8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 11 a.m., and read prayers .
– Will the Treasurer, in the absence of the Prime Minister, inform the House whether it is still the intention of the Government to proceed with the election or appointment of a Convention to revise the Constitution; and, if so, when the necessary legislation will be introduced? We were promised that the Convention would be called together before the end of the year. What is being done?
– I cannot tell the honorable member definitely ; but I can make a suggestion which I think would help him very considerably. My suggestion is that he assist us to clear away,’ at the earliest possible moment, the business now awaiting our attention.
– I am doing the bestI can.
SirJOSEPH COOK. - I hope to see thatbest improved, for instance, to-day.
– (By leave.)- Last night I received the following letter, signed by the Government Whip, the honorable member for Boothby (Mr. Story) : -
The Parliament of the Commonwealth, House of Representatives, Melbourne, 15th September, 1920.
Dear Sir, - At the meeting of the Federal Nationalist Parliamentary Party, hold in Melbourne this morning, the following resolution was unanimously carried: - “That Mr. W. G.Higgs, member for Capricornia, be invited to join the Federal Parliamentary National Party.”
May I extend, on behalf of the party, a hearty invitation to attend the next meeting of the Nationalist members?
The members of the Federal National Parliamentary party have paid me a very high compliment in unanimously inviting me to join them, and since I believe that that invitation will be approved by the vast majority of the electors of Capricornia, I accept it with cordiality.
Ministerial Members. - Hear, hear! .
– The position of an Independent is attractive in so far as a man might, in certain circumstances, throw out a Government; but the Independent, as a rule, is feared rather than loved.
– Not in your case.
– An Independent is a misfit.
– One must ally oneself with a political party if onewishes to exercise any permanent influence in Parliament ; and as I am assured by honorable members whose opinion I value that the Nationalist party’s rules and procedure allow its members a freedom of speech and action no longer permitted by the Queensland Labour Executive - which expelled me - I believe that I shall do more good for Capricornia and for Australia by joining the Nationalist party than by remaining a free lance.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Department has no information. 6. (a) Electrical power is used ordinarily in the production of aluminium. The quantity required, however, is relatively small, and its cost forms a small percentage of the total cost of manufacture.
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The Commission advises as follows: -
Recognition of Services
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The Prime Minister has not yet been able to obtain all the information asked for by the honorable member, but hopes to be in a position to furnish him with a full reply to-morrow.
Cl aims of Returned Soldiers.
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
With regard to the applications by returned soldiers of undoubted qualifications and experience for positions in the Works and Railways Department, will the Minister have a return prepared of officers of military age in the Professional and Clerical Divisions of his Department, showing the names and the salaries they were receiving in 1913 and 1914, and the amounts of salary they received in 1919; adding allowances, travelling expenses, and other perquisites to show the full amount of money each received, with a star opposite the names of the men who really went to the Front?
– Information as to ages and remuneration of professional and clerical officers is given in the Commonwealth Permanent Staff Lists of the years mentioned. It is also indicated therein which officers served with the Australian Imperial Force. Travelling allowances are prescribed by Public Service Regulation or Arbitration award. Particular care is taken to give the claims of returned soldiers the fullest consideration.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua Act - Infirm and Destitute Natives Account - Statement of the Transactions of the Trustees, 1919-20.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, Nos. 103, 106, 117, 120, 138, 139, 140, 144.
Railways of Australia - Break of Gauge Problem - Statement compiled by the Secretary to the Commonwealth Railways Commissioner.
War Gratuity Acts - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1920, No. 130.
War Gratuity Bonds - Supplies of Wheat for Gristing - Prime Minister and President of Arbitration Court - Merton’s Case: Law Expenses of Ministers of the Crown - Munition Workers - Mining Industry: Pyrites - Release of Military Prisoners - Use of Power Alcohol: Natalite Company and Sago Palm Option - Fellmongering Industry: Supply of Sheep-skins - Coal Supplies and Prices: Exports - Sugar Production and Sugar Agreement.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair, and that the House resolve itself into Committee of Supply - proposed.
.- I am glad to have the opportunity this morning to raise a question of very great importance to those engaged in the flourmilling industry in South Australia. A week ago I asked the Prime Minister to make inquiries concerning the serious shortage of supplies of wheat for the mills, and to say whether adequate supplies would be provided to keep them going in South Australia. The answer was to the effect that the matter was practically out of the hands of the Prime Minister, as he had made an offer to the various States in respect to supplies of the new season’s wheat. That has no direct bearing upon the serious situation at present confronting the flourmilling industry in South Australia, as the mills want supplies immediately of this year’s wheat, and cannot wait for next year’s wheat.
– Does the honorable member not think that he should make his complaint to the State Government of South Australia, who have charge of the matter?
– I shall be glad to hear the Honorary Minister inreply at the conclusion of my remarks. It is only right that, as a representative of South Australia, I should place before this House the position of the flour-millers in that State. If the Government have any answer to make, I shall be very pleased to listen to it.
South Australia is placed in a position of great disadvantage, as the people there have no direct control of the export of their flour. It is controlled by the Wheat Board through its agencies in London, and, as a consequence, markets previously open to South Australian millers are not open to them to-day. The requirements of those markets are distributed amongst the millers of the different States, and those in States other than South Australia appear to be securing advantages which were previously enjoyed by those engaged in the industry in South Australia.
– South Australia is not the only State entitled to complain on that account.
– In the matter of the flour trade, Western Australia is in a far better position than South Australia. Before I sit down I shall give the honorable member the figures. Fortyfour mills in South Australia engaged in gristing wheat for flour are facing the possibility of being unable to continue their operations. Already a number of mills are closed down; others are working short time, and some have given notice to their employees.
– South Australia is not alone in that difficulty.
– If the flour-millers in Western Australia have any grievance, I shall be very pleased to hear the honorable member for Fremantle (Mr. Burchell) explain it to the House. A promise was given by the Wheat Board to the Premier of South Australia, who, in turn, gave it to those engaged in the flour-milling industry in that State, that supplies of wheat to keep the industry going would be forthcoming until the end of this year. I find that that promise has not been honoured.
– New South Wales has a promise twenty years’ old that has not been honoured yet.
– If the honorable member can show that the fulfilment of the promise to which he refers is justified, I am sure that any action he cares to take in the matter will be indorsed by the House. If compacts made can be kept in the best interests of the Commonwealth,I shall be found supporting them.
I understand that the Wheat Board has’ made contracts in Victoria for approximately 20,000 tons of flour. Victoria seems to be in a favoured position, as flour mills here will be kept going to carry out these contracts. Other States should receive a share of such contracts. One of the excuses offered’ by those in authority for the existing state of affairs is that South Australia has a stock of 9,000 tons of flour. I may point out that the local consumption in that State amounts to 100 tons a day, and the stock of flour in hand there at the present time, if used only for local consumption, would last only three months. The honorable member for Darwin (Mr. Bell) seems to think that that situation does not justify complaint.
– If that were the only cause for complaint, I do not think it would be justified.
– I have said that the stock of flour at present held in South Australia would supply the local consumption for only three months, and that means that before the new season’s wheat would be available the stock of flour required for home consumption would be exhausted. But what about the export trade? South Australia is being cut out of the export trade, apparently, for the benefit of the other States. Whilst I endeavour to uphold the people’s rights in preference to State rights, and cannot, therefore, he called a “ State Righter,” at the same time I recognise an obligation to voice the opinion of the people of South ‘ Australia in protest against the disadvantage at which they are placed by, shall I say, the unfair distribution of the contracts for supplies of flour. From the following figures relating to the export of flour, honorable members will see that the complaint made in this matter by the people of South Australia is not without justification. In 1917-18, South Australia exported 58,667 tons of flour, and in 1919-20. 62.014 tons, representing an increase of 3,347 tons. Victoria in 1917-18 exported 86,194 tons, and in 1919-20. 116.689 tons. There is an increase of 30,495 tons as against South Australia’s increase of 3,347 tons. In 1917-18, Western Australia exported 44,764 tons, and in 1919-20 it exported 75,431 tons, an increase of 30,667 tons, greater even than that of. Victoria. The honorable member forFremantle, when he comes to grieve concerning the circumstances of Western Australia, will recognise how much more I am justified in bringing forward the grievance of South Australia in this respect.
– Has the honorable member the figures regarding wheat from the different States for the corresponding period?
– Yes; the export of wheat in the three States has been as follows : -
Through coming into line with the other States in establishing joint control of the disposal of wheat and flour, South Australia has undoubtedly been penalized by being deprived of its markets for flour. The Egyptian and South African markets were always open to this State in pre-war days.
– And to Western Australia, also.
– That may be so; but to-day South Australia cannot act independently and avail itself of these markets. Flour has been known to be shipped to Japan, re-bagged there, and sent across from there to Egypt.
– South Australia produces the best flour.
– It is generally acknowledged that South Australian flour is equal to that of any other State; in fact, I believe it is superior in quality. The Government have advised the people of Australia to “produce, produce, produce,” yet an industry which it is essential to foster and encourage is being deprived of the wheat that is necessary to enable it to keep going. Not only are those engaged in it suffering, but also dairymen, pig farmers, and poultrykeepers, who will he called upon to pay exorbitant prices for the offal which is the residue from the gristing of grain. October is the month in which the greatest demand is made for bran and pollard, but already the market in South Australia is practically depleted of these commodities.
– We have been in that position for a long while in Tasmania.
– The honorable member’s statement only substantiates and strengthens the grievance which I am bringing forward. More wheat ought to be kept in this country to be gristed here We ought to sell the finished product to the world, instead of sending our grain away and, creating employment abroad, while our people here are walking the streets without employment. I am hopeful that the Government will do something to relieve the situation, and as. this matter does not bear any particular brand of party politics my friends from South Australia, who sit on the other side of the House, ought to be willing to support me in it, and recognising the seriousness of the position in their State, follow the lead I have endeavoured to give them. I trust that the people of South Australia will be secured against any possibility of having to pay exorbitant prices for bran, pollard, or flour, of which, later on, there may ‘be a shortage owing to the fact that there is insufficient gristing here. We have the mills in Australia which are capable of treating the commodity we produce, and. we ought to keep them running full time, so that we may derive the greatest advantage from fostering local industries, and adopting the advice of the Government to “ produce, produce, produce.” What justification can any Government offer for allowing our mills to remain idle, thus causing unemployment and loss to Australian industry? I trust that honorable members will realize the importance of the matterI have brought forward, not only from the stand-point of treating South Australia fairly, but also with the idea of fostering an industry, so that later on we may be able to extend its operations. We may then expect that our additional population, which we may secure as the result of the policy which, we understand, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is to outline shortly, will find profitable avenues of employment in. this and other industries to be established, and that Australia will become self-contained in so far as concerns the fullest utilization of the products of the soil.
– The Government are in complete accord with the general question of policy involved in the statement made by the honorable member for Hind- marsh (Mr. Makin), namely, the manufacturing of the raw material, in this case foodstuffs, and marketing it under the best conditions possible in its most finished state. The honorable member has raised a question of the very greatest importance, and I want to tell him, and the House generally, that under the Wheat Pool régime the Australian flour millers have had a magnificent run, better by far than any previous period in the history of the Commonwealth. Fortunately for us, Britain was. a buyer, in the main, for our products, and was prepared to take a greater proportion of our grain, gristed into flour, than in pre-war times. One cannot over emphasize the value of this policy in relation to Australian industries, because the heavier gristing orders provided employment for a great number of people, and made available to the producer large quantities of offal from the grain for the feeding of stock, and, incidentally, materially assisted in the refertilization of the soil. But the position at present is hardly as was sketched by the honorable member. The British Government are not pre- ‘ pared at present to purchase further supplies of flourin Australia. Our flour trade in South Africa and the East is in a somewhat similar position. At present we are unable to negotiate further sales of flour there. Already a substantial parcel of Australian flour is being held here, for the reason that we are unable to get a buyer overseas.
– South Australia has not received one-third of her pre-war flour trade orders from South Africa.
-The honorable member must realize that the adoption of the pooling system involves, not only an acceptance of its advantages, but also a fair share of its attendant risks, and I remind him that, subject to a sufficiency of orders in sight, the milling capacity of each State is the governing factor in the allocation of gristing orders. While losing, perhaps, one market, his State gains in the main. I suggest, as I did by way of interjection during the honorable member’s speech, that as the farmers of South Australia and the Government of that State have a direct representation on the Australian Wheat
Pool, those gentlemen can be relied upon to see that South Australia gets her full share of the flour contracts. The Australian Wheat Board, constituted as it is, would not be justified in specially allocating to one State a greater quantity of wheat for gristing than its proportion like other States, based on its milling capacity and yield, which are the governing factors.
– Do you not think that the promise made by the Wheat Board to keep the South Australian flour mills going until the end of the year should be kept?
– In so far as the Wheat Board may ‘be able to justify the promise, yes. But the Board cannot govern overseas trading conditions. It was confidently hoped that the export flour trade, which had been so well established in Australia (which, during the war, was one of the few countries in the world that held a surplus of wheat) would continue. But the South Australian representatives on the Wheat Board will not, I think, expect to override the Board with regard to its policy. I can only repeat, that South Australia has had her fair share of wheat for milling purposes for the fulfilment of overseas contracts. The Wheat Board has, indeed, gone beyond overseas gristing orders, and is now holding a quantity of wheat in order to keep the mills running.
– The figures I supplied hardly justify your statement that South Australia has received her fair share of the orders.
– The .South Australian representatives on the Wheat Board, I repeat, will see that their State gets its proper allocation according to its milling capacity. The peculiarity of Australian conditions at times places certain States at a disadvantage. For instance, the harvest last season in New South Wales was practically a failure, fully 1,250,000 acres of what are ordinarily fertile wheat-fields producing nothing, with the result that New South Wales mills were idle, as far as the export trade in flour is concerned, and her people had to pay high prices for wheat for home consumption.
– Largely due to the fact that we had sent away wheat which should have been held.
– The unfortunate position of New South Wales may be attributed to the failure of the State Administration to forecast accurately the prospects of the last harvest, and not holding in reserve sufficient wheat to keep the mills of that State going. I remind honorable members that, in the consideration of this subject, they must not be unmindful of the claims of those States where the last harvest failed, and the mills have been idle. This is a question which will receive the most earnest consideration of the Wheat Board in the allocation of guaranteed advances in respect of the forthcoming harvest. I make no pronouncement on the matter. The Australian Wheat Board’s authority is limited to those Pools over which it has statutory authority, and with regard to the forthcoming harvest complete authority has not yet been established, including in their observation the Commonwealth Government. But if we are going in broadly for the pooling system, we must have regard to the interests of every State, and to the Pool as a whole. If the honorable member for Hindmarsh will pause and examine the statistics regarding flour manufactured in his State, he will find that what I say is correct, namely, that the flour-millers have never had a better run than during the regime of the Australian Wheat Pool.
– I desire to bring under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) the matter of trafficking in gratuity bonds. I do not know whether this business is illegitimate, but I should say that it is, and that it urgently requires official investigation. I also wish to bring under the Minister’s notice one or two exceptionally hard cases, in which dependants of soldiers have been reduced almost to a state of starvation while awaiting the cash equivalent of their soldier boys’ gratuity bonds. Taking the whole matter under review, I am strongly of opinion that if Australia had strained a point, and paid out cash all round, there would have been very little of that trouble which is almost daily occurring. I will quote a number of advertisements culled from only one of the’ principal Melbourne newspapers. It is quite likely that if honorable members were to examine the columns of the press in other States they would discover that the same sort of trafficking is going on. Here is a collection of advertisements which appeared in the Age of Thursday of last week: -
Digger wants person to cash gratuity bond, £105; no reasonable offer refused. X2553, Age Office.
Gratuity bond, £104, cash wanted at once, wife dangerously ill. Digger, Rickerby’s Agency, Carlton.
Gratuity war bond, take £00 for £125 bond. H. Cox, Gordon House, Little Bourke-street.
Would lady or gent cash gratuity bond, £109 lis. 6d., for returned soldier; square deal. 800W, Age Office.
Would some kind person cash war gratuity lionel, £63 19s.; spend £15; urgent. L.C., Oakleigh P.O.
Anzac appeals to some kind person to cash gratuity bond, value over £100. 85X, Age.
These appeals to the philanthropic give one the idea that there must be an enormous business doing in bonds of this sort, especially as, in another column of the same issue of the Age, there appear the following advertisements : -
War bonds, certificates, bought, highest price given, town or country. Wilson, 7 Elizabethstreet.
War gratuity bonds, part cash, immed. Room 6, 349 Collins-street.
War gratuity bonds cashed, sound land proposal. 9.30 to 10.30 only, Wednesday, Room 2, Second Floor, Equitable Building.
These are matters which ought to be investigated. I do not know whether the Commonwealth police are still in existence; but if they ‘are, this trafficking in bonds ought to provide a job for them.
I know of a case of hardship to which I desire to draw the attention of the Assistant Minister for Defence. An only son, who lost his life during the war, had been the bread-winner for his parents, in conjunction with a sister, who was conducting a small private school. The father is dead, and the mother today is an invalid. Mother and daughter are left, and they are anxiously waiting for the receipt of cash from the Gratuity Board. The daughter is compelled to carry on her little school; and some days ago, upon returning home, she found her mother prone upon the floor. Now, therefore, some one has to be engaged to look after the old lady. The Gratuity Board is aware of the circumstances of this case. Why, therefore, cannot a special effort be made to pay the money and so relieve the distress of this remnant of a family? In appealing to the Assistant Minister for Defence, I know that I am speaking to a soldier and a man with a sympathetic heart. Since he has been associated with the Ministry he has sought to give a fair deal all round. I feel sure, therefore, that I shall not appeal in vain.
– The matter of the cashing of gratuity bonds does not rest with my Department. In the first place, there is, of course, the prescribed authority, namely, the Board. This body, in its discretion, has the power to say whether or not a bond shall be cashed. The actual matter of the cashing of bonds rests largely with the Treasury. While I am aware that there is serious trafficking, and while I know full well, also; that there are cases of hardship, I would point out that these instances .represent only a very small percentage of the business of distributing gratuity bonds.
– How can the Minister say that?
– There are some 300,000 men in respect of whom gratuity bonds have been or are to be issued. If 1 per cent, of that total were involved in this trafficking, or in cases of hardship, such as have been quoted, the number would amount to 3,000. If there were as many as 3,000 cases of the character indicated by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton), there would be a very considerable stir in the land.
– Is the Minister aware that there is an auction room in Melbourne which sells each week many lots of furniture which have been forced, by way of compulsory purchase, upon soldiers who cashed their bonds with the furniture firms involved? And does he know that, in some cases, these soldiers have been taken down to the extent of 60 per cent, of the cash value of their bonds ?
– I do not think that that statement is correct.
– The honorable member for Batman can verify every word of it.
– The Leader of the Opposition will see that it isalmost impossible to protect some men. I have been informed on the best of authority that some bond-holders are purchasing furniture at a considerable discount, and are then immediately disposing of it at auction for cash. It is very hard to protect men when some are acting in that manner.
– It is the only way they can obtain cash.
– Then if there is difficulty in obtaining cash there cannot be much trafficking in bonds. The Government are doing all they possibly can to protect the men who are in possession of bonds.
– What do the Government intend doing to the men who are robbing the bond-holders?
– That is a matter for the Crown Law officers, and not for the Defence Department. I am not a lawyer, and cannot say what penalty should be inflicted.
– Are you prepared to deal with them?
– I believe we will. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in answer to a question the other day, distinctly informed honorable members opposite that if they submitted specific cases of hardship careful investigation would be made. If persons are carrying on criminal trafficking they should be dealt with.
– I have quoted a number of advertisements from both sellers and buyers.
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) was good enough to say that I was in entire sympathy with the soldiers, and I can assure himthat I am. I desire to say, further, that I believe the returned soldiers in Australia have been treated better than the returned men in any other part of the world. We have to remember that where there are such a large number of men involved there must be isolated cases of hardship, and that 1 per cent. would represent 3,000 men. It has been said by some honorable mem- bers that cash should have been paid to bond-holders in the first place, but it has. to be remembered that apart from the difficulty in finding the necessarymoney if would not have been good policy to pay out cash indiscriminately. There are quite a number of men to whom cash would have been more of a disadvantage than a benefit. I do not suggest that the present system altogether prevents men from putting their money to a bad use, and it has been shown that some are prepared to dispose of their bonds at a considerable loss. The method of paying the gratuity in the form of bonds has been the means of materially assisting a large number of men, and honorable members must also recollect that a considerable amount has been invested in co-operative businesses. A certain sum has also been expended in connexion with land settlement.
– And does not the Assistant Minister realize that the persons the Government are trying to protect are forfeiting their bonds for an insignificant consideration?
– There may be something in that. At the same time if those men had been paid in cash in all probability they would not have put the money to a better use. Some may have been spending it in a bad way,but that, of course, is far from applying to all.
– They have been receiving only one-half the value of their bonds.
– It is better to receive only half the value if the money is to be spent in drink. I am prepared to admit that there are various aspects of this question which require the serious attention of the Government, and it is my intention to bring the matter before my colleagues. As Assistant Minister for Defence I have nothing whatever to do with the Bonds, as that work has been taken out of the hands of the Defence Department, and placed under the control of a Board, which has absolute authority. I shall, however, again look into the matter and bring it before Cabinet.
.- The honorable member for Hindinarsh (Mr. Makin) has raised a very interesting and important matter. Personally, I should like all the Australian wheat to be gristed in the Commonwealth, in order that the offal should be available to further. enrich this country. Let us consider the position as we find it to-day. The wheat-growers have conceded to the consumers wheatto produce their requirements of flour at about one-half of the price at which the wheat could be sold abroad. The contention of the honorable member seems to be that milling must be the first consideration. I desire to contend, on the other hand, that whilst it is important it is not the most important consideration. If the wheat-growers of Australia will give the consuming public of the Commonwealth the wheat they require for conversion into flour for bread, it cannot reasonably be contended that they should continue to supply Australian flour mills with wheat at 8s. per bushel, when it is worth 16s. per bushel in other markets. I would be very glad if the Wheat Pool were able to negotiate for sales of flour abroad, but, as the Honorary Minister (Mr. ‘Rodgers) has pointed out, it has not ‘been possible to effect sufficient sales of flour outside, because other people who desire to purchase this commodity are anxious to purchase wheat, so that they will have the benefit of the offal. If we offer only flour to certain buying countries, and they will not take it, some other country steps in and sells them wheat.
– America will not allow flour to go out of the country.
– America is able to adopt that policy, because she has an enormous population. Australia is not in that position. We have heard quite recently some honorable members contending against the lending of a little money to certain wheat producers, whereas if the consuming public paid the wheat-growers of Western Australia the parity value today for their wheat, the growers would have been able to quadruple the bulk handling system and pay for it in cash.
– And become millionaires at the people’s expense !
– There are certain men so short-sighted, apparently, as not to appreciate the value of the wheatgrowers in Australia to other sections of the community.
– Would you advocate the principle of- the farmer, or primary producer, riding to prosperity at the expense of his fellow-citizens?
– The *’ fellowcitizens “ of the primary producer have for too long. been riding to prosperity at his expense, for him to .give them any great consideration in the absence of a spirit of reciprocity. The Pool has been transferred to the States, and doubtless the States will endeavour to retain the gristing for their own mills - not only for Australian consumption, but to turn out as much flour as possible to sell to other countries. My desire at this juncture is to combat the idea that the farmer must not only sacrifice the high price he could obtain elsewhere, but, as now suggested, make further sacrifice in order to feed the animals. Just as I would like to see all Australian-grown wool manufactured here, so’ would I like to see the whole of our wheat gristed; but there must be closer mutual consideration between all sections of the community.
.- My sympathy goes out to the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) in his remarks this morning. Earlier on I made an interjection to the effect that an independent member in Parliament is a misfit, and I also hold the opinion that a party which represents only one interest, and uses the Government for that interest only, is detrimental to the- country’s progress. The little incident this morning only shows, in my opinion, how unprincipled is the way in which the Government seek to maintain their majority. They have invited a member elected by another party to join the ranks of Ministerial supporters, evidently holding that, as the people will not give them a majority in this chamber, they are at liberty to adopt other means to get one.
I do not usually have many grievances to ventilate, but this morning there are one or two matters I desire to mention. First, I think that at this time of day those returned soldiers, who have been sentenced to terms of imprisonment for various offences might very well be released. I firmly believe that the majority of the people outside are of the same opinion. Nearly all the offences of which these men were convicted were’ connected with breaches of discipline.
-The honorable member is wrong if he is referring to the men in gaol now.
– I do not speak without having made inquiries, and, certainly, my whole life shows that I would never screen a criminal from punishment. These men were tried by a tribunal that was not without prejudice; they were not tried- by a civil Court, and some of the cases are those of mere youths, some of whom have been sentenced since the armistice, while on the voyage to Australia. One of these cases is that of a boy, now twenty-two years of age. When sixteen years of age, in the enthusiasm raised in him by the sentiments expressed by men of mature age, he enlisted and served at the Front. The same spirit that caused this boy to leave Australia to fight for the Empire actuated him when he imagined that he was not being treated by his superiors as a human being, or according to Australian ideas, and it was the same spirit that caused him and others to break away and give trouble. After all these lads have done for Australia, I think we could well afford now to forgive and forget the mistakes they made. Another case is that of a boy, one of five brothers, who went to the Front, and is now suffering for some military offence. The mother lost two of the sons, while two of them have returned and married, and she, brokenhearted, has appealed on her knees on behalf of this boy, to a Colonel, whose name I could mention, and who has expressed the opinion that no better soldier than this lad could be found in the ranks. All these are cases of Victorian young men who are now in Pentridge gaol.
– What are the crimes for which they are ingaol ?
– Some are disobedience, breaking leave, and assaults on officers. There is only one case amongst them, so far as I can ascertain, of a rather serious character. One of the lads is the only son in a family of thirteen, including an invalid sister, and his mother is extremely anxious to get him home. Knowing these facts, I should be neglectful of my duty as a public representative if I did not, at the first opportunity, make an appeal on behalf of these unfortunate young men. It must be remembered that all their appeals for clemency have to be made to those who were really the prosecutors in the cases, and who will never admit for a moment that they can possibly be wrong. Most of the lads are from twenty-two to twenty-three years of age, and had they been tried in a civil Court their sentences would have been much lighter. In one appeal for consideration a reply was sent by the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce). They do not possess that spirit of tolerance which is possessed by the ordinary individual. A cold, callous military system has been so engrafted upon their natures that it is impossible for them to take a broad view of things, such as is taken by the public of Australia. They are devoid of all the finer qualities of humanity. For such men to exercise control in this matter is entirely opposed to the sentiment of the general community. I do not know the lads of the Australian Imperial Force who are at present undergoing terms of imprisonment. They do not belong to my electorate, nor do their mothers live there. As a matter of fact, the cases to which I am referring are those of Victorians. One of these lads, who was attached to the Twenty-fourth Battalion, was only sixteen years of age when he enlisted. Four brothers had already gone to the front. This lad is now serving a term of imprisonment because he assaulted one of his officers, and got into trouble on board the vessel by which he was returning. Another lad who is being detained was seventeen years of age when he enlisted. He has recently been visited by his mother, who has informed me that he is utterly broken physically, and that his hair is becoming white as the result of his imprisonment. There is no criminal spirit in that boy. He got himself into trouble because he stood up to his superior officer in the way that any man would do who is imbued with a fine Australian sentiment. Upon many occasions I have stood up to my superiors, and I really do not know how I escaped gaol. In my. early days I was taught how to “ shoot the left “ and “ cross the right,” and that knowledge has stood to me on a variety of occasions. I appeal to honorable members not to pay too much attention to the statements of the military prosecutors of these lads. In New South Wales only six of them remain in prison. Would not the public of Australia indorse the action of the Government if they released these men forthwith ? The fact that they have been gaoled is surely a sufficient punishment. Certainly, ft is one which will leave its mark upon them for life. Let us exhibit a humanitarian spirit upon this matter. When an appeal was made to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) the other day in respect of it, he did not know that any members of the Australian Imperial Force Were being detained in prison, and he seemed surprised that his attention had not previously been drawn to the fact.
– Some of these men are in prison for murder.
– I scarcely wonder at that, seeing the way in which they were treated. If the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) only heard the other side of the story” he would not be surprised either. In New South Wales there are seventeen officials in a big gaol in which there are only eight prisoners.
– That is economy.
– Whatever officials may be there are looking after stores. A portion of the prison is beingused as an ordnance store.
– What is there to steal there? Some horses’. collars. There is a stone wall 20 feet high all round the goal, so that it is almost impossible for a person to break into it with a view to stealing horse collars. But even if the place were burgled the collars would be useless to the thief, because they are conspicuously branded with the Government brand. I do hope that some honorable member will submit a motion with a view to testing the feeling of the House upon the question of the immediate release of those members of the Australian Imperial Force who are still in prison. We all know how the enormity of the offences committed can be magnified by the officials. If the Government’ were to give these cases serious and favorable consideration, I am sure the public outside would indorse their action. I. have done my best, and honestly believe that cruel and unjustifiable punishment has been insisted on. I am confident that hundreds of thousands of people outside hold the same views as I do. I believe the charges have been magnified, and if the people of Australia knew all the facts they would demand that the Government should wipe out this stain on the glorious records of the Commonwealth, because it is a stain. Will the Government agree that within twenty-four hours a proclamation shall go from one end of Australia to the other, declaring that all those who committed offences during the war are free? . Does any honorable member believe that one citizen would complain of such an act as that? My firm and honest opinion is that no one would object. I feel for these men, as I do for any one to whom an injustice is done. I am not asking that they should have no punishment. They have served sentences, and the tribunals before which they went are notorious for imposing extreme punishments. Had the men been tried by a civil tribunal, they would never . have received the sentences they did. I appeal once more to the Government to .release them as a gracious act, which the public of Australia will indorse. The war is ended, and the Government should direct that the doors of the gaols shall be opened to allow those unfortunate fellows who made a mistake to tread the soil of Australia as free men, and help Australia to progress.
– The honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) this morning raised the question of flour export and flour gristing in Australia. This is undoubtedly a very important subject at the present time, as the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) said, but it affects other States as well as South Australia. The flourmillers in Western Australia are in great distress over their inability to secure oversea markets for their products, subject to the Wheat Board giving them the right to grist. I want to remove from the mind of the honorable member for Hindmarsh the impression that South Australia is the only State which has lost markets as the result of the operations of the Central Wheat Board. The Assistant Minister in his statement showed clearly the genesis of the Wheat Pool, and how each State, not only through its Minister of Agriculture, but through a representative of the growers, has the right and opportunity of voicing its requests, and concurring in or disagreeing with any proposal that the central authority makes. Markets contiguous to Western Australia, infinitely nearer than to South Australia, were opened up at great expense by private flour-millers in Western Australia. Those men, who. blazed the trail and prepared the way, are now prevented, similarly to the South Australian millers, from exporting to those places. We believe that it is part and parcel of the Wheat Board’s control that this should be so. There are advantages and disadvantages in the policy of the Central Wheat Board, and if the honorable member will investigate the subject more in detail he will see that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages.
– How is it that in 1917- 18 Western Australia had less export of flour, yet in 1919-20 it had a greater increase in export than either Victoria or South Australia?
– When the honorable member was speaking I asked him to quote the wheat production, because naturally the two things are relative. Western Australia last season had a bountiful harvest, whereas South Australia, unfortunately, did not have such a good yield per acre. It is natural that the State having the wheat and the gristing facilities should be allowed to operate. Western Australia went on with its gristing, and exported at that particular time. Prior to the establishment of the Wheat Pool in 1915-16, the Western Australian flour-millers had, as the result of their own initiative and energy, established markets in Java, Singapore, and the Ear East generally, and now they have to allow flour-millers in the eastern States to share those markets with them. If the honorable member has a complaint to make on behalf of the South Australian millers I direct his attention to the fact that the South Australian millers are not the only ones who have had to suffer.
– Your State is in clover over this matter as compared with South Australia.
– I do not accept that statement. Notice has been given in Western Australia to the operatives in the various flour mills that from 1st October the millers will, unfortunately, be compelled to close down. I understand from the honorable member that the position in South Australia is the same. Of course, that is to be deplored. Nobody likes to see a body of men who are earning their livelihood honestly thrown out of employment. But the Minister has shown, and I can confirm it from my own negotiations with the Australian Wheat Board, that the Board itself cannot find a market overseas for Australian flour at the present time. Doubtless that is the explanation of the breach of faith to which the honorable member refers, re garding the Board’s promise to South Australia to Keep on gristing operations. I imagine that that promise would apply equally to Western Australia. We have to acknowledge the fact that the buyers in the United Kingdom are asking for wheat and refusing flour. I believe the explanation is that they have such large quantities of flour stored that it is essential for them to get our wheat to mix with the wheat from the other parts of the world in order to make better flour for use in the United Kingdom. That is really the reason why we are, as it were, thrown back on our own resources, and I am afraid that our millers cannot hope for anything more than the gristing of wheat tomeet our own immediate requirements.
– The honorable member surely would not advocate that our industries shouldbe sacrificed for the convenience of the outside world.
– We cannot expect the outside world to buy our flour when they do not want it.
– The honorable member for Perth (Mr. Fowler) furnishes the correct reply to my honorable friend’s inquiry.
– The quality of our flour is so high that the outside world will practicallybe compelled to buy it.
– Unfortunately, our production of wheat represents only from 5 per cent. to 7 per cent. of the total production of the world.
– But our wheat is amongst the best that is produced.
– As to that I agree with the honorable member.
I wish now to refer to quite another matter, ‘and to sound a note of warning to the Ministry, and the House generally. I allude to the use of power alcohol as a substitute for petrol for internal combustion engines, which is rapidly forging ahead in Australia and other countries. Those who have studied the subject know that since 1907 the use of power alcohol hasadvanced so rapidly that it is now practicable, if necessary, to use on alternate days petrol and power alcohol in the same engine. There is no mechanical obstacle in the way; there is no difficulty in vaporizing, and, generally, in using power alcohol as against petrol. We areaware that the world’s supply of petrol is a rapidly decreasing quantity. A limit seems to have been fixed to its production, and the demand for it during the war, and also since then-, for agricultural purposes in the United States and elsewhere has so increased that it is essential for the world to look to some other form of power for internal combustion engines. Power alcohol has been used in a commercial sense for at least ten. or twelve years in the United States, and was used very successfully in prewar days in Germany. I understand that in Germany its production was nationalized, because commercial men there realized its full importance. We in Australia would be well advised to seriously consider some form of national control of power alcohol production.
I refer to this matter because, quite recently, a company registered in Australia has applied for, and I believe has been granted, at least, a temporary option over portion of the sago palms area in Papua. This is a very serious matter from the stand-point of the Papuan natives. The sago palm takes from twenty to twenty-five years to mature, and each generation of Papuans plants fresh palms for the use of succeeding generations. If we allow any company to come in and thus take away a portion of the food supplies of these natives we shall be up against a very serious and dangerous situation. I should like the Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton) to tell us, if he will, what is the exact position in regard to this matter.
– Is it a fact that the company referred to by the honorable member obtained an option over the sago palms country in Papua?
– Over a small area, I understand. My object is to prevent, if possible, any extension of that option to the Natalite, or any other company. I hav e nothing tosay against the Natalite company. It is registered, and doing business here in the ordinary way, but when one knows that adequate supplies of power alcohol can be secured from the molasses running to waste in certain portions of Queensland ; from sorghum-
– And the West Australian grass tree.
– Yes, the blackboy
– From the waste sawdust of the timber mills.
– And from many other sources, it seems wholly unnecessary to touch the sago palm. A scientist told me the other day that power alcohol was really distilled sunshine.
– It can be distilled from almost anything, except stones.
– That is so. I do not propose to go into the various aspects of this subject, but I wish to refer specially to the distillation of power alcohol from the sago palm. Viewing the matter from a purely economic point of view, I am told by scientists in this city that one ton of sago will only produce power alcohol of the value of £6, whereas sago is worth £26 per ton. From an economic stand-point, therefore, the proposition to use the sago palm in this way is ridiculous.
– I believe that at the very plantation where this is going on the natives are faced with a famine, because the sago palms are being used for the distillation of power alcohol.
– I have not that information.
– Where did the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) obtain it?
– I read of it only a few days ago. I can supply the Minister with a full statementon the subject.
– Honorable members, in common with others who have been considering this question, seem to realize the seriousness of the situation now being created in Papua. I urge the Minister (Mr. Poynton) tobe very slow to grant an extension of these rights to the Natalite or any other company. I hope that he will not allow any company to distil alcohol from the sago palm. The honorable gentleman, I trust, will realize that I fully appreciate some of the difficulties with which he is confronted in endeavouring to administer the territory at Papua from a distance of over 2,000 miles. I understand that the proposal that an option should be granted over a sago palm area there originated with the Papuan Administration-that it was recommended by the local authorities. If that be so, then some further and very definite inquiries should be made locally to determine the exact position.
The other phase of this question is that it is infinitely more profitable to use sago as a commercial product than to distilpower alcohol from the sago palm. The Government have already demonstrated their desire to develop the oil deposits of Australia and Papua. They have shown that it is their desire to secure the supplies of motor spirit necessary for Australian requirements, and I think they should give the most serious consideration to the whole question of the production of power alcohol. It is ordinarily known as ethyl alcohol, and can be distilled from practically every farm product. Ethyl alcohol is intoxicating to a degree, and its production and denaturing here would have to he safeguarded as in other countries, in order to protect those who will not protect themselves.
– Such a safeguard was adopted for years in Germany.
– It has also been adopted in the United States of America, where, despite the prohibition laws, the authorities are very well able to look after their alcohol distillation plants. Very many farm products, including rotatory or successive crops, canbe used for the distillation of power alcohol, and, having regard to the magnitude of the industry, I think that the National Parliament might well consider the desirableness of national control. If the industry were nationally controlled the Commonwealth would be more able to take effective steps to properly denature the spirit, and so to insure its use for only legitimate purposes.
I invite the Minister to give the House what information he has concerning the sago palm in Papua, and I hope he will also see his way clear to bringbefore the Cabinet, at an early date, the whole question of the distillation of power alcohol and its control by the Government of the Commonwealth.
.- I indorse the remarks made by the honorable member for Hindmarsh (Mr. Makin) this morning with regard to the shortage of employment in the milling trade. His complaint as to the lack of employment in that industry in South Australia will apply with equal force to New South Wales. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers) has furnished us with an explanation of the posi tion, and the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has said that the wheat producers must naturally look to the best markets for their produce. I would remind honorable members of the Country party, however, that the United States of America will not allow wheat to be exported. The wheat is gristed locally, with, the result that America has a very large export trade in flour. The time is not far distant when we shall have to adopt similar measures if local industries are to be encouraged.
Another matter which I desire to bring under notice also affects a large number of employees. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) last week convened a conference of wool-growers, fellmongers and representatives of all sections of meat production in Australia. It was pointed out at that Conference that a great many men in the fellmongering trade were out of employment. I had the honour to be present as a representative of the men in the trade in my electorate, and, in the course of the discussion, complaint was made that sheep-skins were purchased in country districts, sent to the seaboard, and shipped away without the local manufacturers being given an opportunity to purchase them. A resolution was carried urging the Government to bring in legislation to compel exporters of sheepskins to offer them first of all to local fellmongers at the world’s parity. Thus the producers would lose nothing, owing to the fact that their sheep-skins we’re offered for sale locally. This took place a week ago. I think the Prime Minister will carry out his promise; but it is time these skins were placed on the same footing as hides or rabbit-skins, enabling a prosperous industry to be reestablished in the Commonwealth. Meanwhile, men in my district, and in other parts of the Commonwealth, who follow the occupation of fellmongers, are unemployed. I am sorry the Country party saw fit, at their meeting last week, to carry a resolution hostile to this proposal. Fearing that they may not get full market value for their sheep-skins, they wish to retain the right to free export; and if I were an exporter of these skins, or a woolgrower, I would also like to get full value for what I had to sell, but the Australian fellmongers guarantee that they will pay the world’s parity for any skins they secure. It will add to the wealth of Aus- tralia if labour is employed here in treating the sheep-skins to the final stage of manufacture, and the Government ought not to hesitate a moment about bringing down legislation to put the industry on a proper footing.
– Have the local men found any difficulty in securing supplies of sheep-skins?
– Yes. Some persons go through the country districts buying sheep-skins from the farmers, and as they pack their purchases in bales and send them direct to the wharf for shipment overseas, the local fellmongers have not the opportunity of seeing these skins or buying them. If that system were extended to any great degree, it would practically kill the fellmongering industry.
.- While we are selling our Maitland and Newcastle coal at 17s. 9d. per ton f.o.b., speculators in other parts of- the world are making a large profit out of the price they can obtain for it at those places to which it is despatched. It would be far better for the Commonwealth to make some endeavour to retain that profit in the Commonwealth by removing the embargo as to export price. The price of coal within the Commonwealth would still remain at 17s. 9d. per ton; but, at the same time, the coal-owner ought to be able to secure the world’s parity for what he is able to export. On wool, butter, wheat, flour, and meat, the producer is allowed to get the world’s parity. Why should not the coal mine owner obtain it? If all the profit they could possibly secure out of this great asset were retained in the Commonwealth, it would go far towards enabling us indirectly to pay interest, not only upon our present indebtedness, but also upon any loans which it may be essential to raise in the future.
– In Victoria, private houses and factories are starving for coal.
– That is another matter. There is plenty of coal in Australia. In the Newcastle and Maitland districts, at the present rate of output, there is already in sight eighty years’ supply, and facilities already exist for taking out a great deal more than is now being put out from the mines. However, supplies for Victoria largely depend on the action of the Melbourne Harbor Trust. Until that body makes the necessary provision for discharging coal cargoes in a reasonable time, the people in this State must put up with the consequences. However, with better facilities for loading coal at Newcastle, a larger output could easily be obtained from the mines, which at present are working only about six hours on an average per day for five days a week.
– The men are working eight hours from bank to bank.
– Of course, it is understood that it takes a considerable time for some of the men to get from the surface to the face of the coal, but a very much larger output could be arranged for by working more than, one shift, and, as this would provide a much larger exportable quantity of coal, provision ought to be made to prevent speculators outside, the Commonwealth enjoying the profit that would be derived from its sale overseas if the embargo as to price was lifted. Vessels can come into Newcastle and buy for 17s. 9d. per ton coal which they could not get in their own country for at least £1 per ton more. We are practically giving away our coal without any consideration in return. Therefore, I think that, without interfering with the price of coal consumed in the Commonwealth, arrangements could easily be made by which we could derive a greater benefit from the sale of our surplus coal overseas, and it is “the duty of Cabinet, I think, to investigate the matter without any further delay. 1
As it will take * considerable number of years before we can overcome the world’s shortage of sugar, which is estimated at about 8,000,000 tons, every encouragement ought to be given to the States which can grow it. For instance, we could produce a great deal moore in Australia than we are doing. Hundreds of thousands of acres of land are available in Queensland, which, with very little difficulty, could be devoted to the cultivation of sugar; but what encouragement is given? Year after year we make agreements with the sugar cane-growers, but as no one seems to know how long this method will continue, there is no encouragement to people to make more land available for this crop. If the Government would make an arrangement by which the growers would have a fixed price for their sugar for a given number of years, at least five, a greater number of men would be putting extra areas under cane, room would be found for a number of returned soldiers to engage in the industry, and the growers would be assured that their venture would be permanent and profitable. If the Government would only have a proper and exhaustive investigation of the possibility of a shortage of sugar occurring all over the world for a number of years, they would find it would be to their interest to extend the time over which they have control of the sugar grown in Queensland. That period practically is only for two more seasons, but if it were extended for another five, making seven seasons in all, they, would avoid the risk of having to pay a much higher price for sugar than the growers are now prepared to take. They are asking, not for the world’3 parity, but for a fair price that will encourage the industry and enable them to produce what is ‘necessary to supply the requirements of Australia. We are now charging 6d. per lb. for sugar, but the grower does not get more than 4d. per lb. refined, and the difference has to be paid by the consumer to meet the extra cost of importations from overseas to make up ‘ the present shortage. The only way in which we can avoid calling upon the consumers to pay this extra price is by making a sufficiently long time agreement with the producers in ‘Queensland, which will enable them to calculate exactly and prepare for the amount of cultivation necessary to provide sufficient sugar to meet the local requirements of Australia.
– That estimate would be subject to fluctuations according to seasons.
– Necessarily so. If we always had in hand a surplus of six months’ supply, it would be a good asset, and would not deteriorate. It would be a wise protection against the vagaries of our seasons. I advise the Government not to allow the present agreement to continue until it has nearly terminated before attempting to make a new arrangement, but to tell the planters that for seven years they may have a fixed price for their product, which will enable them to go on planting and producing more sugar. Years ago I urged the fixing of the price over a given period, for at least five years, and had that been done I am sure the situation in regard to sugar would not have been so unsatisfactory as it is now.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.80 p.m.
.- The interval between the present and the moment of the projected announcement of the Budget by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) affords me an opportunity to refer to one or two matter? of importance. In the first place, I wish to affirm what has been said by the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) in connexion with the questionable dealing in war gratuity bonds; and, afterwards, I desire to say something affecting the Prime Minister and his relationship with the President of the Arbitration Court. This scandal, incidental to trafficking in war gratuity bonds, revives recollections of the arguments advanced and criticism offered by members of the Labour party when the War Gratuity Bill was under consideration. It was then pointed out, by myself among other honorable members, that if the Government were really in earnest in their desire to benefit the returned soldier through a war gratuity by means of monetary payments, that benefit should bo conferred by way of payment in cashIt will be remembered that we went to the country as a party having in our manifesto a proposal of that practical character. I do not desire merely to say now, “ I told you so,” although it is a fact, and a matter proper for comment, that we did tell the House and the country that despite anything that could be done to prevent it] these bonds would be improperly, trafficked in. I am making these public statements to-day, because I believe that the more public advertisement” that is given to this unfair treatment of the returned soldier the more is it likely that the grievance will be remedied and removed, and the more likely it is to bebrought to the minds of unscrupulous traders that they may not with impunity take over bonds without giving adequate consideration in return. ‘I have particulars’ of one or two concrete cases in my possession, and I will be much surprised if honorable members generally have not had representations made to them by returned men in respect to this very matter. In fact, I have brought these specific cases of mine under the notice of the Treasury. I have already raised the point, by questions in this House, concerning how far these dealings have been carried on under supervision of the Government; that is to say, where a trader has been authorized by the Treasurer to advance goods up to a certain value to a gratuitant, how far the Government have taken it upon themselves to examine such dealings in order to see that the soldier secures fair value in kind, if not in cash. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) himself told me that, so far as he knew then, these transactions were examined by Treasury and Defence officials. It is perfectly true that general authority is being given to traders to take over bonds on the condition that a certain amount of goods is purchased by the soldier. It is perfectly true, further, that such permission is given on the understanding, or the undertaking, that full value in goods shall be given to the soldier. But while the trader accepts the authorization on such understanding, thereafter, apparently, nothing is done to examine the transaction; and some glaring cases of gross injustice having come under my notice, I ask the Government and the House to support the members of my party in their endeavour to prevent returned soldiers from being victimized. I will read a letter which has just come, into my hands from a person resident in the country. I do not propose at present to give the names either of the soldier or of the traders concerned, because it may well be that either or both of the parties acted in good faith. Seeing, however, that the soldier is the unquestionable sufferer, all I desire is that the matter shall be investigated. Hip letter reads -
With” reference to your comments in the House as to the way in which returned soldiers are robbed when trading gratuity bonds for goods, I should like to instance my own case. I had obtained a block of land up here, and was badly in need of a few pounds to carry on with. I had applied for payment in cash but could not wait, as my necessities were urgent. The enclosed invoices will show at what a heavy loss I cashed mv bond. The suite of furniture which I purchased for £30 only realized £ 14 10s. at public auction, so I think further comment is unnecessary.
– Why did he sell the furniture ?
– To get cash.
– Honorable members opposite now ask why he put up the suite at public auction. It was explicitly for the reason which the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) has just furnished. But - it will be countered by honorable members opposite - this soldier was not compelled to do that; he was a free agent, and should have seen that he got full value for his money from the” warehouse or shop, and that he secured a good article; further, he ought to have been sufficiently keen in his business dealings to insure that he was not taken down. My own answer is the very obvious one. When the War Gratuity Bill was under consideration’ in this House, the Prime Minister promised, in most solemn fashion, concerning this question of alienating war bonds, that he would see that no soldier was victimized. And, when honorable members on this side stood, as a solid phalanx, warning the Prime Minister, and protesting that, despite his assurances, the soldiers would not get the full benefit of their bonds, wc were laughed to scorn, and were informed that this paternal Government could be relied upon to see that they got full face value for their bonds.
– How can the’ honorable member ask the Government to make inquiries unless he furnishes full particulars of his cases?
– I have just indicated the reasons why I do not propose to give names. I have just stated that, in respect of each of the cases, I have forwarded full particulars to the Treasury, at the request of the Treasurer, and have given the names, prices, and all information relevant. These deals are being investigated; and, such being the case, I think, personally, that it would be unfair on my part to publish the names of the traders involved until full inquiry has been completed, for the reason that, as I have already pointed out, it may be demonstrated that the parties, or one of them, acted in good faith. I have the names both of the soldiers and of the firms. I have the invoices showing the prices at which the goods were originally bought. I have the original account sale showing the prices subsequently realized at auction. I” propose to cite another case, and in this instance the particulars are equally clear and explicit. This is an incident wherein a soldier, drawing his bond for an amount of about £71, went to a firm for the purpose of raising as much money as he possibly could. So he purchased, forsooth, a gramophone - or, to use the trade name given to the particular machine, if I remember rightly, a Vocalion - for the sum of £58. He did not want the instrument. It was not by any means what the unfortunate soldier really required. All he wanted was something that he could convert into a fairly large sum of money. This instrument, for which he paid £58, and for which I have the invoice, was sold at public auction for £11 net.
– Would the seller have charged less to anybody else for the same instrument ?
– Yes, those instruments can be seen in the shop windows at £25.
– Personally, I think the seller would have charged less to anybody else, but I do not wish to make any direct charge against any firm until the matter has been investigated. There is another case also under investigation. A soldier went into a warehouse to purchase furniture, and a number of articles were quoted to him at a particular price. He very wisely went home without making a deal, and the next day he sent his wife to the same establishment. She did not disclose the fact that she was interested in any soldier at all, and when she priced the same articles, they were quoted to her at 25 per cent less than they had been quoted to her husband.
– The name of that firm ought to be disclosed.
– I have the name of the firm, but I shall not immediately give it, for the reason, as I say, that the case is under investigation. It seems a bad case; but, of course, T am depending on the word of my informant for the accuracy of the statements made. It will be seen, I think, from what I have said, that any undertaking of the Government, if’ this kind of thing is continued, will be absolutely illusory. I do not know what is the experience of other honorable members, but almost half my time, which I should devote to serious political matters, is taken up interviewing returned men who are anxious to get advice and assistance in the matter of realizing their bonds. They come to me, as to other honorable members, and say that they have applied for cash and that their applications have been turned down, and then they set out the necessities on which they rely to justify their applications for cash payment. We can only tell them that a Board has been appointed for the purpose of deciding those matters, and that apparently the decision of the Board is final. I am quite prepared to believe that the Board does its best, according to the letter and spirit of the Act, to administer it fairly; but I suggest to the Government that this particular matter of cashing the gratuity bonds by going into warehouses and purchasing goods at a ‘value which is put on them by the traders who take over the bonds, is bad in principle, and a dangerous, and indeed, pernicious practice that ought to be discontinued. I think I am .justified in saying that these men of business, when they have a bond presented to them which yields an interest of 5£ per cent., are not very likely to accept it unless for some very substantial consideration, having regard to the present value of money. Everybody knows that a warehouseman or retailer can, with the exercise of very little ingenuity, place a very high value, for the particular purpose, on the goods he is selling.
– Practically the whole of the transactions are with retail firms, and not with warehouses in the ordinary acceptance of the term.
– Most of them no doubt are. I leave the matter with the final observation that the difficulty is one which my party foresaw, and tried to anticipate for the benefit of the returned soldiers.
I wish now t« refer to a matter which I mentioned a while ago while the Prime Minister was in the Chamber. It is about time some public notice was taken of the very unedifying series of interchanges that are taking place between the Prime Minister and the President of the Arbitration Court, who is a Judge of the High Court. We have reached a stage when we may regard the President of the Court as having delivered a very serious and direct challenge to the head of this Government to justify his conduct and attitude. This is more than a political matter; it affects in a very special way the purity and independence of judicial administration in this country. The question which I now raise is one that lies at the very base of public confidence in the administration of justice. If, therefore, everything is true that has been said by Mr. Justice Higgins, from his position on the Bench, with regard to the Prime Minister’s interference with the administration of justice, so far as justice is administered in the Court of Arbitration, then I venture to say it constitutes a complete justification so far as the Judge is concerned. But it entitles us to ask what is the Government - what is the Prime Minister himself - going to do about it? Let us see what recent press reports, which I have verified, have to say - what one quotation amounts to - “ The Prime Minister,” continued Mr. Justice Higgins, “ lias, as it were, thrown scrapiron into the machinery of wage fixing, and it is for me to try to bring order out of chaos. This feeble, feckless, reckless, practice of yielding to men when they strike, and only under constraint of strike, must obviously foster strikes, and any one who knows anything of the psychology of men in employment must be aware that nothing is so likely to cause discontent and unrest as interference with the accustomed proportions in pay - proportions established systematically by reason and long practice. The establishment of a system such as the men can understand and appreciate is, indeed, one great advantage to be desired from tribunals such as this Court. I have now to follow the lines which seem to me to be just and so on, irrespective, His Honour goes on to say, of what the Prime Minister may have done. I must not be taken for a moment as necessarily indorsing everything that Mr. Justice Higgins has either said or done in his judicial capacity. It might well be that, so far as my opinion is important - and, unhappily, perhaps, it i3 not of great importance - I would, in some respects, disagree with him ; but the important issue raised - and it is most important - is whether or not it is true that the Prime Minister, in a “reckless, feckless, feeble way,” as the President of the Court says, is wont to interfere with the administration of justice in the Arbitration Court, and whether he is undermining the whole policy of arbitration without taking the responsibility in a regular manner. That is the whole question. As an interested outsider, of course, I may say that, as the result of my long experience of the Prime Minister, and of the administration of the Court, too, I am inclined to think that everything the learned Judge has said is well founded, if not absolutely correct in every .detail. I suggest that if the Courts of this country are to continue to enjoy the high reputation which hitherto, happily, they have enjoyed, it is the duty of the Prime Minister not to ignore what the highest Court of the land has said in regard to his interference with the administration of justice, but to meet the charge in some ‘ definite way. I suggest to the right honorable gentleman and his Government, that they ought either to plead guilty to these grave charges, or else deal with the Judge who makes them. Apparently the Prime Minister thinks he can afford, for the present, to ignore the matter; and, while these immensely important issues are thus held in suspended animation, he goes off to Geelong and attempts to pump oxygen into the anaemic .body of that decadent institution known as the National Federation. That, I think, shows a false perspective of the duties and responsibilities of a Prime Minister. Colour is given to the charges made against the right honorable gentleman by the hasty attempts which he recently made to create other rival Tribunals to the Arbitration Court. I know perfectly well that the possible advantages of some of those Tribunals, or one in particular, have been generously acknowledged by honorable members on this side of the House; but the main reason for this acknowledgment is the disrepute into which the Government have driven the Arbitration Court, by a series of petty and improper interference. Lt has long been a matter of complaint with me - and I take this opportunity to reiterate my dissatisfaction - that the Prime Minister has more than once been too ready to interfere with the administration of justice. If one goes as far back as the cases known as the I.W.W. cases, it will be remembered that, while the trials of those men were pending before the Courts, the Prime Minister of this country, who was also AttorneyGeneral, was making political capital out of the circumstances regarding the men as already convicted before trial. By that means, in my view, he largely influenced the ultimate conviction of these men. While I am pleased to see that a more level-headed Government in New South Wales has taken steps to give the men a trial, I suggest that, even if they were guilty, a great deal of the agitation and public indignation, which ultimately crystallized in the Royal Commission that recommended their release, arose from the very fact that the pure streams of justice had been defiled , at their source by dragging the judicial functions of the Court into the political arena, and making capital out of them for party political purposes.
I now naturally come to a matter that was mentioned incidentally by the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Ryan) in this House a day or two ago. I refer to the free-and-easy method which the Government have recently adopted of making the general public pay the expenses incidental to reckless statements, said to be defamatory, by various members of the Government. I refer, firstly, to that known asMorton’s case. When the honorablemember for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was leading the House some months ago, I asked whether it was a fact that the Government proposed to foot the bill in regard to the libel action against the Prime Minister, and I was cheerfully told that it was the intention of the Government to pay the costs. We have since had very little information about the matter. As I say, the honorable member for West Sydney raised the question a day or two ago; and it may be that, as the result of extreme pressure, we shall get some information on the point. Another case, which is now sub judice, I cannot refer to. But I can say this : that according to the announced policy of the Government; if a member of the Cabinet is sued for’ having falsely and maliciously uttered words about another individual, the Government are entitled to come before Parliament and say that the Minister spoke in his official capacity as a member of the Government, and therefore the Government, and through them the tax- payer, will shoulder the expense of his defence. I ask honorable members to consideror a moment whither that leads us. I put entirely out of mind any case that is pending - to be quite frank, I put out of mind the case in which the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) is defendant - but I foresee this possibility : A Minister of the Crown may be charged with having falsely and maliciously uttered certain words about a private citizen, and the Government may say that they will bear the expense of his defence because he spoke in his official capacity as a member of the Government.
– Why do you not go on with the case?
– We are going on with it. But I have already said that I was not speaking of that case.
– Why do you speak of “ we”?
– I am merely the humble solicitor advising in the case to which the Minister, by interjection, refers.
– The honorable member cannot get a verdict in this House.
– I ask honorable members, if they are capable and willing to do so, to consider the matter of principle involved. I dissociate my remarks from any case that is pending, and put before the House an entirely abstract proposition which members can realize may arise. A Minister of the Crown may be charged with having falsely and maliciously uttered certain words. If the Government decide to back him with public funds on the ground that he spoke as a member of the Cabinet, the result may well be - if the verdict should go against the defendant - that the public will be solemnly informed that they will be compelled to pay the costs ofa person found guilty of having falsely and maliciously slandered another. Why should they pay for a false and malicious slander by a member of the Government or anybody else? The offender may be the Prime Minister, or merely a subordinate Minister; but whoever he is, if he is charged with having falsely and maliciously uttered a slander he should bear the expense of his own defence, especially if the charge is proved true. This is not a public matter, it is a personal matter; and if he is found guilty of having personally done a wrong he should personally bear the responsibility. An ordinary member of Parliament would not be able to approach the Government and ask them to bear the cost of his defence because, sneaking on the platform as a member of Parliament, be falsely and maliciously made statements reflecting on an individual member of the community. Such a plea would not avail a private member; why should it avail a member of the Government? ls it not very clear that it is an immoral and illegal practice to make the general taxpayer shoulder the consequences of the personal and private conduct of any individual member of Parliament?
– It is a licence to members of the Government to make false and malicious statements against those to whom they are opposed.
– Undoubtedly it is. I am not so bound by precedent as to have an inordinate respect for it in matters of this kind, but may I ask honorable members who claim to be respecters of precedent, whether they can find in the history of Great Britain, this country, or any. other British Dominion, a precedent for the undertaking given by the Prime Minister in regard to legal actions against Ministers ? This .policy should be a matter of absolute public reprobation, and we should lose no opportunity of calling attention to it. It was chiefly for the purpose of mentioning the scandal of the continual controversy waged between, a Judge of the High Court on the one side and the Prime Minister on the other side, and his improper interference generally with the course of justice, that I rose this afternoon. I also hope that the abuses of the gratuity bonds may be remedied even at the eleventh hour, as the result of an agitation which seems now, as it did when the war was in “progress, to spring solely from the ranks of Labour in the interest of the soldier.
– I differ entirely from the view expressed by the honorable member ‘for Batman with reference to the controversy between a Judge of the High Court and the Prime Minister. I congratulate the Prim© Minister upon declining to enter into a controversy that could be a benefit neither to the Bench, the Administration, nor the Australian people.
– He never loses an opportunity of doing that.
– I doubt whether a precedent could be found anywhere for the action of the President of the Arbitration Court. I do not wish to detract in the slightest from the excellent work he has done in the Court, but he would have had more regard for the usefulness and dignity of his position if he had refrained entirely from entering into a political discussion in the public press.
– That is why I say that nothing but truth could justify his statement.
– Nor am I in agreement with the honorable member in regard to his entering upon a discussion of the principles involved in a case in which he is engaged as counsel. I do not think this Parliament can afford to permit its floors to be made the preparatory debating ground for cases in which honorable members are interested. Nothing could be more degrading to Parliament, or more subversive of the proper administration of justice than that counsel, being members of Parliament, should be able to prejudice the case before it is heard in tie Court. Whatever the honorable member’s motives may have been, his references to a case which he says is still pending, if they have any weight at all with the Judge of jury, can only affect prejudicially the position of the defendant.
– I made no reference whatever to the case. Honorable members opposite did their best to drag it in, but even then I resisted the temptation.
– I know that if the honorable member had not been interested in the case we should not have heard the remarks which fell from him this afternoon.
– Did hot the honorable member say, “ We are going on with the case”?
– Only in answer to an interjection.
– The honorable member for Batman does not do justice to his own intelligence when he endeavours to cover his action with so thin a disguise. I desire, however, to refer to matters of more importance to Parliament and the people than private cases which honorable members have before the law Courts.
The traffic in gratuity bonds has been again mentioned. I should like Ministers to give very careful consideration to the question of whether or not these bonds can be allowed to go upon the market in the. regular way. No matter what we do or what heavy penalties we may attempt to impose, nothing that can he done or has ever been done in any Parliament will prevent a needy man from realizing on a security that will have a value at a future date.
– That is why the honorable member voted against this proposal when the War Gratuity Bill was before the House.
– I did not vote against this proposal. I did vote against an amendment to provide that the gratuity should be paid in cash._ That was an impossibility, but it is not impossible for the Commonwealth to allow the gratuity bonds to go on the market like ordinary stocks on the Stock Exchange, and be bought and sold at fair market rates. To-day a needy soldier, whether his need arises from his poverty or his passions, is unable to realize h’.s bond in a fair and open market. He has to realize in defiance of the law. It is idle to close our eyes to the fact that the man who wishes to realize such a security in defiance of the law has to pay a high price for his accommodation for that very reason, and to-day soldiers are selling their bonds at prices far below what they would obtain if they were permitted to place them m the open market alongside the various war stocks.
– Put a dozen of the harpies in gaol and the traffic will soon be stopped.
– I do not think the imprisonment of people will stop it. In the first place, the soldier will not give evidence against the man who came to his rescue when he was hard up. A soldier who offers his bond at £20 or £30 below its face value will not inform against the purchaser who, bv relieving his need, has done him a favour. I have in my desk particulars of four or five cases of the utmost distress. in which the Board appointed to investigate these cases had refused to recommend cash payment of the bonds. One soldier who was interested in oyster leases was confronted with a loss of three years’ hard work because he was unable to find less than the money to which his bond entitled him,’ yet he was not permitted to cash the bond. In another instance a soldier and his wife are living in a humpy, although if they could obtain cash for their bond they could build a decent house. And so on. All honorable members know of dozens of such cases. Although the soldiers themselves advocated the appointment of these independent Boards, I never believed that they would be as readily accessible as were Ministers when the administration was under their direct control. The tendency of Boards is to become conservative, and go slow, and we have ample evidence, although the Board has been in existence only for a few months, that it is much more difficult to have cases heard before it, and a humanitarian decision given, than it was when the matter was under the control of a Minister, and when the criticism of honorable members could have a direct effect upon the Minister who was in his place in Parliament. The Boards are unapproachable. We should strike a blow at these men, who are making money out of the bonds, by permitting the soldier to go into the market and obtain the market value for them. I estimate that they are worth in the open market to-day from £96- to £97, yet we hear of cases where a soldier has sold a £100 bond for £80, and of others where a man has given a bond of £120 for furniture which he has straightway sold in an auction mart to realize from £40 to £60 for it. It is impossible to stop that sort of thing. I, therefore, urge the Government to reconsider this matter, and to see if it is not possible to allow these bonds to be placed on the open market, and purchased at the market rate.
– The present system is making profits for some of the honorable member’s friends.
– I am inclined to think that some of those who are dealing in these bonds are far more friends of the honorable member than friends of mine.
We have some difficulty in obtaining the names of those who are advertising in the Age their readiness to purchase bonds. The honorable member who read a list of such advertisements confined his attention to one newspaper. I do not know whether the proprietors of any other newspapers are prepared to make money by inducing people to break the law; but I should like the opinion of the Attorney-General as to the position of those newspapers who advertise that, under certain conditions, the law may be broken, thus aiding and abetting the people who are breaking the law.
– The honorable member had better “go slow,” or he will not be reported in the newspapers.
– Happily, it does not ‘trouble me whether I am reported or not by the Melbourne newspapers.
I desire again to call attention to the position of the munition workers. There is a very widespread opinion that those who went from Australia to the Old Land to assist in munition making received very high wages while they were away, and were able to amass considerable sums. I am informed by the president of their organization that, so far from that being the case, the majority of the men earned less on the other side than they would have earned had they remained in Australia. They have been denied all along the line any consideration for the fact that they left their homes to help in the making of munitions which were essential to the success of the Allied armies in the field. I had intended, to read portions of a letter addressed to me on the subject, but I shall not detain the House by doing so. The cases of these men call for more liberal treatment than they have received. They are denied many of the privileges which attach to membership of the Australian Imperial Force, and have a claim upon the country which, so far, has not been recognised.
I propose now to direct the attention of the House to one of the industries of Australia that is not receiving encouragement. We are all familiar with the saying that to-day we must work if we are to fight out of our war debt, and get back to our pre-war position. In connexion with the industries of this country, the policy at present pursued is placing in the hands of the workers of Japan and Spain work which ought to be done by the workers of Australia. I. refer more particularly to that branch of the mining industry which is interested in the production of pyrites, from which sulphur is extracted. In the United States of America, where there is a protective Tariff in operation, 1,500,000 tons of sulphur are annually produced from pyrites, zinc, and copper ores. In this country we have some of the richest pyrites mines in the world, yet most of them remain idle, while the employment that could thus be given here goes to the cheap labour of other lands. Australian miners living under conditions that we regard as essential to our degree of civilization receive from 12s. to 15s. per day. They are asked to compete in this industry against men and women workers in Japan who receive 2s. per day -of ten hours. They are asked also to compete against men and women in Spain on a wage of 3s. per day of- ten hours. I protest against the continuance of this policy. I expected that in the new Tariff an attempt would be made to redress this condition of affairs, but although it has the virtue of being the highest protective Tariff yet tabled in Australia, it still leaves those who should be engaged in mining for pyrites in the same unprotected position that they occupied before its introduction.
– We will alter that.
– Thetrouble is that we cannot move. T strongly object to our sending to Japan money to be paid for a product of cheap labour there when our own people can produce the commodity we require, and when the pyrites from -which it is extracted is to be found here in profusion on every hand. I am sorry that* the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is not present, but I hope that before the Tariff is dealt with he will see the wisdom of granting to this class of workers that protection which has been given to many other workers in Australia.
I have another case to which I should like to draw the attention of the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation. There are still many cases of acknowledged hardship for which our laws do not provide. One that has come under my notice in connexion with land settlement is of a character that should appeal to the Minister. A returned soldier made application for a small farm lot. The application was approved by the Local Committee. He was told at the State offices that the application would go through in due course, and, on the strength of that statement, he made a contract for the purchase of the land. Subsequently the State Department turned down the application on’ the ground that the area was not sufficiently large to come under the Closer Settlement Act. This soldier, who all through had acted in good faith, now finds the whole of his personal resources involved, and is threatened with absolute ruin, because there is no branch of the Repatriation Department that can come to his assistance. I contend that we should not be bound by hard-and-fast rules and regulations in dealing with these cases. There are cases which it is impossible to make a regulation or a law to define, and there should be, in the Repatriation Department, the power , to enable the Minister or an authorized officer to act in good faith and equity in the individual cases presented to them. I am sure that if I were to select at random half-a-dozen honorable members from all sides of the House they would be unanimously in favour of reasonable treatment being meted out in this case. The man has done his bit in the firing line and is entitled to fair consideration. He is entitled, not to the treatment provided for within the four corners of a regulation, but to that which a man who has done his duty to his country deserves at the hands of that country.
– Has the honorable member brought the case under the notice of the Minister ?
– I have, so to speak, taken it everywhere, and it has been turned down. There are scores of cases of another kind, in respect of which the regulations hit at the best class of returned soldiers. They hit at the man who tried to repatriate himself - the man who, when he came back, said, “ I will not go near the Repatriation Department. I have done my job on my own up to the present, and I will get a billet for myself.” Quite a number of such men obtained employment which they thought would be satisfactory, followed it for a while, and then found it to be unsuitable. In such circumstances, when they go to the Repatriation Department, they are told, “ Why, it is more than six months since you came back, and for that reason - because you have been trying to help yourself - we cannot give you any assistance.” They are not even allowed the £10 worth of tools given to a soldier who applies for them on his return. We need somewhere in the Department a Tribunal which will be able to act according to equity and good conscience on the applications made, without being bound within the four corners of redtape regulations. I hope that these cases will be reconsidered by the Ministry, and that we shall have, a little later on, such an amendment of the law as will enable justice to be done.
Debate (on motion by Sir Joseph Cook) adjourned.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General, transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1921, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
– I have the honour to present the accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1920, and the Estimates for the year 1920-21.
Need I say how keenly I regret the circumstances under which I have succeeded to this position. Whatever differences of opinion on current happenings may have divided my late colleague from the rest of us, neither the Government nor the House, nor yet the country as a whole, can afford to forget his eminent services rendered to Australia through the most trying period of the war.
It maybe truthfully said that the war has had a revolutionary effect upon all the Budgets of the world, and Australia is no exception to the rule. A comparison of the figures I shall present with those of pre-war days will amply confirm this statement.
It is a great satisfaction to inform honorable members that the revenues for the year 1919-20 greatly exceeded the estimates. The result of the year’s operations is a substantial surplus of revenue over the expenditure. Nearly all departments of revenue contributed to this surplus, and some of them were beyond the most sanguine expectations. When we consider the difficulties and scarcity of overseas transport, the desiccating drought which has played such havoc over a great part of the continent, and other impeding causes, we have the most abundant reason to congratulate ourselves and the country on the results of the year’s transactions.
Estimated and Actual Revenue, 1919- 20. When the last Budget speech was delivered on the8th October, 1919, it was estimated that the total revenue which would be received during the year 1919-20
In regard to the earnings of the Commonwealth line of steamers, there was an actual profit on the year’s operations, but it had not been brought to account in the books of the Treasury at the end of the year.
The Customs and Excise revenue was £3,824,559 more than expected. This, of course, was chiefly due to the higher prices of goods imported and to the operation of higher rates under the new Tariff. Another contributing cause was the increased importation, owing to greater shipping facilities, of goods to replenish stocks which were depleted during the war.
The Post Office revenue was £489,972 greater than the estimate, and the wartime profits tax £369,012. Both of these indicate anincrease in the trade activities and the general prosperity of the country.
The excess of £2,348,123 in the income tax is accounted for partly by the taxable incomes being greater than anticipated, and partly by the collection within the year of a larger proportion of the tax than usual. The shipping earnings were largely reduced during the year owing to extended strikes and delays in the United Kingdom due to the congestion of shipping there.
The total direct taxation received during the year was £20,273,131, as follows : -
In relation to the large increase in Customs revenue, the following figures, which represent the value of the Commonwealth trade for the years 1913-14 and 1919-20, speak for themselves: -
In comparing these figures, it will be observed that, while the value of imports to Australia has increased by 22 per cent. since 1913-14, there has been an increase in the exports from the Commonwealth of 89 per cent. With regard to the exports, the large increase is not altogether due to increased production in Australia, but partly due to the higher prices which are obtainable for our products in the markets of the world. Higher prices also increase the total value of imports, but, on account of the smaller increase, the effect isnot so pronounced as in the case of exports.
Unfortunately, statistics of values alone do not furnish a true record of trade movements. In themselves they are somewhat misleading. A very careful analysis would be needed to ascertain how much of these values is due to actual bulk increase, how much to a change in character of the goods, and how much to higher prices.
With regard to the manufacturing industries of the Commonwealth, the effect of increased prices is indicated in the greater value of output in the year 1918 - I cannot get later figures - as compared with 1914. The figures are £226,000,000 and £166,000,000, respectively- a difference of £60,000,000- the number of factories and employees being almost the same in each year. The figures for the. present year will, no doubt, show still larger increases, owing to the further advance in prices.
One aspect of this trade which may be mentioned is the overseas shipping, which, in 1914, represented an inwards tonnage of 5,275,000 tons. During the war the tonnage decreased, until, in 1917-18, the amount was 2,456,000 tons. Increases have since occurred, and the amount for 1919-20 is estimated at 3,696,000 tons. This total is still 1,579,000 tons less than pre-war.
This matter of tonnage, which is the only measure available of the volume of our national trade and commerce, . would appear to suggest that there is still much leeway, both in production and exchange, to recover, and a call is made for the united effort of all Australian citizens in this direction.
more than the Estimate. The excess also includes £130,000 due to the Australian Wheat Board as profit on the sale of corn- sacks.
When the Budget was introduced, it was expected that the surplus at the 30th June, 1920, would be £334,844. That is to say, the surplus of £3,523,058 brought forward from the previous year would be almost wholly absorbed. The unexpectedly heavy revenue received during the year was, of course, responsible for the large surplus with which the accounts of the year closed. That surplus, in accordance with previous practice, has been placed in Trust Fund for the purpose of meeting Old-age and Invalid Pensions and War Pensions during the current year, and will have the effect of reducing the charges against Revenue for those services in the present financial year.
The last-mentioned figure includes a sum of £42,696,500 owing to the British Government for maintenance and transport of Australian troops and for certain fleet services. Later on, I shall quote figures showing how unfavorably Australia compares with Great Britain in respect to the proportion of war expenditure which has been met out of revenue.
War Gratuities. - The estimated total cost of the War Gratuities payable under the Acts passed earlier in this session of
Parliament is £30,000,000. Up to the 4th September, £18,126,116 had been paid, of which £3,092,509 was paid in cash and £15,033,607 in bonds. In all 219,962 gratuities have been paid, 34,422 cash payments having been made and 185,540 bonds having been issued.
Against that large amount of debt it is proper to remember that, as a result of the expenditure out of loan moneys there have been created valuable revenueproducing assets. The following table has been constructed to show approximately the value of thos© assets, which are set out as being worth £40,501,433. Deducting that sum from the gross debt, the net dead-weight debt at 30th June, 1920, was £340,931,884: -
In framing this table the assets mentioned do not include the value of works constructed for the permanent use of the Commonwealth, or of properties transferred from the States. The value of these would amount to many millions, and it would be quite proper to include them with the other Estimates. For the purpose of this table, however, credit has been taken only for those sums which are repayable in cash to the Treasury.
It has been said, and with truth, that these huge burdens of debt have a corroding effect on the vitals of the nation*. While we hope to receive indemnities at some time, it has to be confessed that “ hope deferred maketh the heart sick.” And while we continue to hope (for ‘ ‘ hope springs eternal “) and to press our just claims, we shall act prudently if we brace ourselves meantime to the alternative of paying our own debts.
Second Peace Loan. - It is a matter for congratulation that the Second Peace Loan has been completely successful. £25,000,000 was asked for, and I am glad to be able to announce that the Loan has been over-subscribed.
I think it proper, however, now that the loan has virtually closed, to indicate just what has been done in each State up to the close of business on 15th September. The total amount then subscribed was £25,307,580, the particulars for the States being -
And Rabaul has sent a contribution amounting to £3,940.
This loan, which carries 6 per cent. and matures on 15th December, 1930, brings the total amount raised in the Commonwealth for war and repatriation purposes up to £245,000,000- which is a tribute to the wonderful resources of Australia.
When the final results are available, each State will, I feel sure, have raised its allotted quota.
Such is not yet the case. The loan is remaining open in Queensland for special reasons until the end of the month.
This fine result is evidence of the strong patriotic spirit of the people, as well as of the recognition of a good investment - the best of securities, and carrying a fair rate of interest.
The readyresponse to the call for subscriptions has been very materially assisted by the splendid work carried out by the Central and Local Loan Committees, by the banks, and many others who. very often at considerable sacrifice, have worked to assist in making the loan the great success it is.
To all these I tender, on behalf of the Government and the people, grateful thanks, and publicly record our appreciation of their patriotism, zeal, and devotion in this very special service to their country.
Summary of Loans to the States. - The following is a summary of loans made by the Commonwealth to the States to 30th June, 1920:-
As honorable members are aware, attempts have been made from time to time to arrive at an agreement between the Commonwealth and the States that the Commonwealth should be the one borrower on oversea markets, both for the Commonwealth and the States. Notwithstanding the very strong and obvious arguments in favour of this course, repeated again at the recent Premiers’ Conference, I regret to say that, up to the present, no agreement on this subject has been arrived at. Instead of co-operation and mutual assistance, there is competition resulting in higher interest charges, which must be borne by the taxpayer.
General Financial Situation. - The outstanding features of the general financial situation are the heavy war debts, inflated credit, excessive paper currency, and soaring prices all over the world. The flood of paper money and the rising tide of the world’s debts have completely upset the international exchanges. Unlike gold, paper money has no fixed international value, andtherefore the large increase of paper money in place of. gold has altered the basis of values entirely.
To meet these abnormal conditions, the best efforts and co-operation of individuals, as well as of nations, will be required to restore finance and trade to a sound and healthy condition. The remedies frequently pointed out are greater production, less consumption of goods, and reduced expenditure, both public and private.
My task at present is to keep our expenditure down to the lowest possible point, and within the revenue which is available from such taxation and other charges, as will fall as lightly as possible upon the community. The task, however, is not an easy one. The war has left us with an immense burden of debt, upon which interest must be paid. An adequate sinking fund capable of extinguishing that debt in a reasonable time is, in. my opinion, an imperative necessity. The repatriation of soldiers and war pensions are also obligations which must be honoured in full, while the rise in prices and wages seriously inflates Government expenditure as a whole.
The cessation of production during the war, the consumption of the world’s stocks of commodities, and the general wastage, with the consequent need for replenishment, have created a strong demand for additional capital for both governmental and private enterprise. Bates of interest have as a consequence risen, and the difficulty of obtaining the necessary capital for the world’s requirements has been increased. Loans can now be raised only at rates which are almost prohibitive, and, in any case, such funds as are available can be readily absorbed by commercial undertakings which have already begun to accelerate the production so necessary to stimulate international trade and prosperity. Clearly, therefore, Government borrowing should be reduced by every possible means. Under present conditions, borrowing is really more burdensome than taxation, when the annually recurring interest and sinking fund charges are considered. This is especially the case- when loans are raised abroad and interest has to be sent out of Australia.
The price asked for money in London practically shuts the door, for the time being, to Australia. I say for the time being, because we have a floating debt in London which should and must be funded at the earliest reasonable opportunity. But that opportunity is not yet, and we must make the best of the situation until it does arrive. Here I may inform the House that I have made arrangements to pay from our funds here a sum of £7,300,000 to the British Government before November next. The whole of this London liability must be dealt with as early as possible, and I may add that for this purpose a Minister will shortly be proceeding to London.
Meantime, our debt is large, and the figures still tower upwards. The accumulation of dead-weight debt, however, has ceased, and we are returning again to conditions which insure that our socalled new debts are in the nature of remunerative investments. Behind what may be called the live, active debt, there are solid assets to which I have already referred, and an automatic sinking fund in the shape of instalment repayments.
Taking the debt as a whole at 30th June, 1920, it may be divided thus -
While the debt is divided thus, however, it must also be viewed as a whole, with all its crippling effects in the shape of inflated credit and resulting high prices. The efforts of financiers the world over are just now primarily concerned with the substantial deflation of this huge, swollen fabric of credit. This is being done in the only really effective way in which it can be done, so far as Government action is possible, namely, by increasing taxation and by the establishment of sinking funds for the definite and systematic reduction of these deadweight war loans.
In ordinary circumstances much may be said by way of argument as to the doubtful utility of sinking funds in borrowing countries. But nothing can be usefully urged against the necessity of facing and reducing these abnormal and staggering commitments. It is the experience of the world that only in this way can we make any approach to normal conditions of sound credit and finance.
The war has revealed to us in unexpected measure the financial resources of Australia, and these have been, happily for us, largely and usefully availed of during the past three or four years. The present and future policy for us is clearly set bv circumstances. Wc must use our own capital funds and keep the interest payments in our own hand and for our own use. If this policy should incidentally set a reasonable curb on the borrowing of the various Governments of Aus- ‘ tralia it would not be an unmixed evil.
There is a further means by which our financial position may be improved. “We have plenty of room for millions of immigrants. If, in this way, we could double our population, we should at the same time halve our debt -per capita. We should lighten the burden by multiplying the burden bearers.
In these ways, and in this combination of effort, together with a much increased production, we shall find our future social and economic salvation. We shall also help to reduce the inflated balloon of credit, reduce prices, and bring back the whole financial situation to a sound and stable basis.
International Financial Conference. - As evidence of the world-wide interest in this subject, I may refer to the International Finance Conference called by the league of Nations, and to be held at Brussels on 24th September, 1920. The purpose of the Conference is to examine the great questions of national indebtedness, credit, trade, exchanges, currency, taxation, &c, and to consider the best means of remedying and mitigating the dangerous consequences of the financial crisis arising out of the war.
These subjects are of vital importance at the present time, particularly to those countries which are feeling the crushing effects of the war and the resulting burden of taxation. Consideration will be given to the granting of credits to impoverished countries, the development of trade in its various aspects, the bringing of expenditure within the taxable capacity of the people of the world, and the co-operation of the various countries, with a view to maintaining the solvency of those conquered in the war.
The Commonwealth Government, on being asked to appoint a representative to the Conference, nominated the late Treasurer (Mr. Watt), then en route to England. Mr. Watt having since resigned, the Government has given instructions to Mr, J. R. Collins, Secretary to the Treasury, now in England, to attend the Conference as the Australian representative.
Australian Note Issue. - Dealing with the general financial situation more in detail, I shall refer here to our Austra-Han credit and currency, and in particular to our note issue.
On the 30th August, 1920, the position of .the Australian Notes Fund was as follows : -
The foregoing assets were created by -
The annual interest at present being earned on investments is £1,520,450.
The £902,629 loan for war purposes is the overdrawn loan account at the 30th June last. The £6,SS3,790 represents the net earnings of the Notes Fund, and is the reserve fund of the note issue.
Expansion of Note Issue. - Much has recently been stated in. regard to the large amount of Australian notes at present in circulation. It is frequently described as “ inflated currency.” Now, the word “ inflated “ carries with it the suggestion, in relation to’ currency, that the increase in the notes circulation is partly forced. As there is nothing forced in the circulation of Australian notes, the use of the word “ inflated “ is likely to cause a wrong impression in the minds of the public. Usually the inflation of .currency is regarded as the issue of notes merely against the Government promise to pay, and without a substantial back- ing of reserves. In the case of Australian notes there is a gold backing of over 40 per cent. at present in the Commonwealth Treasury, the balance being more than covered by cash and the best giltedged securities, with a margin of about £7,000,000 of assets over liabilities. In a word, the issue is on a really sound commercial basis.
When considering this question we need to remember that currency is the measure of values in connexion with our trade and commerce, and, consequently, as values rise and operations expand, a larger amount of this measuring agency is necessary. In other words, an increase in wages and values requires an increase in currency.
The currency which, together with the gold in circulation, sufficed to meet the requirements for business purposes in 1914 was quite inadequate to meet the altered conditions that quickly developed during the earlier years of the war, and which are still maintained and accentuated.
The large but necessary expenditure imposed by the war has placed in the hands of the people a volume of purchasing power that they have not previously enjoyed. This is reflected in the large increase in bank deposits, viz.: -
The total deposits increased from £247,414,000 in 1914 to £385,120,000 in 1919.
This remarkable increase in the volume of bank deposits is indicative of the large increase in the nominal value of our productions, which, in turn, has created the demand for more currency. In passing, one may pause to say that these large increases in the savings of the people should be considered in their beneficial relation to the enormous debts contracted in the same period.
To show that an increased legal tender was a real necessity, it may here be mentioned that, for the five years ended 30th June, 1914, the total silver and bronze coin issued in Australia was £1,198,780, whilst for the five years since the outbreak of the war the total issued was £2,763,935, an increase of £1,565,155, or more than 130 per cent., none of which was used to redeem coins issued in the earlier years. This was in no sense an artificial increase, and it has only been possible to keep pace with the demands of the banks by requisitioning the full services of the local Mints for the purpose.
Seeing that so large an increase was necessary for currency of small denominations, it is only to be expected that the law of supply and demand would have compelled the Treasury to provide a considerably increased notes circulation to meet the requirements of currency for the higher denominations. There would seem to be a definite relation between these forms of currency. A common cause produces a common result in each case.
In the absence of actual figures, it is difficult to state the amount of currency held by the public at any time, but it is estimated that in 1914 the notes and gold actually in circulation amongst the public, outside the banks, was in the vicinity of £9,000,000. The banks also held £4,900,000 in notes as till money; that is to say, the banks require as till money about half the currency required by the public. There being about £23,000,000 of notes at present in the hands of the public, it may be assumed that an additional sum of £11,000,000 is required by the banks for till purposes and for supplying the branches, &c. That is to say, if currency requirements are to be met by Australian notes without the assistance of gold, a sum of not less than about £34,000,000 is required by the public and the banks to-day. As population expands, or if prices continue to rise, the public would no doubt call for an even larger sum to meet every-day currency requirements. Taking the £34,000,000 from the present note issue, viz., £57,000,000, a balance of £23,000,000 remains which apparently is held by the banks as part of their reserves.This statement appears to rest on a good foundation, as the amount held by the banks in £1,000 notes at the close of last month was £23,194,000.
As a test of the great increase in the public demand for notes, it may be mentioned that, in the first six months of 1914, the number of soiled notes burnt at the Treasury was 1,701,000. In the corresponding period of 1920 that figure was more than quadrupled, the number of soiled notes burnt being 7,472,000. These figures will support the estimate which I previously gave, viz., that something like £34,000,000 of notes are now required by the public and the banks for currency purposes.
Reducing Note Issue. - The question of reducing the circulation is recognised as being one of the utmost importance, and is by no means being lost sight of, but it is considered that this must be done gradually as opportunity presents itself.
It must be remembered that the banks, so recently as 30th August last, held advances in Australian notes totalling £5,051,000, on which they were paying interest, and which are necessary to enable them to carry out their ordinary business with clients. The banks may be looked upon as a barometer which indicates the extent to which the notes circulation can be absorbed for ordinary business purposes, and, when the time arrives that notes are returned by the public and begin to accumulate in the vaults of the banks, then there is a clear indication that the surplus must be redeemed. When that time arrives, means will be available to withdraw the notes from’ circulation and still keep a gold backing in excess of the statutory requirement, but it is hardly likely that the circulation will be brought to anything like the- pre-war level.
Security of the Note Issue. - Before leaving the subject of the note issue, I should like to draw attention to the limited view which is generally taken of the security held against the notes in circulation. Largely, perhaps by force of habit, the doctrine is subscribed to that the gold available as a security to the note issue is that stored in the vaults of the Treasury, whereas, in a national issue; the whole gold resources of the country should be regarded as security for the issue.
In this connexion, the following figures are commended to the attention of hon- oral:de members and the country, as they show a striking result: - ‘
As a further backing to our notes there is the £6,883,790 accumulated earnings in the Notes Fund, of which £2,429,475 is actually in the banks at the present time. The Australian note circulation, by comparison with other countries, is certainly in an enviable position, and the people of Australia anay well congratulate themselves that their financial position is built so securely on the best of all bases.
Transfer of the Australian Note Issue to the Commonwealth Bank. - I have already laid on the table a Bill to authorize the transfer of the Australian note issue from the Treasury to a Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank. That Department will be managed by a Board of Directors, composed of the Governor of the Bank and three other Directors, and will be kept distinct from the other Departments of the Bank. Under this proposal, the whole of the assets and liabilities will be taken over by the Board, and the net profits resulting from the issue will be paid to the Treasury.
It is expected that, in the hands of the Board, the amount of the note issue will automatically contract and expand according to business requirements, and commercial bills will form a large part of the assets. The effect of this would be that, when trade was brisk and bills numerous, the notes would be issued against the security of those bills, and withdrawn when the bills fall due. In this manner, the note issue and the bills behind it would be kept moving. The highest authorities are emphatic that this is the true fulfilment of the primary function of a note issue - to set the note over against the trade bill so that one may automatically cancel the other.
The existing statutory reserve of gold of 25 per cent, will not be reduced.
I thought it well to refer to the general financial situation of the country, in order to make it as clear as I can. The result of my investigations on this point is a conviction that, notwithstanding all our tremendous liabilities, this country is thoroughly sound financially, and compares more than ‘favorably with any country I know of.
Production. - The total value of the primary and secondary production of Australia for the year 1918 was -
The corresponding total for 1913 was £218,104,000. The main increases in 1918 were: Pastoral, £40,431,000; agriculture, £11,918,000; and manufacturing, £13,675,000. Here, again, the increase in prices has had a marked effect.
Total Value of Primary Products handled by Government. - The following is a summary of the moneys paid to primary producers in respect of their commodities sold since 1914 by or under control of the Commonwealth Government : -
I would point out to honorable members that these figures are to date, but that considerable additions to this total will be made in the near future.
Sugar. - Since the Commonwealth Government assumed control of the sugar industry, sales of sugar have amounted to nearly £40,000,000.
From February, 1919, to July, 1920, 123,9S8 tons of foreign sugar were purchased at the average cost of £43 9s. 5d. per ton, delivered to Australian refineries. The present Australian sugar crop is expected to yield about 170,000 tons.
Up to the 25th March, 19*20, sugar was cheaper in Australia than anywhere else in the world, but, owing to various causes, it was found necessary to increase the retail price from 3£d. to 6d. per lb. from that date, with a uniform wholesale price in the capital cities of the Commonwealth of £49 per ton.
It is interesting to note in this connexion that, in Great Britain, in May, 1920, the price of this commodity to the domestic consumer was lOd. per lb., but unless an increase in the price to the consumer of 5d. per lb. is made, the Imperial Treasury will be compelled to face a deficit of not less than £20,000,000 on the operations of the current year. My latest information is to the effect that the price of sugar to the consumer is ls. 2d. per lb.
Honorable members will remember that, at the conference convened in Sydney, at which representatives of all the parties to the sugar industry were present, the Commonwealth Government undertook to purchase the total output of Australian sugar for the years 1920, 1921, and 1922 at the minimum price of £30 6s. 8d. per ton f.o.b.
I may add that it is hoped the increase which has been made in the price of sugar will so stimulate production as to render Australia independent of foreign supplies.
Wool. - The contract with the Imperial Government for the purchase of the Australian wool clips terminated on the 30th June, 1920. In addition to the price paid to the Australian woolgrowers, they are to receive 50 per cent, of the profits derived from the sale of surplus wool by the Imperial authorities, but no official intimation of the total amount to be credited in this connexion can yet be made. An amount of, roughly, £13,000,000 will be available this month and next, bringing the London accounts up to March, 1919.
The quantity and value of wool appraised under the control of the Central Wool Committee since its inauguration are as follows: -
Over 300,000,000 lbs. of wool have been scoured in Australia on behalf of the Imperial Government, for which the sum of £1,216,059 has been paid to local scourers.
The figures for sheepskins acquired by the Central Wool Committee for the Imperial Government are -
Wheat. - In regard to the operations of the Wheat Pool, I have to say that unprecedented sales have been made, the two largest being to the British Government, one of which was of 112,000,000 bushels, valued at £26,600,000, and the other of 56,000,000 bushels, valued at £15,400,000.
The balance of approximately £4,000,000 has been advanced by the banks by way of overdraft, which will be reduced by the proceeds of the realization of the present unsold stocks.
The Commonwealth and State Governments have guaranteed the various harvests as follows : -
Metals. - The delay in the settlement’ of peace prejudicially affected the market for metals throughout the world, with the result that the present consumption of metals is not yet equal to the normal pre-war consumption. The Australian production has, on this account, fallen off, but the production has been enormously decreased by the many strikes of the past twelve months.
The Government policy of insisting on the local treatment of ores, whenever practicable, has been continued. In view of the closing of the smelters at Broken Hill, the embargo on the exportation of silver lead ores was temporarily raised.
Since the inception of the Metal . Exchange, contracts for the sale of metals and minerals to the value of £41,000,000 have been registered by it.
The agreement with the Imperial Government for the acquisition of wolfram, scheelite, and molybdenite came to an end on the 31st March last.
Butter and Cheese. - The total quantity of butter purchased up to the 3~0th June, 1920, was 2,354,392 cases, valued at £9,544,885. A new contract lor the supply of butter has been entered into with the Imperial Government for the period 1st August, 1920, to 31st March, 1921, under which the price has been fixed at 274s. per cwt. f.o.b., for butter of 90 points, with an allowance of ls 6d. per point up or down, and 3s. per cwt. extra for unsalted.
The contract for cheese ended on 30th June, 1920. The total purchases under the contract were 110,356 crates, valued at £672,110.
Ship Construction. - One of the objects which the Government had in mind when it started its shipbuilding scheme was an endeavour to encourage the establishment of steel shipbuilding in Aus- tralia, and the following facts may be cited : -
During the period 27 th August, 1919, to 31st July, 1920, six ships, representing a total dead-weight carrying capacity of 33,600 tons, were completed, and are now in commission. These vessels have been engaged in the carriage of cargoes of considerable value to the Commonwealth.
In the construction of these six vessels and others now under construction, about £1,600,000 has been spent in Australia on wages and material, and it is only fair to say, in this connexion, that vessels of similar class and type could only have been purchased by the Government on the open market at a considerably higher rate than it cost to build them.
The material on hand, and work done on completed and uncompleted ships, represent not less than twelve complete vessels of 70,200 tons dead-weight carrying capacity. The total expenditure to date shows that this tonnage has been constructed at a cost to the Government of about £28 10s. per ton dead-weight. That is remarkably cheap construction, probably cheaper than could be obtained anywhere else in the world.
Arrangements have been made for the construction in Australia of two additional vessels to carry about 12,700 tons dead-weight, and to steam 13 knots at sea, for the carriage of refrigerated and general cargoes. These vessels are representative of the highest and latest type of cargo-boat construction.In addition to these two vessels there are at present under construction fifteen 6,000- ton steam-ships, and two 2,300-ton wooden sailing ships.
Commonwealth Government Line of Steamers. - Since the last Budget was presented to Parliament, delivery has been accepted from builders in Australia of six “ D “ class vessels, which have been commissioned, and are being operated as part of the Commonwealth Line. The fleet at present consists of eighteen vessels of ah aggregate tonnage of 65,951 tons, and, in addition to these vessels, there are sixteen requisitioned German ships (aggregate tonnage 77,746 tons) and five wooden ships (aggregate tonnage 14,901 tons) attached to the Line. The wooden ships were originally sold to American buyers, but, owing to the fact that the second payment on these vessels was not made, they reverted to the Commonwealth Government.
The following figures represent the quantity of cargo lifted by the vessels of the Commonwealth Line during the year ended 30th June, 1920: -
The gross earnings of the Line during the financial year ended 30th June, 1919, were £2,487,627, and the gross expenditure for the same period was £1,327,592, the net profit for the year being £1,160,035.
The profit earned from the inception of the Line up to the 30th June, 1919, amounted to £2,063,534, a most highly satisfactory state of affairs. Allowing for depreciation, the capital value of the fleet at the close of the financial year 1918-1919 was £1,338,759.
Control of Shipping. - At the end of March, 1920, negotiations were entered into with the owners of requisitioned vessels for the release of their steamers. These negotiations culminated in all the vessels except one being released, subject to certain conditions.
During the year, the world’s market for chartered tonnage was approximately three times the rate that was paid for the requisitioned Inter-State Fleet, and the Australian public are still receiving the benefit of freights below the rates ruling in every other part of the world.
The SelectCommittee on Sea Carriage, appointed bythe House, is giving consideration to the matters which they were appointed to investigate, andI understand that the report of the Committee will be presented to Parliament at an early date.
River Murray Commission. - The amount of £132,528 included in the Estimates is the contribution of the Commonwealth Government towards the proposed expenditure of £618,000 during 1920-21. This expenditure will be incurred on the works authorized by the Commission and in the surveys and investigations which are proceeding with a view to the location of the sites of further weirs and locks between Wentworth and Echuca.
Proposals were recently submitted to the Conference of State Premiers in Melbourne regarding the control of the work of construction, and the Commonwealth Government’s contribution towards the total cost of the scheme. I am happy to inform the Committee that agreement was reached on these matters, and steps will be taken to place the decisions before the Parliaments of the States and Commonwealth for ratification.
When this scheme is completed, it will, I amconvinced, increase the production of Australia to a large extent, and also open up for settlement large areas in the River Murray Valley. At the same time employment will be provided for thousands of our returned soldiers, and, we hope, others who may be attracted by the fine prospects afforded. In view of these facts, all will agree that every effort should be made to have the works completed as soon as possible.
Demobilization. - The latest return shows that 263,432 members of the Australian Imperial Force have been returned to Australia for demobilization. Of this number 257,195 have been discharged, 2,607 are on leave pending discharge, and 3,630 have been detained in hospitals in Australia.
On the 31st May the total number of members of the Australian Imperial Force abroad was 566, including a small staff engaged in the disposal of stores, the Graves Registration Department, and similar duties.
Arrangements have been completed for all outstanding matters in connexion with the Australian Imperial Force to be dealt with by the High Commissioner’s Office in London, and for this purpose a small military staff has been transferred to that office.
I should like to observe that the demobilization of the Australian Imperial Force was accomplished with a rapidity which greatly exceeded every estimate. Originally the estimated period required to demobilize the Force was as much as three years on account of the scarcity of shipping, but, in spite of this and other difficulties, of the total number of soldiers who were to return to Australia, less than 2,000 men remained abroad at the end of February, 1920.
Repatriation. - The Government is carrying out its definite promise to do all in its power to facilitate the return of the soldiers to civil life. Since the inauguration of the Repatriation Department 190,662 applications have been made for employment. Of this number, 184,613 have been successfully dealt with. On the 30th June, 6,049 men remained on the employment registers of the Department, which represent approximately 2½ per cent. of the number of men discharged.
With regard to the vocational training scheme of the Department, highly satisfactory results have been obtained, and there is no parallel to be found in any of the nations which went to war to the liberal provision of vocational training in Australia for returned soldiers. There are at present in training in 172 different occupations or trades 22,329 men. In addition to this number, 6,660 men have actually completed their course, and passed into the life of the industrial community of the Commonwealth.
There have been 283,899 applications under the heading of general assistance, which consists of sustenance payments while awaiting employment, grants of furniture, tools of trade, and so on, andI would point out that these applications are entirely distinct from either vocational training or employment applications.
Turning to the scheme for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, the arrangements made between the Commonwealth Government and the State Governments provide that the Commonwealth Government shall find the money and that the State Governments shall find the land. The cost of the scheme was originally estimated at about £28,000,000, which covers the cost of resumption of land, works to make the land accessible, and advances to the soldier settlers to improve their holding. The soldier repays the principal over a lengthy term of years, paying interest on the amount outstanding at a moderate rate.
On the 30th June last over 17,000 soldiers hadbeen settled, and more than £11,000,000 had been lent to the States for this purpose.
The total expenditure to the 30th June, 1920, excluding war service homes, was £19,060,875, made up as follows:-
It will be of interest to the House to know that the Australian repatriation scheme is attracting attention, not only throughout the Empire, but in the majority of those nations which were at war, and requests are received by nearly every foreign mail which arrives in Australia for information upon some phase of the Commonwealth repatriation scheme.
Owing to the advantage taken of the land settlement scheme, the total amount which will .’be required for the purpose will reach approximately £50,000,000. The total number of ex-soldier settlers for whom provision will thus be made is about 38,000.
The figures for land settlement are -
Of that balance it is estimated that £16,000,000 will be advanced to the States during 1920-21.
These figures are large, but when it is considered that the proportion of such settlers at present is 1 in 11 of the total population, it will be seen that the agricultural base is provided for a total increase of population running into the region of half-a-million. It is a matter for the greatest gratification that timely rains are falling so beneficially on their initial enterprises. ‘It is surely a happy augury for future success, and will add considerably to the production during the current year.
War Service Homes. - To the 30th June, 1920, the total expenditure in connexion with this phase of repatriation work was £4,961,000, representing administrative charges, £120,000; and expenditure from Loan Funds, £4,841,000; the latter amount being recoverable from successful applicants for homes. The cost of administration from the 6th March, 1919, was 2.4 per cent., and for the financial year 1919-20, 2.3 per cent.
Dp to the 30th June, 1920, 24,992 applications had been received, viz. : -
and these have been dealt with as follows : -
The approved applications involve an expenditure from Loan Funds of £6,678,000, and are subdivided in the following manner : -
Whilst, in the past, in order to overtake accumulated demands, considerable numbers of existing houses were purchased, it is anticipated now that building is in full swing there will be little necessity to purchase, as the demands of applicants will be supplied from the houses being erected. The amounts set apart this year for the above items are as follow : -
There are now 2,461 houses in course of construction; 820 houses have been completed and allotted to applicants. In 341 additional cases contracts have been let, but work has not yet commenced. Tenders have been invited for the erection of 660 additional houses.
The estimated expenditure for the present financial year is set down at £6,175,000, being-
War Pensions. - The number of war pensions now in force is 226,018, which includes the payment of 9,855 pensions outside Australia. At the 1st July, 1920, the actual liability for these pensions wasat the annual rate of £7,290,000. It is estimated that the amount required for this item during the current financial year will be £7,250,000.
I think I ought to inform the Committee that the increases in war pensions agreed to by the Commonwealth Parliament during the present session have added a yearly expenditure of over £1,400,000 to charges against war pensions. These increases provide for general pension rates as follows : -
I think it will be admitted that these pension rates are to-day of a liberal character.
Immigration. - It is the intention of the Government to make a serious and urgent attempt to divert portion of the stream of migration of our own people and race, which has already set in and is now steadily flowing towards the different Dominions to this Continent. On these Estimates will be found a sum of £100,000 for this purpose, and if more can be usefully spent more will be provided. Arrangements have been already made with the States on the following lines, subject to approval by their Cabinets : -
Commonwealth to have full control overseas.
Agents-General of the several States to form consultative committees in London.
Commonwealth to be responsible for, and have control of, all overseas organizations and transport arrangements for bringing immigrants to Australia.
Primary object of scheme to be the settlement of immigrants on the lands of Australia.
Type of Immigrant. - Preference is to be given to British ex-service men, the Commonwealth seeking the co-operation and assistance of the British Government in obtaining the right type of immigrant and of passages for same.
Commonwealth to assume financial responsibility for organization for immigrants from overseas and transport to Australia.
States to be responsible for immigrants upon arrival in Australia, and for their settlement on suitable lands or employment on public works.
States to enter into an agreement with the Commonwealth, setting out in definite terms what they bind themselves to do in regard to providing -
other forms of assistance, such as depots, sustenance, general care of immigrants, employment on public works, particularly on unification of railway gauge, Murray Waters scheme, &c. ; for (1) ex-service men;
Commonwealth and States to cooperate and consult from time to time as to the number of immigrants who can. be absorbed in the. respective States and the class of immigrant required.
Commonwealth undertakes to assist the States by way of loans for approved land settlement and public works.
I take leave to say this is the most insistent of all our immediate problems, and the Government intends to make a prompt and serious effort to grapple with this vital question.
Federal Capital Territory. - I have here an item which, I am sure, will be of interest to honorable members. The Government has decided to proceed with the development of the plans for the erection of the capital at Canberra. A sum of £150,000 will be found on the Estimates with which to begin the erection of the necessary buildings. A commencement can be made at once with the building of houses for the workmen needed to carry out the proposals.
A scheme for the settlement of returned soldiers in certain portions of the Federal Capital Territory which have agricultural possibilities has been initiated, and a limited number of soldiers are already in occupation. It is proposed to extend this scheme as additional areas become available through the falling in of leases.
It is now twenty years since this essential term of the Federal compact was inserted in the Constitution, and in the opinion of the Government the time has come for the resumption of the development of the plans interrupted by the war.
Year 1920-1921. I now come to the transactions for the year 1920-1921. The total expenditure as compared with 1919- 1920 is as follows: -
It will be seen that provision is made for a largely increased expenditure out of revenue. This I shall explain later on.
These figures show an increase in the gross expenditure in 1920-21 as compared with 1919-20 of £1,581,586. A large reduction in the expenditure on War Loan is expected, which is almost balanced by the additional expenditure out ofRevenue and Works Loan.
I proceed to deal with the expenditure in the order set out above.
Estimated Expenditure out of Works Loan, 1920-21. - The expenditure out of Works Loan for the year 1919-20 was £1,285,453.For the year 1920-21 it is estimated at £4,368,444, being an increase of £3,082,991.
Of the expenditure for this year the principal amount is for the construction of ships (£3,000,000). This money is for commitments already made. This service was previously charged to War Loan, and should not be charged any longer. A sum of £150,000 has been set apart for initial settlement at the Federal Capital, and £328,000 for Cordite Factory, Housing Scheme at Lithgow, towards the Arsenal and for Mobilization Stores in which to place the materials returned from the war.
The Navy absorbs £302,000 for Naval Bases and Works and Machinery for Cockatoo Island and Flinders Naval Depot.
An amount of £132,000 is provided for the River Murray Waters Commission, and £100,000 for capital works on the Commonwealth Railways.
It is necessary also this year to make provision for £100,000, being portion of the subscription of a quarter of a million of the capital of the Oil Refining Com pany, to be formed under the Act recently passed by Parliament.
The items to which I have referred are entirely new expenditures, for purposes which have been authorized by Parliament, and comprise the bulk of the increase over last year’s expenditure.
It will be observed that the amount which it is proposed to spend this year on public works generally shows a large increase as compared with the last two or three years. During the war the necessity for conserving our resources resulted in the severe curtailing of all public works, even though in the end greater expenditure would become necessary. Public demands are now so insistent that some relaxation should take place, particularly as to telegraph and telephone services, which will, of course, return considerable revenue. Where possible, and especially where, as in the case of reserves of munitions, permanent revenueproducing assets will not remain, the expenditure has been provided out of revenue. The works chargeable against the Loan Fund, totalling £4,368,444, are all in the nature of capital charges and almost wholly revenue-producing. As I have already said, the chief item is the construction of ships, for which £3,000,000 is provided.
Estimated Expenditure out of War Loan, 1920-21. - The expenditure out of War Loan shows a decrease of £20,000,000 as compared with last year. This, of course, is mainly attributableto the reduction in the active expenses of the war. With the exception of the payment under the Nauru Agreement and a small sum to meet outstanding accounts under the Expeditionary Force, the whole of the expenditure which it is proposed to charge, to War Loan this year is in respect of land settlement of soldiers, housing, and other repatriation work, and for silos, the expenditure for. which will be repaid to the Commonwealth in the course of years. I desire to specially stress this point, because it means that practically the whole of the expenditure now being made from the new Loan remains a substantial asset in the country.
It will be observed that the sum which it is proposed to charge to War Loan ‘is limited to the amounts which it is expected will be raised this year, namely, £25,000,000 from the Second Peace Loan, and £400,000 from the sale of War Savings Certificates. Total, £25,400,000.
It is proposed to spend that amount in the following manner: -
As I have stated, the whole of the expenditure, with the exception of the £1,210,000 for the Expeditionary Force, will be represented by substantial and reproductive assets.
I shall presently detail the services which in former years were charged to the War Loan Fund, but which during 1920-21 will be charged to Revenue These total £7,052,000.
The War Loan Fund has also been relieved of the following services, which will this year be charged to Works Loan: -
The War Loan Fund has thus been relieved this year of a total of £10,237,251.
I think honorable members will agree that now the war has been finished a couple of years, there is not the slightest justification for further charging these enterprises to War Loan Account. I ask honorable members to keep this item in mind when, later on, we are considering the question of expenditure from revenue.
Taxation versus Borrowing. - It is clear, I think, to all that the borrowing of new money abroad is practically but of the question, and it is almost as clear that the calls for loans from Australian resources must be reduced to the smallest sum possible. We are thus practically forced into the position, of providing from Revenue greater sums in the future than in the past. If we look at the matter squarely, the thought will occur whether we should have waited until we are almost compelled to resort to heavier taxation to meet our war obligations. Figures recently published show that, in the years 1914-19, Great Britain paid 36.17 per cent, of her war expenditure out of Revenue, and 63.83 per cent, out of loan. In the year 1919-20 she paid 80.4 per cent, out of Revenue and 19.67 out of loan. This is a wonderful achievement, but not enough to satisfy the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who stated in his last Budget that he hopes to pay off the large sum of £234,000,000 this financial year from the National Debt, and that there is every prospect that next year there will be available a further sum of £300,000,000 for the same purpose. The taxation per head of Great Britain at the beginning of the war was £3 15s. 6d. Now it is £22 3s. lid.
The figures for the Commonwealth, as to the payments for war services, are -
In Canada it is proposed to carry on without further borrowing, relying on additional heavy taxation to meet her obligations. ;’ While I have not been able to follow the Canadian example completely, I have determined to do so as far as the balance required this year after the new Peace Loan has been expended. In other words, we propose a non-borrowing policy for the remainder of the year, except for the small sums required for Public Works. This decision necessitates the transference of a large sum from Loan account to that of Revenue. The sums set down in the Estimates show what has been done in this respect.
I could have taken the much easier course had I chosen to take it, but it would not have been an honest one. I am taking what the Government believe to be the only honest course, and that is to take over these obligations into Revenue, and curtail our borrowing for the future.
Estimated Expenditure out of Revenue, 1920-21. - The estimated expenditure out of Revenue is £68,872,578, as compared with the actual for last year, namely, £50,558,383. An increase is shown of £18,314,195.
The increases fall into the following categories : -
“Of the increased amount of £18,314,000 mentioned, it will be seen that over £16,000,000 represents expenditure which is quite unavoidable, the principal items of which are Statutory Increases and War Services previously chargeable to War Loan. Regarding the remaining items, a very cursory inspection will, I think, assure honorable members that the additional expenditure proposed is necessary for the proper conduct of Commonwealth affairs.
The Statutory Sinking Fund on War Loans is at present i per cent., and on that basis the loan would be redeemed in about fifty years. The Government considers that, following the example of Great Britain and other countries, endeavours should be made to pay off the war debt at a more rapid rate, and, to this end, an addition of -J per cent, is proposed to be made to the present sinking fund, making in all a sinking fund of 1 per cent., representing an annual payment of £3,200,000, which will redeem the War Loans in thirty-seven instead of fifty years.
– You will not be able to keep it up, sir.
– I think so. The view is held by large numbers of persons that the cost of the war should not be wholly placed upon posterity, and iu the circumstances it is thought reasonable to ask that the people of to-day should bear the additional per cent, sinking fund. This appears a very fair compromise between the taxpayers of to-day with all their developmental projects to finance and the generation which will succeed us.
With regard to the per capita payments to, States the Acting Prime-Minister announced at the Conference of Premiers in January, 1919, that it had been decided to reduce the per capita payments from 25s. to 10s., the reduction being made at the rate of 2s. 6d. per head per annum over a period of six years. The Prime Minister subsequently, in consultation with the various State Premiers, agreed that this matter should be held in abeyance until the meeting of the Convention to be held for the review of the Commonwealth Constitution.
Last year the amount spent under the item Repatriation of Soldiers was £5,183,000, divided as f 0110WE :- Out . of Revenue, £2,500,000; out of Loan, £2,683,000. This year we proposed to spend £4,500,000 from Revenue, being a decrease of £6S3,000, as compared with the total expenditure for last year. We have taken this matter entirely out of war loans. I do not think we ought to use war loans any further for the purpose of training these soldiers who have come back from the war. The increase of £1,218,000 for War Pensions is in consequence of the higher rates which were granted a few months ago, and to which I previously referred. It is hoped that with the improved health of many of the returned soldiers the expenditure for war pensions will soon begin to decrease.
The large addition to the interest and sinking fund on War- Loan is on account of the further War Loans raised and the additional sinking fund of per cent, mentioned. The total interest and sinking fund for the year amount to £20,712,000.
– What is the estimated amount of the sinking fund?
– It is £3,200,000. We are this year, for the first time, looking the full financial effects of the war in the face. This sum is a very heavy charge which must be borne for a great number of years, and the magnitude of this yearly payment emphasizes how burdensome to a community borrowing can become. It also shows clearly the reason why the -British and other Governments are anxious to reduce in every possible way their enormous national debts.
War services previously chargeable to War Loan Fund, but now charged to Revenue account for £7,052,000 of the increased expenditure from Revenue. This is a heavy addition to Revenue charges, but is in accordance with the decision of the Government that the revenue should bear a greater share of the expenditure resulting from the war than has hitherto been the case.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions account for an increase of £668,000 over the expenditure of last year. This is almost wholly the result of the higher rate of pension which was approved by Parliament and which came into operation at the beginning of this calendar year. It has been found in practice that one effect of increasing the rate of pension is to bring in persons who, though eligible, had, up to that time, refused the pension, but who were prepared, when an increase was granted, to sink any feelings they previously had against the acceptance of a pension. The result is that when an increase in the rate of pension is granted the cost is always considerably greater than the percentage of increase would appear to justify.
Provision is made this year for £150,000 f or the taking of the Census in April next. This is an expenditure which is unavoidable if the Commonwealth is to continue its policy of taking a decennial Census, following the example, in this respect, of other advanced countries.
The increases of Naval and Military expenditure are largely brought about by increased prices, and by the officers and men who have recently been a charge against War Loan being replaced on the ordinary staffs and paid from annual votes. It is necessary to incur expenditure in replacing certain reserves of munitions which were consumed during the war, and additional expenditure becomes necessary also on account of the gift ships which were handed over to the Commonwealth by the British Government. The experiences of the war have shown that an Air Force must now be regarded as a vital necessity of both arms of defence, and £206,000, in addition to £294,000 under Additions, New Works, &c, is provided to make a commencement with naval and military aviation, without which neither arm can fight effectively. As recently explained by the Prime Minister, £100,000 is also provided for civil aviation.
The expenditure of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department shows an’ increase of £597,000 under ordinary votes, almost wholly brought about by higher wages and increased prices of materials and expansion of business.
As showing the large additional expenditure which the Commonwealth has to face in connexion with War Bonuses and cost of living allowances, it may be mentioned that, apart from the increased staff, the higher salaries now being paid to the permanent officers of the Commonwealth Public Service require about £1,200,000 more than was paid in 1914 - or about 37 per cent. In this connexion I may say that the salaries of heads of Departments and other senior officers have been re-adjusted to conform more equitably with their largely increased responsibilities, as well as the decreased purchasing power of their present salaries. These items will be found in the Estimates; and I would only say, in passing, that the increases to these heads of Departments are below the amounts recommended by the Economies Commission.
– Why are they less?
– The honorable member will see that very decent rises are being given.
In regard to Additions and New Works chargeable to Revenue, I have already mentioned how necessary it is that some additional funds should be granted for these services. I would, however, refer specially to the provision of £1,064,000 for munitions, which it is necessary to obtain for the purpose of replacing certain reserves which were consumed during the war. For the construction of the fleet £300,000 is provided. Last year £350,000 was provided out of War Loan for this purpose, the actual expenditure being £366,000. It is now considered that this charge should be borne by Revenue, as the expenditure is not of a reproductive character.
The sum of £900,000 has been provided for telegraph and telephone construction, as compared with an expenditure last year of £470,000. of which £305,000 was paid out of Works Loan.
Expenditure Resulting from the War. - In considering the large expenditure which the people of Australia are being asked to bear as the result of the war, it should be borne in mind that Australia’s burden is much heavier than that of some of theother Dominions owing, principally, to the great difference in the distances over which troops had to be transported to the various battle fronts.
Further, certain published figures show that the casualties among Australian soldiers, as compared with enlistments, were higher than among those of any other portion of the Empire.
As a result. Australia has now to face an unduly heavy expenditure in order to meet her obligations to the dependants of men killed and in capacitated, and to returned soldiers to enable them to obtain a footing in civil life.
It is estimated that £62,241,931 will be expended this year on war services as follows : -
Of the above, £25,400,000 is chargeable to Loan Fund and £36,841,931 to Revenue.
Estimated Revenue, 1920-21. - I have explained the large expenditure which we are called upon to meet out of Revenue, and it now becomes necessary to see how the funds can be provided.
The Customs and Excise revenue at present rates is estimated at £26,000,000, being an increase of £4,425,000 over the receipts for last year. This increase appears likely to be realized judged by the receipts to date during this financial year. The present high prices, which have an important bearing on the Customs revenue, also show little sign, if any, of a reduction in the near future. The other items call for no special comment. I might add, in further reference to Customs and Excise revenue, and based upon the latest particulars available, that it looks as if we shall get the sum mentioned, and a little more.
I may here say that, with the object of simplifying the preparation of income tax returns, and to enable the collection of income tax to be undertaken by one% authority, it was agreed, at a recent conference of Commonwealth and State Ministers, to appoint a Committee of three persons to consider the best means by which those very desirable ends might be attained. The Committee, which consists of the Hon. Jas. Ashton, M.L.C., Chairman, Mr. Robert Ewing, Federal Commissioner of Taxation, and Mr. R. M. Weldon, Commissioner of Taxes for the State of Victoria, has begun its investigations, and I trust that their labours will result in giving much-needed relief to taxpayers, and, at the same time, effect considerable economies in Government expenditure.
Bringing the estimated Revenue and Expenditure together, the position is as follows : -
Estimated Revenue and Expenditure, 1920-21, brought together. - As stated, the revenue for 1920-21 is estimated at £63,364,700; the expenditure, already dealt with, is estimated at £68,872,578: showing a deficiency on the year’s transactions of £5,507,878. There . is available, however, the surplus brought forward, £5,747,423, leaving an estimated surplus at 30th June, 1921, of £239,545.
Economy. - Before proceeding to deal with new proposals for taxation, I should refer to the much-debated question of economical administration. There is a considerable public opinion which is urgently asking for economy in the shape of large reductions in Government expenditure. With this there should be no quarrel. Generally, with regard to the increased cost of government, I would say that considerable expenditure has been necessary in connexion with the new and complicated taxes which have been imposed as a result of the war. The business of the Post Office is expanding, and the increased earnings cannot’ be collected without increased expenditure. The payment of war pensions, the administration of various phases of repatriation work, quite apart from raising the War Loans, all mean heavy additional expenditure. Over all there is the very serious extra cost of commodities to be ‘faced. Nearly all of the very large supplies of stores and materials which are used in Government Departments have greatly increased in cost, and no economy which it is practicable to exercise can seriously modify the extra expenditure from this cause alone. To this must be added the largely increased wages cost. But, while the Government is controlling and developing so large a number of new activities, it is hopeless to expect much reduction in the general operating charges connected with the carrying on of the Government. A Bill has been introduced for the better government and more efficient control of the Public Services. It is hoped, by this means, that reasonable reductions in cost and much increased efficiency in personnel may result. Waste is the great enemy of the world, and every effort must and will be made to cut it out of every department of Government. The Board of Management to be appointed will, I hope, furnish the necessary guarantees to the public taxpayer that this is being done.
Additional Revenue. - Of the estimated revenue, £3,766,000 is to be derived in 1920-21 from new sources of revenue. This amount is to be obtained in the following manner : -
– Is the increase of 6d. per gallon on beer in the import duty?
– It is excise.
– With a similar import duty?
– The imports are not much.
– Does the increased duty of one halfpenny per ounce apply to cigars as well as to tobacco.
– It applies to all forms of tobacco.
Under the revised rates for Entertainments Tax, there will be a reduction in the revenue from that source of £270,000. The additional burden placed upon the people by the new revenue proposals will therefore be £3,496,000.
Although it is not a pleasant duty for a Treasurer to propose new taxation, the figures which I have quoted, and the reasons already given, will clearly demonstrate that not only must additional taxation be imposed; but it is equally certain that Australia has not been taxed to the extent which was justifiable during the currency of the war. That the taxation of the Commonwealth has been light as compared with New Zealand and the United Kingdom will be seen from the following figures, comparing the taxation for the year 1919-20: -
According to these figures, the taxation in New Zealand is more than onethird higher than in the Commonwealth, and in the United Kingdom more than double.
The War Expenditure out of revenue during the years 1914-20 totalled £70,716,184. Of that sum £64,602,600 was provided by direct taxation, leaving £6,113,584 to be provided out of revenue other than direct taxation. For the year 1920-21 the War Expenditure out of revenue is estimated at £36,841,931,’ of which direct taxation will provide £21,369,000.
These figures alone are sufficient to show how necessary it is to obtain further revenue. To those who may have doubts I say, further, that the wholesale price index number has increased from 2,055 for 1919 to 2,658 in June, 1920, or an increase of 29 per cent., and is still rising.
As regards the new duties, I take first the beer duties: -
Beer. - The average consumption of locally made beer is 60,000,000 gallons per annum. Taking into consideration the fact that the Excise on beer in England is £5 for 36 gallons (nearly 3s. per gallon) it is considered not unreasonable to raise the Excise on beer from the present rate of ls. 3d. to ls. 9d. per gallon. The additional revenue to be obtained from this increase is estimated at £1,25S,000. A corresponding increase in the rate of duty on imported beer would also be made, but the total additional revenue would amount to only a small sum (say, £S,000).
Spirits. - Regarding this item, the average consumption is about 2,400,000 gallons. It is proposed to raise the duty from 27s. to 30s. per gallon. The corresponding duty in Great Britain was raised at the last Budget from £2 12s. lid. to £3 15s. 5d. per gallon. That increase of 3s. per gallon would apply to Excise as well as to imported spirits. Any increase in the duty on imported spirits would be added to Excise also, in order to maintain the balance between the imported and the locally manufactured article. The yield from these increases is estimated at £144,000 from Customs duty, and £156,000 from Excise- a total of £300,000.
Tobacco, Cigars, and Cigarettes. - Of these the average consumption is 13,500,000 lbs. a year. Of this, 250,000 lbs. pays Customs duty and 13,250,000 lbs. Excise duty. The additional duty of 8d. a lb. or -Jd. an oz., which is to be imposed, will yield an additional £8,000 as Customs duty and £367,000 as Excise, a total of £375,000. It may be pointed out that tobacco was practically the only luxury item not increased when the 1920 Tariff was introduced.
The articles on which the new duties are to be imposed are generally regarded as luxuries, from which considerable revenue should be received. Although the additional amount to be derived represents a fairly large addition to the Commonwealth revenue, it will be levied upon a very large consuming population, and in that way the sum to be contributed by individuals will be, on the average, only small.
Post Office Revenue. - The necessity for raising extra revenue suggests a review of the charges made for services rendered to the public, particularly by the Post Office Department, and new rates are proposed which have a better relation to the increased cost of supplying those services.
Increased charges for these public utilities are general, and even world-wide. Railway freights, for instance, have increased considerably, amounting to over 50 per cent. in some cases. Similarly with freights and other things. These increases are referable in nearly every case to increased cost of labour and materials and general operating charges. Conformably to these results elsewhere, and following in the wake of the rest of the Empire - Great Britain, New Zealand, and South Africa - we propose these increases. It should also be added that the total amount of them and more is appropriated for additional expenditure in that Department, which has much leeway to recover.
Postage. - It is proposed to increase the existing letter rate of1d. per½ oz., plus½d. war tax, to 2d. per½ oz. The letter rate in Great Britain has recently been increased to 2d., and in most European countries action has been, or is being, taken to increase the letter postage rate to meet the increased cost of postal salaries and services. Apart from the weight allowedfor letters, which is different in Great Britain from what it is in the Commonwealth, the 2d. letter rate within the Commonwealth cannot be regarded, by comparison with other coun- tries, as excessive when the immense distances traversed, and the sparseness of the population to be served over our vast area are taken into consideration.
The existing war postage surcharge of ½d. in addition to ordinary postage on other postal articles will be retained, but it is proposed to merge it into the ordinary postage rates. Provision will also be made for some necessary alterations in the classification of other postal articles and the postage rates therefor, which will bring the Commonwealth practice into reasonable conformity with the practice in Great Britain and other countries.
The foreign letter rate to all destinations to which the rate has hitherto been 1½d. (including the½d. war tax), i.e., to Great Britain and the British Empire generally, will be fixed at 2d. per½ oz. The basic rate of 2d. for letter postage within the Empire has already been adopted by Great Britain as from 1st June, 1920.
It is estimated that the new postage rates will bring in approximately £1,000,000 new revenue per annum, and, assuming that the necessary legislation can be passed by Parliament in time to bring the new rate into operation, say, about 1st October, . 1920, the amount which will be collected during 1920-21 will be approximately £792,000.
Telegrams. - It is proposed to increase the charges for telegrams within the Commonwealth by adding 3d. to the minimum charge for each class of telegram. The following shows the present and proposed charges : -
Press Telegrams. - A proportionate increase in the telegraph rates for press messages is also proposed.
The revised rates will result in an approximate increase : - Revenue at the rate of £33,000 per annum, and if brought into operation, say, about the middle of September, 1920, the amount which will be received during 1920-21 will be approximately £26,000.
Telephones. - It is proposed to increase the charges for telephone rentals and calls by approximately 25 per cent. to subscribers in exchange networkswith subscribers ‘ lines connected as under: -
The intention is to confine the increased charges to telephone subscribers in the capital cities and other large , centres of population, leaving to the people in the more sparsely settled areas the benefit of the existing rates. For the present it is not proposed to increase the trunk line rates, as it is recognised that the telephone trunk lines afford valuable facilities for communication to the country and isolated places, which are, by comparison, at a serious disadvantage with the more closely populated areas.
The summary of the additional revenue to be derived from the Post Office is as under : -
Entertainments Tax. - The question of the continuance of this impost has been considered, having regard to the general scheme of taxation which is necessary to provide sufficient revenue during this financial year to balance the expenditure.
Both sides of the House have promised either to revise the tax or abolish italtogether. The Government has decided on its revision.
A distinction is drawn between what is pure sport and the more educational forms of entertainment. Accordingly, thetaxes will remain unaltered on racing, dancing, skating, and the other miscellaneous forms of sport. It will be removed almost wholly from pictures and from the smaller entrance fees to theatres and concerts. The limit of exemption on these latter is placed at 3s. ; the tax will operate over that amount.
It is intended that the amended rates shall operate on and after the 1st October next.
The estimated revenue from the amended rates for the last three quarters of the financial year, together with the actual collections under present rates for the first quarter of the year, is £350,000.
War-time Profits Tax. - Earnest consideration has been given by the Government to the many representations which have been made regarding the incidence of this tax.
The necessities of Government have, however, indicated that the tax could not be removed without substituting for it some other form of taxation which would yield an equal amount of revenue. Again, the incidence of the tax could not be interfered with without materially reducing its yield. This would have necessitated a corresponding increase in the rate of tax (now’ 75 per cent.), with, perhaps, some additional form of taxation, to make good the deficiency in revenue.
Whilst there is good reason to remove this tax in its present form at the earliest moment, it was thought better, on the whole, to allow the tax to lapse, as already provided, and to collect the assessment for this year, and before considering alternatives to await the report of the Royal Commission.
The introduction of new schemes of taxation at the present time would have only increased the complexities of the subject to be investigated by the Royal Commission. The Government has, therefore, decided to collect the war-time profits tax for the last time this year.
Income Tax. - After careful consideration, I have decided that a 5 per cent. increase of the Income Tax will balance the accounts for the year. This, as I have already indicated, is a tentative proposal in view of the investigation to be made by a Royal Commission into the incidence of Commonwealth and State taxation. The additional revenue which will be received this year from the proposed increase will be £600,000.
These are our proposals for new revenue. When we consider the large, new, and unavoidable expenditure, they will, I think, be regarded as modest in their scale and range.
Conclusion. - Our obligations are both formidable and onerous. They are the resultant of the great world struggle to save our liberties and possessions from the hand of the despoiler. There are, however, many compensations, and not the least among them must be mentioned the timely rains which have caused the land to clothe itself in a new garb of living green, enabling us to look forward with confidence to a rich and bountiful harvest. Our country is large and but slightly developed, while its resources are among the greatest in the world. There is ample room and. a glad welcome for all who come bringing with them our racial characteristics and age-long traditions.
Nor shall we forget that this goodly land of promise has been secured to us by the splendid service and sacrifice of our gallant sons on many a hard-fought field. The Estimates provide for a quarter of a million of money which will be used to keep vividly and grate fully alive the memory of those whose death was the price of the security we now enjoy. The duty remains with us to make this land worthy of, the efforts they made to save and keep it. They “ being dead, yet speak,” bidding us go forward in the path which they have sanctified with their blood and continue the work they have left us to do. That work is to hold, to people, to develop and defend this outpost of the Empire, and expand the freedom for which they gave their all. In this spirit let us determine that Australia shall make a full and worthy contribution to the future safety and prosperity of the Empire and the world.
I conclude by moving -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1, The Parliament, namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
– By command of His Excellency the Governor-General, I lay on the table the Budget papers for 1920-21, prepared for the information of honorable members.
Ordered to be printed.
Motion (by Mr. Greene) proposed -
That duties of Customs and Excise be imposed as follow: -
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 16 September 1920, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1920/19200916_reps_8_93/>.