8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. W. Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 a.m., and read prayers.
.- I desire to make a short statement on a matter of urgent public importance. (Leave granted.) As honorable members are aware, New South “Wales is at present in a desperate plight by reason of the drought there. This morning I received the following telegram and letter from the secretary to the Producers’ Associations’ Central Council of New South Wales, which I shall read : -
Producers Associations Central Council, by deputation, has urged State Government secure supplies fodder for starving stock, reports show fodder available other States, but shipping unprocurable. Minister Agriculture states repeated applications Federal Government for allocation Federal steamers have elicited no re spouse, matter vital importance, producers hope Country party will press for allocation steamers for carriage fodder.
I have to confirm my telegram of to-day’s date. ….
Representatives from this Council and the Graziers Association waited upon the Minister for Agriculture yesterday, and strongly urged that supplies of fodder should be secured from the other States for the purpose of feeding starving stock, as practically the whole of New South Wales is in a desperate position through the long-continued drought.
The Minister was entirely sympathetic and the Government has already been endeavouring to secure supplies of fodder and to assist farmers and small graziers in their extreme need, but the chief difficulty has been found to be that of securing the necessary shipping space for fodder supplies from Melbourne, Adelaide, and Perth. Reports show that shippers do not like carrying chaff and other fodder, as other cargo is more payable, and I am informed that only three steamers have lifted supplies from Adelaide this year, with the exception of one or two very small consignments, notwithstanding that large supplies are in store at Fort Adelaide, and cutters are anxious to operate if shipping space can be secured.
Captain Dunn, the Minister for Agriculture, stated that he had several times communicated with the federal Government urging that some of the Commonwealth steamers should at once be made available for carriage of fodder, but that no reply has been received.
I am informed that, from Geelong to Winchelsea, and from Geelong to Maroona, the stations are piled high with fodder awaiting transport. If this fodder could be made available in New South “Wales, immediately, thousands of head of stock might be saved. I urge the Government to at once give effect to the recommendations contained in the interim report of the Select Committee which is inquiring into the Sea Carriage of Goods, and which has suggested that the Government should make its own ships available to relieve the distress. Evidence shows that while stock is starving in New South Wales and elsewhere, fodder stocks are congested in other States, because of the shortage of shipping.
– I would like permission to make a statement supplementing that of the honorable member for Cowper.
– And I should like to make a statement, too.
– This procedure is unusual and irregular. I think that it has never happened before that a private member has risen at the beginning of a sitting and asked leave of the House to make a statement. Permission to make statements is usually granted by courtesy to Ministers when they desire to make important announcements concerning some special matter of public policy or concern, but it is an innovation for a private member to request leave to make statements. However, such leave having been granted to one private member, I cannot do less than ask the House whether it will give the same privilege to another private member who asks for it. Still, I must point out that this procedure leaves it open to every private member to ask for leave, and, thus, the way would be open to set the rules of debate at naught. Of course, should any one member object, his single objection would be fatal. I ask the House if it is their pleasure that the honorable member for Hume have leave to make a statement? (Leave granted).
– Before the honorable member for Cowper rose, I was considering what course to take to bring this matter before the House. I have here facts and figures relating to it which I have been considering for some time, and when in Sydney, at the end of last week, I saw there the New South Wales Minister for Agriculture, and he put before me facts that I considered so serious that I intended to move the adjournment to-morrow to allow them to be discussed. I had to leave the matter over until to-morrow, because, to-day, I was engaged on the Public Works Committee. I am very pleased that the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has called attention to the position, and am grateful to honorable members for having given me the opportunity to add to his remarks. I shall not abuse the privilege by speaking at any length. I wish to emphasize the fact that the position in New South Wales is desperate, but the State Minister for Agriculture tells me that if they could obtain the services of three Commonwealth steamers to carry fodder to New South Wales, the State would be saved. They have already purchased fodder, but it is lying in Western Australia and South Australia.
– There are 60,000 tons in Western Australia awaiting transport.
– I understand that that is so. I am not exaggerating one iota when I say that I know personally of hundreds of families that will have to leave their holdings, and will be practically ruined, if the Commonwealth steamers cannot be obtained for the transporting of this produce. I need not *emind the Prime Minister that the people of New South Wales are citizens of the Commonwealth, and I have a suggestion to make which goes a little further than the asking for the use of three Commonwealth steamers. I am interested in this matter, not only because I am the representative of a New South Wales constituency, but also because I am a member of the Commonwealth Parliament, and know that the whole Commonwealth will suffer if thousands of families in New South Wales are ruined. I submit my suggestion for what it is worth, and I sincerely hope that the Prime Minister will, under the circumstances, give it sympathetic consideration. The New South Wales Government is endeavouring to raise a loan of £2,000,000.
– Of which £1,000,000 only is to be spent in the country and £1,000,000 in the city.
– The proposal is to spend £1,000,000 in the country on relieving the farmers, and £1,000,000 on the construction of silos, so the whole of it is for the country. If, in addition to lending the necessary vessels, the Commonwealth Government could see its way to give some financial assistance to New South Wales, here is the opportunity. It could assist the State by subscribing to this loan, and- by so doing give an impetus to private subscription. If the Commonwealth Government invested £100,000 in the loan, it would draw the attention of the people of New South Wales, and the whole of Australia, to the fact that the whole Commonwealth, and not merely New South Wales, is concerned in the present position of affairs, and that that position is very serious. Those who are able to subscribe to the loan would probably do so if they knew that the Commonwealth Government was investing in it, and that would make- the loan a success. I should have liked the Acting Treasurer (‘Sir Joseph Cook) to be here; but, as the subject is of the utmost importance, I take the earliest opportunity to call attention to it. I know of places in New South Wales which show the desperate straits to which people are being put, inasmuch as they are collecting manure, putting it through a sieve, and making it fit for feeding starving stock. Long ago they have cut their trees down, and in some places the ground is as bare as the floor of this chamber - veritable dust heaps, with not a vestige of vegetation. From all over New South Wales,- 1 get a bundle of letters every day describing the state of affairs, and the conditions are so heartbreaking that I cannot find words to describe them. I do not wish to abuse the privilege extended to me by making a long statement, but things are so serious that something must be done at once. If three ships could be provided straightway, there would be means of bringing fodder to New South Wales; and could financial assistance be given to the sufferers who are losing their stock in thousands, much good would be done, and the Commonwealth should not shirk this duty,
– (By leave). - I wish that the honorable member who has raised this question had given me some notice. A matter that Concerns the welfare and even the life and death of so many persons - if we are to believe the honorable member, and I do believe him - is surely one that calls for notice to the responsible Minister, or other mouthpiece of the Government, in order that he may inform his mind and come down to the House with all the facts at his disposal. This lack of notice has been observable once or twice; honorable members have moved the formal adjournment of the House, and have not even thought fit to give the Minister concerned notice of their intention.
– We did inform the Government Whip.
– However, failing that notice, I can only speak generally, and on the spur of the moment. Yesterday, I think, and on one day last week, this matter was raised by honorable members, not in relation to fodder, but in relation to coal; and I then said that I would do whatever was possible to make Commonwealth vessels . available. I said then that I believed - and I believe now - that four Commonwealth vessels are engaged in work that may be called coastal work. I also said, what is very obvious, that the Commonwealth vessels are scattered all over the waters that surround the earth. Those vessels have their engagements when they come to these shores; and, therefore, it is not by merely waving one’s hand that one makes threeorfour available. I did not need what the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has said to make me appreciate to the full the lamentable state in which a great deal of this Commonwealth finds itself, particularly in the States of Queensland and New South Wales. It is theduty of the Commonwealth to do all things within ‘its power to come to the assistance of those who, unless they are assisted by us, or unless nature sends rain, are utterly undone; indeed, rain would not save them now, and we must have fodder. However, I can say by way of direct reply, that I shall see Mr. Eva as soon as I am able to do so this afternoon. I shall ascertain what vessels of our fleet in Australian waters are available, whether they are laden with inward or outward cargo. Of course, those laden with outward cargo are not available - vessels outside our own waters are not available - but we shall see what are. I give the House the assurance that Ishall not allow ordinary obstacles to stand in the road of making vessels available for the purpose.
Just one word about the suggestion of the honorable member for Hume that we should contribute to the loan which is being raised in the State of New South Wales. That is a matter of quite a different kind; and I can only say that, while the Government will give it every consideration at the earliest possible moment, I must not, by any word of mine, be held to commit theGovernment in that direction. .
-(Hon. W. Elliot Johnson). - I think it only right to say, at this juncture, that I hope this is the last time we shall have such a procedure as this adopted in the House. The course taken is contrary altogether to our own established procedure, and contrary to all my reading of the practice of Parliament. I, therefore, do not propose to take it as a precedent for the adoption of a similar course in the future ; and honorable members, no doubt, see the reason. While it is usual to accord the Prime Minister, or a Minister in charge of some important matter, the opportunity to make a statement, by leave of the House, as a courteous concession, I have never, so far as my memory serves, in. this or any other Parliament, known the courtesy to be sought by, or granted to, any private member, except, perhaps, the Leader of the Opposition, who., on some occasions, has asked, and been granted, leave of the House to make a statement in reply to one already made.
– This matter is urgent.
– I am coming to that. The result of the procedure that has been adopted to-day is to involve the House in an irregular debate, with no question before the Chair. Any extremely urgent matter may be dealt with on amotion for the formal adjournment of the House; and then, of course, there is a question before the Chair. The matter that has now been brought under notice could have been raised and debated on the very first Order of the Day, namely, Supply. I only call the attention , of the House to this breach of our ordinary procedure, and on the House the responsibility rests. I express the hope that such a course will not be resorted to on any other occasion.
Motion(by Mr. Hughes), by leave, agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to amend the Committee of Public Accounts Act 1913 and forother purposes.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Mr. Hughes) reada first time.
Delayed Payments to Timber Suppliers
– Is the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation aware that timber suppliers in one part of New South Wales have had to wait so long for money due to them from the Department controlling war-service homes, after accounts have been sent in, that it is possible that quite a number of men and teams will be thrown out of work before long? Will the Minister have the matter looked into, in order to see if more expedition cannot be put into the payment of theaccounts ?
– The honorable member wouldgreatly facilitate matters if he were to furnish me with the names of parties who have had to wait so long forpayment of their account’s. I will undertake to do all that is possible to have the matter attended to.
– I desire to ask a question in connexion with the coal difficulty, not only in the interests of this State, but of others as well. What is the exact position of the Coal Board to-day? Will it be possible for householders in this State, at any rate, to secure household coal this winter ?
– I wish the honorable member had let me know that it was his intention to ask this question, for this reason: while he is clamouring - and rightly so - for more coal for householders, other people are clamouring for coal for essential industries. I -can only repeat what I have said so often before, namely, that the coal is not here. If any honorable member can suggest or deVise means of getting more coal to go round, it will be a much more practical procedure for them to furnish the Government with their propositions rather than be asking all the time which section of. the community is to get the little coal that is available. Honorable members see every day what is taking place in other States. Tasmania wants coal. The Premier of that State has even gone the length of suggesting what we ought to do to give Tasmania coal ; and the same kind of thing has occurred in South Australia. I am now proposing to let the State authorities carry out their own ideas to see if they can do any better than we have been able to do.
– I will show you how to get over the trouble. Become Socialists, and have your own fleet of steamers travelling around the coasts, just as you have your own trains running around them.
– When, the wind blows in from the west, we have to wait until it passes over. However, now that the sirocco has subsided, I wish to say that I desire most heartily to answer favorably all the questions put to me in this direction. We are doing the best we can. We have to solve the question of giving people a full ton of coal when there is only half a ton at our disposal. That states the case in a nutshell. The problem is to get more coal. I do not think it helps matters to do what some of our journals are doing this morning, namely, to abuse men who have given their whole time and talents to this problem without fee or reward, and who have toiled with a devotion which I have rarely seen equalled. All they get is the abuse of some of the press.
– No one takes any notice of the press.
– I do not agree; they do take notice. That is why I speak as I do. The conduct of this section of the press transgresses every rule of fairness, and I hope it will stop. I may say, in conclusion, that I hope soon to confer with the State Premiers in the hope that we may solve the coal problem and arrange something mutually satisfactory.
– I desire to ask a question concerning the £2,000,000 loan which is being floated by the State Government of New South Wales, and which has been advertised as being free of Federal and State income tax. Have any arrangements been made with the Commonwealth Treasury in the matter of this loan being exempt from Federal income taxation?
– I know nothing of the matter except what I have seen in the press. Certainly, no arrangements have been made with the Commonwealth Government. Indeed, no arrangement of the kind indicated is possible. The New South Wales Government has acted entirely on its own initiative, and what steps it proposes to take to relieve subscribers from Federal income tax I do not pretend to know. I take it that it is going to pay the Federal income tax for its subscribers. At any rate, I know nothing to the contrary.
– Has the Prime Minister come to any decision regarding the moratorium ? Is it proposed to extend it?
– There is a saying with which the honorable member must be very familiar, namely, morituri te salutamus. That is the only answer I oan think of at this stage.
– Who is responsible for the arrangements for the visit of the Prince of Wales to the Naval College, Jervis Bay, and to Canberra?
– I am responsible for the arrangements at Canberra. I have nothing to do with the Naval College.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories any further information, as promised, regarding the matter of the prosecution of Mr. Morley, a barrister, for having broken the electoral law at the general elections in December last?
– I have no further information at hand, but will try to obtain it for the honorable member.
Report of Royal Commission
– When is it proposed to give this House an opportunity to discuss the report of the Royal Commission upon the Northern Territory?
– An opportunity will be afforded - I thought that the report would have been on the table of the House at this moment. At any rate, I will see that it is laid on the table. I have not had an opportunity to look at it carefully myself, but it has been discussed, and the Government has come to some decision on the matter. The honorable member can discuss the topic, if he desires, this afternoon in connexion with the Estimates.
– Yes, but without the report.
Economies : Telephone Books - Arbitration Cases : A “ Cost of Living “ Bonus
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the hon orable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Mr. (now Sir Robert) Anderson’s report was made in July, 1915. I became PostmasterGeneral in February, 1920, so that the duty of dealing with that report did not devolve upon me, and conditions have entirely changed in the meanwhile. The recommendation in the report dealt with the wiping out of a deficit of £501,456, which it was proposed to meet by decreasing staff in the first year to the extent of£ 120,000, and increasing rates, &c., to the extent of £384,000. From a perusal of the departmental balance-sheets for the past two years, it will be seen that that deficit has been converted by the Department into a surplus of £387,381 for 1917-1918, and £524,644 for 1918-1919, notwithstanding an increase of over £1,000,000 in salaries under awards of the Arbitration Court during the period 1915- 1919. Viewing the above figures, and taking into account the increase of 38 per cent. in the revenue, and the large increase in the business, of the Department, it will be apparent that Sir Robert Anderson must have based his suggestion for a permanent reduction of the staff on erroneous information. So far as the Economy Commission is concerned, the bulk of their estimated savings appears to me to be arrived at on what I regard as a wrong basis. However, their principal recommendation is that the Department be managed by a Commission, and obviously action by the Government on that question must precede any steps in regard to matters of detail.
asked the Postmaster -General, upon notice - 1, Is it a fact that the majority of the Public Service organizations have lodged applications forhearing by the Arbitration Court for the repeal of the “ cost of living “ bonuses and the merging of such bonuses into permanent salary?
– The answersto the honorable member’s questions , are as follow:: - 1 and 2. Yes.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
What was the number of the white population in Papua in 1910 and during successive years to date?
– The figures are as follow : -
White Population.- 30th June, 1910, 879; 30th June, 1911, 1,032; 30th June, 1912, 1,064; 30th June, 1913, 1,219; 30th June, 1914, 1,186; 30th June, 1915, 1,037; 30th June, 1916,992; 30th June, 1917, 1,036; 30th June, 1918,962; 30th June, 1919, 1,007
Removal of Wool Stores
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government, in order to provide for the urgent necessity of making Wentworth Park again available for the people of the surrounding congested areas, remove the unsightly wool stores erected thereon, and which, it is alleged, were required’ for temporary purposes during the war?
– I shall look into the matter.
Plantations held by Germans.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers tothe honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Pay of Army Service Corps - Purchase of Broadmeadows and Seymour Camp Sites - Life Insurance Premiums
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
For himself and wife, 60s. per week.
For himself, wife, and one child under sixteen years, 70s. per week.
For himself, wife, and two children under sixteen years, 77s. 6d. per week.
For himself, wife, and three children under sixteen years, 82s. 6d. per week.
For each additional child, 5s. per week.
It is understood that the basic wage of £3. 17s. per week in New South Wales was based on the needs of a. family consisting of the. parents and three dependent children. Under the above scale, the rate for a married member of the Australian Imperial Force, Home Service, with a wife and three children, would be 82s. 6d. per week in cash, or kind, in addition to free medical attendance for himself and free issues and upkeep of uniform.
Mr.FENT ON asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Premiums on policies, up to £600, in favour of Commonwealth Government’s servants, including all members of the Permanent Forces, who have served abroad with the Australian Imperial Force, are paid only in cases where the policy is effected prior to the commencement of the war. In the cases of officers serving under the Commonwealth Public Service Act, and who, on account of promotion, are compelled to increase the amount of their life assurance, payment of the premiums on policies thus effected is made. The instructions in this matter are common to all Departments, and the question of the honorable member will be brought under the notice of the Bight Honorable the Acting Treasurer.
Accommodation in Melbourne.
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr.FENT ON asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether he will take steps to encourage the production of power alcohol and benzol in Australia ?
Is it a fact that the British Government have taken steps to encourage the production of motor spirit?
Will he also urge upon the Premiers of the various States the necessity of encouraging the production of power alcohol and benzol?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Will the Government ask the Right Honorable William Watt, the Commonwealth Treasurer, not to negotiate for nor contract any loans on behalf of the Commonwealth Government during his present visit to the outside world ?
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether it is the intention of the Government to introduce a Bill this session providing a superannuation scheme for the Public Service?
Message, recommending appropriation, reported.
– I move -
That to-morrow, the 20th inst., Government business shall take precedence over general business.
It is well known to honorable members that it is intended that the House at its rising on Friday shall adjourn for a period, in order to enable honorable members to participate in the welcome to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, and as a good deal of business has to be done during this week I venture to ask honorable members to allow Government business to have precedence. This is not to be regarded as a precedent; it is to apply only to to-morrow. I may add that it is probable, but not certain, that there will be an interregnum on Friday while the Senate is considering some Bills to be sent from this House, and in that event, Government business being out of the way, private business may be taken during the interregnum.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee (Consideration of GovernorGeneral’s message) :
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of revenue be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to amend the War Gratuity Act 1920.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Hughes and Sir Joseph Cook do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes, and read a first time.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
.- Through the courtesy of the Acting Treasurer I had an opportunity of looking through this Bill last night, and I found that its purpose is merely to give effect to two or three things which were missed from the Act, and in regard to which the House has already come to a decision. I should like, however, to bring under the notice of the Prime Minister the position of a number of tubercular soldiers. I understand that the men who are permanently incapacitated will receive their gratuities in cash. If that is so, I appeal for the same treatment of tubercular cases.
– If they can make out anything like a reasonably good case they will get the money.
– Cases of total incapacitation arising in camp are not to be treated in the same way as are the dependants of soldiers who died in camp. Obviously that is an oversight.
– To the extent that their gratuity goes, theyare, and shall be, treated exactly the same.
– According to the wording of the Bill, soldiers who were totally incapacitated will get a gratuity of1s. per day, whereas the dependants of those who died in camp will receive1s. 6d. per day. They should both receive the higher amount. I am certain that was the intention of the House, but it is not provided for in this measure.
.- The newspapers recently published the conditions under which caveats might be lodged in certain cases against the payment of the gratuity to the soldiers, in order to secure the rights of the dependants. The Act makes provision to enable ‘the prescribed authority to withhold in certain cases the gratuity from the persons directly concerned in the interests of the dependants. Recently, the public were warned in the press that it was idle to lodge caveats for other purposes than those relating to dependants. When the parent measure was under consideration, I had thought of. bringing under the notice of the Prime Minister certain cases, which the great bulk of the returned soldiers would be only too ready to recognise. I refer to some soldiers who have, in a very discreditable way, broken faith with other persons - in many cases, indigent female relatives of returned soldiers. One case I have particularly in mind is that of a mother whose son was killed at the Front, and who has been absolutely defrauded by a returned soldier. He affected to purchase a business from her, and paid a small portion of the amount due. He then resold the business, pocketed the entire proceeds, and cleared out, leaving the wronged woman with only a small proportion of the money that was due to her. When reading the original Bill I was impressed with the view that apparently the prescribed authority would be qualified to consider cases of that kind, and to decide not to pay over the gratuity to any man who obviously, to say the least, had a very low standard of morals. After reading the statement in the press, however, I have come to the conclusion that the prescribed authority is not going to exercise any discretion of that kind, but will pay over the money to the soldier himself, except in those cases in which it is expressly empowered to hold back the gratuity in the interests of the dependants.
– I am inclined to think that the prescribed authority would, before acting, require some evidence by the aggrieved person, but I should be very surprised to learn that that body would not exercise its authority in proper cases. Clearly, it has discretionary power.
– I am glad to hoax the Prime Minister say that. I read the Bill carefully, and I was glad to observe that it contained safeguards which pre vented the soldier from having a legal right to the gratuity. The gratuity is not payable to the next of kin, nor is the prescribed authority bound by the terms of a soldier’s will. All those provisions, 1 take it, were inserted to enable the prescribed authority to see that substantial justice was done in the distribution of gratuities. I hope that the prescribed authority will realize the obligation upon it to see that no person who has been guilty of clearly dishonest practices shall get from the Government money which, on moral and every other ground, belongs to some one else.
.- As I understood the position, the prescribed authority was to have power in certain cases to withhold the payment of the gratuity from a soldier, and give it to a wife whom he had deserted, or to some one dependent on him whom it was his duty to support, and whom he was not supporting. I am surprised at the suggestion that the prescribed authority shall determine the rights of different persons in the payment of gratuity moneys. I quite agree that a person whom the soldier is morally bound to support, and whom he has not supported, should under parliamentary sanction receive the gratuity; ‘but . I am not prepared to place the soldier in a different position from other members of the community in regard to ordinary civil rights. If a man has been defrauded by another who has money in a bank, he cannot make good his rights without invoking the assistance of the law, and any person having claims on a soldier should assert them through the proper channels. The suggestion that the prescribed authority should settle such matters is one of the most dangerous that I have heard.
– I am not clear whether the Bill will put the dependants of soldiers who died in camp in the same position as that of the dependants of soldiers who were killed in the war.
– I have brought some hard cases under notice, and I am pleased to know that that will be its effect.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
– I wish to move an amendment, or at least to obtain the assurance that effect will be given to my desire that the same rate of war gratuity shall be paid to men who became permanently incapacitated in camp as is paid to the dependants of those who died in camp. The Bill, I understand, covers only the dependants of a soldier who died wliilst in camp in Australia, and I claim that the man who has become totally incapacitated as a result of his service has . as strong a claim to the higher gratuity as have the dependants of men who died. A man who, after going into camp, became tubercular to such an extent that he is now unable to earn his living, has as strong, if not a stronger claim to the gratuity as the dependants of men who died. These cases of incapacitation are the most pathetic in connexion with the war.
-Asthe mover of the amendment on a previous occasion, I amglad that the Prime Ministerhas given effect to his promise to bring about what I desired by introducing an amending Bill. Isupport the contention of the honorable member for Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond). We must drawaline somewhere; but men who became incapacitated in camp to such an extent that they cannot now follow any occupation might well get the war gratuity. These men are deprived of the benefits of repatriation. I know of a man who was kicked bya horse immediately after enlistment, and was discharged. He does notenjoy any of the repatriation benefits.
– I shallhave anamendment moved in the Senate to do what is desired.
.- I understand that under the Pensions Act two women sometimes make claims as the widows of a soldier, and I believe that in some cases two pensions are being paid in regard to the onesoldier. My desire is that the war gratuity shall in every case of this kind go to the first, or rightful, wife. I presume that the prescribed authority will give the rightful wife preference over every other applicant. I havehad great trouble in somecases of this kind in regard to pensions, and I want the rights of the first, or legal, wife to prevail.
– I think they should do so.
.- I know that the Prime Minister is anxious to get away to a deputation, and I am willing that he should leave some other Minister in charge of the Bill. A case of the kind referred to by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has come before me, and probably every honorable member knows of similar cases. In the instance to which I refer, a wife was deserted by her husband, an embezzler, who subsequently went through the form of marriage with another woman, leaving his proper wife and children without support.The claims of such a womanshould be considered, and she, and nother husband, should get the gratuity.
– I am in favour of the first wife receiving proper recognition.
Bill reported, without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
In Committee of Supply :
Debate resumed from 14th April (vide page 1162), on motion by Mr. Hughes -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,100,”be agreed to.
– I ask whether it is the intention ofthe Government to proceed further with the building of shipsatCockatoo Island? At the present time, hundredsofmen are being discharged there, although Australia is crying out for shipping, and commerce remains almost stagnant for want of it. I ask the Minister totake steps to arrange for the construction of ships at Cockatoo Island, and, at all events,to take in hand the coal ship, the building of which has been already approved by the Government, and for which all the material needed is at present in the dockyard. I hope the Minister will take the necessarv steps to see that the work is placed in hand immediately.
The other matter to which I desire to directattention is one involving what I consider to be a gross injustice to one of our Australian soldiers.The man I mean isCorporal Launcelot de Mole; and when I state what thisyoung Australian has done, not only for Australia, but for the British community, and the Allied countries, the House will, I think, admit that he has rendered signal service, and is entitled to some recognition. He was the original inventor of the tank, which made possible the great advances on the Western Front, and the breaking of the Hindenburg line. During the years 1911-12, this young man struck the idea of the caterpillar tank, and submitted his plans and designs to the Defence Department in Perth. He found, however, that he could get no satisfaction from the Department, and, according to his own statement, when he interviewed the Secretary at the Perth office, he was assured that it was quite useless for him to submit any plans to the local Inventions Board. That is a statement of fact on which I desire honorable members to dwell for a moment. In most cases this would have baulked a young inventor, but this man, like the average Australian, was full of grit and determination. I remind honorable members that these happenings were prior to the Great War ; and it was suggested by friends, whom the inventor consulted, that he should submit the plane to the German Consul in Australia. This he refused to do; he was a young man of some vision, and, seeing the possibilities of the invention, he declined to submit it to any but the representatives of his own people. He sent the plans and designs to the Secretary for War in Great Britain, but they were pigeon-holed in the War Office, and the inventor could obtain no news of them. He volunteered for service when the war broke out, and, after being turned down once, was accepted, went to the Front, and “ did his bit.” During a short term of leave from the firing line, he went to London, and made inquiries at the War Office, but could not get any satisfaction beyond being told that he would have to submit a model, as well as plans and designs, and this he did. The model was sent to the Munition’s Inventions Department, but the inventor was not allowed to appear to demonstrate the capabilities of his invention. The Department, however, reported favorably, and recommended that the invention should be sent on to the Tanks Committee. Perhaps the most remarkable and significant fact ‘in the whole business is that the plans, designs, and model of the tank were lost in transit between the two Departments, although they were distant from each other less than half-a-mile. Nothing was heard of the matter for some months, when the young man suddenly discovered that his invention had been turned down on the report of Major Wilson, who was at that time the head of the Tanks Design Department. Honorable members may remember that, after the matter had been dealt with by the Tanks Committee, the war having gone on for some time, the question arose as to who should receive the compensation or reward for the invention of tanks. According to the report of the Royal Commission appointee) by the British Government, Colonel Johnson, the present head of the Tanks Design Department, regarded the rejection of the invention of the young Australian as not justified. The young inventor had to rejoin his unit after his leave, but, on his return to England after the Armistice, he appeared in person before the Royal Commission, and gave evidence. For financial reasons, he was not able to b’e represented by counsel, whereas Major Wilson, the head of the Tanks Committee, had King’s counsel appearing for him. And here is a point which, to my mind, needs clearing up. This same Major “ Wilson shared in the reward of £15,000 which was granted for the invention of the tank. Do honorable members see the significance of the situation? In the first place, the designs and plans of the young Australian were lost in transit from one Department to another over a distance of less than halfamile, and when eventually they were discovered in the second Department, the head of which was Major Wilson, they were disapproved by that officer, who eventually was given a share of the reward. Here we have a young Australian soldier who, on the face of it, appears to have been robbed of the fruits of his labour and the child of his brain, and it is the duty of the Government of Australia to see that he is given’ his due for his good work on behalf of the Allies. Another peculiar point is that the Royal Commission, when dividing the reward, gave the Australian inventor £987, but this was to recompense him for out-of-pocket expenses incurred in the preparation of the plans and designs, making a working model, and so forth. When this amount was awarded the stipulation was made - and this, it appears to me, amounts to an admission that the Australian inventor has some claim for justice - that the matter was not to be made public. As a matter of fact, the whole proceedings were kept secret in Great Britain, and it was only when the correspondents of the Australian newspapers wrote home that the facts became public.
I asked the Prime Minister some questions a week or two ago, and his replies exactly bear out the statements which I have made this afternoon.. The Government should now be prepared to go further in this matter, and to ‘ intimate to the Imperial authorities that it will not sit down quietly and allow this young Australian soldier and inventor to be robbed of the fruits of his labour. He rendered good service both in the firing line and as an inventor of war-like weapons. Not only did he fight in the trenches, but he gave to Great Britain and the Allies a weapon which effectively smashed the Hindenburg line. I strongly appeal now for justice in his behalf.
.- Last Friday week I moved the adjournment of this House to discuss the urgent matter of the continuation of the Wheat Pool. On that occasion I made a statement which has since been replied to by the Prime Minister through the medium of the press. I thought Mr. Hughes would have taken the opportunity to make a statement in this chamber, and that he would have given to honorable members direct some indication of the intentions of the Government respecting the continuation or otherwise of the Wheat Pool. Seeing, however, that the Prime Minister’s statement was made to the press and not to this House, and seeing, further, that I have learned that many who read the Prime Minister’s remarks appear to have understood that they were made here, I desire to correct that false impression.
I wish now to reply to the various statements of the Prime Minister on that occasion.. He availed himself of the privilege of going right through the various minutes of the Australian Wheat Board, and of quoting from them rather freely. I propose, also, to quote ‘ from those minutes. First, I draw attention to the cable message of the Prime Minister in connexion with the first sale of 500,000 tons. At the meeting of tha Wheat Board, held on 30th June, and extending to 2nd July, 1919, Mr. Pitt, the manager, read the following telegram from the Prime Minister: -
I have been continuously pressing on with negotiations for sale of wheat. With im proved shipping facilities our chances are improving. As you know, we have recently sold considerable quantities to Europe, including some 100,000 tons to Greece, at very good prices. Italy wants to buy, but asks for credit. I am consulting Campion, and have had .him over Paris to advise me on this. It is possible we may be able to dispose of considerable quantities Italy if we can arrange financial terms satisfactory to us as well as to them. The price will be quite all right. Britain: I am seeing the Royal Commission this morning. It may be possible to sell 500,000 tons. What is lowest price the Board is prepared to accept? Such a sale would help us financially in London just now. Reply urgent.
To that, Mr. Pitt replied as follows: -
Your telegram 24th June. Russell is calling with all haste meeting Australian Wheat Board. Expect to be able cable you Monday what you require.
There was no mistake in the minds of the members of the Wheat Board, and that fact is manifested by the following discussion, which occurred at the meeting of the Board on 30th June: -
Senator Russell (Chairman). ; Now, what about this 500,000 to Britain ? The usual practice has ‘been for us to state the minimum on which Mr. Hughes may conduct negotiations, but I do not know of a case in which he has not succeeded in getting a bit more. It is necessary to give a definite expression in that regard.
This definitely establishes that Mr. Hughes only sought authority to sell the 500,000 tons. In the matter of price, the Board fixed a minimum, on the understanding, of course, that the Prime Minister would endeavour to secure a better figure. I might say at this stage that Mr. Hughes’ reply to my statements when I moved the adjournment of this House is very ingenious. By his quotations from the minutes of the Board he has naturally made his case look as good as possible. I might say that I am now about to endeavour to do the same.
– The honorable members infers, then, that his case is going to be ingenious, too 1
– I am sure the honorable member will be more honest than the Prime Minister.
– I do not think the honorable member has any right to say that.
– At least, I will endeavour to stick to the minutes. The following is a further quotation from a lengthy discussion in which members of the Board engaged: -
Mr. Drummond. ; I am in favour of nothing less than 5s. a bashel, especially in view of the way the Imperial Government has treated us in regard to shipping and picking the eyes out of the wheat, which will make the position more acute towards the finish.
Mr. Giles. ; I move that the lowest price be 5s. a bushel.
Mr. Oman. ; Weoffered 5s. last season, and there has been interest since then.
– I thinkwe might suggest 5s. 3d., with anabsolute minimum of 5s.
SenatorRussell. - I think you can leave that to Mr. Hughes. He will get as much as he can. Let us fix the minimum.
After still further discussion, Senator Russell said. “Does 5s. a bushel meet your wishes?” I replied, “As an irreducible minimum.” This was unanimously agreed to. Commenting upon the matter of the unauthorized deal, Senator Russell said at a meeting of the Wheat Board held on 22nd August, 1919: -
We had all the information available in the cables, and we decided to fix 5s. as the minimum on thebest information we had, leaving it to the Prime Minister toget whatever over that he could. Fortunately, he got 5s.6d.We did not feel justified in fixing 5s. 6d. as the minimum.
Mr. Baxter (Western Australia). ; This is the most important business we have to handle. You gave Mr. Hughes a minimumof 5s. My telegram put the absolute minimum at , 5s. 6d. for the . 500,000 ‘tons, but regretted it was so small. Then the sale came along of 1,000,000 tons at . 5s.6d., and, further, an option was given over an additional 500.000 tons till Septemberat the same price. That leftthe British Government in the position, without paying any (consideration, of declining the option in September if the market went down or accepting it if the market went up. Wecould not sell in the meantime.
– Was Mr. Hughes madeacquainted with this discussion that went on about the irreducible minimum, and aboutthese other statements ?
– Well, I cannot answer for that.
– Now come; be fair.
– I can only say that Mr. Hughes obviously went thoroughly through the minutes, and that he had every opportunity to learn the nature of every discussion at every meeting of the Board. To proceed with the report of the discussion -
Mr. Drummond (New South Wales). We only authorized 500,000 tons. That is all we were asked for. Mr. Hughes sold 1,000,000 tons and gave an option over 500,000 tons, which I think we might well have been allowed to consider.
I might interrupt here to point out that the Prime Minister has said thatthis matter had never been raised in the
Wheat Board. The quotations which I am now making reveal that Mr. Baxter raised it, and that Mr. Drummond raised it also. They dispose of Mr. Hughes’ statement that this point had not bean brought before the Wheat Board, and that the subject had not been criticised. Mr. Hughes asked for the lowest price at which the Board could authorize the sale, and that minimum price was given him. The Board did not meet again until 22nd, 23rd and 24th August, 1919. Meanwhile, Mr. Hughes had sold the 500,000 tons, and, without authority, another 500,000 tons. Moreover, he had given an option over a third parcelof 500,000 tons,at 5s. 6d. per bushel. Not only had he done that, but he had given the option without requiring payment of any portion of the total price. I said then that this was bad business, and Isay it to-day; and so it was.
At adeputation which waited upon the Prime Minister in January this year, in the matter of the continuation of the Pool, one of the speakersput aquestion direct to the Prime Minister, “Didyou consult the London agency before making a sale?” And Mr. Hughes said., “No.” The Prime Minister now says that he did consult the London agency. Whom are we to believe, and when are we to. believe the Prime Minister.? I might say here that a second option was asked for by the Imperial Government. The first was exercised long before the time limit had expired, and the British authorities immediately asked for a further option over . 50.0,000 tons, to which request the Wheat Board responded with a pointblank refusal. In fact, the huge sale made by the right honorable gentleman left us in the position that we could not have supplied the quantity, even if we had given the option. The British Government evidently realized that it had made such an excellent deal in connexion with the 1,500,000 tons that it was eager to buy a further 500,000 tons, in regard to which, as I say, the Board refused to give an option.
– That is the honorable member’s statement.
– I have been twitted in this House with having found fault with the Prime Minister for having sold our wheat too cheaply, when I was merely wise after the event. I have been twitted, further, that I consented to sell wheat for local consumption at 7s.6d. per bushel.
Here. I wish to remind honorable members that I made a statement, following upon an interjection by the honorable member for Wannon (Mr. Rodgers), to the effect that the Prime Minister could tell honorable members something more about the price than I was prepared to relate at that stage. Now I think that, seeing that only half the story has been told, it is no more than fair to myself and to this House and to the wheatgrowers generally, that I should state as nearly as possible what really did occur regarding the sale of wheat for home consumption, for about twelve months ahead, at 7s. 6d. per bushel. At the request of the Wheat Board a Conference of State Premiers and Ministers was held on 9th and 10th January, 1920, in order that the States might furnish estimates of their requirements of wheat supplies until the new crop, 1920-21, should have come in at the end of the year. On account of the local position the Board - which, by the way, is the selling medium on behalf of the Australian wheat farmer - had been withholding sales. I emphasize that, according to our constitution, the Board had been called into being to sell wheat. However, having regard to Australia’s home requirements we had withheld wheat from sale when it could have been disposed of at very profitable prices. At a meeting of the Wheat Board the following resolution was carried : -
That the Australian Wheat Board hold sufficient stocks to meet Commonwealth requirements for local consumption, each State to declare forthwith its proportion of such requirements, and to undertake to purchase same under the scheme method of payment from time to time in force.
Then arose the question of local price. The Conference could not fix the price. Its members were there as buyers, while the matter of selling was in the hands of the Wheat Board. I shall quote from the report of the discussion which took place at the Conference: -
Mr. Ashford (New South Wales).; It was discussed and agreed upon that, subject to the approval of the Governments in each State, 6s. 6d. should be the price.
– I have already stated that the minutes seem to sustain your point.
Mr. Ashford. I know that Mr. Drummond would not support anything over 6s. 6d. per bushel, and that, on the other hand, Mr. McGibbon will want something higher. That will equalize it. We might as well finalize it to day.
-I would like to hear Mr. Hill.
– We are not prepared to sell wheat at 6s. 6d. When 6s. 6d. was fixed at the last meeting, there was no understanding that it was to cover a period of six, nine, or twelve months.
Mr. Oman (Victoria). We really tried for 7s. for home consumption.
– My opinion was that the States would come here to-day to buy, and the Board; would fix the price.
Mr. Ashford. Before the last Wheat Board meeting, the farmers’ ‘representatives held a meeting and decided to ask for 7s. per bushel. Eventually they gave way, and agreed to 6s. 6d. at the meeting of the Board.
Mr. Giles. That is correct, but we did not agree that it would be permanent for a year.
Mr. Oman then moved the following motion :
That the price for local consumption be 6s.. 6d. per bushel, with a carrying charge of1d. per bushel per month to cover interest, carrying, &c.
I said, after a lengthy discussion -
According to a document placed before the Board at the last meeting, it was stated that the existing price for overseas wheat was 8s. per bushel; now we propose to sell it at (6s. 6d. Mr. Giles and I would probably support a motion at 7s., plus the carrying charge mentioned by Mr. Oman. Anything below that we will oppose. I can sympathize with Mr. Drummond. He represents the buyers and sellers. Mr. Giles and I are otherwise. We represent the farmers. I have been in. communication with growers all over the State, and there would be trouble if the price was fixed below 7s.
Thereupon I moved -
That the price of wheat for local consumption be 7s. per bushel, plus a carrying charge of1d. per bushel per month.
Later on, Mr. Oman said -
I think the 6s. 6d., plus1d. per bushel per’ month carrying charge, gives the farmer a good return, and one which could not be exceeded if we took the world’s parity into consideration. I do not agree that, if there is only enough wheat in a. State to serve the State’s requirements or only a small surplus, the people should be compelled to take the world’s parity always. The cost of production should be taken into consideration. . . . There would have been no difficulty if we had not increased the price at the last meeting from 5s. 6d. to 6s. 6d. Having established 6s. 6d. you would like to give as much as possible to the farmers. All the sales are pooled. It matters not which State supplies the wheat to New South Wales or Queensland. I would urge a fixed rate, and not one which is going to bit the consumer every, time. I am as keen as any man to act as fair as possible.
The following discussion then ensued: -
Mr. Pitt. ; Could there not be some compromise between Mr. Oman’s suggestion and Mr. Hill’s ? Supposing it was fixed at 7s. without any carrying charge.
Mr. Drummond. Mr. Hill has stated that I represent the unfortunate State of New South
Wales, and has suggested that I am likely to be biased. I still claim I represent the whole of the farmers of Australia as one of the farmers’ representatives on this Board, and I also claim that we cannot get away from our responsibility to the consumers as well. In New South “Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania we are at your mercy. There is no denying it. I claim that the farmers, as a whole, are men prepared to do a fair thing, and I think Mr. Oman’s suggestion, worked out in’ detail, is a fair thing. I consider the whole of the farmers of Australia would be satisfied that they were getting a fair deal.
– If we are to sacrifice the farmers’ wheat at 6s. 6d. per bushel, I will not be a party to it. I say it is an unreasonable thing to expect, more especially when one considers the conditions under which the wheat waa grown this year. I venture to say the farmers need every penny of it, and the fact that so many farmers have applied for seed wheat advances shows the necessitous conditions of the farmers of the State. It is only a few of the so-called wealthy sheep and wheat men that are in a fairly good position to-day. The great bulk do not know how they will meet their bills.
Senator Russell. I do not care what it is as long as you make it clear.
Mr. Colebatch. ; It seems there is a difference of 6d. per bushel between the two. There seems to be some difference of opinion as to whether Id. per bushel per month is a sufficient or an exorbitant charge. If you are not going to take the world’s parity, you had better fix it for the whole year. As far as I am concerned, I am prepared to split the difference, and make it a flat rate of 7s. 3d. per bushel, and would be prepared to move that.
Mr. Oman. Could we get unanimity on that ?
Mr. Colebatch. ; I am satisfied with 7s. 3d., and all charges to come out of that.
– My opinion is that we would get a high price if we held the wheat. However, as a compromise, we are prepared to- give them the benefit of the doubt.
The price of 7s. 3d. was decided upon by the Australian Wheat Board. It will be seen that I contended in the first place for 7s. 6d., and stood practically alone, and that I had to agree to 7s. 3d. as a matter of compromise. On a Board of this kind one could not have his own way. However, when the Conference resumed, I said -
We have had four of the best years in the history of Australia in regard to wheatgrowing, but, notwithstanding that fact, the area sown to wheat is decreasing every year. That would seem to ‘indicate that the farmers are not doing well out of wheat-growing. We have been’ selling wheat at under the cost of production for some time. Now we have a chance of getting somewhere near a fair thing. We are not asking for Ss. 6d. or 10s. We are not arbitrary at 7s. 3d., and will keep the wheat for the whole of the consumers of the Com- monwealth for twelve months. That is a fair price, and much lower than wheat can be had at anywhere to-day. If consumers are entitled to grumble, it is at the profits made by the millers and the bakers.
The Prime Minister said -
I am not going to argue the point. I agree with Mr. Drummond when he says, “ We would be getting into deep water if we go beyond 6s. 6d.”
After a lengthy discussion, in which the Prime Minister suggested that he should obtain an option over 10,000,000 bushels of British Government wheat stored here, to which Mr. Oman and I objected on the ground that it would depress the local market and create a very bad impression in the minds of the. farmers, seeing that the price would show a big profit to the Imperial Government and a corresponding loss to the Pool brought about by this unauthorized sale, the- following discussion took place -
– I can only say my own view is that we should postpone it if you are not in favour of 6s. 6d. Personally, I cannot agree to any increase in the price of bread until we have exhausted every means of preventing it. There is a way of preventing it. We have tried that.
– I understand New South Wales Government will take all wheat for seed at 7s. 6d. per bushel.
Mr. Ashford. 6s. 6d., and 7s. 6d. for graded wheat.
– I have seen wheat going into our stacks fit for seed. They are offering 6s. 6d. and 7s. 6d. for seed iri New South Wales, and now you want us to keep that wheat here for twelve months for 7s. 3d.
– I cannot agree to the price of wheat all over Australia going up to 7s. 3d. There may be a reason why it should go up to 7s. or 7s. 3d. in New South Wales. I am quite sure you do not realize what an outcry there would be if we put the price of wheat up to 7s. 3d. It would have been better if you had put it up to the 7s- 3d. at the last meeting.
Mr. Oman. We have turned down offers within the last two months at high rates with a view of holding it for local consumption. We turned down South Africa at 8s. 7-id. I am not arguing personally. I have no interest in the Pool this year or last. We are in a strong position to-day, thanks to the sale you made to the British Government at 5s. 6d.
I did not agree with that remark -
We have buyers offering us 8s. 74d. It put us in a very good position for a good clean up. In my opinion, if you get back 10,000,000 bushels of British wheat, you will reduce our chance of obtaining a good clean up, and we would not be able to get the good price we are now getting from Japan for inferior wheat. I do not think the last 3d. was justified, and we would do well to drop it. Mr. Hill should see that it is not wise to embarrass the position by fighting for 3d.
It is abundantly clear that I fought for the highest price we could possibly get. I can look every consumer in the face and say that even in regard to the price of 7s. 3d. suggested we were absolutely generous in fixing the price. The Prime Minister finally said -
I suggest that the matter stand over until we know from the British Government whether they are prepared to do one of three things: - (1) supply South African trade, or (2) give the Board an option of 10,000,000 bushels exercisable up to September. (3) If not agreeable to 1 or 2, whether they would agree to
Bdi 10,000,000 bushels, and, if so, at what price. If the price suits us we will buy it; if it does not, then we will not buy. We cannot lose on buying at 0s. 6d. and selling at 8s. 7$d.
The Prime Minister having declined to accept the price fixed by the Australian Wheat Board - 7s. 3d. per bushel - and having intimated that he would adjourn the meeting to a date to be fixed, and that in the meantime he would cable the Imperial authorities to secure an option over 10,000,000 bushels, &c, as suggested by himself, the Board adjourned from the 9th January. No cable was received in reply until the 29th January, and the various State Ministers were kept waiting during that time. When the Conference was eventually called together by the Prime Minister on the 27th and 29tn January the following cable from the Secretary of State for the Colonies was read by the Prime Minister : -
With reference to your telegram 10th January, Royal Commission on Wheat Supplies has carefully and sympathetically considered proposals outlined by your Prime Minister, but owing to difficulty of securing necessary wheat in North America, and also owing to grave apprehension of labour disputes in Argentine, it finds that to sacrifice wheat in Australia would endanger supplies to United Kingdom. Expectation of drawing alternative supply from South Russia entirely dispelled, whilst Indian export still doubtful. Tonnage already allotted to load very large part of wheat still remaining to be shipped from Australia, and further tonnage arranged load balance as quickly as possible. In these circumstances, and as United Kingdom by far largest customer for Australian wheat, Royal Commission on Wheat Supplies regret unable to agree to forego any of their wheat supplies already purchased in Australia, and feel that they are justified in asking that orders to bc completed other outside markets should be temporarily sacrificed by Australia rather than United Kingdom; case would be different if there were an actual shortage wheat Australia for local requirements, but not gathered from your telegram that such shortage likely to exist, if necessary action taken by Commonwealth to guard against undue export other destinations.
Having considered this cable, the world’s wheat position, and prices, the members of the Australian Wheat Board had decided that the price should be increased to 7s. 9d. per bushel. At the Conference of the 29th January, Mr. Oman said -
The cable has given us the information we want, and I take it, it will be for the members of the Board to determine the price at which they are prepared to sell the wheat they hold on behalf of the people. I felt last week that we were offering the wheat at a cut rate. You took a different view and cabled to London. The reply confirms the view we held, viz., that there was a strong market. I will not be a party to selling on a low parity. We are selling to-day at 8s. 10id., and, personally, I am of the opinion that the price should now be somewhere in the vicinity of 8s. However, there is a slight concession on that. I am not prepared to give away the wheat belonging to the farmers at under 7s. 9d. per bushel. Your cables, fortunately for the producers, strengthen me. I take it, it will be for this Conference to determine the price, and I say that if the whole of the States are prepared to buy at a fixed rate, you should not withhold your consent. We have information now that there is no wheat available from Argentine, India, or Russia. If they cannot look for wheat there, how can our customers look for wheat there? The result is that we can write our own ticket. We see oats selling for 6s. 6d. per bushel of 40 lbs. We are entitled to put wheat on a parity with other grains. An equitable thing has to be done. I am quite convinced the price should not be less than 7s. 9d. per bushel, and I am not prepared to take less. Inferior wheat can be sold to-day for 8s. 10id. per bushel.
Mr. Hughes then said ;
That is a matter you’ must please yourself about. The only thing I want to point out is that the question in dispute is not the sale of wheat oversea. You can get whatever price you can. If you can get 200s. per bushel, so much the better. The point is, at what price are you Australian farmers going to sell the wheat to your own people? As for the Japanese, charge as much as you like.
Mr. Hughes argued that the constitution of the Australian Wheat Board obliged it to get London parity. Members of the Board disagreed, arguing that the Board should sell the wheat elsewhere, and at much higher prices. However, the Board had no desire to oversell at these high prices, and thus leave our own people short. But it did insist upon getting what it considered to be something like a reasonably fair price, although that price was not nearly as high as could have been obtained for overseas shipment. Mr. Hughes refused to entertain the price of 7s. 9d. fixed by the Board, but postponed the meeting, and meanwhile cabled to London with a view to finding, if possible, London parity.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– If no other honorable member desires to speak at this stage, I shall take my second half hour now. The Australian Wheat Board assembled on 29th January.
– I rise to a point of order. Is the honorable member in order in reading his speech?
– I understand that the honorable member is merely reading extracts from some report or document.
– I could tell my own tale, but so that there can be no dispute, and in order to reach finality, I am quoting as nearly as possible from the minutes of the Australian Wheat Board, from which the Prime Minister also quoted, and which cannot be said to be wrong. I may add that I have also taken the precaution to advise all the gentlemen whose names I am using that it was my intention to do so.
– Is this Wheat Board a public body?
– I do not know what the Minister may call it, but I presume that what the Prime Minister can read I can read.
– I quite agree with that, but I doubt whether this procedure is wise on the part of either the honorable member or the Prime Minister.
– As the Prime Minister quoted from the minutes of the Australian Wheat Board, I have no option but to do the same. I might make a statement, and then the Prime Minister might pick out certain minutes which would make my case appear absurd. The statement issued to the press by the Prime Minister is one of the most ingenious I have ever read. I doubt whether the honorable gentleman saw the statement before it was issued to the press; I am inclined to think that two other gentlemen drew it up, and made it public. With the multiplicity of duties he has to perform, it is almost impossible for the Prime Minister to go into all these matters. I have already said that the Prime Minister cabled to London with a view to ascertaining, if possible, the London parity. I heard Senator Russell say, at a meeting of the Chamber of Agriculture at Bendigo, that there was no such thing as London parity. But when it suited the Prime Minister he tried to establish London parity, although the Wheat Board was of opinion that at that time it would be difficult ‘ to establish. Evidently he did establish it to his own satisfaction. The Australian Wheat Board re-assembled on 29th January, when neither the Prime Minister nor Senator Russell was present,both being engaged at a Cabinet meeting. It is only fair to say that the meeting was hurriedly convened because the delegates from the various States, who had been in Melbourne from the 9th to the 29th January, were in a hurry to return to their homes. They decided to take the matter into their own hand’s, to buy the wheat, and fix the price, regardless of whether or not the Prime Minister consented. At that meeting Mr. Oman said -
I have been trying to find out what the London parity is. I have ascertained certain values in other countries. Further, to these quotations in London you have to add £50,000,000, and divide it by 240,000,000 bushels of wheat, which is 4s. 2d. above the quotation in London. I have ascertained that the present price of wheat in the following countries is -
Pacific Coast, 9s.5d., plus 23 per cent. exchange.
Argentine, 9s., f.o.b., plus 13 per cent. exchange.
Chicago, 9s. 6d., rail.
Atlantic Coast, 10s., f.o.b., plus 23 per cent. exchange.
India, 8s. 6d
The quantities of wheat that can be absorbed without going to Britain are -
The person from whom I ascertained the figures states that he is satisfied that the 18,500,000 bushels is worth 10s. per bushel here, f.o.b. The exchange rate would be practically 2s. 6d. Taking those prices, plus the £30,000,000 and exchange, their wheat is costing 13s. per bushel. Deduct from that 4s., leaves it at 9s., true value. I think we have reached a stage when we will have to make up our minds whether we are going to submit to the Prime Minister deciding for the Wheat Board. I am satisfied the Victorian Government will not accept that position.
Mr. Colebatch said ;
The constitution the Prime Minister quoted from makes the Australian Wheat Board the exclusive authority for fixing this price. You cannot go behind that. If the Australian Wheat Board fixes the price, it is not possible for the Prime Minister to go behind that. We suggested a price of 7s. 3d. in the first place, and he refused to agree. After a fortnight, the course of events made us submit 7s. Od., and he refused to agree to that. In regard to the course adopted of consulting the British Government, that was not unanimously approved of by the Wheat Conference, but we had to take it. You have all had more experience on the Wheat Board than I have, but I consider the proper course for us now to take is to fix the price, and communicate our decision to the Prime Minister, and leave it at that.
I then said -
I think we would be perfectly in order in carrying a resolution now re-affirming our decision -that the price for local consumption be 7s. Od’. per bushel, and pass it on- to the Prime Minister, and throw- the responsibility on him.
After further discussion, I said -
If you come in, and make it a unanimous vote, I am prepared to agree to the foregoing of the Id..
Mr. Ashford said;
I am prepared to say publicly that no doubt to-day, taking the wheat there is, it is really below the price wheat could be sold outside
The price was finally fixed by the Australian Wheat Board at 7s. 8d. per bushel, and the decision conveyed to the Prime Minister, who, at that stage, was unable to be present, owing to a Cabinet meeting. In regard to the announcement of the price, it was agreed by the Board -
That the price of 7s. 8d. per bushel, as agreed upon, should operate not later than 1st February.
We felt so uncertain as to whether the Prime Minister would acquiesce in the decision we had made that we resolved that in the event of the right honorable gentleman not making the announcement by noon on the 31st January, Mr. Oman was to do so in behalf of the Board. However, the following statement by the Prime Minister appeared in the press on 31st January : -
After several conferences of the Ministers representing the various State Governments, and the representatives of the growers, it has been decided to increase the price of wheat for local consumption from 6s. 6d. to 7s. 8d., this rate to operate forthwith, and for the remainder of the current season- that is to say, until the end of the year. The avid demand throughout the world for wheat, in view ofthe leanness of the present year’s crop, has created a very difficult position in Australia. There remains within Australia only sufficient unsold wheat for twelve months’ supply, after providing for normal exports of flour. It is recognised that it would be most unwise to. oversell wheat and run the risk of subsequently having to import an inferior quality of wheat at much higher prices. As is well known, the New South Wales harvest was almost a failure, and that State will have to purchase from the other States an amount of not less than 12,000,000 bushels. The difficulty of the position which confronted the conference wa”s accentuated by inquiries that have been made by various countries to purchase wheat at substantially higher prices than have ruled recently. After considering all those factors, 7s. 8d. was fixed upon to meet the altered conditions. In compliance with the policy set before the people of Australia at the recent elections of paying to the farmers the local equivalent of the Londonparity on all export surplus, it was felt that large quantities of wheat should not he held with storage and interest, charges accumulating, while refusing such tempting offers.
To any one who had inside knowledge of what had happened, at the meetings of. the Board, the last paragraph in the Prime Minister’s announcement was laughable in the extreme. In bringing this matter before the House so often, I have no desire to be vindictive towards the Prime Minister. I am quite prepared to concede to him any credit that is his due, but on behalf of the wheat-growers of Australia I have tried for some months to get a .pronouncement from the Prime Minister as to what he proposes to do in regard to the continuation of the Pool for this year. That was my object in moving the adjournment of the House last week. The Prime Minister said to members -of the Board, when they met him in conference, that, owing to the harsh criticism which1 had been levelled* at the Pool, he would not decide immediately one way or the other. Very much of the criticism which has been levelled at the administration- of the Pool has been justified. I have never levelled criticism at the Pool itself, and have always given credit to those who conceived the idea of it, because it was a first-class conception. But on many occasions the administration of it has been bad, and the Prime Minister has been one of the offenders. Criticism has been levelled not wholly and solely at the Prime Minister, but at all and sundry who have been’ responsible for this bad administration. I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman intends to persist in his silence. I have tried by every means in my power to obtain a statement from him. We are faced with a guarantee of 5s. per bushel and abnormal shipping conditions. If the Pools are to be wound up, the employees of the State Wheat Commissions and of the Australian Wheat Board should be informed, so that they may have an opportunity to look for other billets. Then, again, we do not want to put on the market at the last moment the huge quantities of iron, timber, hessian, and other dunnage of which it will be necessary to dispose if the Pool is not to be continued. We should know at the earliest moment what is to be done, so that the interests of the growers may1 be safeguarded. The Prime Minister stated at Bendigo that his wish was to help the producers, but he is the only man who is preventing the continuation of the Pool for another year. We do not ask for a compulsory Pool for all time. What we wish for is the continuation of the Pool, under existing conditions, for this year only, and I think that we have a right to ask for that.
– When last I spoke on the subject I was told that I would get “ slops “ when the Prime Minister dealt with me, but I am here to do my duty, and to speak the truth so far as I can, and I am not to be deterred by his threats or frowns. I understand that the honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is to present to the right honorable gentleman a petition against the continuation! of the Pool which comes from the farmers of Crystal brook, South Australia. I have here a telegram, dated 18th March, and signed by L. 0’Loughlin, which says -
Largely attended meeting of farmers at Crystal brook, in centre wheat-growing areas, last night carried resolutions, with only two against, as follows : -
That the Wheat Pool be continued, and guarantee of Commonwealth Government of 5s. bushel for wheat of 1920-21 harvest be accepted, as owing to disorganized state of world’s mar kets and evident shipping combines only Imperial Government, through influence of Commonwealth Government, can be relied on to make satisfactory sales of wheat and freight arrangements for export of same.
That before there is any reversion to private trading, a referendum of wheat-growers be taken, as we consider no change from present method should be made without their approval.
I understand from the Victorian Minister for Agriculture that the Victorian Government is favorable to the continuation of the Pool for another year, and the Australian Wheat Board, after discussing the subject on the 11th, 12th, and 13th February, carried the following resolution : -
That in view of the uncertainty of the shipping position and the guarantee of an advance of 5s. per bushel at railway stations, this Board recommends to the Commonwealth and State Governments that an immediate announcement should be made that the Pool with its machinery will be continued for the receival and disposal of the 1920-21 harvest.
Surely, when men who thoroughly understand the wheat position, including the Ministers who represent on the Wheat Board the wheat-growing States, see the need for continuing the Pool for another twelve months, the Prime Minister should treat our request courteously, and if he does not intend to continue the Pool, should say so, in order that other arrangements may be made. If what I have said brings upon my head the wrath of the Prime Minister, I care not. I hope not to have to bring this matter before honorable members again, because I am sick and tired of talking of it. If the right honorable gentleman will give us the fair deal to which we are entitled he will hear no more condemnation from me.. I shall have done with the business once he has met us and told us what he intends to do.
.- It has seemed to me strange that at a time like this, when it is essential that the country should produce as much as it can, we should hear of large numbers of persons being out of employment. The acute industrial unrest which has existed in Australia during the past few years is responsible for the present state of things, and I think that the Government should at the earliest moment say what action it proposes to take for the amendment of our industrial legislation. It should be patent to all that we cannot continue as we are to-day. Our indus- trial laws have been found to be absolutely and wholly unworkable, and, to my mind, the Arbitration Court is responsible for the vindictiveness - I can find no other word characterizing the feeling which exists - between employers and employees. At the present time the feeling between those two sections, who, if we are going to prosper, must work in harmony, is very bitter. The amendment of our industrial legislation has been promised for a long time, and, to my mind, we can discuss no more important subject than proposals for arriving at a better understanding between employers and employees. Wo other matter is of such grave concern to the people of Australia at the present time.
– The honorable member might say to “the people of the world.”
– The nervous tension created by the war has had a lot to do with the industrial unrest that exists; but we have gone ahead of other countries in our industrial legislation, and have done many things that it would have been better to leave undone. I do not wish to raise a discussion about industrial reform now, because it could not do any good, but effort should be made to amend industrial legislation at the earliest possible moment.
– Is the honorable member prepared to assist me in regard to Canberra?
– No. I intend to speak about Canberra in a moment or two.
– I shall point out that we have no right to have a biased Chairman on the Public Works Committee inquiring into Federal Capital matters.
– The remark is grossly unfair. All who have studied my work on the Committee will acknowledge that I have done my best to secure for the information of Parliament clear and correct recommendations on the proposals referred to it for investigation.
– You admit that you are biased.
– I do not. For two years I fought in this Chamber - I am glad to say successfully - against the expenditure of between £2,500,000 and £3,000,000 on the establishment of an arsenal at Tuggeranong, which, as I have said, would be a magnificent site for a monastery, though I cannot understand how an engineer could select it for an arsenal. I am told that the wicked waste which the establishment of that arsenal would have involved has been prevented.
– If that is the opinion of the Chairman of the Public Works Committee he must be pretty biased.
– Let me add that after I became Chairman of the Committee reference was made to it of a proposal for the construction of a railway to the arsenal site, and the Committee reported in favour of the work. There was no bias there. If the arsenal was to be constructed the railway was essential.
– This is a terrible confession for the Chairman of the Committee to make.
– The honorable member has always gone out of. his way to promote the interests of the Federal Capital, and to induce Parliament to give earnest consideration to the subject, and he has been fairly successful in getting money spent there. But I resent his imputation that I am biased in regard to Canberra. I do not think that honorable members, generally, agree with him.
I again suggest that we should have some statement or promise from the Government in regard to the Tariff. The procedure here is somewhat different from that in the State Parliaments. There, when members make a request before items of the Estimates are passed, a short statement is made by the Premier, or some other Minister, who either promises or refuses to deal with certain matters; and I think we ought to have a promise that there will not be-undue delay in dealing with the Tariff. A new schedule has been introduced which imposes very high duties on many of the goods necessary in primary industries.
– That new schedule is bringing in some revenue that I badly need.
– We ought to be told whether the present is a revenue or a Protective Tariff. However, I shall not discuss the matter further than to say that, at the earliest possible moment, the schedule should be submitted for our consideration.
– Let me say at once that I think - indeed, I am almost certain - the Tariff will be amongst the first business when we meet again
– I am glad to hear that statement. However, I rose particularly to speak in regard to taxation.. We know that further taxation will be necessary; but the incidence of taxation is -decidedly and grossly unfair. When we heard the statements made to-day in regard to the drought in New South Wales and Queensland, we realized how disastrous the conditions of Australia are at the present time. Those men who, probably, are being ruined in their endeavours to find fodder may be receiving notices from the Income Tax Department demanding taxation on profits made the year before, and, it may be, 75 per cent, as war-time profits tax made the year before that. As soon as possible, the House should insist upon the appointment of a Finance Committee. It is a pity the Public- Accounts Committee does not deal with financial measures submitted to this House. Such measures should be submitted to a .Finance Committee, and the members- of it ought to be selected from’ those who have had special financial training, and who should take evidence in regard to the incidence of taxation. Let- me cite cases that I have mentioned before to honorable members. Let us, for instance,, imagine two men who are- left £10,000 each; one has a love of the bush, and immediately on receipt of his money goes out into the Never-Never, and takes all the risks of drought, fire, and flood. He spends, his £10,000 in developing his property, and, possibly, borrows another £10,000’ for the same purpose. Prior to the war, that man never made a sixpence of profit. I may say that I am citing special cases which have come under my notice. Every year prior to the war that, man showed’ an absolute loss. In the first year of the war he showed a book profit, not a cash profit”, of £1,200; and in the next year, with £20,000 invested, he showed a book profit of £4,800. In spite of this, however, every year prior to the war he had been losing from £500 to £800, and there was always a risk that the next year he might lose every penny through drought. This man was called upon to pay land and income tax, and £2,750 in war-time profits tax ; while his neighbour, who had probably been mak ing £15,000 a year in the same industry, but who had a pre-war standard to that, amount, was not called upon to pay sixpence. Now, let us take the case of the other man, with £10,000,. who declines to expose himself to. any risk or responsibility, but puts his money out on mortgage, and is sure of an income of anything up to £700 a year for life. In addition, such a. man may start as a commission agent or broker, and, whilst the pastoralist or grazier has been making £4,800 a year, this other man may have made £20,000 or £40,000 in commissions. Yet this latter man does not pay a penny in war-time profits tax, because he made his money with his brains. It is a. scandal that there should be such a measure on our statute-book, because, under its provisions a man who develops this country and produces wealth, may have to sell his property in order to pav taxation. Although, under our taxation measures, the Commissioner has power to give- concessions in case of drought or’ heavy losses,, such, concessions are not made. However, I shall not go into details, for I shall have another opportunity of dealing with taxation matters. I may say, however, that- the. Government have not yet appointed a Board, as provided by our law, to which appeals cain be made in cases, where taxpayers are not satisfied with, the decisions of the Commissioner.
There is another taxation matter- to which I should like to refer. When we passed the Entertainments Tax Act, I am certain that honorable members thought it was for the purpose of making liable those who carried on amusements as a business. When I was travelling in the back country, some 300 miles from the city, in Western Australia, I had many complaints in regard to claims for payment of the amusement tax by fire brigades, churches, or soldiers’ entertainments committees, on the ground that they had promoted entertainments for admission to which a .charge was made.
– I do not think churcheshave to pay the tax, though they have to obtain permission to hold the entertainments.
– In one place I visited I found that the Catholic priest had been summoned for holding an entertainment without a permit, and notices had been sent out to the people, including Roads Boards, to the effect that they must not let their halls for entertainments until permits had been obtained. This seems an absurd law, for many places have only a mail a week, and it takes three or four days for letters to reach the authorities; yet at the same time those who do hold entertainments without permits are liable to a fine of £50.
– The Taxation Department has been taken down by fellows in the bush, who are not so guileless as the honorable member would make out.
– A number of race meetings have been involved.
– If the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Page) was under the impression, when the Entertainments Tax Act was passed, that it applied to every little entertainment in the back country, he had a very different idea from that which I had. All these cases to which I am alluding show the absurdities of the administration, which is particularly stupid in the case of hamlets with a population of 100 or 150, who certainly cannot be accused of making large profits on the entertainments they promote. There is no necessity for the restrictions on people outback who do not promote amusements for profit; and I hope an amendment will be made in the Act restricting the application of the tax.
– I find the Taxation Commissioner pretty liberal.
– Perhaps the honorable member goes to see the Taxation Commissioner f
– I do.
– I do, not, because I do not regard it as part of my duty.
– My constituents send me -here to see .after their interests.
– I do not go to see the Taxation Commissioner, and I object to persons using political influence.
– It is not political influence.
– It is a class of influence I resent. The law should be the same for all persons, and not only for those able to get members to race round Departments on their behalf.
– If my constituents are dissatisfied, they send me a shilling wire, and I get them satisfaction.
– There should be one law for all; and my way is to see a Minister, and not officers of any Department, particularly the Taxation Department.
– Why should not a member interview a public servant if he wishes?
– On certain matters, yes; but not on matters of taxation. If the honorable member thinks it right to go behind the backs of Ministers in such cases, I do not agree with him. I now desire to refer to the expenditure of the Defence Department, which is increasing since the end of the war. I do not desire to cast any reflections, but it is essential for Parliament to come to an early decision in regard to our Defence policy, so that the Department may be able to carry on its work on definite lines. Large sums are being expended on the erection of buildings for the housing of material which is coming from the Old Country. Although the greater portion of. war equipment was purchased in the early stages of the war, I hope that the Government will insist as far as possible on no new purchases being made to increase the stores that are coming- in. These stores, I suppose, must be worth some millions of pounds, and the housing for them cannot cost less than £300,000.
– What about the storage at Liverpool ?
– It could not be utilized for the purpose to which I am re- ‘ferring. The Public Works Committee visited Liverpool on Saturday afternoon, and, in ‘my opinion, it would not be possible to care for the equipment without the erection of the proposed buildings there. However that may be, the Government should do all it possibly can to reduce the quantity of goods being sent out, and to insist that no new material shall be manufactured. I believe it is’ the intention of the Department to spend something lite £40,000 in building a laboratory. That will be in conjunction with the construction of an arsenal. I have always held that the Government should have control, as far as possible, of the manufacture of all its war material, and that everything should be of the very best quality. The Defence Department has always been an extravagant Department
– What has the Minister to say to that ?
– Ministers may be ill-advised. The Government, for example, spent a huge sum in the construction of an aerodrome at Point Cook.
– A pretty considerable sum of money was spent on certain public works in Western Australia, was it not?
– If the honorable member wants to make a burlesque of this debate, well and good.
– You are saving me the trouble.
– I do not think that would be at all possible. At any rate, I am not tied in my politics to the one little corner of Australia bounded by the Federal Capital site. The honorable member is so aggrieved at my criticism of various matters associated with Canberra, and with proposed expenditures in the Federal Territory, that he can do no other than endeavour to make the whole of this debate a burlesque. I was remarking that a big sum of money had been spent upon the construction of an aerodrome at Point Cook. Now, I understand the Defence Department is considering the purchase of land at Geelong for the construction of an aerodrome. Apparently, some one has blundered in having advised the outlay of such a large amount at Point Cook. If the Government is going to spend between £40,000 and £50,000 upon a laboratory in connexion with an arsenal the sooner this House is advised upon its policy in this matter, and in respect to the amount of money proposed to be expended, and concerning the site on which the laboratory is to be erected, the better.
– The site was fixed in the Federal Territory.
– That is not so. The Tuggeranong site has been rejected. J’ was altogether too stupid a proposition. I think I am safe in saying that it has been definitely decided that the construction of an arsenal .there is not to be proceeded with. In various directions we have witnessed a great deal of useless expenditure on the part of the Defence Department, and it should be for this House to say whether the Defence Department shall have exemption from the investigation of its proposed works by thePublic Works Committee.
Another matter to which I desire to refer has regard to the policy of the United States Government in the direction of assisting production. I believe that we shall have a considerable influx of population from the Old Country in the near future. We should be able to favorably settle very large numbers. We do not want them brought into the cities, however, but to be placed successfully on the land. At the beginning of the entry of the United States into the war, the Government of that Republic made a grant of some £7,000,000 annually for the construction of roads through the various States. It did so on the assumption that the building of good roads would tend to increase settlement, and to decrease the cost of living. The Commonwealth Government might well consider the matter of granting assistance in the construction ‘ of main roads through the various Australian States. In future, much greater prosperity will be due to the construction of good roads than to the building of railways. With the aid of the oil tractor, men on the land will be able to go out further from railway communication than has been possible hitherto. The policy of the Government of the United States of America has specially appealed to me. I know, of course, that this is not the time to look to the Commonwealth Treasury for the disbursement of large sums of money. Yet this matter of State-wide road construction is one which might well be considered if the Government is really anxious to establish a greater population in country districts.
.- I regret to have to listen to the remarks of the previous speaker concerning the Federal Capital. I think the time has come when this House should decide once for all to complete the construction of the Capital and hasten to meet in Parliament there.
– What about deciding once for all to stop the whole thing ?
– That should have been done years ago before this Parliament was formed. But seeing that the various States, including ‘ Victoria - from which the greater part of the present opposition- to Canberra emanates - agreed that the Capital should be constructed in New South Wales, it is fair now to ask that the terms of that promise shall be honoured. After twenty years one begins to doubt whether the promise was made in earnest. About eight years were occupied in deciding upon the site of the Federal Capital, and from that period to this the subject has been bandied about and every conceivable excuse for delay has been seized upon. Nevertheless, much preliminary work has been done. A good deal of money has been sunk at Canberra.
– That is a good word.
– I mean to say, invested. And, by the way, if the Commonwealth were to allow private individuals to build the Capital, I. am sure the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) would be among the first to spend some of his wealth in purchasing shares in such a profitable investment.
– The honorable member should not impute unworthy motives.
– I do not; I merely imply a compliment to the honorable member’s business acumen. At any rate, I hope that when the honorary treasurer of the Empire Parliamentary Association gives his next dinner that function will be held at Canberra. I do not think New South Wales has been treated at all fairly in the matter of the Federal Capital.
– We want the Federal Capital in Sydney.
-Representatives of New South Wales are not anxious for that. The Constitution is quite emphatic upon the point. The honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who represents a Western Australian constituency, will, no doubt, recollect that a former distinguished representative of another Western Australian division - I refer to the late Lord Forrest - pleaded hard that, a certain promise having been made to Western Australia contingent upon her coming into the Federation, that promise should be made good by the Federal Parliament authorizing the construction of the transcontinental railway. Such an undertaking, however, was not part and parcel of the Federal Constitution. Yet this Parliament honoured that which Mr. Deakin had said was a promise. In the interests of the Commonwealth, the Canberra project should be brought to fruition. The Constitution provided that New South Wales should furnish a grant of land upon which to lay out the site of the Federal Capital. New South Wales granted, not merely the 100 square miles implied in her bargain, but 900 square miles.
– It is news to me that New South Wales gave 900 square miles.
– All that New South Wales gave was the Crown land within that area.
– All she was required to give was an area of not less than 100 square miles. New South Wales presented the Commonwealth with all the Crown lands on an area of 900 square miles; and then she furnished a port so that the Federal Capital should not be dependent on Sydney. Further, she gave to the Commonwealth rights in respect to the railway running from Canberra to Jervis Bay. Next, the point was raised that there was no power supply for the Federal Capital, whereupon the New South Wales Government signified its willingness to allow the Commonwealth to utilize the waters of the Snowy River to that end. The latest argument for delay is that there is no money available. In reply to that, New South Wales will find the money if the Federal authorities cannot do so. All the preliminary work at Canberra has been done. A water supply has been provided ; the electric power is there; brick-works have been established; roads have been made ; a railway has been constructed into the territory; administrative buildings have been reared; and it is time now to go ahead with the completion of the great design. I might say that while the Federal authorities have provided office and residential buildings for administrative officers and clerks, they have so far furnished no residences of any kind for the working men engaged in the Territory. Numbers of them are still living in the bag “ humpies “ which were put together ten years ago or more.
– What are those men doing there?
– The employees at Duntroon are all provided for there. They do not all live at Duntroon, for there is not accommodation for all of them. Some are required to trudge 4 or 5 miles from the Military College site to the former German internment camp, in order to secure accommodation. The men in the powerhouse, the maintenance men on the roads, and other workers are living in bag humpies or in anything they can manage to run up. Some of their dwellings are built out of kerosene tins. Anything is good enough for the worker; but most elaborate residences have been provided for the administrator and the administrative officers.
I wish also to refer to a matter in connexion with the administration of the old-age pensions. If a man Or woman in receipt of an old-age pension is obliged to go into a benevolent institution, 13s. out of the pension of 15s. per week is paid to the State Government, the odd 2s. going to the pensioner for pocket money, being spent mostly on tobacco in the case of the man, or on such comforts as tea, peppermints, and a little tobacco in the case of the woman. However, 2s. payments are so small that the Department often allows them to accumulate from month to month. Sometimes it is five or six months before a. payment is made. In one case one old anam had his payments postponed so long that- he ultimately drew £2 or £2 6s. at one time. Another serious matter is the fact that inmates of these institutions who cannot get out because they have no homes to. go to, so that they may qualify for the payment of the old-age pension, do not receive the allowance of 2s. per week. .
– The honorable member is referring to those people who went to the institutions prior to the passage of the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act.
– No. It applies to «dl inmates who had not the pension before they entered the institution. If a person applies for an old-age pension, he is often told that it cannot be granted to him because he will be better cared for by entering the institution. Where persons already in an institution can go to some place where they can board while qualifying for the old-age pension, it is the general practice for the application forms to be filled up im the institution, and then the inmates go outside for about s month and get their applications granted. Subsequently they return to the homes, and are able to draw the allowance of 2s. per week. Those who have no quarters outside the institutions where they can board pending an application for a pension, and inmates of hospitals who cannot get out of the institutions because of infirmities, do not get this assistance from the Federal Government.
– Do we do anything to prevent the States from giving these people the 2s. 1
– But why should the amount be paid to some and not to others ?
– Under the present system only some old persons in these institutions draw the allowance of 2s. ; others do not.
– According to the honorable member’s statement they are getting it fraudulently by leaving the institutions for a week or two, and then returning to them.
– If a magistrate appointed by the Commonwealth Government for the purpose grants their applications for pensions they are entitled to the allowance. To persons who are bedridden in an institution an allowance of ls. or 2s. per week is of very great importance. Because of the diseases from which they suffer they frequently require the attention of other inmates, and the allowance enables them to pay for this attention. Without the allowance they very often have to go without the attention. Inmates are certainly provided with three meals a day, but they get none of those little comforts, such as tea or tobacco, if they are not able to purchase them. Those patients who draw the allowance of 2s. per week can do this, but others can get nothing, and they feel it an injustice. They cannot grasp why there should be this difference between one inmate and another. Both are inmates of the same institution, yet one draws 2s. per week from the Commonwealth, and the other draws nothing. In my opinion, they ought all to be placed on the same footing. Even if we are not paying the States the 13s. for those inmates who do not draw the 2s. per week, I. think we ought to make these old men and women this small allowance, which would go such a long way towards comforting them in their last days.
Now that the war is over, I think that the time has arrived when the Public Trustee should be instructed to wind up the matters intrusted , to him, and pay the men who are entitled to the money he has in hand for them.
– Do you refer to the money of aliens?
– Yes. At the outbreak of war we took the property of all aliens, and administered it.’ We have now released these aliens from internment, and some of them have left Australia, but others have been permitted’ to remain here. I can see no reason for keeping their money in trust any longer. They have been put off from month to month, but there seems to me to be no reason why the Commonwealth should not wind these matters up.
As the Randwick rifle range has now become too small for rifle competitions, the Government have decided that the Anzac Rifle Range at Liverpool shall be the main rifle range for New South Wales, and the National Rifle Association of that State will hold a big meeting there in October nest. With the exception of the Bisley meeting, it is the largest held in the Empire. Teams from all the States and from New Zealand, Great Britain, and probably Canada, will compete, but unless work upon the range is put in hand at once it will not be ready for the meeting, and great confusion will arise. I urge the Minister to expedite the work so that the range will be ready in time for the meeting.
Dr. EARLE PAGE (Cowper) T5.34]. - I shall take this opportunity of bringing forward some proposals which will show that the vote we gave last week, and which I trust we shall give again this week, in regard to the allowance to members of this Parliament, ‘ was justified by reason of the . savings that they effect in the Commonwealth’s expenditure. For a moment or two I wish to direct attention to the control of the expenditure and revenue of the Post and Telegraph Department, the biggest revenueearning activity controlled by the Commonwealth. Now that eleven months of the year have gone, it is hopeless to expect any reduction of expenditure on these Estimates or alteration of any of the items, but I trust to be able to put forward some suggestions in regard to the preparation of the Estimates for next year which will be fruitful of increased revenue for the Commonwealth. The history of every Postal Department throughout the world is that increased . facilities have resulted in a proportionate increase in revenue. By increasing the services to the public, we multiply the facilities to the people, and a greater volume of business is created. For instance, when it cost 2s. 6d., and, later, ls., to send a letter through the post, very few persons posted letters, but when Mr. Rowland Hill se- cured the adoption of twopenny postage the volume of correspondence increased enormously, and the Post Office” became a profitable institution. The same sort of tiling is happening in regard to the postoffices throughout Australia. The figures quoted by Mr. Webster in the report of the Postal Department for the year ended 31st December, 1919, show that, during the nineteen years of Federal control, each extension of facilities has led to an increase in the profits earned by the Department. At the . outset, I protest against the policy which, during this year, has caused the closing in one State alone of nearly 300 allowance post-offices-.
– That policy is to be altered for the next financial year.
– I hope so; but I am speaking before the preparation of the new Estimates in order to make sure that the matter is not overlooked. It has been pointed out that, although many of the services of the Postal Department are non -paying in themselves, they act aa feeders, and add materially to the total profit made, and if we eliminate those facilities sooner or later the entire profit will disappear. The history of almost every telephone line and postal service ever inaugurated is that, in the first couple of years it did not pay, but gradually it became reproductive. Rrefusing to erect telephone lines in the country districts, the Department is only delaying the time when the telephone services will became profitable. To secure the best results in the Postal Department we require real economy, not that economy which is represented by the reduction of the salaries and status of officials, but economy by the proper organization of the whole machinery of administration. We should increase the business and revenue-earning capacity of the Department in every possible way, and to “do that there should be a definite policy wisely conceived and intelligently directed with a full knowledge of the conditions obtaining in Australia and elsewhere. It seems as if in Australia we lack such a policy, because when I asked the Postmaster-General last week whether there was any definite system of interchange of highly technical officers with, other countries, he replied that there was no settled policy. Sir Robert Anderson, in a report on the postal ad- ministration,which he submitted in 1915, said -
Sending Men Abroad for Experience.
The supply of engineers for some yearshas been short, and this shortage seems to have arisen from two causes -
It being necessary that we should have the’ latest information that the world has to offer, and desirable that we should have it regularly, a plan preferable to importing men would seem to be to send our likely men abroad. While this is obviously necessary in the case of engineers, it would pay the Department well to send promising men from every branch of the Service - Accounts, Clerical, and even General Division (sorters and mailmen). The information they would gain, applied to their knowledge of local conditions and necessities, would be of value far in excess of any cost incurred in obtaining it.
I understand that a certain telephone device, in regard towhich there is a certain amount of doubt, if installed between Sydney and Melbourne at acost of £14,000 or £15,000, would result in an increase of the revenue on that line by £15,000 per annum. This proposal is being held in abeyance owing to lack of personal experience of its working, and a suggestion to completely duplicate the line at a probable cost of £100,000 is being considered as an alternative. That is due simply to the fact that there is no settled policy, in the Postal Department for the interchange of technical experts with the Departments of other countries. In the medical profession, such an interchange is absolutely essential.If a doctor cannot go overseas every five or six years, orget into close contact with men who have been overseas to acquire universal experience, he becomes backward in his profession. I know of motor engineers who, although they have only small businesses, go abroad every five or six years in order to study the conditions in America and other manufacturing countries. I. understand that a Melbourne electrical company has a man always travelling abroad, in order to keep his principals abreast of the times in regard to lighting systems. But in the Postal Department, which has a revenue of about £6,500,000 per annum, there is no settled policy of this kind to achieve more efficient and cheaper services and increased revenue for the Department. In fact, in respect of the whole Depart ment, there has been always a striking lack of any broad-minded policy. Ever since the Department was taken over by the Commonwealth, the various State systems have been maintained, and in each State the Department is controlled by a Deputy Postmaster-General, almost as if it were a water-tight compartment, with no connexion with other States. Because of that, we have such anomalies as places like Murwillumbah, on the Tweed, which is less than 100 miles from Brisbane, being controlled by the Deputy Postmaster-General in Sydney, which is several hundredmiles distant; and the Riverina being administered from Sydney instead of from Melbourne, to which it is a great deal closer. The Deputy Postmaster-General, being so remote from these places, is unable to give personal attention to their requirements, or to acquire an intimate knowledge of the needs of the people. As a result, little progress is made. Furthermore, the circumlocution which has been deplored by every Commission which has ever inquired into the administration of the Postal Department is rendered inevitable bycontinuing the policy of working the post-offices as State activities, instead of as a uniform Commonwealth Department. In regard to this matter, Sir Robert Anderson said -
Prior to Federation the States of Australia were working under separate and distinct postal laws and regulations. In each State the internal organization of the Department differed in many respects, and postal, telephone, and telegraph rates varied. The Federal Post and Telegraph Act was a compromise of the various State Acts modelled by a conference of State representatives. It provides for a permanent head (the Secretary), in whom, under the Postmaster-General, the control of the Department is vested, and also provides for a Deputy Postmaster-General as the principal officer in the Department in each State, but the organization of a Central Administration is not defined. No provision was made in the Act to alter the States’ internal organization, and no definite action seems to have been taken to uniformly organize and define the functions of the various officers of the Central Office and of the States. The Central Administration dictates matters of policy to the States, but it possesses no machinery to insure its instructions being carried out. It interferes with rather than rules the States, hence lack of uniformity in working.
That is the position throughout the Commonwealth. The system we are operating is Federal only in name; it is still a State activity in its operations. The undoubted inefficiency of the Department in certain directions is often quoted as an instance of Federal mismanagement, but ic is nothing of the sort; it is an instance of the persistence of State anachronisms in Federal machinery. In addition to the handicap of continuing the State organization which is the cause of so many faults, the Post Office has been regarded, ever since the beginning of Federation, as the milch cow of every other Department. In .the first few years of Federation, it was starved continuously. Sir Robert Anderson im his report of 1915 said -
During the first ten years of Federation a false economy seems to have been the order of the day in the Public Services, the object being to pay as large a sum as possible to the various States under the financial provisions of the Constitution, and it was certainly overdone. The inevitable happened - the Department was starved.
He went on to relate exactly what took place. During the last ten years, a similar policy has been pursued, and in the last report of the Department, Mr. Webster complained bitterly of the manner in which he was treated in respect of the allocation of public funds to enable him to carry on his operations. Not only was he refused extra grants, but he was also deprived of the fruit of his own husbandry. Under the heading of “ The Systematic Starvation Policy,” he said, in. his report of 31st December, 1919 -
Inasmuch as I have been subjected to much misrepresentation and unjust criticism regarding the developmental work of the Department, I deem it my duty to place on record in this report some striking facts, as set out in the following statement. The delay and intermittent doling out of inadequate sums, apart from the systematic cutting down on the bedrock estimates of “the Department, is mainly responsible for the position existing to-day, and which must be seriously accentuated in the immediate future. Unfortunately, such defects cannot be remedied quickly, as it will take months before the necessary equipment and material can be procured, much less installed. Meanwhile, the public services must inevitably suffer. I have repeatedly appealed for more liberal and business-like treatment, as the files will show, and have pointed out what would be the inevitable result of the starvation policy. Such appeals mainly fell upon deaf ears. As the table shows, the greater the needs the less the allocation. Such delays and curtailment almost spelt disaster. Expedients and make-shifts, ever costly and unsatisfactory, have had to be adopted. Serious loss of revenue is part of the penalty we have to pay. This loss increases day by day, and is the result of the systematic starvation policy.
I ask honorable members to remember the second last sentence, “ Serious loss of revenue is part of the penalty we have to pay.” Those are the views held by th’e PostmasterGeneral after an experience of four years in the administration of the Department. They bear out my statement that the Department, if properly managed and administered, according to an intelligent, well-conceived policy, would return a much greater profit. During the past two years the receipts have exceeded the expenditure, but there is still need for the best business management. At present, there is the Central Administration Branch, controlled by the Postmaster-General, and the principal permanent head, the Secretary to the Department; and in each State there is a Deputy PostmasterGeneral, and, associated with him, certain experts. Although the State of New South Wales is half as big again as Germany or France, the Deputy PostmasterGeneral in control of it cannot spend on his own authority more than £1,000, and the electrical engineer for the State cannot authorize the spending of more than £25. The State is divided into divisions, which are supervised by inspectors, and these, again, cannot spend more than £25, although ‘some of the divisions are practically as large as England. Assisting the postal inspectors are engineers, but the boundaries of the engineers’ districts do not coincide with those of the postal inspectors’ districts. The engineer is not allowed to spend without authority more than £5 on any work coming under his control. Every honorable member is conversant with the delays and annoyances that arise out of this system of management. Members are lucky if when any application from a constituent passes through them to the Department, it is finally dealt with before sixty or seventy minutes have been written about it, and the result is then probably a statement that the necessary material is not available. Let me quote again from Sir Robert Anderson’s report -
The functions of the Department in each State are divided into branches, each controlled by a senior officer, and, as the duties and responsibilities of these senior officers’ are not clearly defined or co-ordinated, where the Deputy is not strong” and competent, supervision is apt to become lax and the work, therefore, inefficient. The lack of co- ordination amongst the officers results in circumlocutory methods, entailing endless and costly delay. In the anxiety for self-protection, inter-communications, including references from one room to another, and even from table to table in the same room, are done on paper. Generally speaking, short-cut or business methods arc absent, probably because the system followed shuns responsibility. As a common instance, an application for a new telephone line may be subjected to no less than thirty-two handlings.
After the papers have gone through thirty-two hands, they are decently interred in the General Post Office Records Branch. There have been cases in which, after the people of a district had become tired of waiting for a telephone line, the Department awakened to the fact that it should be erected, and then discovered that it had been approved of four years earlier. My opinion is that Australia should be treated as a whole, and I cannot understand why the Labour party, when in possession of the Treasury bench, did not give effect to a policy of unification in postal administration. The artificial State boundaries should have been disregarded, and approximately equal divisions should have been agreed upon, which would have allowed of greater efficiency in the working of the service, and would have avoided the severe criticism of the Department with which the newspapers have been full during the past few years. Big centres like Sydney and Newcastle, whose postal, telephonic, and telegraphic requirements are very great, should not have a large area of surrounding country attached to them as part of their postal division, and in dividing up the States generally, care should be taken to equalize conditions as regards the quantity of work as far as possible, so as to secure economy, efficient control, and a certain amount of useful rivalry. No useful postal comparison could be made between New South Wales and Tasmania, but, under the system of divisions which I advocate, useful divisional comparisons could bo made in regard to working costs and conditions generally, and wholesome rivalry would be promoted. Civilization has been defined as communication, and if this country is to be properly settled, this or some other Government must improve its means of communications. There should be in charge of the Postal Department a general business manager, chosen for his commercial ability and experience, and his business acumen. It is absurd to say that, in Australia, where there are such large businesses as that of the Broken Hill Proprietary, Anthony Hordern and Company, and many others, a. man of the necessary capacity could not be obtained. Of course, he would have to be well paid. Associated with him should be the best technical experts who should be allowed to travel in the way I have referred to, and in accordance with the recommendations made in Sir Robert Anderson’s report. The practice and policy of the Department should be standardized throughout Australia. Furthermore, an expert should always be travelling abroad to pick up ideas and suggest improvements, and useful inventions should be encouraged. In place of the Deputy Postmasters-General there would be general divisional managers, men of practical business experience, less highly paid; and associated with them, postal and engineering experts. These local general managers should be allowed to authorize expenditure to the amount of the average expenditure on ordinary works within their divisions. The divisions being small, they would have an opportunity of making themselves perfectly acquainted with their conditions and requirements, and could properly and personally supervise their postmasters and other officials. Under these circumstances, a great deal of the writing of minutes that now takes place would be avoided, and there would be a continual devolution of responsibility and power. I think that the postmasters should be allowed to spend more freely, with proper checks. We waste more money by the ridiculous safeguards which are set up to prevent pilfering than is saved by them. The Deputy PostmasterGeneral of New South Wales has never, so far as I know, visited my district, and is certainly not able to determine from personal knowledge whether proposed works should, or should not, be carried out there. His area is too big to permit him to know the State thoroughly. Quite recently an allowance office, which had been open for fifty years, and serves 200 persons, has been closed because its revenue is a few pounds short of what is necessary to secure for the person in charge a decent remuneration. A more elastic administration, based on personal knowledge, would have kept it open. In addition to the improvement of its organization, the Department needs a sinking fund to enable works to be carried out expeditiously and with continuity. It cannot make bricks without straw. Mr. Webster, in his report, states definitely that he had great difficulty in obtaining money from the Treasurer. He suggested the creation of a trust fund to enable the Department to undertake a continuous policy of construction unhindered by the “waitandsee” methods of the Treasury. On this subject he said -
In order to meet the demands of the public, a programme of works was arranged for 1919- 20, which was to cost about £1,270,000. This amount would cover such work as could be performed within the year if money were available from July to June, but would not cover the arrears of former years. Even this sum the Treasurer insisted upon reducing to £564,000. As the estimate was very carefully prepared, and included only works which were absolutely necessary to meet public requirements, it is obvious that the reduced amount will be insufficient, and must inevitably result in increasing the proportion of applications for service which must be refused - already about one in ten have been refused. This will mean a serious loss of revenue to the Department, a substantial increase in maintenance cost, and the dismissal of temporary officers - many of whom are returned soldiers - to say nothing of the inconvenience to the ever-increasing number of people who are unable to obtain telephone service.
The action of the Treasurer in refusing funds for new works places this Department in a very embarrassing position, especially in view of the fact that we hold a monopoly of this important public service, which is a commercial necessity. Our officers are at a loss to find a suitable excuse to offer prospective subscribers when refusing to provide service for them. The old plea that material is unprocurable is met with the very reasonable answer that it is over twelve months since the Armistice was signed, whilst it appears ridiculous to argue that we have no money for new telephones, in view of the fact that the telephone service is now returning a handsome profit.
As an instance of the false economy brought about by the refusal of funds, certain trunk lines are held over, although it is estimated that their construction would return a handsome profit from the date the services could be put into operation.
– The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- I should like to refer briefly to an obvious injustice that has been done to old-age pensioners who, through force of circumstances, are compelled to enter institutions. When the pension was 10s. per week the institution in which an old-age pensioner found a refuge was allowed 8s., and the pensioner himself 2s. for pocket money. Then the pension was increased to 12s. 6d., and the institution’s allowance was raised from 8s. to 10s. 6d., leaving still 2s. for the old person. To-day the pensions have been increased to 15s., and the institution still gets only 10s. 6d., and the pensioner 2s., while 2s. 6d. is held over. It was the intention of the Department, I believe, to allow this 2s. 6d. to go to the institution, and I believe that that is to be done.
– Last session, when the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Bill was before us, I moved that 12s. be given to the institution, and 3s. to the pensioner, in order to make it four-fifths of the amount for the former and one-fifth for the latter.
– I hope that will be done, but I am informed on good authority that it is the intention to continue the allowance of 2s. to the pensioner, and give the extra 2s. 6d. to the institution.
– I sincerely hope not.
– This 2s. is intended for pocket money, to allow the old men and women to buy tobacco’ and other little luxuries they may desire. I remind honorable members that tobacco has been considerably raised in price, and that it constitutes one of the main comforts of the old men in their declining years. I do not think the Department should be niggardly in this regard, and I hope that the suggestion of the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) will be carried out - at any rate, that an extra1s. will be given to the pensioner.
There is another matter connected with the invalid pension that requires ventilating. About 1912 it was laid down by the Department that £1 per adult and 10s. per child was a reasonable allowance in respect of wages and salaries in computing the pension. That allowance is now altogether inadequate, and an injustice is being done to these afflicted people. I do not wish: to labour the question, because I realize that those in control are just as anxious to do right as I believe every honorable member is; but I must say that a family which has the misfortune to have an invalid pensioner in it should be granted a larger allowance before the pension to the invalid is affected. The allowance, I think, should be increased to at least 26s. or 30s., and at least1s. more granted aspocket money to the old-age pensioner, though, in my opinion, the amount should be 2s. 6d.
– During the debate on the AngloPersian oil agreement a number of members expressed concern as to whether the search for oil in Papua had been carried out in a satisfactory manner. In this connexion I have received from Darwin a letter, written by a friend of mine who has been in Papua, and’ I think honorable members ought to know how the position is regarded outside this House. My friend in his letter says -
In the -local papers at Port Darwin a paragraph appeared worded in this style - “ There areugly rumours through the Northern Territory re Dr. Wade and oil operations. It is asserted that Dr. Wade isin receipt of the same amount from the Vacuum Oil Company not to find oil as he is from the Government to find oil.”
That is a terrible statement to be made. The extract goes on - “ Why is it that as soon as oil is struck Dr. Wade packs up, and makes for fresh fields, and why was it one American in his party left because it was a ‘ crook ‘ business ? If this paragraph is untrue we will be glad to have and publish Dr. Wade’s denial.”
It is generally understood that these investigations in New Guinea have not been carried out in the way they ought to have been. Last night a Minister, while not endeavouring to belittle Dr. Wade in any way, said that, while that gentleman may be a great scientist and geologist, he is not a business man. The trend of opinion is that there is something “ crook,” or, if not “ crook,” something that indicates a necessity for investigation. Rumours of the sort ought to be contradicted. The next statement in the letter is a very remarkable one -
Also it is asserted that in German New
Guineaoil at the rate of 40,000 gallons an hour is flowing out to sea.
– Where did the honorablemember get that information?
– It is published in a Darwin newspaper, and I have been given the information in a letter from a friend of mine -
This oil business agreement has not a healthy look, has it? Mr. Hughes knows about the 40,000 gallons.
– How does the writer know that the Prime Minister knows of the oil running?
– I suppose that the writer is referring to Mr. Hughes as head of the Government, and that the information is in the possession of the local officials. I do not know whether the Minister in charge of the House (Mr. Poynton), who is not the Minister of the Department concerned, has heard any rumours to that effect.
– This is the first I have heard of the matter.
– I admit that it is the first I have heard of it.
– It cannot be true.
– That is quite possible; incorrect statements are very often made. But we have heard that German New Guinea is richer in oil than is British New Guinea; in fact, the Germans have declared that that was our reason for desiring to possess the former German territory.
– The prospects there may be brighter than in Papua, but no discovery has been made there yet.
– There maybe some exaggeration, but the matter certainly ought to be inquired into, and deniedif untrue. The movements of Dr. Wade spoken of may be due to the fact that, when he has made a discovery, he goes out looking for further evidence of oil. However, the whole oil question is one about which people are talking in. a most peculiar way. Now that the agreement with the Anglo-Persian Oil Company has been assented to, we ought to have more information as to the quantity of oil in German New Guinea, and some investigation should be made, even if not by scientists, as to what work Dr. Wade has done, and what would be the possible outcome. Parliament, I understand, is shortly to adjourn until the beginningof the next financial year; and this question is one of great importance that ought to have early consideration, especially in view of the statements that are being made in the press.
Motion agreed to.
Divisions 1 to 12 (Parliament), £39,780; divisions 13 to 25 (Prime Minister), £199,301; divisions 26 to 36 (Treasury), £926,596; divisions 37 to 43 (AttorneyGeneral), £67,367; divisions 44 to 55 (Home and Territories), £618,413, agreed to.
Department of Defence.
Divisions 56 to 82. - Proposed vote, £1,119,034.
– Oan the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) inform us when we are likely to know what is the real military and naval programme for the Commonwealth? Piece-meal .expenditure is being indulged in without any formal plan having been placed before the country. The Minister for the Navy (Sir Joseph Cook) will admit that this is a very undesirable method of procedure; and we ought to know the defence policy of Australia for the coming two or three years. We have recently been rejoicing over the end of a war which was to end war - over the fact that a League of Nations is to be brought into existence, and the world will never again be so deluged in blood - yet some of the first requisitions presented to Parliament, and one of the first works referred to the Public Works Committee this year, involves a very considerable expenditure in respect of Defence. The Ministry should inform the Committee when they will be able to promulgate a defence policy for Australia, and to give Australian taxpayers some idea of what burdens they are to bear in respect of defence, in addition to the burdens already imposed upon them by the recent war, and the carrying out of the repatriation, war pension, and many other pledges given to our returned men and the people generally. Delay in this matter is dangerous. The Defence Department in recent years has naturally been one of our biggest spending governmental agencies, and according- to forecasts it is likely to remain a very big spending Department. The taxpayers should know as early as possible where they stand. This is a matter of interest to honorable members on all sides. I have yet to learn that the defence policy of Australia is a party question. The Ministry should lose no time, in announcing their policy. It will then be for the Parliament to say whether it approves or disapproves of a big expenditure in connexion with naval and military matters.
.- Following up the remarks made by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr.
Fenton), which I entirely indorse, I should like to know whether a statement can be made on behalf of the Government regarding a proposed expenditure of over £40,000 in connexion with the erection of a laboratory which will be part and parcel of the Commonwealth Arsenal. I am not sure of my facts, but I believe that the ultimate expenditure upon that work will amount to many hundreds of thousands of pounds, and I am gwen, to understand that something like £48,000 is to be expended on the construction of the laboratory. We should have more information on the subject before such a work is entered upon. It will be remembered that the first vote which Parliament was asked to approve in connexion with, the establishment of the Acetate of Lime Factory was £40,000. In the following year that total was increased to £80,000, and the ultimate expenditure upon the Factory was something like £100,000. The estimated ultimate expenditure of all new works should be given when Parliament is asked to vote an amount towards carrying them out.
– I am not prepared at the moment to make a statement such as both my honorable friends desire. A Supply Bill covering the first month of the next financial year has already been circulated, and its consideration will be proceeded with as soon as we have disposed of these Estimates. I shall try to obtain the information asked for by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) in time to put it before honorable members when the Supply Bill is being dealt with. The general Defence policy of the Government is giving us a great deal of concern.
– It is a matter of concern to all of us.
– May I suggest that it is giving the whole world a great deal of concern. The war is over, it is true, so far as our late . enemy is concerned, but the world to-day ia still in a state of war. All the European nations are still armed to the teeth, and I am afraid that, having regard to that fact, and also to what is taking place in the Pacific theatre, the day of disarmament is not just yet.
I do not think as many do - and in this respect I am an optimist - that the idea of a’ League of Nations is a chimera that has gone up like ‘the smoke of battle. I am one of those who believe that the League of Nations will presently begin to function. It is a great ideal, and I believe it is gradually taking hold of the public opinion of the world. Whether the world likes it or not, I believe it will be driven into the arms of the League of Nations very shortly as a way out of the present impasse. Until that day comes, I am afraid we must mark time a little. As to our own schemes of defence, they are steadily maturing, and I hope it will not be very long before we are able to tell the House exactly what is in our minds as to our own immediate defence requirements, and regarding also the financial setting of - those requirements. I regret very much that I am not able at present to make a considered statement on the subject. It is not from any lack of desire to do so, but rather because of the great difficulties surrounding the whole question.
.- The Department of Defence under present conditions is of such importance, and probably in the near future will become so much more important, that I think the Committee might reasonably be expected to discuss at some length the Estimates relating to it.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to S p.m.
– The war has left us many problems and difficulties, and no small proportion of these is concentrated in the Department of Defence. There is a very gravequestion before those responsible for the control of the affairs of this country as to what will be the nature of the expenditure upon our national defence, and it is about time the Government gave some indication of their intentions in this direction. There has been a good deal of more or less general discussion in the newspapers regarding the policy we may anticipate the Government will adopt, but the country at large is still very much in the dark as to the nature of the arrangements that will ultimately be arrived at in regard to the question of military defence. I hope, the Government will not attempt to keep Parliament in ignorance on these matters until a position has been created for Parliament by the Government which) we should have to accept. During the last few years there has been rather too much of a tendency to this. The Government commits the country and Parliament to a certain course, and then, and then only, does Parliament realize what has been done. ‘There is this danger - that we may adopt an unnecessarily provocative attitude towards those with whom it is to our interests to live in peace. Our soldiers have made such a reputation for themselves as fighters that Australia, to use an everyday expression, is somewhat “ cocky “ in regard to its capacity to meet all and sundry in war, and as our Prime Minister is not possessed of altogether too much prudence in reference to international matters, I am anxious that at tha earliest possible moment Parliament should have an opportunity of considering the policy to be adopted by Australia in the matter of defence. There are many suggestions of danger in certain quarters, but it appears to me that for many years to come the world will be free from the possibility of a great and appalling; war such as that through which we have just passed. So far from seeing danger on any horizon, I look around and see nothing but a general desire on the part of all people to settle down once more to the arts of peace rather than take up the sword again. One of the most important’ duties of the Go- vernment is to see that the jingoistic persons in- Australia, who are by no means few, and certainly are not lacking. in aggressiveness, are kept within some reasonable restraint. Not long ago I read an article in an Australian magazine which in the most pointed manner indicated the intention of a certain friendly Power, which was named, to take aggressive action against Australia at the earliest possible moment in regard to the Northern Territory. The certainty of that aggressive action was indicated as if the writer were entirely in the counsels of the statesmen of that country. Many years ago I pointed out in this House the danger to ourselves of adopting an attitude towards other nations indicative of either fear or antagonism. I trust the Government will realize that the policy we ought to endeavour to follow was indicated very clearly and emphatically a little while ago by that eminent British authority, Admiral Henderson. Some years before the war broke out Admiral Henderson gave us a very important report upon the policy of naval defence we ought to adopt, but since the war he has altered his standard with regard to
Australia. I have on record a saying of his that ought to be posted up in this Chamber permanently, and kept before the people of Australia for many years to come. He declares that since the war his ideal of a defensive policy for Australia is to build railways, make roads, open up harbors, and above all tilings, add to the population. Apparently, if we do these things we are, in his opinion., doing the best for Australia, and all our schemes with regard to the Army and Navy may be considered more or less futile, unless we first and foremost adopt a policy that will add as rapidly as possible to the mere handful of people who now hold this continent. Without that safeguard of increased population our condition is indeed dangerous, and I should be glad to hear from the Government that, along with a policy of reasonable prudence in matters of defence, they have also determined to embark upon & thoroughly comprehensive scheme by which we may add to our numbers from those portions of the Empire of our own kith and kin the settlers we desire.
The Defence Department will be a spending Department on a very large scale. It will have a great tendency to spend, but I am not satisfied that the gentleman who is in: control of the Department is likely to meet the requirements of the country and Parliament in effectively controlling that expenditure. 1 have.no desire to go back into ancient history, but the record of the present Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) is not one which gives me confidence for the future. Early in the war I pointed out that he would probably fall short in many regards, and, undoubtedly, my fears in, that direction. have been more than justified by the course of events. We have had one condemnatory report after another from Commissions which probably no Minister other than Senator Pearce would have taken without resigning his position, but he has not done so. I remind some of the Ministers who are sitting on the Treasury bench at the present time, that the opinion of the old Liberal party with regard to the necessity for bringing the control of the Defence Department into this House, was expressed some time ago in no unqualified language, and’ I say. without hesitation, now that, in. the critical position of our finances, when there is such necessity for maintaining a strong control over the military authorities, the time has arrived when, the Minister responsible for the Department should be in this House. I feel sure that if the change were brought about it would give a certain amount of confidence to the people of the country in regard to the control of that Department not felt at the present time. I have no wish to detain the Committee, nor any desire to go into details in regard to these matters, but I maintain that the .Government must seriously consider the position in respect to defence in the immediate future, must announce its policy in that respect and in regard to the control of that policy; or otherwise they will be in a very dangerous position as regards their continuance on the Treasury bench.
– I join with others in criticising the Defence_ Department, because there is great need for it. The Department has drifted and drifted, and yet nothing has been done. One of the main contentions before the war was that, as a rule, the gentlemen running the Defence Department were notgood commercial men, and, consequently, became rather extravagant in their methods. In my opinion, the same system ruled during the’ war; but the conflict in which we were engaged was so terrible, and the issues were so great, that it was impossible to criticise harshly the people who were fighting for us. Therefore, although we knew that horrible mistakes were being made, commercially and financially, we were all prepared to submit to them, and thank God that the men who were fighting for us did not also make terrible mistakes. The valorous deeds of those men at the Front excused all the blunders made by ‘those, who. were running the Department financially. But now the war is over we are entitled to apply some little criticism in regard to the way in which the affairs of the Department have been administered. We cannot ignore the fact that there is grave dissatisfaction throughout the country on the part of both the public and the permanent soldiers. During the war we promised to do everything for the soldiers. What have we done ? It is true that in respect, of repatriation we have treated “them as well as we can afford to do*. But -to-day there are men in the permanent forces who are not receiving a living. wage, When we established Duntroon College, one of our proudest boasts was that we were creating a democratic college, which would be open to the poor man’s son as well as to the rich man’s son. At that time there were three or four cadets applying for every vacancy; to-day there is not an average of one cadet for every two vacancies. That fact demonstrates that the people are commencing to realize that poor men cannot afford to send their sons into the Defence Forces because the Government are not paying a living wage. As a matter of fact, the salaries paid to the permanent men are lower than in any other military service in the Empire. A comparison between the salaries paid to the permanent men in the Australian Army and those paid in the Canadian, Indian, New Zealand, and British Armies would show the Commonwealth to disadvantage. That is a sure method of creat-ing in Australia a military clique, for it will place the control of the Defence Forces entirely in the hands of those who have means independent of their Government pay. The war has proved that such ai policy is a mistake; it has shown that .all the brains are not possessed by the moneyed classes. The poor man’s son did well at the war and he is entitled to consideration. There is a feeling amongst certain people, in the community against paying the Defence Force well, but I maintain that unless we have a well-paid and well-satisfied military force we cannot expect to live in peace and security.
– We have to train staff officers.
– That is so, and General Sir Ian Hamilton and others have declared that the Duntroon men were worth their weight in gold at the Front; their casualty list proves their dauntless courage.
– Are not most of them leaving the,Department to-day?
– No, because it is held -by the Department that they contracted to remain in the Department for twelve years, and that a state of war with Austria and Turkey still exists, and that, therefore, they cannot resign unless something is done. As soon as the embargo is removed, the majority of these men will resign, because they are not being paid a living wage.’ I make an appeal on behalf of the non-commissioned officers particularly. Some of them have given from fifteen to twenty years’ service, including four or five years of war service, and they are paid £4 a week, upon which they are expected. to maintain themselves, their wives and families. It is a scandal that the Government should be paying them less than is considered a living wage for civilians. I am surprised that the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) tolerates this condition of affairs for one day. As a soldier he fought with these men, and they not only respect him, but have the deepest affection for him. They say that those in authority have “ sold him a pup.” Knowing him as I do, I am certain that when he is convinced that they have “ sold him a pup,” he will make them sorry for their action. I asked him a question in the House a few days ago concerning non-commissioned officers at Duntroon who are not being paid a living wage, and I quoted concrete facts. ‘The answer I received - and my little experience tells me whence it came - was that the information I sought was not available at that time; a fortnight has elapsed, and, apparently, the authorities have not yet been able to ascertain whether some of the men at Duntroon are being paid less than a living wage. We were promised that these men would receive an increase in salary; they have not had one for years, although the cost of living has increased so much that they are hard put to it to struggle through at all.
– Some of them say that their salaries have been decreased.
– Some of them are receiving less to-day than they were before the alleged increase was ganted. When I first mentioned this matter in the House, the Department promptly gave the men a bonus, and it later issued a regulation to the effect that those who did not like the new rate of pay could take the old rate. That regulation indicates the character of the alleged increase ; if it were genuine, the men would certainly not think of taking the old rate. It is unfortunate that the Defence Department cannot tell us what some of the men are being paid to-day. I assert, without fear of contradiction, that many of them are being paid less to-day than before the so-called increase was paid, and in ‘the case of some of them it is not enough to keep body and soul together. Of course, this remark does not apply to men who have other means. I am surprised that the Defence
Department did not realize that the fairest way to give increases was, not in large sums per annum to the salaries of higher-paid officers, but to give a percentage increase all round to officers and men. Unfortunately, we cannot find out who is responsible ‘ for this increase, and I invite the Minister to enlighten the Committee ou that question. It is’ said that some of the leading officers in the Defence Department disclaim any responsibility for the new system. The Minister could tell the Committee of good men who have been in the service for ten and fifteen years, and now hold the high rank of Major, but who are hardly getting a living wage. That should not be so; there should be contentment in the Defence Department. Ninety per cent, of the permanent soldiers and officers are returned soldiers, and surely to God we ought to pay them a living wage, if nothing more. Is the Royal Duntroon College, the graduates of which received such high commendation from Generals Birdwood and Hamilton, and others, and who rendered such splendid service during the war, to be made the preserve of the sons of the rich ? Men of means can afford to send their sons there to learn the military profession, but that profession will be beyond the reach of the poor man’s- son. That is the reason why to-day there are not sufficient cadets for the positions that are vacant. This Committee ought to be told who is responsible for the new rate of pay, which means hardship to a great number of men in the lower grades. Some of the men in the higher positions have received increases, although I assert that many of them are insufficiently paid. I have an interesting comparative list of salaries, and I shall take another opportunity of placing it before honorable members and the public. For the time being, I ask the Assistant Minister to disprove my assertion that under the new arrangement many officers and men who are doing the bulk of the work, as the men in the lower grades generally do, are suffering a reduction of pay instead of being given an increase. These men are moved from place to place, and they cannot make permanent homes for themselves. I am hopeful that the Assistant Minister will rectify this grievance, because he is not a sham soldier; he has the welfare of the soldiers at heart, and they, in turn, have the utmost confidence in him. I urge him not to besmirch his high reputation, at the commencement of his Ministerial career, by sponsoring this scandalous arrangement. If. as I understand, a sum of £20.000 or £30,000 is being absorbed in increases of salaries, where is the money going 1 Is it fair to give all the increases to the higher-paid officers ? Some of them have been given increases equal to £2 or £3 a week and others have had their salaries raised by hundreds of pounds. I have every confidence that the Assistant Minister will do the right thing; but I urge him not to allow himself to be bamboozled by the men who have evolved this scheme. Let him look into the matter thoroughly, especially as to the starting of increases at proper times. If £30,000 is being made available for increases, why not distribute it on a percentage basis? I remember the Assistant Minister saying, before he went to the war, that the permanent soldier ought to be able to look forward to a superannuation to provide for his future. Now is the time to carry out that idea. I believe that this scheme of increases was framed on the basis of a superannuation fund. The increases might be considered reasonable if the soldiers knew that they were to get also a generous scheme of superannuation. Why has the superannuation proposal been dropped ? Have the Government decided that it shall not be part of their policy, and that the returned soldiers in the permanent Forces are not to have any provision made for their old age? If the people were consulted, they would declare that they desired the soldiers to be paid fairly, and that provision should be made for their old age.’ Of course, they would have to contribute something to their superannuation, as all others have to do. I do not attack the higher-paid officers as a class, because many of them are, in my opinion, underpaid, and their splendid services during the. war entitle them to every consideration. But it is unfair that those officers should receive substantial increases while those drawing much less pay should have their salaries reduced, or be given no consideration. I appeal to the Minister who in this chamber represents the Minister for Defence to apply his own practical knowledge to the administration, and not let it be governed by theorists. The worst thing that could happen in regard to military men would be the creation in their minds of a feeling of dissatisfaction with their treatment. Soldiers cannot strike for better conditions as carpenters or bricklayers or other artisans can. Therefore, we must insist that they must be treated fairly and well. No man with a grain of common sense would send his son at the present time to Duntroon College unless he could provide him with an income, because at the present rate of pay a young officer after he has passed his examinations can hardly pay for what is necessary to maintain his position. In the Old Country it is the practice of rich men to put their sons into the Army, but here we should draw on’ all classes for our officers. Some of the brightest boys that went from the College to the war were the sons of poor men. I appeal to the Assistant Minister »ot to destroy the splendid confidence which he has generally inspired. Nothing could be better than that the men in the lower grades of the Service should feel that in their Minister they have an officer possessing practical knowledge, who is determined that justice shall be done to them. I know that a man who is only newly in charge of a big Department is at a disadvantage, but I appeal to the Minister not to allow himself to be bamboozled, but to look into matters for himself, so that right may be done. If he does this, he will deserve the thanks of the soldiers, and will give the country what it needs - a satisfied Defence Force. Our soldiers have proved themselves to ha the best in the world, and we should see- that they are not dissatisfied. It is the: present permanent men who will be the nucleus of any army that we may raise, should there be trouble in the future. The Minister should let us know who is responsible for the terrible misfire in regard to the raising of soldiers’ pay. All sorts of rumours are going round, and many names are mentioned, but I shall not repeat either. It is not fair to blame an officer in this chamber, because he cannot defend himself here, and his “ Minister can speak only in general terms. My criticism is not based on ‘ personal ‘ grounds. Most of the youngsters with whom I am acquainted are able to battle along,’ and’ are plug-
Mr. Austin Chapman. ging away, hoping for better things, without which many must go under. But I know that there is dissatisfaction, and 1. trust that the Minister, whose intentions are good, will translate them into deeds for the benefit of the men and of the country.
.- It has been brought to my notice that men who were in the Permanent Forces before the war, and joined the Australian Imperial Force, and have now come back to the Defence Department, have not been allowed even to take up their old positions, and are being paid less than before they went away, although their experience in actual warfare must have made them much better and more valuable soldiers. I am assured, too, that in some cases, while increases have been given to certain ranks, the higher officers have received increases amounting to more than the annual pay of those whom they are commanding; in other words, while increases may have been given to the rank and file, making their pay £156 a year, the increases given to some of the officers have been, as much as or more than £156 a year. I join with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) in asking the Minister representing the Minister for Defence to see that the lower-paid men in the permanent service receive a fair deal. I believe that some of the married men are slightly better off than the single men.
– And’ some of them are worse off.
– The honorable member, who represents Queenscliff, has no doubt a number of cases similar to- those to which I am drawing attention.
I would like the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to note that, whereas the’ cost of the Central Administration of the Defence Department in 1918-19, during part of which year the. war was still raging, was £51,746, the amount’ set down for the present financial year is £102,907, or practically twice as much. The Treasurer (Mr. Watt) told us that he had attacked the Estimates with a meat axe, but something more is needed to deal ‘ with those who in peace time make the expenditure of a branch double what it was in war time. I take no exception to the increase in the Aviation Branch, because we know more of the need for an aviation service now than we did’ even’ two years ago. There may also be a reason for an increase in the expenditure on the Royal Military College.
– In ten of the twelve subDepartments of the Defence Department the amount asked for this year exceeds the expenditure of last year.
– Yes, and the total amount asked for this year is £276,000, while the expenditure last year was only £151,000.
It is not the desire of honorable members or of the country that an officer caste should be created here, but I know that some of those who have sent lads to Duntroon College complain gravely about the conditions of entrance. Candidates were not chosen because of the way in which they passed set examinations, and the examiners knew the antecedents of every one of them.
– The candidates were questioned as to their fathers’ trade.
– Had my boy been one of them he would have been able to answer that I was a felt hatter. There should be no favoritism in regard to admissions to Duntroon College. All candidates should be on the same footing. There should be no questioning as to the social position of parents. It was never intended that social position should be considered. It was my privilege to accompany a deputation to the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) in reference to one of the Government Factories. During the war, those Factories were working, not only full time, but, in some cases, every hour of the day. The Harness and. Saddlery Factory was started in 1911 with sixty-five employees,- and now when we are at peace, they have been reduced to twenty-five, the last eight men to be dismissed being returned soldiers. The press was not represented at the deputation, but I do not think I am betraying confidence in referring to it. A great number of returned soldiers require saddlery and harness for the work they have taken up, and, in my opinion, the Defence Department and the Repatriation Department together, could keep this Factory going. Every honorable member opposite who was at the Front will admit that the equipment from this Factory was not only equal, but, in the great majority of cases, superior to that supplied by any other factory, whether Pritish, French, or of any other nation. When the Factory was started, the em ployees were drawn from all over Australia on account of their exceptional skill, and they had a’ practical guarantee, this being a Government Factory, of a life job. The Minister promised the deputation to go very carefully . into the matter, and I think something will be done in the direction I have indicated. The other Government factories, perhaps, are not in the same position as the Saddlery and Harness Factory, but the Woollen Milte, if there is not sufficient work for them in connexion with the manufacture of cloth for the Defence Department, can find sufficient in the manufacture of cloth for other Departments. I hope the Government will not lightly decide to close up these factories. Those engaged in them did us good service during the war, and they should be remembered in peace time.
– I should like to say a word about the large increases in the Central Staff -expenditure. The explanation is very simple. This year all the permanent personnel is coming back from the war, and the old positions are being resumed. While the men were away, their salaries, and the expense of their maintenance, were paid at the other end of the world, and came out of the war vote; and this alone accounts for one large item. Then there is another item this year, which is resuming for the first time, namely, the Special School of Instruction; and the two items together account for nearly the whole of the increases.
– You do not object to me bringing the matter up, and” asking for an explanation ?
– I quite agree that the honorable member is entitled to an explanation, and I have given one. There are also several large items of contingencies included, which came out of loan last year, but this year come out of revenue. All this simply means that the increases are due to the return of our Army, and the placing of the Forces on a peace footing, chargeable to the ordinary revenue of the country. The increases, I must say,- staggered me at first, but I have given the explanation of them.
I do not know anything about the details of the increased pay, and shall leave the explanation in that regard to my colleague, the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). I wish, to say, however, that since I have been at the Treasury, I have made two grants to the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce), for the purpose of adjusting those very salaries. The two grants amount to about £36,000, and only a month or so ago I agreed to a grant of £18,000 for the purpose of continuing the war bonus to these very men. “Where that money is now I do not know; all I can say is that the Treasury is discharged on that score.
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is quite right in expressing the belief that my sympathy is with the rank and file of our military forces, more especially with our returned men. I should be a peculiar sort of man if I had not that sympathy. I realize and recognise, above everything else, that had it not been for ‘the loyal support and co-operation they rendered me in the field, I never could have gained those distinctions and honours of which I am so proud. I could not have done what I did but for the magnificent work of these Australian soldiers in the field. I can assure the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, »and honorable members generally, that my experiences in the war have broadened my outlook, if it required broadening, in the direction of taking a democratic view in these matters.
– It was necessary, politically.
– I do not know that. When I first came into this House I was looked on as one of the “ fat squatocracy “ of Australia, who had no sympathy at all with working men; but I think that the few years I have been here have dispelled that idea from the minds of honorable members.
– You have undergone an intellectual re-adjustment.
– Probably that is due to my having listened to some of the speeches of the honorable member. However, I had command of a brigade of 2,000 composed of men of every social grade, every political belief, and every religion; and I know that they were absolutely in loyal co-operation with me; I had the feeling that every one would be prepared to risk his life in order to protect mine. That being so, it is perfectly right to say that my sympathy is with the men of the permanent forces who have been referred to.
A good deal has been made of the assertion that the men of the forces are not to-day receiving a living wage as understood in outside employment. In Australia the pay of the forces has never been equal to wages outside, but the present rate under the new scale, - which is called “ Ryrie’s rise” or “Paddy’s rise,” whichever honorable members like - is nearer to the outside living wage than ever before. In no country in the world is the military pay of the permanent forces the same as those engaged in outside occupations ; and there is something to be said in justification of that fact. The pay of permanent military men is for every day in the week, wet or dry, and holidays included - they have a constant job. At the same time, I am prepared to admit that the new scale does not work out to my satisfaction ; but that was not foreseen at the time it was arranged. The Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has told honorable members of the two advances of £35,000 odd for the purpose of increasing the pay of the permanent forces; and it seems a curious thing, in view of that fact, that according to some honorable members every man is getting less pay than before.
– Not everybody - not highly-paid officers
– The honorable member suggests that - the highlypaid officers are receiving the bulk of this £35,000 odd’; but he may be surprised to hear that of this amount only £8,000 goes to the officers. I am not speaking merely of the highly-paid officers, but all the commissioned officers ; and this means that £27,000 has gone to the non-commissioned officers and rank and file.
– How do the numbers of the two classes compare?
– The officers, of course, are fewer in number; but it will be observed that the amount that goes to them is considerably less than the amount given- to the rank and file.
– What is the percentage of officers?
– I have not that information with me.
– Is this £35,000 odd an addition to. the pay ?
– It is an increase to that amount over the old scale.
– There is 5 per cent, of officers.
– I think the percentage is greater ; all officers must be taken into account^ and not only the seniors. I wish to show, further, that this £8,000 has. not gone to the highlypaid officers. The salary of the InspectorGeneral was £1,500; the Chief of the General Staff received a similar amount; and the pay remains the same to-day. A similar remark applies to a great many of the senior officers. I may say that my own brother is one of the officers who might, perhaps, be described as highly paid.
– Would you call him a highly-paid officer?
– No ; but I am showing that this money has not gone to those who are supposed to be highly paid. The increase in the pay of my brother, who is a temporary LieutenantColonel, is only £25. In face of these facts, it cannot be said that the bulk of the increase has gone to the officers. When the honorable member for Eden- Mona.ro says that there are some men who are getting less pay than before he must be labouring under a delusion.
– I can prove it, and will give their names.
– The honorable member might prove it in a way, and I shall show how. When the men were in camp as militia, before going to the war, they were put on a war footing as regards pay. To prevent dissatisfaction the whole of the Permanent Forces were given a war bonus to bring their pay up to that of the militia. That state of things’ lasted throughout the war, but when the war finished the war bonus ‘was abolished, and a committee of officers was appointed to decide what the new scale should be. The Minister for . Defence (Senator Pearce) asked the Cabinet for a certain sum, and this £35,000 odd was granted, the committee of officers being left to work out the details. As I have already said, the scale has not worked out in a way quite satisfactory to myself. £27,000 went to the rank and file and noncommissioned men, but the increase given to the privates, particularly the single men, does not in some cases amount to as much as the war bonus, which has been abolished. On this account they say they are getting less than before, forgetting that they are receiving, in some cases,- 80 per cent, more than in 1914. It is not peculiar to this Government that the pay does not equal the living wage paid out side; but if it be a crime, it is one of which every Government in Australia has been equally guilty. My honorable friends opposite were in power in 1914, when, as 1 say, the pay was 80 per cent, lower than it is to-day.
Let me tell the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) that the proposal for a superannuation fund has not been dropped, because such a fund will be brought into existence, and I hope it will prove satisfactory.
– There ought to be a superannuation for the whole of the Service, if one is founded for the military.
– Honorable members must consider the general taxpayers as well as the military, and the Government must do its best for the people as a whole. I heard the Prime Minister say the other night that the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) was not in control of a bottomless financial pit, and that he could not find money where there was none to be had. The proposal to distribute this £36,000 amongst the Permanent Forces was arrived at before my return from the war, and I believe that the committee of officers were perfectly honest in their intention that a substantial rise should be given to the men. The committee of officers who framed the scheme ought to have been able, as experts, to arrive at what was a satisfactory rate of pay for every man.
– The principle laid down was that, the bonus included, every soldier should receive what was the ruling rate of pay outside.
– Quite so. The scheme might not have worked out exactly in that way, but it gives every man what is approximately the ruling rate outside. The pay of the Permanent Forces to-day is. nearer the ruling rate outside than it has ever been before. No married man in the Forces to-day can say that he is getting less than he was receiving during the war. Every man is certainly getting a great deal more than he received in 1914. The lowest rate of increase granted to single men is 40 per cent, in excess of the pay received in 1914. In some cases the increase amounts to 80 per cent. I am sorry that I have not at hand the tables which I have had worked out in regard to the pay of these men; but I can assure honorable members that -the increase, as compared with the rates prevailing in 1914, ranges from 40 per cent, to 80 per cent. The complaint of these men is largely due to the fact that the war bonus has been, knocked off. They had been receiving it for some years, and had come to regard it as part of their ordinary pay. With the re-adjustment, although in some cases they receive 80 per cent, more than they did in 1914, they are paid less than they received during the war, and they, therefore, complain that instead of getting a rise they have been subjected in some cases to a deduction. Having regard to the fact that the Treasurer has not at his disposal an inexhaustible fund, the Government have done everything possible to arrive at a satisfactory solution of this very difficult question. The Minister for Defence and I are discussing a scheme under which something further may be given to married men with families, in the Permanent Forces, and that,s with the superannuation scheme which will certainly be brought in, ought to satisfy the Permannent Forces for the time being.
.- It would appear from the statement made by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), that there is little reason to complain of the new schedule that has been prepared, and that it is as equitable as might reasonably be expected of it. I have here, however, a comparative statement which I desire to nut before the honorable gentleman and the Committee, with the object of showing that justice has not been done to at least one branch of the Permanent Forces. I refer to the Royal Australian Engineers, and particularly to the pay of non-commissioned officers and others occupying subordinate positions in that arm of the service. This statement shows that commissioned officers have been granted increases of actual value to them. The old rate of pay for colonels was from £650 to £725 ner annum; the new rate is £800 per annum. The old rates of pay for lieutenant-colonels were from £576 to £625 per annum ; the new rates are from £635 to £750 per annum. The old rates for majors were from £475 to £550 per annum; the new rates are from £550 to £650 per annum. Captains under the old rates received from £375 to £450 per annum ; under the new rates they receive from £400 to £525 per annum. Lieutenants under the old rates received from £250 to £350 per annum; under the new rates they receive from £250 to £375 per annum. Quartermasters under the old rate were paid from £300 to £400 per annum ; under the new rate they receive from £325 to £450 per a.nnum. It will thus be seen that an actual increase has been granted to commissioned officers. In the case of those occupying subordinate positions, in some instances there has been an - actual decrease.
– That is not so.
– I shall give the honorable gentleman the figures.
– And I shall supply him with names.
– Under the old rates sergeants received 10s. per diem, plus rations, which were valued in South Australia at ls. 6d. per diem. That amount was drawn in lieu of rations, making a total of £4 0s. 6d. per week, plus a free issue of uniform. Under the new rate they receive 72s. per week, with a deduction of 2s. 6d. per week for uniform. There waa no such deduction under theold rate. In the case of married men a bonus of 6s. per week is also granted. Married men, if in receipt of higher pay under the old rate, may retain it. Thus a married man gets no increase, and a single man suffers a reduction.
– A number of married men receive an increase under the new rate.
– I ask the Minister to go into this matter. I am told that it is not within the knowledge of the Minister for Defence that the new scheme works out in this way - that the scheme as presented to him was deceptive, and made it impossible for him to deal with the situation on its merits. I want the Minister- to recognise that this matter requires his personal attention. He should see that he is placed in possession of the actual facts by his responsible officers. In the case of corporals, the old rate of pay was ls. per diem less than that received by sergeants; that is to say, they received £3 13s. 6d. per week and a free issue of uniform. Under the new rate they receive 67s. per week, with a deduction of 2s. 6d. per week for uniform. That deduction was not made under the old system. In. addition to the 67s. per week, married men receive a bonus of 6s. per week, and if they were in receipt of higher pay under the old rate they may retain it. A married man, it will be seen, gets no increase, and a single man actually suffers a reduction of 9s. per week.
– Does the honorable member say that a corporal receives less than he got in 1914?
– I am comparing the new rate with that which prevailed prior to the 1st April last.
– The honorable member is comparing the new rates with the war rates.
– That is so.
– The honorable member, in order to be fair, should compare them with the pay in 1914.
– I want to be perfectly fair. These non-commissioned officers were led to believe that, as the result of the re-adjustment, they would receive anactual increase. They find, however, that instead of an increase, in some cases they are being subjected to a reduction. The new schedule must be judged in the light of the rates prevailing under the scheme for which it was substituted.
– The honorable member wants the peace pay to be actually that which was paid in war time.
– Although peace has been declared, we have still to pay war prices. We must have regard to the cost of living.
– Why is it that, under this re-adjustment, married men are given the option of retaining the old rate if they do not like the new rate of pay?
– So that they cannot possibly lose by the readjustment.
– I am trying to point out to the Minister that in the case of some of these subordinate officers the new rate means an actual loss of pay to them. In the case of corporals, married men are receiving the same pay that they drew during war time.
– Some of them may receive more.
– In the case of corporals, a married man gets no increase, and a single man is subjected to an actual reduction of 9s. per week.
– The honorable member has his figures worked out in his own way. If I. had at hand the figures I have had prepared for me, I would be able to “ knock him kite high “ in two minutes.
– It is unfortunate that the Minister should be without his figures ; but his statement is not very convincing to honorable members.
– Nor satisfyingto the men who are receiving less than before.
– Quite so. I shall be pleased to hand this list to the Minister, so that he may see for himself that there is some justification for the complaint I am voicing. In the case of a sapper we find the old rates were as follow: -
Single man, 5s. 6d. to6s. per diem, plus free rations, quarters, and uniform ; married man, 5s. 6d. to 6s. per diem, plus1s. 6d. per diem in lieu of rations, plus1s. 6d. per diem in lieu of quarters, and plus free uniform.
The new rates are as follow :
Single man, 60s. per week, less a deduction of 2s. 6d. per week for uniform, less 10s. per week for rations, and less 2s. 6d. per week for quarters; married man, 60s. per week, plus a bonus of 6s. per week, less a deduction of 2s. 6d. per week for uniform.
The comparison is as follows : - A single man received an increase of from 3s. to 6s. 6d. per week according to length of service. A married man received an increase of from 4s. per week for a man with less than two years’ service to 6d’. per week for a man with over six years’ service. The men who are filling the offices in the Royal Australian Engineers must have certain qualifications. No person other than a tradesman may be enlisted. Indentures must be produced, and applicants for enlistment must submit to a trade test. Every member is available for duty the whole or any part of the twenty-four hours. No further consideration is given in respect to that particular facility placed at the disposal of the Department. The value of the rations varies in the different States. Although1s. 6d. per diem is paid in lieu in South Australia, it may amount to more or less in the other States. When an officer gets a staff job his rates are increased from £50 to £100 per annum, but no such privileges as staff jobs are open to men of other ranks. I hope that the Minister will have further investigation made into this particular schedule, and that he will see that greater justice is done to those who occupy the more subordinate positions in the Defence Department.
. -I take the opportunity of callingattention. to a matter of great importance to the future of Australia - the need for the encouragement of rifle clubs. During last year there was a, reduction of 50 per cent, in the effective grants to rifle clubs. We are fortunate in having in this House a Minister representing the Defence Department who has had practical experience at the Front, and I think he will admit that the men who went from Australia who had previously been members of rifle clubs turned out to be the very best material for warfare. In many instances 60 per cent, of the members of the clubs in the Wide Bay electorate, and elsewhere, enlisted, and in the case of one or two of the clubs in Wide Bay, all the members except two went on active service. I am sure we recognise that the return we got from the past expenditure on rifle clubs has been a hundredfold. Not only were members’ of rifle clubs who enlisted effective fighters, but, as they were also able to instruct others who had not the same knowledge of their weapons, they thus assisted to make the whole force a very much better fighting machine. I sincerely trust that the Minister will see that on the next Estimates provision will be made for the payment of a 10s. effective grant to rifle clubs, so that in case trouble arises in the future we shall have a capable and effective force here, ready and able to defend this country of ours.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Divisions 83 to 101 (Navy), £1,536,924, agreed to.
Department of Trade and Customs.
Proposed vote (Divisions 100 to 115), £583,011.
.- There is one matter of considerable importance to which I wish to draw attention. I would have mentioned the subject some time ago but for the fact that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) has been away ill, and I was anxious that he should hear what I had to say,because I believe it is something upon which no single Minister can give a decision, but which must go before the Cabinet as a whole. I refer to the basis upon which the Customs authorities calculate for Customs purposes in the payment of duty the value of goods bought in the currency of any other nation. At the present time the high cost of living is one of the most burning and vital questions we have confronting us.’ We are also very much inclined to protest how much we owe to our Allies in the late war, and how much we are willing to do to assist them to once more regain their position in the world. But what we are doing in regard to the administration of our Customs Act is a little startling to ‘ any one .who is not aware of what is the actual position. There are a few facts I wish to bring under the notice of honorable members, because I do not think they realize what is happening, or they would not indorse it or approve of it. By our administration of the Customs Act we are actually rendering it almost impossible for France and Italy, probably our two greatest Allies in the late war, to trade in Australia, and are driving the whole of our overseas trade into the hands of neutral countries, or countries which made the smallest sacrifices on behalf of the Allies during the war. There are many people who are Protectionists, and there are many who are Free Traders, but I do ‘not think that any of them believe that a preference other than the deliberate and considered preference given by this Parliament to Great Britain should be extended to any country under our- Tariff. The startling position to-day is that we are giving a most extraordinary preference to certain countries to the detriment of others.
– That is under the rates of exchange.
– That is so. During the period of the war certain countries had to completely cut off their exports. They had their commercial and industrial centres ravaged and overrun, and, for the time being, the whole of their trade ceased. The result after the war has been that the world’s exchange is absolutely against those countries, and their currency in the world’s market is hopelessly depreciated. On the other hand, countries which continued to trade during the period of the war became the great exporters of the world. Gold flowed to them, and their currency is now at a great premium in the world’s markets. We all know that that is the position to-day, but sometimes we forget that it is only recently it has come about. Exchanges the world over were maintained artificially during the war. Take the case of Great Britain, where we have seen the value of the sovereign come down to 3.35 dollars as against the par value of 4.85 dollars. That has only happened since the Armistice and since the artificial safeguards that were taken to maintain exchange were removed. We never got below 4.70 dollars or 4.75 dollars during the war. The result of the removal of the artificial safeguards has been that we have had extraordinary variations of exchange which prior to the war did not exist. In pre-war days the franc might have varied from 24 francs to possibly 25.50 francs to the £1 sterling, but that would have been an enormous variation. It was the same with other exchanges, and so it continued during the war. But to-day the position is completely altered. The ordinary economic laws coming into force, we have seen variations in the franc up to 60 francs to the £1 sterling. These variations bring about most extraordinary results in the payment of Customs duties, for the reasons that the Customs Department here always operate upon the basis of the par value of exchange and take no notice whatever of the value of exchange at the time when the goods were purchased. Before giving actual instances of what has happened, I would like to give a very simple illustration, from which honorable members will have no difficulty in seeing what is done. If a person goes to any country and buys £100 worth of goods, and the invoice comes through to Australia as £100, the Customs authorities look at the date the invoice bears, and look up the rate of exchange on that date. If the goods were bought in France they proceed to turn the £100 into francs at the rate of exchange on the date the invoice bears, and if at that date the rate of exchange was 50 francs to the £1 sterling, they say, “ The £100 is 5,000 francs.” Having turned the sovereign into francs at the rate of exchange at the date of purchase, they then proceed to bring it back into sovereigns on the pre-war or par basis of exchange, namely, 25 francs to the sovereign. The result is that, although the purchaser has paid £100, and only £100, for the goods, when he goes to the Customs authorities and tenders his duty, which, we will say. for the sake of argument, is £25, they say to him, “No; we will not accept that. The duty is £50, because these goods cost you £200.” That is rather a startling practice, but it is taking place every day. It is unjust, and everybody is protesting and trying to demonstrate the injustice, but can get no remedy. Apart from the fact that it is making Australian people pay more than they should pay by reason of the fact that the goods are being loaded with duties that ought not to be paid, and which Parliament never authorized, I take the broader point of view that we are by this action penalizing nations that, in the war, were our friends and Allies, and throwing the trade into the hands of neutrals who did not help us at all. or Allies who helped us very little. I shall relate to the House what happens in connexion with £100 worth of goods purchased in Prance, Italy, and America respectively. Take, firstly, £100 worth of goods purchased in France. Say the exchange of the day is, as it has been for some time past, 50 francs to the £1. That means that 5,000 francs have been paid for the goods. When the goods land here, the £100 is first converted into 5,000 francs, and then reconverted at 25 francs to the £1, that being the par value. That gives a value of £200. Assuming the duty to be 25 per cent., the importer pays £50 to the Customs Department upon goods that had cost him £100. Take now the case of £100 worth of goods purchased in Italy. The exchange is, as it has been for some time, 75 lire to the £1. That £100 is immediately converted into 7,500 lire. That is reconverted at par value- 25 lire - which means that the importer is said to have paid £300 for the goods, and, at a duty of 25 per cent., he pays to the Customs Department £75 on goods that cost him £100. In regard to America, assuming the exchange to be $4 to the £1, although it has been as low as $3.35, the £100 is converted into $400. That isreconvened at $4.85 to the £1, the par value which gives a result of £82 10s. The importer is then held to have paid £82 10s. for the goods for which he actually paid £100, and at a duty of 25 per cent., he pays to the Customs Department between £20 and £21. Therefore, on £100 worth of goods subject to a 25 per cent. duty, France would pay duty to the extent of £50. Italy to the extent of £75, and America to the extent of £20.
– That is “greasing the fatted pig.”
– That may not be a very pleasing expression, but it is perfectly true. We must remember that, during the war, France and Italy, by reason of the tragic circumstances in which they were living, were cut off from the world’s markets. America, Japan, and other nations stepped in, and catered for trade that had belonged to Italy and France ever since Australia had commenced importing. The war gave these other countries their opportunity, but in hardly any instance have they served Australia as well as France and Italy had done bef ore the war. Yet, because of the system upon which the Customs authorities calculate exchange, it is almost impossible for France and Italy to recover the trade that went from them, because of the fact that they were fighting on our side.
– Upon the instructions of whom is this system operating ?
– Upon the instructions of nobody. . It is a system- that was justified, and extraordinarily effective under pre-war conditions.
– Has the honorable member the figures in regard to Japan?
– I have not worked them out for Japan, but the system works to the advantage of J apan in much the same way as it works to the advantage of America. Japan is getting a marked preference as against France and Italy. This system of calculating exchange is excellent, and, indeed, is the only possible one, under normal conditions. We cannot expect the Customs Department to recalculate every fractional difference in exchange for every invoice, simply because the importer says that he paid exchange on a basis of between, say, 24.50 francs and 25.50 francs, but to-day it is a question, not of a fractional difference in the rate of exchange, but of an absolute prohibition of imports from the countries of two of our Allies.
– If the Customs Department altered the procedure those who had imported and paid the rates under the old system would be placed at a disadvantage in comparison with the man who imported under the altered conditions
– That is so, and in the event of such an alteration probably there would be few firms that would leave on hand more goods for which they had paid too much than, would the firm with which :f am connected. But I should not; mind that in the least. Everybody would have to get out of the trouble as best he could. My point is that the present system is an iniquity. We are penalizing the very nations that we should be trying to help, not only for sentimental reasons, but because it would be for the benefit of the whole world if we could get trade back into its normal channels and the exchange of the world adjusted.
The point which will be raised is very obvious. The Customs Department, faced with a position like this, would say that it could not calculate the rate of exchange on every single invoice and alter it. At first sight that appears to be a. good argument, but unfortunately the Department is doing that very thing to-day. I pointed out that in respect of importations, expressed in sterling value, the Department is finding not the slightest difficulty in looking up the rate of exchange on the date of the invoice so that it may first convert it prior to reconversion at par value. There is no reason at all why the Customs Department should not operate on the basis of the rate of exchange at the date on which the goods were invoiced, which shows the home consumption value. Therefore, I say there would be no difficulty whatever in altering the present system if it were considered just and right to do so. I personally can see no reason why, in order to avoid any real difficulty for the Customs Department, it should not require that all goods that have been purchased in- foreign countries should be invoiced in foreign currency. On receipt of the invoice in. Australia the Customs Department could convert francs or dollars into sterling value at the rate of exchange obtaining on the date of the invoice, which could be found by reference to the records. It would then have the actual value of the goods in the country of origin converted into sterling value at the actual rate of exchange applying at the date on which they were invoiced.
We should realize that a system such as this, which works such hopeless injustice and borders on an iniquity, must inevitably lead to efforts at evasion. That is very undesirable. Whilst the Customs authorities may think they know everything that is to be known, I personally have grave doubts that, when the incentive is as great as it is in this case, dishonest traders will not devise means of defeating the Department. I suggest one means by which that can be done. The trader gets an invoice drawn up in the, currency of France. The franc is to be converted by the Department at 25 francs to the £1. Suppose that he bought £100 worth of goods in France, and that they were invoiced properly and legitimately at the rate of exchange at that date, say, 50 francs to the £1 ; the value of the goods would appear as 5,000 francs. But an astute trader will invoice the goods as worth, not 5,000 francs in ordinary currency, but 2,500 gold francs. If they are actually gold francs it is right to convert them at 25 to the £1. One man will be invoicing goods at 2,500 gold francs and the other at 5,000 francs ordinary currency. In both cases the actual amount paid is £100, but when the two invoices are converted by the Customs Department at 25 francs to the £1 there will be a lot of difference in the duty paid. 1 do not suggest that any trader is following his practice today, but I warn the Government that if an iniquity like this is perpetrated we shall inevitably have dishonest traders doing something to evade it. In urging this question upon the attention of the Committee I put aside the question of the effect upon the unfortunate people who are being made to pay double and treble duty upon the goods they consume. I put aside also the plight of the merchant who has to try to get rid of the goods on which . he has paid these duties. Both of these are minor considerations. The main point is that we have been loud in our protestations of gratitude for the help we received’ from our gallant ally, France; yet, by the policy pursued by the Customs Department, we are doing our best to handicap her out of these markets which we say are open to everybody, subject to a Tariff which was. fixed by Parliament and which gives no preference to any nation except the Mother Land.
[9.45L - The Committee is deeply indebted to the honorable member for Flinders for his speech, which was exceedingly clear, so that we quite understand his position. What he has said will receive the consideration that it deserves, not only here, but in another place. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) asked on what authority the practice of the Customs Department is based. That authority^ is section 154a of the1 Customs Act, which says that ‘the value of goods shall be taken to be the fair market value of such goods in the principal markets of the world whence they were exported, in the usual and ordinary acceptation of the term, and f.o.b. at the port of export in such country, with an addition of 10 per cent, to such market value. The action of the Department was contested by Goode and Company, of South Australia, and the Chief Justice of that State gave judgment against the Department, but the High Court reversed that judgment, and the Privy Council subsequently decided that there was no ground for an appeal.
– The question in that case was as to the value of goods; quite a different point.
– I wish to give, in answer to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce), the view of the Customs Department. The value on which duty must be paid is the fair market value of the goods when sold for use or consumption in the country of export. But the purchasing power of money has fallen in other countries as it has fallen in Australia. Here £1 now buys only as much as could have been bought for 13s. in 1914. Goods bought in France and Italy are invoiced for export at their sterling value, which we have reason to believe is arrived at on the basis of 50 francs or 50 lire to the pound, or at a still greater depreciation. I shall give an illustration or two to show what happens under this practice. A motor chassis of a certain type was imported from Italy. The pre-war home consumption price of that type of chassis was 12,000 lire, which, on the basis of 50 lire to the £1 sterling, would be £480. Notwithstanding the substantial advance in wages and the increase in the price of raw material iri Italy, this particular type of chassis was invoiced to a buyer in Australia at £320 sterling, based on an exchange value of 50 lire to the £1, that is, it was invoiced at £160 less than what would have been its pre-war price. After an investigation by our officers abroad, it was found that the home consumption price of that type of chassisin Italy was 16,000 lire, or £640.
– Then the invoice was a dishonest one.
– If the Italian exports value had beeen accepted, an injustice would have been done to British manufacturers. An importer of a British chassis whose pre-war price was, say, £400, and whose present price was £600, would have to pay duty on the higher amount, while the importer of the Italian chassis, if the Department accepted the invoice price, would gain a distinct advantage. A case like that shows how hard it is to make a law which will give the concession that the honorable member for Flinders asks for and still protect the Department. Let me give another case. In 1913 fancy soap was sold in Paris for 120 francs a dozen boxes, or on an exchange of 25 francs to the £1, for £4 16s. The same line was sold in 1919 for 166 francs, or at an exchange of 25 francs to the £1, £6 12s. 9d. If the 1919 price had been standardized on the basis of 50 francs to the £1, the goods would have been invoiced at £3 6s. 5d., although their domestic price had been increased by 39 per cent., and thus their export price would be £1 9s. 7d. less than the pre-war price. This country has a’dopted a policy of Protection, but of what value would our Tariff be to our manufacturers if we accepted invoices in which the exchange had been reckoned at 50 francs or 50 lire to the £1.
– How is the Australian manufacturer protected against Japan under the present system ?
– The honorable member there opens up another questionHonorable members will see that the Department has a most difficult problem to deal with. I have ascertained that in Paris in one day the rate of exchange has altered three or four times. How could we be advised here of such changes, and pay consideration to them in the assessing of duty ? I may mention that one of the biggest business men in Melbourne, whose name I am not prepared to give the Committee, called at the Customs House, and, as a result of an interview, went away apparently satisfied that the Department was dealing with this matter in the only way in which it could be dealt with.
– Has the Cabinet determined that it will not go into the matter ?
– I was careful to preface my remarks with the statement that, no doubt, the honorable member’s speech would receive the consideration that it warranted, and I paid great attention to it because of the experience he has had in the world of commerce.
.^ I have made it a rule of my life not o rise after 10 o’clock at night, but it is not yet 10 o’clock. I consider myself fortunate in having heard the speech of the honorable member for Flinders, and. the reply of the Minister. Evidently the Cabinet has not given this matter full consideration. The Department seems to fall back on the reading of a provision in the Customs Act passed many years ago, without giving proper consideration to the condition of exchange during the last three of four years. The Minister spoke of a line of soap which in 1913 was sold in Paris for 120 francs, but which now costs 160 francs in Paris. But it is to be borne in mind that when measured in British or Australian money the franc is now worth only half what it was in 1913. There is an aspect of the case which, apparently, has not yet occurred to the Ministry -as a whole, and that is the effect of the depreciation of the money in those continental countries allied to us, which have suffered so much from the war, and the consequent disadvantages under which they are placed as compared with other .countries. There has been an enormous depreciation of the currency of France and Italy, and an enormous appreciation in the currency of the United States of America. Because of the sacrifices made in the war by France and Italy, those countries are very much embarrassed financially, while the currency of the United States has appreciated. The goods of which the Honorable Minister spoke, which before the war cost 120 francs, equivalent to £4 15s. in British sovereigns, now cost 160 francs ill* British paper money. But these francs are worth only half the value in English money that they were before; therefore, the price of this particular product, measured by English or Australian money, has fallen from: £4 15s. to £3 4s., or to two-thirds of its former value. That is due to the fact that the francs now go 50 to the £1, whereas before the war they were 25 to the £1. The Acting Minister for Customs (Mr. Laird Smith) now seems to say that, because of this, we must impose a higher duty upon French goods.
– We must collect at the home consumption value of the goods.
– In British or Australian money, this conversion is made on the basis of 50 francs, as compared with 25 francs previously.
– With the English £1 at 50 francs, and £100 worth of goods purchased, how much would you have to find in gold to pay for those goods? Would not £50 be sufficient?
– We in Australia do not pay in gold at all, but in Australian paper money.
– I mean in gold, in the same way as we are shipping gold to America to-day.
– That is a matter of shipping gold, like any other commodity ; but payments for goods in Australia are not now made in gold. The question of the depreciation of paper money here is one to which this House might devote some attention. To continue to levy a higher duty under the circumstances disclosed above would, in reality, without our knowing it, be placing our Allies, who made such sacrifices during the war, at an enormous disadvantage, while giving a correspondingly great advantage to the United States, and to any other countries with appreciated exchanges.
.- I, too, think that the matter of exchanges is one which might be considered by the Cabinet. I would be the last to urge a departure from the system of charging duties on the fair market valuein the country of shipment. When Minister for Trade and Customs, I did my best to prevent fraud; indeed, I went in for a system of compulsory honesty in dealings with the Customs House. The question of exchange is a matter entirely apart from the question of the fair market value; and my opinion is that we have no right to re-convert into a pre-war value. I think that I have a very fair record as Minister for Trade and Customs, for seeing that those who had dealings with the Department paid their full dues, going so far as to have people gaoled for evading the payment of duty. I would not do anything which would give Japan and the United States an advantage at the present time.
– But the system favoured by the Acting Minister does.
– It does; and, as I say, it is a matter for the Cabinet, as well as a matter for the Department. I think that the case put by the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) is unanswerable, and demands earnest consideration. Of course, I know that the position of an Assistant or Acting Minister is a very difficult one, for he can not depart from the accepted practice of the Department or of his’ chief.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways.
Divisions 118 to 129, £617,412, agreed to.
Divisions 130 to 139, £5,223,143-
.- I should like to make a few observations on the administration of the Post and Telegraph Department. I have no desire to embarrass the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise), because I know that his obligations to the country at the present time are very grave. This Department, under the control of the ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), drifted from bad to worse year by year; and we country representatives, especially, know how far it did drift. I need not take up time in referring to individual cases, but I must say that in an old-settled electorate such as the one I have the honour to represent, conditions to-day are infinitely worse than they were thirty years ago. We read of the profits which have been made fromyear to year by this Department, which is a Department of Universal Service providing for the comfort, happiness, and well-being of the country, which depends upon its usefulness. In spite of profits the postal service is going back, and becoming less efficient. I know that the present PostmasterGeneral is taking a very grave responsibility, in order to restore to the people the services and benefits they formerly enjoyed until he takes into consideration the postal administration as it affects the whole of the Commonwealth. I hope the time is not far distant when he will find himself able to make a statement which will give some relief and satisfaction to those who so urgently require it.
The travelling post-office is a very useful branch of the Department. Instead of letters being carried hundreds of miles to centres, sorted there, and then sent back to their destinations, the present system is to have the sorting done in travelling postoffices : but I am informed, rightly or wrongly, that there is a risk of this useful adjunct of the service being abandoned. I hope that the Postmaster-General, when he considers the re-organization of the Department, will do all that lies in his power to extend the postal facilities to the people. Thirty years ago the two important towns of Manilla and Barraba, in my electorate, had a daily service, but to-day they have a service every second day. Unhappily for the people there, they advocated and obtained a railway, and because there is a train only every other day the mails are carried only every other day. Every day there is a motor service from Tamworth to these towns, but mail matter is not carried by them. A great number of similar instances might be given, and I have no doubt that, like myself, other country representatives receive a lot of correspondence in connexion with postal matters, and are considerably embarrassed owing to the fact that they are unable to give any satisfaction or relief, and are helpless to do anything to improve matters. I am convinced, from a conversation I had with the PostmasterGeneral, that his anxiety is to make this Department, not revenue-producing, but one by means of which the benefits of the Post Office may be enjoyed in more or less remote places. I” feel sure that when the Postmaster-General has had an opportunity to go more definitely into the question, he will endeavour to secure for residents of country districts the facilities to which they are entitled, and of which they are most deserving.
Proposed vote agreed to.
War Services (Divisions 140 to 150), £10,255,980, agreed to.
That the following resolution be reported to the House: -
That, including the several sums already voted for such services, there be granted to His .Majesty to defray the charges for the year 1919-20, for the several services hereunder specified, a sum not exceeding £24,223,933 :-
Resolution reported. Standing Orders suspended, and resolution adopted.
Resolution of “Ways and Means, covering Resolution of Committee of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Hughes do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Sir Joseph Cook, and passed through all its stages without amendment.
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Hughes) read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) -
That the House do now resolve itself into a Committee of the whole to consider the foregoing message. ,
.- I understand that this Bill is merely to authorize the borrowing of money should a suitable opportunity offer.
– Merely an authority to raise money.
– The money will be required for repatriation and other purposes.
– The right honorabVi gentleman mentioned to me that he proposed to introduce this Bill, but I did not understand him to say that he wished to proceed with it to-night. In view of the fact that we have disposed of the whole of the Estimates for the financial year 1919-20 in a few hours, I fail to see that there is any urgent necessity for rushing this Loan Bill through to-night.
– Only that we have to send it to the Senate.
– It can easily be dealt with to-morrow. It is a purely formal measure.
– I shall be satisfied as long as I am able to pass these Bills through this week.
– You will get them this week.
Question resolved in the affirmative. In Committee:
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) 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 the sum of £20,000,000 for war purposes.
Resolution reported. Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the Standing Orders be suspended to enable the remaining stages, up to the second reading, to be passed without delay.
.- Would I be in order, Mr. Speaker, in referring to a matter that I brought up a few days ago. I wish to know whether the Postmaster-General can tell the House to what extent certain newspaper proprietors are existing on eleemosynary aid from the Commonwealth.
– The ‘honorable member will not be in order in referring to that matter at this stage.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
That Sir Joseph Cook and Mr. Poynton do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Sir Joseph Cook) read a first time.
Message recommending appropriation reported.
Visit of H.R.H. the Prince of Wales : Adjournment of Parliament - Tariff - Moratorium.
– I move -
That the House do now adjourn.
In order to make the position clear, if I have not already done so, in regard to the proposed adjournment of Parliament, so that honorable members may participate in the welcome to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, the Government, I may point out, consider it will best enable honorable members to participate in the welcome and interrupt the business of the country as little as possible if we adjourn during the visits of His Royal Highness the Prince to the State of Victoria and the State of New South Wales, and ask Mr. Speaker t.o summon members to meet; again by al special call. Such an arrangement, I think, will suit the case, because I am not at all clear as to the date which covers the period I have indicated, and it is desirable that this House should meet a little earlier than the Senate, in order to get through some business for the Senate to deal with. Of course, if arrangements are made for the presentation of an address to the Prince of Wales nextweek, the House will meet for that purpose, but that is a matter which Mr. President and Mr. Speaker control, and with which I, as head of the Government, have nothing to do. Subject to that proviso, I propose that the House should rise on Friday to enable honorable members to participate in the welcome to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales while he is in Victoria and New South Wales, and the House of Representatives will afterwards be called together again by Mr. Speaker, and the Senate by the President of the Senate.
In reply to the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory), who has asked when the consideration of the Tariff will be begun, I wish to say that it will be considered as soon after the resumption as possible. I cannot fix a definite da.to.
The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) has raised the question of the extension of the moratorium. When the honorable member raised the point some weeks ago, I told him that I turned a very sympathetic ear to his request, but I have since gone into the matter most carefully with the SolicitorGeneral and gleaned the facts. In the last session of the last Parliament a Bill was passed terminating the existing moratorium. That is to say, its scope was gradually to diminish until it fully terminated in June of this year. I am the last in the world to turn an unsympathetic ear to those who suffer from the periodical visitations of drought to which this country is, unfortunately, subject, and I am most anxious to strain a point to do what the honorable member wishes, but the more I looked into the matter the more it became apparent that to do what I wished would create a most undesirable position. The moratorium regulations were introduced to deal with war conditions. The war has ceased, and the conditions to which the honorable member has referred are due to drought. Happily for Australia, those conditions do not extend over the whole of the Continent, although unfortunately they have affected a very large number of our fellow citizens. The moratorium cannot be made to apply to certain classes of persons. If we were to apply it to all who owe money on a mortgage, to the just and to the unjust, to those who have been stricken by drought, and to those who merely wish to avoid their obligations, the matter would be a very wide one. I do not profess to be able to cover it in the few remarks which’ I am about to make. This is an obligation which appears in its essence to belong to the States. Many mortgages have been dealt with since the moratorium expired. Some”, no doubt, have not been dealt with. Speaking for myself, I would say that the unhappy condition to which some of our fellow-citizens have been reduced is a matter for State assistance. But I would rather that, if the Commonwealth had to do anything, it should be by setting aside <a sum of money so that it could be applied for the particular purpose which the honorable member has in mind; that is to say, for the relief of those who have been stricken by drought, and who have heavy obligations which they are unable to meet. I shall bring the matter in all its bearings before Cabinet. The Government will give it most careful consideration, and the honorable member will believe me when I say we shall do everything in our power to help those who have been affected by the drought. However, I feel, after very careful consideration, that it would cause endless confusion, and do far more harm than good, if we were to revive the moratorium, nine-tenths of which has already expired.
– I thank the Prime Minister for the information which he has made available. The position which I have taken up is that this is not a drought matter at all; it is simply an aftermath of the war. I do not intend to discuss the point now, for this reason : I had arranged with the Acting Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) that during the consideration of the Estimates I would test the feeling of the House upon the subject by moving for the reduction of one item. At the request of the Minister, however, I allowed the Estimates to pass to-night, since it was desired that they should go before the Senate without delay ; but 1 did so on the understanding that when the House was considering Supply to-morrow I would then test the feeling of honorable members. I do not intend, therefore, to enter into debate, but the statement of the Prime Minister that attention would be given to the matter does not meet the object of thousands of persons who, by direct representation, or by medium of their own representatives, have urged me to plead for the extension of the moratorium. I shall take action to-morrow, in no sense as a party move. The Government will acquit me of any such purpose for the reason that I made this offer, which I consider distinctly fair, that if the Government would extend the operation of the Act until Parliament had re-assembled, I would not move in the matter during the present stage of the session. I shall show tomorrow how this House was misled into curtailing the scope of the Act by a deliberate statement that if we extended it beyond six months it would not be held valid by the High Court, and thus we would lose everything by reason of the fact that the War Precautions Regulations had expired. Nevertheless, about six months after that statement was made, the War Precautions Regulations were still in force. I will take the opportunity to-morrow to demonstrate, by reference to Hansard, that it was that assurance, and that alone, which induced the majority of honorable members to take the action which they did. I desire to emphasize that ray contemplated action in testing the feeling of honorable members will be a strictly non-party move. The homes of the people are far too sacred to be made the plaything of any one party ; and I feel sure that, no matter what the decision may be, no honorable member will seek to make any political capital out of it.
– Would ‘it not be well for the honorable member to ascertain in the meantime whether we have the constitutional power to do what he proposes 1
– I remind honorable members that six months after the utterance of the statement to which I have just alluded, the War Precautions Regu lations were put into force in connexion with the engineers’ strike. If the position was sufficiently strong to enable them to be enforced in connexion with that crisis, it is idle .now to say that we have not the power to proceed as I propose.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.50 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 May 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200519_reps_8_92/>.