6th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker took the chair at 10.30 a.m., and read prayers.
Mr. JOSEPH COOK presented a petition from certain women of Victoria, citizens of Australia, and electors of the Commonwealth, in favour of universal compulsory military service, and praying that the House will bring in conscription.
– In view of a statement which appears in to-day’s newspapers to the effect that the steamer Innamincka has been in Sydney since the 19th February, I wish to ask the Minister for Trade and Customs whether she has been held up there since that date ?
– I confess that I have not seen the statement in question. But the position is that the Innamincka, without the knowledge of the Government, was sold by an Australian company to a person in Hong Kong. The Government, upon receiving that information; declined to allow the vessel to leave Australian waters. It is true that several permits have been granted to Australian ships to leave our territorial waters. One was granted during the past four or five months, and other permits were previously granted. But, of late, consent to the removal of Australian vessels from our own waters in such circumstances has been withheld. If the owners of the Innamincka have allowed her to remain idle in Sydney, the Government cannot be blamed. I understand that the Department of Home Affairs has had the matter under consideration, but that no finality has been reached.
– I ask the Minister whether it is not a fact that the owner of the Innamincka, through his agent here, has offered the Government the use of the vessel to carry sleepers from Bunbury to Port Darwin, but that the Railway Department found her too expensive to work, and that it has been further discovered that her boilers are in such a condition that she cannot be used either by the Government or by her owner?
– The honorable member was present at an interview which I had yesterday with the engineer of the vessel when I heard that statement for the first time. The honorable member also knows that the Customs Department does not charter boats; all that it does is to endeavour to prevent them leaving Australian waters.
Australian Engineers and Mechanics
– I ask the Minister for the Navy whether he can inform the House how many engineers and mechanics have left Australia to engage in munition making in Great Britain. If he has not the figures available, will he kindly obtain them ?
– I shall have pleasure in getting the information which the honorable member desires.
– I ask the Minister for Home Affairs whether he will afford his officers an opportunity of viewing plana, specifications, and details that may be required or form part of the matters relating to his Department that are to be investigated by a Royal Commission ?
– T hat matter will be considered. ‘
– Seeing that an announcement has been made that there is a shortage of remounts for war purposes, I wish to ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether any action has been taken consequent upon the initiative of the honorable member for Riverina, in the direction of placing the breeding of horses for military purposes on a proper footing ?
– So far, the Government have not taken action,
– Seeing that this very important question of- horse-breeding was discussed in this chamber for hours, and a definite resolution was passed, do the Government propose to take any action in the matter?
– The Government do not intend to slight any resolution that has been passed by the House, but we have not had time ‘to look into the matter.
– The resolution was passed twelve months ago.
– The Government cannot do the impossible.
Labour Disputes and Strikes : Clerical Workers : Preference to Returned Soldiers
– I ask the Minister for the Navy, in view of the numerous strikes and labour troubles which have occurred at Cockatoo Island, whether the Government have given consideration to the remedy suggested by the Public Accounts Committee, whether that remedy is likely to be. applied, and if not, why not?
– The Government have under consideration a method by which they hope to effectively deal with all future troubles at the Island relating to demarcation and strikes generally.
– Is it correct, as stated in the newspapers to-day, that the temporary clerks at Cockatoo Island have gone on strike without first affording the Government an opportunity to investigate their alleged grievances?
– It is true that about 100’ clerks at the island ceased work yesterday. It was pay day on the island, and their action placed the management in a very embarrassing position. It took about two hours longer for the heads of the Department to take the matter in hand, and to pay 2,000 workmen. In regard’ to these clerks, I wish to say that the Government are doing everything possible to keep to the letter of the law as it is embodied in an award of the Arbitration Court. The action of the men is practically a threat to my Department that they intend to get higher wages than that award provides for. In fact the latest information that I have received shows that there are about 1,500 employees out of work on account of the strike this morning. There are no persons on the island to keep time sheets or records, with the result that the management has asked all other workmen there to stand by in the meantime.
– I ask the Minister whether there is any truth in the statement that the management of the island has refused to recognise the award and to pay. the men overtime rates. Is it a fact that when they presented their sheets yesterday they were told to take them back” and alter them ?
Mr.JENSEN. - So far as I know, the statements made by the honorable member are not correct. In the early portion of last week I sent a wire to the managers of both Cockatoo Island and of Garden Island asking, them to observe the award rates in every particular.
– In view of the statement which has just been made by the Minister, will he take into consideration the desirableness of replacing the men who are now on strike by returned soldiers 1
– Make blacklegs of our soldiers.
– It is not my intention, or that of the Government, to place any person in the position of a clerk on the island unless he is a bond fide unionist.
– The Minister tells us that he instructed the manager at Cockatoo Island that the award rates are to he observed in their entirety. If the men will not work at the award rates-, does the Minister intend to allow them to remain idle and leave the work undone?
– Before answering such a question I prefer to go to the scene of the trouble and inquire into it.
– Does not the declaration of the Minister that no work will be given to any but unionists in the Government dockyards - and I take it he means other works - conflict with th« statement made by Mr. Fisher, when he was Prime Minister, that, in Government employment, preference would be given to returned soldiers, whether they were unionists or not?
– All the men engaged on work at Cockatoo and Garden Islands are unionists, and, so far as I understand, every returned soldier has the rightto become a member of a union.
– If these unionists, or other unionists, will not return to work at the present rates, will the Minister then employ other men in order to have the work done?
– I must intervene at this stage. There is cropping up an old practice to which I have drawn attention a number of times, a number of questions; being founded on one that has been asked without notice. If it is allowed to continue the proper procedure in Parliament will, come to an end. I do not wish to- dictate to the Government, but I do think that they should adopt some course which would mitigate the asking of questions without notice. I allow them to a limited extent,- but I cannot permit them to- go on perpetually.
– I wish to ask’ whether the promise made by Mr. Fisher, that returned soldiers would have preference in Government employment, irrespective of whether they were unionists or not, is still the administrative policy of the Government?
– I shall be glad if the honorable member will give notice of that question. I shall have Mr. Fisher’s words turned up in order to ascertain exactly what the ex-Prime Minister did say. I informed honorable members a few days ago that the policy of the Government in regard to preference to unionists had not been changed.
– If the Minister for the Navy discovers on. investigation that. the trouble at Cockatoo Island has not been brought about by the men-
– Order ! The same trouble is occurring again. Questions are being asked one after another on some question that has been submitted without notice. If I permit the practice to continue there will be no end to– questions. I have already prevented the honorable member for Robertson from putting a question on the same subject.
– Are we to understand that returned soldiers will not be given employment in the Government service unless they join a union ?
– I shall be obliged if the honorable member will give notice of that question.
– On a personal explanation I regret to have to call attention once more to a lying report in the Argus of something which occurred here yesterday. I begin to wonder whether the reporters employed by that journal need their hearing attended to or whether they require a course of instruction in languages. The honorable member for Perth was- speaking at the time, and he referred to one gentleman who had spoken in a public place. He said that the particular gentleman he referred to did not look like a millionaire, but he did not do any work, and I am credited with having interjected “ Hear, hear, the I.W.W. is the greatest curse of any country.” What I did say was “ Hear, hear. The idle rich are the greatest curse to any country.” The best confirmation that I have that this was what I really did say is that an honorable member has drawn my attention to this report, pointing out that although I had said “ idle rich “ - he had no doubt about it - the Argils, for its own purposes, no doubt, had made me say “ I.W.W.” If honorable members will take the trouble to read the report in the Argus they will see that the interjection attributed to me was not so apposite to what the honorable member for Perth said as the interjection I really did make.
asked the Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows : -
Provision has been made on the Estimates for the current year for a third class clerical officer, the Public Service Commissioner being satisfied that the work of the Department renders such an appointment desirable.
asked the Minister representing the Prime Minister, upon notice - .
Is it proposed to print and distribute for the information of members the minutes of evidence (other than portion which may be confidential) in connexion with the inquiry by the Public Accounts Committee concerning Cockatoo Dock, New South Wales?
– Certain evidence was given on the understanding that it was to be regarded as confidential. Such of the evidence as is not confidential can be published if the Public Accounts Committee has no objection. The publication of evidence in ordinary circumstances is a matter for them to decide.
The following paper was presented : -
In Committee of Supply (Considera tion resumed from 19th May, vide page 8127) :
Department op the Treasury.
Division 27 (Miscellaneous), £675,794
– I desire to make a statement which may have the effect of permitting the Estimates to pass with more expedition. As the Leader of the Opposition has expressed some anxiety in reference to an item which appears on the Estimates, the Acting Prime Minister has authorized me to say that, whilst it is the, intention of the Government to proceed with the establishment of an arsenal, including a small arms factory at Tuggeranong, in the Federal Territory, it is not proposed to remove the present plant from Lithgow during the war, and Parliament will be’ fully consulted before any action to do so is taken. Certain plant for the new factory at Tuggeranong is now due to arrive, and some of it will be temporarily installed at Lithgow, and removed to Tuggeranong when the requisite buildings are ready. The people of Lithgow may rest assured that the present Commonwealth Government, if in power at the end of the war, will not, even if Parliament should decide to remove the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow, allow the land and buildings now used for the purposes of a small arms factory to remain idle, but will use them for some Federal purpose. I hope that assurance will be satisfactory to the Leader of the Opposition.
– The Treasurer’s statement, so far as it goes, is all right. This matter is being considered in the absence of the honorable member for Macquarie, who has left Melbourne under an unfortunate misapprehension, in regard to this matter. The position at Lithgow is that the workmen cannot get cottages in which to live, and the townspeople will not build them, for the simple reason that they do not know whether the . cottages will be left empty on their hands when the war is over. It is the insecurity of the whole situation which is causing the trouble at Lithgow. I, in common with other honorable members, have received a circular from the Small Arms Factory Union, which sets out the disabilities under which the- workmen are labouring in consequence of the instability and uncertainty in regard to their employment. The whole town is paralyzed.
– Do you think it is necessary to continue two shifts?
– There ought to be three.
– That factory in war time ought to be like the factories of France and Great Britain. In France, the munition factories close for only four hours on each Sunday, so that they may be cleaned up. Those are war conditions, and I submit that all of our Australian factories which have to do with defence should be on the same basis, and . should be run for every moment that they can be run. The interjection of the honorable member for South Sydney was unfortunate. Remember that our soldiers are being supplied with rifles by the munition workers in the Old Country. Australia is not able to supply its soldiers with rifles, and, while that is the case, the Small Arms Factory ought to be working every hour, just as are the factories in every other country that is at war.
– I understand that the honorable member for Macquarie left Melbourne knowing that the statement which I have made to the Committee on behalf of the Acting Prime Minister would be made.
– I was under the impression that the honorable member for Macquarie thought that something else also would be done. However, I do not wish to pursue this matter further at this moment.
The item before the Committee is that of a quarter of a million pounds for the repatriation of our soldiers on their return from the war. In my judgment, action on those lines is long over due. In Germany, schemes of this kind have been under consideration for considerably over twelve months, and an organization is already in working order, and ready for the soldiers the moment the war is over. The German scheme is to colonize their boundaries, so as to have their people living in the immediate vicinity of the point of danger, trained, and ready to spring to arms, swift in mobilization and attack. It is the same old army theory that has permeated the ramifications of Germany’s home industries for the last forty years. There are the Hindenberg homesteads, which, I be lieve, were suggested by that general himself almost before he had fought abattle. So great and keen is the prevision of the Germans in these matters that from the very beginning of the war they have been at work on the problem of settling their soldiers after the war. They are establishing on all the boundaries of countries they have conquered colonies for the repatriation of returned soldiers.
In Great Britain also a scheme has already been brought into operation, and I confess that I like the idea of the British scheme. It is that it is useless to place men on the land until they have had some preliminary training, and for that purpose the Government are resuming blocks of 1,000 and 2,000 acres each, according to the character of the land and the ‘object for which it is to be used. An area of 2,000 acres is set aside for dairying, fruit-growing, and so forth, and 1,000 acres for market gardens, the whole to surround a central farm which is to be the point of administration of the agricultural village, and the source of instruction to the settlers.
– That is what the Mormons do.
– And the Mormons are the most successful settlers in the world !
– I am afraid that the Minister of Home Affairs, by his interjection, has “settled” me for the moment, and I suggest that he allow me to proceed. Perhaps I cannot do better than read the plan that has been adopted in England -
In the past many schemes for land settlements, small holdings, &c, have been wrecked by the fact that the settlers had no agricultural knowledge and no ownership of horses and the machinery now more and more necessary for economic agriculture. By the simple device of grouping 100 small holdings round a central farm, the committee will solve both these problems.
The prospective settlers will work on the farm for wages until trained sufficiently to be accepted as tenants of the State, and the horses, implements, and machinery of that farm will be let at low rates to the small-holders when needed. The director of the colony, a man with theoretical and practical farming knowledge, will bo engaged in training the novices, and in advising the tenants. It is proposed to set aside £2,000,000 at once for this work - less than the cost of the war for half a day. The report is a model of thoughtful, prudent public spirit, and we cordially welcome its appearance.
This is the work of the Committee presided over by Sir Harry Verney, and already a report has been presented and practical action taken. Nearly every other country concerned has already formulated some scheme and got it into working order, whereas here, after nearly two years’ of war, we are only beginning. There is need for celerity, and for the devotion of every man, not only outside but within this House, to the great object of repatriating our soldiers.
I was very much struck” the other day by a remark made by the Governor of Victoria in discussing this very subject. He laid it down, as a fundamental principle, that no attempt should be made to unduly force on to the land men “who have not the necessary training and qualifications; rather should the object be to put the men, as far as possible, to the work for which they are best fitted, and for which they were best fitted before the war. And it is true that the greatest care will have to be taken not to unduly press this project of land repatriation on soldiers who have not the requisite qualifications, but who, owing to the tempting character of the offers, may undertake the accompanying obligations. Very serious trouble may arise in the future if the scheme is not carefully safeguarded in this respect. I think we may trust the trustees who are to be appointed, and whose names are already before the public, to see that no foolish or precipitate scheme finds an entrance into their counsels, and to adopt a set of wise, fundamental principles to guide them in carrying out their complex and difficult work. If we succeed in getting only 10 per cent, of the men on the land, it will be a wonderful achievement. The great aim of the repatriation scheme is not merely to repatriate the men in the sense of putting them on the land, but, as far as possible, to find avenues of employment in which they will be best fitted to discharge their future obligations as citizens, and live their lives, as we hope they may, in comfort and decency, after their adventures at the war. I do not think there will be any breakneck rush of the men to get on the land. My idea is that they will already have had sufficient adventure, and that the predominating mood on the part of many of them will be’ to find some place to quietly settle down for the rest of their lives. Further, I think that, having had already enough adventure, many of them will prefer to settle in the cities, where the conditions are easy, and the surroundings advantageous. The difficulty will be to tempt them to go on the land, and give them the requisite training and experience to enable them to succeed.
We should have further opportunity to discuss this matter, and I rose this morning merely to say that, in my judgment, we are taking a wise step, though rather tardily. Speaking for myself, I think the Government might have been more liberal so far as the grant is concerned. In a case of this sort the Government could not have gone wrong if they had made a contribution of £500,000 to £1,000,000. It is a tremendous problem that has to be solved, and I fear the trustees will find themselves short of resources before they have completed their work with success. I am glad to see some of the names of the trustees; indeed, I believe that, taken as a whole, they commend themselves to the country at large. With a good set of trustees we cannot do better than treat them generously; and I hope that, both privately and publicly, they will be supplied with the necessary funds. I trust that the movement may have every success, and that we may remove, or rather prevent, the possibility of that scandal which has stained our history on many occasions. I refer to the treatment of returned soldiers from time to time, who have done valiant service for the Empire at large. This is a rich community, and we can well afford to treat these men liberally and generously. Before the scheme can be carried out with success, there may be required perhaps £20,000,000 or £30,000,000; and the National Government of Australia mightwell be represented by £1,000,000.
– It should be represented by £2,000,000, at least.
– At any rate, I do not think that £1,000,000 will be out of place as a national contribution to this colossal scheme. As I say, I hope our efforts may succeed, and that our boys may live for many a year to come in all the comfort and prosperity with which we can surround them.
.- I have none but words of appreciation for the efforts the Government are making in this direction, but I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that this is a belated effort, and that unless we make the scheme exceptionally attractive only a small percentage of the returned soldiers will seek their future fortunes on the lands of Australia. Theright honorable gentleman suggested 10 per cent., and if that be so we have to ask ourselves what is to be done for the other 90 per cent.
– I meant 10 per cent. of the men who have hitherto been unaccustomed to live on the land.
– We must bear in mind that the experiences of those who have gone to the front will bring about a change of thought and habit of life in many. Some of our soldiers previously spent almost the whole of their lives in the back blocks, and such comradeship as they have since known was unknown to them. They will for a time have been accustomed to move in companies and battalions, and this will have created in them a desire for companionship which I think will not die. Though they may in the past have been prepared to live lonesome lives in the pioneering of some remote district, they will, I think, desire in the future more companionship with their kind, because of their experience of comrades in the ranks. I believe that we shall have to be prepared for another crossing as the result of the experience of our men at the front. Some men who in the past have followed sedentary occupations will, after the open life of the battlefield and their experience of travel, be disinclined to resume their sedentary occupations, and will prefer to seek a more open life.
– It is of no use to put men on the land who know nothing about it.
– I think that that would be disastrous. I agree with the Leader of the Opposition that we shall have to be very careful lest even the attractiveness of our proposals should induce men to go upon the land who are absolutely unfitted for such a life.
I am very anxious as to what is to be done for the very large number of returned soldiers who will desire to follow occupations other than those connected with the land. I was one of a deputation which recently waited upon the Acting Prime Minister to suggest that some preparation should be made to meet the disorganization of industry which is bound to follow the close of the war. Unless we are organized in such a way as to be able to find employment for those now engaged in con- nexion with the preparation of munitions and equipment, and those engaged at the front, we shall be in a condition of industrial chaos. I entirely approve of the land repatriation scheme, but it should certainly be extended. We shall require men possessed of certain qualifications to conduct the scheme for the occupation of the land, but we should have another committee qualified to assist in the establishment of new industries and the creation of employment for returned soldiers who will not be prepared to go upon the land. This is only a piecemeal scheme so far at the best, and is only a part of what we ought to be doing at the present time. We are late into the field, as Great Britain and other countries have already done a great deal, and even Germany, surrounded by armed camps, has organized schemes to meet the conditions which will have to be faced at the close of the war. We in Australia have done very little to develop industries, and a great deal remains to be done in this direction. We must prepare for a time the conditions of which it will tax the genius and sagacity of statesmen to meet. We should start here and now to organize our forces to meet those conditions. Whilst this proposition meets with my hearty approval, I take it that the vote may be regarded as a first contribution to the scheme, and that later on we shall be asked to vote more and more money to give it effect. If it results in the successful settlement of men upon the land, even though it should cost millions, the money will be well spent. I repeat my statement that we must be prepared to deal with those returned soldiers who. will not desire to go upon the land. The Prime Minister told a deputation that urged the appointment of a committee of university professors and others to draw up a scheme for a national laboratory, that that would not be enough, and I should like to know from the Government whether any steps are to be taken to establish an organization to provide employment for returned soldiers in other avenues of activity than those which are followed on the land. I hope that before the Estimates are passed we shall be given some information on that point.
Mr.ATKINSON (Wilmot) [11.17]. - I am glad to see that the Government are moving in this direction, but I am sorry that the vote proposed is not very much larger than it is. We hear on every hand that nothing is too good for those who have come forward to fight our battles, and I hold that opinion myself. The Government should go into this scheme with the greatest earnestness. We have had a very meritorious example set us in Victoria by the honorable member for Wannon. He has devised a practicable scheme which is working very well in his own district. Similar schemes might be operated in other districts, and I hope that the Government will be prepared to co-operate with trustees of other schemes willing to organize for the welfare of our soldiers who return.
– If money is to be raised voluntarily, it will be necessary for the Government trustees to work in with the other schemes, otherwise they will kill them.
– That is so, but, considering that the whole of the Commonwealth is interested in the matter, the Government should be at the head of affairs, should know what is going on, and should he in a position to direct operations. We have heard that a good many of the returned soldiers will not seek the land. So many things have to he taken into consideration that it is hard to forecast what is likely to happen after the war, but I believe that a good many of the soldiers will be induced to go upon the land. They will have passed an adventurous life for some time, and those who have a taste for the land will, I think, be only too glad to occupy suitable holdings. I presume that there will be land found for those who need it, and that those who are unable to follow Occupations upon the land will be given sums of money to enable them to make a new start in life. Even if the pensions are increased as proposed by the Government they will not furnish a decent living, especially if the price of foods remains what it is to-day. I trust the £250,000 is only a first instalment. I should have liked to see £1,000,000 on the Estimates as a guarantee that the Government mean business. The grant of £250,000 is of no use if it is not to be followed by other votes. We certainly should not wait for the end of the war before setting to work to settle the returned men. There are sure to be some who will not go back to the front, and if they are able and willing to go on to the land we ought to be making opportunities now for them to do so. It is our duty to treat the men who fight our battles in the very best way possible, and certainly we should avoid a repetition of the accusation made against us after the South African war; that we treated those who fought for us then shabbily. If things are allowed to drift until after the war is over it will be nobody’s business to do anything.
– Surely we could have all this discussion on the Repatriation Bill.
– Every soldier who goes abroad, either voluntarily or compulsorily, is fighting the battles of the Empire, and it is our duty to see that his future is made secure on his return.
.- I should be prepared to deal with this matter on the Repatriation Bill, as suggested by the Acting Leader of the House, if there was any guarantee that we should have a full opportunity to discuss it in all its aspects.
– There will be a full opportunity, except as regards the amount of this vote.
– Unfortunately, the Treasurer does not preside over the House, and his ruling on the subject may not stand. It is high time the question of repatriating our soldiers was viewed in its true perspective. Australia is pledged to provide 300,000 men carrying arms, and, in addition, our sailors who are facing the dangers of the ocean must certainly be considered in any repatriation scheme. Assuming that 100,000 men will not require assistance either privately or from the Government, at least 200,000 men must be provided for. Allowing £100 apiece, simply for tools of trade, &c, and without touching the question of land we reach a sum of £20,000,000. Mr. J. C. Watson has indicated that the land proposition will take from £20,000,000 to £30,000,000 more, so that we are up against the necessity of providing from £40,000,000 to £50,000,000 to deal with repatriation effectively. Yet the Government come down with a bald proposition to grant a quarter of a million. They should either leave the matter alone, or take it up properly. I hope the Treasurer will be able to tell the Committee that this is merely an instalment, and an earnest of the Government’s intentions. My view is that it is impossible at present to raise the necessary amount by taxation, and this is hardly the time to float a satisfactory loan to dealwith a matter of this kind ; but a means must be found, or we shall have the men walking all over the country looking for occupation. Have the Government definitely made up their minds that the necessary money is to be raised voluntarily? Will they state clearly how much must be provided by private effort? Will they allow the people of Australia to organise every branch of industry to absorb the men as they return, or do they propose to control all the operations undertaken in every part of the Commonwealth for the repatriation of the soldiers? A definite statement from them on this point will clear the air. There is a grand public spirit abroad in this matter, as Ministers and members of this and the State Parliaments would find if they got out into the country. I believe that it will be necessary for the Government to supplement private effort by a contribution from the revenue. I mentioned the other night that I was in favour of voting £2,000,000 to the credit of this repatriation fund.
– How much do you think you would get by private subscriptions?
– I will deal with that matter probably at some length.
– I hope the honorable member will have some consideration for the Committee. This is the last day of the week.
– Well, if the honorable member does not care to listen he may go outside. In answer to the interjection of the honorable member for Illawarra, I think the situation can be met by a voluntary effort, and a fair system of taxation. The people are ready and willing to back this scheme. Yesterday, at Birregurra, only a small place, the people, including a good number of working men, subscribed £621 towards repatriation, and I feel sure that if the Government will only hasten up, if they will only take this excellent opportunity of leading the way for the higher organization of all the industries in this country, success will crown our efforts for the repatriation of our soldiers. There is a rare opportunity for this higher organization in rural Australia. The opportunities for business expansion in the rural districts are somewhat limited, but there is an illimitable field -for expansion in rural industries in which it is more likely that a soldier will prove successful than if he were engaged in some of the secondary industries. Of course, if some huge secondary industries can be brought into existence to absorb the labour of some of our returned men that will be a different matter. The purpose we ought to have in mind should be to make the returned soldier a better productive unit than he was before he left these shores, and I believe that can be done by bringing about a higher organization in relation to our rural industries. In the electorates of Corangamite and Wannon, something has already been done. There the land-owners are liberally supporting this scheme with money, and in addition, are placing at the disposal of local committees in each district, areas of land to be used for three years either on a low rental basis, or on the share system. The honorable member for Parramatta suggested that these repatriated soldiers should be grouped in colonies along British lines, but I would point out that Australian rural conditions are altogether different from those of Great Britain, and it is quite unlikely that a colony system would be successful. These men, when they return, will have to get to work immediately to earn something for themselves, and I think the probationary system will best meet their case. We dealt with a returned soldier at Colac last night. Authority was given to provide him with a waggon and horses, a land-holder was to be asked to make available an area of land for a period of three years, and it was arranged that the farmers of the district, men who have been settled there for forty or fifty years, will, for the first year, which is always the most difficult in land settlement, come along with their teams and horses, their own seed wheat, and help him to put in his first crop. In this way a probationer is more likely to succeed than if grouped in a colony with a number of other men weak in their knowledge of agricultural problems. I had intended to deal with the matter at greater length, but, apparently, the Treasurer, and one honorable member, who has been persistent in his interjections, have little interest in the subject.
– No; I think you will have to say all this over again when the Bill comes before the House.
– If the Minister would prefer that we should deal with the subject of machinery for the scheme when the Bill is before the House, I will be only too pleased to do so.
Mr.Higgs. - I would like to ask what scheme you have in mind for raising the interest on that sum of £50,000,000 you have mentioned ?
– That, I presume, will be met by taxation. I am prepared to vote at once for £2,000,000 to launch the scheme properly. If the Government split the £250,000 among the different State War Councils, it will be a mere bagatelle. The Treasurer will probably recognise that I cannot help feeling enthusiastic about a matter that has given me some thought, and that I resent what appear to be disparaging interjections from another honorable member who has not given the matter so much attention.
– The proper time for you to say all this will be on the Bill.
-Has the scheme been” put into operation in the case of any returned soldiers?
– The Colac Committee sat for four hours last night dealing with the actual machinery of the scheme, and dealt with three claims’.
– Are those all the claims which have’ been settled ?
– No. The Committees have collected in cash and kind close upon £60,000. Claims have’ been dealt with in almost every district. I- have already made arrangements for two returned sergeants to settle in at district in which they did not previously reside, and! the local Committee will deal with their cases just as if they had been former residents.
.- It appears to me that this is a proposal on the part of the Government which the country will indorse. It is the duty of the National Parliament to provide for the needs of our returned soldiers. The matter is essentially one for the Commonwealth, and I think that the State Governments have quite sufficient to occupy their time without attempting to intrude upon the Federal domain. But I regret to note that the Premier of New South Wales never loses an opportunity of belittling the National Parliament, and of glorifying State institutions. Some honorable members are extremely anxious to drive people on to the land. Now, it occurs to me that many of our soldiers, upon their return to Australia, unless they are afforded better opportunities in life than’ they enjoyed prior to the out break of the war, will be very discontented: At the same time I would point out that it is idle to endeavour to settle men on the land if they are not possessed of means. Many of our returned soldiers will be the fathers of families who will desire to put their sons into occupations other than those connected with agriculture. They will probably wish them to enter some trade or profession, and consequently they will not desire to be far removed from the cities.
– They can be in no better place than on the land.
– My idea, is that settlement on the land is not the only way in which we should endeavour to provide for the needs of our returned soldiers. I know that when this scheme was first mentioned, and the announcement was made in the press that Mr. Watson was to be placed in charge of it, the land owners had very smiling faces, because they naturally anticipated that there would be. a rise in their land values. Persons who contribute to the Repatriation Fund controlled by the Government will have the satisfaction- of knowing that there will he a better system of distribution. There is a certain amount of discontent in regard to the distribution of some patriotic funds, though we must thank those ladies and gentlemen who have promoted them for. the services they have rendered the country. Honorable members opposite are fond of accusing the Government of extravagance, Butthey confine themselves to’ general statements, and- make no suggestions as to how expenditure can be reduced. I hopethat they will take to heart a remark made by the Treasurer this morning, when he asked what form of taxation they would advocate in order to provide him with the necessary revenue to meet their demands for the expenditure of millions of pounds out of the public purse in connexion with the settlement of soldiers upon the land. I hope that we shall be able to bring forward some practical scheme for the purpose of improving the conditions of those who return from the war, something that will redound to the credit of the National Parliament- The provision for our returned soldiers should be dealt with by this Parliament, and any action taken by the States should be in conjunction with the national scheme. No State should differentiate in the matter’ of giving help. It would be a slur on this Parliament if, for > electioneering purposes, or for some other object, one State should act more generously than another. The Australian sentiment which has been so evident during the progress of the war should also be maintained in this matter of assisting our soldiers on their return. The scheme should do something towards the removal of existing lines ‘ of demarcation. It -should be treated on those broad national lines, which must be observed if we are to bring the Commonwealth to the front. But any scheme for placing soldiers on the land should be combined with action in the direction of aiding our secondary industries, so that what is produced from the soil may be utilized in the purchase of Australian-made goods, in this way creating the wealth that will be necessary for the purpose of meeting the heavy loan charges and other expenditure in connexion with the war. Thus we shall get back to the happy financial position we occupied prior to the war. It is only by building up our secondary industries in this way that our ‘ future will be great. There is too much pessimism. If we have the brains and determination to utilize the resources of Australia, every prospect is encouraging.
.- I do not think that £250,000 will prove adequate for the purposes of this repatriation fund. As soon as the Government can formulate a scheme, and circulate it throughout the length and breadth of Australia, so that the people may become acquainted with what is proposed in the direction of making reparation to our citizens who have suffered great losses in fighting for the Empire, the better it will be. Otherwise how are people to know what they are expected to give in order to augment the fund which this Treasury grant is to found? Even now there are men waiting to learn what is to be done for them. They have been returned, and discharged as unfit to go back to the firing line, but little or no provision has been made for their future. They are ignorant as to what is to be done for them. I do not agree with the honorable member for East Sydney, who, I understand, says that these men should not be put on the land. I maintain that we should place on the land as many of them as will go there. The primary producer is of the greatest importance to a new country. Without him the secondary producer would hold a very insignificant position. There is no cleaner life in Australia than that of the agriculturist, and the more we educate our young men to be scientific farmers, the better.
– I did not say that these men should not go on the land.
– I accept the assurance of the honorable member. In my electorate a large number of farmers and sons of farmers have gone to fight for the Empire, and have made great sacrifices, with the full intention on their return of going back to their farms. If they are injured what assistance will be given to them? This should be determined promptly, so that no unnecessary time may elapse between the date of their return and their commencing to receive support under this scheme. What is the use of voting a mere £250,000 ? No idea is given to the Committee as to how the money is to be expended, or as to what proportion each man will receive. .
– That will be a matter for decision by the trustees, who will be appointed under the Bill-
– How can the trustees apportion £250,000 amongst the men who are coming back every day, and will be returning in greater numbers in future.. We should be up and doing in a practicable way’, and not fiddling with the matter. It is all very well to talk sentiment, but let us show that there is something reasonable behind it. So far the Government have no, shown that. There is plenty of goodagricultural Crown land within easy dis.tance of railway communication which could be made available for returned soldiers’ so that they might be assured of a good living in a healthy climate. So far no scheme has been evolved by which the returned soldiers can have the advantage of such resources.
.- Next to the winning of the war, the repatriation of our soldiers is the most important subject with which Parliament can deal. The consideration of the problem of what we should do in order to enable our soldiers to make a living when they return should not be delayed a day longer. We have already lost too much time, because undoubtedly this matter will be difficult to deal with at close quarters. Many of the other nations at war have already evolved effective schemes. They realize that the settlement of returned soldiers involves much more than the mere employment of those men. Historians have told us that after each big war there has generally followed a period of considerable demoralization, when industries were disordered and finances upset, and when the community as a whole seemed to be suffering a relapse after the sacrifices and efforts made during the war. At such time vice and crime have been more rampant than usual. Those results are due to numbers of men being suddenly thrown on their own resources, with all the evil consequences to themselves and others which that unfortunate social condition engenders. There is no need for such a state of affairs to be created in Australia, because if we apply ourselves to this problem in a proper way the Commonwealth has a’ better chance of solving it than has any other country in the world. It will be to our lasting discredit if we do not deal with this question in a statesmanlike way. I regret that the Government have not given the country that lead which might reasonably be expected from them. If this debate will only show the Government the necessity for taking, more strenuous action, the time it occupies will not have been spent in vain. I am one of those who believe that the effort to place returned soldiers in employment must be directed largely to the land. Other industries can only absorb a very small proportion of those men. We have large unutilized areas awaiting only to be associated with a little intelligent effort to provide a return in excess of anything those men could hope for in employment in most of the urban industries. We need not have any fear that the areas available will not be sufficient for the demands that may be made upon them. Even if we recognise that there will probably be a considerable influx of immigrants who will desire to settle on the land, there is abundance of land which can be profitably occupied if reasonably fair treatment is given to those who go upon it.
– Hear, hear; our fathers who went upon the land had to learn.
– That is so. I am amused by those who say that no one should be encouraged to go upon the land who has not Had a rural training. Some of c the most successful farmers are those who have gone from the city with nothing but a fair amount of intelligence and that degree of industry and sobriety which is required for success in all walks of life. I have no doubt that if such people are given reasonable conditions they will succeed. I hold strongly the opinion that the practice of the past of throwing open large areas, and allowing people to ramble about and pick places for themselves, and then struggle along as best they can, is one that should not be perpetuated. One man sees what he thinks is a desirable piece of land in a certain district, and takes it up, while another selects a block many miles away. The result is that settlement is scattered over a large area, when, even if the land were somewhat inferior, better results could be obtained for settlers individually and collectively if they were . brought closer together, and given opportunities for that human intercourse we all desire, with education for their children, the lack of which is one of the most serious obstacles to settlement. I speak as one with some personal experience; and my opinion is that, if the Commonwealth Government, in conjunction with the States Governments, and assisted by experts like my honorable friend, the member for Wannon, would apply themselves to the settling of people under ordinary human conditions, there could be no doubt whatever as to the success of their efforts. Some one interjected this morning that the Mormons are very successful settlers; and in the course of a few other humorous interjections, I tried to get in a remark to the effect that, undoubtedly, they could give us many lessons. Their principle is a very simple one, and worth emphasizing at the present time. Every human being capable of work is an asset to any country, and can be profitably utilized for the State if placed -on the land.
– The Mormons also stock the land.
– The Mormons, realizing the principle, find individual settlers, and place them on land all ready prepared, keep an eye on their work, and regulate it in the interests of both themselves and the State. In a great majority of cases, after a few years, any oversight can be dispensed with, and the settlers find themselves in possession of properties which provide comfortable livings for themselves and their families, and are a valuable asset to the community. Some of the States of Australia, in a more or less feeble and halting way, have recognised the principle that the Mormons have applied so effectively ; but that principle ought to be universally realized and applied to every one prepared to go on the land. An ordinary ablebodied man working on wie land is surely worth at least his living, and that of his family ; that is to say, if a man placed on a block of land is shown what he ought to do, his week’s work, ordinarily speaking, is worth £2. Assuming that an individual’s work is worth his living, it would be worth the while of any Government to put him on the land, paying his way for him up to a certain point, and directing his efforts intelligently, because he would be creating, not only an asset for himself, but also an asset for the country. The trouble is, as I have already said, that, these settlers are thrown upon the land upon their own resources, and they make many ridiculous mistakes both for themselves and the country. If we could keep in view the fact that work, intelligently directed on the land, is always worth its weekly value, we could establish a condition of things that would enable a returned soldier, or any immigrant, without a penny to get along to that point when the land would give a profitable return, and become a taxable asset, by which the Government would be reimbursed.
– If primary Australia were as well organized as secondary Australia, we should have an immense population here.
– If a State like Victoria had given one-tenth the energy and money to the development of its rural industries that it has to artificial industries in town, the country, as a whole, and those town industries as well, would have been in a much better position than they are to-day.
– “ Artificial “ industries !
– I use the word “ artificial “ because many of the industries have been established before the time at which they could arise naturally.
– I cannot agree with the honorable member there.
– It is a question that may be discussed at another time; at present, I merely wish to emphasize the point as one which ought to be kept in view. We have a big task before us in regard to land settlement, as it is by this means that we must place the great bulk of our returned soldiers in profitable employment. It is no use waiting for private enterprise to do this work, for nothing like the whole of it can be undertaken from that source. It devolves on this Parliament primarily, and on the State Parliaments, to co-operate in a full and effective measure which will give us the results which the people of Australia are looking to their political leaders to achieve.
.- I have to congratulate the Government on placing this sum on the Estimates, because I realize that, though small, it represents a start. The Government would be well advised to translate into practical action the opinion of the majority of honorable members, and, instead of providing £250,000, propose to raise something like £50,000,000, if need be.
– Where would we find it?
– We would find the money in time; and we cannot do enough for the brave lads who have done what, otherwise, we ourselves should have had to do.
– As a financier, the honorable member will realize that his proposal would mean about £2,500,000 each year for interest: what form of taxation does he propose to raise this money ?
– The man who stands between the Empire and certain destruction is the man in khaki, and we cannot do sufficient for him.
– The honorable member has not told me what form of taxation he suggests.
– I should like to say a word of commendation about the honorable member for Wannon, who, in this matter, has given the Government the lead and set a splendid example. The honorable member, during the recess, has been engaged for the last few months in a propaganda in his electorate, and by his efforts has raised, in voluntary contributions, the sum of £60,000. If, in each of the seventy-five Federal electorates a similar sum had been raised, we should have had £4,500,000 as the result of voluntary effort. I do not agree with some honorable members that voluntary contributions should be eliminated, because I think it advisable that the people should be induced to take a personal interest in the matter. If they contribute to the movement from their private purse, they will be induced to take a personal interest in the success of returned soldiers. If- a line be drawn across the centre of Australia, from east to west, it may surprise honorable members to learn that the population of the northern half is only about 100,000. To promote the success of the repatriation scheme, I think that the Government should push on as speedily as possible with” the Northern Territory Railway, in order to make available for occupation the country in the Macdonnell Ranges and on the Barclay Tableland, where we are told there is some of the best pastoral country in Australia. I do not agree with the idea of making Adelaide the terminus. I think that the railway should follow the eastern boundary of the Northern Territory, and should connect with the western terminal stations of the Queensland railways. We might well follow the example of Canada, where the railways were first built into the rich agricultural and pastoral areas, and the population followed. It should not be forgotten that conditions are better suited for the promotion of settlement to-day than they were five or six years ago. The honorable member for Maranoa will agree with me that prices for sheep and cattle have gone up. These increased prices of stock will make it possible for people to make a living in the Northern Territory when under the conditions of a few years ago they would probably have starved. In a way, the increased price of stock has been a blessing to Australia, by making possible the settlement of her vast empty spaces.
– How are the settlers to stock up?
– We should take the best districts in the Northern Territory, parcel out the land, let the returned soldiers ballot for the blocks, and then the Repatriation Fund would come into effect in enabling the returned soldiers to stock up the areas they had secured. While people are always talking about putting the returned soldiers on the land, and it is very desirable that the empty spaces of Australia should be filled, we should bear in mind that the objects of the repatriation scheme should be, as far as possible, to put our returned soldiersback into the occupations they left to go to the front, and for which it may be presumed they are best suited. A number of young fellows who have been brought, up in our cities would be lost on the land, even if they had a good compass. Weshall best consult the interests and feelings of the returned soldiers themselves, if the resources of the Commonwealth, are availed of to place them in the position that they are best able to fill.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 28 (Unforeseen Expenditure) r £2,500, agreed to.
Division 29 (Stamp Printing), £1,619
.- I should like to know whether better paper than has been used in the past is being used for the printing of stamps ? Honorable members know that when trying toseparate stamps from a sheet they are often torn, and their value lost to the purchaser. On several occasions, in Western Queensland, officers in charge of telegraph offices have refused to take stamps that have been torn. They aretorn so frequently, because of the rotten paper on which they are printed, or because of incomplete perforation of the sheets. Last year Mr. Fisher, when Treasurer, said something would be done to improve the perforation of stamp sheets, or to provide a better quality of paper. Perhaps the present Treasurer will say whether anything has been done in this direction.
– During the few months that I have been in the Treasury, I have heard no complaints! about] the quality of paper used in the printing of stamps, but I can assure the honorable member for Maranoa that every now and again I have requests made topay an increased price for stamp paper, because of the difficulty of procuring it during the war. I understand that paper manufacturers at Home are complaining of the conditions they have to meet. They are asking for more money which I have had to give them. I shall submit the honorable member’s representations to the Stamp Printer, and will let him have a reply later on.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 30 (Refunds of Revenue), £275,000, agreed to.
Division 31 (Advance to the Treasurer), £750,000.
.- The footnote to the item, Advance to the Treasurer. £750,000,” is as follows :-
Including £150,000 for purchase of foodstuffs. &c, for Governments of South Africa and India, and £102,000 advanced for purchase of Commonwealth Bank site, Sydney, to be recovered.
If it is true, as the Treasurer said in his “Budget speech, that the ‘Commonwealth Bank saved Australia financially, why have the Government found it necessary to advance that sum to it to purchase the only piece of land which, I think, it possesses in Australia? Have the Government had to come to its rescue? I notice on a previous page an item of ‘£2, which, apparently, ihe Commonwealth Government had to pay on behalf of the Bank as legal expenses in connexion with the acquisition of the Sydney site. In . the circumstances, the Committee is entitled to some explanation from the Treasurer.
– The Government had to resume the land on which the Bank is being built for public purposes. We expect the Bank to refund the money, but we cannot get the money from the Bank until we can give it a title, and before we can do that we must get a Bill through this Parliament. That Bill is now before the Senate.
– Is there any defect in the title of the land resumed?
– No ; but the Bank is a separate institution.
– Why did not the Bank finance the Treasurer instead of the Treasurer financing the Bank?
– “We were not hard up for money, and did not want to go to the Bank for it. We preferred to advance it, and the account will be squared as soon as the Bill is passed.
– I cannot help being struck by the anomaly of a bank of this kind, which is supposed to have saved Australia in this great crisis, having to borrow £100,000 from the Treasurer to build a place to live in.
– Is not a most important point raised by the exercise of the Com monwealth Crown powers for another institution ?
– It is the act of a friend of the Bank, and the Government is its friend.
– The point is that the Bank is supposed to be independent of the Government, and to control all its own affairs to the extent of refusing to give information, even to members of Parliament. Time and again the Prime Minister has declined to ask Mr. Denison Miller to furnish information to the House concerning its transactions. Should not the purchase of a piece of land for public purposes - to use the Treasurer’s own words - have first been submitted to the Public Works Committee for inquiry?
– The land was resumed before the Committee was appointed.
– The money to pay for it is in these Estimates. It is time the whole of the relations of the Bank to Government and Parliament were clearly defined. The present arrangement appears to be that the Governor may do exactly what he likes, irrespective of Parliament, and control his Bank without reference even to the Government, except when he wants to borrow money-. In the meantime he might tell us under what conditions the advance was made, and what interest the Bank is to pay for it.. Do the Government acquire for public purposes the other sites which the Bank is reported to be purchasing all over Australia? There seems to be something peculiar about this transaction.
– The Government might, on the plea of public necessity; resume the best banking site in Melbourne, say, for instance, that occupied by the Bank of Australasia, and hand it over to the Commonwealth Bank.
– We would not do an injustice.
– Did the Governor of the Bank consult the Government about the purchase of the site ?
– The resumption was made * before I took over the Treasury, but I have no doubt he did.
– I cannot see how the Government comes into the transaction. Could not Mr. Miller have purchased this block of land on his own account, as he has purchased every other?
– I should imagine that if, as a business man, he thought he could do better by approaching the Government, he would do so. ‘He might not have been able to get the land himself ; the Government stepped in, and said they wanted it for public purposes, took it, and paid for it.
– That is very probably the explanation, and if the Treasurer is able to assure us that that is the case, it is an answer.
– It seems a common-sense view, and I believe it is the correct one.
– But, as a matter of fact, the Treasurer does not know.
– I know the Government resumed the land, and paid for it, and are going to get the money from the Governor of the Bank when they can hand over the title.
– I suppose that is the only piece of land which Mr. Miller has consulted the Government about.
– He is not building any more banks yet, but when he does, if he cannot get lie site without assistance, I presume he will come to us to get it for him, and we will do it.
– Will the Treasurer get the particulars, and let us have them later on ?
– -Do you suggest there is any jobbery in it?
– I should” hope that there is not. I believe Mr. Denison Miller to be above anything of that kind, but the transaction in and by itself is peculiar.
– You know how it is done.
– I do not.
– He wanted to acquire the land and got the Government to act for him.
– That is what I want to know. The outstanding feature is that Mr. Denison Miller is a borrower from the Treasurer of the Commonwealth to the extent of £102,000 for the .purchase of the site.
– No, he is not. That is not a fair way of putting it. As soon as the Government can hand over the deeds he will hand over the money.
– But why did the Government come into the transaction at all? Mr. Denison Miller has power to buy all the land he wants for banking purposes without reference to the Govern ment, and he is buying or renting properties nearly every day in some part of Australia. In this particular case, however, he has borrowed £102,000 from the Treasurer.
– You can understand it if you want to.
– In the division to which I am referring, there is an item, Advance to the Treasurer, £750,000,” and at the bottom there is a note stating that it includes, “£102,000, advanced for purchase of Commonwealth Bank site,. Sydney, to be recovered.” This surely indicates that the Governor of the Bank has borrowed from the Treasurer.
– Let me put to you a supposititious case in a few words. You may have certain powers to buy land from Mr, Greene. The Governor of the Bank may also want to acquire that property, but. Mr. Greene will not sell to him, and you. can make him sell to you. That is how this particular case appears to me.
– If that is the meaning of the note, it is intelligible, and it appears that the Bank is getting privileges from the Government, and is utilizing Government power to enable it to do what ordinary banks have to do for themselves.
– I consider that we ought to stand by our institutions.
– Well, if yOU put it that way, it may be all right.
– It is the nation’s Bank, and. the Government of the nation ought tohelp the Bank if they can.
– May I suggest, then, that though this is the nation’s Bank, things have been so ordered that the nation’s Government are supposed to have nothing whatever to do with it. That is the Statute, and it has been made clear to us many times in answer to questions in this House. However, I do not want to pursue this matter further. The transaction appears to be singular, and the least, we can expect is that the Treasurer shall give us all the facts.
– I have given the honorable member the facts. There is only one other fact, and that is, the interest paid is 3 per cent. As soon as you let us have the title by passing the Bill, we will get the money.
– You are giving- Mr. Denison Miller money at 3 per cent..
– I have no desire to conceal anything. That is what we are charging the Governor of the Bank.
– It seems, then, that the Government are paying at least 4½ per cent. for money which they are lending to the Bank at 3 per cent The more explanation we get the stranger the transaction appears to be.
.- I do not object to the Government lending assistance to the Commonwealth Bank in any way. I believe the Commonwealth Government should support the National Bank and when, as in this case, it was necesary to get headquarters at Sydney, and the Governor of the Bank could not get the land, the Commonwealth Government were perfectly justified in stepping in and resuming. But such action should be taken under an agreement with the Governor of the Bank by which the latter would deposit with the Commonwealth Government a sum of money on the day the Government made the advance. It should not be necessary for the Treasurer to go to the assistance of the Bank and finance that institution. The Bank, as an ordinary purchaser, should stand on exactly the same level as anybody else. I had no opposition to the creation of the Commonwealth Bank, but I have my views as to whether the best course was taken, and whether the institution created is the best that could have been devised. But that is another matter altogether. It is wrong for the Commonwealth Government to borrow money from the Treasury at 3 per cent. for the purposes of this advance to the Commonwealth Bank while the Treasury has to pay 5 per cent. for every1d. that is obtained.
Mr.Fenton. - But this money was lent three or four years ago.
– I am not objecting to the transaction, but I do say that the Commonwealth Bank ought to finance the loan for the whole period.
.- It appears to me that the remarks of the Treasurer are not quite consistent. He affirms that, so far, the Government have not been able to give a title to this land in Sydney. Has there not been an enormous sum of money spent upon that land ?
– The honorable member has misunderstood what Isaid. The Governor of the Commonwealth Bank re quires a clear title to the land, and we cannot give him a clear title until wo have passed through this House a Bill which is now before the Senate.
– And it has taken three years to get that Bill before Parliament. Surely the matter could have been dealt with before now.
.- In his financial statement last year, the Treasurer stressed the advisableness of securing greater co-operation between the States and the Commonwealth. We have a Commonwealth Savings Bank in operation in all our post-offices, and simultaneously the State Governments are building very extensive banking premises throughout the Commonwealth. Before the outbreak of the war the demand for co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States had grown very insistent. An amalgamation of similar interests is more necessary at a time like the present than it ever was before. I should like to know if any negotiations have taken place between the Commonwealth and the States with a view to avoiding unnecessary duplication of similar businesses throughout this continent. When the Commonwealth Bank was established, certain offers were made to the States, but no definite agreement was arrived at. Since then, the need for some form of amalgamation of similar interests between the States and the Commonwealth has forced itself upon the public. Such an amalgamation would result in a great administrative saving.
– We have this matter under consideration almost continually. Quite recently, the offer of which the honorable member speaks was renewed in the case of Victoria, and only a few weeks ago we received a reply that it was not accepted.
– I hope that the Treasurer will let us know the result of his negotiations with all the States. My recollection is that the offer made by the Commonwealth to the States was that 75 per cent. of the deposits in the State Savings Banks should be handled by the State administrative bodies, and that practically the whole of the deposits within any State should be re-invested within its borders, so as to preserve the local autonomy side of the transaction. But there is an even greater possibility of effecting substantial savings by means of an amalgamation if some equitable agreement can be arrived at. The various
States are now building extensive offices in the country towns throughout Australia - offices which might well be utilized for carrying on the banking business of both the Commonwealth and State Governments. I trust that the Treasurer will make a statement upon this matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 32 (Secretary’s Office), £12,388
.- Some time ago, regulations were issued in respect of shares held in companies by enemy subjects, irrespective of whether those subjects were naturalized or not. In one of those regulations I gather from the press that the Government took power unto themselves to exempt certain classes of companies altogether.
– Such as friendly societies.
– In my opinion, cooperative dairy companies might also be exempted. In nearly every instance the actual shareholding of any individual is a comparatively small matter. In some cases it represents only five shares, and in other cases perhaps ten shares.
– The shareholders are always suppliers, too.
– Exactly. I would point out to the Minister of Trade and Customs that scattered throughout the country are a large number of Germans who are engaged in farming and dairying industries. As their individual interests in any co-operative dairy company are small, no good purpose can be served by loading the officers of the Department with a huge number of applications for exemptions. It would be wise, therefore, to entirely exempt these companies.
– I will undertake to bring the matter referred to by the honorable member under the notice of the Acting Attorney-General.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 33 (Grown Solicitor’s Office), £11,148; division 34 (TheHigh Court), £11,200; division 35 (Court of Conciliation and Arbitration), £9,751 ; division 36 (Patents, Trade Marks, and Designs), £25,468; and division 37 (Copyrights Office), £759, agreed to.
Department of External Affairs.
Divisions 38 to 45 (£570,033), agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Division 46 (Central Administration), £66,210.
Sitting suspended from 1 to2.30 p.m.
– The Treasurer made an announcement this morning to the effect that there was no intention of abandoning, theLithgow Small ArmsFactory as a Government building, and that if they do not continue to use it for the manufacture of small arms it will, at least, be maintained for Government purposes. But I wish to know whether it is the intention of the Government to spend any money on buildings or machinery forthe manufacture of small arms on the site which it is wellknown has been chosen for an arsenal in the Federal Territory without first submitting the matter to the Public Works Committee. The Public Works Committee Act provides that all works on which an expenditure of £25,000, or over, is contemplated must be referred to the Public Works Committee, but by an Order in Council naval and military works may be exempted from reference to that Committee.
– The provision for the arsenal is to be found in the Works Estimates. The matter cannot be debated now.
– In discussing the first item of the Defence Estimates, I understand that the Committee has a roving commission, and I am merely asking for a declaration of policy. I want an assurance that, before any expenditure is incurred in connexion with building a small arms factory on that arsenal site, the matter will be submitted to the Public Works Committee for a report, so that Parliament may have the opportunity of discussing the advisability or otherwise of proceeding with the work. It is important that such a controversial matter, and one on which no permanent mistake should be made, should be decided by Parliament.
.- The practice of the Defence and Navy Departments if, for reasons best known to them, they deem it inadvisable to submit any work to the Public Works Committee, is not to do so. For instance, it would be unwise to make too public the nature of the construction of Naval Bases, and other works in connexion with the defence of Australia. That was the object of placing the exemption in the Act, to which the honorable member for Kooyong has referred. The locating of the proposed arsenal at the Federal Capital has been the subject of an extensive investigation by a Committee of the best gentlemen who could be selected for the purpose. That Committee went beyond Australia to gain information, and, having inspected munition works, cordite and small arms factories, and establishments concerned in the manufacture of big guns, submitted a confidential report to the Minister of Defence, and the Government, being guided by that report, decided to establish an arsenal at the Federal Capital. In view of the fact that everything possible was done to expedite the getting of that report, so that steps might be taken at the earliest possible moment to establish an arsenal in Australia, the Government must be guided by it. We have heard it said that the Government have not done enough in the matter of the manufacture of munitions of war. Here we propose to do something.
– But the arsenal will not affect the existing war.
– One cannot tell. We propose to put it in hand as soon as possible, and I hope that Parliament will not delay the work by trying to hamper what we have in hand.
– How long will it take to complete what the Government now propose to take in hand?
– The first portion of the works - the initial stages - will be well under weigh in eighteen months. We shall do all we can to make the works of assistance in the present war, for we do not know how long it may last. We have been in communication with manufacturers as to our chances of getting certain machinery, and we believe that within eighteen months or a couple of years there will be some substantial progress in regard to this proposition, but whether we shall be manufacturing explosives, machine guns, pistols, waggons, and everything else required in connexion with war, I cannot say.
– But the Government will not submit the work first of all to the Public Works Committee?
– I will not say definitely that it is not the intention of the
Government to do so, but, so far as I know, it is not, because we have already had a report from a Committee which was appointed by the Government to inquire into the matter, and we must accept their expert advice.
– Did the Committee make the very fullest possible investigation into the latest methods of manufacture ?
– The Committee did everything possible to advise the Government. Their report was confidential. We cannot disclose to the world what sort of arsenal we intend to erect. When the Government have a report from a Committee the members of which are supposed to understand their work, why should we submit it to the Public Works Committee for further investigation, the subject being one of which they have no expert knowledge.
– Did the expert Committee obtain the secret formula necessary for the carrying on of certain manufactures ?
– The expert Committee proceeded to India, which has arsenals of the most modern type. They had access to those establishments, and they obtained all the information that the management, which is under the Imperial authorities, could give.
– It is only the buildings about which we are concerned.
– The lay-out of the buildings was dealt with by the Commit- tee.
– If the Minister could give the Committee an assurance that the arsenal is necessary for the purposes of this war nothing further would be said.
– I assure the Committee that it is absolutely necessary that the proposals of the Government should be proceeded with.
– How was the Committee constituted ?
– I cannot recollect the personnel at this moment, but I believe there were five members, including Colonel Owen, Major Gipps, and the manager of one of the biggest engineering works in Australia. The Government must be guided by the confidential reports submitted to them by the experts, and I hope that none of the items provided on the
Estimates for the arsenal will be obstructed. The work is necessary, and should be proceeded with at once.
– How much machinery has been ordered?
– I cannot say, but I know that the Minister of Defence is in correspondence with firms throughout the world, with the object of getting delivery expedited. I trust that honorable members, knowing that the work cannot be delayed, will not attempt to embarrass the Government.
– I am glad to receive the information given by the Minister, but I consider that the Government have acted unwisely in not proceeding with this work earlier, if it is to be made effective before the termination of the war. If the arsenal cannot be in operation in time to be of service in this war it is a mistake to proceed with its construction at all during the war. Will the arsenal be able to produce munitions inside three years? I do not think the war will last so long, and when it is over we should be able to purchase plant much more cheaply than it can be obtained today, and the erection of the arsenal would give employment to a large number of returned men.
– Australia must be selfsupporting in regard to defence at any and every time.
– Any one who can form an estimate in regard to the future prospects of peace and war must realize that, no matter what the circumstances may be, Australia must be self-contained in the matter of munitions. We cannot allow ourselves to be short of the necessaries of war, particularly should there be any trouble with eastern nations. In such an event our communications by sea would be so precarious, especially in the early stages of the war, that the continent would be in danger if we were unable to secure from overseas or manufacture within our own borders the necessary munitions. We may dismiss from our minds the idea that the proposed arsenal can have any effect on the present war. It is impossible to imagine that the struggle will last so long as to allow of the arsenal being established and operated in turning out munitions for use in this war. We have already a Small Arms Factory in operation, and ma chinery for the duplication of portion of the plant is arriving shortly. The Government have cordite, clothing, and harness factories, and to that extent the Commonwealth is doing fairly well in the circumstances. But there are other departments of an arsenal to be created, and that will require time. Even if we could get the machinery at the present time, we are not within two years of being ready for it; but, in any case, I do not think that we can get machinery now. It is obvious that in two respects we shall be in a much better position to obtain machinery after the war than we are to-day. In the first place we shall have the experience of the war to guide us in choosing machinery for our purpose, and in the second place, we shall be able to purchase plant almost at the price of scrap iron, compared with the prices we should have to pay to-day.
– Could not a large proportion of the machinery be made in Australia ?
– We ought to be able to get a large portion of it in Australia, and the manufacture of that machinery would provide work in many directions, and be helpful for our soldiers when they have returned from the front. However, the preparing of the ground, the erection of buildings, ana other preliminary work, can, with much advantage, go on in the immediate future. I should like to say a word or two about the arsenal itself, quite apart from these particularly immediate matters. It has been decided that the arsenal shall be erected at Canberra. Personally, I have the strongest support to give to the erection of an arsenal as a necessarily important and urgent work, but I am very much inclined to disagree with the proposal to erect it at Canberra.
– It is not to be erected at Canberra, but 9 miles away.
– The position of the arsenal is at Tuggeranong, about 7 miles distant from the site of Parliament House in the city. Of that site for an arsenal, I have no complaint to make, because I believe with Mr. Mackay and others that it is an ideal site. As a member of the Works Committee, I visited the place, and know that it has many advantages superior to those of other sites suggested. But, to my mind, it also has some very serious disadvantages. In the first place, it is within 60 miles, across country, from the sea coast; and the development of aviation - particularly aviation associated with warships, which enables the despatch and reception of airships on their upper decks - renders a flight of 60 miles from the sea to the vital centre of our defence system an easy adventure.
– Improvements in aviation would make a site 600 miles from the sea just as dangerous.
– A site a one-hour trip from the sea is too dangerous.
– It is dangerous. The site is well sheltered by hills, no doubt, and, to some extent, thereby concealed. It is practically in an amphitheatre; and while that may be an advantage from the point of view of the city, from an aerial point of view it would be open to attack. In a case of this kind, proximity to the Federal Capital of anything under 40 or 50 miles is to be deprecated. The Federal Capital ought to be regarded solely as the legislative or political centre of Australia; and if we associate with that centre such an important matter in defence as the establishment of an arsenal, we make the political centre an object of attack by an enemy. This brings the city within the danger zone, so that an enemy could attack, not only the defence capital or defence centre of activity, but also, at one and the same time, the legislative centre. In time of war the position of the legislative centre would be of no account in itself, and it would not matter whether it was at Canberra, Darwin, or Fremantle. Already we have seen an illustration of this in Belgium and France, where the seat of Government has been shifted owing to the war. But we are proposing to erect several million pounds worth of buildings, and the city is to be laid out on the best up-to-date plan, with buildings that will be an ornament to the Commonwealth. By planting the arsenal within 7 miles - which is nothing, particularly in view of aerial attack - we are placing in jeopardy the whole of the work and outlay on the city. Then there is the question whether the arsenal is not also in a dangerous situation in view of the fact that the Duntroon Military College is within a few miles. I readily and frankly confess that I am nervous of the military system growing up in that situation, knowing what has happened in other countries. When we have the nerve centre of the army - the officers’ school and headquarters of the military organization - within a few miles of the defence equipment system, and when that is in association with the legislative centre, we have three things that ought not to be in juxtaposition. The temptation to a military dictator to capture the legislative centre by capturing the defence equipment centre is a temptation that ought not to be placed in the way of any military man in Australia.
– That is an argument in favour of decentralization. i
– Undoubtedly. We are all aware that Colonel Bridges expressed strong objection to the Military College being placed in proximity to a city or town.
– I think it was for the sake of the soldier.
– He thought it too near to social arrangements, and so forth.
– He thought it too near the attractions and social activities of the city, but, unfortunately, this disadvantage, so far as the Military College is concerned, will remain. While it may be considered an exaggeration to imagine a mlitary dictator ever ‘ making his appearance on the political stage of Australia, stranger things than that have happened in the history of nations.
– What about Caesar?
– There are people to-day who have a very high opinion of Caesar. If men like Napoleon or Bowlanger, as in countries not perhaps as civilized as our own - such as the Balkans and the eastern countries - can capture the military and defence equipment centre they practically nile the community. The legislative and political centre of Canberra would be threatened by two dangers - not only an enemy attack on the arsenal, owing to its proximity to the Capital, but also the seizing of the arsenal by someone in Australia, which would mean the capture of the city and the centre of governmental activity. I am thoroughly in sympathy with the suggestion that we should have factories at Canberra. It is absolutely necessary, if we arc to have a large population there, to establish factories, first of all, in association with Commonwealth enterprises. There are quite a number of factories that could be well established there, and have the effect of attracting, not only workmen, but their wives and families, together with storekeepers and others, as the nucleus of a city population. The establishment of a rifle factory there is a very sensible and proper proposal ; but I cannot make up my mind as to the necessity for the association of a rifle factory with the arsenal. I do not think there is a vital connexion between the two, a connexion, at any rate, so vital as to make the association imperative. Such an arrangement might save a little in transport and power - and there is a good deal to be said for economical working by concentration, but we are dealing with not an ordinary matter of business but an unusual one. There are items of war equipment dealt with in an arsenal, the manufacture of which must necessarily be co-ordinated, but I do not think that rifles are among these. There is, in my opinion, an advantage in having the site chosen for the manufacture of rifles separate from that chosen for the manufacture of big guns, machine guns, and ammunition, so long as the different factories are so located that their products can be brought together without difficulty. The Works Committee recommended the Tuggeranong site for the arsenal as the best site in the Federal Territory, but they did not commit themselves to the view that it is the best site in Australia for an arsenal. Personally, I do not think it is. I believe that it would be much better to locate the arsenal, and particularly such special parts of it as the manufacture of big guns, machine guns, shells, and such things, much further inland. I think that a suitable site could be found somewhere on the Darling, on the line of the strategic railway connecting Adelaide and Brisbane, which has been suggested, and a report concerning which has been submitted to the House.
– Order ! I regret to have again to intervene, but the discussion is becoming altogether irregular. The Committee is now dealing with the Estimates of the Defence Department, and I have had to direct the attention of one or two honorable members to the fact that they are discussing matters altogether outside these Estimates. I can only permit the discussion to continue on the lines upon which the honorable member for Brisbane has been proceeding on the understanding that the Estimates’ for New Works, Buildings, &c. connected with the Defence Department will be taken as passed when the Estimates now before the Committee are dealt with. If that course be not adopted, we shall have the present debate duplicated, and I shall feel responsible for the consequent loss of time. Is it the desire of the Committee that honorable members shall be permitted to discuss all matters connected with new works under the Defence Department on these votes, and that the passing of these Defence Estimates shall be understood to involve also the passing of the items of the Works Estimates relating to the Defence Department?
– I do not think we could agree to that.
– Then I must confine the discussion to the Estimates now before the Committee.
– What votes are we now dealing with ?
– The item before the Committee is the first item of the Defence Estimates on the administration side, but the debate has resolved itself into a debate upon new works for the Defence Department. I have no wish to curtail debate, but I again suggest that with the Estimates now before the Committee there should also be submitted the Estimates of New Works, Buildings, &c, connected with the Defence Department.
– On a point of order, I submit that there are a number of items covered by these Defence Estimates, such as the votes for the Small Arms Factory, the Clothing, Harness, and other factories. As a consequence, jt is competent for honorable members to discuss the matters which have been referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane and other honorable members, and when the Works Estimates connected with the Defence Department come on later for consideration it will be competent for honorable’ members to refer to any particular work provided for in them. The honorable member for Brisbane has discussed the Royal Military College, ordnance, guns, and ammunition, and votes relating to them are to be found in the Estimates now under consideration. I submit, therefore, that the honorable member is quite in order in the course he has followed.
– I take no exception, nor should I take exception, to any legitimate debate upon the item before the
Committee, but the honorable member for Brisbane was clearly and definitely dealing with new works, and particularly with the arsenal proposed to be constructed at Canberra, which is not covered by the Estimates now under consideration. I have suggested a course which would avoid the duplication of debate, and I again ask whether it is the desire of the Committee that the Estimates for new works, buildings, &c, in connexion with the Defence Department be taken together with the Defence Estimates now before the Committee.
– There being objection to that course, I must ask the honorable member for Brisbane to confine his remarks to the item ‘before the Committee.
– I think, sir, that your ruling is perfectly correct, and I bow to it. I shall resume my remarks later on.
.- I rise to clear up a matter which was referred to last evening. Several honorable members urged the necessity for a larger allowance being made in the case of soldiers having large families. It was pointed out last night that 8s. a day is the maximum allowance that can be drawn by a soldier, inclusive of the allowances for wife and children. The wife of a soldier is given an allowance of 10s. a week, or about1s. 5d. a day, with 4½d. per day for each child. Upon embarkation,1s. per day of the soldier’s pay is deferred, and in most cases he draws 1s. per day for his personal expenses. That leaves but 4s. of his pay for his wife. She gets in addition1s. 5d. a day for herself, and 4½d. per day for each child. Ifhonorable members will work out the figures they will find that, with a family of two, the maximum allowance of 8s. will “be absorbed. How is it possible for a woman with a family of six, and many of the wives of soldiers who have gone to the front have more than six children, to make ends meet after her husband has embarked ?
– She gets 3s. a week for each child from the patriotic fund.
– I know of cases where, so far, nothing has been obtained from the patriotic fund. I have received letters from several women, but I shall refer particularly to one. The husband enlisted, and left her with a small family. They had borrowed money for their home, which was a very laudable thing to do. She had to meet the building society calls of so much per month for the money borrowed, and also the time-payments on a piano which they obtained in order to give the children lessons in music. She found herself unable with the small amount coming in to meet her bills, and appealed to me to see if anything could be done. There are many similar cases. I do not see why, when the husband goes to serve his country, the amount allowed his family should be so small that they may be forced to sell some of their furniture or run the risk of losing their home. It is not fair that a family with two children should get the same money per week as one of seven or eight children. The maximum should be raised to 10s. a day, taking everything into account, according to the number in the family. This would increase the cost, but the country is prepared to bear the expense of reasonable maintenance for those who are left behind. I am sure nobody will demur, and, after all, it will not be such a large item, because only about one in ten of those who go away leaves a young family.
– Parliament often devotes considerable time to the consideration of small expenditures, and I have a vivid recollection of a very protracted debate on a matter of £47, but we are now asked to vote a sum of £35,720,000 for the Military Forces and have not a say in its expenditure, no matter how it may be spent. Of course, in our present unfortunate position we accept the dictum that the Minister of Defence has the right to supervise the expenditure, but there is so much done with the money over which we have no control whatever that we ought to take this opportunity - the only one we have had since the war began - to express our opinions on several matters connected with this vote. Every man who joins our Expeditionary Forces feels, like Napoleon’s soldiers, that he has a marshal’s baton in his knapsack, but in our Army promotion, like kissing, apparently goes by favour. Commissions in 40 per cent. of the cases have not been gained by worth or ability. They have gone to men with no previous training and nothing to justify their promotion, while men with previous training were not given a chance. A large percentage of men who have for years fitted themselves for commissioned rank have been unable to get it, whereas others who have had no preparation at all have obtained it. I have been told outside that the recommendation of a Labour member is a great help, but my experience has been exactly the opposite. I know of cases where State members here and in other States have been given the credit of using, not political, but certain social influence to secure men commissioned rank.
– But the men must go through their training in the schools.
– The trouble is that certain people select them. I know three young men who held commissioned rank prior to the war, and, as they could not get commissions in the Expeditionary Forces, they joined as privates. They had the greatest difficulty in getting into the Commissioned Officers’ School.
– Perhaps they were under twenty-three.
– They were over twenty- three. Before they could get into the school they had to satisfy certain officers that they were suitable, yet men who did not understand the rudiments of drill were given an opportunity of entering, and eventually came out full-blown commissioned officers, whilst others with years of training did not. I do not charge those responsible for this state of things with political bias. I admit that it was not political bias, nor “ snobocracy,” that was at the bottom of it. A man had to be in a certain circle to have the slightest chance. I have complained to the Minister, and the Department, and even to the State Commandant. I told him I was not charging the Department him if doing things wrongly, but I asked him if he would not admit the possibility of mistakes being made. I have submitted certain cases to him, but never yet have I been able to clear up any glaring instances of unfairness. I have always been told that everything has been done in its proper order, although I have known all along that this has not been so. Let me quote the case of three young men who were commissioned officers before the war, and joined as privates. Two of these got away as corporals, and one as a sergeant. They came back as warrant officers severely wounded, recuperated here, and joined again. Not only were they com missioned officers prior to the war, but they were also men of some educational ability, for one was a school teacher, and the other two were accountants, so it could not be said that lack of educational qualifications was keeping them back. I understand that they are not political supporters of the party I belong to, so it is not a political matter with me at all. I am merely representing the case as it was put to me. The authorities have been appointing, as commissioned officers, men who have had no previous training, while these men who had had training prior to the war, and had actually gained experience in the war, were told that they were not suitable for appointment as officers. Ail this time, as I have already stated, other men were receiving appointments over their heads. It is a crime that such things should be allowed to take place. In Victoria, we have men who have been training our soldiers and officers for ten and fifteen years. These men - I refer to the sergeant-majors - are soldiers, and they are now engaged in the different camps training our soldiers and officers. Most of the men ought to have received commissioned rank, and been allowed to go to the front, because they are well qualified to lead, but we are told that they cannot be spared because they are required to train men who are enlisting.
– And they are being paid about half the salary of a lieutenant.
– Yes, the position is very anomalous. These men, who get only about £156 a year, are practically in charge of the camps, but are under captains or senior lieutenants, who have had no previous experience of military duties, but who have had the good fortune to receive appointment to commissioned rank. This condition of affairs might be all right in Germany, Great Britain, or France, where the old order of tilings is supposed to prevail, but it should not be allowed to exist in Australia. These men are not being treated fairly. It is not right that young men should receive appointment as officers over them, and1 be given charge of training camps, while the actual work is performed by .the men of experience I have referred to for the handsome pay of £156 a year, without any opportunity of improving their position by going to the front.
– If it is necessary to keep them home, they should have better pay, and receive commissions.
– That is what I say. If these men are essential to the wellbeing of our Army, surely they ought to be paid what their services are worth. This matter should not be considered by anybody from the political stand-point. It is said that a Minister is weak if he cannot control his officers, but I maintain that no Minister can beat down the determination of his officers, whatever Department he may have control of. While the Minister is responsible for any faults, and must take the blame for irregularities, it is difficult, I will admit, for him so to administer his Department as to obviate all these troubles. Parliament should see to it that some other method is adopted for the selection of these men. Here is another case. Fourteen months ago, a young man - brother of a constituent of mine, but not a political supporter - was a sergeant-major in one of our militia regiments. He is 6 ft. 1 in. in height, physically fit, has a fine voice, and looks a soldier. In common with other men, he enlisted as a private. Later on a selection was made of a number of men to go into the Commissioned Officers’ School. His name was sent in, but, to his surprise, it and the name of another young man were taken off the list, and the names of friends of the selecting officers - men who had had no training whatever - were put on instead. The result was that both of these men to whom I have referred went away as non-commissioned officers. This sort of thing is occurring all the time. I do not say that the men who have received appointments as commissioned officers have been found wanting in bravery when the time has come. All I say is that they have not been soldiers, and that the real soldiers who were qualified to go up for examination for commissioned rank were overlooked. We know that in Great Britain it has been the’ custom of officers with college training to look with a certain amount of contempt upon fellow officers who have risen from the ranks. From what I have said, it is evident an invidious patronage is shown in the selection of officers in Australia. We ought to be able to stop this. I know, however, that not much good will result from my remarks, and that I might as well write to the Department and throw the letter to the winds. It is only on occasions, such as we have now, that we can express opinions, though we realize probably that, while our words will appear in Hansard, that will be the end of the matter.
– But cannot we have a motion on the subject?
– I do not like to create a disturbance over this matter, but it is one that calls for investigation. From the commencement of the war up to the present, I charge the officers of the Military Department with allowing men who are unfit to get commissions, whilst thousands of men who are fit do not get the opportunity, owing to the system adopted in the selection of officers. I know it is useless to beat the wind, and that it is hardly worth while proceeding any further in this direction, but I tell the Minister that if he does not see to this the time will come when there will be some dirty linen washed, and it will not redound to the credit of the Ministry nor to that of this Parliament. Everybody must have heard what I am telling the Committee to-day, but it has not been ventilated very much publicly, because people do not like to stir these matters up. But certainly the existing system has not resulted in that efficiency which it ought to have produced.
.- Everybody must realize the difficulties of the Defence Department during the present war. I think that in the discharge of their duties the chief officers of that Department have brought to bear considerable organizing ability, and that they have endeavoured to introduce an equitable system in the matter of promotions.
– Most of them have.
– I think so- too. Certainly the great majority of the principal officers have endeavoured to be fair in their recommendations of men for promotion. But it is not to be expected that during war time they will always be able to select the most reliable officers to make confidential reports to them - reports upon which their recommendations for promotion are based. That is where the difficulty arises. I am aware that a great many anomalies exist, but I must say that any complaint which I have brought under the notice of the Department has always been promptly investigated. Promotions, as we all know, are practically in the hands of the Adjutant-General. I believe that that officer has aimed at appointing only the most efficient men to the ranks of commissioned officers. His difficulty is that in the period which has elapsed since the outbreak of the war, and under the stress which has prevailed, he has not been able to organize the Department in such a way as to secure a staff of officers upon whose recommendations he can implicitly rely. It is all a question of organization. But while we ought to acknowledge what has been done by the Department, and to admit the difficulties under which it has laboured, I trust that this debate will cause the Minister to devote a little personal attention to promotions here, as well as to those which take place on the battlefield. I am informed that the claims of men who have been conspicuously brave in the discharge of their duties on the battlefield have been ignored simply because there was no officer present at the time of their meritorious exploits to convey news of those exploits to the responsible authorities. I understood some time ago that it was the intention of the Department to co-ordinate the various patriotic funds that have been collected throughout Australia, and to place them under a central control. Some millions of pounds have been subscribed by Australian citizens to these funds. I believe it is intended to have a grand council as an executive to control the repatriation fund that has been created. But, so far, we have heard very little about the different patriotic funds.
– They are all intrusted to certain bodies.
– I think that some central control should be exercised by the executive. Has any scheme been considered by the Defence Department? Does the Department intend to assume permanent control of the large funds which have been subscribed for the purpose of assisting soldiers who have fought for us at the front?
.- I wish to bring under the notice of the Committee the position that is occupied by officers of our Citizen Forces. In November or December last, a circular was issued from Head-quarters to all officers of our Citizen Forces asking them if they were prepared to enlist for service abroad. I have in my mind the cases of four officers, in one town in my electorate, which may be re garded as typical of many others. Unfortunately, since the outbreak of the war, both in this Chamber and elsewhere, very uncomplimentary references have been made to the officers of our Citizen Forces, with the result that to-day the uniform which they wear is practically held in contempt. To my mind, a very grave injustice has been done to them. The four officers to whom I have referred held the rank of lieutenants upon the outbreak of the war. In answer to the confidential circular sent to them from Head-quarters, each of them” expressed his willingness to serve abroad. All these men are married, and have families, in addition to which they are military students and enthusiasts, who have spent years in training other men in military duties. In time of peace they have done a great deal of- the spade work connected with compulsory military training. Yet to-day the finger of scorn is pointed at them. They cannot take part in any public function without somebody asking how it is that these coldfooted men are not at the front? I propose briefly to sketch the career of one of these officers, who is now a captain. This officer, who is thirty-six years of age, is a Bachelor of Arts, and the headmaster of a school. He passed at Duntroon College in November, 1914, with a percentage of 93 marks. He was top of the school. The following year he attended a second school at Broadmeadows and passed. He then passed through a third school at Royal Park with a percentage of 86, and in December, 1915, he passed for his captaincy with a percentage of 82. For three years he has been in command of a Light Horse squadron. Yet, if this officer wishes to serve his country to-day, he must enlist as a private under boys as corporals whom he may have trained for years. He is a competent military expert and a keen enthusiast who glories in the work. But after all his military career, if he wishes to serve in the Expeditionary Forces, he must run the chance of being ordered about by mere boys.
– What objection is raised to appointing such men to commissions in the Expeditionary Forces?
– I do not know. These men have tried over and over again.
– If a man passes through Duntroon I do not see how he can be kept back.
– My point is that, inside and outside this chamber, ridicule has been cast on the officers of our Citizen Forces. Many of them may not wish to go abroad, but these four men do wish to go. In fact, one of these lieutenants, who served his country in the Boer War, did not wait for a confidential circular from the Department; in the month following the outbreak of the war he volunteered, and ever since he has been trying to get away. I hope that the Minister will take into consideration whether the officers of our Citizen Forces are to be asked to surrender the positions they hold and walk into training camps as privates, taking the chance of having to paint latrines, or to scrub floors for some officers’ quarters, or be subject to the ridicule of boys with no military experience.
– It does not seem fair.
– I can give the Minister the names of these men, but I do not wish to subject them to the class of treatment that is met with by men who have their cases looked after by their representatives in Parliament.
– I shall see that the matter is looked into.
– I hope the Minister will let the people know that the Citizen Force uniform is not the uniform of men who do not wish to serve their country, and have done nothing to help it.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Division 47 (Aviation Instructional Staff, Central Flying School), £14,030; division 48 (Royal Military College), £48,950; division 49 (Chemical Adviser), £2,300; division 50 (Examination of Stores and Equipment), £6,402; division 51 (Cordite Factory), £5,336; division 52 (Small Arms Factory), £59,000; division 53 (Clothing Factory), £5,684; division 54 (Harness, Saddlery, and Accoutrements Factory), £51,160; division 55 (Woollen Cloth ‘ Factory), £61,010; division 56 (Administrative and Instructional Staff), £239,391 ; division 57 (Permanent Units), £180,955; division 58 (Ordnance Department), £50,322; division 59 (Rifle Range Staff), £7,000; division 60 (District Accounts and Pay Branch), £14,789; division 61 (Universal Military Training, Citizen Forces), £552,390; division 62 (Volunteers), £20; division 63 (Camps), £100,100; division 64 (Maintenance of Existing Arms and
Equipment), £23,000; division 65 (Ammunition), £54,500; division 66 (General Contingencies), £61,145; division 67 (General Services), £51,599; division 68 (Postage and Telegraphs), £5,000; division 69 (Rifle Clubs and Associations), £38,012; division 70 (Expeditionary Forces), £34,000,000; division 71 (Other War Services), £342,311, agreed to.
Department of the Navy.
Divisions 72 to 89b (£8,521,423), agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Divisions 90 to 103 (£534,863).
.- I do not know why the dairying industry has been singled out by the Minister of Trade and Customs and the State Governments through their price-fixing boards for the treatment it has received. I can assure the Minister that this treatment is very bitterly resented. The dairymen have been treated most shamefully during a period when they have been going through an almost unprecedented drought. The Richmond district, which produces three-fourths of the butter of New South Wales, has never before known such a drought, and production has fallen away to an enormous extent; but right throughout the dairymen have been harassed by the Minister of Trade and Customs and. by the price-fixing boards of New South Wales to such an extent that they scarcely know where they are. A little while ago there was an accumulation of butter, but it was only second and third class grades, for the reason that there has not been sufficient first-class butter to go round. Second and third class grades of butter must be exported, because, beyond a small demand from pastrycooks and like, tradesmen, there is no sale for them in Australia, and the dairymen look to eastern and European markets to dispose of them. When this accumulation took place the Minister of Trade and Customs was approached for permission to export some of the butter, but he took so long to consider the matter that the only large steamer by which it was possible to ship it away - a vessel which had the actual refrigerating space available, and was going direct to Great Britain - left with that refrigerating space empty. After the boat had gone the Minister gave permission to ship the butter. The result was that we had to send it Home by transports and take any other space we could get.
– The transports have refrigerated space.
– Yes, but how long will the butter be on the water? Nobody knows “ when it will get to its destination, if at all. In any case, if the butter does reach England it will have deteriorated very much, and the producer must stand the whole loss.
– The prices they are getting in England will make up for the loss.
– I wish the honorable member had been in my district. It is a crying shame that there should be two Boards sitting in Sydney, one to see that the labourer gets a fair living wage and the other to see that the farmer does not.
– The people in my district do not get much butter.
– There is one simple way to reduce the price, and that is to increase the production, but the various Governments have done everything possible to discourage production, and scores of farmers in my district have gone out of the dairying industry. I assure the Committee that I will never put another 6d. into dairying, and dozens of other farmers have the same intention. -On the North Coast railway the other day I saw 800 dairy cows from the ‘ finest dairying farms in New South Wales being sent to Queensland.
– What is to be done with them ?
– They are to be sold because it pays the farmer better to sell them for beef than to keep them for their milk. The Government of New South Wales have robbed the farmers of the money they ought to have had, and the consequence is that they have to sell their stock or go into the Bankruptcy Court. I know of nothing, more shameful in the history of this country than the treatment meted out to the dairy farmers of the Northern Rivers, and, indeed, throughout Australia, during a period of unprecedented drought. We would not complain so much if the question were being dealt with by men who know something about the industry, but in Sydney there is a Board which knows nothing about dairying, and refuses to listen to the evidence. The Judge at the head of that Board will go down to history amongst the dairy farmers of New South Wales as “ the unjust Judge,” because he turned down the evidence, and said - “ I have nothing to do with that. We shall fix a price that is fair to the community.”
– I do not think that you can discuss that grievance in connexion with the Estimates of my Department.
– I think I can, because the Minister, by placing an embargo on exports, has contributed to the present position and encouraged that Board in its attitude.
– If it had not been for the action of the Minister of Customs we would not have had a bit of butter in Australia.
– And it would serve the Government right after the way in which they have treated the dairyman of Australia.
– That is not my fault.
– The fault does lie with the Minister. Let him open the ports of Australia and we shall have no trouble.
– Do you wish to export butter and let the people of Australia be without it?
– Yes, if they will not give the farmers a fair price for it.
– Is not ls. 7d. a lb. a fair price ?
– We do not get that price in New South Wales.
– One shilling and sevenpence halfpenny is the price in Melbourne.
– The position in New South Wales is that if we produce second class butter, and are allowed to export it, we can get 12s. to 15s. per cwt. more for it in England than we can get for first class butter sold in Australia.
– The quotation in to-day’s newspaper is - second class butter, 156s. to 15Ss. It costs 24s. to send it to England.
– It costs exactly £1 to send it to England. As usual, the Minister knows nothing about the butter industry. I read some calculations he made the other day, and in the charges he allowed were two commissions. Dairymen do not pay two commissions; we are not such fools. On the declared figures for second class butter, of 122s. in Sydney, and 156s. in England, there is still a considerable margin of profit in the export price, even after paying 20s. for freight. That is a scandalous state of affairs. It rn.ea.ns that if a factory manager has a tank of first class cream, and tips into it a few cans of fermented cream, thus making the resultant butter second class, he can export it, and get a better price than if he were to produce the first class article and sell it on the home market.
– That is how you treat the people in England.
– The market is there for second class stuff. In New South Wales we have the compulsory grading of cream; that is quite right. I have never believed in the compulsory grading of butter, because the only place where butter can be reliably and satisfactorily graded is on the cream platform. But in grading the cream on the platform it is impossible to avoid manufacturing a certain proportion of second class and third class butter - perhaps from 2 per cent, to 3 per cent., or a little more after a bad spell of weather. We should be allowed to export that second and third class stuff freely. The Minister made a remark about the importation of butter, and about people being glad to get it, and paying 2s. 6d. per lb. for a second class article. The Government of New South Wales did import a certain t amount of butter from America, but they did not sell it in Australia:
– They sold a lot of it in Victoria.
– They did not sell it in New South Wales; they knew too much.
– Some was sold in my district?
– They disposed of just enough to get it on the market, but the people promptly turned it down, and it had to be shipped Home on the Government’s own account, and they incurred a big loss on the transaction.
– There was a large quantity imported, apart from that.
– Not into New South Wales.
– I mean into Australia.
– I am not talking about the whole of Australia, because I do not know the general conditions, but I do know as much as most men about the butter industry of New South Wales. At present, if we desire to get rid of second-class butter, for which, as I say, there is practically no market in Aus tralia, we ought to be allowed to export it.
– A good deal of it is used for pastry.
– Yes, a little is used for pastry. If we are not permitted to export, we must keep the butter in cold storage until such time as the position improves; and, if there is a good spring, with a sufficient surplus, the Minister may permit us to export. In the meantime, however, the producer has to pay the whole cost of the storage for month after month, and also bear the loss caused by deterioration, and nobody in the world is a whit better off. If it could be shown that the Australian public got any direct advantage by the storage of the butter, there would be some argument from the Minister’s point of view, though from my point of view there would be no argument at all, because, as most honorable members know, the butter industry is almost entirely on the co-operative plan. Honorable members have no idea of what is going on. A little while ago, application was made for permission to increase the price of butter, but it was promptly refused; and why? Because the proprietary people did not desire an increase. Had I been on the New South Wales Board, I should have concluded that the proprietors, who are not producers, did not desire the increase because they were making money out of the low price, and I should have been curious as to how such a condition of affairs arose. To any one who knows the ins and outs of the industry, the solution is a simple one. With the co-operative people, the whole of the price goes back to the producers, less the actual cost of handling. In the case of the proprietary people, however, whatever is the Sydney market price they pay. At that time the Minister of Trade and Customs had not made the embargo on export so strict as it is to-day, and it was allowable to send away second-class butter. The proprietary people took care to get hold of every pound of second-class butter they could, and they exported it at a profit of 30s. to 40s. per cwt. If the price had been raised in Sydney, the proprietary people could not have made that profit, because they would have had to pay the full price to the producer. That was the position, but the members of the Board in Sydney could not see it.
– And the retail price of butter could, at the same time, have been kept down.
– I wish to convey to honorable members what has been going on in the industry, and to show how the farmers have, at the same time, been suffering from an unprecedented drought and an unprecedented set of conditions. In ray immediate district most farmers have some resources; but I could take honorable members to farms to-day where the children for months past have had nothing but bread and treacle to eat. Honorable members here sometimes speak of the hardships of the workers in the city, but I venture to say that there are no city workers who suffer anything like the hardships suffered by the dairymen during the last twelve months, and my district, of which I speak particularly, has not by any means been the worst. A man with a wife and family, who works a dairy farm, said to me the other day that every hand in his milking yard, for twelve months past, had not averaged more than half-a-crown a week in earnings. This man had a debt on his farm and his cattle, and was going behind all the time - not even meeting living expenses - and yet gentlemen in Sydney kept down the price of the little butter he was able to produce. Under such conditions - with the industry treated in this way in a time of unprecedented drought - the Minister is practically taking money out of the pockets of the producers. Is this fair or just? I believe that if the Minister knew the actual conditions, and what these people have suffered, he would declare for open ports, and their right to every penny they can get. We are not asking for more than the world’s price; and when the world’s price is low I never heard it suggested that the price here should be made any higher. No matter how low the price happens to be, the farmer has to put up with it. Now that there is an opportunity, even in the face of shipping difficulties and charges, to make a few shillings more - and these few shillings in most instances practically mean the difference between profit and loss - I ask whether it is fair that there should be this interference? Scores of dairymen have gone out of the business altogether. Thousands of dairy cows in my district have died, many* have been sold to pay present debts, and many more have become barren, and gone to the butcher.
– There cannot be many left.
– In my district there are at least 250,000 dairy cows, and probably more, and it would take a considerable time to get rid of them all.
– They all suffered from the drought.
– Very seriously indeed. If something is not done soon to relieve the position, the Government will lay themselves open to the charge of rapidly destroying what has been one of the principal rural industries in Australia. It must be perfectly evident to every one who takes an interest in the matter, that men who live under such conditions are not absolute fools. If the farmer finds that he is going to be harassed and worried in this way, and not allowed to earn, even approximately, a living wage, he will not continue where he is. The Government cannot force him to go on milking cows, and he will turn his attention to some other occupation. As a matter of fact, a great many have already turned their attention to the production of cheese, which under existing circumstances pays better; and right in the very heart of my district two large cheese factories have been set up during the period with which I have been dealing.
– It is a good thing to have “ two strings to your bow “ !
– All the same, it is not improving the position in regard to butter. If the attention of people is turned away from the production of butter to the production of some other article, then the price of butter will not be reduced. You are making the increase of a permanent character.
– We had to meet this difficulty in Victoria before you had to meet it in New South Wales.
– But in Victoria the producers did not have nearly as rough a time as we have had with’ the Necessary Commodities Commission.
– For how long ?
– I do not remember when it was appointed, but we have had the Commission a great deal longer than we have wanted it. So long as that Commission is kept going we shall have dairymen going out of the industry every day in the week, and turning their attention to something else. Instead of reducing the price to the people of Australia, what the Government are doing is to raise the price and keep it up.
– When did I make it so hard for the producers ?
– Particularly during the last few weeks. So far as the Minister of Trade and Customs is concerned it is the embargo on the export of butter that I am directing my attention to. I say that he should immediately lift the embargo, and if he will not come to the assistance of our producers in that way the blame must rest with him.
.- I think it is but fair that I should have a word or two to say on this question. The embargo on the export of butter was proclaimed only in December of last year, and the honorable member for Richmond has been talking about something that occurred twelve months ago. He said that a lot of the butter that was imported was sent out of the Commonwealth again.
– The embargo was put on butter in Queensland before last December.
– I am speaking of the embargo on the export of butter imposed by the Federal Government on the 13th December, 1915. There was no restriction as to exportation before that date. I am prepared to take the blame if any is due for what I have done myself.
– The Minister had a right to consider what was being done elsewhere.
– The honorable member for Richmond has said that butter imported was sent away from Australia, and he must permit me to inform him that last year there was imported into Australia £289,000 worth of butter. Assuming it to be worth about1s. 5d. per lb., that means that we imported over 1,000,000 lbs. of butter. Of that importation we re-exported only £59,000 worth, so that there was consumed in Australia four-fifths of the total quantity of butter imported. I am taking Mr. Knibbs’ figures, compiled from Customs returns, so that they must be right.
– A great deal of the butter imported went out again as our own butter.
– No, it did not. If the honorable member thinks, that he can ex port butter in that way I invite him to try.
– I know some one who did try it, and got it through.
– I should like to know who did it. I would not guarantee that he should not be prosecuted under Part 15 ; but would take him to court. In the nine months from July of last year we also imported £61,000 worth of cheese. I wish to make a short quotation from the Argus on this subject. No one will accuse the . Argus of holding a brief for me. I do not think that I have ever been able to do anything that satisfied the Age, but I am sure that I have never done anything that satisfied the Argus. I quote this from the commercial column of the Argus of to-day -
Butter. - Reports from New South Wales state the production in that State is diminishing. Queensland expects an early falling off.
That is the position. The honorable member for Richmond talks of the price which producers could get for their butter in England. But we are dealing with the whole of Australia, and the prices ruling in Victoria, South Australia, Tasmania, and Western Australia have a right to be taken into consideration.
– Tasmania is not producing enough butter for her own needs.
– None of the four States I have named are producing enough for their own consumption. Western Australia has to import butter all the year round. South Australia has to import for about eight months of the year. Tasmania has a little to export in the spring, but must import during the rest of the year. Victoria is not at the present time producing half the quantity required for her own consumption. We require 300 tons in Victoria per week, and if any honorable member will’ look at the figures that will appear in Monday night’s Herald, or in the morning newspapers of Tuesday, they will find that we have not produced 125 tons this week. Yet I am told that I should lift the embargo.
– Can the Minister tell us where we can sell the second-class butter in Australia ?
– I am giving the Committee my side of the question, and I represent the whole of the people of Australia, and not any particular section of them. When I took the action I did, Victoria was producing more than any of the other States, and Victorian producers said that I was penalizing them, and compelling them to feed Queensland and New South Wales. The position to-day is that the price for first-grade butter in four of the States is 154s. per cwt. That is the ruling wholesale rate. It costs 24s. per cwt. to put our butter on the market in England. The honorable member for Richmond has said that it “costs £1 per cwt., and I am prepared to accept his figures. According to the Argus, I find that the Home price quoted is given - 1 cwt. ex. Orontes, choicest, 160s. to 162s.
The honorable member for Richmond will agree that “ choicest “ would represent our ordinary first-grade butter, and this price means that our producers would only get from 140s. to 142s. per cwt. in England for what they ask 154s.. per cwt. for. from the people of Australia.
– Let the Minister give us the New South Wales figures.
– I have not the New South Wales figures, but I believe that first-grade butter is 140s. per cwt. in New South Wales and in Queensland.
– If it is 140s. per cwt., we could make 2s. per cwt. on it by exporting.
– That would be for first grade.
– We always get top grade in the Richmond district.
– My honorable friend’s “Richmond” is apparently as good for butter making as my “ Richmond “ is for other manufactures. Nine-tenths of the butter produced in Australia in the twelve months ending the 30th June this year will be consumed in Australia, and the honorable member for Richmond would have us run after the man who is interested in the other onetenth, and would make the people here pay more on his account. The action I have taken in this matter is the fairest in the interests of the whole of the people.
– Does the Minister think it fair that ‘a dairyman should be asked to work for half-a-crown a week?
– I do not think it is fair that any one should be asked to work for half-a-crown a week.
– Then, in the circumstances, are the dairymen getting a fair price for their butter ?
– I have never fixed any price, but intend always to do my best to see that the people are not put in the same position as last year. Any one who says we should send away commodities that we require, and import them back again, is not looking at the thing in a fair light. We have millions of tons of another commodity that we want to send away, and should send away, instead of which we are asked to export a commodity that may be required here. I am denounced at every meeting of dairy farmers, but, in spite of what they say, I maintain that we have acted fairly and honorably in the interests of the whole people, who have a right to be considered. Last year a deputation, of which the honorable member for Wimmera was a member, asked me to allow half a million lambs to be exported. I did not agree, and they told me that if they were not allowed to export they would have to give the lambs away, yet nothing of the kind has happened. All they were anxious to do was to “ sky “ the price.
– It seems to me that nearly all the people you meet have some sinister intent.
– I do not say so. New Zealand has 90,00.0 boxes, or 2,250 tons of butter in cool storage; on an average consumption of half a pound per head per week, that is nearly eight weeks’ supply, even if they do not make another pound there, yet New Zealand prohibits the export of butter anywhere. If we do not produce any more butter, we have not ten days’ supply in Australia for the whole of our people, and we consume, on the average, 1,100 tons per week.
– You won’t be getting that soon.
– I know we shall not, and that is why I want to husband our resources.
– You will get less and less by the means you adopt.
– I am taking this action in the best interests of Australia.
– It won’t be long before you will not have any dairymen left.
– That will be a great pity, will it not? I honestly think my action will not make a bit of difference to them.
– You have done your best to destroy the industry.
– I have done no such thing. As a matter of fact, when I prohibited exportation, some of them admitted to me afterwards that they got higher prices in Australia than they would have done in London had they been allowed to send it away in February.
– Did you do it with that object?
– No. I know that every time permission was granted to them to send portion of the butter away, they increased the price. On Friday of last week, -in Brisbane, they asked permission to send away 300 or 400 tons, but permission was refused, and yet they increased the price the same day.
– What is the present price?
– According to the Argus, which is not likely to publish its statistics to suit me, the price to-day is ls. 4£d. wholesale, whereas, at this time last year, when there was no embargo on export, it was ls. 9d. and ls. lOd. I admit that we were not producing here so well last year. I have no intention to do anything other than I have done, nor have I done anything against the interests of the dairymen.
– I am glad to have that admission, because we know what to do now - we will simply go out.
– That reminds me that, iu 1905, I was told in Mackay, Queensland, that if we insisted on applying the White Australia policy to the sugar industry the grass would be growing in the streets of Mackay. The grass is not growing there yet, the sugar industry is more flourishing tuan ever, and two years ago, despite the White Australia legislation, more sugar was produced in Queensland -than ever before. I sincerely hope my honorable friend’s propnecy will be falsified as completely as the prediction of the black labour party on the other side of the House in 1905.
.- The embargo put on the export of butter in Queensland was such as to nearly ruin very many men engaged in the industry; dairymen from one end of Queensland to the other were not able to get back the cost of production. When the drought was on, many of those farmers had large Stacks of oaten hay which they could have -sold for £11 per ton cash. They had -also cows in calf, and had to decide whether to chaff the hay and sell it, or feed it to the cows and increase the production of “butter thereby. They decided to take the latter course, with the result that they produced their butter at that additional cost, yet they were not allowed to receive as much for it as they would have got for the hay. The result was that none of the dairy farmers received sufficient to pay anything approaching the cost of production. That statement has been published over and over again, and has never been refuted. The Minister sat by and refused to help them. He allowed an embargo to be placed on the export of butter, even on its export to Victoria, which was prepared to take it. It had to be held in Queensland, and no export to the other States or Great Britain was allowed.
– Do you say that we stopped it going from one State to another ?
– I did not say so. I said it was stopped. It is the duty Oi the National Government to see that no such embargos are put on the transfer of commodities from State to State. I should never have been the ardent federalist I was bub for the assurance that was given to us that with federation there would be no more barriers to Inter-State trade. What is the use of a National Government if it does not prevent the products of one State from being shut out of another ? We would not have had so much suffering and deprivation in my own State during the drought if New South Wales had not been allowed to hold back flour from Queensland. Anybody knows that in Queensland we never produce more than 50 per cent, of the wheat we consume, and yet New South Wales was allowed to hold back flour from us, with the result that people in my State had to pay £6 ls. a ton more for flour than had the people of New South Wales.
– When we appealed to the High Court that tribunal declared it was right.
– It was only a halfhearted appeal.
– That is not correct.
– Do honorable members on the other side say that this is Federation in the spirit we understood it when we entered into the compact?
– No, it is not.
– The same arrangement was made with regard to butter. Why should Victoria have been prevented from getting the butter that we were producing in Queensland? And why should Queensland be deprived of flour produced in
New South Wales? In the latter State they were paying £11 17s. 6d. a ton for flour, for which we had to pay £20 10s. Was that fair? All this is happening, too, with a Labour Government in power in the Commonwealth, and Labour Governments in power in the States of New South Wales and Queensland. That is the kind of treatment we get, and yet we have the Minister saying - “ We administer in the interests of the community.” I wish he would prove it. As a matter of fact, they administer in the interests of one section of the community - the people in the cities - while the people on the land, because they have not the same voting strength, are not permitted to reap the full benefit of their labour. I am perfectly certain that of late the average man on the land in Queensland has not been able to earn as much as the average man in the cities. I have known cases in Queensland in which meat has been held up against the people in rural districts in order that the people of Brisbane might obtain cheaper meat at the State butcher’s shop. This state of affairs ought not to be allowed to exist any longer. If there is any doubt as to whether a dairyman is asking too much for his products, an investigation could easily be made to ascertain the position of production, and if the price charged was found to be fair, the producer should get it, and not be compelled to sell for less than its cost an article which he cannot hold, because it will not keep. The labourer is not asked to sell his labour at a less sum than will provide a living wage for himself and his family, but similar consideration is not shown to the men on the land. It is all very well for the Minister to say that certain statements were made in Mackay about the sugar industry declining under white labour conditions. In reply to that I might say I have heard some extraordinary things said in Melbourne and Sydney, but I am quite certain members opposite would not care to adopt them, or regard them as being representative of their views. It was not the general opinion in Queensland that sugar could not be grown by white labour, provided growers were given protection. As I said yesterday, we could produce a million tons of sugar in Queensland under white labour conditions if sufficient encouragement were given, and we would then be doing as the producers are doing in Russia, Germany, and Austria, producing commodities suitable to the climate. In those countries, however, a bounty had to be paid to enable the export trade to be built up. Instead of encouraging the exportation of the primary products from Australia, supporters of the Government seem to be doing everything they can to strangle the producer, in the interest, as they think, of the residents of the cities; but I would point out that, in the long run, this policy is not in the interests of residents of the cities. The time will come when it will be found that, for the want of sufficient primary producers, all our people will be compelled to pay a very great deal more for Australian products than they would have had to pay if the primary producers had been allowed to develop their industries and to get the prices they were entitled to. I trust Ministers, and particularly the Minister of Trade and Customs, will give v this matter serious consideration in the interest of the whole - not of a section - of the community.
– I listened to the remarks of the Minister with some interest, and I should like to say one or two words in reply. The honorable member who spoke last put the whole matter in a nutshell when he declared emphatically that this arrangement of prices, on the part of- both the State and Federal Governments, is not in the interest of the cities. The sooner city residents realize that the better. What is it that is now taking place? A Necessary Commodities Commission is appointed to regulate prices, and it fixes them at rates which are unremunerative to the men who produce the commodities to which they apply, and, consequently, these men immediately reduce their output. Then an application is made for a revision of prices, and the Commission has to put. them up again. But the product was not there; it was not coming forward. The producer was discouraged. You have sent his cows dry, and destroyed them. That is the position we are now faced with. The Minister thinks that he has scored a triumph by showing that the production now is not less than it was at some earlier period. But this is war-time, and our production ought to increase twice over with proper encouragement to the producers. It is not enough to say that the statistics are as goodnow as they were years ago. Should that satisfy a community in which progressive ideas are abroad? It is not enough for the Minister to prove that we are making as much butter now as was made some years ago. The fact that increases are being prevented is the clearest condemnation of this tinkering with prices.
– Particularly as the previous quotation was for a drought period.
– Everybody knows that when Judge Edmunds fixed the prices of dairy produce, the dairymen in the interior could not feed their cows, and they had to allow them to go dry.
– Our Ministers did not appoint Judge Edmunds. Talk about national affairs.
– May I suggest that this is one of the tricks of the trade. Everybody knows that the Labour party have one Caucus throughout Australia, one party, and one general objective, with an Inter-State executive to regulate the Federal side of it.
– This is a non-party speech !
– It is a speech in the interests of the country, of which my honorable friends opposite do not appear to think very much when they occupy the Ministerial benches. If they were over here they would be squealing heavens hard about it. But when they get on to the benches yonder the interests of the country are a matter of guffaw and laughter. It may be a matter of laughter to my honorable friends, but it is death to many men in Australia. What are the facts? Who did appoint Judge Edmunds ?
– The honorable member knows as well as I do.
– I do. I know that the Labour Government in New South Wales appointed him.
– A Government which endeavours to beat our party on every possible opportunity.
– It is wonderful how my honorable friends try to beat each other, and how they close up like a phalanx when an election comes round. It is wonderful how they endeavour to break each other, and then help each other at the crucial time. All that they have to do is to hold an Inter-State Conference, and the breaking-up process ceases instantly, so that they become an army, one and indivisible, throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Who goes into the electorates when an election is approaching? Both Federal and State members go there to plead for all they are worth for the return of Labour men. The party, I repeat, is one. In these circumstances is it not idle, is it not a shame, is it not a trick for my honorable friends to say, as they are constantly saying, “ We did not do this. The State Government did it”? What is the State Government? It is a section of the party supporting my honorable friend’s political army.
– As a matter of fact, the Victorian Labour party objected to the action of the New South Wales Labour party in connexion with the wheat question.
– I see. And in a month or two’s time, when Mr. Holman goes before the electors, the Victorian Labour representatives will all be behind him with a view to securing his return.
– I have never denied that.
– It cannot be denied. It is a fact. Therefore, it is a piece of the greatest hypocrisy for my honorable friends to say “ Such and such a Government did this, but we did not.”
– I thought that party politics was dead.
– I hope that it is. What I am wondering is, when are we going to see real consideration extended to the interests of the producers of Australia by this so-called non-party Government? I can only see the fiercest party spirit dominating all their actions.
– The honorable member knows that non-party Government is impossible.
– Tell the honorable member for Illawarra that. The Minister has said, “ I did not appoint Judge Edmunds.”
– He never said that. It was the honorable member for East Sydney.
– It is true that he did not appoint Judge Edmunds. But does he approve of the doings of Judge Edmunds ?
– I approve of the establishment of the Necessary Commodities
Board in New South Wales, and I am only sorry that one was not created in Victoria.
– Exactly. The last screw that Judge Edmunds does not turn, the Federal Government turns. Now they are driving the thing right home. The machinery of the Labour party is all one, just as their purpose is all one, and I am afraid that that purpose is saturated with politics through and through.
– The Government, of which the honorable member was the head j themselves appointed a commission, and blamed us for disbanding it.
– May I ask him why his party disbanded that commission ?
– I do not know.
– It was because it did not suit their book to keep it there. They threw out that body in quite a nonparty spirit, and put another in its place. There was nothing wrong with that commission. It was the ablest commission that has been appointed in Australia so far - the fairest-minded commission - and that is why it did not suit the book of my honorable friends to keep it there. So out it had to go, and in its place they put another body composed of men of less ability and less experience.
– Did not the honorable member’s Government appoint the InterState Commission ?
– For goodness sake wake up. It is really distressing to have to hammer at the honorable member in this way.
– The honorable member is complicating matters so that they cannot be understood.
– My honorable friend may not understand them any more than he understood what he was doing the other night. I venture to say that he did not know it was loaded. He was so obsessed with the notion of displaying his own statesmanship in the matter of a few buildings connected with the Post Office that he gave the whole show away. “ She is up a tree “ just now, to use the language of the Minister of Home Affairs. I say that Ministers may impose this embargo or that embargo upon commodities, but what they are endeavouring to do, it is impossible to achieve. I am not here to advocate that in war time everybody should be allowed to do just what he pleases. I say that anybody who is found cornering foodstuffs in war time ought to be treated as an enemy of his country. I am here to say that freely. But in the same breath I desire to add that all these efforts which are being put forward by the various State Governments - assisted as they are by my honorable friends opposite - are simply preventing the production of this country from proceeding. It is not enough for Ministers to say that the figures do not show that our production has decreased compared with our production of years ago. Can such a statement be used as an argument in this young country with all its millions of acres and after six years’ experience of a Government which was going to stimulate all our productive enterprises 1 Are my . honorable friends driven back to this pagan of triumph over the fact that things are no worse? The whole thing is ridiculous when one comes to think of the possibilities of Australia, and of the chances of sending along its productive enterprises with a bound during this war, and particularly those enterprises which relate to our primary industries.
– The acts of which the honorable member speaks have not been taken under the War Precautions Act.
– I suppose that they have not. One wonders why these other things are being done under the War Precautions Act. I presume that the recently appointed Prices Adjustment Board was set up under that Act.
– That is so.
– If we may set up tribunals of that kind under that Act for the purpose of controlling the prices of commodities in the cities, I wonder whether, under that Act, it would not have been possible to prevent States putting their veto on Inter-State trade. Why cannot the rule work all round and both ways?
– The right honorable gentleman fought to maintain the sovereign rights of the States.
– The sovereign rights of the States are not creating trouble. Those who are making all the trouble are the socialistic tinkers and manipulators of the States.
– That is the sore point
– They stop the trade and take the goods in pursuance of their Socialistic propaganda. It is not the fault of the Constitution. The Constitution in its Federal aspect and spirit contemplated that the States and the Commonwealth would work in with each other as far as possible .in order to help the producers and the people generally; it never contemplated that steps would be taken, actuated, as these are, by party motives, and taken for a political purpose, with the object of circumventing its spirit and letter of the Constitution. That is the trouble. Perhaps this may have been done in order to help political propaganda.
– A fine party speech this is ! This is how the right honorable gentleman is helping the Government to carry on the war - by imputing all kinds of unworthy motives to them.
– The honorable member has a strange opinion of what party government is. My friends opposite have become so obsessed with the power they possess, and so saturated with party spirit, that they have become arrogant enough to say that any man who does not choose to lie down and let them run the rule over him is actuated by party spirit. As a matter of fact we see party propaganda being forwarded in every shape and form in all the States and in the Commonwealth to the furthermost point of administration; but immediately we utter a protest they say we are acting in a party spirit. I venture to say no party in Australia has ever treated a Government better than we have treated the present Government; and we have done it simply because we felt it our duty to do so; but it is equally our duty to see that the Government do not pursue their Socialistic policy to the detriment of the producing interests. No man should be permitted to take advantage of the war in order to fleece the consumers. On the other hand, no action should be taken by a Government that will have the effect of stifling productive enterprises. But I am very much afraid that is what is being done by many of the Boards operating to-day.
– Do the right’ honorable gentleman’s remarks apply to wheat?
– I do not wish to talk of wheat at the present time.
– No, because the right honorable gentleman knows that many farmers have paid off their overdraft through the operations of the wheat scheme.
– At an advance of 2s. 6d. per bushel ? Good luck to them. Last season the average wheat yield throughout “Australia was 3 bushels per acre, and Boards fixed the price then just the same as they have done during this season of overflowing plenty. To argue against the hard logic of facts is useless. The regulating of the price of butter has had the effect of stopping the production of butter. That does not help the man in the city. On the other hand, he is injured by the stoppage of supplies and the consequent forcing up of the price. A Necessary Commodities Board should only interfere to the extent that it is wise to do so - only when there is need, for preventing the fleecing of consumers. That is the only note of warning I -wish to strike in this debate. I should despise myself if I fairly lay under the taunt that I was doing anything to increase the cost of these commodities. The consumer has a right to a look in. But my point is that we are not giving him a look in by the way in which we are operating these Boards - that, on the other hand, we are taking the most effective steps to cut off supplies and force up prices. For instance, in a fairly good season butter is selling at ls. 7½d. per lb.
– The price would have been over 2s. per lb. had there been no interference.
– It is easy to say so. I venture to say that the price would not go beyond 2s. per lb. if the ordinary rules of commerce and production applied to the distribution of the. article.
– I have known years when butter was 2s. 6d. per lb..
– So have I, and I do not wish to pay 2s. 6d. per lb. for butter. I want to see butter sold to the consumer at the cheapest price at which it can be got, consistently with keeping up a plentiful source of supply; but when we regulate its sale in such a way as to diminish the supply we do not cheapen it. That is the way to force the price up and not down.
.- I was sorry to hear the Minister say he has no intention of changing his attitude towards1 the butter industry. I hope that statement relates only to the present. Conditions may alter in the course of the next six or twelve months.
– And then perhaps export will be allowed again.
– It is very important that the Minister should deal with this matter from the view-point of production. However well-intentioned he may be in trying to protect the consumer, he must remember that if Australia is to pay its way in the near future production must be encouraged. The Treasurer said in his Budget speech that, in his opinion, & good many people do not seem. to realize that we are living, to a large extent, on the money borrowed and expended for war purposes, and that when that expenditure ceased there would be danger of unemployment. Not only will this money not be circulating, but we shall have an accumulated debt, for the paying off of which we shall have very few reproductive industries. The community will then be faced with an uphill task. Only by the stimulation of production can we raise enough money to pay our way. Primary production will be our chief source of revenue, and, in that respect, I would urge the Postmaster-General not to be niggardly in the extension of telephones and other facilities of that kind.
– Order ! The honorable member cannot discuss telephones under this division.
– I am merely using the telephone as an illustration. The telephone is a better indirect stimulant to production than many people seem to realize. We may ask people to go into remote and inaccessible places, where fertile land is to be had and homes can be established, but they will not do so unless they can keep in touch with a doctor and other conveniences of a town. Therefore, I say that the Postmaster-General, as well as the Minister of Trade and Customs, can do a good deal to help in promoting production. Every year honorable members rise and talk about assisting the rural producer, but we never seem to get any further. It is time that we adopted some settled and definite policy. Having regard to the stressful times that may soon come upon us, we should be making preparations for the people who will go into the back country to extend existing industries and open up new ones.
I hope, therefore, the Minister of Trade and Customs will be careful not to do anything to cause the important industry of butter-making to recede. If dairymen give up their occupations and find they can make a living in other pursuits, they will not return to dairying. There are thousands of acres in Australia suited for an extension of the dairying industry. One has only to view the factory at Byron Bay, and other such establishments in the electorate of the honorable member for Richmond, to find proof of the wonderful strides which the butter industry has made during the last few years. Anything done which would have the effect of curtailing that progress would do serious injury to Australia. Whatever benefit the consumers get. may be temporary, whilst the injury to the industry may be permanent. We cannot be too careful not to do anything to hinder primary production.
.- The declaration of the Minister that he will not alter his attitude clears the position to a great extent; it shows that it is useless to worry.’ Many of my constituents have not been able to pay their way for a considerable time. The; have a certain quantity of their product in various cold stores, but for it they can get no money. The Minister will not allow them to export the butter, and he cannot tell them where they can sell it in Australia. In fact, he knows that there is no market for that product in Australia. They are not in as bad a position as the people in the Darling Downs district, who, having no reserves, and having experienced several bad seasons, are on the verge of starvation. Those people, I am told, who have been robbed day by day and week by week of the few shillings they would have got, hate the Labour party more to-day than they hate the Germans. That is a pretty strong statement, but when the Government takes the bread out of the mouths of their wives and families - and that is what the Government are doing -
– The miners of Newcastle are loyal to the Empire, although they are out of employment.
– The people of whom I speak are loyal, and no part of Australia has contributed proportionately a greater number to the fighting forces of the Commonwealth.
– Absolute rubbish ! I guarantee that a bigger proportion has gone out of my electorate than out of that of the honorable member.
– I guarantee that is not so.
– It is.
– I guarantee it is not.
– How many has the district of the honorable member sent?
– I must ask honorable members to confine themselves to the question, and to avoid personalities.
– No doubt the Minister has a larger number of men in his constituency than I have in mine. However, that is neither here nor there in the present discussion.
– It was the honorable member who introduced the subject.
– The dairy farmers have to consider whether it is worth while continuing in the industry. He who carries on dairying in winter time, and cannot get winter prices, is an absolute fool, because he only knocks about both his cattle and himself.
– When I was up the Northern Rivers recruiting, I never heard the people say they hated the Labour Party worse than they do the Germans.
– The honorable member for Illawarra did not mix with the bon ton when he was up there.
– I do not know where the bon ton exists in those districts; all I know is that the dairy farmers are the hardest worked section of the whole community.
– “ Ithuriel “ said in the A rgus the other day that he would rather be ruled by the Kaiser than by Frank Anstey.
– “ Ithuriel” is welcome to his opinion; but that is not what I am talking about. The question is whether it is worth while the dairy farmers producing at all ; and’ I do not think it is. For my part, I shall take my own course, and I know numbers of others who are going to do the same. I am not going to bother any more, and many others are of the same mind. It is not worth while if we can make more money in other directions, and we shall try to do so. If the farmers cannot sell their product once it is in cold storage, they have to consider whether it is worth sending it there. Personally, I do not think it is; and so far as my influence goes I shall advise my constituents in that direction.
I do not know what possible advantage the Minister of Trade and Customs thinks he can get by the course he is pursuing. If there were a market for the stuff in Australia, Ishould not have a word to say, because then the action of the Minister would have no effect; but as a matter of fact there is no market. The butter is in cold storage, and we can get no profit out of it in any shape or form. I feel very strongly on the question; so strongly that I have much difficulty in expressing myself.
– Would your constituents rather be ruled by Germans than by ‘ the Labour Party 1
– I did not say that, and the honorable member must not twist my words.
– But do your constituents hate the Labour Party more than they do the Germans?
– I believe they do; and I undertake to say that, if the honorable member had been in the position of the dairy farmers, the measure of his hatred - not to talk about patriotism - would be greater for the men who had taken the bread away from his wife and family, than for anybody else. That is the position so far as the Labour Party is concerned.
.- The speeches of the honorable member for Richmond and the honorable member for Wide Bay, supported by the Leader of the Opposition, are sufficient to make one’s blood run cold, for none have so minimised the farmers’ position. If I were a farmer, and heard such speeches delivered by my representative, I should say, “ God save me from my friends.” The fact is that the dairying people in some parts of Australia have suffered from drought, and have been deprived of some opportunities of making money. I should say, however, that the people in the constituency of the honorable member for Richmond, and on the north coast generally, are the most prosperous in all Australia. I have friends resident there, and get letters from them ; and I should just like those friends to hear honorable members opposite talk as they have about the Labour Party. I can assure honorable members that away on the northern rivers the feeling in favour of the Labour Party is growing daily. The honorable member for Wide Bay, whether unintentionally or not, has misinterpreted some remarks of mine, and charged me with having said that it is immoral to put people on the land. Such an expression of opinion never left my lips, because, not only inNew South Wales, but, in every part of Australia, I have always maintained that any encouragement given to people engaged in country pursuits is in the best interests of the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member said that he would not advise people to go on the land.
– The honorable member ought to know that the denial of another honorable member ought to be accepted at once. If there is any section of the community to whom the Governments of Australia have been good it is the farming section, as witness railway extension, the bulk handling of wheat, the making of roads, and so forth - all done for the encouragement of the farmer. I maintain that the farming community has no better friend than the party to which I belong. I have a very high opinion of the Leader of the Opposition, but it is a fact that he cannot rise in this House without referring to party politics. The right honorable gentleman, of course, is a politician ; and so long as he has breath in his body, will talk politics; indeed, it is for this reason that his party keep him in power. We all belong to political parties, and I am always voicing the principles of the one I belong to, because I believe it is a Godsend to Australia that we have the present occupants on the Treasury benches. It is very strange to hear farming representatives so talking about people on the land, and representing them as always in distress, for only this morning we heard them urging that everything possible should be done to induce our returned soldiers to settle in the country. The horrible pictures that we have had of the lot of the farmer are sufficient to drive away any idea of settling on the land. No doubt rural industries, like all other industries, are subject to. periods of depression, but there are times when those in the country have opportunities to make fortunes. About three years ago my own people on the northern rivers regarded themselves as “on velvet” - nothing could go wrong. Everything they touched seemed to turn into money; even if they went home and slept for weeks their crops and cattle kept on growing and increasing. The honor able member for Wilmot drew our attention to the excellent results of cooperation shown by the creameries of Byron Bay. The primary producers seem in every case to be prosperous, and yet we have to listen to honorable members on the other side, who are supposed to specially represent them, belittling the prospects of their occupation. They should rather be concerned about making the occupation of the farmers more attractive, and should give their assistance for the carrying on and expansion of an industry so essential to the progress of Australia. I hope that this is the last occasion upon which we shall hear honorable members who are supposed to represent the farmers crying down the farming industry to such an extent that it has been necessary for the representative of a metropolitan constituency to put the position of the farmers in its true light.
.- In the absence of Mr. Manifold, the representative of the Corangamite electorate, which is the largest dairying district in Victoria, the Minister of Trade and Customs has received many representations from me, personally and by letter, on behalf of dairying companies and dairy farmers, asking that his early action, when he placed a prohibition upon butter at a time when there was an exportable surplus in Victoria, might be reviewed. I did not unduly press the request for the reason that I believed that the action of the Minister was taken because of war conditions. But I have been amazed at the statement which the honorable gentleman has made to-day, that all the action he has taken up to the present affecting the export of the produce of this country has had no relation whatsoever to the war.
– I did not say that. I said that my action was not taken under the War Precautions Act.
– The Minister must know that merely as Minister of Trade and Customs he has no power to interfere in the way he has done to regulate prices.
– I have plenty of power under the Commerce Act.
– Under that Act the Minister can block the export of anything he pleases.
– There is not a shadow of a doubt about that.
– No such action was. ever previously taken in this country.
The honorable member for Maranoa has said over and over again that the political party that would prohibit the export of any primary produce of Australia would not live for an hour. I believe that the producers have understood that the action taken by the Minister for the prohibition of the export of any produce has been due to war conditions. I should like to get from the honorable gentleman an emphatic statement that the action he has taken to prevent the export of foodstuffs, beef, mutton, dairy produce-
– Tallow, leather, jewellery.
– I leave tallow, wool, and the rest out of it, because they can hardly be called foodstuffs. I wish to have a definite statement- that the action the honorable gentleman has taken to prevent the export of foodstuffs has not been taken under the War Precautions Act.
– No. In all cases it was taken under the Commerce Act.
– We are indebted to the Minister of Trade and Customs for that statement, because, later on, when the war is at an end, and the question of policy comes to be dealt with, it will be of importance to know that when the honorable gentleman did what he hae done in prohibiting the export of foodstuffs, he had no regard at all for the provisions of the War Precautions Act, and we may assume from that that the conditions due to the war in no way influenced his action. That will enable us to properly interpret the attitude of the Minister and of the Government. If the regulation and fixation of prices was a boon to the community, our people should be enraptured at the action taken by the Government. The Government in association with State Labour Governments have created corners in beef, in butter, in sugar, and in flour and wheat, yet all these products are to-day at top prices. This merely indicates that the fixation of prices, even in war time, will not assist the people to secure necessary commodities at a cheaper rate. I wish to point to one or two instances to show the fallacy of the doctrine of the fixation of prices. If it is fair to apply that doctrine to the produce, which is the result of one man’s labour, it is fair to fix the price for the produce of every man’s labour. Let us take one or two substantial tests to see how the doctrine would apply. I take such a primary product, for instance, as wool, which we produce in Australia to the value of £30,000,000 annually. Under the existing system, what happens is that the keenest experts of every nation in the world are sent to Australia, which is the biggest wool-producing country in the world. They examine every staple line of wool in this country in our warehouses. They then sit around in the emporium; not with their heads together in combination, but fighting like a lot of fanatics in frantic competition to buy the wool offered. How is it humanly possible for any Government officials to fix the price of our annual product of £30,000,000 worth of wool ? Wool is the raw material of clothing, and how is it possible for the Government to fix the value of the clothes made from it? The same thing applies to wheat, except for the present tinkering. There is an annual importation into Australia of from £70,000,000 to £80,000,000 ‘worth of goods which come into this country invoiced at schedule prices fixed by the consignor on the other side of the world; and, in all the circumstances, is it not about time that the Government gave up their tinkering with prices?
– The honorable member thinks that during the war the public of Australia should be plundered.
– I do not. My honorable friend has either just entered the chamber or just woke up. I was careful in opening to have it made clear that the fixation of prices that took place under the Minister’s control was not due to war conditions, or done under the War Precautions Act. I said that I would not press my objection if the Minister’s action was due to war conditions. I am careful to discriminate between what the Government might do to fix prices because of war conditions, and what they might do in the course of ordinary trading. When the honorable member for Corangamite comes back I can tell him that the Minister does not intend to vary the action he has taken in the past - action, by the way, which he has taken, not under the War Precautions Act. but under the Trade and Commerce Act. That is a definite statement on which a clear-cut issue will be fought later on in this country, and on which the Minister will have to render an account to the people.
– The honorable member for Richmond at any rate knows that since the embargo was placed on the export ofbutter permission to export has been given in regard to at least a dozen boats, and to the extent of 700 tons on one boat alone.
Mr.Rodgers. - There has been a bit of backing and filling.
– When the production allowed of export, export was allowed, but when we had not more than nine or ten days’ supply in Australia it was better to keep it here.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Home Affairs Department.
Divisions 104 to 113 (£946,764).
.- There is an item of £1,000 for the trial survey of a proposed railway from Kingoonyah to Oodnadatta. I don’t think one man in South Australia outside a lunatic asylum would say that that is anything but a wilful and wicked waste of money. The Commonwealth already has one railway from Port Augusta to Oodnadatta, which has never, at the best of times,paid more than working expenses, and this is simply a proposal to duplicate it. We must keep the Port Augusta to Oodnadatta line going under the agreement.
– How do you know there is any duplication?
– It can hardly be anything else. When I asked half-a-dozen of the senior surveyors in the Adelaide Survey Office last week about it, one man among them, who has surveyed every inch of this country, said, “ God only knows what it is for.” The officials in the Commonwealth office know nothing about it. Will the Minister make a thorough inquiry regarding it from the people who do know? If there is a justification for it, let him go on with it, but if not, he should not spend £1,000 when he cannot get threepence back for it.
– I will look into the matter.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 114 to 123 (£5,100,715), agreed to.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc.
Divisions 1 to 17 (£3,278,499).
Mr. JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta)
Committee a statement regarding the arsenal and Small Arms Factory, which was not quite satisfactory to me, or quite what I expected. I regret this, because I tried to avoid any trouble about this matter. I discussed it with the Minister of Defence this morning in the presence of the Government Whip, with a view to obviate any further discussion here ; but the statement read by the Treasurer was not quite in accord with the understanding with which we left the Minister of Defence this morning. Is it not possible to get a fuller statement than the one the Treasurer read? There is nothing in what he read that gives the slightest comfort to the people of Lithgow.
– I think so.
– There is nothing new in it. If the whole thing is to hang up till the conclusion of the war, the uncertainty will continue. The workmen at Lithgow will not build homes for themselves, or be able to get them built for them by the townspeople, because there is no certainty that thehouses will not be left vacant at the end of the war. These people all want to know where they are. Some misunderstanding has cropped up between the time we saw the Minister of Defence and the translation to paper of the understanding arrived at. I am sure the Minister of Defence would put the matter right if I could get hold of him. I am speaking now simply as an old Lithgow resident of many years, and as one who represented the district for a long time in the State Parliament. The Lithgow people ought to be dealt with fairly, and the uncertainty removed. The Government Whip will agree with me that the Treasurer’s statement does not accurately represent the understanding.
– Give your version.
– The Minister of Defence made it quite clear that there was no danger of any dislocation of the machinery at Lithgow at any time. He made it clear that it was wanted in addition to the new machinery at Canberra. I understand it is proposed that the arsenal at Canberra should contain a section devoted to the manufacture of small arms and machine guns incombination - for many processes arecommonto both - and that the present establishment at Lithgow is not to be interfered with. I do not want to argue the merits of the case now, but I claim very strongly that more economic production can take place at Lithgow than at Canberra. All the raw materials are at Lithgow, and thus
All the essentials for co-ordination are present. And the word “ co-ordination “ seems to be a very blessed one now. It is very much relied upon as an argument in connexion with the new scheme for an arsenal at Canberra. I feel strongly on this matter, because three Ministers definitely pledged themselves that nothing would be done in connexion with it until the matter had been fully discussed in this House. The Minister for Trade and Customs himself was the first to say that there would be the fullest discussion before anything was done by the Government. Then Mr. Fisher said there would be plenty of time for a full and free discussion on this subject, even in regard to the purchase of the site, for he went so far as to say that no site would be purchased until the whole matter had been fully dealt with by the House. Then followed the present Prime Minister. Everybody remembers the humorous way in which he concluded the matter. It was understood before I asked the question that the Government had decided that they would not proceed with this proposal during the recess and until it had been discussed by the House, and when I questioned the Prime Minister I made the remark that we should hear no more about it - that that matter had gone, and he said in reply: “ Not lost but gone before.” It was then quite understood by the whole House that the proposal had gone overboard for the time being, and that before any step was taken we would have an opportunity to discuss the establishment of any new work of this kindat Canberra.
– I presume the honorable member has no objection to the commencement of operations for the establishment of an arsenal at Canberra so long as the small arms portion of the factory remains at Lithgow.
– No objection at all. But the Government ought not to begin any new departure by the demolition of an establishment which is only in the process of completion, and which has cost us £350,000.
– It was never intended totally to dismantle the factory at Lithgow. It would be used for some other purpose.
– I know the original intention was to make waggons there, but that was merely a piece of bluff, not on the part of the Government, but on the part of the official who was trying to ease things down for the people of Lithgow. It seems, however, that after having spent £350,000 to put up an efficient small arms factory, where all the raw material is readily available, the Government are now proposing to establish a small arms factory at a place to which it will be necessary to drag all their raw material for hundreds of miles. What are the facts? My view is that the arsenal should be begun without destroying a factory that has cost £350,000, and is actually now engaged in the production of arms for use in the war. Machinery even now is on the wharf for the purpose of increasing the output. Is that to be taken up to Lithgow and then later on to be taken away and put into the new arsenal at Canberra?
– That is only a small fraction of the plant.
– I do not think it is. It is intended to be a substantial addition to the plant for the purpose of increasing the output of rifles and, if we are going to adopt the practice of putting machinery down in one part of the country and shortly afterward taking it to another part to suit the whim of some official, I fail to see how we are going to have any industry properly established, or how we are going to deal fairly by the taxpayers of this country. I am anxious that the people at Lithgow, and those who are working in the Small Arms Factory there, should be treated fairly so that they may get over their troubles. At present, there are men there who cannot house themselves; there are married men with children who have no home to go to. They are living anyhow, and in lodgings. That is why we are finding it difficult to keep men at the Small Arms Factory. It cannot .be expected that the townspeople will continue building operations if these works are to be interfered with later on. Why cannot the Minister tell the House that this establishment will remain at Lithgow, and that it will not be torn up by the roots and work begun de novo somewhere else ? The reason I am asking for information now is that the Minister of Defence made it clear this morning to the Government Whip and myself that there was to be no interference with the Lithgow works. He said that the Government had no intention whatever of dismantling the machinery so far as the original plant was concerned.
– Hear, hear!
– That is all I wanted to know. But the statement made in the House immediately afterwards, and purporting to represent the Minister’s view, was something very much more attenuated than that. I suggest that the Minister should tell the Committee and the people at Lithgow that the plant will not be disturbed, so that the workmen may be reasonably encouragedto establish their homes there. Hundreds of these men have purchased land there. Honorable members are aware that a petition has been presented to this House from them. They have no interest in the matter except one which affects their home life and conditions. The question is a very serious one, and ought to be treated by the Government in a very serious way. The least they are entitled to know is whether they can go ahead with their housing requirements in Lithgow, and whether there is a reasonable prospect of the works which have already been established there remaining undisturbed in the future.
.- I desire to verify the statement which has just been made by the Leader of the Opposition. This morningthe Minister of Defence made it very clear to both of us that there was no intention on the part of the Government to dismantle the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, except that new machinery which was about to be erected there, would subsequently be removed to the arsenal at Canberra.
– He said that the original plant would remain.
– Exactly. I am quite satisfied that effect will be given to his assurance.
– Why has not a definite statement been made by the Minister ?
– It has been. It was read this morning, when the House first met. I am perfectly confident that the Minister will give effect to his promise.
.- I desire to support the view that has “been expressed by the Leader of the Opposition, who certainly has not overstated the position. To my own personal knowledge quite a number of men employed in the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow have occupied a very awkward position for the past four years. In the absence of a definite assurance by the Government that the factory will not be removed from that town, they will not proceed with the erection of houses of their own there. Personally, I think that the Government will do well to continue the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. At the time when the sitewas chosen no better site in the Commonwealth was available. Even if an arsenal be established at Canberra I fail to see that any necessity exists for removing the Small Arms Factory from Lithgow. As the honorable member for Parramatta has pointed out, that town has always been regarded as the Birmingham of Australia, owing to the commodities which are available there in the form of iron, steel, and other materials such as are used in the Small Arms Factory. Further, it is very much easier to obtain an adequate supply of labour at Lithgow than it will be at Canberra for many years to come. I do not desire to confer any special privileges upon Lithgow, but in the best interests of Australia I believe that the existing factory should be retained there. A definite assurance to that effect would remove a lot of anxiety which at present exists amongst the people of that town.
.-I regret that the Leader of the Opposition is of the opinion that a mistake has been made. When I left the Minister of Defence this morning I did so on the understanding that the statement which I was about to make to the House embodied the agreement atwhich he had arrived with the honorable member.
– I have spoken to the Acting Prime Minister, and he has assured me that none of the machinery at the Lithgow factory will be removed or dismantled until after the war, or until Parliament has had an opportunity to deal with the matter, but that any new machinery which may be placed there may be removed to the new factory.
– I regret to say that that is not what I understood the Minister of Defence to say. He told us that he would need the two factories.
– May I add that work will go on at Lithgow as at present.
– The Minister of Defence made it quite clear that, even after the war, he will require two small arms factories to produce the rifles that he will need, and that, therefore, there will be no dismantling of the Lithgow plant at any time.
– I regret very much that the right honorable gentleman did not speak to the Minister of Defence himself. I understood from the Minister that the factory was to remain at Lithgow as it is until after the war, and, further, until Parliament has had an opportunity of dealing with the whole question ; so that there will be no alteration made in the Lithgow factory until then.
– Of course, Parliament can rip up the works at any time, and do what it likes with them. The authority of Parliament isalways unquestioned.
– Then shall I say that this Government will take no action in that direction ?
– At any time? That is the point. The Minister will see that he is conditioning everything on the war. It creates uncertainty. That is the trouble. The Minister of Defence made it clear to us that he would need both factories after the war.
– And that there would be no dismantling.
– Quite true. He said that he would need both factories.
– I may say further that if there should : be any occasion to bring the two factories under one roof at any time-
– The Minister of Defence said that he had no intention of putting the two under one roof.
– I do not know whether that is so. I have made the statement as clear as I can. I regret that the right honorable gentleman was not there to speak to the Minister of Defence. So far as I know, there is no intention of doing anything that will retard the progress of Lithgow.
– I intend to rely on the statement which the Minister of Defence made to me in the presence of the Government Whip, the honorable member for Maranoa.
– I am sure that Senator Pearce will honour that statement.
– That statement was clear and unequivocal - that he would need the two factories, and that he now had no intention of attempting at any time to dismantle the factory at Lithgow.
Proposed vote agreed to.
– I move -
That the following resolutions be reported to the House : -
That, including the several sums already voted in this present session of Parliament for such services, there be granted to His Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1915-16, for the several services hereunder specified, sums not exceeding in each case the following amounts, viz. : -
Australian Notes Branch, £8,497.
Stamp Printing, £1.619.
Refunds of Revenue, £275,000.
Advance to the Treasurer, £750,000.
Northern Territory Hotels, £2,400.
Kalgoorlie-Port Augusta Railway, £17,044.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc., 1915-16.
That, notwithstanding the several sums already voted in this present session of Parliament for such services, the amount granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1915- . 16 for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildinss, &c., shall be a sum not exceeding £3,278,499.
We have by our Supply Bills secured authority to pay away a larger amount than we required to pay. The second part of this motion is necessary to reduce the amount.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended.
Resolutions of Ways and Means, founded on Resolutions 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 passed through all its stages without amendment.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the borrowing of money from the Government of the United
Kingdom for war purposes.
As I mentioned in my Budget speech, the Government were not quite sure as to what would be the response by the Australian public to an appeal for a local loan, and, in order that we should be in no difficulty in regard to money, we decided to ask the Imperial Government if they would lend us £25,000,000 during the year ending 31st December, 1916. Of course, honorable members will realize that the Government can never safely be permitted to be in need of ready money. During this time of war we must keep our coffers well replenished with money from either revenue or loan. The Imperial Government very readily consented to lend us £25,000,000 in instalments of £2,000,000 per month, or thereabouts, and we have been drawing those sums on about the 15th of each month.
– At what rate of interest?
– Unfortunately, we do not know what the rate of interest will be, but we believe that it will not be less than 5 per cent. I ask the Committee to agree to this proposal because it is necessary that the Government should be able to get money if, and when, we want it.
-Howmuch of that money have you received up to the present?
– We have received about £9,000,000, and, with the consent of the. Imperial Government, we have been advancing to the States from moneys we hold in London against a loan to be raised for the States on the London market at some proper time. Later we will ask honorable members to permit us to raise a loan of £8,960,000 for the States under an agreement which the Commonwealth and StateGovernments arrived at in November last.
– And what youhave already advanced will be repaid out of that loan ?
– Does not the Treasurer think this is a good bit of Socialism?
– If I had time I should, like to defend myself against some observations that have been made concerning me by the honorable members for Adelaide and’ Bourke and the Sydney Worker.
– What did the Worker say ?
– I said in my Budget speech that I was pleased to observe the public spirit which the people had shown in subscribing to the war loan, and the Worker says that I have “ kissed the greasy hands of the moneyed hogs and slobbered them with praise.” Honorable members will realize that between the Melbourne Argus and the Sydney Worker I am having a hot time. On some other occasion, perhaps, I may have time to deal with that criticism. We may require to use some of this money to help the States if the condition of the London money market should not be favorable to our borrowing the £8,960,000. If any honorable member objects to the passage of this Bill I would prefer to explain to him privately why the Government require this authority. We may not take the money, but we want the authority.
– So long as the authority is given you will never try to do anything else.
– “ Blank cartridge ! “
– It is not “blank cartridge “ ; if I had a bullet I should fire it.
– I do not know what the honorable member means by a “ bullet.” No one deplores more than I do that we have to borrow these large sums of money. If we could raise it out of revenue it would be fortunate for us; but we are in a war, and we cannot expect to pay for that war out of revenue; the best we can hope is to pay interest on loans. If we had to raise £25,000,000 or £50,000,000 by means of taxation, I assure honorable members, who have the idea that we can do so, that we should bring about a condition of things in Australia which would be deplorable, and would bring disgrace on myself and everybody connected with the Government. There are, I know, honorable members who believe that it would be a good thing for Australia to raise compulsory loans without interest; but I tell honorable members that, before I would do that, or consent to it, I would retire from this position. I refuse to consent to any attempt to raise a compulsory loan without interest, because I do not think it is necessary or fair. I have come to the conclusion that if the nation wants anything, the nation must pay for it; and if it does not pay in the regular way, if it does not pay interest, it will pay in an irregular way by the inflation of prices. Those who would then suffer most are the wage-earners, who with, perhaps, a wage of £3 per week, would find that the money would purchase only £2 worth, owing to the distrust and want of confidence in the community.
– The Treasurer has given no public reason for borrowing these huge sums of money from the Old Land. I believe that we could get the money locally, and I should have preferred the method.
– Did you say that we could get the money, locally ?
– I think we could
– And so do I.
– I hesitate very much to trouble the Old Country for loans at this juncture. However, I understand that the Treasurer has made some arrangement about the matter, and I shall offer not the slightest objection to his proposal. I was glad to hear the last remark of the honorable gentleman, for it seems to me that, under the hard logic of experience, he is having some of the fundamental economic truths brought home to him. What the honorable gentleman has said represents an indisputable fact - one of the laws woven into the very texture of our social life. No mat-“ ter what statutes we may pass, if we water the currency of the country we inflate the prices of the country. That is a natural law, against which no statutes can prevail.
– Every man recognises the fact.
– Apparently some do not, and hence the Treasurer’s statement to-night, on which I heartily congratulate him.
.- I do not hope to make a speech on the finances of the Commonwealth that will be likely to alter the intentions of the Government; but if I did wish to make a speech in opposition to the proposals, I should not have to expend much energy to make a better one than the Treasurer made in support of it. The honorable gentleman did not go very far in explaining why we have to go to London for the money; and he has not in any way cleared himself of the charge of “ kissing the greasy hands of ‘ the moneyed hogs.” There are honorable members on this side who apparently ought to be on the other, and who tell the Labour party that they are wrong in the matter of finance - that the Labour party are on the wrong track when they say that the finances should be handled by the people of the country. If our objective is futile, then those honorable members should not joke about the matter, but should make known the fact to the people who sent us here.i I am serious, because I do not wish to be here as a representative of the working classes without trying to get them out of the mire in which they have struggled for so long. I may be crude in my methods, but I shall always do whatever I can in that direction, whether in this House “or on the stump,” from which they sent me here. I cannot help thinking that when we are “ up against it “ financially, the Government, and honorable members on this side, cannot offer any suggestions different from those that would have been offered by the Opposition had they been in power. Lord St. Alwyn has told the British Government that they have not offered a financial scheme in any way different from those that have been propounded from time to time, namely, the same old borrowing and the same old people to have to bear the burden. We are told that we shall have to pay not less than 5 per cent, on the money we borrow. Yesterday I quoted an article written in The Worker by Mr. Temple, and I was asked whether I believed in the sentiments there expressed. It is not for me to say whether the sentiments are right or wrong; it is for those who say they know to deny the contentions there put forth. The assertion is there to be denied, if it can be denied - the assertion that the transfer and” juggling of credits keeps the toiling masses ever and always paying taxes, with their noses to the grindstone. It is useless for the Treasurer to say that if we break down this system we shall destroy the whole commercial edifice and bring about the very conditions that we desire to avoid; and I am not satisfied to accept the statement of the Leader of the Opposition that if we resort to “ watering down “ chaos will result. That may, or may not, be true; but if we accept these proposals we shall have to get the money; and the question is where are we going to get it from ? I do not say this because I am in favour of the Bill - that is not so - but those who support the measure ought to tell us the source from which the money is to be had. Let us know where the 5 per cent, is going - whether it is going into the pockets of the workers in return for work, or whether they will have to pay the 5 per cent, before they get anything for themselves.
Sitting suspended from 6.S0 to 8 p.m.
– I do not intend to delay the progress of business by discussing this Loan Bill, but I have intimated to the Treasurer that it is my intention to vote against every reading and every clause of it, because I believe that to be the duty I owe to the party I represent in this Chamber. If the attention of the general community were focussed, as it will be later on, when, unfortunately, it will be too late, on the borrowing that is taking place, and may yet take place, unless some other system of financing the war i3 adopted, the outcry against it would be much greater than it is at the present time. It was the duty of the Treasurer, as a representative of the Labour section of the community, and knowing, as he does, their views on the question of borrowing, to let us know that, after exhaustive inquiry, he found that the money required to prosecute the war could not be secured by some better scheme than that which he has proposed. I hope yet that the honorable gentleman will see that he should dispute the contention that there is any other possible way of raising the money received than, by the method he proposes. We speak of conscription of wealth, and many believe that there should he conscription of wealth. There are some who say that it is impossible, but that is merely a negative statement, and we are not told why it is impossible. We are told that the wealth of this community is over £1,000,000,000; but we are told also that it cannot be used for the prosecution of the war other than by the method proposed by the Government, of taking it, and then giving it back, and paying interest for the pleasure of doing so. That is not merely my statement of what takes place. When the first loan for war purposes was proposed by the present Government I made some remarks in which I suggested that they should have adopted some other method for raising’ the money they required. I was taken to task by the Register, the Torynewspaper of South Australia. I was told that I was a wild, hair-brained Socialist. I do not mind that in the slightest, because that is that newspaper’s usual manner of referring toLabour members. A little later, when the Government proposed to borrow £20,000,000 in instalments of £5,000,000, the Register came out with a leading article on the loan, and the manner in which it was to be raised. In that article there appeased this astounding statement,, which can be verified by reference to the files of that newspaper: It was asserted that as the loan was to be raised in instalments of £5,000,000, and was to be used’ primarily to meet the cost of services inour own country, the money would be socirculated that by the time the second in? stalment was required it would havegravitated back to the source from which it came, and so on, until the whole- £20,000,000 had been borrowed. It is not for me to affirm that that is the systemupon which the Government are working. The Register has done that, and it is for- the Treasurer, who tells us that it would bring about chaos and disorder financially, to adopt any other method to refute what the Register says. Only in to-night’s Herald we have the statement that, in order to meet the cost of the war, a new credit vote has been passed by the British Parliament for no less a sum than £300,000,000. If that be added to the credit vote already passed for the conduct of the war, it will give the enormous total of £2,382,000,000. I would lite to ask the Treasurer whether he has any knowledge of how the money manipulators find that £2,382,000,000 in the Old Country. It is pure jugglery with finance, which involves the proletariat in eternal debt. As we claim to be a progressive party, it is about time that we found some way out of this burdening of the people. I say that war expenditure should be met from a legitimate source, such as the excessive profit drawn from the activities of industries consequent upon the war. But in dealing with that source the Treasurer has not been true to- name as a representative of Labour. He is not a “ pure merino.” Instead of saying that he will take the whole of these profits, he proposes to say, “ You can go on robbing so long as I get half your gains.” He is not game to say outright, ‘ ‘ Within the limitation of the Bill I intend to present to Parliament, I shall claim not half your profits, but the lot for the nation’s need.” What he says is that he will allow the profit-monger to have half of his profit, and will then ask us to sanction the borrowing of £75,000,000 at not less than 5 per cent, interest for war purposes. We have been told that the community cannot provide the money required, but has the community’ been asked to do so ? It has not. I propose to mention the’ suggestion of The Worker, which is one of the best newspapers in Australia - is true to name, is a “ pure merino,” and a worker’s newspaper every time. It has suggested that there, was a war census taken in Australia. We know the wealth of the country. The Treasurer has told us that it amounts to £1,000,000,000. We know how it is held, how much of it represents land values, how much is necessary for industry, and how much is deposited capital in the hands of those who are living upon the efforts of the rest of the community. We have not had a scintilla of a suggestion that that wealth should be made available to the community without the payment of an excessive rate of interest. The Treasurer ridicules the idea of a loan without interest, which, he said, would depreciate the value of our bonds to £55 or so. Let me ask the honorable gentleman whether if, at the present time, he received a loan without interest the money would not be as available for expenditure in the prosecution of the war as is that upon which we are paying 4 per cent.- interest?
– The people will not lend money without interest.
– The people have not been asked whether they will do so. I am coming now to The Worker’s suggestion. The Treasurer is aware that we had a war census of the manhood of the community. Each man was asked, “ Are you prepared to enlist? If so, state when ; and, if not, state the reason why as briefly as possible.” This was an appeal for the lives of the people. The manhood of Australia was asked to say what it was prepared to do for the Empire regardless of cost. Every individual who answered “ Yes “ practically said, “ I recognise my responsibility, and I conceive it to be that I must give my life if necessary, and sacrifice whatever hope my family may have of any gain from my efforts in the years to come.” If he was not prepared to say ‘ ‘ Yes ‘ ‘ we wanted to know what the man was prepared to give in the service of his country. The Treasurer, requiring money, does not propose to look for it on these lines, and The Worker asks him why he does not propose a wealth census on the same basis. Why do not the Government say to the wealthy: “What is the amount of wealth that you possess. How much are you prepared to give to your country in its hour of need. When will you give it, and if you will not give it, state as briefly as possible the reasons why ? “ These questions have never been put to the people. An appeal has been made on behalf of the repatriation fund, and how much has been collected for that fund up to date? Have the patriots who own Australia tumbled over their own feet to subscribe to it? Outside of the appeal which has been personally conducted by the honorable member for Wannon the only subscription to it, of which I have any knowledge, is that by the Governor-General.
– .There is one subscription of £25,000.
– It is the first time that I have heard of it. But even so, the response to the appeal does not exhibit a rush’ to the colours such as was displayed by the volunteers for service at the front. In the Melbourne Herald of this evening there is a very striking picture, entitled “ The father of seven carries dual responsibilities.’.’ Where is the capitalist who up to date has said, “ My country needs my wealth!” The father of seven is offering all that he possesses for the sake of the Empire. I invite honorable members opposite to parallel his case with that of a capitalist. They cannot. The Labour Government to-day are asking this Parliament to sanction the raising of a loan of £75,000,000 for the purpose of carrying on this war, although the capitalists of the country have never been asked to come out on the verandah and say exactly what they are prepared to give. God ! I think that the punch of the Labour party has vanished. We are not game to do anything.
– There is a little bit of wind left.
– I am glad that I have a little bit of wind left. I am using it in the same way that I used it in order to secure my election to this House. At any rate, I am true to name. I have not gone back on my convictions. I am a Socialist. I believe in the nationalization of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and I will use every effort to achieve my ideal. Gee whiz ! In connexion with the repatriation fund we are talking about putting men on the land in hide-bound Tory places such as South Australia.
– The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the repatriation scheme.
– I am sorry, because I realize that a portion of the loan which we are now being asked to authorize will be utilized to subsidize the repatriation fund. What a magnanimous grant is £250,000 to our returned soldiers! I venture to say that whatever success may attend that fund will not spring from voluntary effort. However, in deference to your ruling, sir, I will not debate the question. I am speaking ex tempore, because I scarcely imagined that this Bill would be brought forward this evening.
– If this is an extempore effort, what should we have got had the honorable member been fully prepared ?
– In that case I might have excelled the brilliant utterances of the Leader of the Oppositon. I may be ridiculed for the attitude I am adopting
– Come on. The honorable member has had a fair innings.
– I know that the honorable member for Parramatta is anxious that this Bill should be allowed to pass. But I have to make my position clear to those who elected me. In the absence of sound reason to the contrary I shall vote against every Bill brought forward by the Government which involves a further burden on the taxpayers of this country. Before I conclude I desire to say a word or two in. regard to the note issue. This subject was brought forcibly to my mind by one or two remarks by the Leader of the Opposition to the effect that certain things could not be done. May I remind him that the same statement was made in reference to our note issue. The late Tory Premier of South Australia commended the late Prime Minister, Mr. Fisher, for his sound convictions on finance, because the latter had said that our note issue must not be unduly inflated. But I venture to say that it has been inflated to an extent which was never previously anticipated.
– Nobody ever doubted that we could issue notes.
– Exactly. But my point is that after having issued them to an extent which was never dreamed of, we have not disturbed either the credit or the industries of this country. Indeed, the note issue has been the sheet-anchor of the Commonwealth. That scheme having been so successful, now the Government come down and ask us, without any adequate statement, for authority to borrow £75,000,000 to meet the necessities of this war. I shall vote against the whole of the Bills right through.
.- I do not know whether this is the stage at which we may expect the Treasurer to give information, or whether it will b« given to us during his second -reading speech. I desire to call attention to this paragraph in the Budget statement deal- ing with loans by the Imperial Government -
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.
The motion before the Committee is for the purpose of introducing a Bill authorizing the Treasurer to borrow £25,000,000 from the Government of the United Kingdom, and this motion does not appear to be consistent with the Treasurer’s statement to which I have just referred. In the Budget he suggested that we should raise this money in Australia. We are living in very serious times indeed. Our interest bill is mounting up, and if the Treasurer goes to the length of borrowng the money authorized under these Bills there will be a total of £85,000,000, the interest upon which will be about £4,250,000 per annum. We have to look at this matter very seriously, because the Commonwealth and States have already borrowed close on £330,000,000 or £340,000,000, representing an interest bill of about £13,000,000 a year. If we borrow all the money asked for under the Bills now before the Committee, our annual interest liability will be between £17,000,000 and £18,000,000. Later on we shall have an opportunity of discussing the War-time Profits Bill, and it is my intention to urge as large a percentage as possible in connexion with that measure. I hope the Treasurer will be able to give us the fullest information in’ regard to the proposed loans now under consideration.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, read a first and second time, and reported from Committee without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) by leave, proposed -
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- The second reading of the Bill was carried rather hurriedly, and the Treasurer, who is usually so courteous, did not give me some information I asked for. I am aware that he has been sitting at the table for a long time, and no doubt is feeling fatigued, but I have not plied him with many questions, and I think he might enlighten the House on the subject I referred to.
– I will give the information on the next Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
.- I beg to move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising of moneys to be loaned to, and the advancing of moneys to, certain States.
Perhaps I may now be permitted to make a few brief remarks in reply to the question raised by the honorable member for Maribyrnong. Because of the war certain of the States found it a very difficult matter to raise money for necessary public works. I have no doubt that in every case they consulted their financial advisers in London, and no doubt also they tried in Australia, but owing to the objection on the pari ofleading newspapers to the States borrowing money for any purpose whatever, probably they found it would be very foolish to try and raise money locally. There was a real difficulty in London, because, although we have had permission for some time from the Imperial Government to raise money on the London market for the States, we have not deemed it advisable to place a loan. We do not want to go there and find we cannot get money. The whole of the States, except New South Wales, very wisely agreed that the Commonwealth should endeavour to borrow money on their behalf. New South Wales, believing that it could make better terms, decided to stand out of the agreement, to our very great regret, and to the regret of all who had theinterests of Australia at heart. It would be far better for the Commonwealth - and I believe the future will prove it would be far better for New South Wales also - that the Commonwealth should be the sole borrower on behalf of the States, and that there should not be seven competing borrowers on the London or any other market. I venture to say that the New South Wales Government have no reason to complain of the treatment received at the hands of the Commonwealth from the commencement of Federation. In November last five States agreed that the Commonwealth should borrow money to the extent of £8,940,000. The agreement provides that we shall borrow for the States, during the war, other sums of money. Let me state, for the information of the honorable member for Maribyrnong, that as we do not go on to the London money market to raise this money for the States, we asked the Imperial Government whether they would have any objection to our advancing to the States certain moneys that we hold in London, to be repaid when this money was borrowed on behalf of the States. The Imperial Government agreed, and we have so far advanced to the States £2,000,000 out of this £25,000,000, that is, out of the money which we have just obtained authority from the Parliament to raise.
– Out of the £8,000,000 odd?
– No; that has to be raised on the London money market, and when we raise it we shall repay the money which we have advanced out of the £25,000,000. It does not follow that, because we have authority to raise £25,000,000 in London, we are going to take all of it. I hope we shall not require money, but I shall leave the matter until we come to the proposal to borrow £50,000,000 on the authority for which we are asking.
– What did you mean when you said that Australia might not only provide all the money for war purposes, but even lend money to the Imperial Government ?
– I used the phrase, “ If not indeed to lend money to the Imperial Government,” because there are in Australia people who believe that we can finance our own war obligations and even lend money to the Imperial Government. When I say that we propose to raise £50,000,000 in Australia, I am inclined to believe, from the response to our previous requests for £5,000,000 and £10,000,000, when £35,000,000 was subscribed, that the people of Australia will respond equally well to this request.
– In what period do you want it?
– During a year. We do not propose to go on the local money market for £50,000,000 right away, but we hope that during the year the Australian public will supply us with that amount which is necessary to carry on the war.
– Is that amount to be added to the £25,000,000 you are getting from the British Government?
– Yes; but if we get the £50,000,000 we shall not require the £25,000,000, and will use as little of the £25,000,000 as possible. Whatever we use of the latter amount to advance money to the States,, will, as soon as the money market is favorable, be supplied out of the amount that we shall raise under this Bill. In asking for the £25,000,000, we want a reserve, if necessary. .If the public of Australia do not respond, as I believe they will, we shall have to ask the Imperial Government to help us out. That Government, as shown by Mr. McKenna’s recent Budget speech, has assisted the Allies to the extent of £313,000,000, and a portion of that money was lent to the Dominions. The Chancellor added that they were agreeably surprised to find that the Dominions required so little. This Australian loan of ours is the cheapest loan that has been raised throughout the world, due, I think, to the fact that there is a better public spirit in this country than there is elsewhere. When we were raising our second loan, I was asked to make an announcement that, if the Government increased the rate of interest, those who had lent money in the first place should get the benefit of the increase, and to every correspondent I replied that the Government had no intention of raising the rate, as we believed the public spirit in this country to be such that the people would not demand more than 4J per cent. Some people are under the impression that the capitalists are lending all this money, but there are 15,000 persons in Australia who have subscribed to the loan in sums of from £10 to £100. The term “ money hogs” cannot possibly be applied to them. How much interest does a man get. after all, on £10, or even £100 ? He gets £4 13s. lOd. for the use of his £100.
– Then take the people who subscribe the big sums through the associations.
– I know that people who took up shares in banks in the early days may be getting 14 per cent, on their money to-day, but the share lists are a very good index. Any one may buy shares in a bank, but all that he will get for his money will be about 5 per cent. The fact is that the better the security the lower the fate of interest is. In the share lists we may see concerns which pay 8 per cent, and 9 per cent., but we do not find the canny, careful persons rushing those shares.
– Many who did in the past lost their money.
– Many honorable members recollect the bank smash of 1893. In those days there were notices in windows offering 6 per cent, and 7 per cent, for the use of money, but the foolish persons who went in for those ventures suffered loss. These things exist even to-day. I have had an application before me for permission to issue 8 per cent, debentures. People are informed that if they will put in their money for ten years they will receive 8 per cent, per annum. These debentures are called “ gold bonds “ on the invitations issued to the public. People who seek for high rates of interest must be prepared to take great risks. Those who look for a good security must expect low rates of interest. But during this time of war there are some very good securities to be obtained at rates of interest very much higher than £4 13s. lOd. per annum. As regards the insurance companies, some of them are proprietary concerns, but they have put large sums into the war loans, and in some cases have obtained overdrafts in order to do so.
– Hear, hear; at a higher rate of interest than they are getting.
– These insurance companies can only invest in our war loans because they have a large number of policy holders who have undertaken to pay regular premiums in order that their relatives may benefit when they die. The Australian Mutual Provident Society is a mutual concern; and, even in the case of banks and companies who have subscribed to the loans, there are large numbers of shareholders. If the people, who possess money and property had no public spirit, we should be paying very much higher rates of interest for our loans. On the other hand, I heard of one man in Tasmania who had put £10,000 into the first war loan, and had another £10,000 to invest, but said that he would wait until the interest was raised. There are some people like that who are absolutely regardless of the fact that others are sacrificing their life and limb on the battlefield, and would make the country pay as much as they can extract from it. Fortunately, there was sufficient public spirit in Australia to enable us to raise our loan at £4 13s. lOd. per cent, during the period.
– Do I understand the Treasurer to say that he expects to pay 5 per cent, in London ?
– As a result of repeated inquiries regarding the rate of interest which we shall have to pay the Imperial Government, we have been informed that it has not yet been fixed ; they do not know exactly what they will have to pay, and, therefore, they cannot tell us. Prior to the war they could get money at 3^ per cent., and we were paying that rate. We may not have to pay 5 per cent. The rate is not known, but we may rely on the Imperial Government letting us have the money at whatever it costs them.
– What rate of interest will you pay in Australia?
– Our first loan gave the investor a return of £4 14s. 6d. per cent. The last loan will give a return throughout the whole period of £4 13s. lOd. per cent. We have not yet decided how much we shall ask for in the next issue, but it will be a 4J per cent. loan. We are making an appeal to the patriotism of the Australian public to enable us to raise £50,000,000 during the year. There are some people in Australia who are actually paying 7 per cent, on their overdrafts in order to invest in the war loan on which they receive only 4½ per cent. There must be hundreds of such cases. I think that if a man with sufficient security is prepared to approach a bank for the purpose of borrowing money to invest in the war loan, the bank at least should let him have it at 5 per cent.
– It would not leave the bank sufficient margin with which to -pay its expenses.
– I think it would, but I do not propose to say anything about the matter now, except to say that the banks might les people, who wish to borrow money for the purpose of investing in the war loan, have it at a lower rate of interest Ulan 7 per cent., the borrower, of course, lodging his Government securities with the bank as collateral. I do not think it is necessary for me to say anything about the requirements of the States, or as to why the money is wanted by them. Australia is in a different position from a settled country. Here we are pioneering. Our people are building roads, bridges, and railways. The mention of railways prompts me to say that if our land system were properly managed we should not require to build so many railways. We require new rail-0 ways because there is so much idle land alongside existing railways, and those who want to settle on the land are compelled to go 10, and even 20, miles from a railway. Thus the farmers are being taxed through having to take a day to bring their cream into the railway station and another day to return.
– Those estates have nearly all been resumed.
– There is a great deal of land alongside railways which is lying absolutely idle, and I hope this Government will be long enough in power to bring forward a proposal to compel the owners of that land to either use it themselves or allow others to use it. The Commonwealth Government have asked the State Governments, with whom we are acting in co-operation, to restrict their financial requirements as much as possible. Of course, we have to be careful that we do not throw out of employment a lot of men who have responsibilities, but at the same time we are asking the States to cut down their demands for borrowed money for the construction of public works. The more we “can curtail such expenditure now, the more we shall be able to do at the end of the war, when our men return, and when there may be a good deal of unemployment through the stoppage of the manufacture of munitions and military equipment. It will be then that the Government will require to come, forward with a public works policy to relieve unemployment.
– We ought to be ready before that.
– Yes, we should have our plans prepared in advance.
– I listened with much pleasure to the homily on unsound finance delivered by the Treasurer, and I approve of much of what he said. It is quite proper for the Treasurer, to be heard defending the institutions of the country. By his remarks the honorable gentleman dissipated many notions to which utterance has been given in this House time and again as to what have been termed “ the money hogs “ of Australia. He has shown by a simple reference to the facts of the situation that those “ money hogs,” when run to their lairs, turn out to be largely the workmen and workwomen of Australia. He showed that the banks, for instance, are composed of multitudinous shareholders, with small amounts in many instances, that the funds of life assurance societies also are composed of small sums, making in the aggregate the large contributions which those societies have made to the war loan, and also that 15,000 people subscribed to that loan in sums varying from £10 to £100. Are those the “money hogs” to which the honorable member for Adelaide has referred ?
– How many corporations are responsible for the portion of the lean that stands to their credit?
– Corporations include public companies, which are composed largely of men of small means. If there be one thing more than another that the Treasurer has made clear in his Budget speech it is that there is a wonderful distribution of wealth in Australia. Knibbs proves that incontestably. We can only rake up 311 men in the Commonwealth with incomes of over £5,000 per annum. The great money magnates of which we hear are apparently not in Australia. The Treasurer, in conjunction with Mr. Knibbs, _ has done the country a distinct service in pricking with a little pin of solid common sense many of those bubbles that have been blown up from time immemorial. He has sent those bubbles into the blue empyrean, which is the proper place for them. The income tax returns also reveal that the £1,000,000,000 of private wealth, of which we hear so much, and which I believe to be nearer £2,000,000,000, represents, not a great separated sum. of surplus wealth piled up for the purpose of oppressing the people, and on which the Government can lay their hands at any moment, but largely the working capital of Australia, and as the figures quoted by the Treasurer show, it is distributed with unusual equality throughout the Commonwealth.
– There are too many people who pay no income tax, because they have no income.
– WhenKnibbs canfind only 311 men out of a population of 5,000,000 who have an income of over £5,000 per annum that is a very fair answer to many of the statements that have been made throughout the country.
– You think that we ought to have a few Rockefellers and Pierpont Morgans?
– I am congratulating myself that in this free and sunny land the wealth is so widely distributed.
– Where is the honorable member for Brisbane, who was talking about the buying of motor cars?
– Does the honorable member object to a motor car?
– Not in the slightest. Be up to date.
– In America people of the artisan class actually mortgage their houses in order to buy a little motor car.
– Are those the people who mortgage their houses to buy motor cars ?
– I thought that my honorable friend, particularly on his economic side, dealt largely in fiction, and now he tells me that I am right. It is really wonderful how America staggers along. It is said that she has been corrupt, oppressed, and downtrodden - that the great kings of commerce have been squeezing her life blood out of her - and yet she is sailing merrily along, perhaps the best and soundest nation in the world in these war days - and taking advantage of the war.
– One day last week, 1,000 tons of munitions left New York.
– It would seem as though references to the great country from which he came were the very breath of life to the honorable member for Darwin. However, both the Treasurer and myself seem to have wandered from the immediate subject before us. I felt, however, that . I could not resist congratulating him on his homily on sound finance, dissipating, as it does, so many of the notions that have been current in his own neighbourhood, and to which he also subscribed, until, like many others of us, he has been driven-
– Oh, no, you don’t.
– Until the honorable gentleman has been driven by the logic of hard facts to see things in their proper perspective.
– Let me say that, never in the whole course of my long political life, have I advocated compulsory loans without interest.
– No such allegation came from my lips, and I never meant to suggest such a thing.
However, let us come to the Bill. I have always held, since the war began, that Australian finance, as far as possible, should be one and indivisible. All Governments, State and Federal, ought to combine their forces for the purpose of financing Australia and promoting its interests in a legitimate way. This is the time for consultation and combination between the States and the Commonwealth; and, therefore, I am not here to oppose the principle adopted in this Bill, which has for its object such financial consultation and combination during the currency of the war. While I believe that to be a sound principle of finance in war time, I say that it is equally incumbent on the Government which takes the responsibility of raising the money, and distributing it amongst the States, to seethat it is not wasted or frivolled away, and is used for none other than the necessary purposes of government. The Treasurer, the other night, said that these loans were required by the States for certain purposes, including, in Queensland, the construction of railways and sugar mills, loans to local bodies, water sewerage, and sanitary services, buildings, and so forth. I am afraid, however, that the honorable gentleman did not tell us all the purposes for which this money is to go to that State. There is an item of £2,562,000 for Queensland alone.
As usual, we find a Labour Government the biggest borrower.
– Queensland has had no loan before.
– In the Labour platform we find the non-borrowing plank the biggest of all, but while nonborrowing, or limited borrowing, is preached, we find, all through, that the Labour party are the biggest borrowers the moment they get into office.
– They deserve it all.
– Then the honorable member is supporting the Bill?
– No; I am opposing it.
– I guarantee that the very next time the honorable member goes over to Adelaide, he will “ barrack “ for his Labour Government.
– Necessarily so. I am not going to cut my throat to save myself. The worst Labour Government is better than the best Liberal Government.-
– So it is that the honorable member belongs to what I have described as the “ blank cartridge brigade”; he fires off his little blunderbuss and knows that he does not mean it.
– Does he not? I mean it, but my gun is not of sufficient calibre !
– I do not mean that the honorable member is not sincere in what he says; I only desire to indicate that he does not mean it to the extent of a vote that would be effective. He does not mean it to the condemnation of his colleagues, who are doing these things he so severely condemns. He does not mean it to the extent of standing out and denouncing these men in the only place where his denunciation could have any effect; he does not mean it, when it comes to the public platform or the ballot-box, to the extent of saying, “ These men have squandered your resources, and I shall vote them down and out.”
– Just think whom he would put into office by doing that!
– Just so; the honorable member only means that here, where he is safely ensconced in his seat, he may indulge himself to his heart’s content.
My point is that in war time social experimentation ought to wait. I know my friends opposite and their programme, and I know that they are in duty bound to try to carry that programme out; but they are under no obligation to the people who sent them here in war time to carry out social experiments.
– Would the honorable gentleman call the wheat scheme a Socialistic experiment?
– I am not dealing with the wheat scheme now. The honorable member can never get away from it. I want to say about the wheat scheme, once and for all, that I am going to wait until it is finished with. It’ will be time to pronounce judgment on it then. I will mention some of the things I object to lend the State Governments money for. I object to lending Mr. Ryan money to purchase a station for himself.
– For himself?
– For the State Government of which he is the head. I think he might let that kind of social experiment stand over until the war is at an end. I do not think that we ought to find him the money to carry out that kind of thing.
– He is going to breed remounts on that station.
– I fancy I have ‘ heard and read that he is going to breed cattle for his State butchers’ shops.
– Is the right honorable gentleman likely to agree with Mr. Ryan’s policy at any time ?
– Of course, I do not agree with it.
– What is the strength of the right honorable gentleman’s objection in this case if he is always objecting?
– Does the honorable member for Brisbane suggest that I must agree with Mr. Ryan’s policy before I can object to it? That would appear to me to be a contradiction.
– No ; but that there is no special force in the honorable gentleman’s objection to this proposal.
– I am afraid* that there is very little potency in my protest. I am up against a stone wall. I may protest as much as I please, but all my honorable friends opposite will vote for these proposals. I still must protest against them at this time, even though I stand alone. I do not think that it is a fair thing to go to the Mother Country to borrow money for the purpose of enabling Mr. Ryan to conduct Socialistic experiments. He might at least get the money in Queensland if he is going to do that kind of thing with it.
– Money for government policy is always good, whether it be Labour or Liberal.
– Money for government policy is good when the government policy is good, otherwise it is very bad. I object to the Treasurer lending the Queensland Government money for the purchase of hotels in that State. I believe the intention is to purchase four hotels at a cost of £80,000 or £90,000. Does the honorable member for Brisbane believe in a loan for that purpose ?
– I do not believe in that policy.
– The honorable member is going to vote a loan for it all the same.
– Indeed, the honorable member is. The Bill is before us now. Without discussing the merits of that question, I ask the honorable member whether he thinks that is a fair thing to borrow money for in time of war? Then there is a saw-mill.
– That is a good thing. I wish the Federal Government had one or two good saw-mills.
– May I remind the honorable member for Maribyrnong that I am not discussing the merits of these proposals now. I am asking whether they cannot wait until money can be obtained in Australia for them, and until the war is finished. I lay down the principle that in these days it is a wicked profligacy to spend any money that can be’ done without. I understand that Mr. Ryan is purchasing coal mines, and the Federal Government are going to England to borrow money to enable him to do so. Cannot these things wait until we have secured the possession of this country of ours? It will be time enough then to carry on social experimentation to our heart’s content, and as much of it as the people may determine. I submit it is not a fair thing for this Government in war-time to finance schemes of this kind. They ought to say very firmly, “ We have ,no money for these purposes until the war is over, and until better times are ahead.” These observations apply to some proposals of other State Governments, but I have selected these examples because they are fresh in our minds, and we have seen what is taking place in Queensland. For the State Government to plunge into a series of wild social experiments at this time is not acting fairly by the people of Australia, and the Federal Government are not acting fairly by the people in providing them with money for these projects.
.- I am very pleased that the Treasurer has introduced this Bill with a view to assisting the States. Only a few months ago a deputation from the Trades and Labour Council of Victoria waited upon representatives of the State Government requesting them to reinstate 1,500 men who had been dismissed from the Newport Workshops. The reply of the representative of the State Government on that occasion was that they had no money at their disposal, that they had asked for assistance from the Commonwealth Treasurer and could not obtain it, and that the deputation should go to the Treasurer of the Commonwealth and make their request for financial assistance on behalf of the State to him. The deputation subsequently waited upon the Federal Treasurer, made the request, and stated the reply which had been given to them by the representative of the State Government. The Federal Treasurer in hia reply said that he had not refused to give financial assistance to the Victorian Government, and that, if he was requested to do so, he would give that request sympathetic consideration. The Bill before us practically provides for the borrowing of £8,000,000 to be distributed amongst the States. I understand that the primary object for which the States require the money is to go on with certain public works. I approve of the State Governments continuing all possible public works at the present time. In a recent copy of the share-list, which is circulated amongst honorable members, from “ Palmers,” stock and sharebrokers of
New South Wales, the statement was made that the Holman Government of New South Wales, by continuing public works, were assisting the enemies of the Empire in many ways. First of all, it was asserted that by continuing in the employment of the Government a large body of men who should be dismissed, they were preventing these men from offering their services to the Empire. It was, of course, assumed that if these men were thrown into the ranks of the unemployed, they would offer their services to the Empire, and would be accepted. A second complaint made was that the money which the Holman Government was expending in order to continue public works, and so retain men in their employment, would be better spent if handed over to the Commonwealth Government to meet their responsibilities in connexion with the war. The Holman Government are worthy of the highest commendation for trying to retain during this time of stress every possible man in their employ. Their policy in that respect differs from that of the Victorian Government, who, at the first financial pinch, dismissed 1,500 employees from the Newport workshops, justifying their action by the plea that they had no money, and could obtain none from either Imperial or Commonwealth sources. The passage of this Bill will, no doubt, mean the reinstatement of a large number of those men in their former employment, and the measure is therefore a most laudable one. The Leader of the Opposition expressed the hope that the action of the Commonwealth Government on this occasion would ultimately lead to the establishment of the principle of the Commonwealth being the sole borrower for Australia, but he took exception to the Commonwealth advancing money to the Ryan Government of Queensland to carry out portions of their party policy. Part of the policy of the Ryan Government for which he objected to the use of Commonwealth money was cattle raising and hotel purchases. I hope the day will come when this Parliament will be the sole borrower for Australia, but it should not be conditioned by giving the Commonwealth Government power to judge what the policy of the State Governments shall be. That would be the admission of a wrong principle. The Ryan Government are undoubtedly of opinion that their policy will be in the best interests of their own State, and we as a Parliament should not take it upon ourselves to pass judgment on their proposal. Victoria at this time happens to have a. Liberal Government in power, and they also require financial assistance, but we should cercertainly not claim the right to tell them we will lend them money only if we can dictate to them how they shall spend it. That is no part of our functions. The people of the States in electing representatives to their own Parliaments must’ be assumed to have shown a certain amount of wisdom and discretion, and we have no more right to question the wisdom of the proposals of the Ryan Government than we have to criticise those of the Lewis Government in Tasmania, or the Peacock Government in Victoria. One of the planks of the platform of the Labour party is the restriction of public borrowing, but we have at all times justified borrowing for reproductive works.
– And somehow or other Labour Governments have always greater programmes of reproductive works than Liberal Governments have.
– That is so; but New South Wales, which has had a Labour Government for about five years, is the most prosperous State in the Commonwealth, and a great deal of that prosperity is due to the fact that that Government recognised the necessity of carrying out certain public works such as harbor improvements, railway extension, country roads, water conservation, land settlement, and assistance to farmers. They have utilized the money to the best possible advantage. In Victoria, my own State, we carried on an active system of immigration for several years, and assisted thousands of people to come here, but after they arrived we were unable to retain them. In a sense, we have been acting as immigration agents for New South Wales, because the great majority of the men and women who came out under the direction of the immigration authorities of this State, immediately summed up the correct position of the different States in Australia, and lost no time in going to New South Wales, which has been under a Labour Government for the last five or six years.
– That is true, unfortunately.
– We havebeen told at election after election how much money has been expended in New South Wales, and how much in this State. I say that Victoria will make exactly the same progress as New South Wales if we decide to go in for a little more borrowing and expenditure on public and reproductive works. I recognise the difficulty the Government are in. It is not the policy of honorable members of this House to criticise the Treasurer in the duty he has to perform in introducing these measures, as each member is practically pledged to give the Government every assistance in discharging their war responsibilities. We have approved the assistance being given to the Mother Country, and we know that our troops cannot be trained, equipped and despatched - that transports cannot be engaged or our Navy be sent on active service - unless money be provided to pay for the equipment and services rendered. To obtain that money we are forced to borrow, and in the circumstances I will give the Treasurer my sympathy and support. When we get back to normal conditions and the day for experiments in social legislation, if I happen to be a member of this Parliament, I shall give every support to those responsible for the introduction of such measures.
– The logic of the argument advanced by the Leader of the Opposition would be to place the Federal Parliament in the position of censor and adjudicator of the domestic policy of the State Governments.
– What pedantry it is for the honorable member to talk about logic in war times.
– The honorable member need not try to shelter himself under the excuse that this is suggested only in war time. We have established the principle of Commonwealth borrowing for Australia, and I think it is a great thing gained. But for the war the States would each have gone to the United Kingdom for money, but now we have one borrower instead of seven on the London market. Even during war time this is so much gained that we ought to congratulate ourselves. In addition to that, the Leader of the Opposition sug gests that we should claim some authority to say how, when, and where the States spend their money. Those who have been accustomed to regard the honorable member as a great champion of State rights will find it very difficult to reconcile his attitude on this subject with previous utterances.
– The honorable member is entitled to make all the capital out of it that he can.
– Well, that is the position. The Leader of the Opposition, and those supporting him, are to-night advocating that the Commonwealth Government should object to the way in which the State Government of Queensland and the other State Governments spend their money. As long as that money is being expended along the lines of Government policy, the State Governments must be responsible for it to their people, and not to us. They will have to give an account, to us for the amount owing, but how they spend it, is their business, and not ours. Now, in regard to the Socialistic schemes to which the Leader of the Opposition seems to take so much objection, he must be well aware that the Labour Governments of the States as well as the Commonwealth Government are pledged to Socialistic proposals;
– I know that, but I am only suggesting that they ought to be postponed until after the war.
– The Leader of the Opposition is now trying to qualify his argument and to justify his opinion by saying that, because we are at war, the State Governments ought to suspend their Socialistic policies. But I maintain that the fact that we are at war does not justify any Government or party in suspending their Socialistic programmes.
– May I remind the honorable member that his Government, I think very wisely, have decided to put part of their party programme aside because of the war.
– When the elections took place it was not known that the war would drag on as it is doing.
– With the exception of Western Australia and New
South Wales, all the Governments of Australia have been elected since the war began, and honorable members opposite must be well aware that they will continue to move along Socialistic lines more and more. They know perfectly well that, in order to carry out the Socialistic enterprises which are part of our Labour policy, money is required. But I submit that these are reproductive works of the best description, and that the expenditure of such money can be justified at any time.
– Does the honorable member call a “pub” reproductive?
– The honorable member is very strong on the “ pub “ system. I have already admitted to the Leader of the Opposition that I am opposed to the policy of the Ryan Government in regard to that matter. But surely honorable members opposite would not advise me to cut my throat in order to save my life. I do not agree with everything that the Commonwealth Labour Government do. But, because of that, I am not justified in crossing to the other side of the Chamber. In my judgment, the worst which a Labour Government can do is better than the best which could be done by honorable members opposite.
– What is the use of advocating economy if the honorable member will assist in carrying out a policy of that kind ?
– Because the highest form of economy is the wise expenditure of money. I am no apologist for the Queensland Labour Government. But we must accept the principle that State. Governments are responsible for their expenditure to their own electors. We have no right to ask them the purposes upon which they are going to spend their money.
– They would resent our action if we did.
– If honorable members opposite are prepared to carry their arguments to their logical conclusion, and to say that we should control the expenditure and the business of State Governments, let us join hands and form a good old Unification party with a view to making Australia self-contained under one Government.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
Motion (by Mr. Higgs) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending, of the sum of £50,000,000 for war purposes.
– Let it be known to all men that on this matter the Parliament and the people of this country are absolutely united; that we are prepared to spend “the last man and the last shilling” in the prosecution of this war, with, I hope, a little more vigor, to a successful issue.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported and adopted.
That Mr. Higgs and Mr. Tudor do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Higgs, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Motion (by Mr. Tudor) agreed to -
That the House, at its rising, adjourn till 10.30 a.m. on Monday next.
Bill presented and (on motion by Mr. Tudor) read a first time.
House adjourned at 9.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 May 1916, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1916/19160520_reps_6_79/>.