7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I understand that there is at present sitting in Melbourne a committee, consisting of representatives of daily newspaper proprietors from all parts of Australia, and I ask the Minister for Price Fixing if arrangements have been made for the representation of the workers on the committee, their interests being as vitally concerned as those of the proprietors ?
– In connexion with the administration of paper supplies, there will be a Federal Advisory Committee, on which the daily newspapers will have one representative, and the employees another representative. In connexion with the administration, there will be separate panels. The newspapers will have a panel, and should circumstances warrant it, other branches of the trade will have a panel.
– A separate Board?
– No, a separate panel, by which the representative of the interest concerned on the Federal Advisory Board will be informed.
– What about the committee now sitting?
– That is the beginning of the newspaper panel, which will act as an advisory committee to the newspaper representative on the Federal Advisory Board.
– One of my constituents has received from the Acting Prime Minister a telegram in which this passage occurs, “ The Government policy fully explained to you by Government Metallurgist adviser, Sir John Higgins, some time ago.” Will the honorable gentleman say when and how Sir John Higgins was appointed to that position?
– I do not remember the communication to which the honorable member refers, but so many pass through my hands that I could not be expected to remember all of them. If the honorable member desires information as to the date and mode of appointment, and the functions of Sir John Higgins, I shall be glad, on receiving notice of the question, to furnishit.
– Is the Acting Prime
Minister aware that, although Australian leather is badly needed in Great Britain and in France, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has failed to arrange for the export of our leather, although hides have been exported?
– A great many questions on this subject have been addressed to me of late, but my last explanation should have set at rest much of the doubts and difficulties of the tanning trade in Australia, because, although its troubles have not been completely solved, they have been to a great extent relieved. The Prime Minister has been able to get the concession that half of the space now reserved for hides may bo used for leather. I know that’ leather representing in value a vast sum of money is now stored in Australia.
– Over £1,000,000 worth.
– I have heard of some such figures. We are not able to solve all the troubles of the tanning industry, but by the arrangement made with the British authorities, through the Prime Minister, a concession has been obtained which will go far to help the trade.
-It is announced in to-day’s newspapers that four business men have been appointed to assist the Minister for Price Fixing. Apropos of that, I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether the Government will take into consideration the advisability of appointing a Board of experienced accountants to prepare balancesheets for all the enterprises in which the Commonwealth is engaged, to enable the public to judge whether the Government’s efforts are superior to those of private individuals ?
– I do not know that I could at this stage promise what the honorable member wants, but we are taking many steps in the direction that ho suggests. Only this week a conference is being held in the Defence Department to put into effective operation the recommendations of the Commission in regard to that Department and the Navy. Three of the four members of the conference are expert private accountants. I hope that methods will be provided for the getting out of balance-sheets in a form that the public will understand and appreciate.
– This morning,representatives of the producers, of the oversea exporters of meat, and of the local traders in meat met in this city with a view to the satisfactory adjustment of the conditions of the meat trade, which has been interfered with by the weather and by oversea contracts. It is hoped to arrange that there shall be brought into the metropolitan market each week a supply that the trade can absorb. The trade, recognising the difficulties of the present situation, is bending every effort to deal with them. But the oversea export conditions make trouble. Will the Acting Prime Minister communicate with the Prime Minister and get him to do all that he can to have our surplus meat supplies taken away? This would stabilize the meat industry here and prevent extreme financial loss.
– I was not aware of the meeting referred to. The Minister in charge of this matter is taking steps similar to those suggested.
– What we want is better shipping facilities.
– The shipping difficulties, although not insuperable, are very grave. I should not like to make a promise as to what will be done, but proper representations will be made to the Prime Minister, so that he may be able to help at the other end of the world in what we are trying to do.
– I wish to direct a question to the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt). Among the four gentlemen who have been appointed to assist the Minister in charge of price fixing is there any representative of the consumers or the workers? If not, why has no representation been given to the consumers’ or the workers, seeing that they are so much interested in the matter of fixing the price of commodities!
– I hardly think it is right that I should be asked a question upon a matter which is dealt with by another Minister.
– It may be a matter of policy.
– I am not in the position to say whom the four gentlemen represent
– (The object of appointing an Advisory Committee in connexion with price fixing was not in order to have representation upon that Committee of any particular interest. The whole purpose of the appointment of the Committee was that the Department could have available the advice and help of these gentlemen in dealing with the many intricate business problems that crop up from time to time in connexion with the fixing of prices. The gentlemen appointed do not represent any interest. They are appointed merely as an Advisory Committee, and I think that they will be able to render very valuable assistance in dealing with the difficult problems with which the Department is faced.
– Yesterday, I asked the Assistant Minister for Defence whether arrangements were being made to issue railway passes to parents of returning Anzacs. Has the Minister any information on the subject?
– The Victorian State Government is issuing return tickets on the scale of two per soldier returning. The Acting Prime Minister is in communication with the Premiers of the other States to ascertain if they will grant similar concessions.
– In regard to the Postal Institute, now happily immortalized through the imperishable genius of the Postmaster-General, has it been brought under the notice of the Minister that, while the Institute occupies a complete floor of the new Post Office building, large numbers of men of various classes are engaged at work in the basement, which is ill-lit and ill-ventilated, and is said to be quite unsuited for the work they are endeavouring to do there?
– In the first place, the statement of the honorable member that the whole of one floor is occupied by the Postal Institute is incorrect. In the second place, the basement is not as the honorable member describes it. On the other hand, it is far preferable to many other places in which men in the employment of the Department are obliged to work in other States. I would like to improve the whole of the conditions under which the employees of the Department are working.
– On a point of order, I would like to ask whether an honorable member is in order, when addressing a question to the Postmaster-General, in referring to his muse instead of strictly to the Department he administers?
– It is not strictly in order. It is largely a matter of taste on the part of the honorable member who is submitting a question if he incidentally alludes to a Minister’s talents or accomplishments.
– Will the Acting Prime Minister give the House an early opportunity of considering an addition to the new standing order passed last night in the shape of a provision having for its object the further limitation of speeches? Through inadvertence last night, the House was deprived of an opportunity of giving a decision upon the matter.
– I presume that the honorable member refers to an amendment which he submitted, and which, unfortunately, miscarried from some cause.
– Honorable members in the corner did not hear Mr. Speaker’s call for a seconder.
– I have not had anopportunity of conferring with my colleague, who framed, with me, the standing order which was adopted by the House last night, as to the probable effect of the honorable member’s proposal on its operation, but I will take an’ opportunity to do so, and next week I will inform the honorable member whether the Government will be able to afford time for discussing his proposition.
Booking of Passengers: Excursion Tickets
– Is it a fact that there is a considerable booking of passengers on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway line? If so, will the Minister make provision for the running of excursion trains in order to enable people to visit adjoining States during the Christmas season?
– In consequence of the stoppage of the trains for a short period there have been heavy bookings upon the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta line. At the western end the bookings are sufficient for the next four trains, but the condition is not quite so bad at the Port Augusta end. The Commissioner of Railways is doing his best with the limited amount of rolling-stock available to meet the traffic. Special reduced rates will be issued for excursion tickets at Christmas time.
– Has the Navy De partment taken any steps to provide better accommodation for the 700 cadets who have to go down a dark road to the small accommodation provided for them at the Naval Depot at Newcastle?
– The State Government have refused to let the Commonwealth have the piece of land which they were asked to make available for the depot.. However, I have given instructions to secure another suitable piece of land. So far, I have not had a report showing what has been done in the matter.
– A cablegram recently published in the press has intimated that it is possible to return the whole of the Australian soldiers at the Front within six months after the despatch of the first vessel. Is that opinion shared by the Defence Department?
– I will ascertain the opinion of the Department upon the matter and inform the honorable member.
– Recently all commerce between the Eastern and Western States was stopped through a strike upon the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway, and owing to a strike Government vessels were unable to discharge their cargoes at Port Augusta, while to-day, we have an extraordinary statement concerning the s.s.Dimboola. Have the Government some ready means at their disposal for dealing with disputes, so that the workers may have a chance of having them settled at once? At the same time, could not a heavy penalty be imposed upon any one who originates a strike in Australia at a time like the present ?
– As the honorable member’s question touches upon a matter involving legislation of a far-reaching character I should have notice of it.
– The Commonwealth Government have agreed to advance up to a maximum of £500 to any returned soldier settling on the land, in order to cover the cost of improvements, equipment, and stock; but as the recent ab normal increase in the cost of all improvements would have the effect of absorbing the bulk of the advance, leaving insufficient for stock, implements, and so forth, will the Minister for Repatriation confer with the State Governments with a view to bringing about a fresh arrangement that will give returned soldiers who are going on the land without capital a fair chance of success?
– I will place the honorable member’s suggestion before the Minister for Repatriation for his consideration.
Award in Favour of Single Men.
– A recent decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Court distinctly favours the employment of single, as opposed to married, men. The wages fixed by the award are in the nature of an encouragement to the employment of single men. Taking into consideration the whole of the circumstances of civilization, does the Attorney-General think that such a standard is a fair one for business men to adopt?
– The learned Judge is expressly appointed to decide issues that come before him, and it is not usual for the Legislature to interfere with Judges in the exercise of their discretion when dealing with matters entirely within their decision. If the honorable member will give me time to look into the judgment to which he refers, I shall be able then to express an opinion upon it.
– In regard to the four gentlemen whose names appear in the press this morning as having been appointed as price fixing advisors, will the Acting Prime Minister state whether the Mr. William Harper, whose name is included in the list, is identical with the William Harper who came somewhat prominently before the public a few years ago in. connexion with the RonaldHarper case?
– Although he is of the same name, I understand that he is not identical with the William Harper referred to by the honorable member.
-Will the Acting Prime Minister state whether it is the policy of the Government in appointing Commissioners and others to select only those who share their views, and so to deprive the country of the abilities of men represen ted on this side of the House?
– In considering appointments to such important offices, the Government is not concerned with the political views of those whom it proposes to select. The desire of the Government since my connexion with it has been to obtain the best type of man for the work to be undertaken.
– Then the Government have failed miserably.
– That is probably because we have not appointed the honorable member to a Commission.
Expenses of Delayed Travellers
– In connexion with the recent strike on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway, many intending passengers have been held up, at considerable expense to themselves, at one end of the line or the other. Will the Minister for Works and Railways state whether the Government propose to entertain any claims for expenditure so incurred ?
– I am afraid that the Government could not take upon themselves such an indefinite liability. If they did, they would lay down a general rule which might involve the Commonwealth in much expenditure.
Representation of Labour
– There is at present much talk of peace, and the ultimate outcome of the situation, no doubt, will be the appointment of a Peace Convention. I wish to ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, in the event of Australia being represented on such a convention, the Government will take into consideration the advisableness of a representative of the Labour movement in the Commonwealth being appointed to attend it?
– Before answering that question, I should like to ask the honorable member whether it has been propounded with the approval of his Leader or the party in the country for which he speaks?
– No; I put the question without consulting my leader or any one else.
– He not only failed to consult us, but he has not even allowed us to hear his question.
– That only shows that thereis growing up amongst the Opposition an independence such as was evidenced recently by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), when, without consulting his colleagues, he issued his brochure.
– I do not think this question will annoy me as much as the PostmasterGeneral’s poem annoyed the Acting Prime Minister.
– I can assure my honorable friend that it caused me no annoyance, but a great deal of amusement. I was pleased to discover in the ranks of my colleagues a versatility of talent that I had not suspected. I have to say seriously to the honorable member for Melbourne Ports (Mr. Mathews) that if the Official Labour party of Australia propounds a proposal of the kind he has mentioned to the Commonwealth Government, it will be considered.
Australian Peace Society Pamphlet
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– In the public interest, it is not considered advisable to disclose instructions issued to the Censor, or the reasons for such action. If the honorable member has any complaint to make as to misuse of censorship, and will supply the Minister with particulars, the Minister will have the matter investigated.
Dependants and Soldiers’ Fines
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
May it be taken to be the final decision of the Government to continue what isalleged to be the practice of visiting the misconduct of a soldier on his wife and children, who have parted with their breadwinner for the defence of the Empire, and are thus rendered entirely dependent on what is left of his pay, where fines are imposed?
– It is presumed that the honorable member is referring to the deductions that are made from the pay of a soldier in the case of fines imposed for breaches of discipline or misconduct. In. such cases, the deduction is made from that part of the pay drawn by the soldier himself where possible, but, in any case, no such deduction is made from the compulsory three-fifths allotment of the soldier’s pay in the case of married women with, children, or the separation allowance payable in such cases.
Cost of Repair
asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
– The honorable member for Lilley (Mr. Mackay) asked whether the Government intend to pay a maintenance allowance to old-age pensioners in charitable institutions; and, if so, at what rate, and when. The answer is as follows : -
Hitherto it has been the practice to pay to benevolent asylums8s. per week, as maintenance, for all invalid and old-age pensioners ad- mitted thereto. It has now been decided to pay maintenance at the rate of 10s. 6d. per week in all such cases.
Ithas also been decided to pay to public hospitals, in cases where pensioners are inmates for over twenty-eight consecutive days, the rate of 10s. (id. per week for all periods exceeding twenty-eight days. The reason for no payment being made for the first twenty-eight days is that the Old-age Pensions Act requires that the pensioner shall, on discharge from a hospital, be paid full pension for twenty-eight days, or any less period ho may have been an inmate.
Instructions have been issued to pay these rates for maintenance as from 1st August, 1918.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) asked me whether I would lay upon the table of the House any representations that may have been made to him by trustees and other persons administering trusts in the direction of endeavouring to induce the Government to submit a measure which would enable them to meet the compulsory war loan provisions while keeping within the four corners of their deeds of trust. The reply is -
No written representations have reached the Treasury of any difficulty experienced by trustees in making subscriptions to war loans. A regulation under the War Precautious Act has been passed authorizing trustees to borrow money for the purpose of investment in war loans, notwithstanding anything contained in the instruments under which they act.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me whether permission could be granted to our bluejackets to wear their cap ribbons during the time they are on leave. The answer is -
The procedure followed up to date has been the Admiralty-authorized practice. Steps will be taken to comply with the honorable member’s request.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following question : -
Will the Minister please state whether or not a permit has been given for the sale of the steamer lllaroo, of Sydney, and her transfer from the Australian registry; and, in view of the present shortage of tonnage existing in Australia, will he give the reasons for such permit being granted?
I have now obtained the following information: -
The lllaroo is a small steamer, and only useful on the short run to Sydney with coal, being too small to make Inter-State voyages. As the number of vessels engaged in the “ short run to Sydney” is in excess of requirements, she can be very well spared.
In view of this recommendation, I approved of the grant of the requisite permit.
It may be mentioned that this vessel is thirty-four years old.
– Last week the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Kelly) referred to the extension of the Coast Hospital at Long Bay, expressed the opinion that it was not accessible to the medical profession, and asked for information on the subject. I have been supplied with the following report : -
With reference to the proposed additions to the Coast Hospital, Long Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, it was considered inadvisable to extend the system of having military patients at the Sydney and Royal Prince Alfred Hospitals, and, from a business point of view, advisable to extend the accommodation at the Coast Hospital, as there was no sufficient objection to this proposal from the point of view of treatment.
The following reasons operated in arriving at the above decision : -
It is. undesirable to have military patients at an institution to which no grounds are attached. A large proportion of military patients are walking cases, and, without grounds, they would have to go into the street. This would result in great difficultyin maintaining discipline and overseeing treatment, and would considerably increase the likelihood of drunkenness. In addition, the establishment of curative training would be impossible. At No. 12 Australian General Hospital, Launceston, which is a military hospital in a city, the experience shows that the patients attend for meals, but that they take every opportunity of getting away from the hospital into the city, and that, unless compelled, they will not attend for treatment.
It is undesirable that military and civil patients should be under treatment in the same institution. Under these conditions, discipline is relaxed, treatment suffers, and the difficulties of administration are increased. At the large civil hospitals, it would be impossible to have a guardstationed, and effective control of the patients would be impossible.
The Coast Hospital is only 1 mile further from Sydney than No. 16 Australian General Hospital is from Melbourne. It has good grounds, which will permit of the erection of curative workshops, and will be better for the patients than a city hospital.
It is proposed to erect three wards of sixty beds each, i.e., 180 beds, instead of 500 beds, as stated. In addition to this, three more wards will be taken over from the Coast Hospital for military purposes.
The proposal makes available 180 beds immediately. These beds are badly wanted in the 2nd Military District.
It will be possible to select suitable cases for transfer to the Coast Hospital. Acute medical and surgical cases will be treated atRandwick. The less acute cases can be separated, and treated at the Coast Hospital. The policy of segregation of degrees of disability in this way is consistent with efficiency.
After careful inquiry, there has been found no suitable place nearer to Sydney than the Coast Hospital.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Riverina (Mr. Chanter) asked whether the Government are making provision to issue railway return passes to all parents of Anzacs who are coining’ to Australia on furlough. The answer is -
The Victorian State Government is issuing return tickets on the scale of two per soldier returning.
The Acting Prime Minister is in communication with the Premiers of other States to ascertain if they will grant similar concessions.
Preference to Returned Soldiers
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– I am unable to understand what information the honorable member really desires. Preference is given to returned soldiers in appointments to the Service. Future advancement in the Service depends on merit and respective qualifications.
– As a matter of privilege, may I be allowed to state that the question appearing on the noticepaper is not in the form in which it was handed in by me.
– There can be no question of privilege arising out of questions on the notice-paper. The form in which they shall appear is entirely a matter for the decision of the Presiding Officer of the House. I did not see the honorable member’s question before it appeared on the notice-paper, and do not know if any alteration has been made in its form.
-i know nothing as to that.
– I am sure of that.
– With regard to the point raised by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson), who claims that his question No. 3, relating to preference to soldiers in the Government Public Service, as it appears on the business-paper, is not the question that he sent in to the Clerk, paragraph No. 1 is in this form -
Whether returned soldiers now employed in the Commonwealth Public Service are granted preference when vacancies occur ?
That is exactly the same as the original manuscript of the honorable member. Paragraph No. 2 in the original form was -
If not, whether it is proposed to amend the Public Service Act to provide that preference will be extended to returned soldiers within the Service as well as on entering the service of the Government?
The honorable member himself, I am informed, made some alterations in paragraph No. 2, but the Way in which it appears on the notice-paper does not, I think, alter the sense, and rather improves the verbiage.
– It does alter the sense, and. that is my objection.
– All the following words of the original appear on the notice-paper -
If not, whether it is proposed to amend the Public Service Act to provide that preference will be extended to returned soldiers–
The only difference is in the following substituted words: - now employed in the Service and also to those who enter in the future?
So far as I can see, there is no material alteration. The questions are the same, and the slight alteration made does, as I think the honorable member himself will agree, clarify, and improve the form of original matter.
– May I say that, personally, I see no real difference in the meaning of the questions. But it would be a guidance to honorable members generally if they were advised when amendments are made to questions which they have handed in to be put upon the noticepaper. If some rule of that kind were adopted it would facilitate matters.
– The practice is that questions are handed into the clerks at the table, and it is their business to see that the questions are in order. In some cases they suggest alterations which, without destroying the sense, will improve the questions, and make them more lucid, and conform to the requirements of the Standing Orders. Questions which the clerks do not care to alter on their own responsibility are referred to the Speaker for his decision. It is customary, when practicable, to inform honorable members, and to consult with them regarding emendations of their questions.
The following papers were presented : -
The War - NationalRelief Fund - Report on the Administration of, up to the 31st March, 1918. (Paper presented to the British Parliament).
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1918, No. 269.
Debate resumed from 16th October (vide page 6967), on motion by Mr. Watt -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- This is the second taxation Bill which has been introduced by the Government since Parliament resumed its sittings on the 18th September. Last year the Government introduced a war-time profits tax and the bachelor tax, and I wish to direct the attention of honorable members to the different treatment accorded the various sections of the community in connexion with those new measures. In the War-time Profits Tax Bill the Govern ment, at the instance of the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), allowed an exemption of £1,000 to the poor, struggling business man and the professional man. But in connexion with the bachelor tax, when we on this side asked for an exemption, the Government decided that only if a man was over sixty years of age should he be allowed to earn up to £100 a year without paying taxation. Members on this side of the House opposed that proposal, but only two of the Government supporters voted against the tax at any time, and at some stages of the Bill every member of the other side voted for the Bill in favour of the taxation of all bachelors.
– Only those who were eligible and had not gone to the Front.
-That was not the effect of the Bill when it finally passed this House. Every member in the community, regardless of whether he was in Holy Orders or whether his faith compelled him to be celibate, was made liable to pay the bachelor tax. Why have the Government not enforced that tax ? The war-time profits tax has been put in operation, very gently”, and very slowly, it must be admitted, and the Treasurer told us in his Budget speech how much money it has yielded. A few weeks ago the Government introduced a Bill to increase the entertainments tax by 331/3 per cent. on the children’s 3d. tickets, by 161/2 per cent. on 6d. tickets, and by only 8 per cent. on all other tickets. We are promised, also, an increase of the income tax by 30 per cent., and of the land tax. by only 20 per cent.
– The man who owns land and has an income apart from land will pay 50 per cent.
– He will not. The Bill now before the House is remarkable for the same anomalies and unscientific method of taxation. I am sure the PostmasterGeneral will admit that the most unprofitable business done by the Department is the handling of newspapers in bulk. Some of the small newspapers weigh less than 1 oz.
– Fifty to the 1 lb.
– That means that sixtytwo can be despatched through the postoffice for a1d. at the present rate and for l1/2d. at the proposed new rate. Other newspapers, which are now charged at the rat© of 1/2d. for every 10 ozs. will in future have to pay Id. for 10 ozs. That represents Bn increase of 100 per cent. ; but on the most unprofitable postal matter handled by the Department the increase will be only 1/2d. for every 20 ozs. Under the bulk rate, sixty-two newspapers may be sent for 1 1/2d. Those papers have to be sorted, transported to their various destinations, and distributed, and the rate in respect of them is increased by only 50 per cent. Other newspapers, like the Worker, which a.re heavier, are sent mostly at the single newspaper rate, and the rate upon them is to be increased 100 per cent’.
– Twenty-five per cent.
– The Minister means that the increase is only 25 per cent, on the value of the newspaper. On that basis the rates for a newspaper like the Australasian will increase only Jd. on 6d. . or 8 per cent.
– Does not the honorable member recognise that newspaper postage has always been regarded as bearing upon the education question 1
– Nineteen and a half pages of advertisements and four and a half pages of news.
– The honorable member for Illawarra, being a practical journalist, has supplied a very effective answer for the honorable member for Parkes. In the Saturday edition of the metropolitan dailies news and advertisements are iu about ‘the proportion that the honorable member has mentioned. The Government have proposed an increase of £d. all round. There is no lid., stamp in existence now, as there was prior to a universal Australian postage stamp being introduced. Before that time there was “in Victoria a ld. stamp. Some time ago members were urged in the interests of economy to use stamps of the exact value required for the articles they were posting. They were asked not to use two Id. or four 1/2d. stamps where they could use one 2d. stamp. Now that the need for economy in the matter of paper is even more urgent than it was then, the Government proposes to compel every one to use an extra stamp.
– Only until such time as it may become convenient to provide one stamp to cover the present and the extra postage.
– Packets as prescribed, consisting of any of the other postal articles specified in the first column of Part II. of the schedule of the principal Act, are to be charged id. per packet. I have not been furnished with the customary memorandum showing the effect of the amendments contained in the Bill on the provisions of the original Act, but by comparing the Bill with the legislation on the statute-book, I have ascertained that on printed papers the rate is to go up 1/2d. per packet; on books printed outside Australia, for which the rate was -Jd. for 4. ounces or part of 4 ounces, the rate is to go up 1/2d. ; and on books printed in Australia, for which the rate was -£d. for 8 ounces, the rate is to go up -Jd. On magazines printed and published and wholly set up in Australia, for which the rate was -£d. for 8 ounces, and on magazines not set up in Australia, for which the rate was 1/2d. for 4 ounces, there is to be an increase of Jd. The postage rate of Hansard is to go up -Jd. Upon commercial papers, patterns, samples, and merchandise, as prescribed, the rate is increased from Id. to 1 1/2d.
This Government, by the present proposal, is taxing the poor and letting off the wealthy. It is not proposed to put a tax on telegrams, although the Telegraph and the Telephone Branches are the most expensive to work among those that are under the control of the PostmasterGeneral.
– The Telephone Branch is paying now.
– In any case, the tax will not affect the revenue of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department.
– No; but why has not the Government taxed those who use the most expensive branches of this Department? Of the lettergrams that are sent, 95 per cent, are from business people; but they are not to be taxed. The lettergram deprives the Postal Department of legitimate revenue.
– I may ask you to support a measure on the subject later.
– I opposed the introduction of the lettergram system by Mr. Agar Wynne. It has been said that business men in some instances compel employees to come back after 7 o’clock in the evening to lodge lettergrams, in which forty words can be sent for ls. The Government are taxing the poor all the .time. The general public writes letters, but does not send telegrams or lettergrams or use the telephone much.
The Bill applies only to letters and articles posted for delivery in Australia, and we have been told by the PostmasterGeneral that it is to operate only for the period of the war.
– A similar tax will be imposed on letters and articles posted for delivery outside Australia.
– Other measures that we have passed to operate only during the war have contained the announcement that their operation is limited to “ the period of the war and six months thereafter.” There is nothing in this measure to show that it will cease to operate when the war is over.
– Does the honorable member think that the letter rates will be reduced then?
– No. They are not likely to be reduced for many years. That is why I oppose the Bill. The Government has put before us some examples of unscientific taxation, but the present instance is the worst.
– The same taxation has been put into force in America. Are they unscientific there?
– It is no concern of mine what country the measure was copied from. The Postmaster-General has told us, by interjection, that overseas letters will be taxed by another method. It is not proposed to tax telegrams and lettergrams.
– Does the honorable member suggest that they should be taxed?
– It is for the Government to decide what its taxation scheme shall he. This measure has been unscientifically prepared.
– Does the honorable member think our income taxation or our land taxation scientific? They are in the teeth of the opinion of the great economic authorities of the world. I do not object to taxation, but I say that none of it is scientific.
– This is the. most unscientific taxation that has yet been proposed, though a bad example was submitted to us last week. The Government is to blame for hasty legislation which put its followers in a false posi tion. Ministerialists will have to justify on the public , platform the votes they gave on the bac’helor tax. They cannot shelter themselves behind the plea that the tax was intended to be a tax on eligibles. The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell.) pointed out that the rates were too high, and he succeeded in having them materially altered. The amendments were drafted so hurriedly that they could not be printed in time for the discussion, and I was furnished with a typewritten copy of them. This undigested, hasty legislation does not operate fairly. None of the Acts dealing with postal rates - these comprise the Act of 1902, another of 1910 providing for penny postage, another of 1911 fixing the rates for magazines and catalogues, and another of 1913 instituting the lettergram system - affect oversea rates.
– Oversea rates can be dealt with only under International Postal Union regulations.
– Do those regulations prevent us from discriminating between various classes of persons?
– Yes. The rates must be uniform.
– The Constitution would not permit of discrimination.
– Probably, simultaneously with the passing of this Bill, a regulation will be issued altering similarly the overseas postage. At the present time 75 per cent, of the letters that go abroad are passing between soldiers and their friends and relatives. It is on these people that the tax will chiefly fall. I gather from the Postmaster-General that it cannot be provided that soldiers’ letters shall- continue to be sent for the present rate. We have no right to impose a tax on the relatives and friends of soldiers by asking them to pay additional postage on the letters they are send: ing overseas. I understand that this Bill deals only with matters inside the Commonwealth, but we know very well that, on account of the great increase in shipping freights all over the world, many business firms are using the parcels post for the transport of their goods instead of sending them by ordinary steamers. In this way the parcels post business has increased to such an extent that I believe it would have been impossible to handle it at the old post-office in Melbourne at the corner of Elizabethstreet and Bourke-street. We will probably have an increase in the parcels post rates.
– This Bill does not deal with that matter.
– I am aware that it does not, but it can be brought about by regulation.
– Parcels rates will not be interfered with internally or externally.
– I am glad to have that information from the Postmaster-General so far as soldiers parcels are concerned, but the business people have no right to enjoy cheaper rates through making use of the parcels post, which is at present their safest method of transmitting goods.
– We are carrying their parcels at about a third of the freight rates.
– The Department should not be called upon to carry these people’s goods at a third of the rates which would be charged by shipping companies. I know that we cannot discriminate between the citizens of the Commonwealth, but while the rates on parcels despatched to or received from soldiers should not be increased, the mercantile community ought to pay the Department what they would have to pay their fellows, the ship-owners, for carrying their goods. As this Bill will be an iniquitous tax on one section of the community, while another section, which is better able to bear increased taxation, will go scot-free, I shall oppose the second reading and vote against the measure at all its stages.
.- I also oppose the Bill. According to the Acting Prime Minister, this is a war-time measure, but there is nothing in the Bill itself limiting its application to the period of the war, except, perhaps, the reference to war postage in Part III. While I fully recognise the necessity for imposing taxation for the purpose of meeting our war obligations, I think it should be levied on those who are reaping benefits from the war through receiving enhanced prices for the articles they produce. The increased taxation proposed by this Bill will fall upon the shoulders of those who are least able to bear it. We have had two Bills before us imposing additional taxation to the extent of 50 per cent. on the poorer section of the community, the Entertainments Tax Bill, and this measure, which applies to the carriage of letters and newspapers. It is strange that the proposed increase in the income tax is to be only 30 per cent. ; because, generally speaking, most of the persons who are paying income tax are receiving more to-day in the shape of earnings than they received prior to the war. There are exceptions, but the large producers of wool and wheat and people connected with the metal industries are getting more for their products than they received prior to the war.
– We have endeavoured to get at those profits by means of the war-time profits tax. A majority of this House exempted the producers of wheat from that taxation, but I was one of five honorable members who voted against that exemption.
– The honorable member’s statement is quite correct, but the War-time Profits Tax Act applies specifically to the period of the war, whereas the Bill before us does not apply to the war-time only, and if passed will continue in force until it is repealed. In order to meet our war indebtedness, even if peace does come about, as we all hope it may, within the next four months, we may have to raise large sums of money for many years to come, and possibly this measure and the Entertainments Tax Act will remain in operation for many years. It is unfair to increase postage generally to the extent of 50 per cent. It was stated by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) that the Bill will not apply to overseas mails.
– No differentiation will be made in relation to overseas mails bythis measure; but it may be done by regulation under the International Postal Agreement.
– That means that we are asking the parents and relatives and friends of our soldiers to pay an additional tax if they seek to communicate with their loved ones abroad. How many families in Australia send halfadozen letters a week to the soldier brother or son at the Front? It is an injustice to ask them to pay an additional 50 per cent. I thought that they would have been exempt. I did not think that the Government would deliberately bring in a measure with the object of levying extra taxation upon those who are corresponding with the soldiers in Europe, and I shall be very much surprised if the House will tolerate it when the Bill is in Committee. I opposed the establishment of the lettergram system. Ever since it has been in operation advantage has been taken of it by big business firms who save money by keeping in touch with their travellers in every part of Australia by the use of lettergrams, and they are still to enjoy the benefit of that system. There would be more reason in increasing the price of lettergrams than there is in increasing the postage rate on letters which are going to our soldiers on the- other side of the world. Generally speaking, it is the big business firms in affluent circumstances who make use of our telegraph system, yet there is to be no increase in the cost of telegrams. However, I do not argue that there should be. I do not think that this Bill is necessary _ for war purposes. I do not think that we should touch postal matters, but if we do, we should make the increase apply all round, and not single out one branch of the service for attention, while allowing other branches to escape. The Bill will fall fairly heavily on small country newspaper proprietors. It is claimed that newspapers contain many pages of advertisements, but that is a system which has existed for years and years past, and during the last few years the scarcity of paper, and the very high cost of it, have put newspaper owners in a very much worse position than that which they occupied prior to the war. Many country journals have suspended publication, while others can barely exist and meet their liabilities, yet they are to pay another impost, or else pass on the extra postage to their subscribers. The decision of the recent Conference held in Melbourne upon the question of the supply of paper to cut down the quantity of paper being used by 30 per cent., shows how scarce a commodity it is, and where there is scarcity in regard to any commodity its cost naturally increases. Very few owners of newspapers with small circulations employ boys for distributing the papers. They post them to their subscribers. Of course they post them in bulk, but the passage of this Bill will mean placing an extra 50 per cent, upon the rates which they are paying. If, in addition to the increase in the cost of paper, newspaper proprietors are to be called upon to pay a 50 per cent, increase on the newspaper postal rates, they will be placed in a very serious position. Many small newspapers have already , closed down, and others will have ito follow them unless their proprietors pass on to the general public the extra cost. In all probability, unless we can find a means of manufacturing paper for ourselves - and such a contingency is somewhat remote - paper will be very costly for some time after the war. This increase of 50 per cent, in the newspaper postal rates will therefore work an injustice to many small newspaper proprietors. In view of the high cost of paper, I shall not be at all surprised if the charges for advertisements are considerably increased, as well as the cost per copy, so that the burden will once more be passed on to the general public.
I do not think we are justified in passing legislation of this kind. Letter-cards, which are used extensively by the poorer class of the community, are also to be subject to a 50 per cent, increase. All these increases are unwarranted, in view of the fact .that no increase is to be made on the postal package rates. The Minister has told us that parcels from abroad are being carried through the post at onethird of the ordinary freight. I recently visited the parcels post-offices in Sydney and Melbourne, and found them crowded with parcels. When I inquired the reason, I was told that an American steamer had arrived a few days before, and that almost all material now coming in from abroad was sent through the parcels post, because manufacturers found that t’hey could thus send their goods here for mie- third of the-ordinary shipping freight.
– The parcel post system is also more expeditious.
– Quite so. Manufacturers in not only the United States of America, but in other countries, who are exporting to Australia, are taking advantage of the parcels post.
– I desire to give all the help I can in this time of trouble.
– I appreciate the honorable gentleman’s desire, hut I question whether it pays the Postal Department to carry parcels from abroad at onethird the ordinary freight. If we are justified in increasing the postal rate in respect of letters, letter-cards, and newspapers, we ought surely to be’ justified in increasing the parcel post rates.
For the reasons I have advanced, I intend to oppose this Bill. I do not believe these increases should be made, but if they are necessary for war purposes, they should apply to all branches of the service.
– Why not, as suggested by the honorable member, extend the scope of the Bill?
– I am opposed to it altogether ; but if the Government think it necessary to raise revenue in this way, they should apply it to every branch of the postal service. If that course were adopted, the revenue anticipated from this source would be doubled. In my opinion, however, we ought to raise the revenue we require by other means, and not by increasing the postal rates. I hope that, when we go into Committee, we shall at least provide that letters addressed to soldiers shall continue to be carried at the existing rates.
– My attitude in regard to this Bill is that which I shall adopt in regard to all the taxation proposals foreshadowed by the Government.
– Nothing for the war.
– Not at all. I complain of the lack of equity in the taxation proposals of the present Government. Under the present inequitable system, practically the whole of our taxation is passed on to the masses of the people. This pass-on system prevails, not only in Australia, but throughout the world.
– The commercial community reap the greatest advantage from 1d. postage.
– I opposed the introduction of1d. postage in normal times; and I contend that if we are to touch the postal rates at all, the Treasurer should examine the whole ramifications of the service, and endeavour to evolve an equitable system. With the exception of the land tax and taxes imposed on those in receipt of fixed salaries, all taxation is passed on to the masses of the people. The Commonwealth and State Treasurers admit that that is so, and the burden is becoming absolutely intolerable.
Newspaper proprietors for many years have been able, by resorting to bulk postage, to have 20 ozs. of newspapers carried through the Post Office for1d. In the case of newspapers posted in bulk, only an additional1/2d. per 20 ozs. is to be imposed under this Bill; but the thousands of individuals who send newspapers to their soldier friends abroad will have to place an additional stamp on each copy.
– Single papers cannot now be posted to addresses abroad. The British Government will not undertake to deliver singly posted newspapers, and those intended for our soldiers must be sent through patriotic organizations.
– Such organizations strongly recommend the public to send not daily but weekly newspapers to their soldier friends.
– That means that practically the bulk system of postage will apply to newspapers intended for soldiers at the Front, so that one of my objections to the Bill” is removed. There is still, however, a clause in the Bill * providing for an increase of1/2d. in the postal rate on newspapers.
– We can control our internal charges, but we cannot control the outside charges.
– So that under this Bill individual newspapers posted to any address in the Commonwealth will have to bear a1d. instead of a1/2d. stamp. I am not altogether sure that this is not discriminating as between one class of taxpayers and another.
I am going to oppose this Bill on the ground that it provides for a form of taxation that will be passed on to the general public. With the exception of the land tax and that imposed on individuals with fixed salaries, this passingon cannot be avoided under the existing system.
– That brings us back to the single tax.
– Not at all. The wool producer to-day has an opportunity to obtain for his produce the price fixed by a Board consisting of those associated with him in the industry.
– Did not the honorable member vote for the exemption of farmers from the war-time profits tax ?
– I am not quite sure about that.
– The honorable member voted for the imposition of that tax upon the wool-grower, but not upon the wheat farmer.
– If the wool-grower can obtain for his wool a price fixed for him by those associated with him in the industry, he is in the same position that the Flinders-lane merchants occupy; but, generally speaking, the wheat farmer - the man on the land - cannot pass on the taxation imposed upon him. I think the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) has before to-day stoutly protested against the lack of system displayed in the imposition of taxation, and although I may be as one crying in the wilderness, I again lodge my protest against it. From the same side of the House that introduces this inequitable system of taxation come the stoutest protests against price fixing, and some of the methods adopted in an endeavour to make one portion of the community do the fair thing by another. I shall protest against every taxation measure that is introduced, until some system Ls devised whereby the wealthy man may not pass on the burden to his poorer fellows. “We all know that, if this increased postage falls on the merchant as an extra charge, he will immediately calculate what that amounts ,to per annum, and increase the cost of his goods to that extent. Surely there ought to be sufficient genius on both sides of the House to effect some reform in this connexion.
– Have you any idea of a way to do it?
– I will not deal with that matter now, but I am prepared, as soon as the Government show, any tendency to grapple with the problem in a scientific way, to give them all the assistance I can. In these times of hardship, when the poorer classes of the community are making, and must continue to make, many sacrifices, it is the duty of the Government, and of every one of us, to see that taxation imposed on the wealthy classes is paid by those, classes.
– Why did you not make a speech like this when the Fisher Government was in power?
– I have for years been talking as I am talking to-day, but, unfortunately, I have not had any response. Even if I had not spoken from this point of view before, that- is no argument against the soundness of my position now. If the light falls on me to-day, shall I not take advantage of it, late though it may be?
– When a man offers criticism like this, we expect some suggestion from him.
– If we search Hansard, we shall find that certain individuals have frequently opposed proposals that they have previously supported. I am not now speaking simply as an Opposition critic, but in the interests of the great mass of the people of the country. Side by side with mammoth taxation, presumably of the wealthy, we find their banking accounts and profits rising higher and higher. How can we account for that?
– It is equally true that the Savings Banks accounts have gone up wonderfully.
– I am speaking comparatively. We hear of men and firms to-day making fortunes in eighteen months or two years. Mr. Bonar Law was honest enough in the House of Commons to confess that, in two years, he had received in dividends as much as he had invested in the shares of two shipping companies. But, in my opinion, the people outside are looking to this Parliament, and to every honorable member, regardless of his shade of politics, to solve this problem.
– I think you flatter the people very much if you think they are watching Parliament.
– There is one thing on which I do. flatter the people, and that is their illimitable patience with this Parliament.
– Is that flattery?
– The patience of the people in bearing the burdens that they do, and sometimes uncomplainingly, is marvellous.
– I believe you.
– I am talking of taxation, not of loquacity.
– I thought the honorable member was referring to the people of his own constituency.
– Those people have an opportunity to express their opinion every three years, and, while their tone may be altered, they do not alter their representation.
– The honorable member changes with them !
– I look to the honorable member who interjects to change :a little, for I believe he thinks much on the same lines that I do.
– God forbid!
Mr.FENT ON.- The honorable member sits there quite complacently and says, “Yes ; all you say is quite correct, but I see no remedy.” Has the honorable member looked for a remedy?
– I have not said anything of the kind.
– As I say, I am very much disposed to vote against the whole of the proposed taxation measures as a protest against the iniquitous system under which the wealthier classes can pass on the taxation imposed upon them; and I hope that, before long, there will be reform.
– I have listened to some rather novel utterances this afternoon from honorable members on the other side. I heard the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) speak of “ unscientific “ taxation, though I never heard that phrase from him before in all the years I have sat in this House with him. The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) talked of the inequitable taxation; and the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has commented on the absence of fairness. Those honorable members have been in the House for a long time, and have seen land taxes, income taxes, and a great variety of other taxes imposed, but have never touched the tuning-fork” with regard to “ inequity “ or the absence of “ science “ in their incidence. Those honorable members know that the whole of the taxes of this country, whether land taxes or income taxes, are right in the teeth of all the authorities of taxation in the world to-day.
– They are nothing of the sort.
– There is not an economist of note to-day who does not lay down the solid principle that men shall pay taxation according to their means. We have not been satisfied in this House to lay down the flat rate on which a man shall have his taxation based according to the amount of his income,’ but we have increased the rate, as well as the amount. If the honorable member who interjected understands the doctrine of the curve, he will know that some people are paying twenty times as much taxation, quite apart from the amount of their incomes, as other people are doing. Suddenly, over a Bill for imposing1d. tax on 3d. picture-show tickets, and on a Bill for increasing postage by 1/2d., we hear those gentlemen opposite talking about the absence of “ science “ and . “ equity “ and “ fairness.” Yet the whole of this House, with the exception of five members, voted to exclude farmers–
– And the wealthy barristers.
– And the wealthy barristers.
– We never voted to exclude them.
– Two classes in the country were under discussion - the producers of wool and the producers of wheat. I could, and I can, see no reason why men who make big profits out of wheat should not pay war-time profits taxation equally with the man who makes big profits out of the production of wool. The whole House, however, with the exception of five, desired to absolve the producers of wheat; and I was one of the five, because I desired to be “ scientific.” The Leader of the Opposition, who has harped on “science” to-day, was in the majority; possibly he has some farmer in his constituency whom he wishes to placate.
– I have not.
– It makes one a little tired to hear those honorable members, after eighteen years, talking of an absence of “science” and “equity” in our taxation. They have sat behind Governments, or, if not behind them, have indorsed taxation of the most unfair, unscientific, and inequitable character for years. Do honorable members know that 13,000 people out of a population of 5,500,000 pay the whole of the land tax? Is that scientific?
– The whole of the 5,500,000 do not own land.
– That is true; but a great many more than 13,000 own land, and yet are allowed to go scot-free. That is, of course, because they are “protected by those gentlemen opposite, who are now looking after those children who have to pay a tax on a 3d. ticket to go into a picture show . I know very well that, by-and-by,when an election occurs we shall have every Labour man in the country trying to win the sympathies of the voters by telling them that their “ poor little children “ have been forced to pay an extra1d. for the picture show. And these are the men who joined in absolving the farmers in the country from any tax on their profits.
We have been told that this Act ought to operate only during the war; but I think that honorable members are confusing the War Precautions Act and Regulations with the Taxation Acts.. The tax before us is required for revenue, not merely during the war, but during the continuance of payment of interest on the war debt. War taxation is not going to finish with the war ; we shall have it for many years to come. The Minister who introduced this Bill is under the impression that he is doing very much to supplement the income of his Department; but I am not so sanguine. One always remembers the history of the Roland Hill reform in England, which by a reduction of the postage from 2d.to1d. nearly doubled the revenue of thePost Office. Roland Hill’s name has become almost a proverb, because what he did shows that where an article is cheapened, as in the case of the postage, the return is enormously increased.
– The Department has not nearly recovered the loss incurred, by the introduction of penny postage.
– That does not prove that the Postmaster-General will get all the additional revenue that he expects.
– The revenue from this increased postage will go into the Consolidated Revenue, and not into the receipts of the Postal Deparment.
– That is immaterial. I am very doubtful whether the additional charge which the Minister proposes to make on letters, letter cards’, and newspapers will give the return that he estimates. The honorable gentleman knows very well that when a service is cheapened it is made more popular and universal.
– The honorable member was wrong in saying that the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) voted with the Government in regard to the exemptions from the war-time profits tax. The honorable member for Maribyrnong was amongst the minority of six, which included the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd), the honorable member for Parkes, and myself.
– I compliment the honorable member on having been in good company for once, but I think that if he were to tell his constituents in Richmond that he had voted with me, that fact would do him considerable political harm. A good deal of reference has been made to the inequity of the tax upon tickets for picture shows. I did not vote for, and did not sympathize with, that tax, because I realized that it would supply the Labour party with a very powerful weapon for use at the next election. I am sure that honorable members opposite will dwell at great length on that increase of 331/3 per cent.
– Hear, hear!
– I know the honorable member and his party; and I feel sure that the increase of the entertainments tax will be a red-letter event for them. I think it was an impolitic move on the part of the Government, and that it was also a futile attempt to mix up morals with taxation. I have heard a number of persons justifying the increase of the tax on picture-show tickets because it will deter children from going to picture shows. Surely the Government can, by means of the censorship, adopt a more effective method of getting rid of, or remedying, the moral objection to picture shows. They have the power to compel all picture-show proprietors to submit their films to the Censor’s Department. I quite recognise that some step might have been taken in that direction; but I quite disapprove of the unscientific and inequitable impost represented by that increase of the entertainments tax. However, I rose mainly to object to this newly-discovered zeal on the part of honorable members opposite in regard to scientific taxation. 1 am glad that they have begun to recognise that there is such a thing as science in connexion with political economy and taxation, and I shall take future opportunities of reminding the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) of the new light that has come to him in connexion with this small measure and see whether in future he will apply it with equal zeal when some bigger measure comes before the House .
.- I am delighted to have the opportunity of following the honorable member for Parkes, because he is absent from the Chamber a good deal, and does not take a very keen interest in debate. This measure is another sample of the Government’s class legislation. Ever since the last election we, on this side of the House, have been urging upon the Government the necessity for dealing with taxation in a scientific manner. The Government have brought forward certain taxation proposals, the majority of which reveal a desire on the part of the party in power to impose greater burdens upon the industrial classes. They have increased the duty on tobacco, have provided for the collecting of licence-fees from manufacturers in amounts varying from £10 to £300, and have required the manufacturers to enter into bonds of a maximum amount of £7,000. Listening to honorable members opposite, one would come to the conclusion that these additional burdens were to be borne by the manufacturers. But that is not so. We know that the manufacturer will pay the licencefee and the bond, either by means of a bank overdraft or with money taken from reserve funds. The licence-fee and the interest on the bonds may amount in some instances to £1,000, but the manufacturer will not be affected, except, perhaps, by getting further relief from income tax; the final burden of the charges will be passed on to the consumer.. The increase of the beer Excise was another impost on those people whose income is from £2 to £4 per week. I warn honorable members opposite that at the next general election the air will ring with denunciations of their action in taxing the children’s picture-show tickets to the extent of 331/3 per cent., because that action shows the desire of the party in power to increase the burdens of those sections of the community which should be relieved from taxation. The people made a big mistake at the elections of 1917, and the Government are rubbing it into them pretty strongly. I remember the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith), when he was a member of the Parliament of New South Wales, defending the free carriage of newspapers from Sydney to the country districts by saying that the people in the country should be provided with literature. Of course, the newspaper proprietors were the friends of the honorable member, and he has always looked after those who were on his own political side. I am delighted that to-day he is trying to assist some of us to bring about a more scientific system of taxation. The present system is not calculated to please anybody. The beer Excise, the tobacco Excise, the tax on children’s picture-show tickets-
– Order! The honorable memberhas made allusions to those measures before, and I ask him to now confine his remarks to the Bill.
– I am trying to point out that all the measures of taxation introduced to date are directed against one class of the community, and that they have not been in a hurry in regard to other proposed taxes which affect another class.
– The House has already come to a decision regarding the measures which the honorable member has mentioned, and he will not be in order in further discussing them.
– The Government have shown that they are not able to introduce a system of scientific taxation, or, if they have the ability, they are too much concerned in studying the interests of their supporters. The Government propose to increase the land tax by1/4d. in the £1. A study of the probate returns during the lastfour years shows that the men on the land have been making fortunes. Of course, we know that estates are declared for probate purposes at their minimum value, and if we watch those returns, we can see that all pastoralists and farmers who have died during the last four years have left considerable wealth. Reference has been made to the fact that only13,000 people pay the land tax ; I think they are very fortunate people. The Bill proposes to charge an extra1/2d. on, every letter sent through the post. The. postal regulations fix the rates according to weight - “ for every1/2 ounce or fraction thereof for delivery within the Commonwealth,1d.” Why has not the same principle been followed in this Bill ? In future a person who posts a letter weighing 4 ounces will only pay the same special tax of1/2d as a man whose letterweighs only1/2 ounce. There are anomalies in this proposal for which. I see no justification. Postage is for services rendered.
– This is merely a war tax; the extra charge is not for services rendered.
– In any case, the charge should be in proportion .to the services rendered. The charge for the carriage of letters is id. per J ounce, but this extra charge is 1/2d. per letter. The Bill deals only with letters posted for delivery within Australia, and we have been told that oversea rates, which are fixed by International agreement, will be increased similarly. I think that we should provide for the continuance of the special arrangements in regard to communications addressed to members of the Australian Imperial Force abroad, and also that the. extra charge, if it is to be imposed”, Should
Ibo at the rate of Jd per ounce, not at the rate of £d. per letter. We- ought not to penalize our soldiers, yet all the taxation so far has been in that direction. In Committee I shall endeavour to secure the amendment of which I have spoken, though with a Bill of this kind it is difficult to draft amendments to effect one’s objects. Reference has been made to the unscientific character of the Government’s proposal . There is no chance of the country getting scientific taxation until the present Ministers are out of office. They ure so wedded to precedent that they cannot propose anything that has not already been proposed iri some other part of the world; they make no original proposals. . Of course, the people who elected and returned them to power are responsible ‘ for this. The position will not be altered until those on this side are able to establish improvements in taxation and administration.
.- I am aware that it is merely to beat the . air for any one on this side to speak in opposition to a Government proposal.
– There should be a quorum to listen to what is being said. [Quorum formed.]
– I cannot support the proposal to place a special tax on let- . tera and newspapers and other postal articles. One objection I have to this proposal is that it is made just at the time when the people in the country are suffering from the curtailment of services. The Postmaster-General tells us that he has been forced by the Treasurer to reduce expenditure. Those living in the country have to suffer for this. In the cities, letters and papers are delivered as usual, and postal facilities have not been interfered with.
– There has been a reduction of deliveries and of facilities in the cities.
– It is the country people who will have to pay this extra taxation. They do not receive the same treatment as is given to the residents of the cities. To my mind, a good postal and telegraphic service is as much a necessary of civilization as is the administration of justice and the performing of other Government functions from which no profit is looked for. My predecessor in the representation of the Barrier used to say that the railways should be run free of charge. Certainly the Government would be moving in the right direction ifr instead of increasing postal rates, it made postal services free, more especially to those in the country districts, where the disabilities are so great. I do not suppose that honorable members on either side of the House will consider the extra postage upon newspapers a very great hardship, but the added impost upon people in country districts cannot be justified. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) has cavilled at statements made from. this side of the House, and has talked of unscientific methods of taxation. It seems to me that the whole system of taxation is unscientific. Honorable members here simply represent various interests which are endeavouring to jostle the taxation on to some other interest. In addition to representing geographical divisions, honorable members form themselves into agricultural, industrial and commercial groups, which seem to spend most of the time when dealing with taxation in an endeavour to pass it on to the shoulders of some other section of the people. If the representatives of the working classes look at taxation from what the honorable member for Parkes is pleased to term a scientific stand-point, they must inevitably see that those classes are bearing the whole burden of it, and that by means of the entertainments tax and this increase in the postal, rates, honorable members who talk so loudly about the war-time profits tax are really endeavouring to protect their own property interests and shift the burden of taxation on to those who are least able to bear it, namely, the working classes, who form the great body of the electors of the community. I recognise that honorable members who raise their voice in opposition to Government measures are simply beating the air, but I shall continue to do so, because I want to point out to the working men and women of the Commonwealth that the imposition of this taxation is due to a quarrel among the interests represented by honorable members on the Ministerial side as to which section of the people is to bear the burden brought about by the war. However, they are unanimous upon this point - that they should pay the least possible taxation, and that the great burden should be passed on to the bulk of . the “ community. . The people who are making wealth out of the war and out of conditions arising out of the war are using every endeavour to prevent taxation from falling on their own shoulders. Hence we hear the honorable member for Parkes wailing about the war-time profits tax and the unscientific nature of it, and we hear honorable members representing kindred interests wailing against various other forms of taxation. For instance, honorable members who represent the pastoral industry complain about the mining companies, and vice versa.
– They voted with the honorable member last night.
Mr.CONSIDINE.- It does not matter whether they voted with me or not. When they vote with me they are acting in their own interests. If I vote with honorable members opposite occasionally I do so because I am acting in the interests of the people I represent.
– The honorable member admits that occasionally we do something right.
– I do not dispute it for one moment: Disraeli gave a wider franchise than his opponents offered, in order to dish the Whigs. Sometimes working classes reap an advantage by reason of a difference of opinion among their opponents. This was evidenced very considerably when labour occupied the position of a third party in this House, and if the war were not the main issue at the present time we might have something similar occurring. I protest against this Bill because it places an additional burden on the working classes of this community, who have an already sufficiently heavy burden on them. Owing to the high cost of living, every penny they earn is taken by the food profiteers. We have already penalized them and their children by the imposition of an. increased tax on entertainments. This Bill is a further step in the same direction, namely, that of pilingthe load on to the working men and women of the community. If Ministers had brought forward something in the nature of a progressive income tax, I would have been very pleased to support it.
– The Government are increasing the income tax.
– What I would like to see is a progressive income tax so graded that it would fall upon the people who are making money in the community, and reap a share of the good fortune which the war has brought to them.
– The income tax is a progressive tax.
– That is all right; but let me give an illustration. Before I came into this House I was earning the ordinary wages of a workman at Broken Hill. As a result of the last elections I am to-day receiving a parliamentary salary. I consider that people who have been advantaged by the war in political, commercial, or industrial circles should bear the extra cost entailed by the war. No logical argument can be raised against that proposition. But instead of adopting that method we are called upon to put an extra tax on the working men and women who have already been asked to pay an increased tax on the few amusements for which they can afford to pay out of the money left to them by the food profiteers. Relatively speaking, wages are really lower to-day than they were previously. This Bill proposes a direct tax on a necessary function of the community - the interchange of letters, postcards, and newspapers - and it will tax people who can least afford to have extra imposts placed upon them. As the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) has pointed out, the Government have not come forward with a proposal to increase the cost of lettergrams or tele- grams. If my recollection is correct, the lettergram system was mainly introduced in order to facilitate business.
– No; it was introduced in order to promote social intercourse.
– Great emphasis was laid on the point that the introduction of the system would facilitate business relations. It was said that after mails had closed and mail trains had been despatched a business man could send, a lettergram which would be delivered in the morning. Comparatively few working men or women patronize the lettergram system in comparison with the number of business men who make use of it. Letters or post-cards are the most popular form of communication, and they are called upon to bear the burden of this taxation. 0 While; I am in this House I shall raise my voice in protest against this added weight on the back of the worker. As long as honorable members opposite are returned in a majority, we must expect legislation of this kind. It has been said by an honorable member of the Opposition that we are getting class legislation. 1 believe we are; but I am not going to object to it, since I recognise that honorable members opposite are protecting the interests of the class they represent just as I am endeavouring to protect the interests of those whom I represent. No arguments have been brought forward to justify this added impost upon the great masses of the community, while, at the same time, the Government refuse to adequately tax those who have been accumulating fortunes during the war.
– I, like other honorable members of the Opposition, am opposed to this war-time postal tax, because of its inequalities. The people of my electorate have to submit to numerous inconveniencies in regard to mail matter and telephone services, although in respect of telegraph communication they are fairly well off. The Government are asking the people outback, who are suffering from want of postal facilities, to pay an additional 4d. postage, while, at the same time, they do not promise them any’ better system. I should prefer to see us revert to 2d. postage, if, by that means, the people in remote districts could obtain not only an efficient but a regular and constant mail service. I should not object to 2d. postage if by that means those who live in the western part of Queensland and the remote districts of other States could, by means of the postal service, be placed in closer touch with the rest of the world. In some parts of my electorate there is only one mail per month. A resident of Malvern recently complained in the press because a letter-pillar had been cleared three minutes before the scheduled time. In the outlying parts of Queensland there are men and women waiting on the roadside hour after hour for the mailman to come along. They do not write to the newspapers if the mailman is a few hours late. As a matter of fact, those who live in large centres of population do not know when they are well off. If a postman on a city walk is a few minutes late complaint in at once made in the newspapers; but when the Postmaster-General gives us a few extra postal facilities in Western Queensland we thank God for such a boon. The people of our large cities do not know what a mail service means t’o those who live in Western Queensland and other remote parts of Australia. It is most unfair that people out-back should have to pay this extra taxation, and, at the same time, have to submit to a reduced and disorganized, service.- I should not object to this Bill if, as a result of it, the pioneers of Australia would secure a better postal service. In nearly every electorate outside Brisbane people are paying up to £40 a year for a once-a-week service. What sort of a man would I be if, knowing the disadvantages under which these people labour, I gave my blessing to this measure? These people would not object to increased taxation for war purposes, and I think it would be better to revert to 2d. postage if by that means they could secure some’ of the postal facilities enjoyed in large centres of population. In some parts of my electorate there are hundreds of families who know nothing as to how the war is going on. They may get a mail once a month-
– They get three days’ notice to contribute to the war loan.
– Quite so; and they aro amenable to the law., because, owing to the lack of a proper mail service, they cannot- receive notice in time to comply with the compulsory war loan provisions.
What inducements are offered to people to settle in the out-hack parts of Queensland and the other States?
I do not cavil at the low rates on newspapers posted in hulk. The newspapers disseminate amongst the people the world’s news. When I was in Western Queensland, I, in common with others up there, ‘regarded the .Saturday edition of the Argus as a literary treat. It was something to look forward to.
– There is a good articlein this morning’s issue.
– There was a time when the honorable member did hot agree with the Argus -politics; but now that it supports his party, he finds some good in it. Apart altogether from its politics, the Argus is a newspaper in every sense of the word. Its Saturday and Wednesday issues are remarkably fine literary productions. No one hates the Argus politics and curses its articles moTe than I do, unless it be the coming poet laureate, the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster). As an obscure politician in the old days, the honorable gentleman would have been pleased to receive at the hands of the Argus such an advertisement as it is giving him to-day; but now that he has reached the heights of fame, he does not want anything of the kind.
It is wrong to increase the postal rate on newspapers, especially when much additional revenue could be raised by charging ls. for State telegrams, and ls. 6d.. for Inter-State telegrams. Then, again, lettergrams offer one of the best possible means for raising additional revenue. A Brisbane friend of mine in .a big way of business informed me that the lettergram system had saved him some hundreds of pounds per annum. Big merchants and companies say the same of it; and I think we should compel those who are reaping the advantage of the system to contribute additional revenue for war purposes. I cannot understand the Government’s scientific method of taxation. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) is a firm believer in scientific taxation, and he says candidly that the Government have made a great mistake in imposing a tax on 3d. and 6d. entertainment tickets. Such a tax, he declares to. be wrong in principle, and it will, he says, supply the Opposition with a whip, with which they will flog the
Government party from one end of Australia to the other. He has never failed to avail himself of any political whip with which the Labour party has supplied him. I have listened to his diatribes in this House, in season and out of season, against the Labour party. Hehas declared again and “again that nogood could be expected from the party or its principles. I shall never forget hisabuse of our White Australia policy, and the remark made by his then Leader (the- late Sir George Reid), “If you think so< much of the blackfellows, why do you not allow your kiddies to play with them?” It did not matter to the honorable member: whose children were contaminated byplaying with the blacks, as long as his; children had not to mix with themAs I have said before, I do not believe there is any member on either side of the House who desires to impose this tax on the children. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith) might desire to do so from a “scientific” point of view, but, if actuated by the promptingsof his heart, I am sure he would beagainst it. There is an increase of 20 per cent, in the income tax, but it is proposed to impose a tax qf 33^ per cent, on theentertainment tickets of the poorer classof “ kiddies.” The people who have incomes can afford to pay, and will sooner or later be called upon to pay, the taxation of the country.
As to the increased postage, for every halfpenny the worker pays, the big companies and financial institutions will haveto pay pounds and there is this ‘ to be -said for this tax, that, like every othertax, with the exception of the land tax,, which cannot be passed on-
– Can it not? What about the price of beef ?
– Beef is not anywhereelse at the price it is in Adelaide, and yet South Australia is the lowest taxed’ State of the whole group.’ It is time that the people of South Australia had a . little “tuning up”; they have been living on Queensland long enough. They have in the past been getting our bullocks for practically nothing, and now that they have to pay more they squeal about the extra price of beef. There was nothing said when the South Australian ,people were getting stock at 30s. a head, but now that Queensland is getting a proper price we hear these complaints. I hope that the price goes up twice as much. However, the proposal before us is just on a par with the rest of the Government taxation proposals. The public are not going to reap any material benefit, the object of the tax being merely to help the Government over the war crisis. The Government have told us that the tax will be imposed only during war time, but as to that I have my doubts.It is very difficult to remove a tax once it has been imposed, because there is always the danger of some impecunious Treasurer coming along and taking advantage of what he regards as an easy way of getting money. Whatever happens, I hope that the Government will be merciful in the matter of the entertainments tax, as it so seriously affects the children.
.- Last nightI was accused of being garrulous, and made up my mind not to speak again, but I must break my self-imposed vow in order to reply to remarks by some honorable members opposite. My memory as a member takes me’ back to the time when a gentleman whom we used to. call the Henniker Heaton of Australia, and who now graces the benches in another place, introduced penny postage. As may have been gathered from the remarks of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page), the party to which I then belonged - and it was a good party at that time - complained that the reduction of the postage to a penny would greatly relieve a certain section of the community from taxation, whereas the other section of the community, whose correspondence was very light, would benefit very little. Now, however, the argument is entirely the other way, and we are told that it is the working classes who are going to pay the tax. The argument which held good on the former occasion should hold good now. As the honorable member for Maranoa has pointed out, it is the big business man who will have to pay this tax - the man who sends 100, or possibly 500, letters as compared with the one or two sent by the working man in the same period. The honorable member for Maranoa also supports my opinion in regard to lettergrams, namely-, that by their use business men have saved hundreds of pounds, seeing that formerly such messages had to be sent through the telegraph office in the ordinary way.
Personally, I was in favour of a twopenny postage, but better, or worse, counsels prevailed, and I supported the PostmasterGeneral of the day, just as I am supporting the present PostmasterGeneral, notwithstanding his lapses.
As to the entertainments tax, it is my opinion that moving pictures, instead of a blessing, have been more of a curse to tens of thousands of children in Australia, whom they have injured mentally and physically.
I remember the time when, living in Queensland, I had to pay 2s. for a telegram to New South Wales, 3s. for a telegram to Victoria, and so on. The reduction of the telegraphic charges has reduced a burden on a certain section of the community, while no extra burden has thereby been placed on the shoulders of the working classes, and the taxation that is now proposed will fall on that section which is best able to pay it.
When penny postage was introduced, it did not have the whole-hearted support of the Labour party at that time. For instance, I believe that the honorable member for Maranoa was against it.
– That is so.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 and 2 agreed to.
Clause 3 -
After section 6 of the principal Act the following section is inserted: - “ 6a. In addition to the rates of postage prescribed by parts I. and II. of the first schedule to this Act, there shall be payable for the newspapers and postal articles set out in the first column of part III. of that schedule, and posted within the Commonwealth for delivery therein, the rates of war postage as set out in the second column of that part.”
– I should like a statement from the Acting Prime Minister as to how long this Bill is likely to operate. All our other war measures are to last for the period of the war and six months thereafter. Another point is that it would be anomalous to charge l1/2d. for the postage of a letter within the Commonwealth and only1d. for a letter sent overseas. I take it that, as a natural corollaryof this Bill, there will be an increase in the overseas rates “in accordance with the Berne Convention.
– I mentioned that when moving the second reading.
– As there can be no differentiation between the citizens of the Commonwealth, that means that the relatives and friends writing to soldiers overseas must pay the increased rate on their letters.
– I do not think it is possible for any Treasurer at the present time to give an indication of when this rate is likely to be lifted. It is true that our other war legislation will die within a stated period after the war. But it is conceivable, and I think, from the position of the Treasury, highly probable, that much of the taxation we. are imposing, being made necessary by the conditions of expenditure during the war, will persist for a considerable time after the declaration of peace. If that were not so, we could conceive this position arising, although I do not think it likely, that when our immediate war expenditure disappears, we should be content to labour under a war debt without any attempt to sink it. That would be an attitude with which the people would be hardly likely to be satisfied. I, like other honorable members, am hopeful that the war may soon end, and after the clearing of the smoke, when we can see our financial and national future ‘more clearly, we shall be able to make a more authentic prophecy as to what is likely to happen. But today, with the future dimmed, it seems impossible that any of our war taxation will disappear after the war with the other war legislation. In regard to the other point raised by the honorable member, the Constitution does not allow of any differentiation in taxation between citizens or between parts of the Commonwealth, and it is intended that all letters posted within the Commonwealth’ for delivery within the Commonwealth or overseas, shall bear the extra impost.
– Whether or not they are addressed to soldiers?
– Cannot we movean amendment to provide that the rates on the letters addressed to soldiers shall continue as at present?
– That is not possible.
– I am opposed to the increase in respect of soldiers’ letters’, and I will support any amendment that is made to exempt them.
Clause agreed to.
Clause 4 -
After Part II, of the First Schedule to the principal Act the following part is inserted: -
.- I move as an amendment -
That after the word “ Letters “ the following words be inserted: - “Except those addressed to soldiers, sailors, and munition workers at present abroad.”
My object is to prevent the placing of additional taxation upon the relatives and friends of men fighting for us abroad. I think the Committee will do well if they agree to this amendment. Many thousands of letters are being sent to the soldiers every week, as many as six being sent weekly from one family, and. we should not place an extra tax upon the people in connexion with their correspondence with sons, brothers, or husbands who are fighting for us on the other side of the world. I seek only to exempt the correspondence of soldiers, sailors, and munition workers abroad. The amendment will not affect letters addressed to persons within the Commonwealth or persons abroad who are not soldiers, sailors, or munition workers.
– The amendment is not in order. The Bill applies only to letters delivered and posted within the Commonwealth.
– If letters are posted within the Commonwealth to soldiers abroad, the relatives or friends of the soldiers will have to pay this extra tax.
– The amendment cannot be moved in this Bill, because it applies only to letters posted and delivered within the Commonwealth.
-From what the Acting Prime Minister has said, all letters posted within the Commonwealth to be delivered to soldiers, sailors, and munition workers overseas will have to bear’ the additional rate.
– But such letters are not dealt with in this Bill.
– Is there any objection to placing an amendment in the Bill in order to make it clear that Parliament does not intend that such correspondence shall be subject to the. additional impost?
– I ask you, Mr. Acting Chairman, to rule whether the amendment is relevant to the Bill. It is plain, from clause 3, that the object of the Bill is to deal only with the postage rates for letters posted and delivered within the Commonwealth. The amendment relates to articles and letters posted within the Commonwealth for delivery oversea, and I think you, sir, will rule that it is not in order at this stage.
.- We were informed during the second-reading debate that we could not alter the rates of postage on articles to be delivered abroad ; that those rates are fixed by international arrangement. I ask the PostmasterGeneral if we shall have an opportunity to discuss the proposed increasing of them.
– That is not a question of order.
– It would be anomalous if we were to charge more postage on letters and articles posted to be delivered in Australia than on letters and articles posted in Australia to be delivered outside. If the amendment is ruled out of order, it will be competent to move to strike out of Part III. the words, “Letters . . .1/2d. per letter,’’ so that our soldiers and their relatives may continue to pay the rates of postage now in force.
– (Mr. Bamford) - The amendment is out of order.
.- To put the opinion of the Committee beyond doubt, I move -
That the words, “ Letters . . .1/2d. per letter “ be struck out. ‘
The clause deals with the rates of postage on letters posted for delivery within the Commonwealth, but we have been informed that it is intended to increase the rate of postage on letters posted in Australia for delivery outside.
– That will not be done by this Bill.
– No; but the effect of passing the Bill as it stands will be to require the Government to bring about an alteration of the oversea rates of postage.
Question - That the words proposed to be omitted stand part of the clause - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
.- I moveThat the following words be added to the clause : - “ Provided that the rates of postage shall not be increased on letters and newspapers sent to soldiers, sailors, and war workers who are at present overseas in connexion with the present war.”
I hope that the amendment is in order, and that it will be accepted by the Committee.
– I do not think there is any difference between this ‘ amendment and that of the honorable member for Hunter, which I ruled out of order; consequently, I cannot accept it.
Question - That the clause be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Clause agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Motion (by Mr. Watt) proposed-
That this Bill be now read a third time.
.- I must still voice my objection to this iniquitous taxation which penalizes the poor people of the community, while letting off those people in business circles who make use of telegrams and telephones. When an amendment was submitted for the purpose of exempting letters despatched to soldiers and sailors and munition workers who have gone abroad it was ruled out of order. I believe that the ruling was correct; but it was very handy, for it relieved honorable members opposite of the necessity of voting on the matter. While the Government increase the postage rate on letters by 50 per cent., they propose to let the 13,000 persons who pay land tax escape with an addition of only 20 per cent. . We are told that the postage rate on letters to soldiers overseas will be dealt with by regulation. When regulations are gazetted they have to remain on the table of the House for thirty days if Parliament is sitting, and if Parliament is not sitting they must be placed on the table within fifteen days after the meeting of the House; but no regulation is ever discussed by honorable members; we are not given the opportunity to deal with them. It is by a sidewind in the shape of a regulation that the relatives and friends who wish to communicate with our soldiers overseas will be called upon to pay additional postage. Yet the Government propose to continue allowing the mercantile section of the community to take advantage of the Postal Department by obtaining their parcels from overseas at one-third of the rate which they would have to pay for them on cargo steamers. Furthermore, senders of telegrams and lettergrams are not to be penalized. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) has told us that he cannot fix a period for the operation of this tax.
– I said that I could not predict how long it would operate.
– When I asked the Assistant Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) whether this tax would be removed at the termination of the war, or six months afterwards, he said, “ The honorable member does not expect it to be off so soon.” The new rates are here to stay. An honorable member has claimed that the Opposition voted for an exemption of £1,000 in the case of the wartime profits tax.
– It was in the Bill which your Government introduced.
– The honorable member is referring to the Bill which was introduced by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), but on the very day on which Cabinet was discussing its fin an cial proposals I resigned, and in my letter of resignation I stated that I could not attend the meeting of Cabinet, as financial proposals were being discussed which I might feel inclined to oppose in the House. I was not at any Cabinet meeting where war-time profits proposals were considered.
– The Bill had been introduced prior to that.
– There was no exemption of £1,000 in that Bill. The exemption was £200.
– The professions were exempted.
– That may have been the case, but the extent of the general exemption was not more than £200, and the profit allowed was not more than. 5 per cent. In seeking the votes of the soldiers the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said that the Australian measure would be on the lines of the British Act, which allows 5 per cent, profit, and provides an exemption of £200. The Bill, as carried by the present Government, provides “ an .exemption of £1,000, and allows a profit of 10. per cent, to be made. The honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Bruce Smith.) took me to task for saying that the Government’s taxation proposals were un- scientific. He said that I had no right to make this remark, seeing that the whole of the taxation proposals of the Governments of which I had been a member were not scientific. That may have been the case; but the present Government’s proposal that those who are least able to beaT taxation should carry the whole burden of it is a hopeless bungle. We have four taxation proposals from them - the war-time profits tax, the tax on eligibles - afterwards termed the bachelor tax - the entertainments tax, and these increased postage rates.. In regard to the war-time profits tax, the honorable members for Henty (Mr. Boyd) and Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell) asked that it should not be imposed until the 1st July, 1916. They were seeking to postpone its operation as much as possible. I moved an amendment, stating that the Bill was unsatisfactory; but, of course, I got no support from honorable members opposite. However, the Government’s supporters are now clamouring to have the tax wiped out altogether. I was pleased to hear the Acting Prime’ Minister say that it would stand.
– I was sorry to hear him say it.
– I was pleased. I am always willing to learn, and I would be glad if any honorable member can devise a better method of dealing with those’ people who are piling up huge fortunes
– That is all imagination.
– We do not want a wartime profits tax; we want to deal with the profiteer.
– There is very little hope of the present Government or its supporters dealing with the profiteers.
– If the honorable member could bring forward a measure which would get at the profiteers, he would get as many supporters on this side as he would on his own side; but that would be quite different from dealing with wartime profits.
– It is wrong to allow any person to make a profit out of the miseries of others-; but that is what is happening to-day.
– That is true; but is it a new idea for people in business to make a profit out of others?
– No. The position of new businesses which are not making a profit out of the war is a matter for consideration, and I understand that the Acting Prime Minister, in the Ministerial statement, said that the Government propose to amend the War-time Profits Tax Assessment Act in order to deal with such cases.
– The honorable member is a long way from the matter before the House.
– I desire to review the taxation measures passed by this Government, in order to show that they have singled out one section of the community for special taxation, piling the burden Upon those least able to bear it. The next taxation measure brought down by the Government was the bachelor tax, which, as the late Lord Forrest said, was introduced with the object of compelling eligibles either to pay taxation or to enlist. The Bill was so amended by the Government during its passage through Parliament as to make it a direct bachelor tax, applying to every single man over twenty-one years of age, and it was only with the greatest difficulty that we succeeded in inducing the Minister to agree to bachelors over sixty years of age being exempted from its provisions. That measure was never put into operation. Lord Forrest said that he anticipated that he would only raise £500,000 by this impost on eligibles, which shows that there were only about 50,000 eligibles remaining in the country–
– Order ! The honorable member is departing from the question.
– The Government now propose that those best able to bear additional taxation of the kind imposed by this Bill shall escape. This increase is to apply to letters, letter-cards, post-cards, newspapers, and packets. There is no attempt to increase the telegraph rates, although it is well known that those who avail themselves of the lettergram system are better able to bear an additional charge than are the poorest section of the community, who will be hit by this Bill.
I shall oppose the third reading of the Bill, since I believe it imposes an additional tax upon those least able to bear it. The Government have not come forward with any proposal to increase the charge for telegrams, and also for lettergrams, which are largely sent by business people after 7 p.m. Even the PostmasterGeneral will not say that it pays to send a telegraph message of sixteen words from Melbourne to Port Darwin for1s. Having regard to the cost of telegraph material, he will not say that the telegraph service is a payable proposition today. He must admit that the rates for press telegrams are exceedingly low. Inter-State press telegrams of 100 words can be sent for 3s., with a charge of1s for every additional fifty words. The Treasurer, I suppose, thought it would be unwise to propose an increase in the telegraph rates, since that would necessarily involve an increase in the charge for press telegrams, and the Government dare not offend their press supporters. They have neglected their opportunity to deal more equitably with other sections of the community. They and their supporters have voted for the schedule to the Bill as introduced, and have no regard for the position of those who will be called upon to pay these increased postal rates. They do hot hesitate to apply these increased rates to letters and newspaperssent to soldiers at the Front. I have no doubt that, as a natural corollary to this Bill, a regulation will be issued increasing the postage for oversea letters.It would be an anomalous state of affairs if the postage on a letter sent from Collins-street to a Bourke-street address were l1/2d. while the postage on a similar letter carried overseawas only1d. No doubt honorable members opposite will support such a regulation, just as they have supported the increased postal rates for which this Bill provides. The Opposition, however, will strongly oppose it, believing that the friends and relatives of our soldiers and sailors overseas, as well as our war workers, have no right to be thus penalized. We shall not let the third reading of this Bill pass without a division. The supporters of the Government may avoid speaking in support of the measure, but they will have to vote for it. We intend to have on record the names of those who are prepared to pile up taxation in this way.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I hope that this Bill will have a fate similar to that of one which was passed by this Parliament some years ago. I refer to the measure introduced by the Cook-Deakin Government for the purchase of an Australian Navy. Fortunately for the people of Australia, that Bill was never put into operation, and it was the pleasing duty of the party of which the Postmaster-General and I were members to repeal it. We were promised in the financial statement by the Treasurer that another tax recently passed by this Parliament will also be repealed. I am not quite sure whether, under the Standing Orders, a measure may be repealed in the same session in which it is passed, but, in any case, the same result may be attained by not putting it into operation. I hope that the Government will see the error of their way, and realize that this hasty, ill-advised legislation means an extra 50 per cent. or 100 per cent. of taxation on the poorer section of the community, while a great number of people are permitted to escape, and that, as in the case of the bachelor tax,the law will speedily be repealed.
.- Even at the eleventh hour I ask whether there is no possibility of the Government relenting. It is apparent that these matters are decided elsewhere, and that there is no hope of effecting any amendment in the Chamber. At one time the Labour party -were accused of settling all their legislative business in Caucus, and of passing measures and motions here without, discussion. If that charge were true, though I do not think it ever was, the Government and their supporters present such a picture at the present time. When matters are thus settled in Caucus, no argument,- however logical, is of avail.
– You have not tried such arguments yet.
– If the honorable member were presented with the wisdom of Solomon, backed by the eloquence of Demosthenes, no impression could be made upon him. The Government are not even open to an appeal on the ground that soldiers and their relatives would be adversely affected by the proposed increased rates. I am sure that the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. “ Webster), who has the business of the Department at his finger ends, would be the first to admit that a great contributing cause to its financial success is the wonderful postal business ‘developed by war conditions.
– I would not.
– Nor anybody else who knows the facts.
– I am talking about the soldiers and the soldiers’ friends, on whom this tax will fall very heavily.
– Do you say that we have made a profit out of that business ?
– Yes; at any rate, a big revenue has flowed into the Department from that source.
– That is not so.
– The figures show a very considerable increase.
– No; a decrease, compared with the expenditure.
– Of course, we do not agree with some of the reductions in the expenditure, especially as they affect country districts.
– No country services have been interfered with where business has not fallen off.
– Honest and legitimate suggestions for amendment have been made from this side, but I recognise that the Government, with their majority, have made up their minds, and that further argument is of no avail.
.- If the Government and their supporters wish to avoid being called the biggest hypocrites on the face of the earth they’ will do something to relieve the pressure on the wives and children and the relatives of those men who have gone abroad to defend Australia, and enable us to live here in comfort and luxury. There is nothing that we can do that is too good for the men who are fighting in the trenches for us.
– And calling for our help!
– Would to God I were young enough to go! Had I been,I should not have waited until 1918 to find the time; indeed, I was among the first who tried to get away.
– Then why prevent others from being sent?
– I have never done such a thing. I have gone on the public platform throughout Queensland, and told men of the right age that if they had a spark of manhood in them they would at once enlist.
– I must insist on honorable members refraining from irrelevant interjections. An honorable member addressing the Chair is naturally led off the track by interjections of the kind, especially when they touch his personal attitude. I insist on the rule that an honorable member must be allowed to make his speech without irrelevant interjections.
– If I get carried away, it is by emotion; and my feeling is that we cannot do too much for our boys at the Front.
– I may sympathize with the honorable member; but that question is not before the Chair.
– And yet the Government are going to tax their letters 50 per cent. I know there are some sympathetic hearts and ears on the other side; honorable members there are not all tax gatherers, and I ask theirsupport. When there is any patriotic celebration we see many people’ waving flags and cheering ; and it may be presumed that they would be willing to pay a little more for their lettersin order to allow the correspondence of the soldiers to go free. The British Government give free postage to the letters of men at the Front and those guarding the shores of dear old England ; but we are not asking for so much as that ; all we desire is the old postage rate of1d.
– That is not in the Bill. .
– It is of no use the PostmasterGeneral trying to throw dust in my eyes. When the Treasurer was speaking on the second reading, he told us that this Bill does not affect the oversea postage, but he was manly enough to say that every letter sent outside the Commonwealth would have to pay this addi tional rate, and that provision to that end would be made by Executive act. But once this Bill has passed the third reading what chance shall we have of doing anything to prevent the additional burden being placed on the relatives of soldiers? Now is the time for us to act, and I think the thanks of the House are due to the honorable member for Hunter for bringing forward this matter. If honorable members believe in. what they say on the platform when they ask men to go to fight our battles, for Heaven’s sake, when they get the chance of putting their preaching into practice, let them be men like the soldiers at the Front. Surely to goodness there are enough of us in Australia to bear the additional taxation. Tax me twice or three times, and tax every other man that can afford to pay, but let the soldiers at the Front enjoy the same rights in regard to postage as they had before they left Australia to fight our battles overseas.
– I should be glad if an opportunity were presented to the House to express an opinion as to whether postage should be charged on the letters sent to the men at the Front by relatives and friends. Unhappily, this Bill does not touch that subject, and at this stage there is no way in which the House can express an opinion upon it. I have no doubt that when the question of applying the principle of this Act to oversea postage is considered by the Cabinet the representations made in the House will have due weight. I am perfectly sure that the members of the Ministry are just as anxious as we are that no further burden shall be added to those already borne by the relatives of soldiers at the Front. I am not attracted to this form of taxation. I have no liking for stamp duties and taxation of that kind, but we must remember that these are not ordinary times, and that the Government must get revenue in the interests of the soldiers at the Front. And when we are asked to reject this Bill by the gentlemen who have refused to do the only thing that could be done to give effective assistanceto our soldiers, many of whom through lack of that assistance have died, we must receive their appeals with a good deal of caution. The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was a little annoyed when following a remark as to his course of action in regard to taxation measures, I interjected “ nothing for thewar.” . He proved by his own remarks on this Bill that when a proposal was made to reduce the postage from 2d. to1d. he opposed it because it would relieve the wealthy of a burden. To-day, when it is proposed to collect an extra1/2d. from the same people in order to raise money for war purposes, he opposes it with all the ability he possesses. What other explanation can there be of that attitude than that, when it is a matter of general taxation, he is prepared to vote for increased postage, but when money is wanted for war purposes he will fight any additional impost to the bitter end. Unfortunately that has been the attitude of members of the Opposition. Every proposal made by the Government for the purpose of raising money for the war is denounced by them as being on wrong lines and inequitable. I have no love for this kind of taxation, or for the heavy taxation that the war brings, or for the war itself, but these things are realities; we must find the money, and I believe that when the people know the strength of the case behind the appeal, they will not complain to anything like the extent that honorable members opposite suggest. I am amused by the complaint of the Leader of the Opposition that this new postal rate is a tax upon the poor. When one sees the piles of advertising matter dumped down at houses throughout the Commonwealth, mail after mail, week after week, and month after month, by the great business firms that are profiteering in this country, we realize whence comes the bulk of the money for postage. This pretence that the postage is paid mostly by the suffering poor in the slums of our cities is so hypocritical that one has to look for some other reason for the attitude which honorable members opposite take. And when these pretences are made in connexion with taxation measures which are brought forward to help to carry on the war by the people who have opposed the only method suggested for giving real help to the men at the Front, we have to assume that it is their opposition . to all war energies that dictates their opposition to the Government’s proposals. I hope that the Cabinet will discover -a way of preventing this increase from falling upon the correspondence sent to the soldiers. But I am sure that if no constitutional course is open to the Government to give that relief, the relatives of the soldiers will appreciate the necessity of seeing that the men at the Front are aided, and the fact that without money the aid they need cannot be given.
Question - That the Bill be now read a third time - put. The House divided.
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a third time.
Bill returned from the Senate without amendment.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s Message) :
– I move -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for on Act to authorize the Raising and Expending of the sum of £1,242,194 for certain purposes.
A Bill will be introduced, based upon this resolution, authorizing the expenditure of loan money upon works. The amount to be so expended is £1,242,194, which is made up of £902,786 for works, land, and material, and £339,408, for the redemption of Northern Territory loans. The total estimated expenditure for the year 1918-19, as detailed on page 316 and following pages of the Estimates of Expenditure, amounts to £1,731,225, to which has to be added the amounts which it was estimated would remain unexpended at the close of the year. These are in connexion with the Naval Bases, £25,000; at Cockatoo Island, for machinery and plant, £80,000; or £105,000 altogether. They, added to the estimated expenditure for the year, make up the sum of £1,836,225, from which I deduct appropriations already available under existing Loan Acts totalling £933,439, making the net total for works authorized under this Bill, £902,786. It is necessary to provide in the Bill for £105,000, which it is estimated will remain unexpended on the 30th June, 1918, because the liability will be incurred during the current financial year, although the actual payment will not be made until next year. The actual expenditure on works paid for from loan fund in 1917-18 was £1,803,488, and the’ estimated expenditure from loans for the current year is £1,731,225, a reduction of £72,263. Provision has been made for the completion of certain works already in hand, and it is only in cases of extreme urgency that new works have been provided for in the Bill. Provision for the purchase of sites has been made only in cases where land has already been acquired. The amount provided for conduits and underground wires for the Post Office is needed to complete sections of the work at present in progress, and to utilize cables already purchased. It may be stated, generally, that the expenditure is being reduced to the lowest possible limit, and it is hoped that during the next financial year it will be possible to further substantially reduce the amounts that will have to be provided for works out of loan funds. The money required will be borrowed under the authority of the Bill from the Australian Notes Fund. The earnings of the Notes Fund are at present at the rate of £1,500,000 per annum, but it is anticipated that further advances will be made to the banks in connexion with the financing of primary products this year, and it is hoped that almost all, if not the whole, of the amount required for works in this Bill will be obtained from the earnings of the Notes Fund during the year. If that happens, we shall be able, should. Parliament authorize it, to carry out such works as this with the net earnings of the Notes Fund, so long as the fund is preserved in anything like its present dimensions. Honorable members will be able to discuss the items of expenditure when the Bill and its schedule is before the Committee. I have given a general outline of the measure, so that . honorable members may know what they are asked to authorize.
.- The Bill which is to be founded on this motion covers a large number of items. It deals with expenditure on Naval Bases, on Cockatoo Island Dock, on the Acetate of Lime Factory, on the Cordite Factory, on the Perth Post Office, on the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta Railway, the contribution to the Murray River conservation scheme, and many other things.
The honorable member for Dampier and others who have investigated the methods of the Works Department tell us that there is great need for economy in the construction of our public works. It is a right thing to give the fullest information at this stage, because it saves trouble later. I deprecate two discussions. Ten or twelve years ago we were told that if there were a Commonwealth Works Department all our public works would be carried out by that Department; but, according to the Bill, the Defence Department is to spend £8,000 on the Acetate of Lime Factory, and the Department of Works and Railways, £10,000.
– Works and buildings come within the function of the Works Department.
– On the Arsenal the Defence Department is to spend £50,000 and the Department of Works and Railways £115,000. On the Cordite Factory the Defence Department is to spend £15,000 and the Department of Works and Railways £21,000. I presume that it is intended that the buildings shall be erected by the Department of Works and Railways and thatthe plant and machinery, in regard to which it may be necessary to observe a certain amount of. secrecy, will be set up by the Defence Department. Honorable members, although they disagree on many subjects, all wish to see a speedy conclusion of the war. When the war is over the Government should be able to effect economy in regard to the Arsenal by buying up-to-date machinery and plant from some of the numerous munitionfactories that have sprung up all over the civilized world, and it should be able to avoid the mistakes made elsewhere. One of the fourteen points enunciated by President Wilson is a general disarmament, which would make expenditure upon an arsenal unnecessary.
– Does the honorable member think that there will be a general disarmament?
– No ; nor do I think that the war postage tax will be abandoned within the lifetime of many of us.
Last night we dealt with the ordinary Works and Buildings expenditure, andI thought that our next business would be to deal with the Estimates of Expenditure out of war loan. I wish to criticise the item which provides for the pay of censors and their staffs, postage, telegrams, and so on. I wonder when we shall have an opportunity to discuss the items which make up the £78,000,000 odd in these Estimates.
I rose chiefly to draw attention to the divided control in regard to public works construction. On Naval Bases the Works Department is to spend £267,000 and the Naval Department £45,000.
– There is no duplication of control.
– There is not enough detail in the schedule. I understand that large naval works are in progress at Flinders and at Cockburn Sound, but 1 find that £25,000 is being voted for the Port Stephens Naval Base. I wish to know how much of the £390,000 required this year is to be spent on labour and material, and machinery and plant? Although we are voting only about £270,500, there is also available the sum of £118,000 voted previously. I think it would be better to give the Committee complete information on all items at this stage, instead of waiting until we get into Committee on the Bill. My experience is that the more ready a Minister is to give information, the easier it is to get a measure passed. In regard to the £390,000 for naval works, only £45,000 is to be spent by the Minister for the Navy.
– All Commonwealth works of any magnitude are now under the control of the Minister for Works and Railways. Naval works, which were formerly under the control of the Department of the Navy, have been transferred to the control of the Works and Railways Department. This change was effected in order to secure greater economy and efficiency, to prevent duplication, and to lead to more direct action. The Works and Railways Department still follows the practice of the past; that is to say, it builds works on the requisition of other Departments, and, when they are completed, hands them over to the Departments concerned, which control them. The Acetate of Lime Factory is practically completed. In fact, it has been in partial operation for some time.
For the two Naval Bases the provision this year is £250,000 for’ labour and material. There will be an expenditure out of this of about £166,500 on the Flinders Base. It has been found necessary to complete certain works there, in order that the depot now at Williamstown, which is occupying land required for shipbuilding yards, may be transferred to the new Base. The whole of the scheme of work has been carefully revised, and only those works which are absolutely essential for the occupation of the Base are being carried out this year. The principal items of expenditure are: Depot surgery, £3,500; armourers’ workshop, £1,700; torpedo and mining school, £5,400; bakery, £2,000; warrant and married non-commissioned officers’ houses, £3,600; main sewage and outfall sewer, £10,253: power station, £4,000; electric light (power and house lighting) for the whole of the area, £16,200; hot water service, £9,000; furnishing and fittings, £4,600; detention barracks, £4,200; water service, £15,000, and other items. In several instances contracts have already been let. In other cases plans and specifications have been prepared, but tenders have not yet been called. Most of the works are being carried out by contract, and the works have been investigated and reported upon by the Public Works Committees. The plans for the detention barracks were amended on the recommendation of that Committee. The amount set down is for sewerage reticulation, but does not include an amount for the outfall.
For the Henderson Base £109,000 will be required this year for labour and material. The principal items are - Dredging operations, £38,000; excavation and reclamation, £35,000; water supply, £1,500; maintenance, hiring, stores, repairs, and so forth, £20,500; breakwaters, £5,000; suspense and store account and material account, £8,500. I visited the Base recently, and investigated the work very carefully in conjunction with Mr. Settle, the Director of Naval Works. It was our desire to put the whole scheme upon a proper basis. From what I could ascertain, the main difficulty in connexion with the work in the past has been the lack of a definite scheme, the failure to prepare plans for a definite and complete scheme. There has also been a haphazard method of carrying out work. All this has now been rectified, and everything is now being done with a definite object in view, namely, the completion of the first portion of a Naval Base in accordance with a plan which has been definitely laid down for the whole scheme. There has been a change in staff and organization, and improvements have been effected in regard to the matter of costing. The whole detailed cost of any portion of the work can nowbe accurately and carefully estimated, even down to the value of the work produced by the varied plants in use there. Operations this year will be confined to dredging, excavation, and reclamation. The heavy cost of work at Henderson Base has largely been due to the inadequacy of the plant in use. The fault does not lie with the Department. The difficulty has been to get plant owing to the war. If a dredger which was ordered twoyears ago could have been secured; it would have reduced the cost of dredging operations considerably, but we could not get delivery of it. The Director of Naval Works has endeavoured to secure another in all parts of the world, even in the outlying portions of the Empire, but his efforts have been unavailing. A dredger is now on order in the Old Country.
– As a matter of policy, does the Minister consider these works should be pushed on vigorously before the latest appliances can be secured?
– We cannot disregard the advice we have received, that it is highly desirable that we should proceed with this work. More than that I need not say. Great difficulty has been experienced in securing steam navvies for excavation works. We endeavoured, without success, to obtain them in various parts of Australia and elsewhere, but we have at last been able to secure two large steam navvies from the United States of America. They are now on their way to the works, and when installed will considerably reduce the cost of excavations. Four other steam navvies are on order in the United Kingdom, and we are trying to expedite their manufacture and delivery.
– Cannot they be made in Australia ?
– We should naturally like to have them made here, but it has been found quite impossible to obtain them in the Commonwealth. The present Director of Naval Works has been endeavouring to place the whole of the works on a definite, systematic basis. He takes care that plans, specifications, and estimates are prepared for each piece of work, and he has now a clear scientific system of costing for the whole Base. His efforts have been directed to an attempt to reduce the cost of the works and to secure the efficient organization of his staff.
– What is the latest advice that the Government have received from the Admiralty in regard to these works ?
– The advice that we have received is that we should proceed with them.
– The Minister has referred to the items of £166,500 for Flinders Naval Base and £109,000 for Cockburn Sound. Will he give the other items which go to make up the total of £340,000 ?
– I intend to do so. So far I have accounted for £275,500 of the proposed vote. Machinery and plant will cost about £50,000. Salaries and contingencies in respect to the head office, the various Naval Bases and Navy works and other offices amount to £37,000. I may say that the whole of the expenditure on these works has been carefully revised, and cut down as low as possible. The Director of Naval Works is now engaged in revising the whole of his staff, in view of the reductions that are being made in Loan Works expenditure, and will employ only “ such a staff as will be adequate for the works to be constructed. We do not anticipate that the estimates as regards salaries will be exceeded. There is an item of £3,500 for radio services, which is a re-vote in respect of all the States.
– Before leaving the question of the Naval Bases, will the Minister state what the complete scheme -for Cockburn Sound will cost?
– What I may describe as the No. 1 scheme, which it is estimated will be completed in ten years’ time, will involve, it is estimated, an expenditure of about £5,600,000.
– I think it will cost double that amount to complete the scheme.
– I am referring to the No. 1 scheme which was prepared by the Director of Naval Works, and which it is estimated will take about ten years to complete. It will meet our requirements for some time to come.
– Is the Flinders Naval Base , being constructed on the original site, or has there been any variation of it?
– The land works are complete with the exception of buildings and certain other works, which are now being designed and erected to enable us to get into occupation in March next. As to the marine side of the work, the original scheme involved the dredging of a channel to the extent of 10 ft. 6 in., but a suggestion has been made to increase it to 25 feet. The expenditure in regard to % Jervis Bay and Garden Island brings up the total to £340,000. The whole of the works at Cockburn Sound and Flinders Naval Base have been carefully examined by different Committees, which have freely criticised them,1 and the plans have been revised by the Director, who has reduced them to the minimum requirements.
.- I desire to obtain some ‘ information with regard to the item of £60,000 for ‘naval and engineering works at Cockatoo Island. I wish also to deal generally with the carrying out of works at Cockatoo Island by the Department of Works and Railways. The Minister has already stated that in the interests of economy all such works have been placed under the control of his Department. In actual practice, however, this system has quite the opposite effect. Especially is this the case in regard to work at the Naval Dockyards. At Cockatoo Island Dockyard we have in charge a highly-qualified general manager, yet if he needs the erection of a workshop or desires any little maintenance work to be carried out he must apply to the Department of Works and Railways to undertake it for him. This means a double cost to the Commonwealth. The manager of Cockatoo Island Dockyard has his own staff of expert draughtsmen and workmen, who could do all such work for him quite effectively, and under his direct supervision. Super. imposed upon that staff we have a staff of draughtsmen and workmen under the control of the Department ‘of Works and! Railways pottering about the Island. They do just as they please, and the general manager at Cockatoo Island hasno control over them and no voice in the determination of the way in which they shall carry out their work. If works of this character are to be carried out without undue waste of public money, they should be under the sole control of the general manager of the Dockyard. He should have full control of not only the construction of war-ships, but the erection of workshops, the installation of machinery, and any maintenance work that may be required for the Yard. Instead of that we find that the Department of Works and Railways has on the Island foremen in galore. They are a duplication of the Dockyard foremen, while employees of the Works and Railways Department are also to be seen doing all sorts of little jobs and duplicating the work of those under the direct control of the general manager. To say the very least, the system is not economical, and that it should be allowed to continue displays a want of judgment on the part of the Minister. Quite recently an extension of a blacksmith’s shop at Cockatoo Island was carried out by contract, although on the Island at the time there were draughtsmen and workmen in the employ of the Department of Works and Railways, who could have made the extension. If they are unable to undertake such work the Department shouldget rid of them. Why should a tender be let to a private individual to undertake work which a departmental staff is athand to deal with ? If we are to have effective management of the Dockyards and proper discipline, it is essential that all work there should be under the direction of the general manager. I hope the Government will take into their very serious consideration the desirability of giving full control of Cockatoo Island to the general manager and his staff.
.- I congratulate the Minister on the statement that the Government are endeavouring to economize as much as possible. The reports of the Public Works Committee, the Committee of Public Accounts, and other Committees seem to have been given some consideration, and it is very necessary that they should, because they have sifted these matters to the very bottom. It is shown, beyond doubt, that at Cockburn Sound much more money has been expended than there should have been; and the cost has been increased for excavation and dredging simply because there are not proper appliances. The steam navvies from America ought to have been on the spot long ago, but we are now told that they are on their way. I know what great difficulties present themselves in this connexion, and that the Director has done all in his power to. secure the necessary plant. It is impossible to build these navvies here, considering the scarcity of material and the resultant high cost. The present Director, whom I do not blame in any way for the present condition of affairs, found things in a very bad way, as I knowfrom the evidence given before the Public Accounts Committee ; and it is pleasing to learn that something is being done to put the works on a proper footing. I doubt very much the wisdom of any large votes in connexion with Defence at the present moment. The out come of the war may be, as I hope, some understanding whereby disarmament, if not complete, may take place to a large extent; and if that be; so, it would, perhaps, be better to wait a few months, or a year, in order to see where we are before incurring heavy expenditure in this direction. We are told that the Government consider it necessary to go on with the work of construction at Cockburn Sound. Just a short time back, the Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said that the Government had been advised by the Admiralty fiat certain sections of the Base should be proceeded with, and the other work left in abeyance, in view of the changed conditions that might be found after the war.
– My remarks to-night had reference to the works we are now doing.
– I am glad to know that, because that was not what honorable members gathered. What the Minister said then is not in conflict with the statement of the Acting Prime Minister?
– It is very questionable what our naval requirements will be after the war. The Admiralty may find, twelve months hence, that, even without disarmament, the whole arrange ments must be changed; and if that be so, it would be more prudent to go slow in the meantime. Does anybody anticipate that if this world-wide war were to be brought to a conclusion at an early date, works of this kind are likely to be rendered necessary by another war? I do not say there may not be another war ; but even if there is, some time must elapse before the nations recover from the present conflict, and there will be ample opportunity to take into consideration the requirements, not only of Australia, but of the whole world, in matters of defence.
Are we justified in spending so much money at the present time? I give the Minister credit for what he is doing in the way of cutting down expenditure, and in obtaining the necessary machinery, as advised, for the Cockburn Naval Base. But, in the meantime, we are still excavating and dredging, and the work is carried on at almost double the cost that ought to be involved.
– Still the Director would not advise our doing otherwise than proceed with the work.
– All I am suggesting is that it would be better to go slow.
– The Director’s advice is that it is more economical and efficient to go on as we are doing than wait for the arrival of the plant.
– In addition, the advice of the Admiralty is to proceed to a certain point.
– The Acting Prime Minister said the same thing some time ago; but, as a layman, I suggest that, even if we have the advice of the Admiralty to go to a certain point, the work is not pressing - that we shall not require the Base for a considerable time after the war. There is no doubt that if we had the machinery here it would reduce the cost of excavating very considerably.
– The Director advises that it would be a heavier loss to discontinue than to leave the valuable plant idle.
– If the future were clear in regard to the construction of Naval Bases, I would say that we ought to go on with the work much more expeditiously than we are doing. Voting small sums for a work which is going to cost a large amount of money, and extend over a number of years, often proves more costly than doing it in a reasonable time with the aid of proper appliances. If proper machinery is used to the fullest capacity, we have evidence to show that the cost would bo considerably reduced; but that, of course, cannot be done in view of the present war. If the Minister states that the Director recommends that we should not discontinue the work, but go on as we are until the machinery arrives, I say nothing against the idea, further than that the cost of the work will be much more than after the machinery arrives.
– No doubt, the machinery will reduce the cost.
– I venture to say now, in the light of knowledge I have myself obtained, that a good deal has been lost in the past because we have not had a suitable man in control to see that we did get machinery. It is wasting money to proceed with a great national work without having everything neces sary from the inception, so that it may be carried out in a proper, business-like way. I. am sorry to say this, but I must speak of things as I find them. The same remarks apply to the Flinders Naval Base.
There are two votes in connexion with the Cordite Factory, one of £15,000 for an experimental trinitrotoluol plant, and another of £10,000 for extensions and additions to the Cordite Factory. I regret that, owing to being otherwise engaged, I was not able to visit the Cordite Factory when the opportunity was presented, and I should like to know why we are incur- . ring this new liability, in view of the fact that the war is drawing to a conclusion. We have, as far as possible, been producing all the munitions necessary for the war, and if this war were to cease we should probably not require one-tenth of the present production, and possibly the services of large numbers of people would be dispensed with. This would leave a great amount of accommodation at our disposal, and probably the machinery would be in excess of our requirements. What, then, is the use of making provision as though we were going into another war? In view of the cost of the present war, and the necessity for economy, that is a question worth consideration. I do not feel that we are justified in incurring expenditure for future munitions for war purposes until we know exactly what the position is. We have been producing sufficient cordite in the past, not only sufficient for our Australian requirements, but sufficient to give a supply to the South African Government. This will not be necessary after peace is declared, and yet we are providing experimental plant, and providing additional accommodation for the manufacture of explosives. There is another item for the Cordite Factory at Maribyrnong for which a sum of £25,000 is provided, although there was nothing on the Estimates for it last year.
– Victoria will be covered with these factories.
– I do not mind where they are. If the work is necessary, it should be proceeded with. But I am in doubt whether these works are necessary, in view of the fact that the war is almost at a close. At any rate, we hope that there will be a satisfactory peace in the near future. Why should we continue spending huge sums of money for the manufacture of munitions when, in a few short months, if peace is declared, we shallrequire to produce less than one-third of the quantity we are producing to-day? Much of the machinery which is now employed will be lying idle; probably some of it will be rusty.
Mr.Fenton. - That all depends on what we intend to do in regard to local defence.
Mr.CHARLTON. - It depends on what is to be done in regard to defence throughout the world. If the nations succeed in agreeing upon a system which will minimize the risk of war in the future and curtail armaments, we shall not be justified in continuing this huge expenditure.
– All the armaments will be scrapped.
– If they are to be scrapped, we should not be spending this money. At this time we should not be wasting one penny that we can possibly save. While we are imposing additional taxation, we ought not to be expending money, especially borrowed money, ton the carrying out of new works, which may not be necessary. None of us can say whether they are necessary. Perhaps before this year is finished, the nations will have decided upon a procedure for dealing with international disputes without recourse towar. They may agree upon a policy of world-wide disarmament, and if that is done, all our expenditure on these factories will be useless.
– Because such arguments were listened to by the people in England before the war, Great Britain was unprepared in 1914.
– The honorable member has not learnt his lesson yet. Notwithstanding all the loss of life during the last four years, and all the costs incurred by the countries engaged in the war, the honorable member is still bloodthirsty, and desires to provide for future wars.
– There would have been less bloodshed ifGreat Britain had been prepared.
– Just so long as the nations continue to prepare for war, sosurely shall we have war. We ought to have learnt something from the experiences we have been through; and I am hopeful that, once we have beaten the enemy, and put Prussian militarism in its proper place, something will be done by the nations of the world to prevent any nation like Germany again disturbing the world’s peace. We, as a young nation that has no great say in these matters, but must be guided by older nations with’ greater populations, can well afford to wait until we see what they intend to do. If the nations take a lead which will mean- disarmament, or a curtailment of the production of munitions of war, we ought to be ready to follow willingly. Again I ask: Are we justified in spending these huge sums until we know the outcome of the war? This is the place to debate these questions. I know that people in England threwcold water on the idea that Germany was preparing for war, and I know all the harm that resulted from their attitude. But I hope that Germany has been taught a lesson ; if she has not, we must continue the fight until she has been taught. But it is not necessary to spend money on the creation of these factories until we know where we are. If the Minister can show conclusively that it is necessary to spend this money I shall have nothing more to say. But as legislators we ought to know what we are doing when we are authorizing the disbursement of huge sums, especially when we are daily expecting that peace will be declared. If the war were likely to continue for two or three years we should make preparation, as, indeed, we have done during the last four years. But I think that we have now reached the maximum of effort that is necessary in this war, and that we can ease off. What is the use of erecting buildings which may not be necessary a little time hence, or of purchasing machinery for the manufacture of certain explosives if those explosives are no longer in demand? We shall do no harm if we defer these works for six months in order to find out how we stand. Then, if it be found that the works are still necessary, we can proceed with them ; if they are not necessary, this money will have been saved.
– The honorable member for Hunter has very earnestly taken his stand on this matter, but I remind him that the war is not yet over, and that we have not reached the stage when we can say that it is advisable for us to stop spending and preparing in connexion with the conflict. No one will be more pleased than the people of Australia when it is no longer necessary to spend a single penny upon armaments. But while the nations of the world are still arming and preparing it would be unwise for any nation to leave itself in a state of unpreparedness. In 1907, when some of us advocated the establishment of an Australian Fleet - and we were a very small body in this House - we were told that such a force was unnecessary. I am one of the few who, from the beginning of Federation,’ fought for the creation of an Australian Fleet. But if we had listened to the arguments of a great many people a few years ago we should not have had our Fleet and Munition Factories in their present advanced state. To-day, while the war is still in progress, and while explosives are still needed in these waters, we cannot abandon the defence works we have undertaken, or the improvements of those already in existence. The Cordite Factory supplied the greater part of the small arms ammunition used by the Australian Forces until their arrival in France; it has also supplied the Dominion of New Zealand, and the troops engaged in the South-West African campaign. Since the outbreak of war the Factory has been extended for the manufacture of big gun ammunition, and is now in a position’ to supply our Navy in Australian waters. What the Government propose is to extend the Cordite Factory for the manufacture of trinitrotoluol. High explosives ought to be manufactured in Australia, because they will be required for our own defence purposes.
– Where is that factory to be?
– It is to be an extension of the Maribyrnong Cordite Factory.
– All the official reports show that these high explosives will be manufactured at the Tuggeranong Arsenal.
– I am informed by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) that the proposed extension is in connexion with the factory at Maribyrnong. The other addition and extension in connexion with the Cordite Factory, involving an expenditure of £10,000, is to meet the expansion resulting from a certain extension of an arm that is being contemplated, and also to provide for the manufacture of detonators and commercial explosives. In view of the serious position created by the lack of a sufficient supply of commercial explosives it is intended that this factory shall be utilized in order to supply the deficiency.
.- There are abundant reasons why, in connexion with the huge expenditure on Defence items, we should be wise to go slowly. It is probable that we shall make more real haste if we do so. We have to admit that the Government must be in possession of information which they may not be at liberty to disclose.
– There is more of that sort of thing than is needed.
– That may be so, but it is a Tegular Government method of justifying a refusal to give information. The advice given to the Government is that they should proceed with these works, and if it be found that they are useless, extravagant, or unnecessary the responsibility will rest with the Government. From one point of view it is delightful to find that honorable members on the other side, who are so enthusiastic about the war, and who tell us that the purpose of it is to end war, have so little confidence in their own anticipations that they are preparing now for the next war. Their conduct is so delightfully inconsistent that one wonders whether they are . still suffering from war fever, and so are unable to see clearly what the future may hold for us. The only justification I can find for these proposals is that if war must be provided for it is necessary that Australia shall be self-contained in the matter of defence armament and equipment. One shudders to think of what might have happened in the earlier stages of the present war when we were so closely and dangerously threatened with invasion had it not been for the presence of the Australia on our coast. We wereat the time without a reserve force which would have enabled us to protect ourselves. I have been delighted to hear the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) admit his conversion to the idea of an Australian Fleet.
– I advocated it when in 1907 the Deakin Government introduced the first Bill to establish an Australian Navy.
– I want to remind the Minister that the Labour party had to decide between the policy of the party supported by him, who believed in having the Australia located in the North Sea, and built by borrowed money in the Old Country, and the Labour policy of having an Australian-owned, controlled, and manned Fleet.
– The Minister for Works and Railways was a member of a party that believed thoroughly in an Australian Navy.
– They believed in a number of things, but they did nothing.
– They did do something. The Government representing that party put by the first money appropriated for a Fleet, and the Labour Government spent it.
– They put the Fisher Government out because that Government would not give a Dreadnought to the Old Country.
– They put out the Labour Government of the day because they would not borrow £2,000,000 from the Old Country to build the Australia and have the vessel placed in the North Sea. It remained for the Labour party to bring into actual being the Australian Fleet, of which we have all been so proud during the last few years. Had it not been for the presence in Australian waters of the battleship Australia, we should have been in a very dangerous position in the early stages of the war. Honorable members are aware of this. The facts are not well known to the public, but we know some of them. The only justification for going on with these works at the present time is that the Government contemplate some necessity for their use in the future, and it is well to be prepared, since we should in Australia provide all that is necessary for our protection. Otherwise these proposals should be” allowed to wait until we know exactly what position the nations are going to be in in relation to each other- after the war is over.
The Government have to take the responsibility for the course adopted, and I do not propose to quarrel with them about it. What I am mainly concerned about is that this loan money shall be properly and economically spent. In ordinary circumstances a very large proportion of this sum of £1,242,000 should not and would not be a legitimate charge upon loan, but in the extraordinary circumstances in which we are placed at present loan money has to be used to meet expenditure which would ordinarily be met from revenue. There are several features of this Loan Bill which do not appear to me to be at all satisfactory. For some years we have complained of the duplication of effort in the expenditure of these huge sums. It seems that in spite of the efforts which have been made, and to which the Minister referred, there is still some duplication. This does not make for efficiency, and certainly does not. make for economy. The honorable member for Dalley has instanced the position of affairs at the Cockatoo Island Dock, and in this connexion I invite honorable members to note some of the items in the schedules to this Bill. The Department of Works and Railways is spending £60,000 on naval engineering and other works at the Cockatoo- Island Dock, and at the same, place the Department’ of the Navy is spending £200,000 on machinery and plant, yard, :and floating plant. It may be that there is a clear line of demarcation between the activities of the two Departments, bub the information presented to us is not full enough to enable us to know that there is no overlapping. In regard to the Acetate of Lime Factory, the Department of Works and Railways is spending £10,000, including instalment of plant, and the Defence Department £8,000 on machinery and plant. -The Committee is desirous that there shall be no opposition or competition between Departments, but that they shall co-operate to secure the most satisfactory results. In connexion with the expenditure on Naval Bases, the Department of Works and Railways is to spend £340,000; the Department of tho Navy wants £45,000 for the Flinders Naval Base; and the Department of Home and Territories wants £20,000 for land and £25,000 for the resumption of land at Port Stevens. The . mention of these figures reminds me that honorable members are quite in ignorance of the cost of these big works. No statement that I have seen has been presented which shows their cost to date, and what will be required to complete them. We vote so much each year, but we are not told how much of the work is done, or how much remains to be done, and how much will be spent altogether. There are three columns of figures placed before us, but at least two more columns are needed to give honorable members the information that they require. We should know how the money is being spent, how much has been spent, and what it is anticipated will be required to complete the various works for which we are asked to vote money. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) gave us details in respect to a number of works at the Flinders Naval Base, and spoke of the sewerage system there costing £10,000. From the knowledge which I gained when a member of the Works Committee, I know that £10,000 would pay only for a part of the sewerage scheme.
– It is only the internal distribution that is covered by that amount.
– My complaint is that honorable members are not told what is covered by any proposed expenditure.
– -There is a good deal of information given in the Estimates. Take the information in regard to the Acetate of Lime Factory, for instance.
– There are footnotes here and there giving information, but we should have fuller knowledge. The Ministerto-night spoke of £5,000,000 being the estimated cost of this Naval Base. We have no means of judging whether that estimate is extravagant or reasonable, and we do not know how much of the money has been spent. I understand that an arrangement has been come to with the Victorian Water Supply Department to provide water at the Flinders Naval Base. I suppose the £15,000 that we are asked to vote to-night is to provide the storage reservoir at the Naval Base and the reticulation service there; but we have no information on the subject. I should like to know from the Minister whether water is yet being supplied at the Base, and whether the scheme is working satisfactorily. It is essential that the Base shall be given a good water supply. Admiral Henderson recommended the establishment of this Base for a specific purpose, but the Government has gone further, and has provided for the establishment of a training school there. That may be an excellent idea, but we should know exactly what we are committing ourselves to. We should not be content to take a step at a time without knowing clearly where we are going. If We cannot see our way, it is impossible to exercise an intelligent control of the expenditure. ‘On the general Arsenal the Works and Railways Department is to spend £115,000 and the Defence Department £50,000; on the Cordite Factory, the Works and Railways Department is to spend £21,500 and the Defence Department £25,000. We do not want duplication.
I ask the Minister whether the sums set down for an experimental T.N.T. plant is being used merely for experi mental purposes ?
– No. I am informed that they intend to actually manufacture T.N.T.
– If we are going to manufacture cordite and propellants generally we must be prepared to manufacture T.N.T. I ask the Minister whether he can give me a little information in regard to the land at Fairy Meadow, New South Wales, for which it is proposed to vote the sum of £8,128. Last night I inquired whether this expenditure is intended to cover the acquisition of the additional 250 acres which are alleged to be required. Does the amount which is set down in this Bill represent the maximum sum that is needed to complete the purchase of this land? I would also like to know what progress, if any, is being made with the projected cement works there. Will a start be made soon in the manufacture of cement, in accordance with the recommendation of the Public Works Committee? I hesitate to object to expenditure upon public works at this particular juncture, because I do not consider that the stoppage of such works would be in the direction of true economy. But if there are undertakings - particularly in connexion with the defence of Australia - which can be safely delayed, I think that we ought to adopt that course. I shall not oppose the granting of this money to the Government. They must accept full responsibility for the proposed expenditure upon the Arsenal. But I do hope that, in connexion with quite a number of items, care will be exercised to prevent the overlapping of Departments, in order that we may secure efficient and economical control.
. - I think that the Committee should be very clear as to the amount of the expenditure which it is prepared to sanction upon works of the character referred to by the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson). We must always recollect that the population of Australia is only 5,000,000, and, unless there is a prospect of doubling our population within the next few years, that circumstance should impose a limitation upon our activities in regard to naval and military matters. We are still part of the far-flung British Empire, and unless the honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) and others who think with him look forward to being separated from that Empire, they will agree with me that, in the near future, the Mother Country is likely to do something in conjunction with ourselves to insure the adequate defence of the Pacific. I understand that our Naval Bases are being established largely “ on the recommendations of Admiral Henderson, and I have not yet heard that his opinions as a distinguished member of the Royal Navy have been seriously challenged. His idea was that a large sum should be expended upon the construction of the Henderson Naval Base, but that our activities at Flinders should be limited to the establishment of a sub-base. Yet it is now proposed to make the latter place ‘as important as the Henderson Base.
– No; Flinders is only to be a sub-base for destroyers.
– I think that the policy recommended by Admiral Henderson in that connexion has been considerably extended, and I question whether it was a judicious step to take. I do not think there is very much in the remarks which have been made in regard to dual control by Departments. When I was in office, Parliament considered it was very desirable that all “works should be supervised by the Department of Works and Railways. But prior to that period, a very considerable expenditure had been incurred upon works by the naval and military authorities, whose estimates, especially in relation to undertakings which were not of a naval or military character, required .to be very closely scrutinized. We are all desirous of economizing wherever economy can be effected without impairing efficiency. I am inclined to believe that, in the immediate future, there will be no need for us to incur any huge expenditure upon war materials. I amof opinion that the present war will prove a terrible object lesson to humanity for. many years, and that the moral force exerted by the peoples of the different countries throughout the world will prevent a repetition of such a ghastly tragedy.. It must not be forgotten that the two “contemptible’’ Armies referred to by the Kaiser - the contemptible British and the contemptible American Armies - have practically crippled the German military machine. What I am leading up to is this: All the war materiel that we may require for the reasonable necessities of the defence of Australia we should be able to purchase fairly cheaply when this war is over. The type of armaments now in use should be sufficient for us for some years to come. After the war we can take a survey of our position, and lay down what we intend to do according to our population. Because we possess an island continent almost as big as Europe, it cannot be argued that we should spend money for the purpose of protecting it in proportion to its size. That would be an insane project. We are limited, as to the amount of money we can spend for this purpose, by our population, and by the protection that our relations with Great Britain will afford us. There is no need to foster an alarmist policy, and imagine that our independence, or right to hold this country is likely to be endangered. There does not seem to be any great urgency for carrying on the construction of Naval Bases other than to keep work going which is already in hand; but it would be better for us to slow down if we have not the proper plant for carrying it out economically. If we are to shift the ocean with buckets, it will be nothing but a waste of money. There is a great deal in what is being said, by members of the Public Works Committee as to the waste of money which has occurred in the past; but I do not look upon it in the light in which they regard it, because in starting out upon a new undertaking one has always to buy his experience. There is no man in business but has had to buy his experience, and some business men have paid pretty high prices for theirs. The Commonwealth has to pay for its experience. There is no royal road it can travel in this regard. At the same time, there is no necessity for us to waste£ 1 or £100 a day by continuing to work with inadequate machinery. It would be better for us to pull up if we have not adequate machinery and plant with which to construct these Naval Bases. Even if the Government have this money voted, they are not bound to spend it. Therefore, I ask them to look very carefully into these matters, and see that money is not wasted through the lack of up-to-date machinery.
– The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) has sought some information in regard to the item of £8,000 on the Estimates in connexion with the acquisition of land at Fairy Meadow. This item was on last year’s Estimates, and represents the amount which we think ought to be paid as compensation for certain land. However, one of the claimants has issued a writ for £100,000, and obtained preliminary judgment against the Commonwealth in the Supreme Court of New South Wales. The claim itself has not yet been determined by the Court. It is an involved question as to whether the claimant is entitled to compensation for the cement contained in his land. The land was acquired for the purpose of getting that cement.
– What is the area ?
– I cannot say offhand, but the matter does not depend so much upon the surface area as it does upon the question of whether the claimant or the New South Wales Government is entitled to compensation for- the cement.
No general purchases are now being made in the Federal Capital Territory.. The items on the Estimates are for purchases already made. The total area is about 578,000 acres, of which about 200,000 acres have been purchased. Fair rental is being received on the Government outlay, the average being about 5 per cent. I wish we could acquire the balance of the land owned by private persons. It is a little rough on them that they cannot tell what they will receive from the Crown, and, as the construction of the Capital is still delayed, they are in an awkward position if they should wish to dispose of their land or borrow upon it. From time to time correspondence has reached me asking why we are not purchasing the balance of the land, but at present’ the war holds supremacy over everything else, and in order to exercise economy no purchases are being effected.
.- The Minister for Works and Railways has indicated that the construction of Naval Bases is being proceeded with on the advice, I take it, of the British Admiralty. I have not a word to say against the wisdom of Australia accepting advice from the highest authority available in regard to the construction of Naval Bases or the building of a Fleet. We know the value of the advice that has been given in the past. In 1909, when that grand Conference took place between the representatives of the Dominions and the Lords of the Admiralty, a scheme was drawn up which satisfied the aspirations of Australia for an Australian Fleet, and, at the same time, madeit an organic part of the British Navy. The value of that scheme has already been proved during the present war. In the promulgation and carrying out of any great naval programme we must be guided by the advice of the British Admiralty, combined with our own experience, and realizing that that was the proper policy to follow, -we invited Admiral Henderson to come to Australia in 1911 and report on the whole project of establishing Naval Bases in Australia and building a Fleet. We have never had a proper estimate of what the scheme he laid down will cost, but we know now that the works contemplated at the Henderson Base will cost about £5,000,000.
– They will cost over £10,000,000.
– The completed scheme will cost anything over £10,000,000, and if we are to apply that same lavish scale of expenditure to the whole of the Naval Bases listed and recommended in Admiral Henderson’s report, we shall probably find that the scheme of Naval Bases will cost from £20,000,000 to £30,000,000 or more. In addition, the fleet recommended by Admiral Henderson would cost about £25,000,000 on then prices. The total cost of his scheme on present prices it is impossible to’ estimate, but it may be anything between £50,000,000 and £100,000,000. We have to superimpose that on the enormous war expenditure taking place now. I do not say that that work must not be carried out, or that it will be found necessary from the experience of this war to alter materially Admiral Henderson’s scheme, but it will be surprising if this, the greatest war in the history of mankind, especially in relation to naval warfare and submarine operations, does not make it necessary to effect very material alterations in the 1911 scheme. In order to maintain the naval and maritime supremacy of Great Britain, which we hope for the sake of Australia will continue, it may be necessary to make material alterations in the location and order of construction of the Naval Bases. It was stated in evidence before the Public Works Committee that it would take ten years to complete an expenditure of about £5,000,000. A few months’ delay will, therefore, be a very small matter if it is. necessary, in order to get the latest equipment, to carry out the work in the most economical way. If some delay is essential, we should be able to get the necessary equipment a little later, and put on a sufficient staff to more than recover any ground that may be lost.
–The Director advises against that.
– I have great faith in the Director of Naval Works. The Admiralty have chosen in him a gentleman with the highest qualifications and ripest experience; but I am speaking of the general scheme as it affects the policy of the Government and of the Admiralty authorities, as their advisers, on the question. I am disappointed that the Minister (Mr. Groom) has not been able on this Bill to tell us that the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) has conferred with the Admiralty authorities on the advisableness or otherwise of carrying out in its entirety the scheme as laid down by Admiral Henderson” in 1911.
– We have done that. A recommendation came from the Admiralty, through our representative in London, on the representation of Sir Joseph Cook, that we should go on with the smaller portion of the scheme, both at Flinders and Henderson.
– I am glad to hear it, but is the Minister for the Navy inquiring into the whole scheme of naval defence for Australia, including the construction of the Fleet? Are we to have laid before us, as the result of his conferences with the Admiralty authorities, a revised and complete scheme in order that we may know what we are committed to in the matter of naval defence works’? The seven years that have elapsed since Admiral Henderson made his report, including the four years of war, must have necessitated vast changes in naval warfare, and perhaps even in the construction of Naval Bases. I realize that the British naval authorities have a heavy task on hand, but I am sure that, in continuance of the wonderful generosity which the Mother Country has shown towards Australia, they would be prepared to devote some time, in conference with our Navy Minister, to the consideration of a complete scheme for our naval defence.
– They said, in effect, that this was not the time to go into the matter. Nevertheless, they advised us to complete the first portions of both Bases. .
– The honorable member had that information given to him as a member of the Public Works Committee, and knows that it was on that information that we made our recommendation.
– We were simply told, as a Committee, that the works ought to be carried out; but that was long before the present delegation went to England.
– Did you approve of it?
– We recommended that the works should be carried out, in accordance with certain plans and specifications, as recommended by Admiral Henderson’; but I am speaking, not as to the particular class of material, or the particular lay-out to be adopted, but of the general policy of Australian naval defence and the construction of Naval
Bases as a whole. We might he told whether, at an early date, a report, compiled as the result of conferences between the Minister for the Navy and the British Admiralty, on the whole question of the naval defence of Australia, will be laid before the House, so that we may be satisfied that the Bases and the Fleet will be up to date in every respect.
– I can assure the honorable member that the Minister for the Navy is doing all that be is asking.
– Is the whole question being inquired into by the Minister while he is in London ?
– May we expect a full statement at an early date?
– You will have the best advice that can. be got.
– In the meantime, while certain works ought to be carried out, undue haste should not be shown in proceeding with the Bases until the equipment necessary to carry out the work in the most economical way has been secured.
.- One must admit that the Government, in view of the enormous expenditure on the war, has tried to economize on public works; and for that I commend them. At the same time, I concur with previous speakers that further particulars might well be obtained aboutsome of the ventures before we are committed too far, possibly only to find some of the gross blunders which occurred a few years ago repeated at enormous cost to the Commonwealth. The Loan Estimates for this year are exceedingly heavy. They total £85,000,000, of which £1,731,000 is being provided for public works. The public debt of the Commonwealth now amounts to £284,000,000; and that of the States to June of last year was £380,000,000, or £664,000,000 in all. I suppose to-day, including the loans to the States during the previous year, it will total pretty well £680,000,000 for a population of less than 5,000,000. It is an enormous debt, and it behoves us to be exceedingly careful in regard to further loan expenditure. The Acting Prime Minister (Mr. Watt) said to-night that he was hopeful that the interest which would accrue from the note issue in future would be sufficient to pay for work of this class. I am inclined to join issue with him, because after the war there will have to be a big withdrawal of the note issue, and the revenue derivable from that source must consequently beconsiderably less. The figures I have quoted show the necessity for the exercise of economy. While economy is being displayed in connexion with works submitted at the present time, it is lacking in respect of general administration. I cannot deal at this stage with the ordinary Estimates, but in considering the expenditure of loan money on public Works we are justified in demanding greater economy in administration, and an endeavour to try to reduce the administrative costs. If I were Treasurer I would cease paying the maternity bonus, which I am inclined to regard as something in the nature of a bribe.
I have been directing attention lately to extravagant public expenditure, because I desire the public to realize the enormous expenditure that has taken place in connexion with many of our large public works. I exhibited last night a photograph showing the enormous filling up works in process at the Federal Capital. Examining it, one would imagine that the authorities were blowing down the mountains to fill up the valleys. No one can say what will be the ultimate expenditure on the Federal Capital; but I am glad that the Minister is not providing any money in connexion with it at the present time. The total expenditure on the Federal Capital is £1,742,000, but one cannot find there value for an expenditure exceeding more than £200,000 or £300,000.
– That is an extraordinary statement to make.
– What works have we to show at the Federal Capital for the money that has been expended there? Probably £50,000 has been expended on the Cotter works.
– What is wrong with them?
– No doubt they are necessary, although it is an engineering question as to whether the water should have been pumped up or brought there by gravitation. As to the brickworks, the less said about them the better. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) displayed some anxiety tonight with regard to the project for the manufacture of cement at Fairy Meadows. It seems to me that we have had, in regard to that undertaking, the same fairy story that we had in relation to the brickworks. I have it from the best departmental authority that the cost of bricks produced at Canberra is 84s. per thousand. That is not a fair criterion of the ultimate cost, since it represents only the result of the first trial of the works. It is estimated that when the works are in full going order the cost will be about 64s. per thousand. The Cotter dam, as I have said, has been built, and the water supply brought practically into the Federal City. There is also a huge power house, and there has been some expenditure on the sewerage scheme. Other than these works there is nothing to show for the expenditure that has been incurred at the Federal Capital.
– There are a good many buildings there.
– There are no buildings of any importance.
In regard to the Naval Base expenditure, I fully concur with the remarks made by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) in regard to the new Director of Naval Works. Money has been wasted in the past on Naval Bases, but I do think there will be an improvement in the future. It was made clear to the Public Works Committee that the cost of handling dirt taken from the reclamation works at Cockburn Sound was altogether too high, and that it was absolutely essential, in order to secure economy, that large American shovels should be used. We found that with the use of small cranes, and allowing for overhead charges, it cost about 3s. 2d. per yard for breaking down the dirt and carrying out the reclamation work. At the same time the West Australian Engineer for Public Works, under the day labour system, was blasting rock in Fremantle Harbor, dredging it, and dumping it 4 miles out to sea, for 2s. 8d. per yard. Up-to-date machinery is absolutely necessary in connexion with these works, which at present is not obtainable, and I agree with the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Sampson) that delay would be wise at the present time, since the information we shall obtain as the result of the war is likely to necessitate in the near future many big changes.
I think it well to draw attention to these matters. We realize that an enormous sum has been frittered away and wasted during the last three or four years. This waste of money should not be allowed to continue, more particularly in view of the statement made the other day by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) that since the outbreak of war we have borrowed from the British Government no less than £47,500,000. It is a shame and a disgrace to Australia that at the present time we should borrow a single sixpence from the Mother Country. The Committee should insist on the promise being given by Australia that under no circumstances should we during the war again go to the Old Country for money. That was undertakenby the Treasurer, so far as borrowing for the States was concerned. I should like to see the same affirmed in respect to war purposes. The Mother Country has bought a large proportion of our wheat. Some 2,000,000 tons are lying in Australia which have been purchased by England. She has given us tens of millions of money for our wool, which she has not yet received; and she is buying almost all our products. At the same time we dare to go to her and borrow money to continue this wretched riot of extravagance. In addition, we owe Great Britain £38,345,000 in connexion with the upkeep of our troops; and there is an item of £10,309,000 of deferred pay which we owe to our own soldiers. All these huge items are increasing.
– But we have stopped all that.
– The Treasurer has pointed out that he does not intend, so far as the States are concerned, to go to the Old Country to borrow.
– I have gone a long way further than that. We have paid off a good deal of the original amount which had accrued. We are paying interest on it now, and we are not increasing it, and we shall continue to reduce it.
– The Treasurer stated that we were paying on £38,000,000.
– We have reduced it from £49,000,000 to £38,000,000 already, and are paying interest on it for the first time - two years in one year - and we shall not increase it, but will reduce it.
– That is good; but the fact remains that we still owe £38,000,000 for the upkeep of our troops. We ought to pay our own way. Compare Canada with Australia. I shall quote from a speech delivered in the Canadian Parliament, in January, 1917. Canada, up to that period, had financed, from its own resources, its war expenditure. In addition, that Dominion had created credits for the Mother Country to the extent of £50,000,000. Canada had manufactured war munitions for the Allies to the value of £200,000,000.
– It is a well-known fact that Canada is not supporting her troops at the Front. We are paying for every shot, and Canada is not.
– The facts, as I have quoted them, are clear. The comparison with Australia is very bad. There has been a drift here, and the people should be compelled to realize it.
I would have been pleased had the Treasurer made a statement in regard to one work which, to my mind, is of far more importance than all the works on the Estimates. That is in connexion with proposals to dam the Murray, so as to promote settlement along the river. That should be pushed forward more rapidly than any other work in Australia. If the Murray can be dammed at certain points it will provide an opportunity for the settlement of hundreds of our men on their return from the Front. Huge sums will be required for repatriation, for pensions, and to bring our men back home; and no work would be of such benefit as the damming of the Murray in the interests of closer settlement. Every effort should be made by the Federal Government, in concert with the Governments of the three States concerned, to have the project pushed on with as speedily as possible. Settlement along the river means productive work, and that is worth very much more than any attempts made to bolster up industries in the great centres of population.
We are about to pass a vote in connexion with the Arsenal. For the past two years I have been trying to induce
Parliament to seriously consider whether money should be expended upon an Arsenal at Tuggeranong. I have endeavoured to point out that the site is one that cannot commend itself to any business man. Before spending any money in work of this sort a sound business Committee, with no restrictions, should be asked to report. The scheme is to cost between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. It will cost something like £2,500,000 to house, the workmen alone. The Commonwealth Architect - Mr. Murdoch - two years ago, in giving evidence before the Public Works Committee, stated that the cost would be £1,750,000. To-day that would amount to quite £2,500,000. Upon a work of this character no mistake should be made. Changes must be taking place every day in regard to the manufacture of munitions of war. When the conflict is over we shall be able to get the very best expert advice, and plant, which, if ordered to-day, would cost a huge sum over and above what it will probably cost soon after the war is over. After the war, plant of every description will be scrapped, and the finest will be obtainable for next to nothing. We shall also be able to avail ourselves of the very best expert advice, which we ought to demand before committing the country to this enormous expenditure.
One word in connexion with the vote for underground telephone conduits. I hope that in the expenditure on telephones the Government will give serious consideration to the requirements of the back country. It is absolutely necessary that those people who are developing the resources of the country, and in almost every instance running the risk of drought and other difficulties, should have the conveniences of civilization. There is instance after instance of people in the bush offering to guarantee 10 per cent. on the cost of the construction of telephones, and being refused by the Government.
– Does the honorable member not know that most of the PostmastersGeneral have been country members?
– I do not know how to class the present Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster). I suppose his mind is so given to verse that he forgets the needs of the back country. We ought to remember that it is the people in the bush ‘who keep the people in the city - that if it were not for production outback there would be no need for cities. What is more, I know that city members are desirous of giving these conveniences to the country people; and I feel sure that if a vote were taken an amendment would be carried in their favour. I therefore hope that the Government, in dealing with the loan expenditure, will keep in view the necessity of exploiting the latent resources of the great hinterland of Australia. It does not benefit the country one iota to have these conduits laid down in the cities. It is said that they tend to greater economy, but that at any rate has not been noticeable in Sydney.
The Public Works Committee will next week present the report on the railway in connexion with the proposed Arsenal, and I should like to know if .the Government will treat the vote as to the construction of that railway as a test whether the Arsenal shall be constructed.
– The House has decided that question by previous vote.
– We cannot have the question voted on every session. The honorable member may take it that the Government are committed to the Arsenal.
– Then I think it. is a great mistake, and I shall try to have the question put to the vote, with a view to the House insisting on further information before agreeing to this enormous expenditure.
.- The Government, in submitting these figures to the House, have had the best data to work on, and it is unnecessary to deal with them further. There are a good many votes that I do not think necessary in connexions with the Naval Bases, seeing that after the war the whole of the conditions will be changed. I dare say that the next war, if there be one, is a long way in the future, and that the fighting will be more-in the air and under the water than on the water and on the land.
It is proposed to spend a large, sum of money on the Acetate of Lime Factory, although this commodity could be obtained very cheaply in this country, without any interference by the Government.
Honorable members have spoken about the necessity for experts, but we have one of the best men in Australia that could be found in the British Empire, in the person of Sir William Creswell, who has done much for Australia in connexion with the Navy; and it is a great pity that we should lose his services at this juncture. Until the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) returns from the Homeland no serious steps should be taken in connexion with the Navy.
The Government have appointed a great many Boards, Committees, and Commissions, and it would appear that shortly the Government itself will not be necessary. . To-day we have read of a Board of four business men being appointed, in face of the fact that in this House there are many business men who have been completely ignored in these matters. The Government ought to look into this question very carefully, for I firmly believe they would not have got into their difficulties about price fixing if they had taken the opinion of business men who occupy seats here.
Whatever we do we ought to take care that telephones are spread all over Australia. We cannot expect people to live in the country unless they are given the facilities and conveniences of civilization; and we ought not to try to make a profit out of telephones and mail services.
As to the Federal Capital, enormous sums have been spent there, and I hope that some strong Government or party will arise, and either proceed with the work and finish it, so that the business of the country may be conducted there, or at once stop the whole operations. Personally, I am in favour of the latter step, for, with neither wood, water; nor stone, no site is more unfitted for .a Federal Capital than Canberra. The idea of a Capital city there is absolutely ridiculous, and the sooner it is abandoned the better it will be in the interests of the country. We have already spent over £2,000,000 in the Capital area, and I am certain that if a referendum were taken there would be an overwhelming majority against the project. I believe it would bea very good thing if the Federal Capital project were abandoned.
The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) stated that he would be willing to help the Government in every way to do their duty to the country. It is the duty of all of us at this juncture, when we are short of money, and fighting for our lives, to act as one body, irrespective of party, and do our best in the interests of the country. But for the services rendered by our soldierboys and the British Navy, we would not be here discussing these matters to-day. The duty devolves upon us of saving money at every opportunity, and of lifting the load off the shoulders of the people. Australia is one of the greatest producing countries in the world, but nobody seems to be helping the producer. We are trying to place burdens on him at every opportunity, and are fixing the price of every commodity he produces. When we have killed the producer, we shall have destroyed the creator of our wealth, and to whom shall we then look for our money? There is too much tinkering by the Government in every direction. I look forward to the day when we shall have a Government elected by the Parliament. In the meantime, I hope that the Government will” see that everything possible is done to economize. They will find their supporters anxious to assist them; but Ministers are in possession of facts governing expenditure, and they should make them available when we askfor them.
I notice that £300,000 is to be spenton the Kalgoor lie-Port Augusta railway - that miserable line which ceased running for a fortnight because of a strike. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) will not be doing his duty if he does not compensate every person whohad booked to travel on that railway and was prevented from doing so. The Government took the people’s passage money, but did not fulfil their contract, and the result was that some people were stranded, and had to borrow money to reach their homes. I am sure the Minister will give compensation if possible, and I hope we shall never have a recurrence of that experience. If the executive of the union in Melbourne had done their duty, they would have sent men to operate the railway for the Government till the strikers came to their senses. Indeed, the Government should have insisted upon the union doing that. Unfortunately, many things which we should do we are not doing. In conclusion, I trust that the Government will take care that their expenditure is confined to works of a reproductive character.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
War News - Criticism of Naval Administration - Shipbuilding : Employment of Non-unionists.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– I understand that some important news with regard to the war has been received by the Government. Can the Acting Prime Minister give the House any information ?
.- No; I would be very glad indeed if I could give honorable members any information that could be published, but I am not in a position to do so.
– A statement appeared in the Age and a question was asked by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) in regard to a passage in the Royal Commission’s report on the administration of the Department of the Navy. The Age contained a reflection on a former Minister for the Navy, and I think it only fair that I should make a statement of the facts. With regard to the statement appearing in the press, quoting from the Royal
Commission’s report on the Navy Department, in regard to the settlement of a contractor’s claim for the fitting out of transports, the following statement appears in the Commission’s report: -
The departmental records show that from August, 1915, to February, 1916, disputes arose between the contractors and the Department, and in the latter month the Acting Director of Navy Accounts stated, in reference to a claim for £27,688, that “the deductions might amount to £15,000,” and recommended a payment of £7,000. On 25th June, 1916, the Acting Director of Navy Accounts reported that the examination of accounts which has been made shows that deductions totalling at least £20,000 will be made from the above balance.” Notwithstanding the necessity for taking these deductions into consideration when settlement was being effected, it seems almost incredible that the contractors’ claim for £29,877 was met by a payment of £25,850.
This statement in the report of the Royal Commission requires amplification. The payment of £7,000 was not recommended by the Acting Director of Navy Accounts in final settlement of the claim of £27,688, but as a progress payment only inrespect of the total claim of the contractor, which claim, on final rendering, amounted to £177,330. As to the statement that the Acting Director of Navy Accounts estimated the deduction on a claim of £27,688 at £15,000, the facts are that the deduction of £15,000 referred to the estimated deductions on the total claim of the contractor for £177,330, and not to the amount of £27,688. The latter sum was a part only of the total claim.
The actual position in regard to this contractor’s claim for fitting out transports is that the accounts rendered for £177,330 weresettled for a sum of £163,834, being a reduction of £13,496. The anticipated reduction of £15,000, which was, on a later estimate, increased to £20,000, was not realized, chiefly owing to the criminal proceedings against one of the sub-contractors not being successful. It will be seen that a substantial reduction on the sum claimed was obtained, and further reductions could only have been effected by civil proceedings, which would have been prolonged and expensive. Acting on the advice of counsel, the Department took the course considered to be most economical, and, after negotiation, settled the claim for an agreed sum. Now I propose to give honorable members an extract from the coun sel’s advice referred to, which should absolutely clear up the matter. He advised as follows: -
I think it certain that of the amount of such discrepancies, &c, a considerable sum will, on further investigation, be found to be due to Cone, and the question is how best, in the interests” of the Department to deal with the matter. Three courses are open -
Leave Cone to sue the Department, and then resist his claim, counterclaiming, if thought advisable, for damages for negligence in not exercising proper supervision, and so forth ;
refer the matter to arbitration;
endeavour to settle the whole matter amicably.
and (b). However profitable these courses may be to me personally,I do not feel that I can recommend their adoption. In either case, I feel that some amount would have to be paid by the Department, and the result would be very heavy costs, owing to the lengthy nature of the proceedings. Every one practising in the Courts is familiar with the proceedings in building contract cases, and knows that the results are almost always incommensurate with the expenses incurred.
I should, therefore, recommend that an attempt be made to settle the whole claim. I need hardly say that I have considered this matter very thoroughly and carefully, and I am certain that such a settlement would be in the interests of the Navy Department, and would avoid a very long, troublesome, and costly litigation.
There was a reference to this matter in to-day’s or yesterday’s newspaper, in which the name of Mr. Jensen appeared, and in which he appears to have been blamed in connexion with this matter; but the papers will show that even the recommendation in connexion with the payment of the progress account of £7,000 was turned down by the Minister. The minutes will show that Mr. Jensen had the accounts held up for over two months, until the legal advice I have quoted was obtained. I leave it now to the House to judge whether there has been anything wrong done by the Department in connexion with this transaction.
.- I wish for a moment to direct the attention of the Acting Minister for the Navy (Mr. Poynton) to a matter of very great importance. I have received a wire from Sydney, giving the information that a number of nonunionists are being employed in the new ship construction branch at Cockatoo Island. I may say that that is a distinct breach of the shipbuilding agreement, and also of the award of the tribunal appointed
Under that agreement. The agreement, in the first place, set out that preference Was to be given to members of the unions that were parties to the agreement, and, as. I have said, the tribunal gavea decision which confirms that preference.
– Does the honorable member refer to the employment of the men who are ‘termed “ loyalists “ ?
– Those are the very men to whom I am referring.
– The tribunal decided thatthey should be employed.
– If the Minister will take notice of this matter, he may save a good deal of trouble. I am giving him this information in good faith. The agreement cut the men referred to out of the shipbuilding work,but not out of other work. The tribunal appointed by theGovernment to go into the matter distinctly gave an award of preference to unionists, and cut the men called “ loyalists “ clean out of new work. I want to tell the Minister that, if he desires to. carry on shipbuilding without any hitch’, he will need to get on to this matter without any delay. I will leave the matter at that. I ask the Minister to look into it, as the difficulty may have far-reaching effects, and may involve a stoppage of work in the industry, which, I am sure, I do not want, and which, I am sure also, the Minister does not desire. I trust that he will have immediate inquiries made, and see what can be done to avoid any Serious difficulty.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.58 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 October 1918, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1918/19181017_reps_7_86/>.