7th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Dr. MALONEY presented a petition from citizens and electors of the Commonwealth praying that expression of opinion may be made lawful; that the section of the Post and Telegraph Act which makes the sending through the post of blasphemous matter an offence may be repealed, and that the common law which makes blasphemy an offence be abolished.
Petition received and read.
– On 17th September last the Assistant Minister for Defence informed me that inquiry would be made as to whether there was in existence a report by the late Sir Samuel Pethebridge dealing with the administration of German New Guinea after the war. I desire to aak the honorable gentleman whether the Teport has been discovered, and, if so, will it be made available to honorable members?
Mr.WISE. - I have had a search made, but no such report can be discovered. The papers prepared by the late Sir Samuel Pethebridge which we found dealt only with the affairs of German New Guinea as existing at the time they were drawn up. There was no report as to its futureadministration.
Business to be Dealt with.
– I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether he can yet inform the House as to the business to be dealt with before the prorogation of Parliament, and the date of the prorogation?
– The following is a list of the Bills which it is proposed to ask the House to consider before the prorogation : - Loan Bill; Matrimonial Causes (Expeditionary Forces) Bill; Deceased Soldiers’ Estates Bill; Treaty of Peace (Germany) Bill; Sugar Industry Commission. Bill; Customs Bill; Referendum (Constitution Alteration) Bill; Electoral (Temporary Soldiers Voting) Bill; War Service Homes Bill; Indemnity Bill; Legal Proceedings Control Bill; Land Mining Shares and Shipping Bill; Northern Territory Railway Rates Bill; Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill ; Navigation Bill; Tasmanian Debentures Bill; Customs Tariff Validation Bill; and Excise Tariff Validation Bill, together with all Bills from the Senate which will be dealt with as they reach this House.
– In view of the lengthy list of business which the Prime Minister has announced must be dealt with before the prorogation, I desire to ask the right honorable gentleman whether the Government still propose that the general. elections shall be held on 13th December’ next, or whether it is to take place on 13th December, 1920?
– Every one, irrespective of party, will admit that the question is both urgent and important. If I were to consider my own inclinations, I should say that the next general elections would take place in 1929. But “needs “must when the devil drives,” and who is the devil is a matter to be determined by the electors. I admit that the list ofbusiness is a lengthy one, but it is by no means as bad as it looks. Most of the measures included in it are purely machinery Bills. I do not think there is one that might fairly be termed controversial. We have struck out of the list all controversial measure’s, and those remaining to be dealt with are urgent.
– Will the Treasurer, in connexion with the Old-age Pensions Amendment Bill, take into consideration the claims of blind workers for special consideration, and insure to those engaged in various trades’ and callings a minimum wage by granting a subsidy to bring up their present wages to that level?
– The matter to which the honorable member refers was brought under my notice some time ago by the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Maxwell),and was referred to also by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor).I have arranged with the honorable member for Fawkner to discuss the matter with the two or three members of the blind community who know most about the facts. The interview will take place as soon as I can arrange for it, either this or next week.
– Will the Treasurer lay on the table of the House the recommendations of the Royal Commission on the taxation of leaseholds and the determination of the Government in regard thereto?
– I must ask the honorable member to give notice of his question. I do” not know what has been done by the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) during’ my absence from the Treasury.
– Is the Assistant Minis ter for Defence prepared to submit a report, to the House showing the number of officers previously engaged in Australia on demobilization work, and the number now employd in connexion with the same work?
– I shall submit the honorable member’s suggestion to the Acting Minister for Defence (Senator Russell).
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways any objection to laying on the table the offer made by Messrs. Timms and Kidman to construct a land grant railway from Oodnadatta to the Northern Territory, and correspondence which has taken place in connexion therewith?
– The offer was sent to the Department of the Prime Minister but I shall make inquiries and see whether the honorable member’s wishes can be carried out.
Mr.FINLAYSON. - In connexion with the promised inquiry into the trouble on the s.s. Bahia Castillo, will every encouragement be given to both parties to the dispute to put their cases before theBoard?
– Yes. I hope that the fullest possible inquiry will be made into the whole of the circumstances.
– In granting a war gratuity, or bonus, as I prefer to call it, to members of the Australian Imperial Force, is it the intention of the Government to distinguish between men who were actually in the firing line and those who did not leave London? Further, will the House have the opportunity of discussing the proposed gratuity ?
– It is hardly right that the Government should be asked questions of this sort and be expected to answer them ‘off-hand. I said yesterday, in reply . to the honorable member for Ballarat (Mr. McGrath), who surely has as good a right as the honorable member for Melbourne to ask a question on this subject, that in this matter I was dealing direct with the soldiers, whose business, after all, it is. The Government have given great consideration to these problems, and will be prepared to. state their policy in regard to this and other matters at a suitable and very early date.
– Has the Priine Minister prepared an answer to the question which I asked on Friday last in relation to the disposal of wheat to a Swedish firm without the payment of commission ?
– I tried to get hold of the secretary of the Wheat Board today, but found that he had gone to Sydney to give evidence in some case. However, I shall supply an answer before the House is prorogued.
Report of Mr.McLachlan - War Bonus.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This report is still under consideration, and I arn not yet in a position to make an announcement as to the intentions of the Government in regard thereto.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Whether the Minister’s attention has been directed to two advertisements appearing in the Brisbane Daily Standard of Monday, the 6th inst., headed: -
-The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Lease of Adjoining Land
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 1 and 2. I am not aware of any such negotiations. 3, 4, and 5. I have no knowledge of the matter.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
Will he furnish the House with a statement showing period or periods of active service, and present position of all permanent military officers?
– The compilation of this return will take some time, and involve a considerable ‘amount of work, and as the re-allotment of officers is at present under consideration, it is suggested that the information be asked for at alater date when things are more settled. .
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
Whether, he is yet in a position to make public Admiral Viscount Jellicoe’s report on the Henderson Naval Base?
– The report has not yet been fully considered by the Government, and cannot be made available at present.
Case of Mechanic G. Treacher - Allowance to Mail Contractors
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– I have no knowledge of tie case referred to, but will have inquiries made.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Owing to the high price of horse feed, will he provide an allowance to meet the extra cost by contractors for the conveyance of country mails?
– Consideration is being given to mail contractors in drought areas. This seems all that is practicable in the circumstances.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The -Government, however, recognise that the position of Western Australia, its geographical remoteness from the .treatment plants of the east, impose handicaps upon the producer. While the war was raging this was inevitable, but now peace has come, means have to be found to deal fairly with the Western Australian producers.
asked the Assistant Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether, in connexion with the suggested Convention to consider the proposed alterations in the Constitution (Legislative Powers and Nationalization of Monopolies), the Government will arrange to have the members of the Convention elected by proportional representation, so that all important classes of electors holding different views may be able to be represented in the Convention in proportion to their numbers?
– The intentions of the Government in regard to this matter will be disclosed in due course*
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commissioner has supplied the following: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members’ questions are as follow: -
– Yesterday, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked me the following questions: -
In view of a married man with children having received only £2 4s. per week, will he obtain the following information and give it to the House: -
The list of men, if any, with their names, positions, and salaries, now employed in the Senate and the House of Representatives who are in receipt of £3 and less per week.
If any officers, clerical or otherwise, receive any allowance, payment, &c, in addition to their salaries; if so, indidicate by number, instead of name, and give the salary and amount of extra payment respectively.
I gave the honorable member an interim’ reply, and am now in a position to furnish the following additional information : -
The President of the Senate has supplied me with the following statement: - name, Position.,Wages.
These men are paid, at least, Wages Board rates, and in some cases over. Their working hours are the same as Wages Board award hours in some cases, and in others less. When extra hours are worked, extra payments are made as overtime.
Denholm, lift attendant, £141 per annum. This salary is, at least, equal to Wages Board rates.
No clerical officer receives any allowance other than salary. The non-clerical staff receive an allowance of ls. tea money when on duty, and an occasional special payment for extra parliamentary services, such as conferences, receptions, &c, held at Parliament House. It is not possible to indicate officers by numbers, but, if desired, the names will bc supplied.
The following papers were presented : -
Arbitration (Public Service) Act. - Award and Order of the Commonwealth Court of Conciliation and Arbitration, and other documents, in connexion with plaints submitted by the -
Australian Commonwealth Public Service Clerical Association - Dated 3rd October, 1919.
Commonwealth Temporary Clerks Association - Dated 3rd October, 1919.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a measure to give effect to the Treaty of Peace which this Parliament has already ratified. Its objects are set out on it’s face. It provides that such regulations as are necessary to give effect to Part X. of the Treaty may be made by the Governor-General in Council. It provides also for penalties for any breach of those* regulations.
The Bill is required, primarily, for authorizing the doing of all such things as are required to be done by the Commonwealth, as a signatory of the Peace Treaty, in relation to enemy debts and property.
With regard to debts, the Treaty provides, in Article 296, for what is known as the “ clean slate “ scheme, but the scheme only applies to such of the Allied and Associated Powers and their Colonies and Dominions as adopt Article 296. It is thought desirable that, this scheme should apply to the Commonwealth, and it has accordingly been decided to take the steps required by the Treaty to insure the application of that Article to the Commonwealth. Shortly, the provisions of Article 296 involve, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned, the establishment of a clearing office for the purpose of receiving and paying debts due by Ger.mans in Germany to British subjects in Australia, or vice versa: and of effecting adjustments through a similar institution in Germany.
The Treaty provides that from its coming into force the payment and acceptance df payment of debts to which Article 296 applies, and all communications between interested parties with a view to settlement, otherwise than through the clearing office, is prohibited, and that any Power or Dominion to which the Article applies shall subject contraventions of the abovementioned prohibitions to the same penal-, ties as are provided by its legislation for trading with the enemy.
The Bill now under consideration authorizes the Governor-General to make such regulations and do such things as are necessary to carry out in the Commonwealth the provisions of Part X. of the Treaty. It will be seen that clause 3 authorizes the imposition of certain penalties for breaches of the regulations. These penalties are those provided in the Trading with the Enemy Act 1914-1916, and are the penalties required by the Treaty to be applied in cases of persons evading or attempting to evade the clear- ing office in the payment or receipt of payment of debts. The adoption by us of the Treaty and of Article 296 leaves us no option in this particular.
Each of the Powers adopting Article 296 is responsible for the payment of the debts due by its nationals to those of an opposing Power.
Any balance remaining in the hands of the clearing office here, after adjustment of claims, is to be retained as a credit against Germany’s reparation obligations.
Among the other provisions of Part X. to which reference might be made is that relating to enemy property, rights and interests.’ All measures taken by the enemy to transfer or acquire the property, rights and interests of nationals of the Allied and Associated Powers are to cease, and the property is to be restored to its owners. Those Powers reserve’, however, the right to retain and liquidate the property of German nationals within their territory, and such nationals are debarred from disposing of their property without the consent of the Power concerned. The exceptional war measures taken by the Commonwealth in regard to the property of German nationals are, subject to certain reservations in the Treaty, to be final and binding.. The proceeds of the sale and liquidation of enemy property by the Commonwealth is to be credited to the Power of which the previous owner was a national, through the clearing offices above referred to. Any credit balance in favour of Germany is to be regarded as a credit in estimating Germany’s reparation obligations.
The powers sought under this Bill are urgently necessary in order to enable the provisions of the Peace Treaty to be carried out in the Commonwealth, and to complete action already taken by the Commonwealth during the war in relation to enemy property and interests.
The provisions of - the Bill relate solely to matters as to which the principles are definitely settled by the Treaty, and they only provide for giving effect to those principles, and for providing the machinery and the regulations for carrying them out in detail.
The provisions of the Bill are limited to Part X. of the Treaty, because that is the only part as to which immediate Commonwealth legislation is required to enable us to fulfil our obligations.
Shortly, put, this ‘Bill enables regulations to be made for giving effect to the provisions of Part X. of the Treaty, and in particular to Article 296. It is provided by the Treaty that one of two methods may be taken for the settlement of enemy debts, or of cross debts between this Commonwealth and Germany. We have adopted the clearing house method, under which, where there is a set-off in our favour, it is credited to- us, and where there is a set-off in Germany’s favour, it is credited to Germany. ‘ Penalties are provided for breaches of the regulations to be made, and those penalties are determined by the penalties contained in our Trading with the Enemy Act. It is not competent for us to vary them. In dealing with enemy property, both here and subsequently in the mandated territories, it is provided that, if we resume or take over property held by one who was an alien enemy, payment for that is to be credited to Germany against Germany’s debt to us under the reparation clauses of the Treaty. If we take over property of a value exceeding the amount Germany owes us under the reparation clauses, the excess will be a debit against us; but if, on the other hand, the property we take over is less in value than the amount Germany owes us, that value will be credited to her against her debt to us. I commend the Bill to the House.
.- It is unfortunate that business is being rushed through at such a rate that it is absolutely impossible to deal thoroughly with this Bill, which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us several tiroes is of immense importance. Probably the (Bill will be disposed of in a few minutes, and we shall not have the opportunity of giving to it that consideration’ which it deserves. Part X. of the Peace Treaty covers seventeen pages, and is probably the longest division, of that document. Article 282 deals with no less than twenty-four separate conventions, in addition to the other treaties mentioned in the succeeding articles of Section II. of Part X. This Bill is merely a skeleton. The real legislation under it will be contained in the regulations, which no honorable member will have an opportunity of considering or discussing. I should like to know how the provisions relating to enemy property will affect those enemy ships which were interned in Australian ports soon after the outbreak of war, and which have since been re-christened, and are operating as part of the Commonwealth Fleet. Will the passage of this Bill mean the handing back to Germany of those ships, or, alternatively, their purchase by the Commonwealth at present-day values. ? Most honorable members are aware that the value of shipping has increased enormously during the last few years. A vessel that was worth, say, £100,000 at the commencement of the war is probably worth £200,000 to-day. I know that new steel ships, that could be built for £8 per ton in 1914, were costing £50 to £60 per ton before the war terminated.
– Is not the question of mercantile shipping dealt with in a separate part of the Peace Treaty ‘
– I am not sure whether this Bill does not cover all enemy property, including former enemy ships.
– This Bill does not prejudice whatever right the Commonwealth has under the Treaty to German ships, or any other enemy property.
– If we had more time to consider this measure,’ it would be possible, for honorable members to get a closer grip of the various articles contained in Part X. ‘of the Treaty, including Article 296, which deals with debts. The Bill will be operated by regulations, which probably will be turned out in dozens. They will have the effect of law, but Parliament will never have an opportunity of approving or disapproving of them. As the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) pointed out, two men govern- this country - the Prime Minister and the Government Printer. I am anxious to know how the ships I have referred to will be affected if this Bill is passed in its present shape.
– I have said that the Bill will not prejudice us in any way.
.-The honorable member for Yarra . (Mr. Tudor) has voiced sentiments which would meet with the approval of honorable members generally .if they were confined to the general practice of legislation by regulation, but when bracketed with his protest against the way in which this Bill is being rushed through, I find it difficult to follow him. This Bill is a corollary to the action of Parliament in ratifying the Peace Treaty; and the time for any discussion as to our rights under the Treaty was when we ratified it. The question is purely one of keeping our word that we will observe the provisions of the Peace Treaty; and it is necessary that the Government should have power to enforce paine and penalties on such persons as disobey the terms of the Treaty which we have sworn to uphold. That is all the power the Bill confers; it does not alter one iota any conditions regarding the shipping. Speaking from memory, the question of the disposal of the interned mercantile marine has peen settled in- a special section of the Peace Treaty itself, a section which is not included in the economic sections with which we are dealing by means of this Bill. .Under the circumstances, I think the honorable member for Yarra will confess that his attempt to make political capital out of the way this natural corollary of the Peace Treaty is being put through is absurd, and must appear so to the people he is hoping to deceive.
We have to face the fact that a party that has raised the issue against the profiteer to a certain extent, a party that has largely helped to give the profiteer his peculiar opportunities by inflating the currency - the party that has been suffering from what I call an electoral profiteer rather seriously for the last few weeks - would now attempt to prevent this Parliament going to the country, and getting power . to deal with, an issue that they themselves have described during the last two years as a burning one.
– The honorable member must confine himself to the question before the House.
– I quite admit that the remarks I have just made are as much out of order as were those of the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) to the effect that this Bill- is being rushed though. I urge honorable members to regard the Bill purely &s a corollary of the Peace Treaty, and to pass it without a parade intended purely for the electors outside.
.-It is absolutely impossible for members to diecuss the Bill with the notice -given. Notice of. motion was given for its introduction yesterday, and the Bill was not made available, or was not seen by honorable members, until a quarter of an hour ago. It deals, as has already been pointed out, with some 152 articles of the Peace Treaty, contained on fifteen pages of closely printed matter. These articles of the Peace Treaty affect most widespread interests, , and purport to set up tribunals; and it is perfectly obvious that there is not one member of the House who has the slightest idea of just where this piece of legislation may land us. I quite agree that as the House has adopted the Peace Treaty, we must proceed with whatever legislation- is necessary in order to carry it into effect; but I do protest against the inadequate time allowed for the consideration of the Bill. I say quite frankly to the people who sent me here that I have no idea what the Bill means, or where it will carry us; and if I have an opportunity, I shall vote against it for the reasons I have given.
– How much time would you like in order to know what it means ?
– Just a little less time than the honorable member would require.
– That is no answer. I know now.
– The honorable member knows perfectly well that what I am saying is absolutely correct. What is occurring now occurred in the case of the Peace Treaty itself; we did not know what responsibilities and obligations were being cast upon us. I gave some attention to a particular branch of the Peace Treaty, and I venture to say that my investigations, which were very extensive, brought to the knowledge of honorable members facts with which they were unacquainted. The same thing would probably occur if the attention of honorable members were directed to other particular branches of the Treaty.
In the case of the Peace Treaty, I sought to have a non-party Committee of both Houses appointed, on the lines of the Committee of the United States of America Senate, to make a thorough investigation. I may live a good while, and be in politics for some time. As to the latter, of course, one cannot altogether be sure; but, however that may be, I have been caught napping once For twice in Parliament. For instance, I voted for the War Precautions Bill, and it was a shock to me to find the uses to which that measure was subsequently put. I never would have voted for it, but, on the contrary, would have protested against it with my last breath, had I thought there would be the criminal proceedings we have witnessed. We placed our faith in precedents; we were told that something had been done iu another Parliament, and that we must follow the example, and everything would be “all right.” A large number of us, if not a majority, voted for the measure; but I fancy that if it were put before us again to-morrow it would not obtain a majority vote. That is the result of voting for measures we do not understand; and the same applies to the Bill before us. I am determined that if legislation comes before us of which I cannot get the “ hang “ and effect. I will vote it down. If something happens under the Treaty that we are not able to foresee, owing to lack of time for consideration, I shall refuse to take any responsibility. There have been a number of similar instances before, and I shall do my best to safeguard the people from being landed in such a position again. In the time at our disposal it is absolutely impossible to ascertain the obligations and responsibilities which are cast upon our shoulders by this innocent lookingmeasure.
The Bill really empowers the Government to carry out over 150 Articles of the Peace Treaty, but how they are to be carried out we do not know. This has to be done by regulation, and behind this Parliament there has to be another and more powerful Parliament - a little junta which is to issue regulations. These regulations are supposed to be issued by the Governor-General, who, however, knows nothing about them, except that he is told to sign them. However far-reaching the effects of the regulations may be, and whatever obligations they cast upon us financially or otherwise, this country is committed to them, and three Ministers behind Parliament may issue them without limit. Any one of the regulations may be of the length, authority and importance of an Act of Parliament; and, so far as I am concerned, I take this opportunity to repudiate legislation of this description.
.- The speech of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) should not go without a few words in reply. In the first place, the honorable member says that the Bill was not distributed until to-day : but he knows, or ought to know, that it was distributed on the tenth of this month, and if he has not seen the Bill before it is his own fault. In the second place the honorable member saysthat this Bill gives a power to the Government to do practically anything they like. It does nothing of the sort. To all intents and purposes all the Bill purports to do is to give the power that is given in every Act of Parliament to make regulations in conformity with the Act. The Act, in the present instance, is the Peace Treaty itself, which has been indorsed by Parliament. The honorable member for Cook complains of the number of sections in the Peace Treaty; but I remind him that we have Acts on our statute-hook containing infinitely’ more sections. “When the honorable member says that this Bill gives the Government unlimited power to do what they choose behind the back of Parliament”, he is endeavouring, in my opinion, to mislead the public.
.- Whatever the Bill purports to be, it carries with it nothing less than the value of a blank cheque, enabling whatever Government is in power to do anything they choose, under cover of regulations, regarding some of the most important provisions of the Treaty of Peace, and particularly matters affecting, in close relationship, the most vital interests of the country. The Bill deals particularly with Part X. of the Peace Treaty, and the most cursory examination of that part of the Treaty shows the immense importance of the matters involved.
May I, for public information - because honorable members are already aware of the facts - point out the great importance of the items involved in Part X., which contains the economic sections. There are eight sections: the first relates to commercial relations, Customs regulations, duties and restrictions, shipping, unfair competition, treatment of nationalities of Allied and Associated Powers and general Articles. Section 2 deals with treaties. Section 3, which is a most important and carefully compiled’ part of the Treaty, deals with debts; section 4 with property, rights, and interests; section 5 with contracts, prescriptions, aud judgments; section 6 with mixed arbitral tribunals ; section 7 with industrial property; and section S with social and State insurance in ceded territory. In all these matters it must be candidly conceded that, whatever Acts or rules we may try to apply, Ave are bound by the Treaty of Peace conditions and specifications. We cannot go beyond them. We are bound by the terms of the Treaty of Peace, and our regulations cannot ignore them or supersede them.
What always weighs heavily upon my mind in this regard is that we are compelled by the Treaty of Peace, and will be still more compelled by the regulations made under this Bill, to simply keep step with the Allied nations. Whatever conditions they choose to impose in reference to the economic clauses will, ipso facto, be our regulations. Our interests will be their -interests, and to that extent this is going to seriously and in the future increasingly handicap as well as determine the development of Australia in its foreign trade and commerce relations. It is because of this that I think that at this stage, although we may not be able to effectively operate in the matter, we should claim that in regard to all these questions of relations with foreign Powers, so far as they affect Australia’s trade and commerce as well as her internal trade, the sovereignty of Australia must not be infringed in the slightest degree. . I do not mean that we should be so utterly selfish as to be indifferent to the claims of the other nations with which we are associated in the Treaty of Peace. We cannot, and do not, wish to do that. But a new undeveloped country like Australia, which requires the application of particular economic principles, is in a different category altogether from older nations whose commercial interests are developed, whose manufacturing industries are well established, and whose foreign relations have already secured for them well-grooved and well-oiled channels of communication.
We shall be seriously and heavily handicapped ‘in competition with these foreign nations because of the advantages they have thus secured; We should state clearly and explicitly in this House, and should let it be known to the other nations, that while loyally supporting the terms of the Treaty of Peace - while willing to conserve the interests of the nations involved- we must reserve and exercise for ourselves and in our own interests, such conditions as Will secure to us no curtailment of Australia’s sovereign rights in regard to its trade and commerce. This matter is vital to Australia’s interests. If we once allow ourselves to be simply the tool of the older nations so far as their foreign commercial relations are concerned, there will be an end to our commercial and industrial development. It will absolutely preclude the establishment in Australia of industries that are vital to our progress and prosperity. The one consideration that must always be uppermost in our minds is that because of our enormous supply of raw materials Ave have unlimited opportunities for commercial development. Are
Ave going to continue as the regular definite policy of this country the policy of shipping to foreign lands these raw materials, and so finding work for men in other countries which ought to be done here by our own people, or are Ave going to treat these raw materials here and .so be able to supply manufactured articles to the rest of the world ? The question of trade relations with not only enemy countries, but also the Allied nations is very delicate and immensely important, and at every step we take in connexion with these matters we need to be careful to safeguard our Australian rights and opportunities.
I do not wish to labour the subject, but one or two points need to be emphasized. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), at the request of the British Government, and as their representative, attended the Paris Economic Conference in 1916, and he Avas reported to have been primarily responsible for the passing of certain resolutions absolutely prohibiting trade with enemy countries after the Avar. That seemed to be all right, .as long as the war lasted. But we have already discovered that the Paris Economic Conference’s resolutions are not acceptable to-day to any of the nations. The Avar Avas no sooner over than the British Board of Trade began to remove, andhas now completely removed, the restrictions again3t trading with Germany. I am not discussing the merits of the question. I shall not consider the point as to whether it is right or wrong to trade with Germany or other enemy countries. But the international trade policy which was advocated so strongly, and apparently so effectively in some ways, during the war, has already been abandoned. The Prime Minister has told us that his opinions on these matters have not changed. Are we then to understand that if the present Government continue in power the regulations under this Bill will follow lines agreeing with the attitude of the right honorable gentleman at the Paris Economic Conference, or are we to understand that by means of this Bill we are giving the Government a power that will be exercised along the lines adopted by the British Government? What are our trade relations of the future to be? What lines are our shipping intercourse proposals for the future to take so far as our relations with enemy and Allied countries are concerned ?
Believing as I do that with all its faults, and with all its unfortunate deficiencies, the Treaty of Peace still offers us a basis for better trade relations with most countriesthanwe had before the war, I urge that we in Australia should recognise that our first interest is Australia, and our first business as members of this Parliament, is to secure that there shall be no undue interference with the trade and development of Australia. We should allow nothing to interfere with our sovereign right to direct our own policy, and to control out own destiny in all these matters.
.- I shall offer opposition to the passage of this Bill in all its stages. It is an unfortunate fact that Australia has suffered more seriously from regulations passed, not by this Parliament, but in secret by Cabinet authority, than probably from any other cause. I have taken frequent opportunity to protest against the policy of legislating secretly by regulations, and I certainly will not consent to an extension of the policy of legislating by regulation involved in this Bill. I had not the advantage of hearing the speech made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in submitting this motion, and I do not know for the moment why these regulations are to relate particularly to Part X. of the Treaty, which comprises the economic clauses.
– It is really to enable us to collect enemy debts, and, generally, to deal with enemy property in Australia.
– I congratulate the Minister, at all events, on having limited the operation of the Bill to one section of the Treaty of Peace, and I accept gratefully his explanation of the intention of these regulations. But having glanced through the very wide scope of Part X. of the Treaty of Peace, I see in this Bill a practical adoption of the principle of foreign policy by regulation.
– What does the honorable member mean? The policy is settled by the Treaty itself.
– It is settled just as principles are laid down by Acts of Parliament. The War Precautions Act, for instance, laid down certain principles which enabled the Government to pass regulations of a far-reaching character, involving in a very serious way the liberties of the people. It is true that the Treaty of Peace speaks for itself, and that the regulations may not be inconsistent with the terms of the Treaty. But it is none the less true that Part X. of the Treaty is sufficiently wide in its terms to permit of the Commonwealth being committed to the very greatest issues by means of the regulations to be passed under this Bill.
I shall not for one moment acquiesce in a policy of this kind. I had hoped that, with the ending of the operation of the War Precautions Act, we would see, perhaps by degrees, at all events, a reversion to the principle of legislation after debate and consultation in the responsible representative Chambers of the Commonwealth. I see in this Bill, however, quite the contrary. I see in it an intention to reaffirm and indorse the right of the Government to affect the liberties of the people, and, perhaps, to jeopardize those liberties by regulations which never come up for discussion in this House. It is practically impossible to bring up regulations for discussion here. The only course open to us is to move that a regulation, if one has the good fortune to see it in time, be disallowed. And then with grim irony, after having given that notice, the motion is placed at the bottom of the business-paper, and is never reached for discussion. It follows as a practical fact that these regulations are never discussed in this House - a monstrous condition of affairs which, if it had any possible measure of justification or excuse in time of war, has no measure of justification or excuse in time of peace. The object of the Bill, as explained by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene), is to enable us to collect debts, and impose certain disciplinary economic obligations on the enemy in consequence of what was embodied in Part X. of the Peace Treaty. I maintain that anything we do in regard to foreign countries, or enemy obligations, or those of our own, is of quite sufficient importance to necessitate its coming before this House for consideration and deliberation. For that reason, I shall vote against this Bill.
Question - That the Bill be now read a second time - put. The House divided.
Majority . . . . 17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, reported from Committee without amendment, and report adopted.
Standing Orders suspended.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee : (Consideration of Deputy Governor-General’s message) -
Motion (by Mr. Watt) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising and expending of a sum of One million one hundred and seven thousand six hundred and two pounds for certain purposes.
Resolution reported; Standing Orders suspended and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented and read a first time.
– I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The estimated expenditure on works out of loan for the current financial year is £1,460,221, but as there is already available under appropriations made by previous Loan Acts a sum of £352,619, it is only necessary to ask Parliament to appropriate the balance, namely, £1,107,602. Details of the expenditure comprised in the Bill are set out on page 335 and the following pages of the Estimates of Expenditure already furnished to honorable members in Committee of Supply. The estimated expenditure for the current financial year is £374,857 in excess of the actual expenditure for the year 1918-19. As previously explained to honorable members, this excess is made up of the following amounts : - Naval and military expenditure, including reserves of ammunition, £27,067; River Murray Waters Scheme, £10,940; for acquisition of land in or adjacent to the Federal Capital, payment for past acquisitions, £15,987; additional payments in connexion with the London offices, £15,880; extra for the Postmaster-General’s Department, £321,999. The total increase, therefore, amounts to £391,873. There are certain small decreases to deduct, amounting to £17,016, leaving a total increase of £374,857.
In dealing with this subject in connexion with the Budget, the Acting Treasurer (Mr. Poynton) explained that the Treasury had found itself obliged to provide for large sums this year for military and naval services, partly because considerable amounts have already been spent during this financial year, and partly owing to the fact that harm might be done to future efficiency by discontinuing services not immediately required, but certain to be necessary and useful later.
The Acting Treasurer also explained that during the war it was not possible to provide the Postmaster-General’s Department with funds sufficient to carry out important revenue-producing work. The increase provided in the Loan Bill for the current financial year is to enable the Department to more readily meet the demands of the public for increased telephonic and telegraphic services.
Every attempt has been made to keep the expenditure down to the lowest possible level, and, generally speaking, it may be said that the provision has been made only to complete works already authorized and in hand. The money required for loan works will be raised under the authority of the Bill, and will be provided by the investment of general trust funds and interest earned by the Australian Notes Fund. The annual interest at present being earned by the Notes Fund is £1,339,174, so that the bulk of the money required for loan works will be provided from this source.
The estimate of expenditure in connexion with works and machinery for the Navy was set down at £167,000, but the Departments concerned have compiled details showing that £439,759 is required to complete works which had been started prior to the 30th June last, and to meet actual liabilities incurred in the purchase and installation of machinery now on order. Whether all the commitments will have to be met before the 30th June is not yet known. In view of the uncertainty of supplies and of shipping, we are not able to calculate this with any degree of accuracy. The Departments are at present looking into the actual expenditure, so that they may be reduced to a minimum during this financial year in connexion with these items. It is not desired to spend more than is unavoidable, until the future policy, arising largely out of Viscount Jellicoe’s report, is laid down and authorized by Parliament. It is not necessary, therefore, to ask the’ House to vote what the Department is already committed to at this stage, because the unexpended balances of loan appropriations granted in previous years will be sufficient to cover any excess above the £167,000 to which I have referred, and which is listed in the schedule.
I intimated yesterday, when the debate upon the Federal Capital Territory was inaugurated, that I might have some observations to offer which would influence honorable member’s minds in the direction of caution at this stage. Honorable members will recollect that part of the Budget which announced that we proposed to keep the constitutional contract as to the building of the Capital. The Acting Treasurer went further and said that a Committee would be appointed to examine carefully the cost of the ‘proposed transfer, temporary or permanent, to Canberra. When I give honorable member’s some figures which I have here, I think that even the ardent advocates of an early transfer to Canberra will see the justification for the Government’s caution in connexion with the cost.
– Are those figures based on information from Victorian sources?
– The honorable member raises by interjection, as he did yesterday by rhetoric, the question of provincialism. The assumption embodied in his interjection is, if I do not do him an injustice, that no Victorian can look fairly on this question.
– No, but the Victorian civil servant is not the best adviser as to the cost of moving himself to Canberra.
– I do not know what the honorable member refers to when he speaks of the Victorian civil servant. We do not employ any of them. The Commonwealth public servants at head-quarters, if they are not able to take an unbiased view of Australia’s requirements and obligations, should not be servants of the Commonwealth. I take leave to say that, from my association with two or three Departments of the Commonwealth within the last five years, I believe”1 we have as earnest and capable and disinterested public officers as any of the States have. If my honorable friend implies that because a man represents a Victorian constituency he is therefore inclined to view with disfavour any claims put forward on behalf of New South Wales, I tell him that such a man would be unworthy to be a member of this House, let alone to be a Minister. I speak now, not as a Victorian, but as an Australian, charged with certain important Australian Responsibilities, and I give to any honorable gentleman opposite or on this side the same credit for his views.
I have endeavoured, as the Minister for the time being responsible for the finances of the Commonwealth, to get from the best brains within the Commonwealth Service some estimate of what it would cost to transfer the Capital temporarily to Canberra, and I want to give honorable members freely and openly the result of my investigations to date. These figures have been compiled by the special order of myself as Treasurer, by the officers of the Treasury, in close consultation with the most expert men in all the Departments concerned.
– What is the date of the return ?
– It was finished, I think, in June of this year. The first data on which calculations may be based are the number of public officers and members of Parliament who would be required to be transferred as head-quarters staffs from the temporary Capital (Melbourne) , or the other places in which portions of the head-quarters staffs are located, to the permanent Capital (Canberra). After a careful revision of the estimates, it is reported to me that the number of married men who would be required to live in Canberra, in the event of the transfer of the Capital in the present state of the
– We could provide for all of them at Goulburn.
– If the honorable member will withdraw his mind from the microscopic phases of the question, and realize that Canberra is considerably removed from Goulburn, and has few habitations for this purpose,’ he will appreciate the significance of these figures. Using the foregoing figures as a basis to show the actual number that would be required to transfer to Canberra as head-quarters Staffs, we may make the total new popu lation of the Federal Capital, if temporarily transferred, to be -
– No, but they are all necessary in connexion with a temporary transfer. Some of them would endure, notably the water supply and sewerage, and the item I am about to mention -
Some portion of the foregoing cost would be found by private enterprise, but the probability is that the Government would have to finance nearly all the private buildings in order to insure that necessary conveniences would be provided within a reasonable period. Not more than £500,000 could be depended upon from private sources, leaving the Government to find the balance of £2,750,000. It would be unwise to ignore the possibility of an increase of up to 30 per cent. of the total expenditure set out aboveto cover unknown and unforeseen costs. If I were to show honorable members the differences between the estimates and the actual expenditure on public buildings, and operations in parts remote from the capital cities during the last few years, they would see the necessity for allowing a margin of at least a quarter or possibly one- third of the original estimate. The foregoing estimate does not include provision for a railway from Yass to Canberra. Apparently the line would have to be undertaken at an early date, and the estimated cost is in the region of £300,000. Of this the State of New South Wales would have to find, according to the agreement, it is estimated, an amount of £270,000.
In presenting these estimates it is necessary to point out that no provision has been made for housing the builders and other workmen employed in getting the Capital ready for occupation. It is assumed that some arrangement would be possible under which the building workmen would be temporarily housed, and that most of them ‘would disappear from the Capital city as soon as the Seat of Government was transferred there. That would be an expensive method, but it would be necessary if the construction of costly permanent buildings is to be postponed for some years.
The foregoing figures are the result of an attempt by some of the best informed minds in the Departments to forecast the expenditure that would be involved in a transfer of the Seat of Government earlier than would be possible if we waited for the permanent plan to be developed. In view of the fact that these figures lead us to the conclusion that between £2,750,000 and £3,250,000 would be required to effect such a temporary transfer honorable members will realize the necessity for the statement in the Budget that while determined to keep faith as early as practicable with the spirit of the Constitution, the Government, having regard to the present state of the finances, wish to be perfectly secure in their estimates of cost, and therefore will ask the sanction of this House for a full and complete inquiry to be made as to the cost of transferring the Federal Parliament to Canberra.
I may say that in the Cabinet, as at present constituted, there is no prejudice against the early occupation of Canberra, even though some of the Ministers represent Victorian seats. The strength of feeling which the Ministry observed in both sections of this Parliament has been duly noted and properly allowed for, and I have no hesitation in saying that while I was not an ardent advocate of building in the early days of the Commonwealth - even before the war - a Federal Capital city that might entail the expenditure of many millions of pounds, I realize the pressure on the minds of honorable members to do their duty to their constituents and to get away from the incessant attacks, nagging, and influence of the daily press in this particular State capital. I say that advisedly, and after many years of observation. If journalism in Australia knew how to be fair to the men who give their services to the country, there would be less complaint about the Seat of Government being temporarily in Melbourne or Sydney.
– If the honorable member complains, what sort of time does he think we on this side have ?’
– The honorable member knows that the journalism of which I complain is unfriendly towards him. It is supposed to be friendly to us, and yet we have reason to complain of its attitude.
-The metropolitan press was never friendly to the Labour party.
– Perhaps that is the fault of honorable members opposite. However, I speak on this matter regardless of party. Men on this side of the House, like honorablemembers opposite, have felt the incessant lash of the press, which, at the present time, is, and has been for years past, doing more to break down the representative institutions of this country in public appreciation than any other force. It seems to be the principle of journalists - I speak of them as a class, although they do not all commit the same fault with the same degree of intensity - to regard the parliamentarian and pub- licist as their only competitors, and to do all they can by incessant abuse, criticism, and misrepresentation to scare from public life men who fain would serve their country. I appreciate the desire which I note on both sides of the House to shake ourselves free from that kind of thing, so that legislation and the administration of
Commonwealth affairs may be in the future removed from influences that have been baneful in the past. I hope that I have not spoken upon this matter with undue warmth. On former occasions I have told the press what I think of them. They have not shed many tears over our differences; neither have I. But I hope that during the election campaign upon which we shall shortly enter honorable members on both sides of the House will acquaint their constituents fully of the tactics pursued by the press. I certainly shall do so.
I wish to disabuse the minds of honorable members from more distant States of the idea that Victoria is hanging on to the Federal Parliament. My colleague and leader, the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), will recollect, perhaps, that many years ago, when I was privileged to speak for the Government of the State of Victoria, I made to him a voluntary offer to .shift the (Seat of the Federal Government from Melbourne to Sydney, with the full agreement of the Parliament of this State. The circumstances at that time were not propitious for the acceptance of the offer, but I believe that Victoria would be well free of the Federal Parliament, even although, as the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) said, it does bring a little grist to the traders of this city. That gain, however, is not worth calculating in a city with a population of between 500,000 and 600,000 people. The State politics of Victoria during the last eighteen or nineteen years have suffered visibly because of the presence of the Federal Parliament in the capital city of this State. I believe there is no prejudice in favour of the retention of the Federal Parliament in Melbourne, and, speaking as a Victorian, and with full responsibility, I say that if it were a practicable scheme to lift this temporary Seat of Government from Melbourne to Sydney without the expenditure of that extra amount required for furnishing Canberra, I would gladly assent to it. But it is not practicable, because to house this Parliament in Sydney would be just as expensive as will be its retention in Melbourne-
– And the results probably as bad.
– Probably as bad, if not a shade worse. The State of New South Wales, when it has been allowed to express its own conviction-, has always appeared to take this view - “ Honour the spirit and provision of the Constitution. We desire the Capital erected on the site selected in the proper statutory way by the Commonwealth Parliament.”
I hope honorable members will not reopen at great length the question of the Federal Capital, with which I have dealt somewhat fully. This Bill is important, and we have a large number of other small but important measures to pass before the Parliament adjourns next week. I hope honorable members will co-operate generally in a brief analysis of the provisions of this Bill and the schedule, and dispose of it early to-night, so that the works provided for may continue without interruption.
– -Is the Treasurer in a position to tell us something about the Naval Bases?
– Not at present. The honorable member knows the attitude of the Government as defined by me nearly twelve months ago. When the last Loan Bill was before the House, and the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) was in London consulting with the Admiralty authorities, the Government announced that until experts had been appointed and had reported in the light of the war, they would conduct merely saving operations at the bigger Bases; and’ that we have been doing. Certain dredging, excavation work, and breakwater work has been going on quietly ; but I believe that even excavation work has been tied up. At the Flinders Base the completion of the work was so near that we calculated roughly the cost of the transfer from Williamstown. That is the position now, and nothing is provided under Lord Jellicoe’s report.
– You have not spoken of the general policy.
– Not at this stage. The policy will be laid down by the Government as early as possible. I am now merely asking for sufficient supplies to enable the “mark-time” policy, and the completion of the Flinders Base, to be carried on as decided last year.
.- The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has imported the jocular spirit in reading out some of the items in the estimates of his departmental officers, if we have not evidence of the jocular spirit with which, apparently, some of these items were inserted by the officers. The document read by the Treasurer certainly does credit to the departmental officers as an example of the art of explaining how it is impossible to do things. If we desire experts in that art, we have only to go to some of the leading departmental officers to find them.
I had a very good illustration of this fact during the recruiting campaign. It became necessary to divide New South Wales into districts, in which military officers and doctors should go on circuit and examine’ recruits. The practicability of this the State Commandant referred to the Principal Medical Officer and the AdjutantGeneral, and both reported in general terms that such a thing was utterly impossible. While these two gentlemen were considering the matter and preparing a report, I got in touch with some of the officers of the Tourist Department in Sydney and some railway officers with whom I was acquainted. With the aid of railway and coach timetables, we found that the State could be so divided, and that ten or a dozen sets of military men and medical men could cover the State in fortnightly circuits. We mapped out a scheme to give effect to it. When the matter came to be considered by the State Commondant, the Medical Officer, and the AdjutantGeneral were present, and my report and theirs were before him. The State Commandant asked the two officials how they had come to arrive at such a conclusion, and whether they had gone into the matter. This they admitted they had not done ; and the Commandant expressed the opinion that the scheme laid before him by myself was a practical one. Then the Medical Officer and the Adjutant-General said that it was impossible for the Defence Department to supply the necessary officers. I pointed out that returned military officers and medical officers were coming into the recruiting office every day, and that, in my opinion, there was sufficient walking about the streets to provide the necessary staff. I offered to the Commandant to insert advertisements in the newspapers on the Saturday morning, and that I would undertake to get a staff. That permission was given; and, after advertisements had appeared in the Sydney Morning Herald, and the Daily Telegraph, the necessary men were forthcoming in two or three days, and the scheme was put into successful operation.
As ai matter of fact, when it was discovered that really good men could be obtained as I had obtained them, the Department removed all such men from the recruiting campaign by offering them well paid permanent positions, and my scheme fell through.
That is a striking illustration of how heads of Departments declare that things cannot be done ; and it would Appear that the officers who prepared the report which has been read to us to-day, have gone about their work in much the same way.
We are told that in order to- shift the Seat of Government to temporary quarters at Canberra, provision must be made for 500 globe-trotters or tourists; that ten doctors are necessary, and. several churches and clergymen. Apparently these departmental officials are so run down in health in Melbourne - the climate of this city has such an unfavorable effect on them - that it is necessary to provide as large a staff of medical men for 10,000 people at the Federal Capital as would be necessary for 50,000 people under ordinary circumstances. It is evident that this matter has not been treated at all earnestly by the officers of the Department, but regarded by them as a huge joke. All I ask is that the electors of New South Wales, Victoria, or any other part of Australia will read the Ilansard . report of the speech we have heard this afternoon, and, when reading it, analyze this absurd and so-called estimate of the departmental officers, which carries on its face its own refutation. The whole thing is an absolute farce.
What finally is the policy of the Government in regard to the Federal Capital ? In this connexion there is no complaint as to the Treasurer (Mr. Watt), who is perfectly honest and consistent. He never has been favorable to the building of the Federal Capital, but has always put every obstacle in the way of its realization. We have had twentyyears of Federation, and we are still asked to be content with the declaration that the provision of the Constitution in regard to the Capital will be carried out “as early as practicable.” As time goes on, and generation follows generation-: - as in the political kaleidoscope fresh combinations arise, and fresh points of view in regard to vested interests are presented by the city newspapers - we are left in the same old position. I remember the late Mr. Alfred Deakin, years ago telling us that “as early as practicable” the Government would keep faith and carry out the terms of the Constitution. Parliament after Parliament has been given that assurance. “Whenever there is u Government which represents vested interests, the electors are told the same old story ; and it is just as well that the residents in the districts immediately surrounding the Federal, Territory should, realize that as a matter of fact the Government have no progressive policy at all. The only policy of the Government is one of negation - of standing still and doing nothing - and that is the policy which will be carried out if the present Government are returned at the forthcoming elections. Whatever view may be taken of this as a great issue at the elections, by constituencies far removed from the Federal Capital site itself, those communities whose welfare is bound up with the progress and development of the Territory should thoroughly understand that they can get no redress from this Government, and that they must, to safeguard their legitimate interests, vote the Labour party into power.
.- The statement of the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) has some satisfactory features, but on the whole it appears to be most unsatisfactory. I notice, with considerable perturbation of mind, that £90,000 is to be expended on naval works and bases, and it is no relief to be told that this is necessary in order to prevent harm to existing works. Last year, when the Loan Estimates were before us, this Chamber expressed a very definite opinion against any heavy expenditure in this direction until we were able to re-cast our views, and, in proper prospective, to- ap- .preciate possible developments after the war. Now we are asked to vote £9.0,000 to continue work which we have already decided requires careful consideration in the light of experience, so that the expenditure shall be in wise and proper channels. We have no information or guide; we have no report from Lord Jellicoe, and do not know whether the experiences of the war are going to affect our policy, or in any way make the expenditure of money on Naval Bases and such works any more useful or profitable in the future than it has been in the past.
Another item comes almost exactly in the same category; that is, the expendi ture of £50,000 on a general Arsenal. Apart altogether from the question whether we should or should not have an Arsenal, so as to keep all our military stores and equipment within our reach, and available for our own purposes at any time, without having to rely on outside sources, this House expressed the view very decisively and definitely that until the war was well over there should be no expenditure, “or, at any rate, no heavy expenditure, on the establishment of an Arsenal. This was with a view to securing the benefit of experiences gained during the war, and in the hope that we would be able to secure supplies of machinery and plant which had proved effective and useful. This £50,000 appears to be for the purpose of obtaining machinery and plant, but, sq far as I know, work at the Arsenal has not been sufficiently advanced to even house machinery and plant if it were obtainable.
– I think this item is to cover an offer of plant from the British Government.
– That is rather reassuring. The view was freely expressed that machinery and plant could be secured after the war at a much cheaper rate, and with more guarantee of its effectiveness, than at the time it was proposed to go on with the construction of the Arsenal. If the Government are proposing to expend £50,000 in the purchase of machinery and plant, they doubtless have some idea as to where it can be safely housed until the Arsenal is erected.
In regard to the proposed vote of £417,300 for the Military Department this year, it is satisfactory to learn that the expenditure of the Department is to be reduced to a minimum. To that extent I heartily indorse the Treasurer’s proposals. I desire, however, to express my regret that these loan proposals are so feeble, and fail utterly to grasp the necessities of Australia at this juncture. The Treasurer says that every effort has been made to keep down expenditure to the lowest possible level. That is the most regrettable feature of his statement. If ever there was a time when Australia ought to courageously face the necessity for a progressive reproductive works policy it is row. Even in regard to Canberra the Treasurer seems to have the opinion that an expenditure of £2,750,000, spread over a number of years, would be un justifiable. I do not agree with that view. The honorable gentleman overlooked the great and salient fact associated with the transfer to Canberra of the several thousands of people whom, he said, it would be necessary to send there, that the forming of the nucleus of a permanent settlement would immediately establish a reproductive enterprise. Every penny expended at Canberra would immediately increase the economic value of the place itself, and would add considerably to the Exchequer because of the return which would be at once secured on the expenditure involved. I am so sanguine as to the return that would be derived from any expenditure at Canberra that I, for one, am cheerfully prepared to authorize a loan expenditure - in the circumstances the expenditure, unfortunately, may not come from revenue - on Canberra, to the extent of £2,750,000, if necessary, the money to be expended within the shortest possible period, so as to secure the advantages which even the Treasurer admits would accrue from the transference of this Parliament to the Federal Territory.
There is another direction in which loan expenditure might be made, and which I desire to emphasize. We have to consider how it is possible to develop the industries of Australia, to advance our interests, and to serve our forces of development. We have to recognise that the future will be worthy of us, and we worthy of the future, only to the extent that we grasp’ and make use of the potentialities of Australia at this juncture. The opportunities for ^advancement i*1 Australia are lying around us on every hand. We seem, however, to be afraid just at a time when we most need courage. It is, I suppose, a rather popular doctrine that the war has left us a staggering burden of debt, and that economy must be our watchword. But to stop the public works of this country, and so to injure the development of its commercial enterprises, would be false economy. It often happens that, when things are at the lowest ebb, a courageous expenditure of public money brings its just reward. Extravagance is to be measured, not by what you spend, but by the projects and purposes on which your expenditure is made. An expenditure of £10,000,000 might be absolutely justifiable even in the most gloomy circumstances, while an expenditure of £10,000 in another direction might be sheer extravagance. We need to recognise the fact that money can be saved in many directions. In our Commonwealth Departments money is being frittered away on things that could be done without. I believe that economy,- severe, drastic, and effective, in connexion with our Naval land » Military ^Departments, would be justifiable at the present time, but that an expenditure careful, yet without foolish parsimony, would be justifiable in connexion with our developmental policy.
I would refer, for instance, to the question of cotton culture to which I alluded last night. We have in the cotton industry an opportunity for development unequalled in any other department of activity. I shall put before the House certain information in support of that contention. It may interest honorable members to learn that, as far back as 21st March, 1904, Mr. A. C. Macdonald, F.R.G.S., read before the Royal Geographical Society of Australasia a paper in which the following statement occurred : -
Mr. Watkins, cotton expert of the United States Department of Agriculture, says - “It is estimated that of the world’s population of 1,500,000.000 about 500,000,000 regularly wear clothes, about 750,000,000 are partially clothed, and 250,000,000 habitually go nearly or quite naked, and that to clothe the entire population of the world we require 42,000,000 bales of 500 lbs. each. It therefore seems more than likely that the cotton industry will go on expanding until the whole of the inhabitants of the world are clothed with the .produce of its looms. This is . not an unreasonable conclusion, when we consider the fact that cotton is the cheapest material for clothing known to man.”
I have here another authority, in which it is -pointed out that -. -
The United States alone produces from 12,000,000 to 14.000,000 of bales of 500 lbs. each annually. About 12,000,000 persons are engaged in the production and handling of this immense crop. The value of the American cotton crop, and of the by-products, such as cotton-seed 1 inters, oil, and oil-cake, ranges from £300,000,000 ‘to £350,000,000 sterling in value. England imports about £70,000,000 to £100,000,000 worth of fibre every year, not to speak of other materials, such as cotton seed, and cotton seed oil. It is estimated that considerably over 3,000,000 persons in Lancashire are directly interested in the cotton trade, and a further 10,000.000 inhabitants of Great Britain are directly or indirectly connected with the industry.
Mr. Mathew Macfie, F.R.C.I. (London), in the course of a paper read before the Melbourne Chamber of Commerce, on 7th October, 1904, stated that -
America has 4,500 textile factories, costing about £220,000,000. Simultaneously there has sprung up the manufacture of by-products. In 1SS0 there were 40 cotton-seed oil mills in the south, with a capital of £700,000. To-day there arc over 700 cotton-seed oil mills, with a capital of £10,000,000. It is estimated that in the last fiscal year cotton and its products brought more than £80,000,000 into the United States from internal production of the raw material, from cloth and from by-products exported to other parts of the world. In raw cotton alone the total for that period exceeds the figures of the previous year by £10,000,000.
Much other information of a valuable character was supplied by this gentleman. America, although the largest producer of cotton in the world-
– Will the honorable member show what bearing the matter with which he is now dealing has on the question before the Chair?
– I am contending that the Loan Bill does not provide sufficient funds for what are necessary developmental works in Australia. We have reached a stage in our history when, instead of spending merely £1,460,000 on the items mentioned in this Bill, we should be courageous enough to face the problem of spending money in such directions as will open up the industries of Australia and establish something that will be reproductive and of permanent benefit. I do not know whether I may elaborate my argument.
– The honorable member may refer incidentally to the question he was discussing when I called him to order, but he will not be in order in discussing in detail subjects outside the purpose and scope of the Bill.
– Then I shall severely limit my remarks on the subject. I may be allowed to point out that the evidence as to the suitability of Australia for the growth of cotton is established, and that I have testimony in regard to the suitability of, not merely one part of Australia, but of immense areas in the Northern Territory, Western Australia, and Queensland.
We are more happily situated, so far as the production of cotton is concerned, than is America, owing to the fact that the cotton plant in this country is a perennial, whereas in America it is only an annual. Although efforts have been made repeatedly to establish the industry in Australia, they have been defeated by the want of a protective Tariff. In order to remove from the minds of honorable members the idea that there is any difficulty involved, in regard to labour conditions and wages, in establishing this industry in Australia, I should like to point out that the Melbourne Age, in January, 1915, wrote-
The British Consul-General at San Francisco reports that cotton-growing has been introduced in the Imperial Valley, California, where, with the aid of irrigation, a fine long staple cotton is being obtained. White labour is employed to the extent of 75 per cent., as against 20 per cent. of Mexicans, and 5 per cent. of East Indians. In the Arizona, Salt River Valley, Egyptian cotton is raised by white labour. The possibility of growing cotton in good soil and a good climate, with only white labour, has in Texas been fully demonstrated.
– I am afraid that I cannot allow the honorable member to go further into details relating to the cotton industry, which has nothing to do with this Bill.
– In 1914, Mr. Woods, a visitor from the United States of America, in the course of an interview with the Brisbane Daily Mail, emphasized the fact that there was no reason why the cotton industry should not be carried on exclusively by white labour. We can produce, not only cotton, cottonseed oil, and all the by-products of cotton, but castor oil. It seems to me to be absurd that we have not established the cotton industry and other industries of the kind. There is, for instance, the castor-oil bean, the product of which is one of the most easily marketable in the world to-day, because the oil derived from it is the accepted aeroplane lubricant. There isnone better. Yet the castor oil plant is growing like a weed in Queensland, although a few hundred pounds would provide the necessary capital to equip machinery for extracting the oil. The Government do nothing but potter about in the shallows. They ought to launch out upon the deep and let down their nets. They ought to have courage and faith in Australia’s future, and should adopt a policy that can be depended upon to see us through the financial difficulties that oppress the minds of some honorable members at the present juncture.
We have to recognise the fact that money is tight - the last loan floated was not quite a success - and that the raising of loan money for developmental purposes means the payment of a high rate of interest. We cannot overlook the fact that we have already a debt of £700,000,000, entailing an annual interest bill of about £30,000,000! But has any one lost faith in Australia’s ability to meet its obligations, present or future? I have not ; because, however heavy the burden may be, it cannot be lessened by any weale policy of reproductive work construction, and our only hope of meeting our obligations and bearing the burden is to courageously face them and adopt a policy of wise expenditure, thereby increasing our. production and developing our industries, so that the burden may be more evenly distributed. If we have not the money for the purpose we can do what the Treasurer proposes to do in this case-‘- that is, rely upon the Australian Notes Fund; in other words, draw upon the credit of the Commonwealth. My regret in regard to this Loan Bill is that, apart from naval and military expenditure, which ought to be drastically reduced, the Government seem either to have lost faith in Australia or to be looking forward to its future with an absolute lack of confidence in. the ability of the people of Australia to bear their burden. I have no such want of faith in Australians or in Australia. This is the time when we should pursue a courageous and progressive works policy, and thus show our earnest confidence in the future. The Loan Bill fails to grasp the necessities of the case. It is not a matter of saying whether the Notes Fund is too large or too small. The question is, has it outreached the credit of Australia; has the credit pf the Commonwealth been overdrawn ; have we reached the end of our financial resources; has the ability of Australia to carry a debt been exhausted? I think not. If the Government would have the courage to draw on the Notes Fund to a larger extent than they propose to do under this Bill, the results would justify their action, the people would indorse it, and it would benefit every one concerned.
– At the request of the Government Whip I shall be very brief in my remarks, because 1 understand that the Government are most anxious to get this Bill through. I regret the bitter attack made upon the civil servants of this country, among whom are some of the most able professional men in Australia. It has been my privilege to serve for six years on the Public Works Committee, and thishas given me many opportunities of coming into close contact with the professional officers of the Commonwealth and professional men. outside the Service. I. can say emphatically that the ability displayed by the gentlemen engaged in the Commonwealth Service in giving evidence before the Committee compares very favorably with that shown by similar men outside the Service. I feel sure that the majority of honorable members opposite do not indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Cook (Mr. Catts) and his bitter attack, made purely for political. purposes, on a body of men who are unable to defend themselves on the floor of the House or through the press. However, they do defend themselves with emphasis by the work which they do, not so much for the remuneration they receive, but because they are interested in it, and are desirous of serving their country. From their work the people can judge as to their ability. I regret the attack which has been made upon them. It is unfair, unjust, and unreasonable. The pity is that honorable members cannot find something else to do.
I have always, been in favour of the construction of the Federal Capital, and of carrying out the promise to New South Wales embodied in the Constitution. 1 voted with the Government that authorized the work already carried out prior to the war, but things have changed considerably. We have just emerged from a terrible conflict, loaded with an enormous debt almost greater than the people of Australia can bear, and the question of most pressing importance at the present time is not our ability to raise sufficient money to build a Capital as it is our ability to employ our resources in directions where they may be more speedily made productive of wealth. The honorable member for Brisbane (Mr. Finlayson) is ‘quite correct when he says that the money can he easily raised out of the splendid credit we have in ‘ Australia, but that is not the point. If we launch out on a big public- works policy at the Federal Capital labour will be withdrawn from other directions where it may be producing the wealth which is so much required in those parts of the Commonwealth. If we can afford to postpone some work and allow the labour that might have been employed upon it to be utilized in other directions which may be productive of wealth much more speedily, we shall be proceeding on lines that will be more beneficial to the community. If we start out upon an enormous public works policy at Canberra we must withdraw labour from other parts of the Commonwealth, and thus works, which it is absolutely essential to proceed with in each State, may have to be suspended. Again it is quite possible that the money proposed to be spent in the Federal Territory might be more judiciously spent in other directions; for instance, in bringing about a uniform railway gauge. During the recent deplorable strike we had an experience of what the break of gauge meant to Australia. We know what it cost to bring coal from Newcastle to keep industries going in Victoria. The price of gas increased, and factories had to cease operations. Would it not be advisable to divert the capital that might be employed at Canberra to the task of bringing about a uniform railway gauge in Australia, at any rate on the main trunk lines between the various capital cities? That work would be immediately productive. Any delay in undertaking it simply means that the task when ultimately undertaken, will be more difficult and more costly.
We ought to give our attention to these great problems, and we shall have to do so. We should not spend money simply for the sake of spending it. It makes no difference to me where the Seat of Government is. I cannot get to my home in Tasmania each week-end. Any member representing a distant State, who wishes to attend to his parliamentary duties as they should be attended to, cannot look after a private business at the same time. It is some weeks since I have been able to visit my home. I merely mention this fact in order to show that it does not matter to me where the Seat of Government is. But it does matter to me what the financial position of the Commonwealth is. With our small population it will be a difficult task for us to face our financial obligations, but we can do so by joining together with one object in view, and that is for every person to produce all the wealth he possibly can. After the elections it will be the duty of the Government to carry out the task, unprecedented in, the history of this great Commonwealth, of directing the affairs of this country so that the labour in our midst may be utilized in the best way possible for the speedy production of wealth.
There are other great problems confronting us. Who can go through the Yarra electorate and say that the conditions which exist there should be allowed to continue? We should get money to alter the deplorable condition of affairs existing in the matter of housing our people. I have taken a great interest in this matter. In Great Britain, France, Italy, Switzerland, and other parts of the world I have made inquiries.
I desire to point out that capital and labour should not be diverted from State productive works into Commonwealth channels. I want to see the money available utilized for the purpose of remedying housing conditions before we commence spending it in other directions. The Public Works Committee has been congratulated on its splendid report upon the housing scheme at Lithgow. I merely mention this matter of housing in order to show that we need to be careful we do not divert capital from sources where it may be used to greater advantage. The best economy we can have is to fully employ the men in our midst and attract others to our shores to settle on our land and produce wealth. We need to construct railways, roads, and telephone lines for those who are desirous of making homes for themselves in this country to give them easy means of communication.. In this way we can produce the wealth of which we stand so much in need.
There is no doubt that we shall have to expend large sums of money on railway development in the Northern Territory. A railway is absolutely essential for the opening up of that country.
– I am afraid that a number of these matters are not included within the scope of the Bill, and the schedule should not be debated at this stage.
– I wanted to go as far as I could, so that I* should not have to speak on the general Estimates. I am not antagonistic to the expenditure of money at Canberra simply because it is to be the capital city. I do: not object to moving there, but I say it is inopportune. This is not the time to spend the money or to take labour there, and we should not do it at the present time in the interests of any political party.
I am reminded that an item of £3,000 appears in the Bill for the purposes of the Northern Territory railway.
– The details of the Bill should be discussed in Committee, and not on the second reading. This is essentially a Committee Bill, comprising, mainly, a schedule of items.
– I thought I would be allowed to refer to the item in a general way in relation to the expenditure of money for the development of Australia, seeing that it had already been referred to, but I bow to your ruling.
I rose more particularly to make my position quite clear in relation to the Federal Capital. I am going to oppose in every way possible the expenditure of money on the construction of the Capital while it can be more judiciously spent in other directions.
.- Our financial system, if it can be called a system; appears to be devised with a view to handing down to our children the responsibility of paying for our present expenditure. Sometimes the expenditure is unjustifiable, but is proposed simply because the Government know that the money will come out of loan account, and they are careless, therefore, as to the amount. Provision is made in this Bill in connexion with Naval Bases. I have on previous occasions stated what I thought would be a wise policy to pursue in regard to naval defence. We are told by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), and others, that the war has been a great object lesson, but if there is one thing that we should learn from it, it is that our existing naval defence is not in accord with the teachings of the war. The scheme as at present projected is designed with a view to the congregation of our Navy in large Bases, suitable for ships of great dimensions. The war has shown us unmistakably that the vessels that will be used in the future will be of small type, and particularly of the submarine class. This will be especially the case in the defence of the long coastline of Australia, with its numerous harbors, all of which will need to be protected. It will be of no use to concentrate our naval defence in one spot. We shall have to distribute it among our ports, so that if any portion of the coastline is attacked some means of defence will be immediately at hand. If we adhere to the old system, as laid down by previous naval experts and engineers, we shall ‘be making an error. A loan fund is an easy means of providing the cash for our extravagant system of naval defence, but if the money had to come out of ordinary revenue the Government would think twice before they incurred the liability. I am putting before the House and the Government a reasonable and practical suggestion. Before the Government undertake this expenditure on the Naval Bases, they should first make sure that the work will meet the actual requirements of modern warfare.
When the Fisher Government was in power - the only Government that has ever done anything practical for Australia since the advent of Federation - the Treasurer (Mr. Andrew Fisher), who, if any man in State or Federal politics has ever deserved a monument, should be the first Australian to be so honoured, found the Postal Department in a deplorable condition. It was in a state of absolute chaos, and its services were utterly out of keeping with modern ideas. Mr. Fisher, in a statesman-like way, provided £3,000,000 out of revenue instead of from loan account, to make the postal, telegraphic, and telephonic services equal to the requirements of the people of Australia. Most of the items to be provided for that Department out of the Loan Bill now before us are of a perishable nature. All’ such things as wooden bridges, wooden wharfs, and telephone conduits, which have only a short life, should be provided for out of revenue. No Government which had the interests of Australia at heart would pay for them out of loan money, unless provision was made at the same time for revenue to recoup the loan account. No such provision is made by this Government. Wires laid underground, even by the most modern systems, must be regarded as perishable. There is an insulation around them, -and that insulation is perishable. The Government, therefore, are not justified in using loan moneys to provide services of that character. They are putting us in a false position. A blackfellow from the South Sea Islands, who had never seen Australia before, if he were landed into the Treasury, could conduct the affairs of the Department, if he had an unlimited purse from which to meet all’ demands, just as well as they are being conducted now. The way loan moneys are being spent is typical of the careless, indifferent, and unstatesman-like manner in which our finances are being handled.
The purchase of land out of loan money may be justified, because land will increase in value, and the nation will always have in it an asset for the money. But wooden barges, or wharfs, or telephone wires, which become useless when their insulation is perished, should never be purchased out of loans. The insulation of the wires will not last, in some cases, for more than ten years. I have known it perish in less than five years when laid in a damp place. I thought- the policy of the Fisher Government in providing all these services out qf revenue would be an object lesson to ‘succeeding Governments; but, apparently, they set the example in vain. The Treasurer tells us that the note issue has 42 per cent, of gold backing. The Act passed by the Fisher Government provided for a gold reserve of 25 per cent. There are plenty of ways in which the excess reserve at present held by the Treasury could be spent on public works for the benefit of the community.
During the war period I endeavoured to show honorable members that, if we had followed the example of such men in Great Britain as Mr. McKenna, Mr. Balfour, and others, in war finance, we should not have been in the position in which we find ourselves in connexion with our war loans. We could well have raised a greater amount of revenue by means of taxation while the war was on to cover the very purposes to which we are now devoting loan money. Unfortunately, Australia in 1917 put into power a party who thought more of vested interests than of the future prosperity of the country. Vested interests look out only for the present; they have no care for the future, as long as they can command affluence for themselves.
I hope that, as time goes on, more attention will be paid to the financial views I have put to the House from time to time than appears to have been paid to them so far. No one can deny that whenever I have spoken on finance I have been on sound, business-like ground. I have always said that our present slipshod system of finance must sooner or later be terminated.
When the Treasurer was speaking this afternoon on the Federal Capital, I regretted that Gilbert and Sullivan could not be present, because they could have made a splendid comic opera out of the way in which the honorable member put the case. He estimated the number of servants who would be required in the homes at Canberra, but he quite forgot to calculate how many eggs the hens would lay. Provision was made in the Constitution for the establishment of the Capital within the borders of the State of New South Wales. I knew many of the men who helped in the framing of that Constitution, and, personally, I took a very active part with them in bringing about Federation. We thought that the establishment of a Federal Capital would be of great service in creating a national Federal spirit among the Australian people, and of benefit to Australia as a whole. The American people had sufficient brains and ability to create the Federal Capital which was provided for by their Constitution. Both the Dominion of Canada and the Union of South Africa have done the same. In fact, in every country in which a form of government has been established provision has been made for a capital city in which the affairs of the nation can be attended to. The press has frequently called attention to the concentration of population in the big cities, and the failure of the Government to embark upon a policy of decentralization. The Federal Capital affords us a splendid opportunity for initiating such a policy, especially in view of the figures which the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) quoted this afternoon in regard to the estimated population of Canberra, even if this Parliament is only temporarily transferred there. I ask honorable members to visualize the opportunities that the Federal Capital offers for an amelioration of the curse of centralization. There will be quite a considerable trade between the Federal Capital and the cities of Melbourne and Sydney, and I hope that the opening up of tie country will be further assisted by the creation of a Federal port at Jervis Bay.
– I remind the honorable member that the House is now debating the second reading of the Bill, whilst he is entering into a discussion of details of the schedule which can be more properly dealt with at the Committee stage.
– I am following the lead set by the Treasurer.
– A Minister, in introducing a Bill, is generally allowed a little more latitude than is .a private member; because he has to explain the reasons for, and scope of, the Bill and its provisions.
– I think I ought to have as much liberty as was allowed to the Treasurer in dealing with the matter of the Federal Capital.
-I have not interrupted honorable members unless they showed an inclination to unduly discuss details at this stage, because I was hoping that each speaker would be the last to be guilty of that irregularity. But honorable members should observe the wellrecognised principle of confining the debate on the second reading to general principles. The practice of this House has been to allow a very wide discussion of the whole scope of a Bill on the first clause in Committee. Honorable members must have some regard to ordinary procedure by confining their remarks at the second -reading stage to general principles.
– I shall endeavour to conform to your miling, sir. ‘ There are certain members of this House who will find it inconvenient to go to Canberra, because their business interests are in the State capital cities. They constitute a big obstacle to the transfer of the Seat of Government to Federal Territory. When I entered Parliament, I decided to ignore my private business, and to devote the whole of my time to my public duties. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) passed some severe strictures upon the press of Melbourne. The daily newspapers of this city have strongly opposed the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, and it is apparent to any person who is not biased that the press are speaking in behalf of their friends and of vested in_terests. But even although I am opposed to unnecessary expenditure, I think that the outlay which would be involved, according to the Treasurer’s estimate, in removing this Parliament to Canberra, could be incurred with advantage, and would return to the people of Australia one hundredfold. Even the Treasurer agreed that it would be better for the Commonwealth Parliament to escape from the influences of the State capitals. I see no reason why we should not continue the preparations for the permanent transfer of the Seat of Government to the site which has been chosen for it. Already a good deal of money has been spent there, and, I believe, spent wisely. All the works that have been carried out are a necessary preliminary to the official occupation of Canberra. Money has been expended in providing light and power, water supply, and sewerage, all of which are necessary in connexion with even construction work. In providing a water supply in advance, the Commonwealth engineers have only followed the example of the American who was in charge of the construction of the Panama- Canal. Instead of building hospitals at each end of the isthmus, as the French engineers did, the American engineers first established an efficient water supply for the workmen, with the result that sickness was reduced to a minimum, and the canal was carried to completion.
– I have already explained that while it is customary to allow a Minister, when moving the second reading of a Bill, to explain fully its provisions, the clauses and details may not be discussed until the Committee stage is reached. Honorable members will have the fullest opportunity in. Committee of discussing all the items contained in the schedule.
– This Bill includes an amount for the purchase of land for Federal purposes. At Canberra all the land is already the property of the Commonwealth. If the Seat of Government were transferred from Melbourne to Canberra, the money that is at present expended on rent for public offices in this city would be saved. Reference has been made to the proposal to erect a note printing office. I suppose that the Government will carry out the recommend a- tions of the Public Works Committee, that that office be established in Melbourne. I arn sorry that a Federal work of that character is not to be located at Canberra. I am opposed to the Government purchasing sites in Melbourne, and thereby increasing the value of land in this city, when the Commonwealth owns plenty of land at Canberra. I should have liked to discuss the Federal Capital project at greater length, but, in obedience to Mr. Speaker’s ruling, I shall defer ray further remarks until a later stage.
– I find myself in much the same predicament as was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), because of the difficulty of confining one’s remarks to the broader issues involved in this Bill.
– That is because the , Bill is essentially a Committee Bill.
– At the same time, while not in any way reflecting on the Chair, I must point out that there has been a certain amount of divergence on the part of honorable members who preceded me. My mind goes back to some of the older debates when the question more particularly was whether the cost of certain works should be defrayed out of loan or out of revenue.
In speaking of the Bill ;as a whole we must of necessity consider the schedule, and without going into details, I should like to refer to at least three of the items.
First, I desire to speak of the policy of the Commonwealth generally in regard to the Murray waters. Here I must compliment the Minister for Works and ‘ Railways (Mr. Groom) on the work that has been done in this regard by his Department in conjunction with ‘ the Departments of the States concerned. It has been my good fortune recently to be able to realize from a practical standpoint the immense advantages to any country or community of- well-defined and controlled inland water’ transport, altogether apart from the unquestioned advantages of irrigation. Everything possible should be done by the Department to aid in opening up the Murray River from a transport point of view.
Then there is the general policy of naval defence, to which I have referred on a previous occasion. In particular, honorable members are anxious to know something of the policy which the Government propose to initiate as the result of the visit of Admiral Viscount Jellicoe. I understand that that gentleman’s report is divided into two sections - one is of a general nature, and comparatively unimportant, while the other is regarded as strictly confidential. The latter portion of the report, I understand, is so worded as; to practically preclude the Government from making public, even in a general way, the recommendations of Viscount Jellicoe. When one understands the conditions in the United Kingdom, it is not hard to appreciate why that step was taken by Viscount Jellicoe; because there are many Naval Bases in the Old Country to which it is practically impossible for any outsider to gain admission. In Australia, however, we have not been accustomed to regard with such secrecy reports of this nature; and when we are discussing this loan expenditure, the Government should give some indication of what their general policy is in regard to the Naval Bases throughout Australia. It is a question of general concern to every portion of Australia. Roughly, the continent has been divided into two large and important Naval Bases, as represented by Port Stephens and Cockburn Sound. Probably other bases have been suggested to the Government by Viscount Jellicoe, but as to that, of course, we have no information. The Government should give some pronouncement of their policy, on this Bill if possible, but certainly before Parliament prorogues.
Another matter to which I desire to refer is the ‘ballasting of the Kalgoorlie to Port Augusta railway. There are already some millions of loan money involved in this line, the cost of which was largely increased by added cost of materials. There are, roughly, 600 miles of track that is not ballasted, and any one with experience of timbers knows that sleepers, particularly, cannot be expected to give the same results under such circumstances as if they were in a well-ballasted and well-formed road. Economy is, of course, an important consideration at this juncture of our history, but along with other honorable members I think that we need now to be more than ordinarily courageous in grappling with some of the problems presented in the repatriation and settlement of our returned soldiers. We should adopt a strong and’ bold policy, and utilize this great Australian work as one. of the means whereby employment may be provided for them.
Apart from the effect of the absence of ballasting on sleepers, with the accompanying friction caused by passing trains, we have to consider the question of speed. When the line was contemplated, various estimates were made as to the rate per hour at which it would be possible to travel on this line. Those who have been over the, route know that it presents no great engineering difficulties, with grades thatare remarkably easy, and this means that if the line were ballasted it would be possible to obtain a very high speed. At present, on this . 4-ft. 8-in. gauge, trains are restricted to practically the same speed as that which can be obtained on a 3ft. 6-in. gauge. It is well known that the broader the gauge the greater scope there is for the employment of heavy locomotives with larger driving wheels, which make high speeds quite possible. I urge that, while we are dealing with this Bill, the Government should seriously consider the advisability of ballasting this line, and thus preventing deterioration, while at the same time providing employment for our returned men.
Very few of the returned men desire sustenance allowance, but would veTy much rather have work. It is bad policy to pay such an allowance when worksuch as I have suggested can be provided. Of course,it may be a question whether the amount paid in sustenance money would cover the cost of employing these men on the line ; I dare say it would not ; but, at present, the sustenance money gives no return, while the additional outlay would.
I am not pleading solely on account of the East-West railway, because I would just as willingly support the Treasurer in constructing a North-South line, or in a general public works policy, providing that our returned men are given work, and not, what is more or less, a charity grant in many cases. A number of the men who are of good type decline on principle to accept the sustenance allowance, and it is only when absolute necessity compels that the allowance is taken advantage of.
– I am sorry we have hadno statement from the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) in regard to the pelicy to be pursued in connexion with Naval Bases and naval matters generally. After a calculation, I estimate that, of the £1,000,000 to be borrowed, £700,000 is to be spent in connexion with defence, and the Minister ought to be in a position to indicate what policy the Government intend to pursue in regard to naval and military matters. I know that things have not settled down as quietly after the war as some people anticipated, and it is realized that it will take a long time, after the great churning up, to settle down to normal conditions. If the late war was a war against war, the Bills we consider from time to time, and particularly those we are considering this week, do not indicate that the Government look very hopefully into the future in regard to naval and military expenditure; and we ought to have some statement as to the position from the Minister for the Navy, or some other Minister.
Doubtless, there are certain matters dealt with in Viscount Jellicoe’s report which must be kept secret, but a general outline of policy in defence ought to be given in view of the expenditure proposed. We ought not to submit tothe attempt of the Government to pass a Bill of this character without affording the House any explanation of its policy. If we do, we deserve to be treated as schoolboys. The Government practically say to us, ‘ ‘ Here is your lesson ; if you do not attend to it you will get the cane.”
– The electors alone can give us the cane.
– The Government are deserving of many stripes at the hands of the Opposition, and their punishment by the electors will be still more severe. The people will naturally want to know what is to be the effect of the war on the naval and military policy of the Commonwealth. The Government, however, have given us no explanation of their policy in that regard. The schedule contains items of £8,000 for the purchase of land at Fairy Meadow and £10,200 for the purchase of land in the Federal Capital Territory. The Fairy Meadow site is not worth 10s. per acre for grazing purposes, but, as the result of evidence given before the Public Works Commiteee some time ago, to the effect that it contained deposits of lime and shale suitable for the manufacture of cement, a high price is now being asked for it. The greater part of the land is owned by the State Government, and I should like the Minister to inform the House as to the procedure adopted in acquiring it.
– If there are shale and limestone deposits on the land the owners are bound to want a good price for it.
– At the time of the inquiry made by the Public Works Committee the land could have been obtained for a mere bagatelle.
The Honorary Minister (Mr. Poynton) will bear me out when I say that even in the Budget statement there was no reference to the naval policy of the Government.
– The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) outlined this afternoon the policy of the Government with respect to expenditure on Naval Bases.
– I was unavoidably absent when the Treasurer spoke. Some time ago it was said that there was to be a cessation of work at the Henderson Naval Base.
-There has been a cessation of work except in regard to necessary maintenance work.
– The Flinders Naval Base is nearing completion, and there cannot be much more money required for it.
– A lot of money is still wanted in connexion with that Base.
– No doubt, for machinery and plant. It was estimated last year that a further expenditure of £150,000 would make it fit for occupation by the Naval Reserve.
– My difficulty is that it is impossible to ascertain from the Naval authorities what sum will be required to complete any given work.
– That has been the experience of others. If we are to continue the naval programme which was being carried out before the war, the people ought to know it.
– The figures show, I am sorry to say, that there is to be a big decline in the work done at the Naval Bases. At the Henderson Naval Base work has practically ceased.
– I understood that the Government intended, so far as that Base was concerned, to adopt a “ wait-and-see “ policy. Now that they have received the report of Admiral Viscount Jellicoe they should be able to outline to the House the general principles of their naval policy, and indicate what is to be the naval expenditure in the coming years.
Complaint was made in the House yesterday that in the matter of Federal expenditure New South Wales was unfairly treated. I invite honorable members to peruse the last report of the PostmasterGenerals Department, which shows that the expenditure of the Department in that State during the last twelve months was far in excess of that incurred in any, other State. The Department in 1918 secured a total revenue of £2,227,000 in New South Wales, and its expenditure in that State amounted to £2,201,000. In Victoria during the same period the postal revenue amounted to £1,500,000, and the postal expenditure was less than £1,400,000. In other words, the postal expenditure in New South Wales was within £26,000 of the revenue collected by the Department there, whereas in Victoria the expenditure did not come within £100,000 of the revenue obtained by the Department. Those figures ought to satisfy the representatives of New South Wales who complain of large Federal expenditures in Victoria to the detriment of the Mother State. .
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clauses 1 to 3 agreed to.
.- Is the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) in a position to give the Committee up-to-date information as to the progress of the work of locking and storing the waters of the Murray River ? A very valuable report was recently presented to the House giving information as to the work done up to Junelast; but, from information I have received locally, I understand that additional works are being carried on at different points along the river. I am advised that survey parties have been investigating sites for the construction of locks and weirs. I would like to know what results have attended these investigations. At the same time, I desire to express the great satisfaction that we must all feel at the success that has, so far, attended soldier settlement in the valley of the Murray, at Mildura, Nyah, Cohuna, and Swan Hill, where Crown lands have been made available and other lands have been purchased for the purpose. In the Mildura district, 100. soldiers have been placed on Crown lands, and there is likely to be 100 per cent, of success for that settlement. The .State ha3 an unlimited area of similar land adjoining the Murray upon which thousands of soldiers could be settled if a sufficient supply of water could be made available for irrigation. The necessity for pushing on with the River Murray waters scheme is most important. It is not only a local work, but a national undertaking. I draw attention to the successful efforts to settle soldiers in the valley of the Murray, in order, if possible, to stimulate the Minister for Works and Railways to still further exertions. I hope that he will organize his Department as no other Department of the State has ever been organized, so as to expedite the work of construction. The full effect of the scheme cannot possibly be experienced until the completion of the main storage on the Upper Murray, capable of impounding 2,000,000 acre-feet of water, which will irrigate 500,000 acres of land. When that work is completed, it will very largely solve the question of the land settlement of our soldiers. I know that the construction of such works takes time, but, as a matter of urgency; it may be possible for the Minister to expedite them by giving his personal attention to them.
I take it that the other items in the schedule, such as Naval Base works and establishments, will be explained to the Committee. It is a matter of disappointment to many honorable members that a greater sum has not been provided for the post-offices, which are so necessary in various country centres. We all agree that there is need for economy in administrative expenditure, but there are certain works of a productive and developmental character which ought to be undertaken for ‘the purpose of increasing our revenueearning avenues, and which, by no stretch of the imagination, can be regarded as coming under the .heading of works where economy should be exercised.
.- The report of the Murray River Commission to the 30th June last has been laid on the table of the House, but has not yet been printed. Each quarter a report is received from the constructing authorities in regard to the rate of progress of the work, but I have not with me the fullest details of the work up to date. However I can tell the honorable member roughly how the matter stands. The construction of the Upper Murray River storage has been authorized. The original estimate submitted to the Commission was £1,692,000. It will be the fifth largest dam in the world, and will involve a good deal of engineering and careful construction, which will extend over several years. The constructing authorities of New South Wales and Victoria are already at work assembling plant on both sides of the river, ‘ and taking the necessary steps to acquire land and make provision for housing the men who will be employed. It is quite possible that within a few weeks a start will be made on the actual work of construction. It is intended to push forward with it. The provision on our Estimates represents the Commonwealth quota of the expenditure on the whole scheme during the current year. The contracting States are informed by the Commission as to their quotas, which they pay into the Commission’s funds, out of which the operations are financed. Further down the river the work of building a weir and lock at Torrumbarry, near Echuca, is proceeding very rapidly, 110 men, according to the last report, being actively engaged there. Still further down the river, in the vicinity of Mildura, Merbein, and Curlwaa, there are five parties engaged in the work of surveying, with a view to determining the sites for further weirs and locks between Echuca and Wentworth. Money is provided on the Estimates in contemplation of something being done in that neighbourhood during the current year in connexion with at least one weir and lock in the vicinity of Mildura, Merbein, and Curlwaa. Still further down the river authority has been given for the construction of the Lake Victoria storage. This will run into an expenditure of a little over £320,000. The work is progressing very satisfactorily. A contract has been let by the constructing authority of South Australia, and for some weeks over 100 men and 200 horses have been at work. Another contract is in contemplation.
Arrangements have been made for the supply of plant to enable an early commencement to be made with work at locks 3 and 9.
– Is any effort being made to employ returned soldiers who are waiting on their blocks?
– The reports show that numbers of soldiers are being employed on construction work. At Blanchetown, in South Australia, the lock has been completed, and the coffer-dam is to be removed. Steps are being taken to erect the weir, and if the river does not flood that work will soon be well under way. The constructing authorities in New South Wales and Victoria are pressing on with the survey of the country between Echuca and Wentworth, and all the works I have mentioned are in progress. The Commission fully realizes the importance of its task. The greatest harmony exists betweeu the constructing authorities and the Commission, and everything is proceeding smoothly. There is to be a meeting of the Commission next week, and I shall endeavour to get the latest figures and reports. If the honorable member submits a question before the House prorogues, I shall endeavour to give him the latest data available in connexion with these works.
There is only £90,000 on these Estimates for Naval Bases, including work at Flinders, Henderson, and Port Stephens. The amount has been cut down to the smallest possible amount. At Henderson we must keep dredging work in progress in order to prevent the loss of the work already carried out. Honorable members will see that the amount provided is a very small one. The Naval Board is now considering Admiral Viscount Jellicoe’s report in connexion with the details of the work to be undertaken at the various Naval Bases. These Estimates provide for no expansion of policy, the amount appearing in them being in the main to meet commitments and to provide for the maintenance of absolutely essential works. Nothing is voted that will bind Parliament to any future policy in regard to the Bases. The Estimates have been considerably curtailed, the Treasurer having limited expenditure to that which is absolutely essential.
.- The Committee is entitled to some statement of policy from the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster) to show how he proposes to allocate the amounts set down here for telegraphic and telephonic extensions. One would judge from his experience in the past few years that the PostmasterGeneral has set his face right against the extension of telephonic and telegraphic facilities in country places.
– Is that so? Has he made up his mind in that direction ?
– I do not say that he has made up his mind, but one would judge that it was so from his replies to requests for extensions from the country. The cry has gone out to the people to produce. I have raised that cry myself. Production is the one thing that is going to save this nation, and those who go out into the country are entitled to all the facilities of civilization that they can get. I have applied for several extensions during the last three or four years, but I cannot call to mind one request that has been granted. I would particularly draw the attention of the Postmaster-General to the necessity for a line from Beenleigh to Pimpama Island. The residents there contributed, I think, a shortage of £80 before the war broke out, to make good the deficiency that was expected on the line. The money has been held ever since by the Department, who certainly offered to refund it; but the line is not built, and we can get no definite promise from the PostmasterGeneral that it will be built. Has the honorable member made up his mind to develop only the cities, and let the country go without telephonic communication ? We could afford to build some of the lines that have no prospect of paying in the near future, in order to give the people in country places the facilities that they must have if they are to produce in such a way as to enable this country to meet its responsibilities. I feel sure that a great future lies ahead of Australia, but it can be achieved only by encouraging country settlement. If all this money is to be put into conduits to underground the city wires, and leave the country undeveloped, the country population will stream into the cities, and production will be neglected.
– I support the appeal of the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Sinclair) to the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) to have some sympathy with those pioneers who have to go out into the wilderness, and who are neglected by him and his Department.
Looking at the Minister as he sits at the table, I am reminded of the Scotch. If you try to ridicule the ability of a Scotchman or find fault with him in any way he does not become angry about it. He feels that that is superfluous. He thinks you are wasting your time, as there is nothing wrong with him. He simply pities you. The Postmaster-General is to a large extent taking up that attitude in responseto our criticisms. He wears a smile of pity for the honorable member for Moreton and myself. In his endeavour to make his Department pay, to make it a “ commercial proposition,” he is doing a great injustice to a lot of settlers who are trying to make their homes in out-of-the-way places.
Mr.Webster. - That is not correct:
– The brevity of the Minister’s interjection is characteristic of his replies to all our complaints. During the last two or three years he has not vouchsafedus any explanation. I think of the settlers of Dululu and other places on the Dawson Valley country at the ‘back of Mount Morgan. People have during the last four of five years been taking up land and endeavouring to make homes there. They find it impossible to get the telephonic, telegraphic, and postal services which pioneers ought to get. The PostmasterGeneral has a habit of asking his officers for an . estimate of the revenue to be derived from a proposed service. His officers put the estimated revenue at, say, £5, and the expenses at, say, £10. Then, the PostmasterGeneral says, “’ No, the accounts will not balance. It is not a commercial proposition, and therefore you cannot have the service.”
– Do not forget that we bear 50 per cent. on the estimated loss in all these cases.
– But the estimated loss is not always the actual loss.
– The estimated loss is a matter of individual opinion, based, perhaps, upon false premises. What a kindly eye the Postmaster-General has for the big cities and the big newspapers ! Take up any of the big morning papers, such as the Argus, the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald, or the Baily Telegraph, and you will find eight or ten pages of advertisements and about three pages of reading matter. We are carving those news papers throughout Australia at a ridiculously cheap rate - cheaper by far than in England. And why?Because we are afraid to stand up to the editors and the writers of the press. We are afraid of their ridicule and contempt.
– It is to let the backcountry people get their news at a reasonable rate.
– We are allowing those newspapers to be sent along with seven or eight pages of advertisements and three pages of news.
– The advertisements are very interesting to the people in the bush.
– The large- newspapers are mainly carried by the railways and not by the Post Office.
– When the honorable member is calling for country services he estimates on the quantity of mail matter to be carried, of which a large portion consists of these newspapers. If we want decentralization we should give the country newspaper man a chance.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 7.45 p.m.
– I was referring to the tendency of the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) to lend a kindly eye to the people in the big cities, to the consequent disadvantage of the pioneer and small settler in the out-back districts. I make this criticism with some reluctance, because I know that the honorable gentleman is most anxious to improve the postoffices in the cities. They did require some improvement, and the PostmasterGeneral has made many alterations that were long overdue. No one in the big cities can complain that he has. in any way neglected them, or that he has failed to put to good account his practical knowledge of building construction. But the honorable gentleman does not realize that if we are to make the country what it ought to be, we must endeavour to provide telephonic, telegraphic, and postal facilities for the people whom we are asking to go upon the land. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said at Bendigo lately that the farmer is coming into his own. It took the right honorable gentleman a long time to make that discovery. When he represented the labourers in West Sydney, he did not bother much about the farmers. People select land 5, 10, 15, and 20 miles from a railway. Many of the settlers are married, and are subject to those domestic troubles that afflict the pioneer. They may suddenly require doctors and nurses. Accidents happen; a man may be struck by falling timber, and be many miles away from a doctor. The least we can do for the out- “ back settlers is to give them telephonic, telegraphic, and postal facilities.
I remind the Postmaster-General that we are subsidizing the big morning and evening daily newspapers with the taxpayers’ money by carrying them throughout Australia at a very low rate. The money thus employed ought to be utilized in giving to the small settlers in the outlying districts proper telegraphic, telephonic, and postal conveniences. I hope that I approach this question of the carriage of newspapers in a broadminded spirit, and unaffected by the criticisms which from time to time appear in the columns of the newspapers, and give a most erroneous idea of myself and my colleagues. I bearno illwill towards the editors of the great dailies. They have an extraordinary notion that what appears in their columns is of immense educational value, and they are able to persuade themselves that they ought to use Government patronage and the taxpayers’ money in order to have their newspapers carried practically free of charge throughout the Commonwealth. I remind the Postmaster-General that the daily newspapers are mostly mere advertising sheets. It is scandalous that in Melbourne they should charge the public 2d. per copy on Saturdays for a volume of paper which contains mostly advertisements. It is the expense of distributing these enormous newspapers throughout the Commonwealth that makes it impossible for the Postmaster-General to give the small settler in the outlying districts the facilities he ought to have.
– The honorable member does not blame the present Government for that ?
– I do. When the PostmasterGeneral and I were working together, doing, as Mr. King O’Malley would say, “ the Lord’s work,” we compelled the newspapers to sign their political articles at election time.
-Did that do any good?
– More or less. In the Commonwealth are several great cities. Sydnev has a Million Club, the ambition of which is that that city shall have a population of 1,000,000 people. If this country is to progress, we must settle the people, not in the cities, but on the land. It is a great privilegeto be reared in the country as I was, and I wish that a greater proportion of the people could be brought up in rural districts, away from the temptations and vices of the big cities; but we shall never get them to go there if the Postmaster-General does not pay some attention to the request of the settlers for greater facilities from his Department. Do honorable members realize that the Postal Department carries 20 ozs. of newspaper for1½d ?
– And my Department gets only1d. of that.
– The postage on 20 ozs. of letters would be about 5s. We are penalizing the people by discouraging them from cultivating the habit of correspondence, a very profitable occupation, which elevates the mind and helps people to make friendships. , We penalize the letter-writer, but we carry 20 ozs. of newspapers for1d. Fancy carrying for that nominal charge 20 ozs. of the Melbourne Argus, containing leading articles which mislead the people instead of instructing them. Is it not a waste of money to distribute the Melbourne Age at that rate? Think of the articles which have appeared recently in that journal concerning this Parliament. What educational purpose is served by them?
– They are very destructive.
– They are only destructive. The writers attempt to hold up to ridicule and contempt the members of this Parliament, and they seem to do so successfully.
– The honorable member’ must admit that the Age has said some true things about the Government.
– I do. The articles in the Age, drawing attention to the extravagance of the Government, and making demands for a public inquiry into those matters which the Government are seeking to cloak, palliate to some extent the offence of the writers in ridiculing members of this Parliament. I was very much interested to read that the honorable member for Corangamite (Mr. Gibson) had expressed the opinion a few days ago that Hansard ought to be abolished. Hansard is our only protection. The honorable member holds theview that. Hansard ought to be abolished ‘because it is an incentive to the making of speeches. For what are we here but to make speeches t
– Exactly; not to listen to them.
– I ask the public who visit this august chamber how much influence the daily press has upon the Government. The Government fear no cirticism but that of members in this House. Criticisms by the Melbourne Age of New South Wales politicians is hailed with delight, as something in the nature of a testimonial.
– I do not think the policy of the daily newspapers has any connexion with the question before the Chair.
– The connexion is somewhat remote, I admit. I ask the PostmasterGeneral to consider the real value of the quantity of newspaper which his Department carries in its mail bags at cheap rates. I am sure that Dr. Cunningham would scorn the idea of accepting socialistic aid from the Government, but he is really taking a charitable dole from the Commonwealth when he allows his newspaper to be carried ‘by the Postal Department at the rate of 20 ozs. for Id. It is time that he told the Postmaster-General that he does not desire to accept eleemosynary aid from the Postal Department, and that the Department ought to be run on proper business lines. If that were done, the Postmaster-General would be able to attend to the requirements of my constituents in the districts of Gladstone, Yeppoon, and Rockhampton North, at St. Lawrence, Nebo, Dawson Valley-
– Hear, hear!
– The honorable member knows those places, because he has pastoral properties there. He owns fifty-four stations.
– That must interfere with the mail contracts.
– I have no doubt that the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is responsible to some extent for the deficiency in the postal revenue. He has such an extraordinary capacity for amassing wealth that he is able to buy up many stations. He has sheep and cattle on a thousand hills, with the result that he controls fifty-four stations which formerly were owned by fifty-four different families.
– No; they were all waste lands which I selected from the Crown.
– At any rate they would support fifty-four families. I am speaking of the honorable member’s pastoral properties on which he grazes over 1,000,000 sheep, I believe.
– Is the honorable member going to connect his remarks with the question before the Chair ?
– I was speaking of the failure of the Postmaster-General to attend to the requirements of my constituents.
– The honorable member was discussing the properties of the honorable member for Grampians.
– I was pointing out-thai the bringing of all these stations into the hands of one gentleman, however estimable he may be, means that fifty-four families have been displaced and forced into the cities in order to earn a living.
– The honorable member has reached his time limit.
.- We were promised that before any money was expended on Naval Bases, except in the case of necessary work at Flinders, we would be. given an opportunity of discussing the whole matter. Practically, since the establishment of this Parliament few opportunities have been given to discuss the annual expenditure ‘as a whole. Immediately the Budget is introduced, we are told that the Loan Estimates and the Works Estimates must be passed, or otherwise work in hand will be held up and men thrown out of employment. In 1913, before the elections, the present Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) wrote in the Sydney Mail a series of articles, which were afterwards published in pamphlet form, with the title “The Financial Carnival.” showing how the Commonwealth, with its ordinary expenditure at that time, was “ running on the rocks.” If that was the opinion of the right honorable gentleman in 1913, what must be his opinion to-day? Although the armistice has been signed nearly twelve months, our war expenditure for the present year, out of loan and revenue, is over £77,000,000, or nearly £1,500,000 per week.
– Does that include repatriation ?
– It does, but repatriation, as far as land settlement is concerned, accounts for only £6,085,000 - a mere nothing compared with the total. It does not matter whether the present Government, or a) Government representing an amalgamation of parties of members sitting opposite, or one formed from the party sitting on this side, is in power, far greater attention must be given to our financial problems. It is all very well saying that we have been able to borrow in the past, but the other day an effort was made to raise a loan of £25,000,000, with the result that only £21,000,000 was subscribed. To-day we are told that it is not the intention of the Government to enforce compulsion on the people in regard to this loan because the banks are making up the amount. We must not forget, however, that the banks, by way of advances to borrowers and by direct subscription, have taken up nearly two-thirds of the loan, as represented by close on £15,000,000 out of the £25,000,000 that was asked for. This shows the absolute necessity for the Government and the members of this House to apply themselves directly to the question of the finances. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) tells us that the Government propose to go on with work which must be done, but now that the greater proportion of the work in connexion with the war has been completed, it is time that the various Departments concerned were told that there must be a curtailment of the staffs. After the war had been over for months the censorship staff was kept in existence, although there was no work for it to do; and when I and others asked questions, we were told that the matter would be inquired into. If there is anything that will bring the Government and Parliament into disrepute, it is keeping people on the pay-rolls when there is no work for them.
– What would you cut out of this schedule i
– I should say that today six out of every seven men who went overseas to the Front have been discharged, and there cannot ‘be any necessity to keep the same staffs employed in the Defence Department as before.
– You are not referring to any item in the schedule?
– I am speaking of the present financial position; and I do so because I understand we shall have no opportunity to discuss the Budget. If we are to prorogue to-morrow week, I suppose that a Supply Bill will have to be rushed through. Some honorable members from a distance have already left for their constituencies, and will not return until after the election - if they return then. I have no doubt that many honorable members from both sides have left, so that my remark is not applicable to any particular party. It is probable that the Supply Bill will be introduced in a depleted House, and passed in the early hours of the morning; indeed, it will depend on what honorable members aTe here whether the Bill is put through without any criticism at all.- Supply will have to be given for at least three months to take us over the elections, and allow time for the new Parliament to meet in February or March.
– Parliament must be called together within thirty days after the return of the writs.
– The return of the writs may be postponed, as has been done in some cases in the past; though I do not say it could be postponed for any great length of time. At any rate, it is highly probable that Parliament will not meet again until nearly Easter. Further, there are senators who may fail to be reelected, and this House may decline to go on with business until their successors are entitled to sit, and that will not be until July of next year. Many years ago, in order to meet a similar situation, the date of the elections was deliberately changed, the people, on a referendum, deciding that they should take place in the middle of the year and not at the end. Owing to the action of the present Government, however, the next elections are to take place at a time of which the people then expressed their disapproval; and, under the circumstances, we shall either have to pass the whole of the Estimates or a Supply Bill.
For some time an Economy Commission has been in existence, and has made a report in regard to various Departments. The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster), and others, including myself, have asked many questions in regard to this report, but the only definite reply received was that given to the honorable member for Wakefield, to the effect that the report had been referred to the Departments affected, and that when the officers of those Departments had written their comments, we should have the document placed before us.
– Is it not only fair that we should have both sides before us ?
– Yes; but we have to remember that the Government are faced with an enormous expenditure, and that they appointed this Commission. Under the circumstances, Parliament should have the report.
– The report should come straight to us.
– I should say that Parliament is, at least, as important as the Departments, and as much entitled to see the report. If the headsof the Departments desire to comment on the report, they should have an opportunity of doing so after its presentation to us.
Last year we discussed the question of the erection of a coal “grab” at Port Pirie, which was rightly held to be a war work, inasmuch as it facilitated the unloading of coal and the loading of lead at that port for service overseas. Those who took an interest in the matter found that the Government had advanced £S8,000 to the State of South Australia in order that it might be completed, and from the Estimates we were led to suppose that the money would be repaid by that State. I remember that the honorable member for Henty (Mr. Boyd) and I expressed a doubt whether the Commonwealth would ever see a penny of the money; and. judging from the Budget statement, nothing has been received in repayment up to the present. Depreciation of the plant is going on, and it is quite possible that we may be told to “ take the old ‘ grab ‘ back.” The agreement between the Commonwealth and South Australia was that the Commonwealth should pay for the “grab,” and after its completion, hand it over to South Australia, the £88,000 then to be repaid to the Commonwealth.
– There is more than one “grab.”
– Yes - an automatic coal “ grab “ and an automatic money “ grab.”
Provision is made in the schedule for an expenditure of £398,000, under the control of the Postmaster-General’s Department, for the construction and extension of telegraph and telephone lines, the construction of conduits, and for undergrounding wires. I should like the PostmasterGeneral to state where this money is to be expended. I think I can safely say that telephone wires traverse twothirds of the streets in my electorate, but although I represent a city constituency, I appreciate fully the difficulties and disadvantages of life in the outback country. As a rule, the undergrounding of telephone and telegraph lines is not carried out in provincial towns. There are some large country towns with a population of 4,000 or more where the telephone wires are underground; but I hold that first attention should be given to the provision of telephone and telegraph facilities in outback country districts. I well remember, many years ago, making the same plea on behalf of country residents, when Mr. Samuel Mauger held office as Postmaster-General. We have a right to know what proportion ofthis money is to be expended in our large cities. I realize, of course, that a large expenditure in connexion with the telephone services of all our large cities is unavoidable. When an exchange such as that at Hawthorn, Malvern, or Windsor becomes overloaded, it is often cheaper to install an up-to-date automatic service than to attempt to add to an obsolete board.
– And a better service is obtained.
– Undoubtedly. I believe that the automatic exchanges at Malvern’, Brighton, and Geelong are infinitely superior to some of the manually operated exchanges. That is not due to any fault on the part of the operators; and I think that those who grumble when they do not receive an immediate response to a call would not be so ready to complain if they visited some of our manually operated exchanges, and saw the pressure at which the operators work.
– Sometimes in a country district a line remains down for days.
– I have waited for an hour in a seaside post-office only 35 miles from this city to get a call from Melbourne. It would be unreasonable to expect the Department to make provision at a seaside resort at holiday times for a dozen people or more to speak with Melbourne at one and the same time. That is not asked for; but I certainly do think that country districts practically out of touch with the State capitals, many of them having only a daily train service, and receiving their daily newspapers ten or fifteen hours after publication, are entitled to the best that the Department can do for them in the way of telephone and telegraph facilities.
I may tell the Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook), who has just entered the chamber, that I have been referring to the electioneering pamphlet entitled, A Financial Carnival, which was written by him in connexion with the 1913 general election. According to the right honorable gentleman, the Labour Government then in power made provision for an expenditure of £3,000,000 on Contingencies, of which Parliament could have no record. The right honorable gentleman knows that that statement was quite wrong. He knows that it is impossible for a Department to spend even 5s. unless the expenditure is certified to by a responsible officer. Many pamphlets written for party political purposes are misleading. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) complained this afternoon that the Australian press degraded its high office by writing, down members, and ridiculing them in a wholly unjustifiable manner. This tendency on the part of the press is due largely to Parliament itself. Political parties do not hesitate to suggest that their opponents are guilty of all sorts of reprehensible practices. They do here what is done in the United States of America. I was working at my trade in the United States of America during a’ Presidential campaign, and observed the tactics to which each party resorted. When the Democratic party said that the Republican party was corrupting public life, and doing everything that was bad, the Republican party responded by making equally strong statements concerning its opponents. We had the same sort of political game in Australia when we had a Free Trade party and a Protectionist party in this Parliament. In connexion with the electorate of Kooyong, for instance, the late Mr. Knox, on one occasion, was opposed by Mr. A. G. Lumsden. According to the Age, Mr. Knox was everything that was bad; according to the Argus, Mr. Knox was the desirable candidate, and Mr. Lumsden was highly objectionable. The Labour party have not a daily paper to publish a word in their favour-
– And a good job, too.
– Yes; we are here not because of the press, but in spite of it. I object to suggestions of political corruption that are made for purely party purposes. On the occasion to which I refer tlie Minister for the Navy published a pamphlet in which he stated that Parliament had voted £3,000,000 without keeping any record of the expenditure, and he suggested that it was within the power of the Labour party to spend that money without any one knowing where it went. That was an altogether wrong statement to make.
I wish now to refer to the housing scheme at Lithgow. I believe it to be an excellent one, and if such a scheme is necessary at Lithgow, then, as the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith) said, this afternoon, it is even more necessary in some of the densely-populated cities of Australia. The honorable member referred to my electorate. There are parts of my constituency of which I am ashamed, as far as the housing .of the people is concerned. The trouble is that if the wretched houses in those quarters were pulled down tomorrow, those occupying them would find it difficult to obtain another roof over their heads. Those who have not had to hunt for a house in the metropolitan area here during the last few months can hardly appreciate the difficulty of obtaining a cottage or villa to rent. Within a hundred yards of the busiest railway station in Australia there are six houses on a frontage of 115 feet - about 19 feet to each house - with a depth of only 45 feet. And yet we expect decent, reputable citizens to be reared in such places.
– Decent, respectable people live in such houses, but they are fools to do so.
– That is so. Poverty, is no crime. When I have seen a house of this class decorated with flags because of the return of a boy from the Front, I have felt that the occupants had more reason to be proud of their boys than wealthy people had, because, apparently, they had nothing to fight for-
– They were wiser than their representative. They knew they had something to fight for.
– My hoy was in the fighting line. How long was the honorable member, who is proud to wear a returned soldier’s medal, there ? My boy was glad to “ do his bit.” It is amusing to hear some of those who were hanging back sneering at what was done by others. I know that a soldier has to go where he is sent, and the honorable member may not have been sent into the front-line trenches. I am prepared to stand by my attitude on the question of conscription. No one knows better than does the present Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) what attitude I took up on that question. I told him that sooner than support what the Government of the day prop”osed to do I would walk out of public life. I have earned my living in three continents, and I will never support anything in which I do not believe.
– Why cast doubt on the judgment of those of your constituents who did go to the Front ?
– I did not do so; if the honorable member thought that I was doing anything of the kindhe was wrong. I repeat that the parents of the boys who left these little cottage homes, built in streets only 13 feet wide, have every reason to be proud of them.
I have only to say in conclusion that I am glad that a start has been made with the housing scheme at Lithgow, and that I hope it will be extended to other parts of the Commonwealth.
– I had expected from honorable members who had compared these Estimates with those of previous years, something like sympathy, instead ofcondemnation. For the normal requirements of the Department, £398,026 is provided this year; whereas in 1913-14, and again in 1914-15, about £1,250,000 was provided. In 1915-16, and in 1917-18 double the amount was provided ; but last year only £311,000 was allocated for these requirements. That amount has been reduced by at least £250,000 because of the financial needs of the Commonwealth, and because of the difficulty in obtaining material owing to the dislocation caused by the war. If it had not been for the fact that £344,000 was allocated last year ror the purchase of material, we would have been at a dead end to-day. Some of that material is now arriving; but I regret that, owing to the dislocation caused by the war, I have been unable to supply telephones for hundreds of would-be subscribers, and that, even when the material already ordered does come to hand, I can only provide instruments for the people who have been waiting twelve months for them. I cannot say when I shall be in a position to meet the requests that are now coming in for telephone services.
– The Minister is speaking now of city requests.
– I have been roundly abused, not only by the mercantile classes, but also by the newspapers, for having cut out post-offices in four of the capital cities which I considered unnecessary. They may have been a convenience to city dwellers, but they were losing propositions, and did not add to the efficiency of the Department, or to the accommodation provided. Honorable members will recollect what the newspapers said when I cut out the post-offices at Menzies’ Hotel and other places. I also stopped useless deliveries of letters, proved to be such by the number of letters posted. For instance, I cut out the Saturday afternoon delivery. In fact, I curtailed expenditure in every direction in the cities, in order to pursue those lines of economy on which I would like to see the Department run throughout my term. It is not true that the cities have not had to bear their share of retrenchment. The country districts would be in a far worse position if it were not for the cities. From the revenue derived from the metropolitan services, where the largest service can be carried out more cheaply, are contributed those large sums of money which are necessary to enable facilities to be given to districts where the services cannot possibly pay. Otherwise, we should have had to fall back on the general taxpayer. I preferred to draw upon the city services, and I have been doing my best to save what I could . in the metropolitan areas in order to help country districts. On some mail contracts, the repartment has had to pay 600 per cent. more than the revenue derived ; in other cases, 300 per cent. ; and in others, 200 per cent. Large sums have to be paid for carrying mails across the “ Never Never” to people at the other side, and the cost has to be borne by the contributions of people in the metropolitan areas. Out of the departmental revenue, we now do what was not done ten years ago; we pay 60 per cent. of the estimated loss on any mail service applied for by country districts. In the early days of the Federation, no service was given where there was no possibility of it paying. The people in the cities now contribute 60 per cent. to the cost of any country mail service, and 50 per cent. of the estimated loss on any country telephone service. People are thus enabled to be given services that they would not otherwise get. This would be a great concession, even in times of peace. There is no other country in the world where rural settlers are treated with the same liberality. Persons talk about the 100,000,000 people in America, and its larger area; but there the telephones are run by private companies to pay. They would not be expected to run them at a loss. Whereas we in Australia supply a telephone service for £4 per year, with a penny per call, those who require telephones in country districts in America are obliged to pay from £12 to £15 per annum ground rent; and after a limited number of calls have been made, Subscribers have to pay 5 cents per call. Yet in this country of ours, with its small’ population of 5,000,000, honorable members expect us to do more than is done in other countries. I ask them to look at the matter from a practical stand-point. According to the last report I have seen, a person who requires a private telephone in London is called upon to pay £17 10s per year ground rent; and a person who requires a telephone for business purposes is obliged to pay £20 per annum. London subscribers do not get what we give in any metropolis in Australia - a 10- mile radius. London is divided into eight zones, extending out as far as 10 miles. For the nearest zone to the exchange, the charge per call is1d. ; but there is an additional charge for every additional zone, until at the outside zone the rate runs as high as 6d. per call.
– As soon as you get outside the 10-mile metropolitan radius, you put up the zone charges.
– Exactly ; but look at the quantity of wire we have to provide. We have the cheapest telephone service in the world excepting only those which are provided in Norway, Switzer land, and Sweden, pocket-handkerchief countries with dense populations.
– We may have the cheapest telephone service in the metropolitan areas, but what about the service in the country districts?
– I am speaking of the country. Has hot the honorable member been listening ? Does he, like all farmers’ representatives, shut his ears when something is being said that he does not want to hear, and then immediately come forward with the hackneyed phrases of the institution to which he belongs? I represent a country constituency, and have done so for longer than the honorable member may do. I have had to represent a larger electorate than the honorable member is representing to-day. and I have done so for nearly twenty years. I know what the country districts are, for I was there before there were any telephones in my electorate.
I wish to deal a little more fully with the remarks of my friend, the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). I did not rise last night, because I thought it would be better to give my reply to all the speeches made at the one time. The honorable member referred to the disparity between the amounts provided for postal buildings in Victoria and New South Wales. If he had looked through the items in the other parts of the Estimates he would have seen how the difference came about. There are two separate amounts set down for Victoria for two exchanges. Only a small amount is provided towards them; nothing like what ought to be there. Instead of being £11,000, the amount ought to be £121,000 or £131,000.
– Where are the exchanges ?
– One is at Collingwood, and, I believe, the other is at Ascot Vale. Those two items represent £11,000. The votes for the two States are respectively £8,000 and £19,000, and the sum of £11,000 exactly accounts for the difference.
There has been practically nothing spent on postal buildings for the last four years compared with what normal conditions would demand. There is, as the honorable member for Hunter says, much to do. There are many post offices crying aloud for reconstruction, additions, and renovations, and all those things which are necessary to make a modern post-office. But will honorable members look at the Estimates and see what I have to do this work with? When honorable members demand of me that I shall do more than can be done with the means at my disposal, I ask them to remember that I, no more than any other man, can make bricks without straw or without clay.
Mr.Laird Smith. - Where do you get your surplus from?
– From actual savings, brought about by scientific economy.
– You have sweated some of it out of the people in the country.
– It is alleged that some of my savings have been taken from country services. That is not correct.
– I say it is correct.
– The honorable member has been saying so for these ten years. These are the facts: In 1918-19 I paid £68,000 more for country mail services than was paid in the year prior to the war. Can I save money by spending £68,000 more on such services while receiving only the same rates ? The same charges are being imposed upon the people as were imposed in pre-war days, and I have had to make the best of it, instead of being able, like the private manufacturer or merchant, to increase prices when wages and the cost of material have all risen. I have not been able to raise the rates. The Department has had to work on its1d.postage, and on its low rates for telegrams, which cannot be justified bv any man from an economic stand-point. I have had to carry on at the old rates. The permanent staff cost the Department during the war £803,000 more by reason of extra wages, promotions, &c. That increased sum has had to be found, over and above the expenditure in the pre-war years, to pay additional wages, the outcome of arbitration awards and Public Service Acts, and provide for concessions and promotions. That has all had to be paid out of the old rates. The extra £68,000 for country mail services has had to be met out of the old rates also. Wherever you look in the Department, the very opposite of the profiteering which hasbeen in existence during the war has obtained. If there is one Department which has not profiteered, it is the Postal Department. It has not raised its charges to the public by one penny, for such services, while helping to carry the burden of the war. I want country members to be fair and reasonable.
– You raised the postage to l½d.
– The honorable member knows that the Treasurer takes the extra revenue from that source.
– What is the difference? The public pay it.
– I will tell the honorable member. Supposing for the sake of argument that the additional war postage tax of½d. brings in £500,000 a year - and it brought in £480,000 for part of last year - if I had that to spend instead of handing it over to the Treasurer, would it not make a great difference to me?. Honorable members can see the difference between having £480,000 to spend and having that amount and being unable to touch it. The honorable member says the public pays it, but that does not matter if I do not get it. We know who pays it. I am arguing simply as to who has the right to use it. It goes into the general revenue as a war tax, and the public should know that, because since the extra postage was imposed the average person in the community believes that the money goes to the Postal Department, and I get letters even from members ‘ of Parliament in which the statement is made. I am asked by many people, “ We have to pay½d. extra postage. What are we getting for it?” All I get for it is that I have to collect it and account for it. That is something extra that I have to do, while my Department gets none of it towards its revenue. When members of Parliament are under a false impression about that matter, one cannot wonder at the man in the country not’ knowing what is really happening.
The day is not far distant when we must have very much larger sums than appear on these Estimates to make good the developmental work that has ‘had to be put aside in the Postal Department owing to the necessities of war time. I cannot press for those larger sums to-day, because I know, as we all know, the’ exigencies of the Treasurer. I have done my best to help him out of his troubles. I turned the £629,000 deficit that I found in the Department when I took charge into a surplus of £387,000 last year. That was helping the Treasurer to find money, instead of his having to put it on to the people’s backs by way of direct taxation.. In war time it is -our duty to keep the Service going as long as we can. It is the duty of every Minister to assist the Treasurer to reduce the burden of debt on the people, and to keep taxation down as low as possible. This I have been trying to do. I do not deny for a moment that there are services that I want to give. There are services that are needed. There are revenue-producing services that ought to be provided. There are post-offices that require modernizing. There are post-offices that require remodelling, to wipe out obsolete and hopeless faults of construction, which prevent the possibility of co-ordination. I want to do all these things in order to bring about those scientific modern conditions by which alone it is possible to economize still more in the metropolis, and by economizing and getting better results, to put the profits so made into services for the people in the back-blocks. That is what I call scientific administration of any Department.
I hope I shall live to see the day when the Government will be able to respond to my appeals for the money that is needed, before it is too late, to make good the ravages which war indirectly inflicts upon a Department such as this. In this Department the average ordinary estimate for works and construction in pre-war days was nearly £2,000,000. To-day I have to make less than £500,000 do. While the business of the Department has grown since 1913-14 by more than 38 per cent. , the cost of administering it, which in 1913-14 was £105 for every £100 earned, has been gradually dropping year by year, until last year every £100 was earned with an expenditure of £81. In other words, there was a difference between 1913-14 and 1918-19 of £24 in the cost of earning each £100. These are facts. Whereas the business of the Post Office has grown by 38 per cent since 1913-14, the number of permanent men employed - and I want honorable members to understand that it has not been a case of merely increasing the temporary men correspondingly - is now 643 less than the number employed to earn 38 per cent, less revenue. In former days the number of permanent men would have been increased by 38 per cent, to earn 38 per cent, more revenue. These are facts in which every honorable mem ber should take pride. Every honorable member should say to the people, “ These facts are taken from the records of the Department, and are authentic.” Every honorable member should let the people know that we have been trying to do something, instead of backing up the howl of the press, which is daily, weekly, and yearly, in season and out of season, trying to foul the nest of this fair Parliament, and besmirch the reputations of public men. It is the duty of every public man, when he has the facts, to state them, and not to echo the ‘ false statements that are made from time to time, to the detriment of this Parliament and the men who sit within its walls. I have spoken thus to-night because I want honorable members, if they will, to tell the people the truth about these matters. I want them to tell the public that we have not been wasting their money, but have been applying ourselves strictly to the keenest economy, to the discovery of the best methods of administration, and to the achievement of efficiency rather than of extravagance. By these means honorable members can show the people that Parliament is not as bad as it is painted, and that, instead of meriting their condemnation, it is worthy of their confidence.
I have represented a country constituency ‘ for nearly twenty years. I have stood in this House as a private member. I have appealed to many PostmastersGeneral in the interests of the men in the back-blocks. No man can charge me with being inconsistent. I know the wants of the country districts as well as any man in this Chamber does. The outback settlers know that, and I must say this for the residents in .the country districts, that I owe them my thanks for the way they have withheld their pressing needs and responded to ray appeals to them not to ask for the impossible during the trying times of war. Generally speaking, honorable members and their constituents have not been inconsiderate to me and the Department that I have the honor to administer. I thank them, and am grateful to them for their consideration. I ask them to forbear a little longer, until the clouds of this war disperse and we can see the sunshine of restoration, return- to normal conditions, and get the money which is necessary to satisfy the requirements of the people. We cannot, of course, satisfy everybody. No man can do that. The more we give, the more is asked. We used to give mail and telephone services that were profitable, but people asked for services that did not pay. The Department agreed then to bear a loss of 25 per cent. on such services, and immediately other districts outside the eategory howled to be included. When we raised the margin of loss to 50 per cent., it took some time for honorable members to put forward the claims of their constituents who desired to benefit from that arrangement. Then I assumed office, and the people outside the 50 per cent. margin wanted still further concessions. Those are the people who to-day are demanding the impossible - services which would involve an expenditure of £50, and yield a revenue of only £5. If I incur in some locality expenditure which is 200 per cent. more than the revenue, some other district must go short.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- The members of the Committee were pleased to hear the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) give an explanation of the policy he has adopted during the time he has been in office. I am gratified that that policy, as far as it goes, coincides with my own views. I have advocated the same principles at different times in this House, and, as a consequence, I have met with opposition from some of my country friends. I am one of those who believe that the Postal Department should be self-supporting. It should be a thorough business undertaking;
– We might as well make the Education Department selfsupporting.
– I differ from that view. The metropolitan areas should be made to pay sufficient for their postal services to enable proper facilities to be provided in country districts. The people in the country districts, who have suffered more than any residents of the metropolitan areas through the curtailment of telephonic and telegraphic facilities during the war, have been asked to carry a large burden. I realize the difficulties of the Postmaster-General because of his inability to get the money that he requires for the extension of departmental ser vices; but we ought to so re-adjust our postal rates as to insure that we shall get sufficient revenue from all sources to enable facilities to be given to persons who settle in the outlying districts.
– Surely the honorable member would make some limit?
– I admit there must be some limitation. The metropolitan people, who provide the greater proportion of the revenue of which the Postmaster-General spoke, do not actually pay it. They may appear to pay it directly, but they recoup themselves from their customers in the country. Therefore, although the country man is not given the facilities, he has to pay for those that are given to the cities. That is why I argue that we ought to so adjust the cost of postal services throughout the Commonwealth as to be able to give the necessary facilities to those who are engaged in developing the out-back country.
– The honorable member knows that we cannot have any differentiation in postal rates.
– I am aware of that; but the Postmaster-General could raise sufficient revenue from the great bodies of population in the closely congested centres to provide all the services that are required.
– The country postage ought never to have been abolished.
– There are differential telephone rates.
– I do not argue that there should be. I say that the rates should be so adjusted as to be uniform as far as possible. The people who are living in the metropolitan districts would only be doing fairly “by those who. go out back to develop the country if they contributed a larger share of the revenue. What inducement is there for people to go outback and settle? Should not the pioneer get some consideration.
– The State Government should subsidize their services.
– Something should be done; I do not care what it is. What causes the concentration of population in the metropolitan areas ? Is it not the fact that the facilities and amenities of life are greater there, with the result that people in the out-back country are endeavouring to get into the cities? Congestion in the cities and sparsity of the population. throughout the country areas follows. The only means of remedying that evil is to recognise that the people in the outback areas have claims on the general community. They are the back-bone of the country; they produce most of our wealth. The bulk of the people who nominally pay for most of the facilities in the metropolitan area are doing business with the country districts, and naturally they pass on to them whatever charges they have to meet. The result is that indirectly the people pay the charges that are nominally imposed upon metropolitan clients of the Department. To compel the country people to pay for the services they get is to do an injustice to them.
– Does the honorable member contend that the country people do not derive some advantage through having city people to cater for their wants ?
– I do not deny that. I say that the basis on which the honorable gentleman is operating is correct, and it ought to be extended. There should be no , curtailment of postal facilities for the country districts if it can possibly be avoided. When one meets peoplein the outlying districts he finds that they complain of lack of telephonic communication, not only because of their business interests, but also on account of illness! They may be resident from 20 to 50 miles from a doctor. If they have sudden illness and telephone communication is established, they can summon the doctor, and he can be on the spot within the time that would be occupied in sending a messenger to the town for him. It is of the utmost importance that these facilities should be provided, and I know that the Minister is anxious to do all he can in that direction. The country people have borne their burden during the war in the belief that when peace arrived they would get relief. The war is over, and the assistance they need ought to be forthcoming. But the Postmaster-General and country representatives will not deny that the complaint is that rural postal services, as well as telephonic services, have been reduced in many ways:
– Only in districts where the revenue has fallen below a figure which would provide a service for all concerned.
– My argument is that these services should not be restricted because of the revenue falling ; the cost of them should be borne by the general community, and not by the pioneers.
– That would mean taxing the general community in order to provide services for the few.
– I would do that. I would operate the postal services in the same way as I would operate a railway service. I Avould fix rates that would make the Department a paying concern, knowing that the people in the country were getting only what they were entitled to at the expense of city dwellers, who enjoy much greater comforts in their every-day life.
– The honorable member’s comparison with the railways fails, because the man who goes furthest outback has to pay the highest fares and freights.
– That is not correct. The further out the farmer is settled the lower the railway freights he pays on. his produce.
– The scale is lower, but the amount is greater.
– He pays less in proportion per 100 miles.
– But it costs him more to get his produce to the city.
– That is all the more reason why he should receive greater consideration in other respects.
– The policy of the Postmaster-General is all right; I approve of it. But, instead of taking away facilities from country districts, he ought to try to improve the services, and so adjust the charges generally throughout the community as to make the Department self-supporting. We ought not to borrow money for the purposes of the Postal Department. It ought to be made a paying concern; but the great body of the people throughout Australia should pay, and not only those settled in some remote parts. The Department should not say, “ This service will cost so much, ‘the revenue will be so much less; and unless you are prepared to find the balance, you shall not have the facilities you require.” I do not agree with that attitude; the settlers ought to get the facilities. We ought to encourage them, and others, to settle upon the land. Many people go into the country with the idea of selecting land. They inquire about the postal and telephonic facilities. If the services are satisfactory, they decide to settle; if there are no services of that kind, they resolve not to remain there.
– The honorable member would provide a mail delivery costing £600, and serving only one man, in the hope that some other settler would follow.
– And then he would compel the settler to sell his product under its market value.
– I would not go to the extremes suggested by the PostmasterGeneral. I would give facilities wherever there is legitimate settlement. The honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), being a country representative, knows of instances in which twenty or thirty persons settled in a district have applied for a telephone service, which has been refused by the Department because it was not likely to be payable.
– What would be the good of giving them a telephone if you compelled them to sell their produce under the market value?
– I do not advocate that. I have previously argued that the primary products ought to be sold at a reasonable value, something like the prices that obtained prior to the war, and if there is any surplus beyond local requirements, it could be exported at the overseas parity. The local consumers ought not to be made to pay more than a reasonable price.
– Would that argument apply to coal?
– Does not the honorable member know that coal is cheaper in Australia than it is in England today ? I quite agree with the views stated by the Postmaster-General, but I would carry his policy further. The honorable gentleman has shown that during the war the Department had not the material necessary for the extension of existing services and the provision of new ones, but he anticipates that some material will come to hand in the near future.
– But all new works are twelve months in arrears.
– I quite understand that many works which may be sanctioned to-day may not be carried out for twelve months; but I ask that when the material does come to hand it be divided as fairly as possible between all districts, and not be all absorbed by fifteen or twenty centres. Every electorate is waiting for the carrying out of many works that have been sanctioned for, probably, two or three years. I hope that there will be a fair distribution of the material that comes to hand throughout the different electorates.
A sum of £55,000 is provided towards the cost of housing the employees of the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow. That is a very good policy. I believe in providing housing accommodation for our employees; but before we embark extensively upon the undertaking, steps ougnt to be taken to reduce the cost of building material. I say that, because those who live in the houses will have the option of buying them, probably by way of rent, with interest added. Such homes, if built to-day, will cost £150 or £160 more than they would before the war.
– The increase is greater than that.
– I am keeping within the mark. This means a great tax oh the wages of the men, whereas if we could obtain bricks, wood, and other material at a reasonable cost, we could build so much more cheaply, and relieve them of this burden. If we go on with the ‘building now, when profiteering is stalking throughout the land, an injustice will be done. Similar remarks might be made in regard to the erection of soldiers’ homes.
– The PostmasterGeneral is paying 150 per cent. more for his material.
– I admit that,is the case with everybody, and something ought to be done.
– I am paying at least 150 per cent. more than I did in pre-war days, and I am not making any extra charge.
– I see the position that the Postmaster-General is in.
– It is owing to the high freights on the Government boats.
– That is notso; it is owing to the high prices all over the world.
– I agree with the Postmaster-General. During the war period prices have increased everywhere, as is instanced in the case of shipping. But the difficulties in this connexion ought to gradually disappear.
– We cannot get cheap timber unless wages are cut down.
– As to that; I can give an illustration based on evidence.
Would the honorable member believe that the increased cost of labour in the case of a five-roomed cottage is only £13 ? This is shown in the report of the InterState Commission on rents, in connexion with the provision of soldiers’ homes. That figure represents the increase in wages paid to all the tradesmen employed in the erection of a cottage of that kind.
As I say, I realize the difficulties of the Postmaster-General, and I think he put up a very good defence this evening. I ask him, if he remains in office, to do something to relieve the necessities of the people in the matter of postal arrangements in country districts. The honorable gentleman admits that the people in those districts suffer, and that he has been compelled to allow things to drift a little because of his inability to get material. Now the war is over, however, things will gradually come back to normal.
– To-day, prices are higher than ever.
– I am sorry to hear that.
– The honorable member is on the Public Accounts Committee, and ought to know the reason.
– The Public Accounts Committee have never inquired into the matter.
– But the honorable member knows the reason.
– The reason is that there is profiteering throughout the world.
– The reason is that since the end of the war there has been such a demand for material for the restoration of those countries which were desolated that there is a scarcity, which renders it almost impossible to obtain supplies.
– Probably the Postmaster-General is right in regard to postal requirements, but nobody will contend that that explanation applies to the hardwoods of Australia required for the homes of which I was speaking. Our forests are not less than they were before the war.
– There is a shortage of timber, though.
– Some splendid timber districts have been opened in New South Wales in the last few years; but, although there is more timber ayailable now than before, the price is considerably higher.
– The cost of production has gone up considerably.
– If honorable mem;bers contend that the high prices are due to natural causes, why do the Government ask for more power to deal with profiteering ? Honorable members cannot hoodwink the people by telling them that there is no profiteering.
– I do not say there is no profiteering.
– That is the inference from the interjection.
– There will always be rise and fall, according to the demand and supply.
– That I admit; but the law of supply and demand does not regulate prices to-day, except in very few instances. In every direction we find combinations which regulate prices. I do hope that the Postmaster-General will see that the people inthe country districts are afforded facilities to keep in touch with the outside world and make their lives as comfortable as possible.
! - The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has said that I have been on the same theme for ten years; and it is a fact that I have.
– The honorable member has more telephones in his constituency than has any member in the House.
– Whether he has more or less, it is the same story.
– I am not finding fault with the administration of the Postmaster-General, but I submit that, since th9 inception of Federation, the principle on which country telephone; have been constructed is entirely wrong. We have no more right to make a balance sheet apply to’country telephones than we have to make a balance-sheet apply to our educational system, our Judiciary, or any of the other necessities of civilization.
Take the instance of a small sawmill in an outlying district. It is erected far awayin the bush, and it is absolutely essential, in the interests of humanity, that there should be a telephone attached. I care not how careful the management of the sawmill may be, it represents an exceedingly dangerous calling, and accidents are continually happening. If a telephone is available, instructions from a doctor may be obtained, aid many lives have been saved by this means. But the’ Department takes the stand that such a telephone is not a paying proposition, and unless those requiring it are prepared to give a guarantee against loss, it is not supplied.
I have contended for years that that is a rotten principle to apply to an absolutely necessary adjunct of civilization, and I feel very keenly on this matter. It is absurd for the Postmaster-General to smuglysay that certain things are happening in the city. I should like to compel the honorable gentleman to live out-back, where he would get a mail only two or three times a week.
– I have lived where I got a mail only once a month.
– I can well remember that, when the honorable gentleman was a private member in the Government corner, he was the strongestadvocate for telephone facilities being extended to country districts.
– And I succeeded in getting the 25 per cent. concession.
– It is the very principle of concession that I am objecting to now. It should be the object of this Parliament to induce people to settle in the country.
– Go to the Federal Capital !
– That would only create another big centre. About 75 per cent. of the people of Australia are living in the cities and large towns. In Victoria and South Australia the position is unique, for in each case half the population is living in cities and suburbs. One of the great difficulties with people in the country is the absence of postal facilities, especially telephones; and we have talked about the zone system. It is true that, within a radius of ten miles of the city and suburbs of Melbourne, the charge f or the use of the telephone is 2d ; but the further one goes out into the bush the higher the charge is. I have held, and still hold, that we have no right to penalize people for going out into the country districts; on the contrary, our whole object should be to provide them with every convenience possible. In many country districts the people have to depend on one telephone line, and in the case of an accident to it they may be for days without any telephonic communication.
The whole ‘system is based on a wrong principle. Ever since I have been a member of this House I have been fighting for the introduction of some more generous plan by which men who go the furthest out shall not have to pay more for the use of the telephone than do those who are living in much more comfortable districts. There is no comparison between the ease and comfort and wealth of the people who live in our oldest established country districts, and the conditions which have to be faced by those whom we encourage to push further and further out. In the case of education, the authorities will build a school for ten children and provide a good teacher.
– That is not done here.
– It is done in our State, where we are more civilized. But if the people in the same district apply for a telephone line, they are compelled to guarantee any loss incurred in its maintenance, although they can illafford to do so.
– Would not the difficulty be removed by the construction of light lines?
– Undoubtedly. In many cases magnificent poles are used, where a much lighter and cheaper line could be constructed.
– Which would be just as effective.
– Exactly. In that respect a very great reform might well be made. I hold that the departmental balance-sheet should not be the sole guide as to what facilities should be given to the people.
– Where would the honorable member get the money in that case?
– By doing away with waste in other directions. This is the only service that the Commonwealth can provide for people in country districts. The States build their railways, construct their roads, provide for education, the Judiciary, the magistracy, and the police. The one service that the Federation is called upon to do for them, in addition to taxing them, is to provide postal and telephone facilities. I do not believe that three mail deliveries a day are necessary in our cities. I would cut off at least one delivery.
– There are only two deliveries in Sydney.
– And I believe that there areto be only two deliveries in this city. I would not hesitate to cut down our city mail deliveries to one per day, if that were necessary, in order that the people in back-block districts might obtain reasonable telephone and mail services.
– The honorable member would not make a draught horse of a postman?
– No. I think reforms might also be carried out in connexion with the delivery of mails.
The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) said that he did not reduce one mail service during the war. I can only say that he does not know what is going on in his own Department. In my electorate many services have been reduced, and petitions are in course of preparation for presentation to him on this very subject. I was glad to hear the honorable gentleman say that certain reforms have been carried out in connexion with city postal services. If I had to decide between depriving people in country districts of a telephone service, on which the lives of men and women so often depend, and the reduction of the mail deliveries in our big cities, I should have no hesitation in adopting the latter course. The only retrenchment in connexion with the Department of which I know is the cutting down of country mail and telephone facilities, I know of a postmistress who, for the princely allowance of £40 per annum, has to provide her own office, attend to a telephone which keeps her almost constantly employed, distribute the daily mail, pay old-age pensions, conduct Savings Bank business, and make payments to returned soldiers. The Department is now proposing to reduce the smaller allowances. I claim that some of those who are in charge of contract offices are receiving a beggarly remuneration for the work they are called upon to do. I have been complaining, and shall continue to do so. I want a very material reduction in the charges made for long-distance telephone messages. Why should an increased rate be levied in respect of every additional 10 miles, with the result that a man in a country district has often to pay ls. 3d. a call, whereas a charge of only 2d. per call is made in respect of telephone services within a radius of 10 miles of a city exchange?
I hope that the Committee will, in the nearfuture, insist upon radical and complete reform in the administration of the Postal Department, and lay down the principle that our postal, telegraph, and telephone services shall be based, not upon the balance-sheets prepared by postal officials, but on the broad basis of humanity and the necessites of the people.
– Year after year we have a debate on the need for the extension of telephone facilities in country districts, and I am satisfied that there is not a representative of a city constituency who would be unwilling to grant such facilities. When we visit, the country we experience the difficulties that fall to the lot of country residents. I did not know what isolation meant until I was stranded in Western Australia for ten days at the time of the second referendum, and found it impossible to return to civilization. I hold that our telephone facilities should be largely extended. While in Gippsland a few weeks ago, I had a conversation with a man whose political views are different from my own, but who is always ready to enlarge upon the need for increased telephone services in country districts. I said to him, “ Then there is one phase of Socialism in which you believe ?” He wanted to know what Socialism had to do with the matter. He forgot that the postal, telegraph; and telephone services constitute one of the best bits of Socialism that a man could have. The farmer likes Socialism when it suits him, and when he favours a bit of Socialism of this kind, we should let him have it.
I wish to refer to the administration of the War Service Homes Act. There is a dual form of control over the erection of war service homes which can lead only to chaos.
– I do not think the honorable member is in order in discussing that question on this Bill.
– There is no item in this schedule relating to war service homes.
– If the Minister (Mr Greene) is afraid to have the matter discussed, well and good.
– There is alreadv on the notice-paper a Bill to amend the War Service Homes Act, on which the honorable member will be able to discuss the whole question to his heart’s content.
– Then I hope we shall not be called upon to pass it in a few minutes, but that a reasonable opportunity will be afforded for its discussion:.
.- There is in this schedule an item of £50,000 for the construction of workmen’s homes at Lithgow. I take strong exception to the proposed expenditure. We have a Small Arms Factory in Lithgow, and it is proposed to build these houses for the accommodation of the employees. The Government should tell us first of all what is their policy with regard to the manufacture of small arms. At the outset of the war the British Government promised that we should receive a rifle for every man who went to the Front and returned. If the British Government keep their promise, as I believe they will, . and send out between 300,000 and 400,000 rifles, as an addition to those we already possess, it will be a waste of money to continue the manufacture of rifles at Lithgow. If that be so, it is also a grave mistake to spend £50,000 on the housing of the workmen of the factory, which might be closed down or put to some other use. The Public Works Committee reported in favour of the building of these homes.
– Yes. If the Small Arms Factory were shifted to-morrow, these houses would be a splendid asset.
– We have not the power to build houses except for our own servants.
– We shall have the power after the next referendum.
– I hope so. I understand that this £55,000 is merely an instalment of . the money that will be ultimately spent on the scheme, but I protest against this expenditure in a placewhere, I hope, we shall soon cease to manufacture small arms. As the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has interjected, there are millions of rifles lying useless in Great Britain, and if there is any truth in what we are told about the result of the Peace deliberations, the time has gone by for the maintenance of large armies.
A large sum is provided on these Estimates for an Arsenal.
– That is for machinery that has already been ordered, and must be paid for.
– Europe has had enough of fighting. The work of the Peace delegates has been to endeavour to prevent future wars, and if the League of Nations is to become a factor at all, it must have some influence on the future relations of the nations. In all probability it will be a long time before there is another war. Therefore, there is no need for us to spend money on machinery for an Arsenal; in fact, there are many nations in Europe which would be only too glad to get rid of machinery for making munitions of war. In any case, the machinery now purchased will probably prove out of date before the next war takes place. We are too prone to spend money on these things without looking ahead. If the League of Nations formulates some definite policy in regard to the reduction of armaments, we may not be required to go on manufacturing munitions of war and small arms. In the circumstances, the Government would be well advised to hold over these items of expenditure at Lithgow and at the projected Arsenal. I do not see the necessity of spending the whole of the £55,000 on houses at Lithgow, and the Treasurer might well hold up the matter of the purchase of machinery for an Arsenal.
– Twelve months ago the Treasurer agreed to hold it up.
– That is so, and I have held it up.
– The Treasurer agreed to hold up the question of building an Arsenal, but this expenditure is for machinery. I hope that he will hold the matter up for a ‘little longer until the League of Nations meets, so that we may know how we stand, and whether it will be necessary for us to incur any expenditure in this direction.
I hope also that there will be no more expenditure on Naval Bases until we have some definite policy laid down by the League of Nations.
– Would the honorable member cut out the proposed expenditure at Cockatoo Island ?
– Yes, if it were for the purpose of installing machinery for building war vessels, but I understand that the vote is for the purpose of installing machinery for building mercantile vessels. There is no need for us to build war vessels. The Imperial Government is shoving them on to us. I would not care about accepting too many of such vessels. They are too expensive to maintain. However, any expenditure that is likely to facilitate the building of ships that will carry trade and commerce will repay itself twenty-fold on account of the high rates of freight which are now prevailing.If the money proposed to be spent on building houses for the Small Arms Factory employees were diverted to the building of mercantile vessels, it would prove a profitable investment. If we are to meet the financial obligations incurred by the war the Government must proceed with enterprises that are likely to be profitable.
The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) says that, as far as possible, he would make the city people pay for all the postal and telephone developments in the country districts; but that sort of thing can be overdone. Three cities - Melbourne, Sydney, and Hobart - are now bearing the loss sustained by postal developments in country districts. The telephone charges have been increased by 50 per cent. The Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) takes all the credit, but, as a matter of fact it was the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) who brought down the Bill which increased the telephone rates. The city telephone -subscribers are paying very heavily for the service they are given. The ground rent, which was formerly £2 10s. per annum, is now £4 per annum, and the charge per call has been increased from id. to Id. There must be a very handsome profit made by the Department when the great business done in the cities is taken into consideration. It is all very well for country members to say that the Post and Telegraph Department should run after every man who goes into the back-blocks, and put a telephone on his back fence. The man who goes into the back-blocks does so to better himself, and he knows the inconveniences he will be called upon to suffer. Very often he is in a better position to pay increased telephone rates than the man in the city. I hope that the Postmaster-General will not accept the advice given him to call upon city subscribers to bear all the loss incurred by extending telephone services in the country districts.
– I have listened with interest to the statement made by the Treasurer (Mr. Watt) with regard to the proposed transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra, and I hope that the public of Australia will have the full report of the figures submitted, so that they may realize what I have been trying to impress on them for many years past, namely, thai the idea of a bush Capital is not as wild as some Melbourne newspapers would have them believe, and that it is easily possible to establish at Canberra a city as good as Ballarat or Bendigo. It was originally the aim of one of .the Melbourne papers to have the Seat of Government at Ballarat or Bendigo. The figures submitted by the Treasurer indicate that the number of officials to be transferred, and the number of people who would have to go there to supply their wants - business people and others - would immediately create a city of 20,000 or 30,000 inhabitants right away from the great metropolitan centres of Australia. I cannot conceive of any Australian who thinks about the problems of this continent doing anything but welcoming the opportunity to create such a city in the interior, and I am encouraged to persist in the agitation for the earliest possible removal of the Seat of Government to the Federal Territory. There has been some discussion here to-night about homes. The Commonwealth Government has placed on these Estimates tens of thousands of pounds for the purpose of building homes in other people’s territories, and to send up the value of land in other parts of the Commonwealth. If we spent, the same amount of money in building homes in our own Territory at Canberra, we should collect the rents, just as is proposed to be done at Lithgow, but with this difference, that instead of the landlord of the adjoining property collecting rents on higher values, as will be the case at Lithgow, the higher values of the adjoining properties at Canberra would belong to the Commonwealth. That is the difference between the newspapers’ suggestion of a bush Capital, or a “ dream “ Capital, and the real thing. Never before in Australia have the people themselves owned the land and enjoyed the increase in value caused by the erection of houses. So far from the expenditure of money in Canberra on lakes, on facilities for transport, and the erection of stately buildings being unproductive and wasteful, it would be in. the highest Sense productive. It is an expenditure that could be easily justified in these times. All sorts of occupations are represented in the Australian Imperial Force - carpenters, bricklayers, stonemasons, road.makers, railway men, tramway men, butchers, and bakers, and so on. We could” ease the question! of providing money for repatriation by doing work at Canberra instead of spreading it all over Australia. By employing returned soldiers now unemployed in adding value to our own Territory, we certainly could do much better than by paying out tens of thousands of pounds in sustenance money, as it is called, for the purpose of keeping a large number of persons unemployed because we have no jobs to give them. Over in our own Territory there is an immense amount of work to be done sooner or later which could be done now with the money we are spending on repatriation, and which would return us some value.
In regard to the Post Office, we all feel the effect of the reduced estimates, but, as the Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster) has said, it is one of the prices we are paying forthe war. On the whole, the Postmaster-General has managed his Department very well to be able to carry it on during the war without increasing the charges on any of the services rendered.
.- I wish to draw the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Mr. Wise) to a complaint which I Have received from one ‘ of my constituents, Mr. Daniel O’Keefe, of Yeppoon, Queensland, a returned soldier, who did his duty bravely at the Front for several years. He might have married his sweetheart before he went away, and made her passage money a charge upon the Commonwealth, but he did not do so. He married his sweetheart on his return to Melbourne, and went to Queensland, where he was successful in securing land at Yeppoon. He has made repeated applications to the Department for a free passage for his wife from Melbourne to Yeppoon, but without success, for nearly two months. He wired and wrote to me. and his wife called on me. Between us we were able to get some attention from the Repatriation Department, which Mr. O’Keefe. was not able to get from Yeppoon; but the utmost we could obtain from the Department was a third-class passage for his wife from Melbourne to Queensland. She objected, and paid the difference between a third-class and second-class passage in order that she might travel in ordinary comfort. If Mr. O’Keefe had married a girl in the Old Country the Department would have brought his wife out here free of charge over all those thousands of miles. It is hard to understand why thev should not have given that lady a second-class passage to Queensland. He is asking that the money which his wife paid for the second-class fare shallbe refunded to him. I am bringing this matter under the notice of the Minister because I am assured by Mr. O’Keefe that the returned soldiers are subjected to great inconvenience and irritation by the delay to which, for some cause or other, they are subjected. He is so incensed at having been put to this trouble, and his wife having been kept in Melbourne when she ought to have been with him in his home in Yeppoon, that I hope the Minister will not put him to any further delay, but will see that his wife gets a refund of the money.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend sections 1, 2, 6, and 7 of the Navigation Act 1912.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of Customs under Tariff proposals.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) agreed to - That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to provide for the validation of collections of duties of Excise under Tariff proposal?.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
Message from the Governor-General recommending an appropriation for the purposes of this Bill, presented.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
.- I move-
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue and moneys he made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the raising of moneys for paying off, re-purchasing, or redeeming certain debentures issued by the State of Tasmania.
The purpose of the motion is to enable a Bill to be introduced to provide for a special financial transaction between the Commonwealth, and the Tasmanian Government. In September, 1918, during- waT time, the Commonwealth put before the States a proposal that for three years the States should hand over to the Commonwealth, the control of all their loan notations, including those of local government bodies. This was considered by the States for some months, and in January, 1919, after the armistice, the States of New South Wales and Victoria declined to come into the scheme.
– Did they agree to it in September ?
– No ; they undertook to consider it. The Commonwealth Government considered it unwise and unfruitful to proceed with the scheme with only some of the States in it. ‘ The State of Tasmania,however, had promptly agreed to the proposal, and, notwithstanding the failure of the negotiations with the other States, asked the Commonwealth Government to raise for Tasmania a loan of £300,000 for the redemption of a loan falling due in London on 1st January, 1.920. The Commonwealth Government, in view of the prompt acceptance by the Tasmanian authorities of their proposal to the States, agreed to raise this loan. It is necessary, to enable the Treasurer to give effect to the undertaking given to the State of Tasmania, that a Bill based upon this message should be passed by this Parliament.
– Is that all that is falling due for Tasmania this year?
– That is all we have undertaken to raise, and all that they have asked us to raise, for them.
– What about Queensland. South Australia, and Western Australia?
– Those are different propositions, to provide money for those States in connexion with repatriation, land settlement, or repatriation works. I am speaking now of a loan of £300,000 raised by Tasmania many years ago, which falls due in London on 1st January next.
Mr.Riley. - Do the Government propose to raise the money in London?
-It will be redeemed in
London, whether it is raised there or not. The State of Tasmania will be responsible for the payment of the interest to the Commonwealth as it falls due, and will bc required to “repay the principal to the Commonwealth on the maturity of the loan. ‘As in the case of all other loans raised for the States during the war, the
Commonwealth will be liable to the public creditor for the interest and principal. In view of the; fact that the general scheme provided forthe admission of all the States, we feel obliged to honour the obligation we have entered into with the State of Tasmania, especially in the light of their promptacceptance of our proposal. The raising of the sum of £300,000, whether it is done here or in London, will cause no embarrassment to the Commonwealth Treasury in its operations.
.- I have no objection to the Commonwealth controlling the financial arrangements of the States so far as that is possible, and I regret that, after practically all the States had agreed to consider the offer of the Commonwealth, the two larger States withdrew from the tentative arrangement that was apparently come to last September, possibly because things appeared better to them in. January than they did in September.
– It wasnot an arrangement; it was a proposal.
– I remember the circumstances of the Conference that sat. here in September,and of the one which had so untimely a termination in January. It will be remembered that the Commonwealth borrowed from the States, soon after the war broke out, a sum of £1S,000,000. I am not sure whether it was the Fisher or the Cook Government that was in. power at the time.
– It was the Fisher Government.
– I was in Tasmania in June, 1917, and, although that loan was falling due then, I remember that the States were inclined to repudiate, not the actual repayment of the money, but its repayment at the particular time which had been agreed upon. The late Lord Forrest, who was then Treasurer, sent the States a reminder that the loan was falling due. I have always thought that the Commonwealth, if it acts as borrower for the States, should have complete control, and that theStates should not be able to say, “Although we promised to pay you back the money, and it is now due, we do not find it convenient to do so.”If we raise money for the States, we should be in exactly the same position as any other bondholder, as far as the re-payment is concerned.
– We have the power over them of withholding the per capita payments.
– That is so, and I have suggested that course, hut it- would he a very drastic step for a Treasurer to take. Many of the States would find their finances considerably embarrassed if they were deprived without warning of any portion of the per capita payments.
– It is fair to the States to say, in connexion with that loan, that the circumstances were very peculiar. When the loan was raised, it. was for three years, and everybody thought the war would be over by then. The war was still on., and the States asked for a postponement, which was eventually granted.
– Has any date been fixed now?
– It is for a certain definite period, ending either three or five years after the termination of the war.
– The States have had the money, and have been paying interest at the rate at which we borrowed it. I believe the Commonwealth could get it on, at least, as good terms as any of the States would have obtained it for at that time.
– H believe the Commonwealth did get it on better terms than the States could have obtained, particularly some of the smaller States, which, perhaps, need a proportionately greater amount of assistance from us. I was anxious to point out that, while the States did not actually repudiate their indebtedness to the Commonwealth for that £18,000,000, still they asked for a relaxation of terms, which would not have been granted to them if any other person or body had lent them the money. Whilst the Commonwealth should, perhaps, give easier terms to the States than they can get elsewhere, the States should remember that the .Federal authority has tremendous financial burdens to bear. They must not borrow this money to be repayable in three years, and at the end of that period say, “We promised to pay this money now, but we require an extension of the loan for a furtherperiod.”
– The Treasurer has explained that the sum involved in this Bill is due in Lon don, and must be raised either there or in Australia. The result- of the Peace Loan proves that it will not be very easy to raise much money in the Commonwealth. I do not know how our credit stands in London, but I am sure that the British people have plenty to do in financing their own requirements. It is strange that the Treasurer should say that Tasmania is prepared to allow the Commonwealth to do this business for it. Why cannot Tasmania raise this money for itself?
– I have endeavoured to explain that the Commonwealth made this proposal. It was accepted by Tasmania, and we feel under an obligation to honour it.
– Did not the Treasurer stipulate that if only one State accepted the Commonwealth offer the proposal would lapse?
– The other States did not accept the Commonwealth’s offer; Tasmania has done so. My only fear is that the Commonwealth will have enough trouble in financing its own obligations. It ought to be easier for the State of Tasmania to raise this sum of £300,000 than for the Commonwealth to float another loan at the present time. I would prefer that the Commonwealth should finance all the States, but that proposal has been rejected by the State Premiers. As the Commonwealth will have difficulty in financing the obligations to which it is committed in respect of war pensions and the repayment of war loans, we should be chary of accepting further responsibility from the States. Tasmania succeeded in raising its quota of the Peace Loan, and it ought to be able to raise the money to redeem the loan that is now facing due in London.
, which sooner or later they will be obliged to accept. Mr. Holman is one of the most desperate men connected with Australian financial affairs. I hope to have another opportunity of telling the House what the Premier of New South Wale3 did a few months ago. It was an action for which the Premier of any other State would have been turned out of office. He transferred some of his funded stock from 3£ per cent, to 5J per cent, in order to bolster up the Savings Bank accounts. I have mentioned the matter to some members of the New South Wales Parliament, butthey do not seem to realize the seriousness of what was done. The action of Mr. Holman at the last Conference of Premiers in not accepting the very able proposal made by the Commonwealth Treasurer in regard to the flotation of State loans was not creditable to him, and will be prejudicial to the people of New South Wales. A bad loan transaction by any one State will detrimentally affect the finances of the whole Commonwealth. I hope to have a further opportunity during the Budget debate to discuss the financial position generally.
– I am at present investigating the finances of Queensland; they are very interesting.
– The consolidation of the State debts is inevitable. In 1920 or 1921 loans amounting to about £20,000,000 will fall due, and if the States ignore the Commonwealth and go upon the London market independently they will have to accept £95 or £96 for stock bearing interest at 5£ per cent. In view of that fact, the decision of the State Premiers, at their last Conference, will not prove very satisfactory to the people of the various States. For the sake of the credit of the Commonwealth, as a whole, the flotation of all loans should be managed by the Federal authority; the Commonwealth should be the only operator on the London market. I believe that the total indebtedness of the Commonwealth and the States at the present time amounts to £710,000,000. The loans of the States, however, differ from the Commonwealth war loans. A large proportion of the proceeds from the former was expended on public utilities which are earning interest, and in some cases there are sinking funds. But from the Commonwealth war. loans no revenue accrues. The time is coming when the States will be . obliged to seriously consider the offer of the Commonwealth to manage all flotations, and when we must attempt to arrange the consolidation of all the debts. We shall not be able to redeem our war loans when they mature, and they will have to be converted into permanent stock carrying interest at 3^ per cent, or less ; we cannot afford to renew them at 4-J per cent. The interest is not likely to be as high in future as it has been during the war period. I have briefly called attention to some of the financial problems which will shortly have to be faced by Australia. Something must be done to effect the re*demption or reduction of existing loans and the rate of interest for renewal must be substantially reduced.
. -The Treasurer (Mr. Watt), and the Premier of Tasmania (Mr. Lee) are to be commended for having entered into this excellent arrangement. Had the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Tudor) .and the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) been more conversant with the proposal, they would not have raised any opposition to it. The credit of Tasmania has been well established recently by the splendid response made by its people in connexion with the Peace Loan. Had the other States made the same response in proportion to their population the loan would have yielded £40,000,000 instead of £21,000,000. Naturally the credit of the Commonwealth is higher in London than that of any State, and the Federal authority is able to float loans at a cheaper rate. When this arrangement was first entered into the war was in progress, and it was impossible for the States to negotiate loans. In fact, London financiers advised that it would be unwise for the States to go upon the London market. This Bill relates to a conversion loan for a small amount, and the Commonwealth is in a position to effect the conversion at a cheaper rate than could the State. Tasmania has set the other States an excellent example, because there should be only one borrower on the money markets abroad. We have suffered too much in the old world through State divisions. People in Great Britain, and also people of other Dominions, were surprised when they discovered how the various States of Australia were engaged in activities that should be properly performed by the Commonwealth. A Canadian in London said to me, “ The sooner you recognise that you are Australians, and not merely New South Welshmen, Tasmanians, or Victorians, the better it will be. In Ontario our people speak English; in Quebec they speak French, but when we come over here, we are all
Canadians.” The sooner we Australians adopt a similar policy, the better it will be for all concerned and the Bill before us is a step in that direction. The Commonwealth, as the one borrower, will be able to negotiate conversion loans much more cheaply than can the States, and the system will be absolutely necessary to the States, because many years must pass be”fore there is again cheap money, for in Great Britain ali the money available is required for financing domestic affairs.
Personally, I commend the Tasmanian Government for what it has done; and everybody in that State, particularly those in the political arena, must be deeply grateful to the Commonwealth Treasurer for the generous way in which he has met the position. The people of Tasmania will realize the advantage of having the services of a gentleman of such vast experience and ability, just as they immediately saw the advantage of the assurance thus given to the people of the Old World that he had every confidence in the financial stability of the State. Later on, Tasmania, like other States, will have to convert further loans, and I hope the same procedure will be adopted.
Tasmania will have to enter into a rather extensive borrowing policy for the purpose of constructing works that will become productive immediately they are completed. To-day in that State there is an electrical system not excelled in any part of the world, and the cheapest electrical power is being sold. Speaking from memory, I think that every horse-power generated in Victoria costs £16 per annum, whereas to-day 30,000 electrical horsepower has been sold at £2’ 10s. per annum in Tasmania. That enterprise is returning a revenue sufficient to pay interest on the cost of construction and the salaries of the officials, and to provide a sinking fund. There is also in Tasmania one of the finest carbide works in the southern hemisphere, and works at Hobart for the electrolytic treatment of ores from Broken Hill. Tasmania needs capital for the work of damming the King River, which will make 75,000 electric horse-power available in the Darwin electorate immediately the work is completed. This will mean the opening up of one of the greatest mines in the world - the Mount Reid Roseberry Mines.
– I thought you were to open your election campaign next week?
– The honorable member is unkind and unfair; I had forgotten there is going to be an election. As a matter of fact, the honorable member for South Sydney (Mr. Riley) is responsible for my rising, owing to the bitterness of his criticism. However, I shall take care that the Tasmanian electors know what the Labour party think of the people of Tasmania. My object at present is to show that Tasmania has the assets to justify this loan. In the future, the honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Spence) will not have to be continually waiting on the Treasurer and the Prime Minister. That honorable member has done more for the constituency of Darwin than the previous representative did in the whole course of fifteen or twenty years, and those concerned ought to be grateful to him for his services in inducing the Commonwealth Government to render its assistance. Having worked with the honorable member in the matter, I know that his services have been invaluable, and I appreciate them all the more highly because of his mature judgment and tact displayed in getting what he wanted.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Resolution reported; Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
That Mr. Watt and Mr. Glynn do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Watt, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
This is a Bill to amend the ReferendumAct 1906-1912. That Act was passed to apply, as far as possible, the Electoral Act of the day tq the purposes of a referendum. As a matter of fact, it modifies some of the electoral provisions, and adds others, so as to bring the voting on a referendum in line with the voting for the purposes of elections. Since 1911 there has been an amendment of the electoral law, and, therefore, it is necessary, for the purpose of the coming referendum, to make amendments in the existing Referendum Act.
There are a number of references in the Referendum Act, and it is necessary to alter these, but most of the alterations are purely technical. In cases there are some changes in the wording of the clauses without anyhange in the effect, but they are brought into line with the redrafting of the electoral law of 1918. There are one or two amendments anticipatory of the Senate Elections Bill now before the Senate. The principal amendments may be briefly described. In 1918 we introduced postal voting. At the time the existing Referendum Act was passed postal voting was not in existence, and it is necessary to make an alteration so as to apply postal voting to the referendum. In the Bill before the Senate there is a provision substituting postal voting for absent voting outside the States. Of course, I cannot go into the details, the measure being before another place; but with a view to expediting the counting, the provisions in regard to absent voting outside the State are abolished, and postal voting substituted ? Postal voting may take place, although the voter on the day of the polling may not be within 10 miles distant from a polling-place. In other words, postal voting is substituted for absent voting outside a State.
– Will that apply to people on ships?
– There are other provi-‘ sions for such people. Mostofthe other amendments in the Bill are technical. There is one relating to absent voting before registrars. That was abolished by the Act of 1918, and postal voting substituted, and we have, therefore, to make a consequential alteration in the Bill. As regards ballot-papers, the existing Act provides the form where there is only one referendum, but if there are two, provision is madeby regulation. In future the schedule to the Act will contain the form to be applied if there is more than one referendum on a particular day. This also is purely a formal matter.
The last amendment is in relation to pamphlets. There is a provision in the existing Act that if a majority of those who vote in favour of a referendum, or against it, desire that pamphlets shall be issued containing arguments for or against, such pamphlets may be circulated by the Chief Electoral Officer. If this method is adopted it must be within nine weeks of the passing of the Act, and then the Chief Electoral. Officer has nine more weeks in order to make preparation for the circulation of the pamphlets. It would be impossible to apply that under present circumstances.
– We will allow you to print your old arguments against the Bill of 1913.
– Time modifies all conditions. Professions may differ, but opinions perhaps may remain the same; I cannot quite explain these things. I can only say that time does not permit of the dissipation of principles or opinions; but, in the circumstances, we must suspend the operation of that profession in relation to the coming referendum.
These are the amendments for which the Bill provides, and as they are rather technical, and it would take a long time to look into the clauses, honorable members will, perhaps, accept my assurance that the Bill is purely one adapting the machinery in the light of recent changes of the electoral law to the coming elections.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and committed pro forma.
Embargo on the Importation of Sheep Dip.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn
.- I am sorry to have to detain the House at this hour, but I desire to refer to a matter of very grave importance, namely, the embargo that has been placed by the Government on the importation of sheep dip into Australia. The question may be of no importance to some honorable members, but it is of vital interest to those who realize its bearing on the pastoral and grazing industries generally. If the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) will give me an assurance that an opportunity to discuss this question will be afforded the House before the prorogation of Parliament, I shall be satisfied. I am leaving for Western Australia to-morrow, but I could arrange with another honorable member to bring the question forward. I shall be satisfied if the Government will’ promise to bring in an amendment of the Tariff within six months of the date on which the embargo was placed upon the introduction of sheep dips, or that the Tariff will be amended this session, so that the trade can be restored to its normal conditions. Failing to get any assurance of the kind, I have to place before the House and the country representations that have been made to me and other honorable members regarding the position from the stand-point of the importers. I have received letters from the Pastoralists Association of Western Australia, the Wool-growers Association of South Australia, and practically from all parts of the Commonwealth urging that action should be taken to remove the embargo.
The matter was placed in the hands of the honorable ‘member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott), who, when leaving for his constituency, asked me to place before the Government the following summary of his views : -
Position. - ‘The Government are pledged to maintain the prohibition until the Tariff is tabled, and have said that would be within six months from 31st March.
The prohibition has been in force for six months.
The Government have undertaken to release the imported dip in bond, on condition that a bond is given to pay whatever duty is imposed.
The farmers are demanding the release of the dip from the Customs.
The Way Out. - -Release the dip in bond free of duty. Pass at once a Bill to place duty on future imported dip, said duty, of course, to be subject to revision under the Tariff Bill of next Parliament.
The Result. - The pledge to maintain prohibition until Tariff is introduced is kept. “
The dip importers and the farmers are satisfied, as they get the dip for this season free of duty, and without increase of price.
The Free Traders arc satisfied in that present supplies of dip for this season are in free.
The Protectionists are satisfied in that they get Protection for the future.
We merely ask that the dip be released subject to a bond being entered into by the importers to pay whatever duty is imposed by the Parliament. There are large quantities of dip at present stored in Australia, and the owners are not allowed to dispose of it because the embargo is to remain in force until the introduction of the new Tariff. Twelve or eighteen months might elapse from the date of the imposition of the embargo until the Tariff schedule is laid on the table of the House. In the meantime local manufacturers are able to avail themselves of this embargo to supplant an organization which has built up a big trade here. The position seems to be manifestly unfair. Surely the Government should be able to say straight out whether or not they intend to place a duty on sheep dip. Speaking as a representative of the wool-growers, I do not care what duty may be imposed.
The manufacturers of the imported article1 say that they are prepared to enter into any bond the Government may require, and that they will pay whatever duty may be imposed by the Parliament. Their sole desire is that they may be allowed to keep their trade. The Government are not justified in saying, “We have made investigations, and are satisfied that the locally-manufactured sheep dip is suitable for the requirements of the country.” The people who have to use sheep dip are the best judges of what they want. If we are to build up manufacturing industries in Australia in this way it will be a sorry thing for the Commonwealth.
I do not condemn the present Minister. The matter arose long before he took over the control of the Department; but I think some definite understanding should be arrived at without further delay. On the 26th March, 1919, the Government prohibited the importation of sheep dip into Australia, and on 26th June, last the Minister stated in this House, as reported in Hansard, that the Central Wool Board had advised the Government that imported sheep dips were not required. I want to know what members of the Central Wool Board made that recommendation. The people who are raising our flocks also desire that information. Was the recommendation made by the Chairman of the Board with the concurrence of the honorable- member for Hume (Mr. Falkiner) and the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett), or members of the Board who are also interested in large wool broking concerns? I desire to know whether .the recommendation was made wholly and solely by the Chairman of the Board. Protests against it have been made from every quarter of Australia.
– Does the honorable member say that the Australian sheep dip is not as good as the imported article ?
– No ; I say that those who have to pay for it should be able to buy whatever brand of sheep dip they prefer.
– If that principle were applied generally. we could not have a protective Tariff.
– Does the honorable member wish to build a wall around Australia ? Would he absolutely prohibit the sale of imported sheen din already in the country? Surely, when we speak of
Protection, we mean protection by means of a Tariff.
– We are pledged to a’Protectionist policy for Australia.
– But this means absolute prohibition. If some one is able to get the ear of the Chairman of the Central Wool Board, or some other body, and so to induce the Government to prohibit the importation of sheep dip, or any other article, what is to be the position? This action has been taken without reference to Parliament. I want the honorable member for Werriwa (Mr. Lynch) to realize what is his duty to his constituents. Parliament alone should take the responsibility for action of this kind.
– The imported article is much dearer than the local article.
– I am dealing, not with prices, but with bedrock principles. On the 21st December, 1917, the following cablegram was sent by the Director of Munitions in Melbourne to the High Commissioner : -
Can Minister of Munitions allow manufacturers exportation liquid and powder dips from Cooper, Quibell, Morris, and Little without drawing raw material from urgent war work ? Sheep dips manufactured Australia believed sufficient Australian requirements in emergency,” but many pastoralists prefer British dips, which long experience has proved to be so effective. Next season’s requirements anticipated slightly above ‘ normal owing prevalence blow-fly pest. Cable reply.
I do not know what reply was received, but I do know that there was no shortage in 1917. There was a shortage later on, but it was due entirely to the failure at this end to put sheep dip on the priority list. There was difficulty in obtaining shipping space. Shipping space could be found for whisky and other spirits, as well as for various luxuries, but not for sheep dip. Here we find that no assistance is given to them. My information is that the shortage was deliberately created by the Government in December, 1918, by their refusal to grant priority certificates. Sir John Higgins, in justification of this refusal, said that it was sometimes necessary to precipitate a crisis in order to gain an object. That object ostensibly was to have the sheep dip industry established in Australia. The Industrial Australian of the 2nd January, 1919, in an article on the control of the industry in Australia, contains the following: -
Sir John Higgins, it is stated, advised Messrs. Lcggo and Co. to go on making to the full capacity of the plant, because it would be necessary to carry large stock. He is credited with having sought an assurance on these points because he had taken upon himself the responsibility of stopping the imports of dip, and he did not want any complaint to reach him that users could not obtain supplies.
I believe that he had analyses made, and was well satisfied that the local article manufactured by Leggo and Company was of equal value to that of Cooper’s. Admitting, for the sake of argument, that it is, and that Leggo and Company could supply all that Australia requires, is there any justification for the Government giving these people a special advertisement, or for failing to carry out the promise to impose a duty to prevent dumping by bringing down a Bill? Surely the people are not going to say to men who have built up a great industry here, “ We refuse to allow you to sell your goods ; we are going to promote the goods of another firm by placing an absolute embargo on your products until a general election is held and a new Parliament called together.” That would be an intolerable position. It is the duty of the Government to bring down their schedule straightway. There would be no protest. Then, next year, if the duty were unfair, Parliament could give it reconsideration, and come to a decision on the matter. There is a Bill already tabled to validate the duties which have been imposed on other articles ‘ during the course of this Parliament.
On 26th January, 1918, the Minister for Trade and Customs cabled to the Ministry of Munitions of Great Britain as follows : - “ Sheep Dip Commonwealth Central Wool Committee, after careful consideration, advises unnecessary obtain sheep dips Great Britain, as requirements can be effectively met by local manufacturers.” I would like to know where that decision appears on the minutes of the Central Wool Committee. The graziers and (pastoralists of Australia ought to be made acquainted with the names of every member of the Central Wool Committee who agreed to the despatch of that cablegram. There is no justification for withholding the information. I am informed by Cooper’s people that the British Government never attempted to place any embargo on the shipment of sheep dip from Great Britain to Australia;but that, on the contrary, they assisted the manufacturers to procure shipments of raw material, and that when these failed they furnished them withsufficient from their own war supplies. They declared thatthe manufacture of sheep dip was an industry of national importance, to which every assistance should be given, it being recognised how serious a matter it was in winning the war to preserve all live stock for the maintenance of supplies of meat and wool.
When this embargo was placed on the importation of sheep dip, there was a good deal of agitation in the Old Country. A letter was sent from Mr. Amery, of the Colonial Office, to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and this was followed up by special representations from the manufacturers, and the Prime Minister replied as follows: -
In reply to your memorandum of 27th ult., requesting that the Commonwealth Government should permit the importation of sheep clip for which orders were in hand before 31st March, but which had not been shipped at that date, provided that an approved bond be entered into by the exporters to pay thereon such duty as may be hereafter imposed under the new “Tariff, I beg to inform you that the Commonwealth concurs in this arrangement.
These people offered to enter into the necessary bond. They are prepared to enter into any bond the Government care to bring forward to pay any duty which Parliament may see fit to impose. The charge of dumping is not justified, as the increase in value is due to increase of prices, which have risen by from 100 to 150 per cent. since the war started. In face of these facts, I do not see how we can avoid taking action during this Parliament. I regret having taken up so much time on this question to-night. The matter was left in the hands of the honorable member for New England (Lt.-Colonel Abbott), but he was called away, and I promised to attend to it. However, I am leaving for Western Australia to-morrow, and I felt it my duty to the people I represent, because of the representations made in regard to this matter throughout Australia, to bring it before the House to-night. I hope that the Minister will take full responsibility, and bring forward the necessary legislation, in order to put this matter on a definite footing in the short period we have before us.
– At this late hour I regret I am unable to traverse all the ground covered by the honorable member, but I have gone very carefully into this matter from time to time. Recently I had certain statistics prepared with reference to the importation of sheep dips from Great Britain to Australia over a number of years. The value of the importations in 1912 was £31,406; in 1913, £27,417; in 1914-15, £15.767; in 1915-16, £16,081; in 1916-17, £30.518; and in 1917-18, £40,243; but for the year ending 30th June last, according to statistics of the Department, these gentlemen who are crying out so loudly about the prohibition of the importation of dip, managed to get into this country this year, before the prohibition actually came into force, sheep dip to the value of £94,529.
– Their figures are that £37,000 worth had arrived, and that £32,000 worth are to arrive, but they say there has been an increase in value of 100 per cent.
– The increase has not been nearly 100 per cent. since last year. They have got in almost double what they imported before. I am inclined to think that, as the Government had announced its intention to put a duty on this particular product, these people were very busy trying to get into the country a large amount of stuff duty free, with which they could fight the locally manufactured article for a considerable time. That may not be their reason, but, according to the statistics of the Department, they managed to get into this country before the actual prohibition came about more than twice the amount they imported in a previous year. We allowed them to import all the dip that actually left the country a.t the time the prohibition came about. We interpreted the embargo most liberally where possible, and they were enabled to get in a very large . amount. My impression is that there is ample dip in Australia to meet the requirements. However, I cannot say this definitely. I have asked these people to supply documentary evidence, in support of the protestations they are making, a.nd if that documentary evidence does not sufficiently disclose the facts, I shall ask for a proper examination of their books. Then if we find that the position is not what we believe it to be, the matter will be further considered.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 11.14 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 October 1919, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1919/19191016_reps_7_90/>.