information can be brought up to that date if the honorable member so desires.
As far as workshops are concerned, temporary arrangements are being made at present.
The working expenditure for the same period was £213,291 6s. 4d.
– Has the Department of Trade and Customs taken into full consideration the embargo which has been placed by the Queensland Government on the export of stock from Queensland to New South Wales?
– The honorable member wrote one or two letters to me upon this subject, but as it was a legal matter I referred them to the Department of the AttorneyGeneral. I have received no reply from that Department, otherwise I should have forwarded it to the honorable member.
– In view of the promise made to the farmers by the Prime Minister, that they should receive full London parity for their wheat, I ask the Minister of Trade and Customs whether the Government are justified in reducing the price of wheat to millers by 41/2d. per bushel ? It is robbing the farmers.
– Order ! When honorable members ask a question they are seeking information. When an honorable member gives information to the House he cannot be said to be asking a question. I appeal to honorable members to submit their questions without any remarks or comments attached to them.
– In view of the definite arrangement made by the Prime Minister with the farmers, do the Government consider they are justified in reducing the price to the millers by 41/2d. below the London parity?
– That question has been dealt with by the Wheat Board, upon which four States and the Commonwealth are represented. If the honorable member will put the question on the noticepaper, I will endeavour to obtain a reply from the Commonwealth representative on the Board.
Supply of Steel Cars
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs inform the House as to the present position in regard to the proposed importation of steel cars for the Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway, and also the nature of the reply received from the Victorian Railway Commissioners and others regarding the possibility of local construction ?
– After careful investigation, everything is in readiness for the calling of tenders within a few weeks for the manufacture of the cars in Australia.
– Will the Minister of Home Affairs state whether the work of building the Arsenal at Tuggeranong has been started; if so, what amount of money has been expended to date?
– I have not heard that any work has been done beyond a little surveying.
– Has the Minister for the Navy seen the statement published in the Sydney press to the effect that the officers on board the transport which arrived in Sydney on Thursday last with wounded soldiers celebrated Anzac Day by sitting down to a sumptuous repast worthyof Lucullus, whilst the rank and file had stew inflicted upon them three times that day, and were given the privilege of purchasing the menu cards from the officers’ mess at 6d. each? Will the Minister make inquiries into the allegation ?
– I have not seen any such statement, but I can aver that the food supplied to the officers and men on board troopships is the best obtainable. I am prepared to place on the table of the House the daily menus on board a troopship from the commencement to the completion of its voyage, so that honorable members may know what the officers and men are given to eat. I can assure the House that the food is of the best.
– I have no desire to restrict questions, but if Ministers are to be continually interrogated on the basis of statements published in the press, I shall be obliged to take action. It is not in accordance with parliamentary practice for honorable members to accept newspaper statements. Apart from that fact, such questions take up a considerable amount of time, and ought not to be allowed except within reasonable limits.
– In view of the fact that, consequent upon the completion of the hydro-electric scheme in Tasmania, high potential wires will be hung in the streets of Hobart, will the PostmasterGeneral take steps to insure that a competent staff of junior linesmen is employed in that city in order to prevent serious accidents to the public?
– I shall be pleased to take every precaution to guard against accidents of that kind where my Department is concerned.
– Will the Minister representing the Minister of Defence place on the table of the House a return showing the number of rifles manufactured at Lithgow to date, and also the proportion found to be defective when issued from the Factory ?
– I shall consult the Minister of Defence, and let the right honorable member have an answer tomorrow.
– Is the Minister of Home Affairs in possession of information which will enable him to inform the House when this Parliament is likely to meet at Canberra for the transaction of the business of the Commonwealth, and also what steps are being taken to speed up the construction work at the Federal Capital ? Is the survey of the city complete, or nearing completion, and does the Minister propose to make an early start with the construction of the railway from Yass-Canberra to Jervis Bay?
– I can assure honorable members that if I can get the necessary money, this Parliament will be sitting at Canberra in five years.
– Will the Minister, before further expense is incurred at Canberra, refer the proposals to the whole people for their consideration?
– The Australian people have settled the Federal Capital Question, and to re-open it would merely lead to repetition.
– Has Mr. Griffin, the designer of the accepted plan for the Federal Capital, had his appointment extended to three years ?
– Yes. I had a hard job to get Mr. Griffin to agree to the extension, because he has been so greatly persecuted.
– I should like to ask the Leader of the House if it is proposed that the Prime Minister shall attend the Conference of Allies at Paris; and, if so, whether as representative of Australia or of the British Government ? If the Prime Minister is to represent Australia, have any instructions been forwarded to him from the Government?
– I understand that the Prime Minister will attend the Conference as a representative of the British Government; but, of course, he will still be Prime Minister of Australia.
– Has the Minister for the Navy purchased 100,000 tons of coal from the collieries of New South Wales recently ? If so, what does he intend to do with it? If the coal is not for immediate use, where does he intend to store it?
– Last week I proceeded to Newcastle, with a view to purchasing 100,000 tons of coal, or even more, should the necessity arise ; but after hearing what was brought forward at a conference of coal-mine owners, employees, and shipowners, which I attended, I decided not to make a purchase.
– I wish to know from the Minister of Trade and Customs if vessels of the Australian merchant fleet have been sold to Japanese ship-owners. If Australian vessels have been sold to Japanese buyers, and the Commonwealth is in urgent need of freights, I wish to know why the Government cannot purchase the vessels which Australian shipowners are disposed to sell, instead of allowing them to go to the Japanese, or to purchasers of other nations?
– I do not know of any Australian-owned vessel being sold to a Japanese buyer. The Peregrine was sold to a British firm in Hong Kong some time ago. Many applications have been made, but they have been refused.
– Is the Minister of Trade and Customs in a position to make a statement regarding the proclamation of the Navigation Act?
– As I mentioned on two or three occasions before the adjournment, the British Government has asked us to withhold the proclamation of the Navigation Act until after the termination of the war.
– Is tha Minister of Trade and Customs aware that, under the permission he gave for the exportation of butter, a considerable quantity of butter was tinned by persons who believed that they would be able to export it? The permission to export butter having been withdrawn, will the Minister exempt such butter as has been tinned 1
– For the present, I have forbidden the exportation of butter.
– Is the Minister going to tell those who have tinned their butter to re-open the tins?
– They may please themselves.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General, transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1916, and recommending appropriation accordingly.
– Mr. Chairman and Honorable Members. - I desire to place before you a clear Budget Statement - wilfully concealing nothing - so that you may know exactly our country’s financial requirements and courageously prepare to meet them.
Necessity for Economy. I would utter a warning to Australians who are spending everything they earn. It would be in the nature of mockery to advise those householders whose every penny is required to maintain their families to practise thrift and economy; but there are thousands of persons who can save money now spent on mere luxuries, excessive amusements, and comforts which could partially,, at least, be quite easily done without.
Receipts and Expenditure. 3. Our receipts from all sources for the year ending 30th June, 1916, may amount to £89,092,160. Our expenditure, including advances to Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria, of £4,000,000 may amount to £76,057,626, leaving a balance of loan moneys of £13,034,534 with which to commence the new financial year.
Commonwealth during the financial year ended 30th June, 1915, and the esti mated receipts for the year ending 30th June, 1916: -
Customs and Excise. The increase in Customs revenue from £12,105,698 in 1914- 15 to an estimated £13,200,000 in 1915- 16 will be found to be mainly due to the importation of sugar, agricultural products and groceries, textiles and attire, oils, paints and varnishes, earthenware, cement, china and glass, jewellery and fancy goods, hides, leather and rubber, paper and stationery, and vehicles.
The estimated increase in both Customs and Excise on tobacco, cigarettes, &c., is probably due to the requirements of soldiers who have enlisted for active service.
The actual revenue received from imported sugar in 1914-15 was £60,403. This year, we expect to receive a sum of £450,000- an increase of about £390,000.
There has been a decrease in the amount of revenue received from ale and spirits imported from abroad. This will no doubt account for an increase in the Excise duty received from the consumption of Australian beer. If hotels are to be closed in all the States of Australia at six o’clock p.m., as in South Australia and Tasmania, the Commonwealth may expect a diminution in both Customs and Excise revenue derived from the use of beer and spirits.
Net Customs Revenue. The total net Customs and Excise revenue of the Commonwealth since the establishment of Federation is shown as follows : -
The number of factories and employees in Australia at the establishment of Federation was: - Factories, 11,143; employees, 197,783. The latest returns to the end of 1914 are: - Factories, 15,430; employees, 329,825. These figures disclose expansion, but I am authorized to say that the Government hav© no wish to continue to receive so large a sum as £13,200,000 by way of Customs revenue. The Government would prefer that such an increase may take place in Australian manufactures as will lower the huge total appreciably.
Land Tax. The total number of assessments made for the current financial year was 14,714, representing a tax of £1,774,058, of which £31,541 has been collected.
It will be remembered that the Land Taxation Acts were amended so as to apply to the year beginnings 1st July, 1914. The amendments “took the form of an addition to the rate of tax which raised the average rate from 3½d. to 5d. in the case of an estate worth £75,000, and the introduction into the taxable area of Crown leaseholds which had hitherto escaped taxation.
It was expected that large additional revenues would accrue from these sources; but these expectations have not been realized.
Under the old rate of tax the amount collected for the financial year 1913-14 was £1,591,452. For the following year,_ 1914-15, under the enhanced rates of tax an amount of £1,958,808 was collected, but an amount in this year of £277,973 is outstanding. This represents the tax due in cases which’ are under reference to the Courts, and tax assessed in cases where the benefits of the “ hardship “ section in the law have been claimed. It is probable that a large part of this sum will not be collected, as the land-owners who have sought relief undoubtedly suffered greatly from the drought. With the consent of the Government the Commissioner did not require payment of tax pending investigation of the cases, which is still proceeding.
As already stated, the tax assessed for the current year is only £1,774,058, which falls short by £200,000 of the amount assessed last year, and is not £200,000 in 1 excess of the tax collected under the old rates.
In the reports of the Commissioner for Taxation, the effect of the impost in stimulating subdivision and transfer of the largest land interests in Australia has been indicated. The movement is constantly going on ; breaking up the largest estates into smaller estates, and, in many instances, throwing land entirely out of the Commonwealth taxation sphere.
The number of taxpayers does not reduce - in fact, there is, on the contrary, a tendency to increase; but the average holding per taxpayer is lessening so materially that the revenue-producing powers of the higher rates of tax are gradually being neutralized. In addition to sales of land by one person to another, arrangements have been made under which parents have transferred parts of their estates to children or other relatives. In some cases these transfers are nominal, and deliberately made to avoid taxation. An amendment of the law should provide for complete and unencumbered transfer.
So far as the taxation of leasehold interests is concerned, Parliament decided to tax only the excess of value in leaseholds over and above the value rs- presented by the rent paid to the Crown. Lease-holders have taken advantage of the provisions of the law in this connexion by asserting that there is no value in their leaseholds beyond the value of the rent they pay. This has imposed upon the Department the work of checking the statements made, and, as the field of industry is immense throughout Australia, the work of applying the check has not yet been accomplished, and it is still a matter of doubt as to whether the revenue to be derived from this source will be material or not.
It may be mentioned that the right of the Commonwealth to impose tax upon Crown leaseholds has been challenged in the Law Courts. The High Court unanimously decided in favour of the Commonwealth Government, but the appellants have appealed to the Privy Council.
Estate Duty. For the year 1915-16 up to the present date, the number of assessments made was 2,733, representing a tax of £587,629, of which £357,109 has been received. Almost the whole of the outstanding balance of £230,520 should be in hand before the end of the financial year, as the last date for payment has not yet arrived. In some cases executors and administrators are asking to be permitted to pay by instalments, for’ which the law makes provision in special cases. This may cause some delay in securing the balance.
It is necessary, also, to state that following the death of a testator, considerable time often elapses before the estate is in a position to pay tax. The Commonwealth cannot assess its tax until the State has determined the amount of duty which is payable to the State, and where interests are large and complicated, much time is often expended before probate or administration can be applied for.
The Commonwealth has been greatly assisted by the “States in connexion with the administration of this Act. It has been possible, by accepting State valuations, to make the Commonwealth assessments with a very small expenditure in administration .
Income Tax. Up to the present date, 198,568 assessments have been made, amounting to £2,902,576 in tax. Of this, £666,186 has been received, and the balance of £2,236,390 may almost all be Expected before the end of the financial year. A number of assessments remain to be made, but these will be completed in time to receive the year’s revenue before the end of June. Of the returns received, approximating ‘400,000, a very large number has been found to be non-taxable.
On the figures at present to hand, the revenue should be well in advance of the estimate of £3,000,000 in November, 1915, but it is not safe to assume that the average per assessment which has been secured up to the present will be maintained until the end.
It is possible that there will be some litigation which, if decided adversely to the departmental view, will reduce the assessments already made where companies are concerned.
If the remaining States follow the example of Victoria, and impose a liability on State public servants to Commonwealth income tax, the revenue will be further strengthened. It is understood the State of Queensland has pledged itself to this course already; but, so far as is known, the remaining States have not taken steps to legislate similarly to the Commonwealth, which took action to make its public servants liable to State income tax. It would be inequitable to allow the large body of State public servants throughout Australia to escape the Federal tax which the general public have to pay.
In a number of cases State public servants have furnished returns and voluntarily paid tax, in some instances expressing the desire to share in the national burden. In some other cases, also, members of the public have increased the amount of their tax in order that they may similarly help the Commonwealth in a very trying financial time.
In reducing the original estimate of revenue to be derived from income tax, the Treasurer was influenced by the facts that companies escaped tax on their income distributed in dividends; that there was a doubt as to the power to collect tax from the great body of public servants employed by the States; that large numbers of taxpayers were absent at the war, and exempt so far as their personal exertion income was concerned; that income derived from Commonwealth and State securities was not subject to tax; and that in the year 1914-15 the great body of land-owners had suffered severely by drought, which had deprived many of the whole or a substantial part of their income.
The fact that the tax is likely to produce revenue in advance of the revised estimate of £3,000,000 may be attributed to increased trade, the result of war expenditure.
War Census. The aggregate net income of persons resident in the Commonwealth, as furnished by a progress return to the 3rd April, 1916, is £183,374,102. but the Commonwealth Statistician (Mr. G. H. Knibbs) states that these figures are subject to revision, as cards representing probably upwards of £20,000,000 of income have yet to be tabulated.
Incomes. From this return of incomes of persons eighteen years of age and over, whose usual place of residence is in the Commonwealth, it appears that: -
Private Wealth of Australia. In the opinion of the Commonwealth Statistician, the aggregate private wealth of Australia is, approximately, £1,000,000,000.
Post Office Revenue. The total estimated revenue for the Postal Department for 1915-16 is £5,000,000, or £405,458 in excess of the actual revenue for 1914-15.
Export of Gold. On the14th July, 1915, the Commonwealth Government prohibited the exportation of gold specie or bullion from the Commonwealth of Australia, except with the consent in writing of the Treasurer of the Commonwealth.
The amount of gold permitted to be exported from the Commonwealth from the 14th July, 1915, to the 28th October, 1915, when the banks were informed that the Treasurer was unable to permit any more gold to be shipped from the Commonwealth to the United States until the whole question had been reviewed, was £5,943,635. From the 1st November, 1915, to the 24th January, 1916, the amount of gold specie and bullion exported was £1,253,184.
On this latter date a deputation representing the Associated Banks of Victoria waited on me to discuss the removal of the embargo. It was contended by the deputation that the prohibition of the export of gold interfered to such an extent with trade that the rate of exchange became unduly high, necessitating an extra charge which had to be passed on to the consumer ; also that “ the exportation of gold is a matter of no absolute direct interest to the banks.”
I took the stand that it was in Australia’s interest that the export of gold should be restricted; but if gold was to be exported any profit that might accrue should be placed at the credit of the nation to clear off portion of our national debt, or be used to meet our current war obligations.
To test the question whether a limited export of gold would reduce to the public the rate for telegraphic transfer - a rate which is decided absolutely by the bankers themselves - I agreed in February last to a limited export of gold from the Commonwealth on the following understanding: “ Anybank lodging full-weight sovereigns with the Commonwealth Treasury or with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, as agents for the Treasury, to receive telegraphic payment in London at the rate of £98 for every 100 full- weight sovereigns lodged; the amount of £2 per cent. tobe kept in hand, and, afterall expenses have been paid, the balance to be adjusted at the discretion of the Treasurer.”
If the gold was sold at a premium, it was proposed to place this profit to the credit of the CommonwealthRevenue. In all shipments I proposed to charge a commission, payable to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia, of 5s. per cent., and expenses of transit from centres where gold was lodged to the port of shipment.
Expecting that the banks represented by the deputation might avail themselves at once of the arrangement, £500,000 was sold through the Commonwealth Bank of Australia at a premium of £1, and, later, £500,000 at a premium of17s. 6d.
Only three banks out of the twenty-two banks in Australia decided to lodge gold. As the total sum lodged during a period of six weeks was £800,000, I decided to suspend the arrangement indefinitely, and to sell, through the Commonwealth Bank, the remaining £200,000 as telegraphic transfer.
It appeared that as the advertised rate of exchange for telegraphic transfer to the public remained at 37s. 6d. (sellers) throughout nearly the whole period during which the gold was being exported under the agreement, viz., from15th February to 25th March, the export of Australian gold (though, no doubt, some benefit to a small number of large customers to whom the banks sold telegraphic transfer at 32s. 6d.) was of no advantage to the general public.
Notwithstanding that the export of 1,000,000 sovereigns resulted in a profit to the Commonwealth of £11,57210s., I would prefer that the gold remain in Australia, and propose not to allow further export to foreign countries, at least during the war.
Australian Notes. The following statement shows the face value of Australian Notes held by the Banks and by the public respectively, on different dates from the commencement of the war up to the 3rd April, 1916 : -
– You do not show the gold side by side with the note issue.
– No. On the morning of the 27th April the note circulation was £43,646,771. The gold reserve held in the Treasury in respect of this amount was £15,784,052, or 36.16 per cent.
The Banks agreed with the Commonwealth Government to lodge £10,000,000 in exchange for Australian Notes. So far £8,707,649 have been lodged in gold at the Treasury, and the balance, £1,292,351, will be lodged as soon as desired. Further details may be seen on reference to pages 74 and 75 of the Budget-papers.
Expenditure. The following comparative statement shows that the total expenditure during 1914-15 was £40,269,702, and the estimated expenditure for 1915-16 (not including £4,000,000 to be advanced to the States) £72,057,626. Our expenditure out of loans raised for works, &c, is estimated to be £3,156,540. As our estimated expenditure for Ordinary Services will amount to £25,110,899, this will leave a balance from £28,490,600 (ordinary revenue received) of £3,379,701, revenue which is available for war purposes.
Defence Expenditure. Honorable members have frequently complained of the difficulty in ascertaining the amounts expended in connexionwith Defence, and I have had the whole of the items of
Defence expenditure for 1914-15 and the estimate of expenditure for 1915-16, including expenditure consequent upon the war, set out in the table hereunder : -
It is a very difficult matter to say exactly what is war expenditure, but we are making an endeavour to do so. In the tables I have presented, honorable members will find the items, Officers’ Compensation, Pension and Retiring Allowances, Royal Commission on Administration of Liverpool Military Camp, Expenses in Connexion with the Funeral of the late Major -General Bridgets, W:ar Pensions, and so on. Anything that can be fairly placed under the heading of Defence Expenditure, whether for war or ordinary services, finds a place in the tabulated statement to which I have re- f erred, making a total of £49,861,975. The Defence expenditure for 1913-14, before the war, was £4,752,300, and this year the war expenditure out of loan amounts to £40,410,486. There is also an item, Machinery for Cockatoo Island, £132,000, making the total war expenditure out of loan £40,542,486. We are spending for war purposes out of revenue £3,379,701, and out of revenue for ordinary Defence purposes £5,939,788, making the total £49,861,975.
The Army. The public do not appear to be well acquainted with the part that Australia is playing in the waT. About £70,000,000 will have been spent from 30th June, 1914, to 30th June, 1916, in Defence expenditure. This £70,000,000 does not include soldiers’ deferred pay, estimated to amount to £4,500,000 to the end of June, nor our indebtedness to the Imperial Government for the maintenance and. equipment of our soldiers abroad, the amount of which I have been unable so far to ascertain.
The number of men embarked up to the 17th April, 1916, was 182,834. The number of men in camp in Australia at the same date was 62,006. The casualties up to the 28th April, 1916, were as follow: - Deceased, 6,837; wounded, 9,854; missing, 1,838; sick, 22,638; prisoners of war, 61; nature of casualties unknown, 296; total casualties, 41,524.
The Commonwealth is producing almost every necessary item for the military equipment of our soldiers going to the front. No unit up to the present time has embarked from Australia deficient in any single article of clothing or equipment which would in any way impair its fighting efficiency.
For transport and supply services in connexion with troops embarked to date and due to embark by 31st May, 3,400 vehicles and 13,600 sets of harness have been provided. Practically all ‘of these vehicles have been made in Australia. The Government Harness and Saddlery Factory has turned out an enormous amount of leather and canvas work. Twenty-five per cent of the rifles supplied to the Australian Imperial Force have been manufactured at the Commonwealth Small Arms Factory.
The Fleet. The vessels of the Royal Australian Navy are taking their part in the work of the main Naval Forces of the Empire. This work includes - besides the concentration of battleships to oppose the German fleet, which so far has avoided battle - the patrolling of trade route’s the world over, and keeping the seas clear of enemy raiders. I would here pay a tribute to the gallant officers and men who man the Fleet, for such has been their efficiency that not one ship has failed from her appointed station.
Transports. The work of the Transport Branch is continuous and exacting, and during the whole twenty-one months of war, while taking our troops to the front, the great fleet of transports has not had any serious accident. The fitting out of transports at Melbourne has been under taken by the Minister for the Navy, foremen having been appointed and men employed direct.
Training Establishments. The Royal Australian Naval College now has its full complement of cadet midshipmen, 116 embryo officers being on the roll. The first year’s entry, consisting of about twenty-four boys, will finish their course this year, and will then go to sea.
The recruiting for the H.M.A.S. Tingira, where boys are trained for the Navy, is very satisfactory, and her accommodation is’ fully availed of.
Flinders Naval Base. One hundred and fifty-six men are employed by the Navy Department at Flinders Naval Base. The preparation of the site is practically completed, and the Home Affairs Department is engaged in erecting the necessary barracks, workshops, residences, &c, to enable transfer to be made from Williamstown.
Henderson Naval Base. Three hundred and twenty men are employed at Henderson Naval Base, commencement having been made with the first section of the approved plan. Land for the base has been acquired, and a quarry will be opened for the supply of stone for breakwaters.
Transports. The freight receipts from transports amount to £1,917,947. The expenditure in connexion with freight earnings of transports cannot be separated from the expenditure on these vessels as regards their employment as transports. The actual expenditure to date, which is solely in connexion with handling cargoes, such as expenditure on stevedoring, commission, freight, rebates, dumping, port charges, and all expenditure in connexion with loading and discharging cargo, is £482,655.
Late German New Guinea. The late German New Guinea possessions, which capitulated to. the Commonwealth Naval and Military Expeditionary Force under the command of Colonel William Holmes, D.S.O., V.D., on the 17th September, 1914, are still being administered by the Commonwealth Government.
Colonel Holmes relinquished the command of the Force on 8th January, 1915, and he was succeeded by Colonel S. A. Pethebridge, C.M.G., Secretary, Department of Defence, who was also formally appointed Administrator from that date.
The islands are being occupied on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, the ultimate disposal of the same being, of course, a matter for future settlement - at the termination of the war.
The cost of administration and all other expenses are at present being paid by this Government, any necessary adjustment being left until the conclusion of the war.
A branch of the Commonwealth Bank has recently been opened at Rabaul, and from the 1st instant the establishment of any other banking business has been prohibited.
Commonwealth Public Service. Honorable members will observe in the Estimates provision for the usual increments to officers in the Commonwealth Civil Service. The Government came to the conclusion that, as trade, generally speaking, would appear to be very prosperous, it would not be just to single out the Civil Service for class taxation.
Postal Expenditure. “Under the heads of salaries, conveyance of mails, cables, contingencies, and miscellaneous, the total increase in the estimate for 1915-16, which is bailed on nine months’ actual and three months’ estimated, over the actual expenditure for 1914-15, is £267,437.
Net increase estimate, 1915-16, over expenditure, 1914-15, £267,437.
Mr. Biggs. ments, the regrading of the General Division of the Service, and increases under the various arbitration awards.
Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway. Out of a total of 1,053 miles, rails have been laid for 770 miles, leaving 283 miles still to be laid.
The earthworks and waterways are all well on towards completion for that por tion over which the rails are laid, and 122 miles of line have been ballasted.
Necessary provision for water in the form of reservoirs, wells, and bores, is being made. The bores will be of considerable value to people desirous of taking up land along the line, as they will indicate where water is most likely to be obtained.
Steps are being taken to provide the necessary terminal facilities at Port Augusta.
Owing to the failure of the contractors to supply rails within the specified time, platelaying in the western division will be delayed for probably five months, and it is anticipated the rail heads will not now meet until about the end of March, 1917. It was anticipated previously that this would be accomplished by the end of the current year.
The ballasting of the line will not be completed for some time later.
The expenditure on the line to 30th June, 1915, was £3,612,113; the estimated expenditure to 30th June, 1916, is £1,500,000, a total of £5,112,113, which includes a considerable sum for rollingstock and plant not required for the working of the line, and for which credit will require to be given on its completion.
The total cost of the line when it is ballasted, equipped with express rollingstock, workshops, and all buildings and appliances necessary for working an express passenger service, will largely depend on the extent of the traffic which will develop after the rails are connected and through traffic commences, and the duration of the war, which renders material and machinery only procurable at a high cost. These factors are so uncertain that it is difficult to furnish any reliable figure as to the ultimate cost c c the line.
Kalgoorlie to Fremantle Railway Line. On the 2nd August, 1915, the Commonwealth Government telegraphed to the Premier of Western Australia (the Hon. J. Scaddan) requesting that, in view of the early completion of the railway line between Port Augusta and Kalgoorlie, and the large amount of public money invested, steps might be taken to provide a uniform track and facilitate transport of through trains to and from Fremantle to Port Augusta.
The Premier of Western Australia replied stating that the estimated cost of constructing a 4-ft. 8^-in. gauge railway line from Fremantle to Kalgoorlie was £2,777,000; that, bearing in mind increased costs in material and freights, this sum might be exceeded; that, owing to drought and the war, the State of Western Australia had been placed in serious financial difficulties, and that the Western Australian Government, therefore, “ did not think it would be justified in incurring an expenditure of two and three-quarter millions of pounds in duplicating a line already in existence, and which met all requirements, saving speed.” If, however, the Commonwealth Government considered that, for military purposes, continuation of the broad-gauge line from Kalgoorlie to Fremantle is imperative, and for that reason was prepared to find the money for the Western Australian Government to build the line, the Western Australian Government would be prepared to do so, providing the Commonwealth Government would guarantee them against loss, including interest for a term of years.
Conversations took place between the Acting Prime Minister, the Federal Treasurer, the Minister of Home Affairs, the Engineer-in-Chief for Commonwealth Railways, and the Western Australian Minister for Lands, at which it was decided to submit certain proposals, through the Minister for Lands (Mr. Johnson), to the Western Australian Government, under which the Commonwealth would purchase the line from Kalgoorlie to Merredin, a distance of 207 miles, and alter the gauge thereof to 4 ft. 8£ in., the Western Australian Government to construct a 4 ft. 8J in. line from Merredin to Fremantle.
The Western Australian Government considered these proposals and informed the Commonwealth Government that it could not see its way clear to vary the proposals contained in the Premier’s letter of the 18th August, 1915.
The Commonwealth Government rejected the terms of the Premier’s letter, and resolved that they are willing to lend the Western Australian Government the money to either convert the present 3 ft. 6 in. Kalgoorlie to Fremantle railway or to build a new 4 ft. 8£ in. line to connect with the Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie line; but are not prepared to bear interest on loan or to guarantee the State of
Western Australia against any loss on that section of the line.
Federal Capital, Canberra - Work to date and Cost. The expenditure in connexion with the Federal Capital to the 30th June, 1915, amounted to £686,898. The estimated expenditure during the Financial Year 1915-16 is £165,000, being a total of £851,898.
The principal items of expenditure are as under -
In addition to this expenditure, which is met out of Revenue, the sum of £501,103 was expended to 31st March, 1916, out of Loan Moneys, for the acquisition of land at the Federal Territory. _
The work done to date comprises the installation of a water supply from the Cotter River, including the construction of the dam and reservoir on the Cotter River and pipe head and service reservoirs at Stromlo and Red Hill, together with the necessary water mains, ready for extension by a short service pipe into the city proper ; construction of first section of main outfall sewer; construction of power house, electric mains, transmission lines, &c. ; development of brick clay and construction of brickworks with .Staffordshire kiln, capacity 6,000,000 bricks per annum; putting in order some 160 miles of developmental roads throughout the Territory; construction of 7 miles of connexion by railway between Canberra and Queanbeyan; erection of administrative offices, hospital and quarters; afforestation; rabbit destruction; and general improvement of the 900 square miles of
Territory, together with necessary topographical and trigonometrical surveys necessary for valuation, acquisition, and development.
S.s. Aurora. The attention of honorable members is drawn to an expenditure iu connexion with the docking and overhauling of Sir Ernest Shackleton’s steam yacht Aurora at the Commonwealth Naval Dockyard, Cockatoo Island, Sydney.
Professor David wrote to my predecessor, the Right Honorable Andrew Fisher, P.C., asking that this vessel might be docked and overhauled at the Naval Dockyard, either free of charge or at the lowest cost price. “ The total cost of the docking and overhauling was estimated, in the opinion of Lieutenant A. Mackintosh, R.N.R., at a sum not exceeding £500.”
Mr. Fisher authorized an expenditure of £500. The vessel was docked at Cockatoo Island, and an expenditure of £3,938 4s. Id. incurred. As Treasurer, I wrote to the Parliamentary Joint Committee of Public Accounts, suggesting that the Committee might inquire into this expenditure with a view to ascertaining to what extent the Commonwealth was responsible for the outlay, and asking the Committee to make such comments as might be deemed necessary in the public interest.
I understand the Chairman of the Committee, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. M. Charlton), will shortly present a report to Parliament.
Loans to States. In November, 1915, an agreement was entered into between the State Premiers of five States and the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth, under which the Commonwealth agreed to borrow money during the year 1916 for the States in the following proportions: -
The Commonwealth Government also agreed to borrow for these States, during 1917, and during each succeeding year until one year after the war, the sum of £7,450,000. New South Wales, I regret to say, declined to join in the agreement that the Commonwealth should be the sole borrower.
As the Government of the United Kingdom control the issues of capital, the consent of the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury was asked for the raising of a loan of £6,000,000 for State purposes to the end of June next. The Lords Commissioners agreed to the raising of a loan of £4,000,000. Though this consent was obtained on 22nd January, 1916, our financial advisers in London have not yet recommended going on the market to raise this money. Permission was, therefore, sought and obtained from the Government of the United Kingdom for the Commonwealth to advance to the States moneys held by the Commonwealth in London. The following advances have been made up to the present: -
I have read in the public press that the Right Honorable Joseph Cook, Leader of the Opposition, takes exception to our action in advancing money to the States without the authority of Parliament.
– Is that a fair way of putting that? Let the honorable gentleman read what I did say. He cannot avoid a little politics.
– I will be fair to the right honorable gentleman, and will read what he said : - “ I was much interested,” said Mr. Cook, “ in the article in the Argus about Mr. Higgs having advanced £1,400,000 to the States without parliamentary authority….. Of course all this is irregular, and we can only await the Treasurer’s explanations of the reasons which induced him to take such a course.”
– What is there wrong about that?
– These are the reasons: - I would remind honorable members that Parliament was not in session; that the Commonwealth could not stand idly by and see the States placed in such a position that they could not meet their obligations. What was done may not have been constitutional, and in peace time might have merited censure. In war time, however, prompt action, however unconstitutional, must be taken to secure the safety and save the good name of both Commonwealth and States.
Senator Millen, Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, is reported to have said : - “ If. as it would appear, money is being advanced to enable the States fo continue their present works expenditure, then it seems to me that there has been a wrongful exercise of Ministerial authority.”
If the States are to be deprived of loan moneys for public purposes, honorable members must expect an unemployment problem, as well as the stoppage of development in trade, commerce, and industry.
The five States in agreement with the Commonwealth require money for the following purposes: -
Victoria, - For railway purposes, including the electrification of the metropolitan suburban lines. South Australia requires money for railway works, water works, River Murray weir, irrigation, deepening harbors, advances to settlers, new holdings, school houses, and for completion of public buildings. Queensland requires money for the construction of railway, sugar mills, loans to local bodies, for water and” sewerage works, sanitary services, bridges, &c, State school buildings, and hospitals for the insane. Tasmania - For maturing obligations, actual commitments under contracts placed before the outbreak of war, expenditure necessarily incurred in respect to works already in progress, and loans to local bodies for works. Western Australia - For railways and tramways, railways land resumptions, roads and bridges, abattoirs, cold storage, harbors and rivers, advances to settlers, the development of agriculture, and the development of gold-fields.
Many of the men engaged in public works are beyond military age, or are married men with families. It is far better to keep those men employed, so that they may earn sufficient to maintain themselves and their families, than to discharge them, and thus compel them to be the recipients of charity. They and their families cannot be allowed to starve, and if the States do not find them work they are in duty bound to furnish them with charitable assistance.
Loans by Imperial Government. As the capacity and willingness of the Australian public to subscribe to Commonwealth War Loans were somewhat of an unknown quantity, the Imperial Government were informed that it was estimated £50,000,000 would be required for war expenditure during the year ending 31st December, 1916, and were asked whether they would lend the Commonwealth Government £25,000,000 in sums of £2,000,000 per mon.th.
The Imperial Government readily granted our request, and the Commonwealth has so far drawn £7,000,000. Of this sum £1,850,000 have been advanced to the five Australian States co-operating with the Commonwealth. Parliament will be asked to ratify the action of the Government in borrowing from the Imperial Government the £25,000,000 before mentioned.
The Government are of opinion that the time has arrived when Australia should at least furnish the money to pay her own share of war expenditure, if not, indeed, to lend money to the Imperial Government. Parliament will, therefore, be asked to authorize the Government to raise loans for war purposes to the extent of £50,000,000 to 30th June, 1917, and a further £9,000,000 to enable the States to carry on absolutely necessary public works and meet maturing obligations up to 31st December, 1916.
Commonwealth War Loans. The total amount subscribed by the Australian public to the first and second war loans was £35,045,020. Honorable members are acquainted with many details concerning both loans, and I do not intend at this stage to do more than refer to the following table showing the amounts applied for by individual subscribers to the second war loan : -
This table shows that 15,040 persons applied for sums ranging from £10 to £100, and no less than 24,677 persons applied for sums ranging from £10 to £500.
I desire again to express my appreciation of the public spirit shown by investors in the war loan, who, if they so desired, could have obtained a higher rate of interest by investing money in various stocks sold almost daily on the Stock Exchange.
Compulsory Loans. A compulsory non-interest bearing loan to be subscribed by those who possess wealth is advocated by some writers and speakers, who appear to be unacquainted with the market value of governmental and other securities. A forced loan without interest means confiscation. A certificate for the sum of £100 invested in Commonwealth War Loan Stock can be sold for a full £100 to-day, because for a period of about ten years it will return £4 10s.. per cent, per annum. A certificate for £100 forced loan repayable without interest ten years hence would, if saleable at all, bring on the market probably not more than £55, so that a forced loan without interest would mean the confiscation of at least £45 out of every £100 so raised.
This young and resourceful nation will be in desperate need if ever it finds it necessary to resort to compulsory loans without interest to pay for its share in the expenses of the war. A more just appreciation of the realities of life would show that the man who invests £500 in a Government loan and receives £22 10s. per annum by way of interest is just as much entitled to a return for his money as the man who prefers investing £500 in house property, which will return him net 5 per cent., or £25 per annum; or the more cautious depositor who places his money at call in a Commonwealth or State Savings Bank, where he receives 3 or 3½ per cent, interest per annum.
An appreciation of these simple facts will prevent much confusion of thought and the spreading of foolish notions.
Control of Capital. The Government, being of opinion that the first purpose to which floating capital in the Commonwealth should be devoted is to furnish funds to meet Australia’s war expenditure, decided in January last to follow the example of the Government of the United Kingdom and control the issues of capital.
The number of applications for permission to issue fresh capital and to float new companies may be said to be extraordi- nary, in view of the existence of a state of war.
Commonwealth Bank. The benefits accruing to Australia through the establishment of the Commonwealth Bank are almost incalculable. None can doubt that, in the absence of a Commonwealth-owned bank, the rates of interest charged to the public for borrowed money would now be abnormal, and that at times during the war financial unrest would approach a panic. Our national Bank has continued right throughout the war to conduct business on pre-war lines and at normal charges, the rate being 6 per cent, for overdraft accommodation on advances to the general public, whilst advances to churches, charities, and to societies which do not distribute their profits amongst their shareholders have been kept at 5 per cent., and advances made to municipalities and other Government bodies at from 4i to 5 per cent.
The lending of money at these rates has had a restraining influence upon most of the twenty-two associated private banks of Australia, which would have been impelled by self-interest or by the state of public unrest to increase their charges to abnormal figures.
The progress of the Commonwealth Bank has been phenomenal. Commencing on 15th July, 1912, with no paid-up capital, the bank has, within three years, established itself as one of the leading banks of Australia. Its rapid development is shown by the following comparative half-yearly statement of assets : -
During the first twelve months of the Bank’s existence, the accounts showed a loss of £46,63612s. 7d.; but from that date the profits increased at such a rate that by 31st December, 1915, the deficit was converted into a credit balance of £53,17010s.10d.
I desire, on behalf of the Government, to congratulate Mr. Denison Miller, the Governor of the Bank, on the pronounced success he has so far made of the onerous task he has undertaken.
Wheat. The Government of the Commonwealth of Australia and the Governments of the States of New South Wales, Victoria, South Australia, and Western Australia have entered into an agreement to secure to farmers in the States concerned equal individual opportunity for marketing their 1915-1916 wheat harvest at the best possible price.
An Inter-State Wheat Board, designated the “ Australian Wheat Board,” has been appointed to carry out the scheme. The Board consists of the Honorable the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth or his representative, and the Ministers of Agriculture of the States, including acting Ministers.
The financial accommodation required for the working of the scheme in each State is obtained by advances from the Commonwealth Bank and certain private banks. The States agreed with the banks that each State will pay to the banks the proceeds of all realizations of grain received by it for disposal under the scheme, and which may be realized otherwise than by oversea sales.
– Are not all the banks in this scheme?
– No. The rate of interest allotted to the banks on the debit balance of the State banking accounts with them is £5 per cent. per annum.
An undertaking has been given by each State to refund to the banks on or before the 31st of December, 1916, the amount to debit of its banking account with the banks.
The net amount overdrawn on all accounts to the 3rd May was £12,259,000.
The Government of the Commonwealth is financially interested in the scheme, for it has given a guarantee to the banks that each State will make good its obligations to the banks.
Sugar. In the early part of 1915 it became evident that, owing to the effect of the drought, the Queensland sugarcane crop would produce a greatly diminished quantity of sugar. Oversea freights were rising as well as the values of foreign sugar. Famine prices threatened Australia when the Prime Minister, acting on behalf of the Government, agreed to purchase from the Queensland Government the whole of the Queensland sugar crop for 1915 at £18 per ton.
A similar agreement was made for the purchase of the 1916 season’s production. Arrangements were made with the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Refining Company to refine the raw sugar and sell the product to the public on behalf of the Government; the Colonial Sugar Refining Company also agreeing to purchase, refine, and sell foreign sugars to make up the shortage in Australian sugar.
On the 20th July, 1915, it was found necessary to charge the public in the metropolitan cities of Australia 3d. per lb. retail for the best refined sugar.
In January, 1916, prices of foreign sugars reached a point that made it necessary to sell sugar wholesale at such a price that the retailers were compelled, in order to make a reasonable profit, to sell sugar at 31/2d. per lb. This retail price was accepted as the standard by most grocers in the capital cities, but some charged the public 4d. per lb for a single pound. The Government met this exorbitant charge by issuing a War Proclamation ‘ fixing the price of sugar at 31/2d. per lb., plus such sum as represents the cost incurred by the retailer in respect of the delivery of the sugar to him.’ The public appear to be satisfied to pay31/2d. per lb. The retail price of sugar in London is 41/2d. per lb.
There can be no doubt that Government interference in regard to this commodity has proved a great boon both to the public and the sugar-cane farmers. The public have been enabled to obtain sugar at a relatively moderate price, and the £18 per ton paid by the Government for raw sugar should, and does in most cases, I believe, enable the cane farmer to receive a higher price for his cane than when raw sugar was paid for at £14 per ton.
The Government desire me to place on record that the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and the Millaquin Refining Company are carrying out their agreements in an honorable manner.
There have been statements that the Commonwealth Government are making a huge profit out of the sugar business, but one cannot say whether a large, or any profit will be made until accounts are balanced at the end of the war. It would not be correct to take any particular accounting period for the purpose of estimating profits. As a matter of fact, on the purchase and sale of foreign sugars the Government are at the present time losing about £2 per ton. This loss, which is incurred to enable the public to obtain sugar at a uniform price of 31/2d. per lb., will, I have no doubt, be made up at a Liter date.
The Mints. There are three branches of the Royal Mint in Australia, situated at Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth, under the joint control of the Government of the United Kingdom and the Governments of the States.
At a Premiers’ Conference held in April,1914, a resolution was carried in the following terms : - “Resolved - That this Conference approves of taking over the Mint and of gold coinage by the Commonwealth - the States of New South Wales and Victoria to compensate, on an equitable basis, the State of Western Australia.”
The Government of the Commonwealth propose to take over the Mints at the earliest possible date after satisfactory arrangements have beencompleted.
War-time Profits. The Government have decided to ask Parliament to pass a Bill for the taxation of war-time profits. This Bill is intended to tax, not only the profits of those trades and businesses dealing in munitions of war, but also trades and businesses which are enjoying extra profits during the war period.
The tax will be at the rate of 50 per cent.
An exemption will also be allowed to the extent of the sum of £200 excess profits in one year.
War Pensions Amendment Act. The Government have decided to amend the War Pensions Act in important particulars. The pension to be paid to an incapacitated soldier will be increased in the case of a private from £1 to £110s. per week, and corresponding increases are provided for soldiers holding higher rank. If a soldier who is unmarried, or whose wife is either dead or a permanent invalid, is incapacitated to an extent which necessitates the constant services of a paid attendant, and the member has not the means to pay for such services, he may be granted an additional pension not exceeding10s. a week.
The proposed increase in the pension to be paid to totally incapacitated soldiers will enable more generous treatment to be accorded those soldiers who are partially disabled.
There are a number of other matters with which I might have dealt, but I feel that I have already taken up enough of the time of honorable members, and 1 hope to refer, in another Budget speech which I shall make within a couple of months, to the subjects which have been overlooked in the statement just completed. I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1, The Parliament, namely, “ The President £1,100,” be agreed to.
In accordance with an understanding with the Leader of the Opposition, I shall move to report progress as soon as my motion has been put from the Chair, and shall then introduce a Supply Bill to provide for the payment of the salaries of civil servants this month. I hope that the Supply Bill will not be debated, because, on the resumption of the consideration of the Budget, honorable members will be in a position to discuss almost every subject within the control of this Parliament.
-I lay on the table papers prepared for the information of honorable members on the occasion of opening the Budget 1915-16.
Ordered to be printed.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) proposed -
That a sum not exceeding £2,068,905 be granted to His Majesty for or towards defraying the services of the year ending 30th June, 1916.
– The Treasurer has been exercising absolute authority so long that he forgets his obligations to this Committee. It seems to be thought wrong to ask for information respecting the details of any of the huge enterprises in which he has been revelling during a six months’ adjournment. I ask the honorable gentleman to recollect that there is a Parliament in existence, and that there are certain time-honoured customs, the observance of which will lead to the facilitation of public business. The usual course has not been followed in connexion with this Bill. There has been no distribution of it. I have not yet seen a copy of the Bill.
– Copies of the Bill were sent out this morning.
– I was assured by the Acting Prime Minister earlier in the day that debatable items, suchas the grant of £40,000 for the purposes of an arsenal at Canberra, have been left out of the Bill. The omission of such items will certainly facilitate the passing of the
Bill. If they have not been omitted, they must be debated, although it is the desire of honorable members on both sides to avoid discussion at this stage. Otherwise the Bill can be passed without debate.
– Provision is made in the Bill for the setting apart of £250,000 for the Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund.
– That item should not be in the Bill. There will be no objection to the voting of any sum, within reason, for the purposes of that fund, but the voting of the money is not now urgent, because no expenditure can take place until a measure has been enacted to create the proper authority, to define limitations, and to give guarantees. I suggest that all debatable items should be left out of the Supply Bill that it is now proposed to introduce, so that there need be no discussion of its provisions. It would not be right to ask the Committee to vote £40.000 towards the construction of an arsenal at the Federal Capital, involving, as it would, a complete change of policy, and a complete change of front, if I may say so, from that adopted by the Parliament at the time that we last met. It is not right to include such items in a monthly Supply Bill. The chief urgency of this measure is based upon wages, which must be paid almost immediately. But there is nothing urgent about these other items, and why they should be included in a Bill of this character I am utterly at a loss to understand. I suggest to my honorable friend that he should eliminate them, and, if he does so, I see no reason why the Bill should not be passed without any discussion whatever. We shall probably have another Supply Bill brought down within a few days to tide the Government over a further adjournment of Parliament until the return of the Prime Minister from England, and all these items can be included in that. They will then come under consideration in a proper and regular manner. But I submit that a monthly Supply Bill - an emergency measure - ought not to contain any item which is properly a subject for debate by the Committee. If the Treasurer will undertake to postpone the consideration of these matters for a few days, I see no difficulty in granting him his Bill and in facilitating its passage at the earliest possible moment.
– I would point out to honorable members that, accompanying this Supply Bill, is a small Works Bill. But that Works Bill contains nothing except provision for progress payments in connexion with works that are already in course of construction. When I suggested that the grant for £250,000, which it is proposed to make in connexion with the Repatriation Fund, should be included in this Bill, I was under the impression that there was not a single honorable member who would raise his voice against it.
– Has anybody raised his voice against it? I hope that the Treasurer is not going to twist what I said just now in the way that he twisted another statement of mine.
– I did not say that the Leader of the Opposition had raised his voice against it. But if he would like to make a speech approving of that grant, he will be able to do so when we bring forward the machinery Bill, which will provide for the appointment of trustees for the fund, and which will set out the object for which the fund is to be established.
– But honorable members might be permitted to point out that a grant of £250,000 towards the Repatriation Fund does not represent a pound per head for our soldiers, and that from the point of view of a national contribution it is a farce.
– Let the item stand over till the next Supply Bill. The proposal in regard to the establishment of the arsenal at Canberra, I understand, is not included in this Bill.
-There is no provision for the arsenal in this Bill. The measures merely provide for the payment of salaries and for progress payments in connexion with works already in course of construction. I assure honorable members that if the Leader of the Opposition and his party refuse to give us the Estimates - and we would like to get the Estimates through, because the money provided on themhas been nearly all expended
– Why use such language ? Have we refused to give the Treasurer the Estimates? Have we refused anything ?
– If the Leader of the Opposition would prefer that the Esti mates should remain over till the next financial year we must drop them.
– Who has suggested any such thing ?
– I have no desire to stir up the right honorable member, because I know what a fiery man he is when once he gets going. I wish to assure honorable members that they will have ample opportunity to discuss every question so soon as the Supply Bill is out of the way, and we get back into Committee on the Estimates. If the Leader of the Opposition prefers that the proposed grant to the Repatriation Fund should be eliminated from this Bill, I have no objection to that course being followed. When we get the Bill we can strike it out.
– I am somewhat surprised that the Treasurer has given us so little information in regard to these items. It is now a good while since Parliament met, and the end of the financial year is close upon us. Of course, I realize that we must grant Supply in order that we may pay our debts. I am sure that I speak for every honorable member upon this side of the chamber when I say that we are most anxious to grant Supply. At the same time we desire information, and we ought to have it. When my honorable friends opposite sat in Opposition they were always most eager to obtain information. In regard to the proposed grant of £250,000 towards the Repatriation Fund, there is no doubt that it ought not to be included in this Bill. Such a procedure does not conform to the requirements of the Constitution, which provides that any proposed law appropriating revenue or moneys for the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth shall deal only with such appropriation. A grant of £250,000 towards a Repatriation Fund does not come within the ordinary annual services of the Commonwealth. I think that we require to deal with the matter by means of a special Act. I do not think that the procedure adopted by the Government in including this grant in a Supply Bill is in accordance with section 54 of the Constitution. The money is to be expended for a special service, and ought, therefore, to be dealt with in a special manner. I would like the Treasurer to tell us how much has already been expended on the items contained in this Bill, and how much will be expended under this authority, which will, I presume, carry us on till the end of the financial year.
– No. It will carry us up to the10th of next month.
– I should say that the Treasurer would be almost justified in making the Bill apply to nearly the whole of the money required to the end of the financial year. I believe that it is not customary to cover the whole of the anticipated expenditure in temporary Supply Bills, butrather to leave a little over for the Appropriation Act. It seems to me, however, from what the Treasurer has said, that we shall have to have a Bill covering from the10th to the 30th of the month.
– There is something in that contention. I should not like to do anything to prevent this temporary Supply Bill going through, but I must take exception to the £250,000 as something that is out of place, and not, in my opinion, within the Constitution. Further information is certainly necessary in regard, for instance, to the £929,000 for the Navy. Surely that cannot be the expenditure for a month ? Are we spending £10,000,000 per annum on the Navy ? How much has been spent up to the present time on this service, and how much is required for the whole year? What proportion does the vote asked for now bear to the total amount necessary ? If the Treasurer would only give us information, which he could easily obtain from his Secretary within an hour, we should all be satisfied. Then, as to the £295,000 for military defence, how much has been spent already, and what proportion does that sum bear to the whole required for the year? The same questions might be asked in regard to other items, including that of the Post Office, £310,000, which is, however, only a small proportion of the whole expenditure. According to the figures presented it would seem that there are arrears to be made up ; and had it not been for my colleague the Bill would have been passed without a word from the Treasurer. We on this side have no desire to cavil at necessary expenditure, and wish to assist the Government as far as we can.
.- I think the Treasurer should supply the House with information in regard to the proposed vote for the Small Arms Fac tory. This is not a matter to be debated just at present, but we know there are two proposals before us - one to add to the existing buildings at Lithgow, and another to establish a factory at Canberra. The establishment of a factory at the Capital site is a question for future debate, but we are entitled to information showing whether the amount mentioned in the Bill, if passed, will affirm the policy of the Government in this connexion.
– I can assure the honorable member that the proposed vote has nothing whatever to do with the proposed arsenal at Canberra, but is wholly for material and working expenses at the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I move -
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 £213,560.
This motion affects a small Supply Bill for works and buildings, and the proposed expenditure is merely to meet progress payments for works already under construction.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolutions adopted.
Resolutions of Committee of Ways and Means, covering resolutions of Committee of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in Bills to carry out the foregoing resolutions.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and read a first, and a second time.
Clauses 1 to 4 agreed to.
Schedule(Department of the Treasury), £283,800.
Amendment (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to-
That the item “ Grant to Australian Soldiers’ Repatriation Fund, £250,000,” be left out.
Schedule further amended consequentially, and, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with an amended schedule; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Bill presented by Mr.higgs and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Separate Peace with Germany: Order of Business.
– I move -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn until 2.30 p.m. to-morrow.
.- Today I drew the attention of the Acting Leader of the House to a statement which had appeared in one of the Canadian newspapers to the effect that the Prime Minister of Australia was reported to have referred to the possibility of a separate peace between Australia and Germany. The Acting Leader of the Government asked me if I could find the cutting referred to- I have done so, and have furnished it to the Minister. I hope that tomorrow he will be able to assure the House that there is no truth whatever in the statement that the Government has been treating with the enemy in this way. Personally, I have no doubt on the matter, but I think the outside public ought to be assured.
– I presume the first business tomorrow will be the consideration of the military statement?
.- Yes. With regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Wentworth, I have to say that he has furnished me with the cutting, and I will consult with the Acting Prime Minister in connexion with the subject. As far as I know, there is absolutely no truth in the statement; hut I think, possibly, there has been a misinterpretation of remarks made by the Prime Minister in Canada.
– It was repeated by Mr. Ryan.
– I know nothing about it.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at5.41 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 9 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160509_reps_6_79/>.