8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Deputy Speaker (Hon.J.M. Chanter) took thech air at 11 a.m., and read prayers.
– Is the Acting
Prime Minister yet in a position to inform the House of the decision of the Government respecting the determination of arbitration cases involving the question of hours?
– As I told the honorable memberand others who waited on me the other day, that matter is being very seriously considered, and I think now that we shall be able to do something to help,not only the grazing industry, but some others that are in trouble because of the present inability of the Court to decide the question of hours. I have no doubt that we shall be able to appoint two deputies to assist the new President, who is to be, Mr. Justice Powers, a gentleman of great experience, whose abilities have been well proved.
– Are two new Justices to be appointed to the High Court, or will the appointments be temporary?
– The appointment of deputies will not, in itself, entirely meet the situation ; and, at present, it seems that we shall be obliged to introduce amending legislation ; but I think that the two pressing matters about which there is now so much anxiety can be dealt with.
– When does the Minister for Works and Railways intend to submit to Parliament the proposal to build a Conference Hall and a Hostel at Canberra ? I understand that plans for these buildings have been in the possession of the Government for over six weeks, and I should like to know before the Supply Bill is passed what is to be done in the matter?
– As I informed the honorable member yesterday, the proposal is still under the consideration of the Government, and is involved in a bigger question upon which we are awaiting reports from the Committee. The matter is receiving the very earnest attention of my colleagues.
– Is the PostmasterGeneral aware that great dissatisfaction and unrest exists among the skilled telegraphists in tie Sydney General Post Office, because some have been dismissed, and others are expecting dismissal, while boys are being taken on in their places? The question is urgent, and I ask the Minister to obtain a. report on thesubject.
– I am already having the matter looked into.
– Can the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation say when he will make his promised statement regarding the past operations and future programme of the War Service Homes Commission ? He said that he would make it before the end of the financial year.
– I am in a position to make that statement now, but I do not wish to interpose with it before the end of the Tariff discussion. Immediately the Tariffhas been dealt with, I shall make the statement that I have promised to make.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether he will fix a time limit to the speeches on the Supply Bill - it may be ten minutes or it may be two hours - so that after the leaders of thevarious parties have addressed the Chamber, ordinary members may have their opportunity to scatter their pearls of wisdom?
– I can fix a time for the honorable member straightway. He may have two hours outside.
– Last night, when there was some excitement in tie chamber, you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, acting as Chairman of Committees, threatened to name me, and I wish now to point out-
– As Deputy Speaker, I am officially unaware of anything that may have taken place in a Committee of the whole House. The honorable member will have an opportunity to make any explanation when the House is again in Committee of Ways and Means.
– But it was you, sir, who threatened to name me; and while the Speaker is away you do not usually act as Chairman of Committees.
– In any case, the honorable member must defer his remarks on the subject until the House is again in Committee.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether, before the Commonwealth is committed even in the slightest degree to the appointment of any ambassador, this House will have the fullest opportunity of discussing the proposal ?
– Yes ; but I am unaware of any proposal to appoint an ambassador. In the development of our national life the time will come, I suppose, when we shall appoint ambassadors, but it is not intended to appoint any now.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Defence whether it is within his knowledge that there are certain ex-members of the A.I.F., one of whom is alleged to have enlisted at the tender age of seventeen years, who are still in the Pentridge Stockade serving sentences that were imposed by court martial, and whether he will kindly supply the House with the terms of those sentences and the offences for which they were inflicted?
– I will obtain the desired information for the honorable member.
– I ask the Acting Prime Minister whether any further official information has been received by the Government relative to the resignation of Mr. Larkin?
– None whatever.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The information desired by the honorable member is being obtained, and will be made available as soon as possible. Meantime, I suggest to my honorable friend that he should clarify the first question a little. For instance, does he mean it to include applications for new appointments and new positions, because the tendency nowadays is to regard every position which is filled under the terms of the Public Service Act, and which has to be advertised, as an additional appointment ? I therefore suggestthat thehonorable member should make it quite clear whether his first question relates to new appointments or to appointments under Statute.
asked the Acting Prime Minister, upon notice-
Whether the Government intends to concede or to consider the questionof conceding to exmembers of the Australian Imperial Force an equivalent to the length of period served by them in such Force asa deduction from the qualifying age for the old-age pension as at present provided in the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act?
– Even if the concession suggested be granted, it will be some years, excepting in a few isolated cases, before ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force will beeligible for the old-age pension. The question is, therefore, not one which calls for immediate attention.
askedthe Acting AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
If so, what is the estimated annual cost of the proposed sub-department as to -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
Whether he will state -
– The desired information is being compiled, and will be furnished as early as possible.
– Yesterday the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden) asked me if I would make available to honorable members the figures published in to-day’s newspapers giving census returns, and in reply I promised to lay them upon the table of the House. Instead of laying them upon the table of the House, I have arranged that a return prepared by the Department of Home and Territories shall be furnished to each honorable member, setting out the figures for the State in which he is interested, and showing the census returns and the last electoral returns for each division.
Old-age and Invalid Pensions - Income Tax: Exemptions and Assessments - Returned Soldiers : Pensions : Land Settlement : Insurances - Supple mentary Estimates - Federal Capital: Railway Construction - Country Mail Services- Taxation Commission - Cockatoo Island Dockyard: Resumption of Work: Control : Naval Board - Pacific Islands Mail Contract - Cost of Government, Federal and State - Anzac Tweed Industry - Wheat Pool - Tubercular Immigrants.
In Committee of Supply:
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) agreed to -
That there be granted to His Majesty, for or towards defraying the services of the year 1921-22, a. sum not exceeding £2,716,924.
Standing Orders suspended, .and resolution adopted. ;
Resolution, of Ways .and “Means, covering resolution of Supply, adopted. .
That Sir joseph Cook and Mr. Wise do pre-“ pare and bring in a Bill to carry ‘out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented, and (on motion by Sir Joseph Gook) read a first time.
.- I move- ‘
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The Bill proposes the grant of a month?s supply, with one exception, Viz., that it provides for three pay days instead of two, as in the case of an ordinary month. We are doing this moire as a precaution than anything else. These three pay days bring us up to the 4th August, and as we do hot quite know when we shall get through the Tariff and consequential legislation next month, I have thought it well to add this extra day’s pay to the month’s Supply. ‘ I hope it will be quite clear that all the rest of the Bill refers to one month, and that only wages for three pay days are included in the proposal before us.
There are one or two reasons why I ask for a month’s Supply at the moment. This is one of those occasions when we have to get Supply, before the end of the year. Ordinarily we need not get Supply until the time comes for paying the wages well on to the middle of the succeeding, month. In this case, however, it is the end of the year, when all votes are cut off automatically ; until we get Supply, therefore, we cannot legitimately spend sixpence in the new year. This Bill, it will be seen, differs from ordinary Supply Bills in that we have to come to the House -and get authority before the year’s end, so that services and payments may continue in an orderly and regular manner. ‘ There is another reason why I am limiting it to one month’s Supply. I think that before the Government ask for three months’ Supply, which will be requested before the Budget is introduced, the House and the country may fairly ask me “for a review of the general financial situation.
– The honorable gentle- man is not suggesting that the next request for Supply will be for three months in addition to the six weeks now asked for!
– No. I am not now in a position to make such a financial review with any usefulness or accuracy. The year is not yet closed ; revenue is still being received in large amounts, as is always the case in the last .month. Of that1, however, I shall have something to say in a moment. To attempt a general review of the various operations now would be purely guesswork; I should be working in the dark, and, in all probability, I should quite innocently mislead the House in some respects.
And there is a’ further consideration. A general financial debate now would be rather unfortunate, as an interruption to the consideration of the Tariff, which is dragging just a little. I hope we shall be able to dispose of this -Bill to-day, and bring our consideration of the Tariff to a conclusion quite early. It would, therefore, be better to take the course I propose this morning. It would not be fair to ask honorable members to vote three months’ Supply without knowing what the financial situation of the country is. It is a carry-on vote, with only one or two exceptions, which I proceed to give.
Honorable members will see that there is an unusual amount for a month for the Postmaster-General’s Department, and I should explain that included in that amount is an item for oversea mails, which has only now been brought to final account in London. This is really a remanet of the war period. It will be remembered that when the war broke out our mail services were smashed up, and we had to get our letters carried as best we could, largely in boats subsidized by the Imperial Government. During that period there was an extraordinary increase in the correspondence conducted between here and London, amounting, I think, to from about 128 per cent, to as high as 525 per cent.
– Would that not be due largely to the f act that we had an; army in Europe?
– I suppose that would be the reason. We had to get the mails away with as much regularity as possible, and the item is due to the adjustment of the poundage rates which have just been made in London. After many interviews and much discussion we had a bill (presented to us by the Imperial postal authorities for £321,000. Mr. Oxenham was in London the other day, and he, with Mr. Collins, tackled this subject with * the Imperial postal authorities, with the- result that the amount has now been finally fixed at £200,000. It is that amount which .swells the postal item over its normal size - it is an exceptional item of the kind. That reminds me that the item has been made to do service in Australia by some people who are anxious to economize. ‘ It has been made to appear, for instance, that this represents a saving which could be effected in the Post Office. If the report of the Economies Commission is looked at, it will be seen that it says that, if this indebtedness were forgiven by the. Imperial Government, it would be a saving. . But. we are not being let off in that way, nor do we -desire to be; we can pay all our legitimate expenses arising from the war, and this item includes , the bedrock of our liability in respect to these mails.
Then there is the rather large ‘item of the Treasurer’s Advance amounting to £750,000. That will be required largely next month for the adjustment of accounts in connexion with our London ships. I think that the payments in London which’ we shall be required to make in July will be well over £320,000 for those big refrigerated ships now nearing completion.
– What are the ships costing?
– I cannot say. When these ships were ordered, the same course had to be taken as in the case of other ships ordered at the time; no shipbuilders would tender for them just as house-builders re used to tender for buildings a little while ago, and they have been constructed on a percentage basis. The ships will, be expensive, because refrigeration is expensive. Those ships are all highly and fully refrigerated, and, when completed, will prove most valuable to our primary producers. Thus it is necessary to have, a rather large vote on account of Treasurer’s Advance. I have nothing further to add at this moment, except to express the hope that honorable mem bers will be a’ little patient until we get the accounts for the financial year closed.. I promise that when they get the accounts they .will see evidence of very substantial economy having been effected, fmd very substantial savings in the expenditure of our revenue; In my judgment, thefinances, from the Treasury point of view, are in a’ very healthy condition. The revenues ‘are- coming in well, and the outlook, from the Treasury point of view, is not nearly so serious as it is attempted to be made by some people outside.
– Is the. -Treasurer anticipating anything of the “sort for next year ?
– I will deal with next year later; for the present, I shall only say that the honorable member will- find that the outlook is not so terrible either as it is being made to appear. Whenthe accounts are completed I shall tell the House why I think so.
– The. Treasurer had better defer the. debate until the next Supply Bill is being dealt with.
– I intend to do!so, but it is my duty to .say to-day what I have said, .and no more. I hope honorable members will believe that economy is being -practised ; in. every possible way.
– We believe you, but thousands would . not.
– That shows the mischievousness of the campaign being conducted in some quarteT3.
– If nobody else knows of these economies, my colleagues know of them very fully. I commend the Bill, to the House, and I hope that Supply will be granted without delay, so that the Tariff may be disposed of. I promise that I shall make as full a statement of the finances as is possible when I ask, a little later on, for two months’ further Supply.
.- In view of the Treasurer’s statement that this Bill is only to provide temporary Supply, and that later he will make a financial statement, which will permit of a general discussion of the finances, I do not intend at this stage to speak generally upon the financial position. As the Government are desirous of getting this Bill passed to-day, so that the discussion of the Tariff may be resumed on Tuesday, and as many honorable members wish to take this opportunity of bringing before Ministers grievances which they were precluded from discussing yesterday, I shall occupy as little time as possible. I propose to deal with the position at Cockatoo Dockyard. The men formerly employed there have been out of work for many weeks, and I am assured that sodesperate is their plight that public subscriptions are being taken up in Sydney to relieve the distress amongst them. Those men were employees of the Commonwealth Government. Work at the dockyards ceased at the instigation of the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), I understand, and certain reasons for that action were alleged. A Royal Commission was appointed, which, after taking evidence for some weeks, recommended that, in view of the distress existing and the necessity for finding employment, work should be recommenced at once on the Mombah and Adelaide. That investigation was considered urgent, and the Commission were asked to report as quickly as possible. They did so, but up to the present moment no attempt has been made to recommence operations at the island. This is a serious matter, andrequires consideration by the Treasurer. I am informed that there is some trouble about the transfer of the dockyard from the Navy Department to the Board recently appointed to control shipbuilding. But that is no reason why work on those two ships should not be recommenced. The work is waiting, the men are unemployed, and the Commission have reported that the construction may proceed pending the transfer of the administration to the new authority.
– At any rate, the Commission reported that work oh the Mombah and the Adelaide should be proceeded with as quickly as possible, but nothing has been done.
– What the Commission recommended was that before work was recommenced transference to the Shipbuilding Board should take place. It is not a simple matter to transfer the control of a big enterprise likethe Cockatoo Dock.
– The new ShipbuildingBoard was appointed in May. Surely the arrangements for transfer couldhave been advanced sufficiently far by now to allow of work on those two ships being recommenced. There has been too much delay in connexion with this matter, and it is unfortunate that we should be faced with the present condition of affairs. If effect had beengiven to the report made by the Public Accounts Committee in . 1915 - several Governments have been in power since, and I am not blaming any particular Government - we would notbe in the present unfortunate position. The Committee submitted recommendations in regard to administration, stores, accounts, and other matters. I shall quote but one finding, which, if it had been given effect to, would have obviated the subsequent losses of stores and defalcations -
Regarding the dockyard as a commercial undertaking, it should be carried on under a proper business system. The effect of introducing recognised commercial methods would ‘be to stimulate all concerned to maintain the highest possible degree of efficiency and economy.
Your Committee are of opinion, therefore, that details, showing the financial position of the docks, should be prepared, and presented to Parliament not later than 30th September of each year, or as soon after that date as the Parliament may be sitting.
– If effect had been given to that report there would have been no need for the present Royal Commission.
– Exactly. The recommendation continued -
That such statement of accounts should at least show -
the capital account of the dockyard, including land, buildings, plant, and machinery;
the amount of money advanced by the Treasury, the amount returned, the amount still owing, and the interest charges ;
the cash balance unexpended in London;
the value of finished output, and sales of scrap material;
the value of the work that is in course of construction;
an account of all stores;
the expenditure for salaries, wages, material, &c.;
the amount written off for depreciation at the rate of 7½ per cent. on buildings, 10 per cent. on plant and machinery, and½ per cent. on the value of the docks.
If the Government had followed out the Committee’s findings the dock would have been placed on a proper footing. It is useless for Committees and Commissions to inquire into these matters, and make recommendations, if no notice is taken of them. The Public Accounts Committee went to considerable trouble to investigate the affairs at Cockatoo Island, and, after giving dueconsideration to the evidence, submitted a comprehensive report, which, however, has not had consideration by the Government. In consequence there is chaos at the Island. The same trouble as existed in 1915 is in existence to-day. At that time it was the Navy Department’s administration of the Island that was the cause of the trouble.
– To what time is the honorable member referring?
– To 1915, when the report from which I have quoted was presented. To-day there is just the same trouble in connexion with the dockyard. A Board was appointed in May last to administer the affairs of the island. We are now nearly through June, and the Board has not yet taken over control. I do not know why. Honorable members are left in the dark in this matter. It should be a simple matter for the Board to take over the administration of the island from the Naval Board. If the Naval Board is to be . superseded, it should be at once, and the new Board should set about finding work for men who were Government employees.
– And should be responsible for the island.
– Exactly. I have said that the men who were employed on the island were in the employ of the Commonwealth Government, and, in the circumstances, we are strictly responsible for work being found for them. The Treasurer might very well give instructions to the Board to commence work next week on the two vessels to which I have referred, so that the men now unemployed may be given something as soon as possible for the support of themselves and their families. There are over 3,000 men now unemployed who were previously employed on Cockatoo Island. They are now struggling against poverty, and the sooner something is done to enable them to earn a living for themselves and their families, the better it will be for the credit of this Parliament.
There are one or two other questions to which I intend to refer, and I shall deal first of all with the necessity for increasing the amount of the old-age pension. I wish the Treasurer would give the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) an opportunity to submit his motion dealing with this subject. If we had an expression of the opinion of the House on the question whether the old-age pension should be increased, Ministers could then be guided by that opinion. No matter how difficult the financial position may be, I feel sure that the people throughout Australia would like to see the old and infirm receiving something more by way of pension thanthey are receiving to-day.In view of the increased cost of living, the present pension is quite inadequate, and should be. increased. I again express the hope that the Treasurer will give honorable members an opportunity to discuss the. question.
– I understand that the Treasurer is going to give me a day for. the discussion of my motion.
– I shall be very glad if he will.
– I can give the honorablemember a day for the discussion of his motion, but I cannot give him any cash, and the day will not be of much use to him without the cash.
– We must endeavour to find the cash necessary for so deserving a purpose.
Another matter to which I wish to direct attention is the amount of the exemption under the Federal income tax. I shall be told that a Royal Commission has been appointed to inquire into the matter, and report to Parliament, but it has been sitting now for twelve months without any result.
– And it will sit for another twelve months.
– And will hatch nothing.
– I think it has not been sitting for more than seven or eight months.
– There are two matters outstanding to which the Treasurer should give attention pending a report from the Taxation Commission. There is, first of all the amount of the exemption. No one can argue that to-day an exemption of £3 per week is sufficient in the case of a married man with a family to support. The exemption was fixed in 1914 when the purchasing power of the sovereign was almost double what it is today. That being so, there is a clear necessity for an increase in the amount of the exemption. With a declared basic wage of £5 16s. per week, it is not fair that a man with a family of three or more, should be called upon to pay income tax on £156 per year.
– The honorable member has already set out a programme involving about £5,000,000 of expenditure, and now he is attacking the revenue. He proposes that with less revenue we shall spend another £5,000,000, and he has not yet been speaking for more than about ten minutes.
– This is a matter to which I have given close attention. The Act was introduced by a Labour Government, and it is known to honorable members that I was always opposed to the exemption being fixed as low as £156. Since the income tax was imposed circumstances have so changed that it is now absolutely necessary that the exemption should be raised to something like £300. I am aware of the difficulties which the Treasurer has to face, but he must surmount them in some way, and we must obtain revenue without imposing taxation upon people which they cannot pay.
– I am afraid that we have already tapped most sources of revenue.
– That is so, because Australia, in common with almost all the rest of the world, has had to suffer because of the war. I know the load which the Government have to carry today as a consequence of the war. They are still obliged to pay money out in connexion with it, although the war has ceased for some years. I still say that the income tax exemption should be taken into consideration as early as possible to prevent the continuedimposition of taxation upon persons who cannot afford to pay it.
I must again refer to the question of soldiers’ pensions.
– The honorable member is out after another £1,000,000 now.
-I am. We must stand by the men who stood by us what ever the cost may be. We made them the promise that we would do so.
– I have no hesitation in saying that we are standing by them.
– I say that there are incapacitated returned soldiers who are not getting justice. I brought up a? number of cases of the kind on more than one occasion, and it is unnecessary that I should now quote the letters I have received. I am notsatisfied.with the latest replies from the Department in connexion with those cases. I have just received replies in connexion with four cases, which have been further investigated by the Board, and probably by the same medical authority who previously reported upon them. I have contended that some medical authority in the district in which cases arise should be appointed, instead of the medical authority in Sydney for the. purpose of examining soldiers who complain that they are not being properly treated. If a returned soldier is genuinely incapacitated and unable to follow any employment, he should be getting a pension. If he is able to do his work properly, he is not entitled to a pension.
– Does the honorable member desire an amendment of the Act, or does he find fault with the administration?
– It is the administration of the Act that I blame for what is taking place.
– We need some provision giving a right of appeal.
– Exactly. I have asked the Minister on different occasions’ to give returned soldiers the right to be examined by some doctor other than the doctor attached to the central office in Sydney. The cases to which I have referred have been reconsidered andin almost every case the reply I have received is that the man’s trouble was pre-existent before enlistment.
– But the war brought on the trouble again.
– I submit that when we accepted men for active service abroad on the reports of medical men in the employ of the Government, the Government must accept responsibility for the condition of those men as a consequence of their service abroad. That is the whole point. If honorable members are satisfied that that contention is sound, these men should be paid the pensions to which they are entitled. I am told that their trouble was pre-existent before the war, but they went abroad, and some received pensions on their return. It was admitted then that they were entitled to pensions. It has been only since last year, when the change was made in the administration of pensions, and the Repatriation Department appointed a doctor in Sydney to examine the men, and7 would not accept the reports of local doctors, that men have had their pensions reduced or cancelled.
– That was a pony race-course trick.
– I quite agree with the honorable member. I say -that no honest Government can permit that sort of thing to continue. I have previously mentioned the case of one returned soldier in the electorate pf the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), whose letter I sent on to the honorable member. I have received a reply from the Department in connexion with the case, to the effect that the trouble the man is suffering from was pre-existent before the war, consequently, he cannot be given a pension. This man went to the war, and on his return was granted a pension. He gave up his pension because he had improved sufficiently in health to go to work. After working for some time his trouble came on again, and he -found that he could not continue working. He then applied to the Repatriation Department to restore his pension, as he found that he was unable to work. It shows how honorable the man was. He did not wish to malinger on the Commonwealth.
– The honorable member has correctly stated the facts.
– The “honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) has brought this case under the notice of the Department and it has been reconsidered, but the decision is that, because of a preexisting disease, the man cannot get a pension. He and his family may starve sp far as the Commonwealth- are concerned.
– Tes, after he had been manly enough to give up the pension and go to work.
– -I could quote numerous cases of a similar character.
Surely we do not propose to allow the officials of the Repatriation Department in New South Wales and the departmental medical .officer to decide these matters when we know that these. men were passed as fit to serve abroad, that many of them went into the. fighting line, and that their condition .is no better to-day than it was when they returned and were granted pensions. Yet, upon the report of a doctor just appointed, their pensions have been stopped. This is a. burning question. I have brought it up many times, and I shall continue to do so, because, after the promises I made to the men who went away and fought for us, I am in honour bound to do everything I possibly can for them. I went on the platform and did all I could in my little’ way to secure recruits, and in doing so I made promises which I am going to stand by as long as I am in this House. I hope the Government will not permit the Re-“ patriation Department to exercise unhampered control in respect to men who are entitled to every consideration at our hands. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Rodgers) is a painstaking man, and no one could work harder than he does; but we must take care that he watches every move made by those under him. He must rise to the occasion and take hold of the reins himself, and say “ So and so must be clone.”
– The trouble is that he does not do that.
– The responsibility rests upon the Government. It is only fair that these men, who went abroad at our request, .should be kept in reasonable comfort, when they are unfit to provide for themselves.
.- I agree with the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) that the Government must accept the responsibility of providing for those incapacitated sol- 1diers whom they accepted for service abroad, and who are now unable to provide for themselves, unless it can be shown that upon their enlistment certain vital facts were suppressed by them. If a man made absolutely false statements upon enlistment, of course a- certain amount of responsibility must rest upon him; but the Government must not endeavour to get away from their responsibilities and the promises they made in this regard.
A most distressing case has come under my notice.
-i know of distressing cases among those who could notgo to the war.
Mr.GREGORY. - That is quite a different matter. Here are instances in which the Commonwealth. Government owe a duty to certain people.
– And so they do to the others.
– But we can consider the others later on. We must consider the case of our soldiers first. I do not care about dealing with individual cases. If I find that trouble is causedthrough the interpretation of an Act or a regulation, I prefer to demand the amendment of that Act or regulation, and in this case I would like to see the Act amended to give to every aggrieved returned soldier deprived of his pension the right of appeal, and in order to provide for the appointment of others than Government officials upon the Boards to whom the control of these matters is now intrusted. A distressing case brought under my notice is that of an elderly man with a wife and five children, who, by his pioneering work upon the gold-fields was inured to all sorts of hardship. He enlisted and got as far as Egypt. He did not get to the Front because, owing to the inoculation treatment against typhoid, he became distressingly bad and almost insane. Members of Ugly Men’s Association, of Perth, have built him a nice little home. At first he was given a pension, but later on the Department was anxious that he should undergo further medical treatment. Owing to his bad state of health, he would not do this, and the Department, in order to try to force him to do so, recommended that his pension should cease. At least, the papers in the case, which I have seen, indicate that the pension was stopped, not for that purpose, but on the ground that some disease was latent in the man’s system prior to his enlistment. At any rate, the Department was evidently trying to shirk its responsibilities in connexion with this man. At an earlier stage the wife suggested that she should learn midwifery, so that she could earn something with which to provide for the children, but the Department said that her duty was to look after her husband, who was absolutely helpless, and on this accounta pension had been given. But that pension hasnow been withdrawn and there is apparently no right of appeal. The Government should seriously consider the question of amending the Act and regulations so that sympathetic treatment, may be displayed to every man who offered his services during the war and was accepted.
The Country party will offer no objectionto the granting of the Supply covered by this Bill, because we know that it is absolutely essential to provide for the public services of the Commonwealth, and because we consider that the Tariff should be disposed of before the House enters upon an intricate financial debate, although we are fully alive to the fact that the condition of our finances has a most important bearing on the future welfare of the Commonwealth. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has fully explained his reasons for asking for not more than six weeks’ Supply on this occasion and presuming that it is the intention of the House to adjourn until about the end of September, it will be necessary for the right honorable gentleman to ask for further Supply before we adjourn. But before further Supply is granted I hope that this Parliament will insist upon Excess Estimates being brought down and passed. The greatest power that this Parliament possesses is that of the control of the purse, which the Government have ruthlessly defied by expending large sums of money without authority, and the time has now come when honorable members should assert their rights and demand the fullest control of all expenditure, and the fullest particulars of all unauthorized expenditure. It is useless for information to be furnished to us twelve months or more after the time for effective criticism has passed. Therefore, we are justified in demanding, at this stage, that the Government must bring down Supplementary Estimates before they are granted further Supply. I feel very strongly on this matter, and I think we arejustified in asking the Government to bring down Supplementary Estimates at a very early date. Since the last Estimates were passed, many new and important appointments have been made, andsubstantial increases in salaries have been granted without reference to Parliament; I believe the salaries of some officials havebeen increased from £500 to £1,000; and, if we are to be guided by the information appearing in the public press and the Gazette, large increases have been made in salaries of other officers. I am not suggesting that they were not justified, but Parliament should have been consulted. New Departments have been created without the approval of Parliament, and the attitude of the Government in this direction is one that is not likely to meet with general approval, because Parliament has not been consulted.
– I do not think any large increases have been made which have not been submitted to. this House.
– Take, for instance, the case of Mr. Shepherd.I know there has been quite a number of increases. When we are approaching the end of the year,the Government should bring down the Supplementary Estimates, so that unauthorized expenditure may be validated. On the 27th April, I asked the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) the following question: -
I desire to ask the Treasurerwhether, in view of certain large and unexpected expenditure incurred this year, but not included in the Estimates, and having regard also to other new proposed expenditures, not provided for, he will submit additional Estimates for the present financial year?
The Minister’s reply was -
I shall have either to bring down additional Estimates or to ask for a substantial increase to the Treasurer’s Advance Account.
– Fortunately, I was able to get along with the present Treasurer’s Advance by exercising rigid economy.
– The Minister’s reply continued -
I hope such action will be taken very shortly. I shall then avail myself of the opportunity to make a full explanation ofthe present state of the finances of the country.
– I thought I would have been compelled to ask for money, but I have done without it.
– The Treasurer would be making a mistake if he failed to make a definite statement ; but I think when the Minister asks for further
Supply; a Bill should be introduced covering unauthorized expenditure, because it is useless to receive the information six months later. The proper practice is to have all excess expenditure approved by Parliament at the earliest possible moment. Every one must realize the gravity ofthe present financial position, and how necessary it is to economize in orderto meet our obligations. The public debt of Australia is. oven £800,000,000.
– It is not. I have endeavoured to make that clear on previous occasions. Certain amounts appear in our debt and in those of the States, and, therefore, appear twice. If we deduct about £50,000,000from the amount stated by the honorable member, we get the net Australian debt. The land settlement expenditure this year appears in our obligations as our debt, and it is also shown in the State figures as their debt. Those deductions must be made to arrive atour actual net debt.
– That information should appear in the statistical abstracts, otherwise the figures are unsatisfactory and misleading.
– I have another trouble of a similar character. We are told that we are spending £100,000,000 but £26,000,000 of that amount has been handed to the States. We do not spend it.
– I was quoting from the statistical abstracts, but I presume there are large commitments in connexion with repatriation and other matters, and we know our liabilities generally are very heavy. Although the Treasurer may have found money flowing readily, he is still needing to borrow money, because it has already been reported that a further loan is necessary.
– Unfortunately, that is so.
– Only recently it was reported that the Government had borrowed £2,000,000 inLondon on Treasury Bills, which is an unsatisfactory way of raising money.
– That was to meet certain commitments in regard to sugar.
– It is a most unsatisfactory and. expensive method.; but it was done to meet credits for sugar pur chases, and owing to the exchange difficulty we could not get the money here.
– If it is necessary later to borrow £2,000,000 to cover money raised on Treasury Bills, the position will be very unsatisfactory. It is clear that further borrowing will be necessary to enable the Government to carry out their obligations, and it is obvious that State and Federal Governments are equally desirous of trying to beat each other in their efforts to squander our national inheritance. One has only to look at the statistics to realize that abnormal borrowing is going on, both by State and Federal Governments, and that we are likely to be involved in heavy obligations. Unless we cry a halt in the near future the position will be exceedingly grave. I am sure that if the Treasurer were a free-lance, no one would be more emphatic in denouncing what he has previously termed an “orgy of extravagance.”
– If I were a free lance I would endeavour to give credit where it is due. Does the honorable member realize that at the end of this year we shall have paid off £13,000,000 to £15,000,000 of our debt ?
– I quite realized that when the Treasurer was delivering his Budget speech, and I trust that with the enormous sums which are being obtained from the people of Australia by means of taxation, we shall be able to pay off each year a very fair proportion of the loan money obtained for what cannot be regarded as reproductive work. In 1911 the State and Federal taxation per head of population was £4 3s. 10d.; in 1914, it was £4 14s.; and in 1920, £10 13s. 9d.
– The honorable member knows, I suppose, that something happened during those last five years ?
– I do; but I invite the honorable member to give his attention to the enormous sums borrowed by the States during that period. He should realize the danger of this continued borrowing, particularly when large portions of the money have been devoted to work of a non-reproductive character.
– Surely the honorable member does not object to the States borrowing money for developmental work?
– For reproductive work! We must live within our means.
Enormous sums have been borrowed. Victoria isan exception in that this State has lived well within its means. But, in regard to many of the other States, the borrowings have been altogether abnormal. The time must come when no one will trust us; we shall not be able to get any more money. What railway system in Australia is paying interest on capital expenditure to-day ? How many of them have been able to avoid showing great losses this year ? Surely they should pay working expenses and the interest bill.
– Does the honorable member expect main roads to pay? And are not our railways only main roads?
– As a rule, money is not borrowed to make main roads.
– It would be worth while borrowing to make main roads, and, in many instances, it would pay more handsomely than constructing railways.
– I believe it would. But if Australia continues to borrow, and if she goes on spending money in the future as she has done in the pastten years nobody will be willing to lend more. For this year the; taxationper head of the people - State and Federal, direct and indirect - will be in the neighbourhood of £13. There has been a considerable, increase in indirect taxation through the Customs. From that source alone the burden per head will be equivalent to about £6. It is absolutely necessary that we should live within our means. If we are not careful a receiver may be put in charge here.
– That is right. Cry “stinking fish” and create a financial crisis.
– I am facing the facts. Many loans must be converted in the near future. Our war loans are short-dated. War gratuity bonds are repayable in 1924, and the Government will be compelled to borrow a very large sum to redeem them. We need money for the development of this country. Taxation must be increased. Not only are the war gratuity bonds redeemable three years hence, but there is a sum under the heading of War Loan totalling £42,000,000, which will be redeemable in December; 1923. A further enormous item of £77,000,000 has to be redeemed at the end of 1925, and £87,000,000 in 1927. Within the next five or sixyears there is a grand total of £209,000,000, plus war gratuity bonds;- to- be redeemed;’ and, according to “ the present* condition of the money market, we shall have: to pay higher rates of interest. ‘ “ “
– The States will have loans amounting to £35,000,000 falling due next year. “ ‘
Mi-. GREGORY.- Between the present, date and 1927 the States will he required to redeem more than £150,000,000. Much of that money was borrowed at rates of interest as low as 3, 3i, and 4 per cent., and these must be redeemed at higher rates. There must necessarily be. increased charges upon revenues, State and Federal. I do not wish to be considered pessimistic, but I do not think our revenue next year will be anything .like as great as for this year.. During the present term we have’ secured more than £32,000,000 from Customs sources. Nothing like so large a sum will be gathered next year.
– There is no doubt about that.
– This year has been abnormal. I do not think the Treasurer will look, next year, for greater returns by way of income taxation - that is, unless he decides to increase the taxation percentage. We desire to bring about taxation reform with a view, particularly, to making , the burden more equitable in respect of primary producers. To bring that about, the rate per head’ of the population will have to be raised. I am justified in assuming that, with an increased interest bill, and with decreased revenue, further taxation is inevitable.
Then there are new obligations to be faced. Mandates have been issued to Australia regarding the Pacific Territories. Possibly the Treasurer can inform honorable members of the huge sum which our new responsibilities will involve. The Government should make clear their intentions concerning Papua. They should announce the proposed form of administration, and furnish an estimate of the cost of controlling the Pacific territories under the mandate.
The cost of the Public Service is rapidly increasing. It is urgently necessary to call a halt. The Economies Commission has furnished reports. There have been inquiries into soldiers’ home construction, and into the Cockatoo Island
Dockyard. The administration in all these cases has been shown to “be so faulty that, iri ordinary times, it would have meant the dismissal of the Government. The Government must take full responsibility for their administrative acts. If they appoint persons to important positions, and it is found that those officers have been guilty of grave maladministration or carelessness, or that there has been undue expenditure, the Government alone must ‘- take the responsibility, and the House should insist upon them doing so. Our demand is that there shall be a return to constitutional government. In war-time we were quite satisfied to give the full responsibility to the Government, and’ they were quite justified in taking it, but now that the war is over we must have a return to the old system of responsible government. We want economy and an efficient administration . of the Federal. Departments. Notwithstanding what the Treasurer has said, to my mind we have had neither economy nor efficient administration. It will be for the right honorable gentleman, when presenting his financial statement- to the House, in September next, to prove clearly and unmistakably that his administration has been sound and that the Government is determined to follow a sound financial and administrative policy which will insure the future prosperity of Australia. I feel satisfied that the Treasurer will make every effort in that direction, but, from our experience we cannot help coming to the conclusion that in many instances the administration has been exceedingly faulty and grossly extravagant.
– I have no desire to traverse the Estimates laid on the table by the Treasurer, although I hold that the system tinder which we demand the redress of grievances before granting Supply is an estimable one. These are all bread-and-butter propositions, and I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) on the optimistic view of the situation which he has adopted. This is hot a time for pessimism, especially in view of the fact that the Treasurer is on the eve of floating a new loan. It is undoubtedly true that public -expenditure has been piling up-, and that there have been instances of faulty administration, but we must not forget that in many other cases’ we have an exceedingly good administration, and while we rightly criticise some public officers, we should thank God that wo have so many capable men in the Service.
– Some of the best men in Australia are in the Public .Service.
– Yes ; I admire them most of all when they stand up against us - when, having no axe to grind, they steadfastly refuse to do something that we press them to do, because they believe that they would not be justified in doing it.
– It is not then, but afterwards, when- the honorable member has had time to think, that he admires them for such .actions.
– I have a great admiration for them.
– Is this an electioneering speech
– The honorable member (Mr. Gregory) does not seem to be able to get out of his mind the possibility of an election. He must be rather frightened about the result of the next appeal to the electors. ‘Surely a man may say the fair thing about our public servants without being accused of indulging in an electioneering speech.
Mr. Gregory. I am not afraid of an election; I have not to carry ‘Canberra.
– The honorable member is anti-Canberra mad. The Age and the Argus say that he must not vote for any expenditure on Canberra, and he obeys them.
– Newspapers here have also told me that I should vote for prohibition in dealing with the Tariff, but I have not done1 so.
– So that the honorable ‘member does not always follow the advice of the newspapers. I should like to direct attention to the position in regard to. Canberra. Over twenty years have elapsed since the establishment of the Federal Capital in New South Wales was promised the people of that State, but the Melbourne faction, “although’ in a minority in both Houses, seem to be able in some mysterious way to so pull the strings as to delay the honouring of the compact. Last year, after a lengthy de bate, and a strenuous fight in both Houses, it was decided that the building of the Capital should be proceeded with. That Was the decision of the Parliament, notwithstanding that we had the big guns and the machine guns of, the Melbourne newspapers turned on us, but after a fair and square fight, what happened ?
– They would not “ take their gruel.”
– As tha honorable member says, the Melbourne newspapers would not “take their gruel,” and in some strange way the Government seem to be influenced not to proceed with the building of the Capital. The minority in this Parliament is able, apparently, to override the will of the majority. In both Houses there is a majority in favour of our going on with the building of Canberra. The question is not a party one, and representatives of all the States are backing the project. That being so, I’ want to know why the definite promise made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is not being carried out. We have had twenty years of .delay. Prior to the passing of this year’s Estimates, we had spent about £1,000,000 on the Federal Territory. That money had been expended on the resumption of land and the construction of works. The Treasurer himself admitted the other day thai) the land resumptions had proved quite satisfactory, since they were returning over 5 per cent, on the money so expended.
– Does that include the money expended on roads and other developmental works?
– No. The land in the Federal Territory has been leased in large grazing areas, so that we cannot expect to obtain from it such a’ return as would be secured if it were leased in small settlement areas and town blocks. Why is the Ministry failing to get a move on? It was decided last year that we should proceed carefully and cautiously with the building of the Capital. Shortly after that decision was arrived at, the Prime Minister and tha Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) visited the Capital, and the Prime Minister, pointing to certain spots,, said, “Build the hostel here,” and “ Build the halls here. Get a move on I” What has been done since then? We have been told by the Minister to-day that the plans are under consideration. Is the Cabinet the proper body to decide whether the plans are correct in detail? We have a Public Works Committee - au antagonistic one in some respects so far as this question is concerned - to which all works involving an expenditure of over £20,000 must be referred, and these plans should have been submitted to it long ago.
– The Treasurer perhaps has not the necessary funds.
– Almost half the amount required for immediate works has been voted. We have an Advisory Committee, but we seem to have plenty of advice and no results. We need some driving power behind this movement. Some one with the requisite driving power should be made responsible for the building of the Capital.
– How about putting the work in the hands of the honorable member for the1 district?
– I would say to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, “ Thou art the man.”
– Representatives of Victoria, who are under the whip of the Victorian newspapers,’ take a provincial view of this question. I am astonished that the honorable member allows himself to be jumped on by the Melbourne press. He professes to be independent, but has a curious way of showing his independence’. I wish to know why the promises of the Minister have not been kept, and why the instructions of the Prime Minister have not been carried out. If I do hot get a satisfactory reply, I propose to cable to the Prime Minister next week, asking for his opinion on the matter. The big battalions are for Canberra. Why, then, should the Minister take so much notice of the noisy minority in which men like the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) are so prominent? Why is progress at Canberra so slow ? The laying of the f foundations of a few cottages, and the cutting of a few trenches, is not compliance with the instruction of Parliament, which voted £150,000 for expenditure- on Canberra during this financial year, and intended that the money should be spent. If all or the greater part of that sum has not been spent by the 30th of the present month, it will be evidence of incapacity or insincerity on the part of the Government. The Minister cannot side-track us in this matter, because the Canberra Vigilance Committee is composed of a majority of the members of this House, and a majority of the members of the Senate, all .parties being represented on it. It cannot be said that artisans are not to be got for building operations at Canberra; because there are many unemployed in the country. Then, too, there are soldiers looking for land, and there are thousands of acres of good country in the Federal Territory unused. We must be told more than that “the Cabinet is considering what shall 4)e done.” Those of us who have had experience of Ministerial office know that such an answer is merely an excuse for delay.
– Would the honorable member favour the raising of a loan for the building of the Capital?
– The honorable member should put that question to the Age. I ask him if he favours the prosecution of the proprietors of the Age for charging an extortionate price for their newspaper. I wish to know, too, what has been done by the Government of New South Wales towards fulfilling its promise, made when the Federal Capital Territory was acquired by the Commonwealth, to construct a line from Yass to the boundary of the Territory.
– Is that the line to Jervis Bay?
– It would eventually form part of it. Has the honorable member been to the Federal Capital Territory?
– If the construction of the Capital came within the honorable member’s private business, he would make an inspection of the country; and he ought to have been there in his capacity as a member of Parliament. He has no right to take a definite stand on the Capital question until he has visited Canberra.
– The Government cannot satisfy any one. We have been bullied for spending money without parliamentary authority, and now we are told that we are not spending enough.
– If the Government are not careful, presently the slogan will be, “ Canberra or the country.”
– Let us choose “ the country.”
– In that case, after the election, there would be one less opponent of the Capital proposal. It must be remembered that there are at Canberra about 1,000,000 bricks ready for use, and, perhaps, £50,000 worth of well-seasoned timber.
– They are first-class bricks, made on the spot.
– Yes. These bricks are sp good that the Government is being asked to give some of them for the facing of soldiers’ memorials. We know that the Treasurer, as an advocate of the Capital proposal, and has don his best for it, but the present inaction must cease. Business men and others are asking me when will land be available within the Territory, so that they may erect shops and take up farms there. I do not -blame the Minister within whose Department the administration of the Federal Capital matters lies, but he must be held officially responsible, because nothing is being done. No dou’bt his officers are kept always busy, and this being so, some matters may be allowed to slip, but Canberra affairs cannot be put aside any longer. All over Australia persons are asking why we are allowing public works which have cost £1,000,000 to ‘Stand idle when the expenditure of another £1,000,000 would produce a splendid return on the whole outlay.’
– What do you think must be spent on Canberra, say within ten years, to make the city proposal effective?
– The honorable member, as chairman of the Public Works Committee, should be in a better position than I am in to answer, that question.
– I should think the probable expenditure would be about £8,000,000.
– The Treasurer would not agree with that estimate. If we established some authority like the Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works, or the Sydney Harbor Trust, and allowed it to borrow a couple of million pounds for the ‘building of
Canberra, a good return would be obtained from the expenditure. I ask the. Minister te have land ordinances passed to enable the Federal Territory to be used. A Land Bill would take seme time te pass, and could npt be as easily amended as ordinances. As the land must all be leased, there should be nP difficulty in framing these ordinances, especially with the experience of the States to work on. If sufficient driving force were applied, Canberra would so develop that in years to come a city like Melbourne would be a mere circumstance to it. Had the Government of Victoria owned the land surrounding Ballarat, and the unearned increment, instead of going, to speculators, been available for the improvement pf the city, what a fine, selfsupporting place it would be. .
– Ballarat is a fine city now.
– But under the circumstances, that I speak of, it would be a still finer city. The land at Canberra is owned by the Commonwealth, and at the present time it is being let in broad acres for sheep grazing, notwithstanding that there are many ex-members of the Australian Imperial Force who . are anxious to take it up for closer settlement purposes. The Prime Minister has definitely promised that these works would be proceeded with this year. He has pledged his word that the Convention which is te revise our Federal Constitution shall meet there next year. What could be more fitting than that the Convention which is to frame the new . Constitution under which our people will live should meet there in an atmosphere free from the taint of party pol] tics, and from. the domination pf the .press, to which some honorable members here are subjected?
– That is hardly correct.
– It is true, and it is the honorable member’s conscience .pricking him which tells him that it is true. Has the Minister who is in charge of this particular Department no consideration for the men who are unemployed there? Has. he no consideration for the distinct promise of the Prime Minister? Upon behalf of the Canberra Vigilance Association I shall deem it to be my duty, unless a satisfactory reply is forthcoming, to cable the Prime Minister asking him if he cannot shake up the Minister.
– No threats.
– That is not a threat. It is merely a bit of encouragement to Ministers. I have no desire to dwell longer upon this question. I merely wish to know whether it is a fact that the money appropriated for works at Canberra for the current year has not been expended. Then probably the Treasurer will tell us one of .these days how much the Government intend to spend there during the next financial year. There are hundreds of men possessed of plenty of money who are “anxious to build nouses at the Federal Capital. Let us therefore, spend the money which has already been authorized by this Parliament, in order that we may obtain some result from that expenditure.
In my opinion, a change will have to bo effected in regard to the payment of soldiers’ pensions. I fail to understand why men who returned to this country incapacitated, and were paid pensions, in some cases, of a’ couple of guineas per week, have now had their pensions reduced, although there has been no material change in their physical condition. Why is this so? The reduction of the pensions has been made, not merely in the case of ex-soldiers, but in the case of the widows and mothers of deceased soldiers.
– And their dependants are asked to apply for the old-age .pension.
– Exactly. A definite promise was made to me by tic Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) that these people would not bo affected in -respect of their claims to oldage pensions.
– No pension is taken from any soldier, except upon the recommendation of a doctor.
– Then let us change the doctors.
– Let me give one case in support of my statement. I called attention to this matter some weeks ago, though I did not then mention any names. Upon that occasion I stated that soldiers’ widows who were receiving £2 Pe]. week by way of pension had been cut down to £1 per week. I have since been informed that in one case the pension has been restored from £1 ls. per week to £2 2s. per week. That being so, I am tempted to mention other cases of a similar character. But honorable members ought not to be required to do that.
– It is a bad system which allows parliamentary influence to operate.
– In New South Wales, public opinion upon this matter is at boiling point.
– As the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) has remarked, public opinion in New South Wales upon this question is at fever heat, and but for the strong regard which the soldiers entertain for the Prime Minister, the Government would experience a pretty bad time.
– I do not think that they have much faith in him now.
-They proved their faith in him ab the last election, and, notwithstanding these ‘binders, they will prove it again. All that we need, say of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) is that throughout the war he played the game. As an Australian, his course of action, suited me. The soldiers, too, recognise that, and they proved it at the ballot-box of this country, just as I believe “they will prove it again.
– They do not blame the Government - they blame the adminis-tration.
– The administration is in the hands of the soldiers themselves.
– That is no guarantee of good administration. As a rule, military men are not good business men.
– These are not military men, but returned citizen soldiers.
– If the Government selected them properly, they are good enough for anything. But usually Ministers appoint the wrong men to the positions.
– Every man concerned in the administration of a Department is the wrong man, in the opinion of somebody.
– I recommend the Treasurer to take notice of the interjection of the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that public opinion in New South Wales upon this question is at boiling point. If the Government do not heed the warning, something will probably break.
I am very dissatisfied to learn that, whilst there is a large sum of money available for oversea mail services, there is nothing for country mail services.
– The honorable member has not followed what I said. The money of which he speaks is merely for the purpose of clearing up a war obligation.
– Does not the Acting Prime Minister think that he should also clear up the repeated promises which have been made in this chamber that men who have been waiting patiently for years in the out-back areas should be given the advantages of a reasonable mail service?
– The present PostmasterGeneral has effected a big improvement in that respect.
– I maintain that the Post Office should not be made a revenue producing Department. The imposition of high postal rates is a stupid policy to adopt. In the near future, it will be shown that these high rates spell less revenue. I moved in this House upon one occasion for the adoption of penny postage, and I also had the honour of proposing a similar motion at the Postal Convention across the seas, and I know that in every country in the world in which rates have been reduced to1d. the revenue has overtaken the deficiency thus created within the short period of three years. Consequently I hold that the imposition of increased charges will be productive of a falling revenue. The Postmaster-General, it is true, represents a country constituency, but he has better opportunities for clearing up postal troubles in his own electorate than have private members. I know that when I was PostmasterGeneral I cleared up many such troubles within my own constituency. I ask the Treasurer whether he cannot squeeze something out of the revenue for country mail services? Cannot he give an extra £100,000, or £200,000, or £500,000 for services to those who reside in our backblocks, and who enjoy none of the comforts of civilization? Why not give them an opportunity to have a daily mail service, so that they may be kept in touch with civilization?
– There would be a lot more people then who would vote against transferring the Seat of Government to Canberra, because they would read the daily newspapers.
– My experience is that the men who vote against Canberra cannot read. After all, it is a good thing that we can remain cheerful even though our people are subjected to heavy taxation.
– The honorable member wishes to increase that taxation.
– I do not. In my opinion, we have reached the breaking point. But the honorable member forIndi (Mr. Robert Cook) must know that Canberra itself is a payable proposition.
Mr.Robert Cook. - I desire to see our soldiers settled before the question of the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra is dealt with.
– Is not the honorable member in favour of settling our ex-soldiers upon the sheepwalks there? Is he not in favour of the sheep bell being displaced by the school bell? Of course, I know that his answer will be similar to the answer of the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett). To me it is amusing to see the way in which certain representatives of Victoria are dominated by the great newspapers here.
– Does that circumstance account for the action of the honorable member for Grampians yesterday, when he spoke in one way and voted in another way?
– I do not think that he did that. But surely the honorable member for Grampians will recognise that sometimes we must be right, even though it may be merely the result of an accident? That consideration should encourage him to defy the Age.
– I cannot conceive that the honorable member could ever be wrong.
– I ask the honorable member to use his own common sense. When I found myself voting with him last night I thought for the moment that I was upon the wrong track.
Then we ought to obtain some definite information from the Government in regard to the activities of the Taxation Commission. The expenditure upon that body is simply a waste of money. I understand that it has already cost £20,000 or £30,000.
– It has not cost that.
– What results are its labours likely to give to the Treasurer?
– It has not cost half the sum mentioned by the honorable member.
– I am merely stating the cost of the Commission as alleged by the newspapers. Unfortunately, I do read them. I do not think that they are liars all the time, but I affirm that the Government would get from the heads of the Taxation and Treasury Departments better advice upon the subject of taxation than they are ever likely to receive from any Commission. It is absurd that business men should be required to make taxation returns in order that they may be robbed by two Departments. Let us have only one Taxation Department. If the Treasurers of the States and the Commonwealth met at a round table conference with their officials and discussed this matter, they ought to be able to settle it in an hour. The existing duplication of functions seems to be criminal. An almost similar condition of affairs obtains in respect to the Electoral Departments. I am aware that in two States of the Commonwealth, namely, South Australia and Tasmania, one electoral roll is used for both State and Federal elections. Why cannot that practice be followed in New South Wales?
– Because of jealousy in our own State.
– Let us once make the position clear to the people, and they will soon insist upon the disappearance of that jealousy.
Sitting suspended from 1 to 2.15 p.m.
– I should like to deal with other matters; but I realize that the day’s sitting is short, and that other honorable members desire to speak. I hope, however, that the Government will take notice of what has been said in regard to invalid and old-age pen sions,and will give anopportunity for the discussion of the proposal I have on the notice-paper. These invalids and old people, as the facts disclose, are not getting enough to keep body and soul together, and, surely, this country is rich enough to “do the decent thing” by them. I shall defer until another opportunity any further remarks in regard to Canberra, but I do urge that some steps should be taken, at the earliest possible moment, towards the construction of the railway from Yass to J ervis Bay, which would not only be keeping the compact made with New South Wales, but also afford employment, and prove profitable to the Commonwealth.
.- There is no new principle involved in the Bill now before us, nor does it propose further public expenditure, beyond the provision of funds to pay our public servants. Under the circumstances I shall not attempt to deal with the financial position, though this will have to be thoroughly examined, with an effort to ascertain whether We can meet the responsibilities with which we shall be faced for some years to come. There is, however, one matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), or, in his absence, the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), and that is the dismissal of men from Cockatoo Island and Garden Island. It might be thought that because Cockatoo Island is not in my electorate it is injudicious on my part to make any particular reference to the position there at the present moment. Garden Island is, however, in the electorate of East Sydney, and I think I am only voicing the opinion of the majority of people in Sydney and the State generally, when I say that the recent discharge of employees was most unwarranted. It would seem that the Government are endeavouring to cut down expenditure, and thus put themselves in a position to show a surplus at the end of the financial year; but I do not think that such a policy would be applauded even by those bodies outside who are protesting against “ extravagance.” In my opinion, the Government have shown marvellous’ incapacity in dealing with this problem of Cockatoo Island; indeed, I do not remember an episode in public life that more warranted’ the use of strong language. In the present state of affairs, not only here, but all over the world, it should be the earnest effort of every one to. prevent unemployment; and from that point of view I regard the Government as censurable for their act in discharging employees at Cockatoo Island. It would, appear that owing to some misunderstanding the members of the Naval Board intend to hang on as long as possible to their jobs.
– That is not the position.
– On- appearances that . is the only conclusion to. which one can come. It. is not only the discharged men we have to consider, but also the effect on’ the business community of the- withdrawal from circulation of their wages, representing from £5 to £6 per week, or,, in other words, from £35,000 to £40,000- a month. I was told on Saturday that the Government do not intend to. re-employ these men- until’ after the- 3.0th June, the end of the financial year j and this idea, is supported by the actions of- the Government. I hope, however, that these discharged men will be re-employed at the earliest possible moment.
There is another matter which I desire to bring under the notice of the Treasurer, namely, the mail service between Lord Howe Island, Norfolk Island, and the New Hebrides, on which a large number of people on the islands are entirely dependent. The present contract, under which £12,000 per annum is paid to Burns, Philp and Company, for a mail every two months, expires- on the 31st July next. The boat now used is not large enough for work of this kind, “and, moreover, prior to the war, there was a sailing every fortnight. The people on these islands depend for their clothing and other supplies on the mainland, and, therefore, there is the advantage of reciprocal trade. I do not wish to refer to the Condominium question, but it will sooner or later have to be settled, because the present dual control may prove inimical to the interests of Australia. The mail boat has to leave -cargo on the wharf at Sydney, and the passengers who travel by her have to sleep on the tables of the saloon and on the floor. I have received- communications from shippers in Sydney, and from people on the islands, in regard to the accommodation provided, but I am not permitted to use names, because, in the. case of the shippers, they might be more persecuted than they are at present. My object in mentioning the matter is to urge on the Government, the necessity of seeing that these disadvantages are remedied when the next contract is signed. These islands would make splendid health resorts for the people of Australia, for there are no better sanatoria in the worldNapoleon once said, that the. British are a nation of ‘’ shopkeepers,”- and it is: in:that spirit’ that. I call attention to the urgency for a proper mail service in order that there may be trade between the British “ shopkeepers “ of the. islands- and the “ shopkeepers” of the “mainland. The islanders are unfortunate in having - nobody to ventilate their grievances except myself. I am the only member of this Parliament representing the Pacific Islands, but the: people there know that they have a live representative; and they will use me as much as they. can. to try to get from the Government an under* taking that the company, who receive £12,000 per annum for- a steamer service to the islands, shall give, a better service than is being given at present: I suggest to the Government that there should , be a separate service between the mainland and Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands, and another service for the New Hebrides.. I may -remind the Scottish members of this Committee that there is a large number of Scotchmen in- the New Hebrides. The Presbyterian missionaries there have interviewed me on this’ subject; they do not desire to make a political question of it, but they are anxious that the Government shall know, the way in which the contract is being carried out. Burns, Philp, and Company have had the contract for a long time. I have suggested to other companies that they should run services ‘ to the islands, but they will not entertain the suggestion unless I get from Burns, Philp; and Company an assurance that they will not resent these other” companies attempting to make a contract with the Government. They all appear to be in a Combine. Burns, Philp, and Company have wonderful influence with certain members of the Government; I do not suggest that Ministers derive any pecuniary benefits from ‘the company, but Burns, Philp, and Company are given advantages which, I am sure, other companies cannot get. They are well known to certain members of the Ministry. That is why I am not satisfied with merely Writing to the Department. This contract is controlled by the Prime Minister’s Department, and not by the Postmaster-
General. Honorable members would be surprised if I were to give them instances of the treatment meted out to the people: on the islands- I give them my assurance that I am speaking the truth, for the actions of the company are so bad as to require no exaggeration. Both the freights and passenger fares are too high, and yet people cannot get accommodation on the boats. Goods intended for the islands are left on the Sydney wharf, and when the boat reaches Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands it is already loaded with goods for some distant port in the New Hebrides, and will not take any further cargo. Prior to the war a boat called at the islands every fortnight; to-day the population of the islands is greater than it was then. Lord Howe Island is 445 miles from the mainland, Norfolk Island 950 miles, and New Hebrides still further distant. Yet a large number of men from all those islands served at the war, and many of them died on the other side of the world, The Commonwealth will have to take greater interest in the islands than it has done in the past, because if we continue the present policy of paying no regard to them, all sorts of races will settle there, and they will be occupied by a piebald population of Chinese,’ Japanese, and other nationalities that do not mingle with white people. Australia ought to have a mandate over the New Hebrides, and the Presbyterian Church has asked the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to approach the French Government with a view to .ending the Condominium and placing the islands under the control of a race that will protect the natives, as the British have done in all their colonization schemes. Of course, mistakes have been made by our people, and men have done wicked acts, but on the whole we have proved ourselves worthy colonizers and fit to have charge of coloured peoples. An improved mail service would cost the Commonwealth nothing. If I were on the Treasury bench I would have one of the Commonwealth steamers put into that trade, and it would not only develop a profitable traffic, but would be of great benefit to Australia. Even if the service yielded no profit, the very fact of the islands trade being brought to the mainland would be of great indirect advantage, perhaps of greater advantage than the mere addition of a little profit to the revenue. The present mail contract will expire on 31st July, and I hope before a new one is entered into, the matter will receive in the Department that attention that it deserves. I could have written to the Department, on the subject, but I feel that no interest would be taken in the letter. For that reason I prefer to place my views on record in Hansard, copies of which I shall send to the islands in the hope that they will stimulate some of my Scotch friends there to rouse the Government to a sense of their duty.. If they improve this service as I have suggested, the people will indorse their action.
I desire to ‘ support the remarks made by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) in regard to soldiers’ grievances. In Sydney I have been christened “ The Soldiers’ Champion “ ; in fact, if men can get no redress at the Department, the officers send them to my home. I shall mention one case to illustrate the grievances that are brought under my notice. A man who served for either four or four and ahalf years at the Front lost half of one shoulder, and has one useless arm.. He called at my house, and, as I always do with soldiers, I sat him in the best chair in the best room. At his request, I re- moved his coat, because he was unable to do so, and when I saw the extent of his injuries I could not understand why he was allowed only a half pension. His papers contained a statement that his injuries represented the after-effects of the war. What is the good of half a man? He has a wife and four children, and onehalf of him is useless.
– There are thousands of them in the same plight.
– If I were an employer of labour, and that man applied to me for a job, I could not engage him; how could I send half a man -to do a plumbing job at a customer’s house? Nor would I be allowed to enter on my pay-sheet that the small amount that’ man could .earn was the wage of half a man. The pension at present allowed him is ridiculous. The departmental officers give me their confidence to a great extent, and I know that financial stringency is the principal reason for the treatment of soldiers in this way. If the medical officers and others had been told that the Government had no money, and that, therefore, they were to do their best to deceive the soldiers out of their pensions, they could not do their job more zealously than they are doing it to-day. I and several honorable members on this side went on to the public platforms during the war, and asked for recruits to come forward in the country’s hour of need. We appealed to the sympathy and patriotism of men, and undera took that we would take care of them and their dependants, so that they would never want. And if ‘the country were properly governed, nobody would want. Now we are doing as the barons and landlords of old did after the wars. Many a penny or threepence I have given to the Crimean veterans, and I vowed then that if ever I had the opportunity I would take care that no man who had served his country as a soldier should be obliged to beg in the streets. To-day we are not treating our soldiers very much better than the Crimean veterans were treated. That is the opinion of people in all classes of society. The whole community is agreed that these men performed their duty faithfully, and have a right to be well cared for now. Those who remained in Australia, and whose wealth was protected by the efforts of the men who went to the war, are under an obligation to ameliorate as far as they can the condition of soldiers who have returned in any way incapacitated. We shall be deserving of the greatest censure if we do’ not look after the interests of the men who have suffered for their country. It is to be hoped that it will not be necessary for me to make another appeal like this. If the Government will not move in the matter, I hope that some other Government will be found to take their place, who will not be unwilling to give effect to the desire of the people of this country that our returned soldiers should be treated well.
– I do not propose to-day to refer at length to the financial position. I am satisfied with the statement made on the subject by the Deputy Leader of the party to which I belong. There are one or two matters to which I specially desire to direct attention. One was mentioned by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) this morning. He referred to the case of a returned soldier residing in a township on the border between his electorate and my own. This man has been treated very harshly. I refer to” his case because it is typical of a number of cases which have been dealt with by the Department concerned in a most unsym pathetic way. The man to- whom I refer has a wife and family, and, according to the Returned Soldiers and Sailors League of his district, he is a very fine type of man,’who likes to be independent. When he returned to Australia from the war he was granted a pension. Thinking that he was in a fit condition to take up work he voluntarily surrendered his pension, and went to work at his occupation as a miner. His branch of the Returned Soldiers and Sailors League has assured me that he made desperate attempts to continue to work, but found that it was impossible to do so. He then applied to have his pension restored to him, and the Department has consistently refused his application, on the ground that the trouble from which he is suffering was present, if not active,- before he went to the war. Even if it is a fact that the seeds of his present trouble were in the man’s system before he went to the war, his unhealthy condition must have been aggravated by war experience.
– Why was he given the pension in the first place?
– There can be no question that he was given the pension because he had done his job, and we had promised that he would be treated in a proper way when we passed the legislation intended to benefit returned soldiers. Since that legislation was passed a new spirit seems to have animated the administration of the Pensions Department, and returned men are not now receiving the sympathetic treatment which was extended to them, soon after the close of the war. The legislation passed by this House for the benefit of returned men was entirely satisfactory. Its early administration was in the main satisfactory, though some unsuitable men were appointed to give effect to it. During the last . six months or more the administration has been tightened up in a very harsh way. The case of the man residing » at Greta, to whom I have referred, is a good example of how unfair the Department can be to a man, who not only tried to do his duty on the field of battle, but after his return surrendered a pension granted to him, and went back to work for his wife and family. Now that he finds himself unable to continue at work his application for the restoration of his pension is refused. Wo can look for nothing but ill-feeling amongst returned soldiers if this kind of administration is to be allowed to continue. These very bad cases are causing many returned soldiers throughout Australia to wonder if they were wise in doing what they have done for this country. Men who went to the Front in good faith have come back to Australia with their ideals enlarged and their desire to do their duty as citizens strengthened. They know that the representative Parliament of the country promised that they would be given reasonable consideration on their return. Many of them are not only suffering themselves, but their wives and children are also suf-faring, and when they are treated in the WaN 1 have described it is no wonder that a feeling of unrest is growing up amongst them. I appeal to the Government to remove some of the more serious grounds for their complaints. The security of this country depends to a very large extent on the satisfaction of the men who fought for it. No one will deny that we owe them a debt which we can hardly hope to repay. For the maintenance of the principles of democratic government as they are known in this country and throughout our Empire, we should do our duty and fulfil the promises made to our returned men.
There is another matter which I should like to mention. I have already dealt with it in various ways in this House. I refer to the way in which taxation is being imposed on the primary producers of this country. I have a case to submit to honorable members, which indicates the grossly unfair treatment which is being meted out to men who are doing their best to open up new country in Australia. I have received the following letter from a man who took up a selection in the back country : - lie Federal assessments on my income for 1918-10. - Included in my income for the year ended 30th June, 1919, was £8,608, received by me on the sale of my settlement lease, and I vas assessed on £5,832, the net balance after the deduction of £2,776, cost of improvements effected by me. The lease was procured by me at ballot in January, 1914. The land is, perhaps, known to you. At the time when I acquired it the land was practically waste, and was infected with noxious weeds, pests, and growths, including pear, and had been begging for years. Alt different periods during my occupancy I was obliged to borrow money to clear the place, ,pay labour, *&c. I borrowed £500 from one person and £2,000 from another, and after ten years’ strenuous labour and much self-denial I had so far cleaned up and developed the block, 5,937 acres, to enable me to effect a sale as abovementioned. The amountof interest paid by me on money borrowed to improve the property was £125 to one person and £360 to another, or a total of £485, and I paid £215 to the commission agent for effecting the sale. Do you think it advisable to make a test case of this? No doubt other men on the land have been and will be mulct in heavy taxes on their labours, and unless matters are altered will be deprived of the fruits of their industry.
This man went on to his block prepared to work his .way and make his land valuable. It was overrun with prickly pear, and worse than useless, because it was a menace to the surrounding country. He put in eight years improving the property, and, having improved it, he made a profit of about £5,000 by its sale; and then the .Taxation Department assessed him at £5,832, the difference between the price he -got for the land and the amount he had actually paid for improvements, and made out his income tax to be £1,597 14s. That was not that man’s income. If the amount on which his tax was assessed had been spread over the eight years during which he had occupied the land, it would represent a taxable income of £573 per annum, without any amount being deducted for expenses. This man -was taxed on the whole amount in a lump sum, and, consequently, had to pay a very much higher rate of tax than he would have been called upon to pay if assessed on his income each year. The Taxation Department had no right whatever to charge this man income tax on what he got from the sale of his land. I have appealed to the Department on behalf of this man and can get no consideration for him. We are told that when in special cases we cannot secure reasonable treatment for people who appeal to us we should bring their cases before this House. I have mentioned the case of a returned soldier, and the way in which a man who has put in years of labour in improving the value of land has been treated. I put these cases before the Ministers concerned in the ordinary way without, securing redress, and I bring them up here now in the hope that when the attention of the whole of the Ministers and of the House is directed to them something will be done to redress these grievances.
There is another matter to which I should like to refer, and which was. very forcibly dealt with by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) before the adjournment for lunch. . I urge that it is quite time that this Parliament honoured its obligations in regard to the building of the Federal Capital. As the honorable member for Eden-Monaro has said, the money spent there is not’ lying idle, because the Federal Capital Territory is improved thereby as an asset. There is some return from the Territory, because much of it is t leased to graziers, but in no sense can it be said that it is returning anything like what it should.. Canberra is at present in the condition of a property less than half improved. No man in possession of a property would leave it unimproved, or if he had the money to improve it would not improve it up to a paying stage. Canberra as it stands is a bad business proposition, and it is a very grave’ reflection on us that we should alios*’ that magnificent Capital site - for it is a magnificent site - to remain in its present state.
– Are you listening, Sir Robert?
– I am,, and I hope shortly to have a word in reply.
– Has the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) ever, seen the place ?
– That has nothing whatever to do with it.
– Just fancy any man giving an opinion on a business proposition without inspecting it. Would any man buy a property without inspecting it or knowing something about it? No one would be expected to spend money on a proposition he knew nothing about; and those who know nothing about a project ought to take the advice of those who do. There are many honorable members who know Canberra, and they see value in it as a business proposition. It is a reflection, not only upon our business capacity, but also, upon our honour, that the agreement concerning the Capital should be unfulfilled, and that the magnificent area we have there should be lying in an unfinished state of development. .
– I can assure the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) of my anxiety to help him in regard to Canberra. He has laid down a proposition - “Canberra or. the country.’’ I will join with him in utilizing every effort that lies in my power to secure a dissolution, for the purpose of submitting to the. country the question of any further expenditure on Canberra at the present time. I hold that it is criminal at the present juncture to squander money there. The honorable member says that it is very desirable to spend money there at this juncture. I call it wasting or squandering it. If the honorable member is in earnest in his slogan, “Canberra or the country,” I am with him all the time in contending that, at this crucial state of our affairs in regard to our finances, the people should have an opportunity of saying whether or not money should be wasted at Canberra. The honorable member complains, perhaps .with justice, of the conditions applying to the payment of old-age pensions, and urges the necessity for further expenditure on postal services. If he is prepared to join with me in stopping all further expenditure at Canberra and in getting the money which he thinks ought to be’ spent there applied to satisfy the wants of the old-age pensioners and of the Postal Department, again I am with him.
– Was the honorable member ever at Canberra?
– The merits of Canberra are not in dispute at the present juncture. They may be more than equal to those of Dalgety, they may be of a very high order indeed, but the question at issue now is whether the country has the right to squander money at Canberra at a time when the people are crushed with taxation. When we are suffering direct taxation to the extent of over £20,000,000 and indirect taxation to the extent of over £30,000,000, when enter* prise is stifled, and when the burdens of taxation are overwhelming, Australia cannot afford to waste any money in this direction. If we could afford ;the expenditure, if taxation were normal, and if we were relieved to some extent of the vast and unproductive burden of debt of over £400,000,000, I would join with the honorable member in carrying out the undertaking given in regard to the establishment of the’ Federal Capital at Canberra. The honorable member, and also the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming), has drawn a herring across the track -by talking about our honour being involved, claiming that we are in honour bound to carry out a so-called solemn obligation. No- one disputes the right to have Canberra built at a time when we can afford to do so. No- one repudiates the selection of Canberra as the Capital site, but we dare not forget that upwards of £2,000,000 has been practically sunk there, for which ‘there is little to show, and that while the country is paying 6 per cent, interest on its loan moneys, the return for the money spent at Canberra is only lj per cent. The position really is, that the more money we expend there the greater will be the loss sustained, and this expenditure is sought at a time when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, with his tongue in his cheek, is demanding economy.
– Why do you say I have my tongue in my cheek?
– Any man who advises wasting money at Canberra .at the present time cannot be sincere in urging economy. - When the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) was Treasurer, the Secretary to the Treasury, on his instructions, made inquiries from the Postal Department, the Public Works Department, and all the other Commonwealth Departments concerned, as to what was likely to be the cost of transferring the Seat of Government to Canberra. We were told as the result of that careful investigation that the cost would be over £3,000,000 at the present time.
– To transfer 11,000 people.
– -It was shown as the result of that honest investigation made on behalf of the then Treasurer that we could not go to Canberra to conduct our business under a cost of £3,000,000.
– Cost to whom ?
– To the revenue.
– No such thing.
– It is very cheap and easy to say “No such thing:’
– It is just as cheap as the honorable member’s statement was.
– The right honorable member for Balaclava gave the House details of how- the estimate of £3,000,000 was made up, and the accu racy of the calculation was not challenged then or afterwards. .
– The present Treasurer challenges it.
-I would not attempt to challenge it.
– The then Treasurer laid the whole of his cards on the table, and the facts submitted by him cannot be challenged; and we dare not ignore them. I ask the present Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) whether the present state of the finances justify an expenditure of £3,000,000 to-day on Canberra.
– It does not.
– The only income now, or -likely to be, derived from Canberra is the return of £35,000 per annum from the resumed land. The position, is that whatever money is voted by this Parliament is a commitment to an immediate expenditure of £3,000,000, with an ultimate expenditure of £10,000,000.
– That is nonsense!
– I intend to protest against such squandering of money.
– I protest against such expenditure.
– I have heard of the fanatical proposition which has been circulated through the press and otherwise, that it is proposed to erect a hostel and conference hall at Canberra. I understand that a conference hall is to be erected to provide a meeting place for the proposed Convention; but I submit, with very much humility, that in the various capitals there are halls and proper hotel accommodation which are in every way suitable for the purpose. I know that after the proceedings of the Convention have terminated that the hall can be converted into a picture theatre, as mentioned by the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett).. The alluring prospect before us, therefore, is that Parliament is being called upon to authorize the reckless expenditure of money on a picture theatre at Canberra.
– We would have moving pictures.
– I have no objection to moving pictures in their proper place; but Canberra is not the proper place at this juncture. The Federal Capital site was designed by the best brains in the world, and I believe in the permanent work proceeding steadily in keeping with the money available. That is a proper and legitimate way to work; but that is not the policy of the Government, because they intend to erect a number of shelter sheds, and certain temporary accommodation in order that we may ostensibly be temporarily housed at Canberra. Whatever expenditure is incurred on temporary accommodation is absolute’ and deliberate waste, and I, therefore, repeat my challenge to the honorable member” for EdenMonaro, because we should have the right to say whether money is to be wasted or not.
– Did the honorable member vote for the expenditure of £150,000 last year ? .
– I voted against it. .
– And yet the honorable member believes in the work proceeding.
– Yes, in a reasonable manner. We cannot afford to expend £150,000 in. one year; that amount should have been spread over several years, as I can quite understand the reasonableness of placing £25,000 or £30,000 on the Estimates from time to time for permanent works, such as roads and
Streets and maintenance. But here we are invited to go into the bush and occupy .temporary accommodation involving the deliberate waste of money at a time when we cannot afford it. This gross extravagance is being indulged- in when the postal services throughout the Commonwealth are in need of money. I repeat my offer to the honorable member for Eden-Monaro that I shall help, if he so desires, to go to the country on the question of whether there shall be any further expenditure on Canberra when we are so overburdened with taxation, or I shall assist him in advocating that the money, which would otherwise be spent on Canberra, be used in relieving old-age and invalid pensioners and in providing additional postal services.
-. - I desire to make one or two observations upon the matter referred to by the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who said it was criminal to squander money on Canberra. Every one will agree that it is criminal to recklessly expend public money when there is no prospect of a reasonable return. But it is a very different’ proposition for the House to consider a carefully studied scheme for carrying out what, after all, is undoubtedly a fundamental obligation under the Constitution. There is no getting away from that. I remind the honorable member that before the- last election the Government distinctly announced that it -was their intention, as the war was over, to carry out their obligations. The then Treasurer (Mr. Watt) did,, as the honorable member says, institute an inquiry by officers of the Treasury, who obtained information, not from the Works Department only, but from all Departments, as to the expenditure that would be necessary to transfer the Federal Capital. - On the information supplied, the late -Treasurer estimated that an expenditure of £3)250,000 would be necessary, but he also indicated that he expected not more than: £500,000 to be provided by private enterprise. He also said -
The Government wish to he perfectly sure in their* estimates of cost, and therefore will ask the sanction of the House for a full and complete inquiry to he made as to the cost of transferring the Federal Parliament, to Canberra.
After submitting this estimate the Minister said a Committee would be asked to inquire into the cost of the Government fulfilling their promise, and. a Board of experts has been appointed. That inquiry is iia progress, and the Government have already been advised as to certain necessary works. We have already acted upon certain recommendations of the Advisory Board. Some of the expense - that has been incurred has been on the advice of that body of experts, and every penny of the expenditure can be justified. The honorable member for Kooyong represents the anti-Canberra section; but, notwithstanding that, he says that he desires to stand by the Constitution. That being so, the suggested transfer to Sydney of the Capital is mere camouflage. The honorable member intimated that he does not dispute the merits of Canberra, so the objection to the fitness of the site goes, It has been said from time to time that the water supply at Canberra is inadequate; but advice has just come to hand from one of the most expert engineers in the Commonwealth-, that after thirteen years of careful examination concerning the supply from the
Cotter River, it is found that it is capable of supplying 70,000,000 gallons per day from a regulated flow, or enough to meet the requirements, of a population of 700,000 people, consuming100 gallons each per day. It is declared by the same engineer that the supply from the Cotter River is one of the purest in the whole Commonwealth. When the honorable member says that there is no dispute as to the merits he is right; but as he has never been there, he only knows that by intuition. We must remember that up to 30th June, 1920, £1,738,000 had been expended, and of that amount £740,000 had been spent on the resumption of land. The estimates of receipts for the current year are about £35,000, which includes rates collected for municipal purposes. I think thatwill be regarded as a very satisfactory return, particularly when we take into consideration the fact that the value of the lands is being continually added to by improvements. The honorable member for Kooyong forgets that we have the Crown lands of the Federal Territory free of cost. What is going to be the rent roll of the city area when 15,000 people are settled there? I do not think I am exaggerating when I say that the rents that will be paid will go more than a long way towards defraying the interest on public buildings required for Government offices. I ask the honorable member to estimate the rent-roll in a city accommodating 15,000 people. Today we are paying £25,000 a year for the offices we are occupying in Melbourne, and which will not be required when the Seat of Government is transferred. What capital is required to produce that amount of interest? It will provide more than the cost of the public offices required in Canberra in the beginning. The honorable member says that the money spent has been wasted; but I ask him to visit the Federal Territoryand see how the money is being spent.
– Over £30,000 has been wasted on a sewerage system.
– That is not so.
– An engineer of the Metropolitan Board of Works said so.
– I do not agree with that opinion. Reports to the contrary from officers whose ability cannot be questioned have been made. The sewerage project has been already before the
Public Works Committee, whose members hold different opinions from those of the honorable member. When he sees the full report upon the sewerage system, he will probably be impressed with the fact that there has been no waste.
The honorable member for Kooyong wants to know how the money generally has been spent. The sum of £255,000 has been expended on water supply. The reservoir is already completed, and the most modern pumping” plant in the Commonwealth has been provided. The water is now laid right to the city boundaries, and practically only awaits reticulation throughout the area. The powerhouse is one of the most modern and best-equipped in Australia. The output of the brickworks is unsurpassed for quality in any part of the Commonwealth. Roads have been made; and I assure honorable members that there has been no serious waste upon them, or on any other of the works undertaken in the Federal Capital. For confirmation, I look confidently to honorable members who have visited the Territory and made investigations in an impartial spirit. The honorable member for Kooyong is right in saying that while capital is lying idle it is a loss. If he had £1,000,000 lying idle, would he not try, by the expenditure of; more money, to make it reproductive? If the honorable member were to analyze the sources of expenditure indicated by the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), to which reference has been made, he would gain a clearer and fairer estimate of the whole situation. Does he think, for example, that the public servants who take up their residence at Canberra will be housed rent free? Does he not realize that they will be required to pay rent for thehouses they occupy? The honorable member overlooks that, in regard to the expenditure estimated by the honorable member for Balaclava to be made at Canberra, almost every penny in the Territory will be productive of revenue one way or another. Of course, the public buildings, including Parliament House, will be a charge upon revenue in that they will be availed of for the transaction of public business: But it should be taken for granted that the inhabitants of the Federal Capital will pay rental for their residences. Many, no doubt,will live in their own homes, just as they do to-day in Melbourne, Sydney, or elsewhere. Another point which should not be overlooked is that a large portion of the buildings to be provided will probably be carried out by private enterprise.
The honorable member for Kooyong has asserted that the Capital transfer will probably cost £10,000,000. I invite him to give me the names of the persons who furnished him with the estimate, and to supply me with the details on which the total is based. I shall be prepared to submit them forthwith to the Advisory Board, with a request for immediate investigation into the authenticity of the figures.
– Has not the Minister, in his own Department, estimates totalling £6,000,000, which are based on pre-war prices?
– The honorable member has had it proclaimed all over Australia, with the large-lettered assistanceof the press, that the present Federal Capital scheme is going to. cost £10,000,000 . If he wishes the public to accept his estimate, he must be prepared to furnish the Government and the people with particulars. If the city is to cost £10,000,000 we can form an idea of the value to Melbourne by its retention here. There are 10,000,000 reasons why it should stay here. I suggest at the present stage that the matter of total cost be put oh one side. The Advisory Board is now engaged in the task of reporting upon the existing data and the works as they are to-day, and of indicating to the Government what works already begun are necessary to be completed; and, further, of laying down a scheme for progressive development, with a view to the occupation of the site at the earliest practicable date. The presentation of this important report will be facilitated in every way, and the document will be laid on the table of the House. I am sure that it will be a fair and accurate estimate of what the Capital scheme is likely to cost. The actions of the Government have been right and proper. Before launching upon a scheme forany extensive works atCanberra, they authorized the drafting of a progressive plan of development to permit the gradual transfer of governmental activities to the Federal
City, so that the money spent might be wisely laid out.
-Willthe Board submit a scheme for the whole completed Capital, and furnish estimates of its total cost?
– Does the honorable member mean for the whole Capital, and indicating the time when the whole will be completed ?
– In submitting a scheme for the whole Capital, will the Board indicate what the total cost will be?
– The Board has been asked to submit a scheme, I repeat, for the progressive occupation of the City, and to indicate, at the same time, the cost involved. The honorable member has asked me whether these particulars will be made available in respect of the completed City. Does he mean a City having a population of 200,000 people?
– Will the scheme be reported upon from the view-point of a completed whole?
– The duty of the Board will be to present a scheme for the transfer progressively of the activities of the Seat of Government what will be necessary, for example, up to that stage when Canberra will have about 15,000 inhabitants.
– I am not speaking of shelter sheds and picture theatres.
– If the honorable member will consent to visit Canberra, he will be shown a number of workmen’s cottages well on the way towards completion. When the report of the Board has been received, the Government will be in a position to submit definite proposals to Parliament. Due regard must be given to the financial position; and, of course, not the most ardent advocate of Canberra has suggested otherwise.
I wish the House to know the exact position with respect to the money voted last year. Parliament authorized an expenditure of £150,000 towards the initial and preparatory work of the Capital city. To date, the amount authorized by the Government out of thatvote totals £132,325. Included in that sum there is at least £32,500 which is due to the Imperial Government because of our having taken over the Molonglo internment camp.
– Who valued that, by the way?
– The trustees, as- well as the expert Advisory Board. The sum of £34,000 has been authorized for the construction of cottages. Three groups of. these have been started. Twenty cottages are being erected upon the civic centre) known as the Ainslie centre; and a progressive, report, dated 22nd June, indicates that twelve of the twenty cottages are practically up to the roof-plates. Three have the roof timbers upon them, as well as other advanced work. Excavations and foundations have been made in respect of the whole of the remainder in that group. In the power-house group, of ten . cottages, three are now approaching completion. Foundations have been laid for three others. At the brickworks’* group, comprising another seven cottages, foundations and excavations have been completed in the case of six, and brickwork is proceeding. In every instance,the undertaking is advancing steadily. The brickworks have been started again, and there is being consumed a weekly total of 35,000 to 40,000 bricks in the cottages, to which £10,000 has been allotted. The joinery works and pipemaking plant are in operation also. The honorable member for. Kooyong said he would raise no objection if the money at Canberra were being spent on roads and permanent improvements. I wish to say that £12,760 is being spent upon roads. The railway line has been completed from the power-house to the civic centre. In addition; £2,700 is being spent on tree planting within the city area. A further amount of £10,000 is to be laid out upon extensions of water supply, drainage, electric supply, and so on. There are at least 220 men at this moment engaged upon works at Canberra, and they will continue to be busy there for the next three or four months at least.
One other matter on which I desire to touch has reference to the hostel and the matter of a picture palace. . The honorable member for Kooyong has created out of his vivid imagination a magnificent picture palace for Canberra. Those luxuries may be found in fashionable city suburbs; but, in a working centre, such as Canberra will be, there will be no such fantastic schemes as he has in mind. The idea under Government consideration is not for the authorization of some’ barn-like building for;a picture palace; but the intention was to have a structure so reared that it would constitute portion of the tern’porary Parliament House.- It must be remembered that, to erect the permanent Parliamentary Building in the Federal City will take time, since it will be a structure in every way worthy of the site. The present idea is to get to Canberra at the earliest possible, date, and, therefore, the Government are perfectly justified in contemplating some df thebuildings to be erected of a temporary character. Honorable members will see that the Government have endeavoured to fulfil the constitutional obligation with due regard to economies.
.- I have listened with interest to the statement made by the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) as to the . work which is being done at. the Federal .Capital. ‘Over twenty years have elapsed since the agreement was made that the Federal Capita] should be established in New South Wales, and Parliament, as a -body of honorable men, was expected to carry out that agreement without delay. The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has said that we should wait for the return of normal taxation before we attempt to build the Capital. He might as well have said that we should wipe out the compact altogether. I am sure he will agree with me that it is time we ceased to be parasites on the State of Victoria by occupying this splendid building without paying the State Government any rent for if. We have not even attempted to improve the Parliamentary Reserve at the northern end of this building. I have sought to have it beautified and set apart as a children’s playground, but it still remains a waste space, the like of which is not to be found in any other city. I thank the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman) for the strenuous fight- he has put up in support of the building of the Federal Capital, and my experience of him convinces . me that he will stand by his guns! The Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) once said there was a way by which the Federal Capital could be built without costing the country a penny. I agree with that view. We have only to follow the example set to us by the people of the little island of Guernsey in building their market in the early part of last century. At that time it was difficult to borrow money in London, and -it was decided to’ issue 5,000 £1 market scrip notes for the payment, of the brickmakers, bricklayers, stonemasons, carpenters, and others employed in building the market. The market was no sooner built than every stall in it was let, and by means of the revenue so derived, together with whatever moneys could be set: apart .by the municipal, council, the notes were quickly paid off. Every year as many notes as could be redeemed in this way were burnt, and in ten years the people had for all time a revenueproducing asset for which they had actually paid nothing. The same thing could be done in connexion with ‘the- building of Canberra. It is idle to talk of the Federal Capital costing £10,000,000. If that sum had been expended by the State Government in building premises in Melbourne while the city was yet in its infancy, what would be the present rental value- of such buildings? Considerably over £250,000 has been wasted in building unnecessary division walls in Collins-street alone. If this city had been built under a Board of Control, such as we hope to have supervising the building of the Federal Capital, those division walls would have been done away with, with the result that thousands of pounds would have been saved in respect of labour, and much valuable land would not have been wasted.
Our taxation, we are told, is equal to £12 per head of the population, whereas before the war it was only £4 per head of the population. But has the wealth of the country contributed to the cost of the war in anything like the proportion of the population of Australia who offered their lives to the cause. Over 70 per cent, of the men of military age volunteered for active service, oyer 40 per cent, were accepted, and over” 33 p6r cent, actually went to the Front. Can we say that 33 per cent, of the wealth of the country has been contributed to the payment of our war debt?
Coming to the question of economies that might well be effected, I should like_ to know why we require a High Commissioner and six Agents-General. Let us sell Australia House, London. No one can say that it has been, of any service to us, or that we have reaped any benefit from the appointment of a High Com missioner. I am not casting any reflection on my late leader, Sir Andrew Fisher, whose actions as High Commissioner were absolutely hampered by the Government. ‘I have asked actors, doctors, lawyers, commercial men, and others who have been to London what good the High Commissioner’s office is doing, but have never heard that it is serving any useful purpose. Instead of a High Commissioner and six State Agents-General, we should have commercial agents in London, pay them a commission by way of salary, and “ sack “ them in the event of their sales not being satisfactory.
– The Agent-General, for Western Australia is doing good work.
– I recognise that. I lived in London for four and a half years, and when I desired to secure an appointment as medical officer on an emigrant ship bound for Western Australia it was to the Agent-General for Queensland that I had to apply. Then, again, we have seven State Governors and a GovernorGeneral. If the people had a right to vote on the question, all such offices would be abolished. We also have seven second Chambers of Parliament. They are unnecessary. Likewise, we have seven Chief Justices, seven different systems of income tax - two varying systems operating in each State - and seven different land Taxation Departments. Is it not idiotic ? If the - people had the power of the referendum, the initiative and the recall, they would decide these matters and so save the Government many a long and weary debate in Parliament.
I thank the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) for the splendid work he did while Acting Minister for Repatriation. While recognising the difficulties associated with the control of that Department, I can only, say, after many years’ experience of Senator Milieu’s administration, that” I could wish a better and kinder man were at the head of it. Honorable members” will recollect the fight I put up on behalf of the returned soldiers engaged in making Anzac tweed, and the unjust statements made in this House, on behalf of the Minister, in reply to my allegations. I am proud to say that every statement I made at the time in regard to the Anzac tweed industry has been fulfilled. The men to-day are earning £5 a week and upwards, whereas under Senator -Millen’s scheme they received only £2 2s. per week, less the amount of any pension that was paid to them. As the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. “West) has said, when we were asking men to enlist we promised them that their wives and families would be well looked after should anything happen to them, but those promises have not been kept. Senator Millen, speaking in another place some time ago, said an allowance would be made in respect of only four children in every family, and when the late Senator Guthrie asked what would be the position of a man who had eight children, he was told by Senator Millen that that would be the man’s own responsibility. That was not in keeping with the promise that I, and hundreds of others, had made from the recruiting platform. The men also were not fairly treated in the matter of life assurance. Every American soldier who went to the Front, whether he liked it or not, was insured for £1,000 at a cost of £8 6s. 8d. Here a policy for £1,000 would have cost a soldier £152 7s. 8d.
There is only one other matter to which I shall refer. I hope that before the question of the continuance, or otherwise, of the Wheat Pool is definitely decided we shall be allowed to take a vote upon it. My desire is that the Wheat Pool shall be continued. When the scheme was first introduced I was very hopeful with regard to it, and am glad to say that -my hopes have been fully realized. I once asked an old school mate of mine who has a thorough knowledge of the growing and marketing of wheat, what would have happened if, during the war, there had been no Wheat Pool. His reply was that the big grain merchants of Australia would have exported as much as they could get away and would have bought as much as was required for local consumption, and that as to the rest, the farmers might have been able to obtain ls. per bushel for it. It was the pooling of the wheat that saved the farmers, and I shall certainly vote for the continuance of the Pool.
I said that Dr. Norris and others were examining the immigrants to this country, and that those suffering from tubercular complaints would not be al; lowed to enter the Commonwealth; but, according to the Age, persons suffering from gas, shell-shock, and tuberculosis did come in during the year 1919-20. There is no excuse for the admission of tubercular patients.
– We cannot find out how these persons got here.
– Possibly, they are persons who paid their own passage money.
The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert. Best) has’ spoken of the taxation of this country, but we, as a people, really do not know what taxation is. No city elsewhere of the size of Melbourne is so lightly taxed, our rate being 2s. 3d. or 2s. 6d. in the £1. European and American municipalities have to pay for the upkeep of police, for which our citizens pay nothing. The 4<7« of the 5th July, 1919, writing pf Theodore Roosevelt, said that he once advocated a law under which earnings over £10,000 would be paid back to” the revenue of the community from which they were taken, and said that this legislation may not have been feasible, but the principle was a good one.. As we »have twentythree millionaires, something like fiftysix semi-millionaires, and twice, that number of quarter-millionaires, the rich of this country might well contribute/ if hot 30 per cent, pf their wealth, which was the life offer of those who fought for Australia, at least 20 per. cent., and thus wipe 0if the war debt which new is a curse to Australia.
– Before closing the debate, can the Acting Prime Minister say when men will be re-employed at Cockatoo Island?
– The Navy Board and the newBoard, of Control have been sitting all day, and it is hoped that they will finish before they rise. There is only noW. the difficulty of the transference, and I think that this can be settled soon.
-^- Will work be started soon after it has been dealt with?
– I hope so. I shall make it my business to see. Mr. Farquhar myself, on the subject.
– I understand that Admiral. Clarkson says that if there were money available the men could be started at work immediately.
– Money is available. How are the men paid, fortnightly or weekly?
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– I do not think it is right for the Government to introduce a Supply Bill on a Friday, and then arrange for the closing of the debate in time for honorable members to catch trains to the other States, because this prevents those who have matters to discuss from bringing them before the House.
– If there were an understanding that there should be no trouble about a quorum, the honorable member could have a quarter of an hour.
– That is not very much to allow, considering that a Minister has taken up a good part of the afternoon, though I do not blame him for that.
– It is not fair that honorable members should drop in for a few minutes, makea speech, and go out again, while other honorable members, who have been in the chamber all day, cannot get an opportunity to speak. It is the Victorian members who do what I complain of.
– If the Acting Prime Minister (Sir Joseph Cook) does Sot give me an opportunity to discuss the matter to which I wish to call attention, I shall make one. The people of this country, not only my own constituents, but those of other districts, desire to have an inquiry into the past conduct of the Wheat Pools and the bungling that has taken place in connexion with them; but when I asked the right honorable gentleman for an opportunity to move a motionrelating to this matter, of whichI have given notice, he told me, in effect, that the Government had no interest in it.
– If I recollect aright, I said that we did not manage the Wheat Pool.
– You suggested that you had not, and did not, accept any responsibility.
– I think I did say that.
– It is only the Commonwealth Government that can inquire into the conduct of the whole business; a State could deal with only its own share of the transactions.
– The Commonwealth Government was represented on the Central Wheat Board by a member, and latterly had charge of the financial arrangements in connexion with the handling of the wheat. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) not only gave the guarantee to the farmers, but undertook the control of the shipping practically, and everything incidental to the business was under Commonwealth control. The Acting Prime Minister knows that. Consequently, as the honorable member for Gwydir suggests, it is only the Commonwealth Government that could arrange for a general inquiry into the whole conduct of the wheat business. The farmers are interested in knowing whether, in future, there is to be a Pool or not. The day before yesterday, in reply to a question asked by me, the Acting Prime Minister said, “ All I have said myself was to express the hope that the growers of wheat would be able to look after themselves, and, if possible, relieve this Government of the. never-ending trouble of being a party to the control of. these various undertakings.” He thus admitted that the Government is a party to the control. The Government cannot shirk responsibility for the action of the Prime Minister in regard to this matter.
– What is wrong with the Pools?
– The Government must shoulder responsibility for the past misdeeds of the Wheat Pools. The 1916 and 1917 Pools have not yet been cleared up.
– Whose fault is that ? The honorable member had better say very little about that matter. There is trouble in only one State, and that is where the Labour party is in office.
– Perhaps the Acting Prime Minister is referring to Victoria.
– I am not. I am referring to New South Wales.
– Even so, it is wise to clear up the Pools.
– They are being cleared up.
– If the Acting Prime Minister has nothing to hide-
– I have nothing to hide in connexion with the Pools. Has the honorable member?
– I know that there are a lot of things which require to be cleared up.
– Does the honorable member know of anything which should be hidden in connexion with those Pools?
– No ; but I know that there is a lot being hidden.
– For what purpose does the honorable member desire the appointment of a Royal Commission?
– I desire its appointment in order to find out what things are being hidden.
– Let the honorable member make his statements in that connexion, so that we may see what they are.
– If it had not been for the assistance given by the Acting Prime Minister to some of the small landowners in connexion with the Pools, thousands of men would be out of work.
– The right honorable gentleman affirmed that he had no responsibilities in regard to this matter.
– He assisted a great number of persons who were interested in the Pools.
– I am not speaking of what the Acting Prime Minister did. I merely say that there was gross mismanagement on the part of the Central Wheat Board, and that the Government must accept responsibility for the actions of that Board, seeing that they had a Minister representing hem upon it. Will the Treasurer afford me an opportunity to bring forward my motion in favour of the appointment of a Royal Commission to inquire into the conduct of the Wheat Pools?
– I will not provide the honorable member with any facilities in the direction of the appointment of a Royal Commission unless he first states the grounds upon which he demands it. Let him explicitly state his reasons, and let us see what they are.
– I will do that at the proper time. I desire an inquiry into all the statements that have been made concerning the conduct of the Pools. The Acting Prime Minister knows that statements have been made implicating himself, although I am not speaking about him at all.
– What I Implicating me?
– Statements have been made implicating the right honorable gentleman, along with the Government with which he is associated. But I am not going to be “ bluffed “ by the Acting Prime Minister.
– There is no “ bluff “ about it.
– If the right honorable gentleman will not afford me an opportunity to bring forward the motion to which I have referred, I shall take another opportunity of dealing with this matter next week.
– The honorable member may take any opportunity that he may deem fit.
– The honorable member may proceed now. There are enough honorable members present to keep a quorum.
– Is the Acting Prime Minister agreeable to the adoption of that course?
– The honorable member may do just what he pleases.
– Then, I shall leave the matter till next week, and if I am not afforded then the opportunity which I desire to ventilate this question, I shall move the adjournment of the House in order to call attention to it.
Clauses, schedule, and title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
The following papers were pre sented : -
Papua- Ordinances of 1920- No. 10, Justices; No. 11, Registration (Nationals’ Property); No. 12, Health ; No. 17, Customs (Export) Tariff; No. 18, Private Tramways; No. 19, Post and Telegraph.
House adjourned at 4.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 24 June 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210624_reps_8_96/>.