8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) presented, pursuant to Statute, the aggregatebalance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank at 30th June, 1921, together with the Auditor-General’s report thereon.
Bill returned from’ the Senate, with amendments.
Bill returned from the Senate, without amendment.
Bill returned from the Senate, with requests.
Bill returned from the Senate, with requests.
– I lay on the table the first general report of the Federal Capital Advisory Committee on the construction of Canberra.I move -
That the report be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
.- I desire to announce that I have been appointed Deputy Leader of the Opposition in the House of Representatives.
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
Lord Nosthcliffe and Representation of Australia
– In . the absence of the Prime Minister, I ask the right honorable the Treasurer if he noticed that last week the Melbourne dailies gave us some information to the effect that Lord Northcliffe had come to Australia to confer with the Prime Minister on Australia’s representation at the Washington Disarmament Conference ? Is there any truth in the rumour current in Melbourne to-‘ day that Lord Northcliffe will be in the United States at just the psychological moment when the Conference will meet, and is to be appointed representative of Australia at that Conference? I should like to know if the right honorable the Treasurer can deny the rumour; or, if it be correct, what connexion thereis between Lord Northcliffe and the Australian people?
– I am rather surprised that my honorable friend should be so apparently ignorant of Lord Northcliffe’s doings and sayings. His question clearly indicates that he cannot be attending meetings of the Trades and Labour
Council. I saw a statement the otter day to the effect that his confreres in the Trades and Labour Council had a most interesting interview with the distinguished gentleman to whom the honorable member has referred. I will undertake to say that they discussed every aspect of Australia’s relations to things within and without this great continent of ours. Just to set the honorable member’s mind at rest, I should like to say that I know nothing whatever about Lord Northcliffe or his doings, other than what I have read in the newspapers. I am quite sure that he will be represented at the Washington Conference - that is to say, that his journals will be represented there. Beyond that, I do not think it is likely that Lord Northcliffe will have anything whatever to do with the Washington Disarmament Conference.
Suggested Appointment of Sir Joseph Cook
– I wish to address to the Prime Minister a question, without notice. It is reported that, at the reception given to the right honorable gentleman on his return to Australia, he intimated that his colleague, the Treasurer, was to be released from this inferno. Is that to be taken as a notification that Sir Joseph Cook is to be appointed High Commissioner ?
– No. That was but an effort on my part to emulate the prophets of old, and to indicate that, in due season, my right honorable friend will sit amongst the cherubim and seraphim who continually do cry.
Homes Costing more thanStatutory Limit.
– I ask the Assistant Minister for Repatriation what is being done in those cases in which returned soldiers are being charged an excessive price for the homes which they have purchased from or through the Government?
– I take it that the honorable gentleman refers to homes that have cost more than the statutory limit. By reason of the abnormal conditions surrounding building at a certain period of operations, some of the houses built by the War Service Homes Commission cost more than the statutory limit. It is not the intention of the Government to charge soldiers who applied for houses costing an amount within the statutory limit more than that amount.
– What arrangements have the Government made in regard to the manning of the new ships that are being built for the Commonwealth in Great Britain? Will the Government consider the advisability of seeing that the ships are staffed with Australian officers and engineers?
– I am not in a position to supply the information for which the honorable member has asked. I cannot anticipate what will be done, but as the honorable member has asked this question, I inform, the House that I propose to make, at the earliest opportunity, probably one day next week, a comprehensive statement in regard to the shipping proposals of the Government, including shipbuilding, in order that the House, being in possession of the full facts, may express an opinion as to what ought to be, in its opinion, the future policy of the Government.
– In view of the importance of the shipbuilding industry in South Australia, and the fact that contracts let by the Commonwealth for the construction of ships in that State will shortlybe completed, . will the Minister for Shipping consider the advisability of placing further contracts in South Australia, if not for the 5,000-ton ships, for at least one 12,000-ton vessel ?
– I am not prepared to commit myself to any promise pending the comprehensive statement which the Prime Minister has promised the House regarding the shipbuilding policy generally.
– Has the Treasurer yet received a report from the Royal Commission on Taxation in regard to the averaging of the incomes of primary pro- ducers and others?
– Yes ; I hope to make a statement on that matter during the course of my Budget speech.
Motion (by Dr. Earle Page) agreed to-
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), on the ground of ill-health.
– Having regard to the large number of returned soldiers who are unemployed in South Australia, is it possible for the Department of Works and Railways to expedite public works in that State which will provide employment for those men?
– When I was in Adelaide recently I consulted with the Director of Works in regard to expediting public works in that State. In view of what the honorable member has said, I shall make further representations to him.
– Do the Government propose to take any action in regard to the marketing of next season’s wheat?
– During my absence from Australia I lost touch with the wheat position, which, indeed, is somewhat complicated. I understand thatthere has been an appeal to the electors of Victoria on this matter. What the verdict of the people was I am utterly at a loss to interpret. No doubt a more lengthy sojourn in . this environment will enable me to interpret it, but honorable members must allow me a little time.
– I ask the Minister for Home and Territories what progress has been made in regard to the redistribution of electoral boundaries, and whether it is true that the boundaries in all the States are likely to be altered?
– It is proposed that the electoral boundaries in all States shall be altered. The personnel of the Commissioners who are to do this work in the different States has been approved, and as soon as the State Governments have consented to the services of State officers being made available for the purpose the appointments will be gazetted.
– I ask the Treasurer when the House will be in possession of the Auditor-General’s report?
– The report has already ‘ been placed on the table of the House, and I hope it will be distributed to honorable members within a day or two.
– Did the Prima Minister, during his trip abroad, fulfil the promise he made prior to his departure, to inquire regarding the marketing of base metals? If so, will he inform the House’ of the possibility of sales of base metals, particularly lead and zinc, being effected?
– I have not looked at the mining columns in the press since my return to Australia; but the position so far as I understand it is this: The prices now offering for lead, copper, zinc, and tin are so much below the cost of production that it is impossible to mine them anywhere in the world at a profit. That state of things can at the worst be only temporary. It is very obvious that nothing can be produced at a loss for any length of time; and that, therefore, the price of metals must ultimately reach a figure which will cover the cost of production. One of the causes of the slump in metal prices is the accumulation of supplies that were made in anticipation of the continuation of the war. Another cause is the impoverishment of a very large portion of Europe, which is unable to buy. This is a business question, and the honorable member can see very plainly that until that mountain of supplies which was heaped up has been utilized there can be no stimulus for fresh production or readiness on the part of prospective buyers to pay higher prices than those at which the metals are now offering. Time alone can enable Europe to rehabilitate itself and attain a position in which it can be an effective buyer of our metals. That is the only information I can give the honorable member.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that there are many graziers who have not been able to secure financial assistance from the various banks for the purpose of enabling them to stock their holdings, and that on this account they, are in danger of being pushed off their land? In the’ circumstances will he use the resources of the Commonwealth to finance these men to enable them to stock their holdings and carry on?
– It is very obvious that a general answer cannot be given to such a question. I can only say that I do not know that what the honorable member states is a fact, and that if it be a fact no doubt those who are concerned will approach me as the head of the Government, or the Treasurer as the custodian of the funds of the Commonwealth, and lay their position before us, so that we may consider each case on its merits.
Exemption for Tasmanian Trade
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs reached any finality in regard to the question of exempting mail boats in connexion with the Hobart trade during the fruit season?
– The Navigation Act gives the Administration power to grant permits to ships that are not licensed in the event of the local coastal shipping being inadequate to supply the normal needs of any particular place. The position of Hobart in this respect is now being inquired into, and until I am satisfied upon that aspect of the question it is impossible for me to say whether the exemption, which the honorable member desires, can be granted.
– When can the House expect the Prime Minister to make a statement in regard to the policy of the Government in respect to Mandated Territories ?
– Order! It is not in order for an honorable member to ask a question relating to a matter of policy.
– During the absence of the Prime Minister the gentlemen in this House, known as the Country party, decided that they would cover all acts of maladministration on the part of the
Government until his return, and they did it very well. As it is a matter of some importance to honorable members, I ask the right honorable gentleman if that embargo has now been removed?
– I did not know that there was an embargo of the sort to which the honorable member refers, butcertainly any embargo imposed as a result of my absence is obviously removed now that I am here again.
– I would like to know if additional medical men have been appointed for the purpose of inspecting applicants who claim that they have had their war pensions reduced or cancelled recently, and whether all returned soldiers and their dependants who have suffered the reduction or cancellation of their pensions will be given the opportunity of appearing before this Medical Board?
– I am not now administering that, branch of repatriation work, but I remember the matter clearly, and I shall ask the Minister (Senator Millen) to furnish me with a reply tomorrow.
– Can the
Minister for Home and Territories state what progress has been made with the proposed ordinance relating to land and buildings at the Federal Capital?
– The Land Ordinance has been completed, but it has not yet been approved by Cabinet. I hope to have the details of the regulations finalized before the end of the week.
– Has the Minister for Trade and Customs been informed of the reason for keeping the recent outbreak of bubonic plague in Queensland a close secret for about three weeks ?
– I have received no information as to why the outbreak was kept a close secret. All I know is that it was done.
– Has any step been taken in connexion with the recommendation of the Public Works Committee in respect of the Kidman and Mayoh shipbuilding contract?
– The matter has been in the hands of the Crown Law authorities for some time past, and I do not at present know how the matter stands.
Representation of Australia
– I would like to know what prompted the Prime Minister to appoint Mr. M. L. Shepherd, the Acting High Commissioner, to represent Australia at the Geneva Conference of the League of Nations?
– I did not appoint Mr. Shepherd to represent Australia at that Conference. The Government of Australia appointed him; but if the honorable member wishes to know what prompted the Government to appoint him it was this : Upon a review of the whole of the circumstances we thought that representation adequate. The other Dominions are represented either by their High Commissioners or Acting High Commissioners, and we saw no reason whatever for other action so far as Australia is concerned. The honorable member will not expect me to set out at length my views on the League of Nations Assembly ; they are fairly well known, and I do not know that the passage of time has not converted the majority of mankind to my way of thinking in regard to it. However, for good or evil, that is my opinion, and it is evidently the opinion of every one of the other Dominions. The representation suggested we therefore consider adequate. There was a protest made by this Parliament, or a section of it, and we asked the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) to act for us. That gentleman is carrying out the representation in a way that confers distinction on Australia, and we are very pleased, indeed, that he was able to accept the position.
Suggested Royal Commission
– On 24th September last year, I suggested, in a question, that a Royal Commission should be appointed to inquire into the administration of the War Service Homes Department. It was -intimated by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), who replied to me on that occasion, that no charges had been made which would justify the appointment of a Royal Commission, but that an inquiry would be held by the Public Accounts Committee. That Committee has held an inquiry, but that has not prevented responsible persons in the community from making direct charges regarding certain “officials of the Department. In view of these repeated charges, will the Government appoint a Royal Commission, with a Judge at its head, to inquire into them in order to ascertain whether they are true or untrue? Further, if on inquiry the charges are proved to be true, and it is shown that persons have suffered considerable loss as a result of maladministration of the Department, will the Government make restitution?
– I can hardly be ex- ‘ pected to answer a question of that kind. First of all, I learn somewhat to my astonishment that somebody has been making charges. Of that I was quite ignorant, but if the honorable member will supply me with names and particulars, I shall look into them. I remind the honorable member that I returned to Melbourne only yesterday. I have not had an opportunity of hearing from my colleagues their many troubles, which generally percolate from one to another slowly. So far, this particular trouble has not reached me. All I can say is that I shall take an opportunity to consult my colleagues on the matter, and put myself in a position to make a statement in reply to the honorable member at the earliest possible moment.
Taxation Policy of the Government.
– I desire to know from the Minister for Home and Territories whether it is a fact that he has remitted taxation amounting to something like £500,000 to the taxpayers of Papua, while continuing to incarcerate citizens in the Northern Territory for not paying their taxes?
– The figures are not correctly stated by the honorable member, and his question cannot be answered by a plain “ Yes “ or “ No.” As a matter of fact, the Commonwealth has been collecting taxation from Papua, and placing it, not in the Papuan Treasury, but in the Commonwealth Treasury. The law under which that was done has been rescinded. The position in Papua is in no way analogous to that in the Northern Territory.
– Will the Treasurer inform the House whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that the Bureau of Science and Industry has been compelled to discontinue its investigations into the blow-fly pest owing to scarcity of funds; and, if that be so, in view of the serious menace to the pastoral industry from this pest, will the honorable gentleman see that the necessary funds are made available ?
– An announcement was made to that effect in the newspapers, and orders were immediately given to countermand any such action. I understand that the inquiry is now in process of being completed; no cessation whatever has taken place in that respect.
asked the Minister for the Navy, upon notice -
– The’ answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Is it a fact that some of the so-called missionary societies in the Western . District of the British Solomon Islands are only trading companies in disguise; if so, will “he take steps to prevent appeals being made to the public of Australia for subscriptions to such missionary societies, and will ho also communicate with the Government of the British Solomon Islands Protectorate with a view to an inquiry being held as to the bona fides of these missionary societies?
– The Government has no information regarding this matter, which does not seem to be one in which action can be. taken by. the Commonwealth.
Congestion of Business
asked the Prime Minis ter, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Position of United States of America : Assemblies at Geneva: International Court of Justice.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– This Government has no official information as to the reasons why the United States of America is not a member of the League of Nations. Every nation which ratified the Treaty of Versailles became, by virtue of that action, a member of the League of Nations. The United States ofAmerica did not ratify the Treaty of Versailles.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1, 2, and 3. The Government has no official knowledge of the film in question; but inquiry will be made into the ‘ matter, in order that the Government may have the facts for consideration.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Trial by Jury.
asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The law of the Northern Territory in relation to trial by jury has not been altered or suspended. No action will be taken in this connexion, which will involve a breach of the Constitution.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade -and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The Proclamation referred to prohibits the importation into the Commonwealth, except with the consent, in writing, of the Minister of State for Trade and Customs, of the following goods, namely:-
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will make a grant to assist the dependants of those persons who lost their lives in the Mount Mulligan disaster ?
– This matter will receive the consideration of the Government.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What action is the Government taking in the direction of securing adequate representation for Australia at the Empire Exhibition to be held in London during 1923?
– This question is receiving . the close attention of the Commonwealth Government, and at an opportune time honorable members will be advised what has been done in the matter.
The following papers were presented : -
International Postal Congress, held at Madrid, 1920 - Report by Mr. Justinian Oxenham, Commissioner representing the Commonwealth.
Ordered to be printed.
International Labour Conference - Draft Conventions and Recommendations adopted by. during -
First Session held at Washington, 1919.
Second Session held at Genoa, 1920.
Nauru - Mandate for. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Treaty of ‘ Versailles of 28th June, 1919-
Protocol modifying Annex II. to Part VIII. of the; signed at London, 5th May, 1921. (Paper presented to British Parliament.)
Royal Australian Naval College - Report for 1920.
Russia - Correspondence from the. Speaker of the Hungarian National Assembly in regard to an Appeal which is being issued to all Parliaments in regard to the releaseof prisoners of war and - hostages illegally detained in Russia.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determinations by the Arbitrator, &c. -
No. 4 of 1921- In the matter of the Meat Inspectors’ Association, Commonwealth of Australia.
No. 5 of 1921- In the matter of the Commonwealth Storemen and Packers’ Union of Australia.
Audit Act -
Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 141.
Transfers of Amounts approved by the Governor-General in Council - Financial Year 1920-21- Dated 3rd August, 1921. Dated 21st September, 1921.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens’ Funds Act - Statement of Income and Expenditure to 31st May, 1921, together with Auditor-General’s Report.
Commonwealth Bank Act - Regulations Amended- Statutory Rules 1921, No. 172.
Defence - Australian Military Forces - Report of the Inspector-General (Lieut.General Sir H. G. Chauvel, G.C.M.G., K.C.B.), 31st May, 1921.
Defence Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 129, 131, 133-8, 143-8, 154-7, 160-7, 169-70, 173-6, 178.
Excise Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 149.
High Court Procedure Act - Rules of Court -Dated 9th August, 1921. Dated 17th August, 1921. Dated 29th August, 1921. Statutory Rules 1921, No. 158.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions Act - Statement for 1920-21.
Land Tax Assessment Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 142.
Lands Acquisition Act - Land acquired under, at - ‘
Bellata, New South Wales - For Postal purposes.
Broadmeadows, Victoria - For Defence purposes.
Derby, Tasmania - For Defence purposes. Randwick, New South Wales - For Repatriation purposes.
Tuggeranong, Federal Territory- For Federal Capital purposes.
New Guinea Act - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 9 - Expropriation (No. 2).
No. 10- Supply (No. 1), 1921-22.
No. 11 - Quarantine.
No. 12 - Expropriation (No. 3).
Norfolk Island - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 3 - Interpretation.
No. 4 - Public School.
Northern Territory - Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 8 - Interpretation.
No. 9 - Darwin Town Council (No. 3).
Papua- Ordinances of 1921 -
No. 1 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 2) , 1920-21.
No. 2 - Native Labour.
No. 3 - Timber.
No. 4 - Sago.
No. 6 - Supplementary Appropriation (No. 3) , 1920-21.
No. 7 - Superannuation.
Post and Telegraph Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, Nos. 120, 121, 126, 130, 139, 150, 151, 159.
Public Service Act - Appointments, Promotions, &c. -
G. Anderson, Department of Health. C. L. Biggs, Department of Health.
A. P. Buckerfleld, F. Goss, T. B. Harris, Postmaster-General’s Department.
Representation Act -
Certificate of the Chief Electoral Officer of the Numbers of the People of the Commonwealth and of the several States as at 4th April, 1921.
Determination, made by the Chief Electoral Officer, of the Representation of the States in the House of Representatives, dated 24th August, 1921.
Shale Oil Bounty Act- Return for 1920-21.
Trading with the Enemy Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 181.
Treaty of Peace (Germany) Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 180.
War Service Homes Act - Land acquired under, in -
New South Wales, at - Albury, Alexandria, Armidale, Balgownie, Carlingford, Cessnock]. East Maitland, Fairy Meadow, Goulburn,. Goulburn (South), Granville, Lidcombe, Mayfield, Mayfield East, Paddington, Rozelle, Singleton, Tamworth, Wallsend, Waratah (2), Waterloo, Wauchope, Waverley, Wentworthville, West Maitland, Weston (2), Willoughby.
Victoria, at- Bendigo (2).
Partial revocation -of notification of acquisition of Land at Waratah, New South Wales.
Wireless Telegraphy Act - Regulations Amended-Statutory Rules 1921, No. 127.
Mr. SPEAKER reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the Governor-General, transmitting Estimates -of Revenue and Expenditure, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, for the year ending 30th June, 1922, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
Referred to Committee of Supply forthwith.
– It is my duty to present to this House and to the country the accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1921, and the Estimates for the year 1921-22.
At the time I delivered the Budget Speech last year, the whole world was feeling in full measure the financial burden resulting from the Great War. During the year, progress has been made in the work of reconstruction, but the restoration of the world’s supply of commodities consumed and wasted during the war has proved such a huge task that difficulties have been met with in obtaining all the capital required for both national and private enterprises. The increase in prices and wages naturally resulting from war conditions has accentuated the difficulties, and, although during the last twelve months those prices generally have fallen, they are still very much above normal. The process of readjustment of conditions must proceed here as in every other competing country. Only in this way is it possible for Australia to maintain her position in the economic struggle of the future.
The huge interest bills which have piled up during the last few years have made the task of national Treasurers increasingly onerous. Industrial unrest throughout the world, and the delay in securing the maximum production both in the primary and secondary industries, have also had serious results. Luxurious living, in which many people have been able to indulge as a result of profits made during the war, has added to the difficulties of the situation. Finally, the upsetting of the world’s exchanges has retarded the return of international trade to a normal state.All these factors have combined to make the financing of public, as well as private affairs, a matter of great difficulty, and, sometimes, delicacy.
An understanding between the leading nations insuring long continued peace, and the reduction of armaments, would go far to clear away the world’s present commercial and financial disturbance.
I stress here the economic side of the disarmament question. In pre-war days, our great enemy (Germany) had always an average of 1,000,000 men in compulsory training. The economic equivalent of these men’s work is not much less than £200,000,000 per annum. In addition, she has been compulsorily relieved by the Allies of about £80,000,000 per annum as the upkeep of her pre-war defence establishments. If this latter sum were expressed in terms of to-day, it would represent a sum at -least equal to that borne by the Imperial Government, viz., £170,000,000 per annum. Disarmament for Germany, therefore, means financial and economic relief to an amount of well over £300,000,000 per annum. This means that, after payment of all reparations, she will still be in a highly favoured position to conduct the economic war of competition in the future. Unless, therefore, something can be done to relieve us of the tremendous handicap of military armaments, we may as surely lose the economic struggle as we won the military one.
There is room for considerable improvement regarding our overseas trade position.
Our present adverse trade’ balance is prominently indicated by the selling price of “demand” drafts of London, which, since December last, has averaged 37s. 6d. per £100. At no time in the existence of ‘ the Commonwealth has the price of similar drafts been so high. In 1916, as a result of drought and the general dislocation due to the war, the price for some months was 25s. ; but from 1905 to the outbreak of war, the price had never been above 15s. for more than a very brief period.
It is expected that conditions will improve in 1921-22. Our anticipated smaller imports are reflected in the estimated decrease in Customs receipts from £31,810,000 to £26,131,000. Considerably more exports, however, are necessary. The best means to this desirable end are increased production and shipping facilities. In the settlement of returned soldiers on the land, the resumption of immigration, and the provision of additional large cargo-carrying vessels, the Government hopes, by this means, for results that will speedily ameliorate our position.
One notes with gratification some favorable omens in the general situation. Within the last six months the Bank of England rate has dropped from 7 per cent, to 5^ per cent., and that money is becoming cheaper is evidenced by the latest news from London that short loans can be obtained as low as 3 per cent., whilst three months’ bank bills are now only 4i per cent. Already it looks as though we are turning the financial corner.
As regards Australia in particular, the mountain of wool is steadily being reduced, the demand for that commodity being much greater than it was, and at a higher price; sales of wheat and dairy produce abroad are quite satisfactory. As a result, very large credits are being received, and although these, of course, go far to assist importers in their financial arrangements, the prices of imports are still on a high scale, whilst the interest bills to be met abroad are much greater now than at the beginning of the war. The difficulties resulting from the very heavy importations and the sluggish oversea markets for wool, &c, have been reduced. These facts, together with the steady deflation of values and the excellent prospects for the wheat harvest, and in pastoral and- agricultural pursuits, give ground for hope in the immediate future.
Although various proposals have been made from time to time for the purpose of enabling countries, especially those impoverished by the war, to resume international commerce, and to stabilize exchanges, little progress has so far been made. Results in that direction can, I think, be looked for chiefly through the operation of the natural remedies, viz., cessation of war, normal world production, economical consumption of goods, and industrial peace. Fortunately, the adverse exchanges automatically assist to restore the trade balance. Generally speaking, I think we may take a hopeful view of the situation, and the figures and facts which I shall present in relation to company registrations and their huge financial obligations certainly lead one to believe that this is the opinion held by others who are ready to back their faith with their money.
Wool. Turning for a moment to our great primary industries, we find that, although the contract with the British Government for the purchase of wool expired on 30th June, 1920, considerable payments have been made to growers in 1921 on account of wool purchased under this contract.
On 30th July, the Central Wool Committee, acting for and on .behalf of the Commonwealth Government, distributed the assets of the British Australian Wool Realization Association (consisting of priority wool certificates valued at £10,000,000, and shares valued at £12,000,000) among the wool-growers of the Commonwealth, and at the same time the association retired £4,750,000 worth of priority wool certificates by way of a cash payment.
The total cash distributed by the association amounted. to approximately £5,005,000.
These payments were of great benefit to the growers, particularly in view of the present comparatively low prices for wool, especially the lower grades.
Altogether, the past year has been an unfavorable one for the wool-grower, who has been faced with a depressed market, and, in Queensland and northern New South Wales, with drought conditions.
An excellent new clip is now coming forward. Its merit will commend it to the buyers, and it is to be hoped that there will be a better demand than has existed for some months past; but the wool position, however, is largely governed by the; conditions existing in Central and Eastern Europe, and the depreciated currencies there add to the difficulty of satisfactory wool sales.
But if the wool has been precarious and indifferent, wheat and dairying have been booming in prosperity. A most successful year has been recorded, and another one is now assured. The immediate outlook for these great vital staple industries is very bright, and we are indeed happily circumstanced. *
Wheat Pool. Although the subject of wheat pools’ has recently caused disturbances, a few statistics on the pools from 1915-16 to 1920-21 may not be out of place.
Of the total payments by- the Australian Wheat Board- £174,705,000- the growers have received £149,556,000.
Handling, rail freight, reconditioning, and interest have absorbed £24,631,000, leaving £518,000 unallotted and recoverable.
To enable these payments to be made, overdrafts have from time to time been obtained from the banks, the present overdraft being about £3,500,000. This will be liquidated by payments to be received in London for shipments already made.
The total quantity of wheat delivered by growers was 636,428,000 bushels, equivalent to 17,047,000 tons. The disposition of this huge quantity is as follows : -
The difference of 7,466,000 bushels is accounted for by variations in weight, and losses principally due to the mice plague.
Sugar. I pause here to say a word about the very important question of sugar. Last season, owing to a partial drought in Queensland, the local crop was not sufficient for the Australian consumption, and over 100,000 tons of foreign sugar had to be imported at high prices.
This season it is estimated that the Queensland crop will produce 271,000 tons of raw sugar and New South Wales 18,000 tons, which, together with the working balance carried forward on 30th June, 1921, should supply all requirements up to the 30th June, 1922, when the new season’s crop will begin to arrive at the refineries. Should good climatic conditions continue, the 1922 crop will probably be -somewhat in excess of the Australian demand, but it is too early yet to arrive at a definite conclusion.
During the early part of the war, the retail price of sugar was 3d. per lb., and in January, 1916, it was raised to31/2d. per lb. This extremely low price was continued until 25th March, 1920, when it was raised to 6d. Over the whole period of six years the average is only id. per lb., so that Australia has enjoyed during that time the advantage of the cheapest sugar in the world.
Nearly £9,000,000 will be required to pay for the Australian crop this season.
Whatever Government control of sugar has done it has kept down the price to consumers. It has stabilized the sugar industry, and assisted the cane-farmers to overcome many initial difficulties, and plant a larger area of land with sugar cane.
In the interests of the fruit industry, liberal arrangements have been made for the supply of sugar at prices equal to the world’s parity, thus enabling Australian manufacturers to successfully compete in the world’s markets.
Production. It is a difficult matter, regarding our total production, to show exactly how we stand in comparison with previous years.
A true comparison can only be made on the “ quantitative mass,” and this can only be indicated by applying a uniform price value to all products in the period compared. On the basis of 1913-14 prices our production decreased - and this is very serious - from £218,103,000 in that year to £173,225,000 in 1919-20, the latest year for which complete figures are available.
This is a serious decrease. Only dairying, poultry, and bee farming show any improvement in the years mentioned. In other activities the decreases range from 3 per cent, in the pastoral industry to 46 per cent, in mining.
The position, however, has improved in some respects. Considerable development has taken place in our agricultural and dairying industries. In the former, the wheat yield increased from 45,975,000 bushels in 1919-20 to 144,190,965 bushels in 1920-21. The sugar cane production in 1919-20, 1,350,000 tons, increased in 1920-21, and in 1921-22 it is expected the crop will he 2,160,000 tons. The dairying industry has also greatly developed, butter production having increased to 242,117.000 lbs. in 1920-21 from 165,649,000 lbs. in 1919-20 and 198,758,000 lbs. in 1913-14. The wool position I have referred to elsewhere.
The mining industry, as mentioned, shows the largest decrease, being from £25,810,000 in 1913-14 to £13,930,00.0 in 1919-20. There is, unfortunately, no indication that this latter year’s figure will be improved on in the year just closed. The falling-off is due principally to the decreased price of metals, excepting gold, and industrial troubles generally. The first-named cause is beyond our power to adjust. So far as the decrease is due to industrial troubles, however, it is hoped that the indications of early resumption of work in some quarters - notably Broken Hill - will materialize, and cause much wealth now lying, dormant to be produced.
Manufacturing. As regards manufacturing production, there is yet no reliable data later than 1919-20.
The Government has introduced a Tariff designed to increase and safeguard our manufacturing industries, but, unless both employer and employee unitedly assist in the effort, it needs but little imagination to see that Tariff barriers cannot avail against goods made in large factories abroad under conditions of greater mass production, and with more strenuous effort and smaller reward. These factors combine to produce an article so cheaply that, unless all concerned in Australia put forward their best efforts, our manufacturers will not be able to compete, and, inevitably, employment will diminish.
In these circumstances, the Government appeals to all interested in the welfare of Australia to allow nothing to prevent the employment of Australian labour to the fullest capacity. This is necessary, not only to rehabilitate our financial position, but also to assist in maintaining a population sufficient to justify us in claiming that we are entitled to develop this huge continent under the superior conditions of existence here as compared with elsewhere.
Capital increases in Australia. Here, again, I am glad to say that amid much that is discouraging there are some hopeful signs; 2,082 companies, with a total nominal capital of £148,270,614, were registered in the various States during 1920, and 737 companies, with a nominal capital of £89,989,292, during the first six months of 1921. Existing companies registered a total increase of nominal capital amounting to £36,937,303 during 1920, and £12,048,114 during the first six months of 1921. The total amount of nominal capital registered in Australia during 1920 was £185,207,917, and £102,037,406 during the first half of 1921. It cannot be stated how much of this nominal capital has been, or will be, issued, but it may be safely assumed that a considerable number of the companies registered have been formed for the purpose of carrying on industrial and producing operations in Australia.
Foreign capital. “Under the War Precautions Repeal Act 1920, it is an offence to register in Australia any company with capital partly or wholly subscribed outside the British Empire, except with the consent of the Treasurer. Since the beginning of the current year, authority has been issued for the registration in the Commonwealth of twenty-seven foreign companies, with a total subscribed capital of, approximately, £13,500,000 sterling. The bulk of this capital has been found in the “United States of America. Seven of the companies, with a subscribed capital of about £3,500,000 sterling, have been established to carry on industrial and productive operations in the Commonwealth, two to conduct fire and marine insurance business, and eighteen to carry on trading operations.
It will thus be seen that there is considerable movement afoot in the secondary industries. We are sometimes told that capital is leaving the country. There may be an occasional exodus, but here is the indubitable evidence of a constant and steady- inflow. Under the fostering influence of the substantial additions to the Tariff, this fertilizing stream should increase rapidly and permanently.
Economy. I come now to a subject which I am sure will interest honorable members - the question of economy. Before acquainting honorable members with the figures relating to tha finances, I desire to refer to the much debated question of economy in the carrying on of -the various Public services.
Fault is found with Governments for not conducting affairs more economically. On the other hand, even the critics themselves make strong demands for money to be spent in ways which, very often, cannot be justified.
There is, of course, frequently room for difference of opinion as to whether expenditure should be incurred or not. There iS. however, no room for doubt that a firm grip should be kept upon the purse strings in these difficult days.
It should be noted also that Australia, being a young and undeveloped country, has to face much expenditure which does not fall upon the Government of an older and more thickly-populated State, where, in many instances, private enterprise is responsible for many of the functions undertaken by Governments in Australia. Here the whole community seems to be looking more and more to Governments for financial aid, and applications are numerous for Government assistance in ventures which should be carried out by private enterprise.
As an instance, I may mention that, in respect of the guarantee which was recently given by the Commonwealth for the canning of fruit, the Government was practically forced to come to the aid of numerous fruit-growers who, without assistance, would have been almost ruined, and at the same time an enormous amount of fruit, representing & national asset, would have been wasted.
Quotations have very often been made from the Budget figures showing that the cost of Departments has very much increased during the last few years. It is quite true that generally the cost of Departments has increased, but that bare statement is of no value without an analysis of the services upon which the expenditure is made, and without making an allowance for the decreased purchasing power of money. Much of the increase is really for new and expanded services, and it will be found upon analysis that the present year’s expenditure. compared with 1914, for corresponding services, does not show an increase nearly as great as is experienced in private affairs. As indicating one unavoidable increase in expenditure, it may be mentioned that the average salary in the Public Service at the 30th June. 1914, was £149, and at the 31st December, 1920, £234 per annum.
It is common knowledge that the cost of commodities and services has very greatly increased. This is, of course, reflected in the increased cost of living generally. Prices have increased in a very large number of cases from 100 to 300 per cent.
The following articles, largely used by the Works and Post Office Departments, will give some idea of how difficult it is to keep costs down. Between 1914 and 1921 cement increased in price about 100 per cent., insulators 100 per cent., switchboards to contain fifty lines 250 per cent., common battery wall telephones 160 per cent., hardwood timber 200 per cent., canvas 300 per cent., galvanized-iron wire 200 per cent., sheet galvanized iron 179 per cent. Bricklayers’ wages have increased 77 per cent.
The Public Works Department estimates that the cost of building, on the whole, has increased about 80 per cent, in the period mentioned.
It is extremely difficult to reduce the cost of operating departments while these prices soar inordinately high.
With a view to better management in the Public Service, a Bill is now being dealt with in the Senate to provide for the appointment of a Board of Management. This measure is very comprehensive, and, it is believed, will make for economy and increased efficiency in the administration of Departments.
One matter on which the Government has been subjected to a good deal of criticism is its shipbuilding and shipowning policy. Although the entry by the Commonwealth Government into the list of ship-owners was, in the first place, a war measure, it has proved very profitable. The net profit of the line was more than sufficient to pay the capital cost of the ships purchased. Moreover, the existence of the Commonwealth Line has forced competing ship-owners to reduce their freight rates, with the result that shippers of goods were in pocket to a very large amount.
I should here like to point to the small increase which has been made in the rate of income tax as compared with the large additional war expenditure which it was necessary to provide from revenue.
The war expenditure payable from revenue in 1917-18, that is, for interest, sinking fund, repatriation, &c, totalled £11,863,251, whilst in 1918-19 the expenditure was £21,255,101, an increase of £9,391,850. The direct taxation for the year 1918-19 was increased by the imposition of a super tax of 30 per cent, on the income tax, which realized, approximately, £2,394,000.
The estimated expenditure for the same services in 1921-22 is £31,203,253, being an increase of £9,948,152 over the expenditure for 1918-19. Since the year 1918- 19 the income tax has been increased by a further super tax of 5 per cent., and it is estimated that the amount to be collected from this additional tax in 1921-22 is £714,000. Three-quarters of a million more income tax to meet an increase of nearly £10,000,000 more war expenditure is a very modest amount.
The economy that counts can best be obtained by a review and readjustment of Federal and State functions. Overlapping, misunderstanding, and want of co-ordination lead to much waste and lack of efficiency. Two sets of taxing authorities with two staffs and establishments is a Gilbertian proceeding. Similarly, two sets of electoral officials for the same people is absurd. Two kinds of debt management in one market for one people and seven competing borrowers is disastrous. The Convention to be called will furnish the opportunity, which should not be lost, of compelling reform in these and many other similar cases of unnecessary duplication, waste, and inefficiency.
Estimated and actual revenue, 1920-21. In last year’s Budget it was estimated that the total revenue to be received during the year 1920-21 would be £63,364,700. The actual amount was £65,517,608, an excess of £2,152,908.
The chief items of excesswere Customs and Excise, £3,876,906; income tax, £751,408; profit from note issue, £394,016. The entertainments tax was almost £300,000 in excess of the estimate, owing to the reductions proposed by the Government not having been made legal. On the other hand, there was a shortage of £933,431 in Post Office revenue, and £1,916,861 in war-time profits tax.
As regards the Customs revenue, the increase was, of course, mainly accounted for by the heavy importations and high values of goods during the last twelve months. Although the excess in income tax is substantial, it would have been still larger but for the fact that it was necessary to give extended time for payment in some cases where immediate payment would have imposed undue hardship.
I regret that the estimated revenue from the Post Office Department did not come up to expectations ; the only reason which can be given is that the business has not been as great as was anticipated. The war-time profits tax has been affected in the same way as the income tax, there being still a large amount of assessments which have been uncollected in consequence of the inability of taxpayers to find ready cash. The arrears of the various direct taxes are estimated to amount to the huge sum of £7,500,000.
The profits from investments of the Australian Note Issue appear for the first time in the Treasury Accounts. They are payable to the Treasury by virtue of the Act passed last session which placed the Note Issue under a special department of the Commonwealth Bank, under a Board of Directors.
In order not to interfere with the comparison, I have not included in the figures which I have just quoted any reference to the sum of £7,780,524, which represents- the net profit arising from the Note Issue up to the time at which it was handed over to the Note Issue Board on the 14th December, 1920. That sum was used for the redemption of Commonwealth Inscribed Stock and Treasury Bills for a like amount.
Estimated and Actual Expenditure, 1920-21. The Budget Estimate of Expenditure out of Revenue for the year 1920-21 was £68,872,578. The actual expenditure was £64,624,087, the expenditure being less than the estimate by £4,248,491.
Notwithstanding that the Government, after the preparation of the Estimates, was faced with a very heavy and unprovidedfor expenditure for basic wage and increased cost of living allowances, amounting to about three-quarters of a million pounds, it was found possible to effect savings for the large sum which I have mentioned - four and one-quarter million pounds. In the Military Department and Air Services savings amount to £452,000 ; under Additions, New Works and Buildings, £972,000 (the chief items being for Defence works and buildings and air services) ; Interest and - Sinking Fund on War Loans, £1,099,000; Repatriation of Soldiers,. £1,128,000; and other War Services payable from Revenue, £1,328,000. Against those decreases several increases occurred, the chief - £523,000 - being in the Post Office Department, where a large additional sum was required for basic wage and cost of living allowance.
Revenue and Expenditure, 1920-21, brought together.’
Revenue Surplus. It was estimated in. last year’s Budget that the year would close with a surplus of £239,545, instead of which I have been able to bring forward to the present financial year the very substantial sum of £6,618,327. This means that not only was the surplus at the beginning of last year, viz., £5,724,086, kept intact, but I was able to add to it to the extent of £893,52il.
As I have already explained, the Revenue for last financial year exceeded the estimate by about £2,150,000. Of more importance, however, in the production of the surplus were the very large savings of 4£ millions. While the present satisfactory surplus has been realized, largely as the result of good seasons for the last year or two, with heavy imports at high prices as a contributing factor, I hope I may claim that the large savings in expenditure are the outcome of a determined resolution to save the public funds wherever possible.
The surplus, following the previous practice, has been placed in Trust Fund far the purpose of meeting Old-age and Invalid Pensions and War Pensions during the present financial year. It will be used partly for meeting the charges for those services which otherwise would-be made out of Revenue for the current year.
The Estimates for this year provide for a considerable portion of that surplus being reserved for the purpose of meeting future contingencies. The demands which have been made upon the Treasury have been so heavy that I have found it hard to resist the temptation to allocate definitely to this year the whole of the surplus, but as the outlook in regard to revenue during next year is uncertain, if not unfavorable, I do not think I am justified in using for this’ year more than is indicated in the figures which I am about to give.
Of the items making up this decrease, the chief is Customs and Excise, estimated at £26,131,000 for 1921-22. It cannot be safely anticipated that the heavy imports nor the high prices of last year will 0continue, and it has been thought wise to allow for a reduction in the receipts from that source of £5,678,906. Of the £31,809,906 receipts from Customs and Excise last year, £13,365,424 was for stimulants and narcotics. I mention this .to draw attention to the very large proportion of the total Customs and Excise receipts which are drawn from stimulants and narcotics.
In regard to Income Tax it is estimated that a total of £15,000,000 will be received this year, being £648,592 more than last year. There is justification for this expected increase, because the yields of wheat, butter, and wool are substantial. Moreover, additional income tax will probably be received by considerably reducing the very large uncollected tax outstanding at the close of last year. For reasons which I have previously stated, those arrears have lately been abnormal.
The estimates of revenue include a sum of £1,400,000 as profits from the Australian Note Issue. Apart from the large accumulated profits which were retained by the Treasury when the Note Issue was handed over to the Commonwealth Bank, an amount of £394,016 has been received since that time. The amount to be received this year, as compared with last year, shows, therefore, an increase of £1,005,984.
Taxation Per Head. In my last Budget speech I gave certain figures showing the taxation per head in the Commonwealth, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, respectively. The latest which I can now procure are -
and Commonwealth of £12 18s. l1d. is high, but when we compare our own position with that of other countries we find that we stand very favorably indeed, even in regard to this matter of taxation.
It will be seen the taxation of Australia continues to be very much lighter than that borne by the peoples of the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
The Post Office Department, which is not only an expanding Department, but is also seriously . affected by the basic wage allowances, by high cost of commodities, and increased charges for the carriage of mails, shows an increase of £579,605 on the ordinary maintenance expenditure. Included in this sum is a belated payment of £200,000 for the carriage of mails to Europe during the war, and, for the purpose of a true comparison, should be excluded from this year’s expenditure.
Additions, New Works, and Buildings, chargeable to revenue, which have been very much, curtailed during recent years, have been increased by £850,208. This sum approximates very closely to the savings which were effected under this head last financial year.
It is necessary to’ provide an additional amount of £1,468,667 for interest and sinking fund on War Loans.
On the other side the following decreases occur : - War pensions, £739,739 ; . repatriation of soldiers (vocational training, &c), £1,417,215; repayment of tem porary loan to Notes Fund, £857,932 ; other war services, £536,761.
Expenditure from War Loan. The amount to be expended this year out of war loan, viz., £11,196,000, shows a large decrease as compared with last year.
That amount is made up of the following items: -
No other expenditure will be charged to war loan.
It is to be specially remembered that, although this expenditure is charged to war loan, it is of a very different nature from that of the years of active warfare. The expenditure for the last two or three years has been almost wholly for repatriation work, and is represented by valuable assets in the shape of soldiers’ farmsand War Service Homes.
Expenditure out of Works Loan. Expenditure out of works loan for the year 1920-21 was £4,101,726; during this year, the expenditure is estimated at £5,597,174.
As was the case last year, the principal item is for shipbuilding, which absorbs £3,000,000. This sum is required in connexion with our uncompleted contracts.
Provision is also made under this head for £750,000 for telephone and telegraph new works, as it is not possible to meet out of revenue the whole of the necessary expenditure thereon. £750,000 is also provided for this service under the head of New Works out of revenue.
The more one looks into Post Office finance the more unsatisfactory it appears. There is no country in the world outside our own which provides the whole of its capital expenditures from revenue. There should he a review and revision of the whole system of post-office finance, leav ing the revenue expenditure to be met as now, but placing capital expenditure on a basis of loan with graduated repayments to conform with’ the life of the material purchased. That is done in every other country in the world, and in my judgment we should proceed to do it here.
Comparison of Total Expenditure. The total estimated expenditure for 1921-22 as compared with the previous year is as follows : -
These figures show that, on the aggregate expenditure of the Commonwealth, it is anticipated that there will be spent this year £11,476,682 less than last year.
In regard to the estimated expenditure as a whole, let me say that the £81,000,000 odd which has been provided is the result of the most careful scrutiny and cutting down of the estimates of the various Departments. The figure mentioned has been reached only after refusing many large sums included in the original draft estimates.
I have managed to bring the estimate of expenditure out of revenue to a figure slightly below the actual expenditure of last year. This has been effected despite having to find additional amounts as under : -
There are numerous smaller items which it was necessary to provide.
I should explain with reference to the items for Defence and Air services that, while the amounts set down as increases are over the actual expenditure of last year, the amount voted in each year is the same.
In the last Budget speech, and on occasions since, I endeavoured to show that, after making provision for fixed charges such as interest and sinking fund, invalid and old-age pensions, war pensions, repatriation of soldiers, and the bedrock cost necessary to carry on Post Office and other public services, the margin on which economies could be effected is very narrow indeed. I again call attention to this aspect of public finance.
The Estimates presented are the outcome of an honest endeavour to give the public the best services at the least possible cost, and I can only repeat what I have frequently said, that in this work the burden upon the taxpayer, already heavy, has always been before us.
Commonwealth Public Debt. - The gross public debt of the Commonwealth at the 30th June, 1921, was -
The increase in the gross public debt during the year was thus £20,410,121.
The gross public debt includes large sums which must be deducted to ascertain the net public debt, which is the real burden to be carried.
The principal items which should thus be set off against the gross debt are the moneys repayable to the Commonwealth by the States and by ex-soldiers, the sums spent on the Commonwealth Line of Steamersand repayable out of the profits of the line, and the balance of unexpended loan moneys on hand at the 30th June last. In addition, the value of public works constructed out of loan moneys and the value of properties transferred from the States might well be set off against the gross debt, but as these assets are not repayable in cash to the Treasury, they have not been included in the following statement showing how the net debt is determined : -
– Does that include the amount funded by Senator Millen in London last year?
– Yes, it includes every item. Our net debt in June, 1920, was £340,809,904, so that whilst the gross debt has increased during the year by £20,410,121, our net public debt is now £8,800,872 less than at the end of June, 1920.
Details of the public debt are shown in the Budget papers presented to the House, and, therefore, I do not propose to give full particulars now. There are, however, some important items to which I may briefly refer.
The war indebtedness of the Commonwealth includes £234,831,918 owing to bond-holders in Australia, and £92,480,156 owing to the British Government. I think that is a very satisfactory state of affairs. The bulk of our indebtedness to-day is owing to our own people.
– It has made the money market here very tight.
– I am aware of that, but we benefit materially by the circumstance to which I refer, because all the interest goes directly into the pockets of our own investors. Apart from the Diggers’ Loan of £10,000,000 recently issued, we have raised in Australia for war and repatriation purposes the sum of £246,430,508. Of this amount £11,598,590 has been redeemed, so that our war indebtedness to Australian investors at 30th June last was £234,831,918.
The second Peace Loan of £26,612,560 accounts for nearly the whole of the new debt created last year. In addition, a loan of £5,000,000 was issued in London as well as Treasury bills for £2,000,000. These moneys were issued for payments on sugar. The debt was also increased by £4,101,726 for moneys borrowed for public works from Trust Funds.
Few people realize what is being done towards the redemption of our public debt, and particulars of the transactions will, I hope, be found interesting. During 1920-21, war savings certificates to the value of £3,482,046 and Treasury Bonds to the value of £976,830 were redeemed out of the sinking funds- the total being £4,458,876. From ordinary revenue £857,932 was used to redeem a temporary advance made to the War Loan Fund out of the Notes Fund in the previous year. The largest transaction was the redemption out of note issue profits of £7,780,524 of Treasury bills and Stock raised for Commonwealth public works. This operation, to which I have already referred, was effected by using the accumulated net profits earned by the investments of the Australian Notes Fund. These profits were not available in the form of cash, having been fully invested in Commonwealth securities, and the best course, therefore, was to cancel the securities and reduce our indebtedness. Apart from these redemptions made out of revenue and out of the sinking funds, £2,720,074 of war gratuity bonds, and £223,814 of Northern Territory loans, were redeemed out of loan moneys. Deferred pay of the Australian Imperial Force, to the amount of £245,280, was also paid out of loan moneys. In all, £16,286,950 of public debt was redeemed during the year, and our indebtedness in respect of war gratuities was reduced by a further £2,000,000, the estimated cost of the gratuities having been overstated. “War Gratuities. Up to the 3rd September, 328,023 war gratuities, totalling £26,647,902, had been issued.
Of this sum the soldiers or their dependants or relatives have received £15,173,135 in cash or its equivalent, whilst £11,474,767 is now held by them in the form of bonds. The Commonwealth is still cashing bonds where the War Gratuity Boards consider the owners are in necessitous circumstances, or where the bond-owners marry. Bond-owners are also permitted to transfer their bonds in all cases where the Treasury is satisfied that they will receive full value for them.
A few claims are still being received ach day, and it is now estimated that the total amount of the gratuities will be between £27,000,000 and £28,000,000.
Sinking Funds. Payments to Loans Sinking Fund were made to the extent of £3,201,298 in 1920-21, an increase of £1,851,931 over the contributions made during the previous financial year.
The Loans Sinking Fund Act requires contributions to be made to the fund at the rate of not less than 10s. per cent, per annum on our war loan borrowings and on stock raised for works expenditure. The contributions made last year were at the rate of 1 per cent, per annum on account of war loans and per cent, per annum on the stock raised for works (excepting a small portion upon which 5 per sent, contribution was made). It is proposed to ‘ continue contributions at approximately the same rates during 1921- 22.
The terms of the recent arrangement for the funding of our indebtedness to Great Britain provided for an annual payment of 6 per cent, to cover both interest and sinking fund. Future contributions will therefore not be made to the fund on account of this indebtedness. An amendment of the law is necessary in this connexion, and will shortly be sought.
The Loans Sinking Fund contributions to date total £8,237,590; of this sum £7,386,822 has been used for the redemption of war loans. The balance - £850,768 - has been invested to the extent of £832,450, from which there is an annual interest return of £36,033.
As regards Northern Territory and Port Augusta-Oodnadatta railway loans which were taken over from the South Australian Government, Sinking Fund paymentshave been made annually at the rate of i per cent, per annum, thus continuing the State practice.
Diggers’ Loan. Early in August last the Government decided to issue a loan of £10,000,000 to provide the funds required during this financial year for soldier land settlement and War Service Homes.
Honorable members must, I feel sure, be pleased to know that this loan has been slightly over subscribed, thus enabling the Commonwealth to go on with its repatriation work.
The total amount now raised in Australia for war and repatriation purposes is £256,000,000.
I greatly appreciate the aid given in. many ways by those who worked for the loan, and to all of them I tender the warm thanks of the Government and the people.
Basic Wage and Increased Cost of Living Allowances to Commonwealth Public Servants. Since the Estimates for 1920- 21 were presented to Parliament, twolarge items, which could not be foreseen, have been added to the expenditure provided for on the Estimates. These are the increased cost of living allowances granted under various Arbitration Court awards and the basic wage allowance.
On these two items expenditure aggregating at least £1,000,000 has had to bemet. These payments should not be forgotten when considering the increased cost of government.
Large increases in these items have tobe provided this year, as the basic wage was operative during only portion of the previous year, and additional expenditure for living allowance will be necessary in connexion with new appointments, &e.
I should like to add that, in my opinion, these increases were justly due to a service which, on the whole, is highly efficient and in no sense extravagantly paid.
Repatriation. The expenditure by the Commonwealth on repatriation of soldiers, excluding land settlement and war service homes, was last financial year £3,678,161. For 1921-22 it is anticipated to reach £2,260,946.
This sum is required mainly for vocational training, medical treatment of soldiers suffering from war disabilities, soldiers’ children educational scheme, and assistance generally. The vocational training scheme is gradually nearing completion.
The reduction in the repatriation expenditure, and the progress made in settling the returned men on the land, are gratifying evidences of the return of the men to civil occupations, with the attendant benefits to the country of increased production and prosperity.
War Service Homes. To the 30th June last, War Service Homes expenditure totalled £12,626,300, the recoverable expenditure being £12,316,360. The balance was for administration.
At the 30th June, the position in regard to the homes was as follows : - 4,482 homes completed, 1,176 in course of construction, 91 about to be commenced, 10,196 existing houses purchased or approved for purchase, 1,381 mortgages (involving £670,643) discharged, 1,199 applications approved and being proceeded with.
Repayments of principal and interest were 2.95 per cent, in arrear at the date mentioned. It will be seen from this figure that the soldier is realizing his responsibility and standing up to it in a very praiseworthy manner.
War Pensions. The expenditure on war pensions - estimated for 1921-22 at £6,650,000, as against £7,389,739 last year - forcibly reminds us of the numbers of our people to whom the sufferings through the war are still poignant.
We are mindful of our debt to the recipients, and regret that it is beyond human aid to recompense them adequately. We can only provide for the material needs which their disabilities deprive them of obtaining.
There is some satisfaction, however, in noting the decrease in the expenditure, as it shows that the physical condition of many is improving, and that they are gradually becoming more and more able to meet their needs by their own efforts.
Immigration. Recognising the need for additional white population for the adequate development of our resources and to maintain our ideal of a White Australia, the Government entered into negotiation with the States for the active resumption of Government-aided immigration.
Agreements were arrived at and came into operation on 1st March last (with the exception of Western Australia, which dates from 1st August) under which the Commonwealth, upon notification by the States of the numbers of immigrants they are prepared to receive, takes the necessary steps to recruit them and arrange for their transport. Upon the Commonwealth devolves all the publicity work necessary and the grant, up to a certain amount, of such assistance as may he required to- . wards payment of steamer fares.
Though the expenditure for last year was only £12,830, some thousands of immigrants have already come to Australia under the scheme. The main expenditure on these settlers has been borne by the British Government, who generously grant free passages to all men engaged in the war and to their children, as well as to young women who were engaged in England in auxiliary work. This concession expires at the end of 1921, but its extension in full or in a modified form is now under discussion between the British and Dominion Governments.
In connexion with the immigration of these British ex-soldiers, discussions have been entered into with the British Government and the States for the cooperation of all concerned in a big land settlement scheme. The matter was discussed with the British authorities by Senator Millen and by the Prime Minister when in England. So far nothing definite has eventuated, but the Commonwealth, fully conscious of the benefit to be derived from such a scheme, will use every endeavour to secure its adoption.
Our activities are directed mainly, to obtaining immigrants of a rural type, and no direct encouragement is. given to the introduction of city workers. It is not the intention to give immigrants preference over local workers, ‘or to bring them here without their being secured employment or . settled on the land immediately after arrival.
The immigration scheme, to reach its greatest . development, needs the wholehearted assistance of new and old Australians, all classes of whom it will benefit. In this connexion, warm encouragement and practical support have been given to the New Settlers League of Australia, an organization now firmly established in most of the States and promising to prove a valuable auxiliary.
For the present financial year we are estimating to spend £250,000. If more ran be usefully spent we shall not hesitate to do so, and it is hoped that an appreciable addition to our rural population and production may result.
Air services. In view of -the experience of the late war, the Government is convinced that the establishment of an Air Force is absolutely necessary for purposes of defence.
An Air Force, adequate for our defensive needs, can only be achieved, on account of economic reasons, by creation of a large reserve in personnel and material, by provision for local aircraft manufacture, and by the encouragement of civil aviation. The permanent staff will not be larger than is necessary for supervision, training, and maintenance.
This, therefore, is the policy we have set out. to observe, and for . this purpose altogether £500,000 has been provided in the Estimates for 1921-22.
The generous donation towards the establishment of our force by the British Government of 128 aeroplanes has much helped towards the establishment of our force.
In regard to the encouragement of the civil side of aviation, it is considered that real assistance can best be given by -
As regards the subsidized services, the Government will subsidize for ‘ twelve months aerial services between Geraldton and Derby, Sydney and Brisbane, and Sydney and Adelaide.
The Western Australian service commences in November next, and it is hoped that the other services will be in operation early in the new year.
River Murray waters scheme. Up to 30th June last the Commission intrusted with this scheme had spent £707,500, of which the Commonwealth proportion was £151,723, the balance being equally divided amongst the three contracting States.
The works advanced slowly during last financial year owing to industrial troubles, but, since settlement of these, good progress has been made, and about 900 men are now employed.
The terms of the amended agreement between the Commonwealth and States of New South Wales,- Victoria, and South Australia, provide that each Government shall bear one-quarter of the expenditure to be made by the Commission, also that, where the amount to be provided by any one State exceeds £125,000 in any one year, the excess provision shall be loaned to the State by the Commonwealth at current rate of interest, and shall be repayable at a date not less than ten years from the date of the advance. To become fully operative, the amended agreement has only to receive legislative sanction by New South Wales, other Parliaments concerned having already approved. Under this agreement it is estimated that the Commonwealth will be required to provide during 1921-22, on account of contributions and loans, £335,000.
The whole scheme will take some years yet to complete. When this is accomplished, large areas of land on either side of the Murray will become immensely more productive than at present, and, in addition, water highways will be provided for over 1,000 miles on the Murray (from its mouth to Echuca) and for 240 miles up the Murrumbidgee.
Federal Capital Territory. Since the resumption of the development of the Federal Capital, work has proceeded steadily throughout the year. Last year the House voted £150,000 for this purpose. Of this amount £81,417 was actually expended, but commitments for £50,000 more had been incurred. In all about £140,000 has been either spent or contracted to be spent to date.
This year we have placed on the Estimates the sum of £200,000.
Work is proceeding in accordance with plans submitted by the Advisory Committee, a copy of which has been placed on the table of the House for the information of honorable members.
Northern Territory. As a result of the recent visit to the Territory by the Minister for Home and Territories, administrative re-arrangements have been decided upon and partly carried into effect, which will result in considerable savings.
The State hotels are being discontinued and in future will be conducted privately.
Arrangements are also in train to make available for lease the Government demonstration and experimental farms and cattle station. We are going out of this business. Substantial economies are thereby expected to result.
Expenditure is being continued on bore sinking on stock routes, this work being considered the most practical means of opening up pastoral areas.
Territory of New Guinea. The mandate for the Government of the late German possessions in New Guinea having been received, steps were taken under the New Guinea Act 1920 to establish a civil administration to replace the military government of the Territory. By proclamation, the change was made on 9th May last. On that day, German law ceased to apply, and the government is now carried out under Ordinances made by the Governor-General of the Commonwealth. Brigadier-General Wisdom, who was Military Administrator before the establishment of civil government, has been appointed civil administrator. In this latter capacity he has been directed to give early attention to the formation of a policy for promoting the material and moral well-being of the natives, especially in regard to education, handicrafts, agriculture, and health. Several Ordinances have been issued with a view to safeguarding the interestsof the natives, which is a specific requirement of the mandate.
Under power given in the Treaty of Versailles, the properties and businesses of German companies in the Territory have been expropriated and are now being managed by an Expropriation Board. The value of the properties (now estimated at from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000) will, when ascertained by valuation or sale, be credited to Germany as part payment of the reparation due to the Allies.
The Administrator has submitted Estimates for the current financial year. The revenue is estimated at £237,650, principally composed of - Customs, £105,000; business tax, £10,000; native head tax, £25,000; earnings of inter-island ships, £40,000; wireless, £13,400.
After considerable pruning, the expenditure estimates have been reduced to a sum not exceeding the estimated revenue.
In accepting the mandate, Australia has entered upon additional responsibility, but no stone will be left unturned to prevent further financial burdens being entailed thereby.
I have promised theHouse a statement of general policy in connexion with the mandated Territories, and I hope to redeem that promise at the earliest possible opportunity.
Taxation. I have just received a draft of a preliminary report from the Royal Commission on Taxation dealing with income tax. I had hoped that this report would have been available earlier in order that I might have . had an opportunity of thoroughly considering the many complex phases of the subjects dealt with in that report. These subjects are -
The report contains definite and apparently’ unanimous conclusions regarding items (2), (3), and (4). At present, the Commission has not submitted any definite recommendation regarding item (1), that is, the taxation of profits on the sale of mining leases.
The Commission is not unanimous on item (5). Its recommendation under that is that of four members, whilst the other three members submitted a minority report in favour of another scheme.
It is proposed by the Government that the Income Tax Assessment Act 1915-18 should be amended in the following directions : -
I have no recommendation from the Commission in this respect, so that I am making my own. The law will be amended so as to give relief from tax, in the case of mining, ventures (other than coal mining) to prospectors, and also to purchasers from prospectors, on profits made by the sale of’ the venture, provided that in the case of the purchaser from a . prospector the purchaser has bona fide and efficiently worked the mining property. The relief will not, however, apply to any person, syndicate, or company which makes a business of buying and selling mining properties. I believe that this follows largely the law at present in operation in Western Australia.
The law will be amended so as to grant exemption from income tax to shareholders in companies in respect of any distribution, whether in cash or in shares, of value representing profit on the sale of capital assets, or writing up of value of capital assets.
We do not propose to release them from the obligation to pay tax on such reserves as they care to translate into shares. To do so would be to run the risk of losing the whole of the revenue from this source unless something else were done. All they would have to do would be to pay no dividends, but put all their profits into shares, and so escape taxation. We could not permit this, but the extent to which we are taking the matter here should cover most of those cases in reference to which there has been so much controversy, recently.
It is intended to make this amendment of the law retrospective for all years. This tax has already been collected in some States and not in others, and we are bound as a fundamental principle of the Constitution to make the law equal in. all cases.
The proposal will afford necessary and substantial relief to a very large number of shareholders in companies which, during recent years, have been reconstructed, and in which the capital has been increased by the writing up of value of capital assets, and, in some few cases, by profit realized by the sale of capital assets.
It is proposed to constitute a Board of Appeal to determine disputes between taxpayers and the Department, with the retention of the present right of either party to the dispute appealing to the High Court on questions of law.
There has been a widespread demand by taxpayers for a more readily accessible tribunal for the settlement of disputes between taxpayers and the Taxation Department than those provided by the present law.
The belief exists amongsttaxpayers that a special Board of Appeal to deal with taxation disputes exclusively will secure finality with much greater expedition and satisfaction than is now possible:
Whilst there are obvious difficulties that would prevent a Board of Appeal visiting all localities in Australia where appellant taxpayers may reside, and thus deal with disputes with the minimum individual expense to the appellant, the Government considers that it should meet the wishes of taxpayers generally by giving the proposed Board of Appeal a trial.
There has been a great deal of controversy on this subject. Many complaints have been made, but I am afraid we cannot go to the length of giving local Boards of Appeal. In this respect we must feel our way in regard to what promises to be a very costly piece of machinery unless it is watched closely. However, we are making a beginning by giving a Board of Appeal for the whole of the States.
It is proposed to adopt the scheme recommended by the sub-committee of the British Royal Commission on Taxation, which was specially appointed to consider the best -means for eliminating double taxation of income within the Empire. The Commonwealth will, in respect of incomes taxed both in the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth, in all cases where the deduction at present allowed from the United Kingdom tax is not in itself sufficient to insure the payment only of an amount equivalent to the higher of the two taxes, grant such further relief as will effect that, end.
The ideal, namely, relief from triple income tax resulting from the taxation of the same income by the British, Commonwealth, and Australian State Governments, cannot be attained until all the State Governments make an arrangement similar to that proposed by the Commonwealth Government.
I hope that the State Governments will come into line in this matter, and so relieve not only the taxpayers of Australia, but also those of the Mother Country of what I regard as a very unfair and unjust exaction.
It is proposed to amend the law so as to tax the income of primary producers at a rate of tax that would be applicable, to an average income over a period of five years.
This proposal means that the actual income (if any) of each year will be taxed in full. Where there has been no income in a year there will be no tax payable in the following year. But the rate of tax to be paid will not be the rate of tax on the actual income (if any) of the year, but the rate applicable to the average taxable income of that and the previous four years.
The proposal acts as follows : -
This scheme will commence in the current financial year, but the rate of tax will not be calculated by reference to the income of any year prior to 1920-21. As it would be very difficult to do this, we are beginning a new system from scratch.
It is’ proposed to abolish the minimum tax of £1. The tax payable in future by persons who were liable to pay the minimum tax of £1 will be calculated in similar manner to the tax payable by other taxpayers. Otherwise, the existing discrimination in general exemption allowed to married and single persons will be continued.
It is proposed to amend the law in such manner that members of co-operative societies who receive rebate dividends on their purchases with the societies, and on which the societies have previously paid income tax as undistributed income, shall not be assessable on those dividends when the rate of tax chargeable to an individual member in his personal assessment on the whole of his income (including the rebate-dividend) is less than the rate of tax previously paid by the co-operative society on the dividend as undistributed income.
When the member’s individual rate of tax exceeds the rate of tax previously paid by the co-operative society on the dividend as undistributed income, the member will receive credit for the amount of tax paid by the company on the amount of- the rebate-dividend received by the member. It is considered that this proposal is more equitable than the scheme provided by the existing law. The amendment will be made retrospective to assessments for all past years.
As soon as the matters above referred to have been considered they will . be included in Bills which will be brought before the House at the earliest possible moment. I much regret the reports did not reach me in time to have them ready for presentation with the Budget.
The effect on the revenue of the recommendations of the Commission, together with our own as a Government, cannot at present be stated, but in all probability a substantially reduced yield will result in the income tax, and I have thought it desirable to allow for this possibility in framing the Estimates, as the new provisions will operate during the present financial year.
– Is it not intended to increase the exemption?
– I am waiting a further report from the Commission on that and other matters. I have outlined what we are proposing for the moment; but I do not say that it is the final modicum of relaxation the Government propose to make. There will be other re-adjustments, I have no doubt, which we can see our way usefully to make after the report of the Commission has -been presented to us, and I must express my deep regret that I have not been able to get that report in, time to act upon it in a manner which would have been very much better for the Committee and for all concerned.
Thisbrief survey of the nation’s activities shows that, while care and caution are needed in facing the future,there is nothing in the prospect which need unduly oppress or appal us. Readjustments of our economic position are overdue, and must be resolutely and at the same time considerately made. The process, always a painful one, is as delicate as it is difficult. The whole world is experiencing the greatest danger and difficulty in the passage from war to peace. The greatest need of the world to-day is peace, not only between the nations of the world,’ but also within our own borders and among ourselves.
Our land is the brightest, and its people are, to say the least, among the most resourceful and successful in the world. Another excellent year is in sight, so far : as our great staple industries are concerned. If only, therefore, we put our backs into our tasks, “march breast forward, never doubting clouds will break,’.’ and let our “ courage mount with the occasion,” we may face the future with the certainty that it holds for us a rich harvest of good things. And though the passage may conceivably not be an easy and speedy one, the spirit of our race will triumph in the end.
I conclude by presenting papers relative to the Budget, for the information of honorable members, and I move -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1, The Parliament, namely, “ The President, & 1,100,” be agreed to.
In Committeeof Supply:
. -(By leave.) - I move -
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the considerations of Estimates for Additions, New Works,. Buildings, &c.
As honorable members who have been in. this House for any length of time are aware, it is our custom to take theWorkssection of the Estimates immediately after the delivery of the Budget speech. This is in order to get ahead with the works for the year, and it is necessary to obtain the imprimatur of Parliament.
– Surely you do not mean to go on to-day with the. Works Estimates !
– Yes, we have always done so. These are the ordinary Works estimates, which, as I say, are invariably proceeded with immediately after the Budget speech.
– I have never known an occasion on which the consideration of the Budget has not been adjourned.
– The consideration of the Budget is being adjourned.
– We have only had the Estimates in our hands for a ‘few minutes.
-I am following the usual practice. However, I am in the hands of the Committee; I do not care what honorable members do.
– The motion of. the Treasurer means the postponement of the Budget debate until to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Additions, New Works, Buildings, Etc
Proposed vote, £1,986.
.- I notice that for 1920-21 the vote was £2,000. Of that sum there has been expended £700, and we are now asked to re-vote £1,300, which, together with an item of £686 for new services, makes the total of £1,986. Is this vote for the additions to Parliament House that have just been completed?
– That is so.
– I have no doubt it is necessary to provide further accommodation; but we are spending large sums on this building year after year, and the question is whether we are justified in doing so, in view of our anticipated early departure for Canberra. It seems to me that in these times, when we are cutting down expenditure wherever possible, we should exercise a little care in this regard. I admit that the Government of Victoria has shown us every consideration, and we are in duty bound to keep this Parliament House in a proper state of repair. I hope, however, that we shall be careful in launching out in this direction in view of the possibility that the Commonwealth, a few years hence, will have more accommodation in Melbourne than it requires.
– The honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is quite right when he says that we are under a great obligation to the Victorian Government and Parliament, who, for twenty years, have given up the whole of this building to us absolutely rent free. All we have to do is to keep the building in good order and condition, and continue the fire insurance. The State Government spent a large sum of money in providing the State with another Parliament House at the Exhibition Building. The Commonwealth expenditure has been confined to the maintenance and upkeep of this building, which we are under, an obligation to return in proper condition. The additions to which the honorable member for Hunter has referred have been carried out on an exceedingly modest scale, limited to the minimum of our requirements. Honorable members know what a short age of accommodation there is. We have to provide now for three parties, and for their leaders; and, further, the functions of Government have grown to such an extent as to call for much more space than we at first required. These additions to the Parliament House are costing about £2,700 altogether, and they are furnished on an equally economical scale. This expenditure is absolutely essential, and was only undertaken when necessity compelled.
– What is the idea of providing extra accommodation when it is probable that we shall be going to Canberra ?
– While we are awaiting our removal the accommodation is necessary in view of the great pressure on the space available at the present time.
.- I was expecting the Minister (Mr. Groom) to say exactly the purposes for which these additional rooms are required. We are left to speculate on this point, our only information being that which comes through the press, and is sometimes quite unreliable. It has been stated in the press that this extra accommodation is simply intended as a suite of rooms for the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes).
– That is not true. The Prime Minister will occupy only one of the new rooms, and he has given up the room on the other side. It must be admitted that that room was totally inadequate.
– I am not speaking in any captious spirit.The Minister, no doubt, has noticed the comments in the press, and I thought that if these rooms were to be devoted to the Prime Minister, he was indulging in rather a sumptuous display. I admit that the additions have been carried out in a very moderate way; in fact, it is a complaint by some of the Victorian members of Parliament that the extra accommodation is altogether out of tone with the general architecture of the building. We do not expect the Government to erect thick walls and magnificent pillars- -to make the place look palacelike - but there is no doubt that these rooms, in appearance, are altogether out of harmony with the rest of the building.
– They are a great improvement on what was there before!
– There was a blank wall there.
– There was a lean-to!
– That was outside, and I am speaking of the inside appearance. I ask the Minister, with his up-to-date ideas of artistic architecture, to compare the entrance to the new suite of rooms with the entrance to the room of the Leader of the Opposition.
– These additions are only temporary.
– They will remain part and parcel of this Parliament House long after . we have removed to a more salubrious atmosphere.
– These additional rooms were designed and executed by the State Works Department.
– I know that we have to receive the consent of the State authorities to any alterations we make; and if they are contentI do not object ; I merely say the additions are out of harmony with the rest of the building.
– They are in harmony with our financial position!
– And. I wish other items in the schedule were also a little more in harmony with our financial position.
– When this building is no longer used by the Federal Parliament, will the State Government take over the additions on a valuation ?
.- In view of the generosity of the State Government, we should, I think, be treating them rather shabbily if we asked them to pay for the additions we make. For over twenty years we have not paid any rent for this costly building.
– They want to keep us here badly enough.
– Or goodly enough. Under the circumstances, we should not be justified in asking the State Government to pay for these additions.
.- I quite agree that the Government should not spend any more money on this Parliament House. It is the opinion of the country, and of a large number of honorable members, that we should get to our own home in the Federal Territory. 1 do not think there is a Parliament House in Australia where the accommodation is so deficient as in this building. More than one occupant of the Speaker’s chair has called for plans and suggestions whereby the ventilation of the chamber might be materially improved. I am sure there isnot any member of long standing who does not feel the bad effects of continuous attendance here. This is certainly, in my opinion, the worst-ventilated Parliament House in the whole of Australia. For instance, the representatives of the press are called upon to carry out their work under conditions that are really dangerous to health. The Government of Victoria, however, inreply to more than one Speaker, have stated that they will not permit the Federal Government to interfere in any way with the ventilation - they, will not permit us to make the chamber fit for human beings to conduct the public business in. There is no Parliament House in Australia so deficient in accommodation for honorable members and others who are compelled to come here on business. Under the circumstances, I repeat that we are not acting wisely in spending any more money on the building. To make this a proper Parliament House, in accordance with the original plans, would cost more than a million of money. The accommodation provided for deputationists desiring to interview the Prime Minister has been such that many of those who have sought to attend and speak at such meetings have been unable to enter the room made available for the purpose, and their remarks have been justifiably strong. I warn the Government that such expenditures as are here indicated do not end with the initial outlay. In the present instance, there is bound to be further cost in the matter of furniture and salaries of staff. Probably these extras will make the total outlay . three times as heavy as the sum set down.
– I also desire to enter my strongest protest against the proposed item of expenditure, and to express surprise and disappointment at the explanation of the Minister (Mr. Groom). The Minister tosses the Estimates to the Committee in a casual fashion, secure in the knowledge that a majority of honorable members will support any proposal authorized by the Government ; and when any explanation is sought, he tersely remarks that the outlay has been decided upon because the Federal authorities have paid no rent to the Victorian Govern ment for these premises, and that the latter have always treated the Commonwealth very well. Is that the reason why the Minister for Works and Railways has foisted this unwarranted and inopportune expenditure upon the taxpayers of the Commonwealth? If the Victorian Government have treated the Federal authorities well, this is no way in which to offer recompense. As a matter of fact, the Federal Government have treated Victoria very well in remaining in Melbourne for twenty years. Altogether, the explanation of the Minister is lame and inadequate. The most trenchant criticism hitherto expressed has been offered by a Victorian member of this Chamber, who pointed out that the additions to the Parliament building are not in keeping with the majestic nature of the structure as a whole. Why will not the Minister inform the Committee exactly what the additional suite of offices is to be used for ? I remind him that certain of his own departmental employees have been living in bag tents at Canberra for the past two or three years, in accommodation which is altogether disgraceful. At the . present stage, when the country has demanded that, the Federal Legislature shall be removed from this city - shall be taken from its temporary hometo -its permanent place in the Commonwealth - and just at the period when the Minister for Works and Railways has been compelled to bow to public opinion in this respect, his Department proceeds to erect here a suite of additional offices. With respect to the system of retrospective payments, where would business men be, generally, if the country’s commerce were conducted on such lines? What would happen if the Federal authorities were to go back over their tracks for four years, and longer, . to tax people in respect of sums which they had already expended or lost, and were to give rebates in other directions concerning matters past and’ done with ? The Minister advances the plea of retrospective responsibility as justification for the expenditure immediately under review. He states that the building of the additions is by way of repayment for courtesies ex tended by the Victorian authorities during the past twenty years.
– I did not say that.
– Am I not correct in stating that the Budget teems with items of expenditure of a retrospective nature? Honorable members should be more cautious than ever in agreeing to the outlay of public money. As for the discourtesy of the Minister in refraining from giving the Committee necessary facts, I, for one, shall not stand for such conduct. A disbursement upon this or any other work may be justified, but it should not be agreed to without full explanation. If the justification for the erection of additions to the Parliament buildings is that the Federal Government have paid no rent, a much more acceptable recompense would be to make specific monetary payment to the Victorian authorities. The Federal Parliament should have been out of Melbourne ten years ago. The Minister is not looking for trouble, but I warn him that if he is not careful he will find trouble over this business.
– Is that gun loaded?
– The . Minister knows. I have expressed my views frankly and often upon the subject of the establishment of the Federal Legislature in its proper home. Yet, to-day, while on the one hand the Minister for Works and Railways announces that the Federal Parliament is about to quit these premises, on the other hand he sets his Department to work upon a costly extension job in this temporary home. I again warn the Minister.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed votes (Treasury), £2,405, and (Home and Territories), £42,432, agreed to.
Department of Defence - Military
Proposed vote, £1,134,251.
.- I protest against rushing these proposed items of expenditure through the Committee at such an unreasonable pace and without opportunity having been given honorable members to peruse the Estimates in order to learn what is involved. There should be a suspension of further consideration of these votes for at least a day, in order that the Committee may arrive at reasonable and adequate knowledge of the business in hand.
– I strongly support the protest.1 These various proposed expenditures have just been placed before honorable members, and not one individual, outside the ranks of the Government, can be expected to know what is involved. Such haste is absolutely indecent.I desired - but my opportunity has been lost by the manner in which business has been rushed - to refer to a matter connected with the Prime Minister’s Department, and having to do. with shipping.
– Nothing in these Estimates concerns shipping. The item which the honorable member has in mind refers to past expenditure.
– Then I must be content with repeating my protest.
’. - When the discussion upon the Estimates for Additions, New Works, and Buildings began, I emphatically protested against the Committee being asked to agree to the outlay of millions of pounds in such circumstances. Honorable members have had the particulars of proposed expenditure before them for only a few minutes. I again press the Minister (Mr. Groom) to adjourn the debate. If he will not agree to a reasonable suspension I shall move for the postponement of consideration of every item.
.- With respect to these countless thousands, which are being passed every few. minutes, I merely desire to say that I, for one, have not yet succeeded in securing a copy of the Estimates. I am entirely in the dark concerning the matters under review, and the sums being voted from moment to moment; and, in fairness to all honorable members, I suggest a suspension of the proceedings.
.- I shall strenuously oppose all further progress, especially, in respect of the Military Estimates. There are several public institutions involving very heavy outlay ; such, for example, as the Naval College at Jervis Bay, and the military establishment at Duntroon. In regard to these institutions honorable members have tried for months in vain to secure information.
I might mention that it is costing the country £1,000 per annum to educate each trainee in the Naval College.
– If the Committee is not desirous of proceeding immediately with the Estimates of Expenditure upon additions, new works, and buildings, I shall- be agreeable to an adjournment until after dinner. But I point out that pressure is always being brought upon the Government by honorable members, who say, “ We agree to vote sums of money for putting public, works in hand, but the Government fail to execute those works.!’ The reason for such failure . is, in many instances, that the money is made available by Parliament only towards the close of the year. The practice of the Government has been to endeavour to present the Estimates at the earliest possible moment in order to obviate that very situation, and to permit public works to be proceeded with. Numbers of activities are waiting at this moment to be carried on. -Another point I wish to stress is that the Estimates are always considered item by item, and that when honorable members desire information upon a specific matter it is furnished at the moment of discussion thereon. However, since it is apparently the desire of the Committee to have leisure to examine the proposed votes, I suggest that the Chairman suspend the sitting until 8 p.m.
– As I understand that it is the wish of the Committee to secure a brief suspension of the debate, I shall vacate the chair until after the usual dinner adjournment.
Sitting suspended from 5.13 to 8 p.m.
.- There are several items of expenditure in connexion with the Defence Department on which I desire some information, particularly in relation to the Small Arms Factory at Lithgow, where £18,350 is to be spent in providing additional machinery and plant. Will the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) explain whether it is the intention of the Government to find work for a number of unemployed with that amount ? I have not the slightest objection to money being spent in maintaining the Small Arms
Factory at Lithgow; but I have a decided objection to expenditure being incurred whilst one-quarter of the employees have been dismissed from the Factory. During the last four months approximately 250 men have been dismissed, and on top of that we are informed that the Government intend to expend an additional £18,350. If this expenditure is to-be incurred for the purpose of installing new machinery, with the idea of manufacturing goods required outside the Department, the policy is one which will have my support ; but if it is for maintaining those highly-paid officials who have reaped huge benefits without conferring any good upon the community, I enter a very strong protest. For some considerable time the Defence Department have been requested to manufacture goods required outside the Department, and the reply has always been to the effect that money was not available for the purpose. The Defence officials, in their wisdom, could not see eye to eye with the men’s claims in this regard, and, as a result, 250 men, many of whom are supporting large families, and have been in the employ of the Defence Department for from ten to twelve years, have been compelled to leave the Factory. If it is the intention of the Government to retain the services of a number of highlypaid officials, and retrench the lower-paid men, something should be done in the direction of giving relief to the men who have been forced to leave the Factory.
There is also an item of £20,000 for reserve stores, and I would like to know to what .that refers. Does it relate to goods stowed away, or is it the intention of the Government to store certain goods? Under these Estimates practically £500,000 additional money is to be spent on defence, and the people of the Commonwealth, who have to find the’ money, certainly desire to learn in what direction the expenditure is to be incurred. Is it to be for the purpose of maintaining highly-paid officials, who have had very little to do since the termination of the war? These men are not rendering any valuable service to the country, while tens of thousands of honest workers are tramping the streets in search of employment. The Assistant Minister might explain the position, and at the same time inform the Committee
Mr. Nicholl*. as to whether it is the intention of the Department to reinstate the great bulk of those men who, for some reason or other, have been dismissed, whilst a number of highly-paid and useless officials, wearing brass hats, and who do not render any useful service, are retained.
.- We . should have some explanation from the Assistant Minister for Defence’ (Sir Granville Ryrie) as to why the vote for military defence purposes is to be increased this year by approximately £500,000. The Government have introduced Estimates for an increased vote of £500,000 for military defence purposes, notwithstanding that we have just passed through the turmoil of a great war, which we were told was fought to save the world from military domination and the dictation of the military caste. We were told that this sort of. thing was to cease; but we now find that after the war has been won and the world has escaped the danger of the domination of militarism, that the Government are asking the Committee to agree to this huge additional expenditure for military purposes. Surely after having experienced the ravages of war it is time to call a halt in naval and military expenditure, more particularly in view of the fact that a great Conference is to be held at Washington for the purpose of considering the question of the general disarmament of nations. The best example we could set would be to move in the direction of reducing our military Estimates instead of asking the Committee to agree to an increased vote. If we agree to this expenditure we shall be proclaiming broadcast that Australia is going to embark on a huge military policy, and this course we are asked to take without one word of explanation from the Assistant Minister. The Government are throwing the Estimates upon the table and simply saying, “ Here they are; swallow them.” I am not prepared to do that. Now that the war is over we should be endeavouring to effect a substantial reduction in our military expenditure. We should be working in that and not in the other direction. The Government speak of economy, and say that money cannot be found to provide employment. Many citizens who risked their lives in fighting against military domination are walking the streets in search of employment because it is said the Government have not the money to provide work. But the “ brass hats “ - the people who impose militarism upon this and other countries - are protected by increased votes such as this. Money is not being provided to find employment for the working men of Australia, many of whom did their “bit” upon the battlefields of Prance during the recent great conflict. The position is clear to the Committee, and the responsibility rests upon every honorable member to see that the military Estimates are cut down to the bone. We have had too much of this in the past, and it is about time we took a decided stand. There are many honorable members in this Chamber who are always preaching economy, and here is their opportunity to exercise it. Thousands of brave lives were sacrificed to save this country from military domination, and here is our opportunity to show in a practical way that we are prepared to put our house in order and to take the initiative by saying that the military giants shall be definitely chained down. I shall leave it at that for the moment until I get some explanation from the Assistant Minister. If some satisfactory explanation is not forthcoming I trust the Committee will take a speedy and effective means of removing the present Government from office.
, - I am rather surprised at the wailing of the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony).
– There will be a lot more.
– Probably there will. The honorable member has referred to the increase in the military expenditure, but it will be time enough to discuss that phase of the question when the main Estimates are before the Committee.
– This is a part of your machinery.
– This is for new works. The honorable member for Dalley seems to think that there is now no necessity for a Defence Force, and that all our preparatory defence work should be scrapped.
– And so does every one else.
– The honorable member should speak for himself.
– What do you want an extra £500,000 for?
– This is not an additional £500,000, as the amount will be included in the general Estimates of the Defence Department. It is a portion of the Estimates of the Department, and if it is necessary to expend more on new works this year I shall give the reason. Some honorable members seem to think that because the recent war has terminated all military expenditure should cease. What would have been the position of the Commonwealth if we could not have sent abroad the number of soldiers we did? We would have been under German “ bosses “ by now. The honorable member knows that the Australian soldiers played an important part in the magnificent victory which was ultimately achieved by the Allies. It is quite possible that wars may occur in the future, and are we to be totally unprepared? I am surprised at any honorable member advocating that we should not spend any money on defence. That is practically what the honorable member for Dalley suggests.
– I did not.
– The honorable member suggested cutting the military Estimates down to the bone.
– I believe in establishing an insurance fund for the Commonwealth - an insurance against foreign aggression. My firm belief is that the very best way to prevent war is to be prepared for it, and I shall go further, and say that if Great Britain had been prepared I do not believe that Germany would have set out in her mad endeavour to dominate the world. Germany believed that Britain was absolutely unprepared, and it was in that belief that she sought to invade France. She did not count upon us having such a brilliant soldier as the late Lord Kitchener, who was able in such a short time to equip men and send them across the water in time to stem the tide of the German invasion of France. Preparedness for war is the best way to prevent it, and the. Government’s intention is to maintain the Defence Forces in Australia on a proper footing.
– Are not the Government going to support the policy of disarmament?
– It remains to be seen whether the “Washington Conference will be able to do anything with regard to disarmament. I sincerely hope it will be possible to stop this mad race among the nations for supremacy in armaments. But until we know, it would be suicidal for us to call a halt in connexion with our preparations to maintain an efficient military force on a democratic basis. Nothing could be more democratic than the basis on which it is proposed to maintain our Military Force, namely, the basis of citizenship. Honorable members opposite have always contended that their party inaugurated the present system of compulsory military service.
– For home defence.
– It cannot be said that the proposals now under consideration are not for home defence. Let us examine some of these items which go to make up this £500,000 increase to which the honorable member for Dalley (Mr. Mahony) objects.
– Subdivision 2, Ifor instance.
– Subdivision No. 2 deals with field artillery and engineers, vehicles, harness, equipment, and stores, in connexion with which we have liabilities in London.
– For new stores?
– Yes. Subdivision No. 1 refers to warlike stores, such as machine guns, vehicles, harness and saddlery accoutrements and other regimental and personal equipment, £17,460. Included in this item is a London liability of £4,870, and £12,500 for rifle grenades, which have been ordered in London. In order to maintain our Defence Force on up-to-date lines, it is advisable to obtain these rifle grenades, which are absolutely the most modern weapon for offence or defence. I confess that I do not know much about rifle grenades myself, because they were not used in the theatre of operations in which I was engaged during the war, but they were used extensively in other theatres of operations, and, as I have said, they are regarded as quite the latest weapon of modern warfare. These bombs are affixed to the end of a rifle, and by means of a blank cartridge propelled a distance of about 200 yards. They are used chiefly in trench warfare, and it is proposed toadd them to our equipment. Then there is the subdivision, armament and stores for fixed defences, £5,532. This again includes a London liability of £3,500, and it also provides for alterations to some of the 6-in. Mark 7 guns, to cost about £2,000. The amount set aside for reserve of rifles to be purchased from the Lithgow Small Arms Factory is £281,000. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) wants to know something about the dismissal of men from the Small Arms Factory, and I remind him that only a certain sum is set aside each year for the purchase of rifles. Recently an award of the Commonwealth Arbitration Court in connexion with the Amalgamated Society of Engineers provided for a forty-four hour week. That made it incumbent upon the Government to declare a forty-four hour week in the Small Arms Factory. There have also been increases in wages. These two factors combined have resulted in an increased cost of production, and as we have only a certain amount to expend each year in the purchase of rifles, it follows that we cannot employ the same number of men.
– Why did you refuse to allow the Factory to manufacture outside goods ?
– Because it is not the policy of the Government to interfere with private enterprise in the manufacturing industry.
– But it ought to be the policy of the Government to see that thousands of men do not starve.
– It is unfortunate if, as the honorable member says, there are thousands of men starving.
– There are.
– But it is not the policy of the Government to utilize Government concerns for the manufacture of articles, the production of which would interfere with manufacturing in-: dustries privately controlled. The extra cost of the rifles, due to the factors I have mentioned, is responsible for the reduction in the number of hands employed at the Lithgow Factory. Nothing else was possible in the circumstances.
– Why did you not allow . the men to work five days a week so as to extend the area of employment?
– Even if some of the men worked only thirty-six hours a week, the overhead charges of the Factory would be the same. If the full number of hands were employed we should have, in a short space of time, an accumulation of rifles up to the reserve required in the Commonwealth, and, in course of time, it would still be necessary to reduce hands at the Factory.
– But the proposal was to manufacture only the same number of rifles as with the present staff.
– Even with the staff at the reduced strength, there is no certainty as to how long the men can be employed. The Government are determined that the Factory must be run as a well-balanced unit, and as a paying concern. It has to be put on a business footing, and not kept going simply for the benefit of employees. We realize, of course, that we must have the nucleus of an efficient staff available in case of emergencies. Another item in the increased expenditure is £77,000 to be. paid to the credit of a trust fund, the small arms ammunition account, for the reserve of small arms ammunition. This must be taken in conjunction with an amount of £250,000 under the munitions supply branch, representing the amount to be placed to the credit of a trust fund to recoup advances made on account of Small Arms Ammunition Factory, the purpose of this proposed expenditure being to create a reserve of 30,000,000 rounds of small arms ammunition which it is thought advisable to establish. The cordite is being - manufactured at Maribyrnong ; there is an Acetate of Lime Factory in Brisbane, and the cases are made and the cartridges assembled at Footscray.
– What is represented by the item £196,000 towards cost of machinery and plant for munition supplies ?
– That is in connexion with the establishment of an Arsenal. Honorable members will admit that if we are to employ big guns in Australia, and we must eventually do so, to be prepared for any need that may arise, it is necessary that we should provide for the manufacture of ammunition.
– Would not the consideration of these items more usefully come after honorable members have had an opportunity of discussing the general . question of naval and military defence?
– I think so, too, but honorable members have come at me so fiercely over this increased expenditure of £500,000 that I thinkit is necessary to say something in defence of the Government policy. In connexion with the establishment of an Arsenal, the Government have purchased costly and essential machinery from the Ministry of Munitions in England, because we cannot engage in the manufacture of these munitions unless we are in possession of the necessary plant. The present position of work on the fuse promises the assembly of gun ammunition in the coming year. The test and proof of this require a proof ground, and the appliances provided for under this item. There is a lot of experimental work to be done in connexion with fuse manufacture.
-What are they experimenting in?
– In connexion with the manufacture of munitions there must be a good deal of experimental work. We have not hitherto manufactured munitions in Australia, and although we have an excellent man, Mr. Leighton, at the head of this branch, we are practically novices in arsenal work. It is an enterprise which requires a considerable amount of skill, as honorable members know, and therefore has . to be efficiently handled. The work has to be very carefully and truly done, especially the manufacture of fuses for guns. Otherwise there would be very great danger, both to the men employed in the work and to those who afterwards used the munitions.
– Will there be testing stations for high explosives?
– Yes, there must be; there is no doubt about that.
– But only for explosives for defence purposes?
– The honorable member has in mind, I think, the testing of mining explosives. I do not think there would be any difficulty in arranging for the testing stations of the Defence Department being used, if necessary, for testing mining explosives. The filling of shell and shrapnel, chemical factories, and detonator-filling plant have to be provided for. There is nothing provided for in these Estimates which is not considered absolutely essential. The matter has been thoroughly gone into by a committee of senior officers, and they were not all “ brass hats.”
– How many privates were there on the committee?
– There was one civilian and some citizen officers, as well as permanent officers. It was the best committee the Defence Department thought it could get to advise it on these matters, and it is on this advice, of course, that we are acting. If we are going to maintain a Defence Force, it is necessary to maintain it on a sound footing. “We have determined to maintain a Defence Force of a certain strength, and on a Citizen Force basis. We are going’ to employ and maintain only the smallest possible number of permanent soldiers. They will be required for instructional and administrative purposes, and will form, of course, a nucleus around which we can build up a large Force. We must maintain a certain number of permanent officers. With regard to the socalled “brass hats,” the senior officers, I can speak further in connexion with the Defence Bill; but the present Government scheme for maintaining a Force in Australia will not cost any more than the system we have had in operation for sp many years. There will be no additional expense, in spite of what honorable members have said to-night. The scheme will not be more costly than that for last year.
– How about prior to the war?
– We will go into all these matters when the Defence Bill comes before the House. I assure honorable members that there is nothing here that it was thought we could possibly do without, They must give - us credit^ for endeavouring to cut down these Estimates to the very lowest point. It was my endeavour to do so, and the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) has strained every effort to reduce them to the lowest point possible compatible with safety. I ask honorable members to put this vote through. It is only half-a-million.’
.- The consideration of the Estimates during the two hours’ adjournment given to us, and the statement which has just fallen from the lips of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) confirm me in the belief that the Committee would be very unwise to pass these Estimates to-night. These proposals for Works -expenditure from revenue amount to practically £3,000,000, of which over £2,000,000 is to provide for Defence; and we are informed by the Government that the main business of to-morrow is to hear a statement from the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) on the whole question of Australian and Imperial defence, which, I understand, was really the main object of his mission to England. This matter is one that should be discussed with full knowledge, and I venture to say that it cannot be so discussed to-night. More than that, when one examines the revenue and expenditure of last year and the. estimated revenue and expenditure of this year,” one finds that last year there was a surplus of some £893,000 ; while this year the Treasurer has actually budgeted for a deficit, following the example set by Western Australia, Queensland, and New South Wales. To budget for a deficit, surely, is contrary to all established business principles. When we examine the figures in these items alone we see that of the total surplus of some £893,000 obtained last year nearly the whole was secured by failure to spend certain moneys from these items which the Minister has assured us it is essential to expend to insure the safety of Australia. I enter my protest against these matters being discussed - especially proposals for Defence and Works expenditure from revenue - before an opportunity is given for considering the whole Budget, to see if economy can be exercised anywhere, and to determine where it is wisest to spend the money. If we pass this amount now - “ only halfamillion” the Minister says, but the principle is the same whatever the amount- we may be faced with the difficulty that we may have lost an opportunity to economize. Surely one night is not too much time to ask for the consideration of the Budget so that we may get it in proper perspective in our minds ? We have had the Estimates in our hands for only two or three hours. 1 do not suggest that we should delay, but, in view of the fact that the Prime Minister is going to lay the whole defence position, as seen from an Imperial aspect, before us to-morrow, and that it will be necessary to square the ledger, we would be doing unwisely were we to pass to-night proposals for expenditure totalling £1,300,000.
– I agree With the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) in this matter. We ought to have more time to consider these most important Estimates. I realize that we want to set work going, but we must see that the public money is expended to the best advantage. In regard to this item of Defence, the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) said just now that it was necessary that we should proceed with what he regarded as a minimum, of expenditure. My belief is that we should not exceed the expenditure of last year, pending, at least, the outcome of the Peace Conference at Washington and the deliberations of the League of Nations.
– We are not going to exceed it.
– Look at the General Estimates, and see the increase.
– There is an increase of £100,000 on the general Estimates. I want honorable members to bear in mind that these Estimates provide for additions, new works, and buildings only. Last year we expended £693,255 on those items, and this year we estimate to expend £1,134,251. We are, therefore, practically doubling the Defence expenditure on additions, new works, and buildings, apart from the Navy.
– A lot of the money voted last year was not expended.
– If we could hold over expenditure last year, we can continue to hold it over until such time as we can settle whether we are going to have disarmament or not.
– There will be a lot of this expenditure held over this year, and the honorable member knows that expenditure is always held over. Many of these buildings were not finished last year, and must be finished this year.
– A lot of workmen may be shut out of employment if this expenditure is held over.
– The Assistant Minister made the statement a few moments ago that the only way of preventing war was to make preparation for war. I have heard that statement from the time I was a boy. I had come to the conclusion, since Ihe last war, which we said was a war to end wars, that every leading man in the world would bend his energies to prevent further expenditure on armaments, and to bring about a cessation of hostilities between nations. Yet to-day we hear this same cry, that leads to war, and leads nowhere else. I venture to say that if the public men of the world continue to advocate preparation for war, sooner or later we must get war. There is no escape from that.
– It is like a man putting on the boxing gloves to prevent a fight.
– Exactly. There i3 no means of avoiding it. The honorable member contends, and so does the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), that it is necessary to pass these Estimates to provide work. But, while we have been told that this expenditure is necessary to find employment for people in .this country, the Assistant Minister for Defence, when asked by the honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) why he refused to allow the machinery at Lithgow to be used for the manufacture of useful articles for the benefit of the people, replied, “We’ will not permit it. This Government will have nothing at all to do with interfering with private enterprise.” In face of a statement of that kind, how can the two Ministers urge that this expenditure is for the purpose of finding employment? That “gag” will not go down. We have had it too often in the past. We on this side, as a party, intend to cut down all, military expenditure so far as we possibly can. There may be, for a time, necessity for certain military works, but for this proposed increase in expenditure . there is at present no necessity. I cannot understand why we talk about Peace Conferences and meetings of the League of Nations for the purpose of bringing about disarmament and at the same time propose to spend money that we can illafford, when we are heavily taxed to meet the indebtedness of the war. That is the position that I, along with others on this side of the chamber, have placed before this country from time to time. During the war we said that we hoped it would be a war to end war, and that the great mass of the people would not again be called upon to pay heavy taxation for the purpose of armament. We told the people that, instead of having to expend so much labour unproductively in the future they would be able to use their money in productive channels. We thought the outcome of the war would be of benefit to the people as a whole. Instead of that, we are now asked to spend more money in providing munitions for the destruction of life. I fail to understand why we should be expected, at short notice, to vote away huge sums of money for the purpose of increasing our Defence Forces over and above what they were during last year. Surely in these days of economy, when the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is cutting down whereever he possibly can, it is not a fair thing to increase expenditure by doubling these votes. How can a Government justify that sort of thing ? I believe if we were to appeal to the people on the question, they would not support the proposal for one moment. It is outrageous to propose to double this expenditure.
In regard to the Lithgow Factory, the Assistant Minister stated that he had had to reduce the number of hands because of the high rates of wages and the shortening of the hours of labour. He forgot to tell us that the workers there, realizing the difficulty of getting employment at the present time,’ asked the Government to permit them to divide up the work to be done. What could be a fairer proposal? Yet the Government, which is supposed to be a humane one, actually refused to permit the men to share and share alike. In other words, one section of the employees is to be sent about its business.
These men were employed to manufacture rifles, and other munitions for the purpose of carrying on the war, and now that the war is over they are to be thrown on the labour market, although their fellows are willing to have their hours reduced rather than see families want for a crust because of the unemployment of the breadwinners: The excuse is that the proposed sharing of work would increase overhead charges. Did any one ever hear such an excuse before? How could the overhead charges be increased if the output remained the same, and the hours of work were not increased ? All that was proposed was that the employees should share the work to be done.
– That was a joke the Minister put up on us.
– It is a joke that is being put up by others. It has appeared in the press in New South Wales on several occasions.
– -He got it out of the Daily Telegraph.
– I want to explode that joke. I do not want to take up time in connexion with this matter, but I want to enter a protest on behalf of this party against the additional expenditure on warlike material. The Labour party has been twitted with introducing compulsory training. We did bring in compulsory training, and I am one of those who have been convinced by experience, since the war commenced, that it is not necessary to continue that system. I do not hesitate to say it. I am fully convinced that it is unnecessary, and I go further and say that most of the men who went to the Front were not trained under our compulsory training scheme at all. They were men who had had no previous military training, and had to be taught from the beginning. After all, the methods of warfare change rapidly, and men trained to-day on certain lines may, in the near future, be no better soldiers than men not trained at all.
– It will not be long before vested interests all over the world will want to wipe out compulsory training.
– I believe everybody will wish to do so. I believe the feeling to-day is. with few exceptions, that we should have no further wars at all, and that war expenditure is a waste of good money. In order to test the feeling of the Committee on this . matter, I move -
That the vote be reduced by £500,000.
.- It is appalling to me to see such a large sum as this on the Defence Estimates, especially as we have only lately come through a tremendous war. Australia is at the present moment ‘better prepared for war, in one sense, than she has ever been before, or will be again for many years tocome, in that there are in this country to-day a very large number of veteran troops. I do not want to go into details to-night, but. it is disappointing to me that, after the close of such a war, when we had many hundreds, of thousands of men in the field with the necessary equipmentand stores, we should be asked to vote money for such things as vehicles, harness, and equipment. I should have thought that we would have had harness, vehicles, and equipment to burn,
– The mobilization stores throughout Australia are full of this materiel.
– We are asked to vote enormous sums, such as £281,000 for a reserve of rifles. I was hoping that the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) would tell us what rifles the Department is now making, and whether there was not a very large number of rifles in stock, there having been so many thousands of men in the field. Perhaps, however, the surplus rifles went to the Home Government, or were sent elsewhere overseas. The point I want to raise particularly has already been put forward, (by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). I am, personally, one of those who are not going to vote for a Budget that deliberately and in cold blood proposes that Australia should go further into debt this year, to the extent of something like £3,000,000.
– There is no such proposal in the Budget.
– I want the Government to square the ledger. I want to see the coat cut according to . the cloth.
SirJoseph Cook. - We are doing that, and will have £3,800,000 at the end of the year.
– According to the Treasurer’s own statement, we shall have a deficit of £2,817,000. , I do not believe in that sort of finance at all. It must, in future, lead to financial disaster and chaos. I, personally, would like to see the Estimates for the year reduced by a sum equal to the anticipated deficit, and hope that an amendment to that end will be moved. But before it is moved we ought not to vote this large sum for defence, because the total reductions which I suggest must also affect the defence expenditure. What the proportion should be I am not prepared to say. I hope that the Leader of the party to which I belong will move, when the opportunity is afforded him, that the Estimates be withdrawn in order that they may later be submitted in such a way as to show no deficit at all. I hope that the Government will be given an opportunity to square the ledger, and will bring forward new Estimates of Expenditure showing reductions equal to the amount of the anticipated deficit. It will be for them to say to what extent the Defence votes shall be reduced in order to bring this about. They should not propose an expenditure during the year of £1 in excess of the amount of the revenue they expect to receive. If a Government cannot balance the ledger, rather than go deliberately into debt on their year’s transactions, they should propose increased taxation. I should be prepared, if necessary, to support increased taxation provided that not one penny of the revenue derived in that way was wastefullyexpended, but I cannot support the Government in bringing down a Budget showing a loss on the year’s transactions of nearly £3,000,000. I trust that . the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) may be induced to temporarily withdraw his amendment in order that we may be given an opportunity to discuss the Budget as a whole before we enter upon the consideration of particular items of the Estimates.
.- It must be apparent that the Government are making even a more grievous blunder in connexion with, the Naval and Defence Estimates this year than they made last year. It fell to my lot last year to quote what was being done in the British Parliament in the way of reducing expenditure.
– They are spending £170,000,000 a year.
– My reminder of last year of the millions by which the British Government were reducing expenditure seems to have had no effect on the Federal Government.
– What are the British Government spending now?
– If we are to continue thishuge Defence expenditure in Australia, we shall lose all the advantages, if any, which we gained by winning the war. In support of this statement, I make the following quotation, which I think is a very apt one: -
Disarmament for Germany therefore means financial and economic relief to an amount of well over £300,000,000 per annum. This means that after payment of all reparations she will still be in a highly favoured position to conduct the economic war of competition in the future. Unless, therefore, something can be done to relieve us of the tremendous handicap of military armaments, we may as surely lose the economic struggle as we won the military . one. .
Who said that? The right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) only this afternoon. Yet here we have the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrietelling the Committee an altogether different tale. He says that this expenditure is essential, but the Treasurer wants all who are within hearing of his voice to believe that it is suicidal for the various countries of the world to continue Defence expenditure. I was glad to hear such a note sounded by the right honorable gentleman, but it is not repeated in these Estimates. It should be borne in mind that the Estimates as before us to-day are very much less than they were as submitted in the first instance to the Treasurer’s Department. I can quite imagine Senator Pearce and the Assistant Minister for Defence pulling very wry faces in Cabinet when they were informed by the Treasurer that they must reduce the Defence Estimates. Even after the Treasurer has applied the pruning knife, the Estimates disclose the alarming fact that, it is proposed to expend more money on defence in Australia’ this year than was spent last year. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) suggests that the total amount of the Estimates should be reduced to the extent of the anticipated deficit, and that the necessary reductions should be spread over the various Departments. The Government have asked that these Estimates shall be passed to-night. In the general Estimates, honorable members will find a large increase in Defence expenditure proposed. In the Estimates for additions, new works and buildings, a considerable increased expenditure is also proposed, and if honorable members will look, at the Loan Estimates, they will find that increased expenditure to the extent of something like £150,000 is proposed in connexion with them. For all this proposed increase of expenditure the Assistant Minister for Defence has given one of the lamest excuses that I ever listened to f rom the mouth of a member of a Government. The Treasurer told us this afternoon, that if we continue to expend money in the way proposed on defence, we shall be treading on the road to ruin. I hope that the right honorable gentleman will continue’ to preach that gospel; but I cannot see how he can reconcile it with the Estimates now submitted to us. I intend te support the amendment submitted by my Leader, and I expect it to be supported by all honorable members who are seeking an opportunity to economize. In city and country districts the people are waiting for improved telephonic and telegraphic facilities, which are necessary for the industrial advancement of the country. We may continue to ask for money for these purposes, and we shall not be given a copper, but when the “brass hat” comes along and asks for hundreds of thousands of pounds, he is given it without a second asking. We cannot look for industrial advancement if we are to spend money on defence in the way proposed by the Government, which is throwing money into a bottomless pit. In the face of what other nations are doing at the present time, this Australian Parliament, led by the present Ministry, is setting but a sorry example to the rest of the world. One of the greatest movements of modern times is the Disarmament Conference called by the President of the United States of America. If that Conference means business, Australia should be in it up to the hilt. There are many men wandering through the countryto-day looking in vain for the opportunity to earn a crust, and amongst them are men who suffered and bled in the trenches of France and in other war areas, and it is certainly the duty of this Parliament to do something which will lead to the industrial advancement of the country, rather than to. indulge in the huge naval and military expenditure proposed by the Government.
.- I was surprised at the speech made by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie). The honorable gentleman did not state the whole of the facts. The facts, as we know them, are that there was a guarantee given by the British Government that for every man sent overseas from Australia a rifle would be returned to this country. . Is that contract being carried out? We were told last session that we required large stores for the housing of military equipment sent from Great Britain. Shipload after shipload of artillery was sent here; military waggons and all the necessary equipment for five complete armies, we were told, were sent to us by the British Government. The Public Works Committee has reported on the construction of large sheds and stores for the housing of this equipment, and yet in these Estimates I find an item of £25,000 for artillery. I forget the complete number of batteries of artillery that were given to us by the British Government. I saw some of the guns landed, and I should like to know where all that artillery is now stored, and why it is necessary that we should spend another £25,000 on artillery. I desire, that this country should be adequately defended, but I do not want to have military equipment for which we have no use stored in every part of the Commonwealth. Another item I see on the Estimates is one of £45,000 for the Clothing Factory in addition to machinery. Is it the intention of the Government to compete with private enterprise for the manufacture of military cloth? Have we not sufficient factories in the Commonwealth at the present time to manufacture all the military cloth .we require? If it is the intention to compete with private enterprise, and that policy is right in this case; it should be adopted in connexion with the Small Arms Factory.
– The money is for the provision of new looms, &c, which will be required in order to manufacture clothing for the Citizen Forces.
– Before the war the mill at Geelong was capable of doing that, and during the war, supplemented by a few private factories, it supplied nearly all the clothing for the soldiers who were going overseas. I do not object to an extension of the factory for the manufacture of cloth; but if it is right to manufacture cloth for the public it would be equally right to manufacture other things. There is a Harness Factory which is not working full time - I admit it is also producing a few boots - and yet there is an item for the purchase of saddlery for artillery. What is the explanation of that item? There is an increase of £500,000 in the estimated expenditure on equipment. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in the course of his Budget speech to-day, spoke with gratification of the decrease in the amount paid out for pensions. While the Government are cutting down the allowances to the returned soldiers they are increasing the expenditure on military equipment and staff. Putting party politics aside, this Committee should take a decided stand against any increase in the military Estimates. If we are sincere in our protestations regarding disarmament, we should set an example to the world.. The proposed expenditure upon defence buildings and equipment might very well be deferred until the result of’ the Disarmament Conference at Washington is known. As the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) has said, Australia was never in a better position to defend itself than it is to-day. We have stacks of equipment and hundreds of thousands of trained men, and we need not be afraid that there will be another war for a few years. The whole world is tired ‘of war, and instead of spending £500,000 on military equipment we might much better spend the money on reproductive public works, which would give increased production and employment to our people. The Prime Minister (Mr. .Hughes), and the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), when they returned from the Peace Conference had a great deal to say about the League of Nations and the influence it would have in the direction of abolishing war, but to-day the Treasurer submits proposals for increased expenditure on war-like measures.
– There is no increase. The amount provided in the Estimates is exactly the same as was set down last year.
– What about the £25,000 for artillery ?
– We have put upon the Estimates exactly the same amount as was voted last year.
– I am surprised that the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) and the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) have not proposed to cut down the military Estimates. If a need existed for defence measures this Committee would vote the money, but the proposed expenditure is not necessary. The only argument, advanced by the Assistant Minister is that the best way to prevent war is to be prepared for war. That argument might be carried to a ridiculous extent; we might have a gun in every back yard and every man in the community on the parade ground. I am very pleased that the Acting Leador of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has moved a reduction of this vote, and I hope that the Committee will carry it, and so instruct the Government to cut down the Defence Estimates.
– To-day the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) took the unprecedented course of asking the Committee to deal with the Works Estimates before more, than half the mem»bers had really had a chance to glance at the votes with which they have to deal.
– I say again that it was mot an unprecedented course.
– In my experience, extending over twenty-five years, I have never known estimates of expenditure to be dealt with on the first day of the re-assembling of Parliament, and before honorable members have had time to even look at the items which they are asked to pass.
– I say that the honorable member has seen it done in this Parliament more than once.
– Has the Treasurer ever in his experience in State or Federal politics known the Budget to be delivered on the day on which Parliament opened?
– I do not see what that has to do with the question.
– When honorable members have had an opportunity to study the Budget, and the Estimates which accompany it, they , are in a position to know upon what they are voting. My contention is that we should not pass the large items of military expenditure that are provided for in these Estimates until we have heard from the. Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) how the Commonwealth stands in regard to the defence of the Empire. We are asked to pass these huge sums of money for defence purposes, and when we have done that we shall have a statement from the Leader of the Government as to what was decided at the Imperial Conference. The whole procedure is wrong. I object to this expenditure on rifles, ‘guns, and harness. I do not know that Australia is producing the most modern rifles at Lithgow, and surely there is enough cannon and equipment to be had for the mere cost of shipping it to Australia. I am informed that practically all the munitions ‘and armaments we shall require for the defence of Australia can be obtained from the Imperial Government for the mere asking.
– That argument is on all fours with the contention regarding the purchase of ships abroad.
– I hope that the Committee ‘will decide not so much to reduce any particular item, as to postpone the consideration of all these Estimates until we hear from the Prime Minister to-morrow a statement of what was decided at the Imperial Conference. We shall then know how we stand. I doubt very much whether the Prime Minister has yet had an opportunity of taking even the members of his Cabinet into his confidence regarding the decisions of the Imperial Conference. Certainly there is no private member of the House who has the . slightest idea -what scheme for the defence of the Empire was agreed upon at that gathering of statesmen.
– What is to happen to our workmen if we are to pursue the policy of buying things cheaply abroad ?
– The time has come when we must stop expenditure for the simple purpose of finding work. The honoralble member has referred to ship building. Having regard to the evidence adduced before the Royal Commission on Cockatoo Island Dockyard, I say it is nothing less than a public scandal that a. mere coal hulk should be likely to cost the Commonwealth £25 per ton.
– I ask the honorable member not to discuss ‘that matter on the item How before the Committee.
– The point I am endeavouring to put before the Committee is that the condition of the finances in every State of the Federation and of the Federation itself is such that before we proceed to pass a single £1 of expenditure, we ought to know the complete Defence programme of the Government. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is quite correct in saying that the Committee is Hot being asked to pass more than was spent last year, but, nevertheless, it is a huge expenditure proposed for preparation for defence. Is this large amount to be spent year after year? Surely it is time to cry a halt in connexion with our military and naval expenditure, if only for the purpose of seeing exactly where we stand. I have always contended that Australia should take her fair share in the defence of the Empire, but it is preposterous to ask us to pass this expenditure until we hear what the Prime Min-. ister (Mr. Hughes) has to say.- He went to England to discuss, not only with the Imperial authorities, but also with the best brains of the Empire, some scheme for the defence of the Empire.
– Do you think it was a good thing that he went to England 1
– I think it’. is a good thing that he came back. However, I do not wish to be drawn into that aspect of the question, although I may say that while the right honorable gentleman was in England, the Country party played the game, and, rightly or wrongly, having given his Government immunity” during his absence, stood to its obligations. Until the scheme drawn up at the Imperial Conference has been laid before honorable members, we ought not to pass a single shilling for military or naval expenditure. We have a right to know what the scheme is. The right honorable gentleman is following the proper course in taking the House into his confidence during the first week of the meeting of Parliament, and telling us what was done at the Conference, but until he does so we ought not to consider any proposal for naval or military expenditure. It is not a question of reducing these Estimates by any particular amount. No honorable member knows to what extent any reduction might affect the scheme propounded in Great Britain, and accepted by the Prime Minister subject to the approval of this Parliament. No honorable member would know that his vote might not be in direct conflict with the Imperial programme.
– Will the honorable member agree to go on with the Estimates for other public works if we agree to postpone the Defence Estimates?
-That is precisely what I am asking for - that the Military and Naval Estimates should be postponed until the Prime Minister has made his. statement to the House. If that is done,. I will accept it.
Sir JOSEPH COOK (Parramatta- Treasurer [9.24].- We shall gladly do it. I move -
That the votes “The Department of Defence -Military “, “ The Department of the Navy “, and “ Departments of Navy and Defence - Air Services” be postponed until after the consideration of the other votes for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c. ,
.- The number of excuses honorable members can find to evade a responsibility is extraordinary. It may be true that Ministers hare not treated the Committee f airly in the matter of supplying information, but the fact is very apparent that this afternoon the Government, finding themselves in an insecure position, probably through not having the whole of their forces behind them, were compelled to adjourn proceedings for a couple of hours in order to enable them to whip up their supporters.
– That statement is not fair.
– It may not be fair, but it is the truth. And now because a couple of honorable members strongly criticise the extravagant,- reckless, and scandalous Estimates submitted, the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) says, “Yes, by all means we will postpone them.”
– Is it not fair that they should be postponed until we get a statement from the Prime Minister.
– It is a most ridiculous proposal to ask for the postponement of these Estimates until the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) makes his statement, when the honorable member knows perfectly well that the right honorable gentleman, who is Leader of the National party, must support the Estimates submitted by his Government, and in all probability is fully cognisant of the amounts of expenditure involved in them. The honorable member’s excuse is that we cannot know what to do until we hear what the Prime Minister has to say, but I anticipate that Ave shall be told very little., As a matter of fact, very little was decided upon by the Imperial Conference. Does the honorable member think that after the Leader of the Government has made his statement the Assistant Minister for Defence. (Sir Granville Ryrie) will rise and say, “In view of what has just been said, I desire to reduce these Estimates by £500,000.” I think that we ought to discuss this expenditure now because nothing that the Prime Minister can tell us will make the slightest difference so far as the question now under consideration is concerned. The Estimates before us will not be altered.
– How do you know that?
– These Estimates are placed before us by the Government, and the honorable member knows very well that they will not be altered by the Government, though they may be altered by the Committee.
– That is another, matter.
– The question is whether, if the Prime Minister tells us that Australia is menaced by Asiatics, we will pass these Estimates - whether, in our opinion, they are needed. We have to decide whether the amount proposed is necessary, and whether Australia can afford to pay it. Nothing that the Prime Minister will tell us can set aside those questions.
– The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) is perfectly logical and perfectly consistent. He has his orders as to what he must do in regard to these Estimates; there was’ no need for him to take half-an-hour to tell the House what he intended to do. Before he spoke, every one knew that he was compelled to rise and say that not a penny should be spent on Defence if he could help it. These were the marching orders given to him from head-quarters the other day. It is no use any honorable member opposite getting up to say a word; we all know before they rise what they will say-“ Their’s not to reason why, their’s but to do or die,” politically! Then, the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), if I may say so, is quite consistent. Nothing that the Government has ever done- -
– We will make him vote against the Government.
– Nothing that the Government has ever done would make the honorable member for Franklin vote for the Government if he could help . it.
– I think I was very fair.
– The honorable member accepts anything I suggest when it does not mean good business; but the Government really desire to do business. May I suggest to the honorable memberthat he was not quite ingenuous with the Committee ?
– Mr. Chanter–
–What is the use of the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) rising? Everybody knows what he, or any other honorable member opposite will say ? Even so sane,’ reasonable, and decent a fellow as the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) is compelled to get up to-night and make this proposition. May I pause for a moment to offer a word of congratulation to that honorable member on his having accepted his present onerous position?
– He is making a good start, anyhow!
– I think he is doing very well. Half-a-million at a time! May I say to the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) that no honorable member knows better than, he that what he said just now was a piece of camouflage from beginning to end ? He. protested against the passing of these Estimates until a declaration of policy had been made. The honorable member knows that, whatever we do to-night, these Works Estimates have all to be submitted to the Committee again, and he covered by an Appropriation Bill. If, to-night, he can be persuaded to vote for these Estimates - though it does not look like it - in so doing he does not lose a tittle of control over them. He and I know each other too well to try to bluff each other. He knows that I am the one man he cannot bluff, though he may try to bluff some of his new colleagues in the corner. The submission of these Estimates to-night is in pursuance of a well-recognised rule of Parliament, followed in response to the demand of Parliament, and extending, to my knowledge, over fifteen years. That rule is that, at the earliest possible moment after the delivery of the Budget, the Works Estimates should be placed on the statute-book. Public works are held up until that is done, and the Government find it difficult to spend the money voted within the year. Of course, if honorable members postpone these Estimates for a month or two, they will save me, as Treasurer, a million of money; but public works will not be carried out, and honorable members will have to go without the telephone, post-offices, and other utilities they desire. It is proposed on these Estimates to spend some millions of money on public works. Here I am reminded of a little occurrence when last the House was sitting. I remember the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley), who has just resumed his seat after saying many bitter things and indulging in, ‘diatribes against the Government, introducing to me a deputation from the Trades Hall, and begging me to find money for public worksto relieve the unemployment. The honorable member’ came tome almost with tears in his eyes arid said “ Cannot you find some public works to be going on with, in order to find employment?” Here is an opportunity to relieve that unemployed position. Here is money waiting to be spent on useful public works; but the moment the Government propose to spend it the honorable mem ber gets up, with his cohorts behind him, and tries to block it from being expended. The honorable member for Macquarie (Mr. Nicholls) has just entered the chamber.. Is the honorable member aware that, in- his absence, a proposition has been advanced to abolish his Small Arms Factory at Lithgow?
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. j. M. Chanter). Order! I remind the Committee that the question before the Chair has to do with the postponement of the Defence division.
– I desire to learn why there should be any postponement. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) failed to inform honorable members. , He stated, in effect, that no matter how honorable members might vote to-night, they would have an opportunity later of re-casting their votes. That being the case, why should there be a postponement? I heartily agree with the views of the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley). No matter how long may be the postponement, and no matter what the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may have to tell the House and the : country to-, morrow, the actual facts of the situation cannot be altered. No more convincing facts could have been furnished than those provided by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir
Granville Ryrie), who said that the responsible officers in the Defence Department had decided that the sum set down in these Estimates was the absolute minimum, that there could be no further possible pruning, and that, therefore, the Government were bound to accept the proposals of those’ officials, who knew what they were talking about, and knew more, indeed,, than anybody outside of the Defence Department could hope to know.
– I ask the honorable member not to put words into my mouth. I said nothing of the kind. T mentioned that the Government were acting on the advice of responsible officers in the Defence Department.
– -What the Assistant Minister has’ stated is not much different from what I have just said.
– There is a great difference between acceptingthe advice of responsible officers and acquiescing in their demands.
– According to the Assistant Minister, it cannot matter what the Prime Minister may say to-morrow, for the Government are bound to accept what the responsible officers of the Defence Department have set forth as an irreducible minimum. The Treasurer says it is not a matter of what the responsible authorities in the Defence Department say, ‘but of what the Prime Minister may say to-morrow.
– I did not use any such words.
– Those are, in effect, the views of the Treasurer. The Assistant Minister for Defence uttered two notable statements, of which I took a careful record. The first of these was that to be prepared for war is the best guarantee of peace. And, in his next breath, the Assistant Minister said, “ I hope there will be disarmament as the result of the Washington Conference.” I can imagine the Assistant Minister being selected as Australia’s representative at that congress of the nations.
– Order! I point out to the honorable member that he is not discussing the question before the Chair.
– I repeat that I shall oppose the motion for postponement. It was refreshing to listen to the criticisms of honorable members in the corner. I cannot really believe in the sincerity of the Country party, but I am glad, at any rate, to note an altered tone. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. Mcwilliams) indicated that the Government have been let down lightly because of the truce which has been maintained during the past few months.
– Order! The honorable member may not discuss that matter.
– Members of the Country party have talked considerably about economy. An opportunity is now to be provided for them to show by their votes that they truly believe in and desire to bring about economy.
– I call the honorable member’s attention to an item of £750,000 for the construction and extension of telegraph and telephone systems, and for laying wires underground. Will the honorable member permit the Government to have that vote dealt with to-night?
– The Treasurer is very good at getting away from a point. Of the total vote contained in the Estimates for additions, new works, , and buildings, two-thirds is to be spent on defence matters. Less than one-third of the money will go in the direction, just mentioned by the Treasurer; but the right honorable gentleman suggests that the two-thirds should now be permitted to go in order that the expenditure of the remainder may be sanctioned. If the money were really intended to be expended upon the provision of telephonic, telegraphic, and mail conveniences for people out-, back, no honorable member in this Committee would cause a moment’s delay.
– Then I suggest that the Committee authorize the vote tonight.
– Does the Treasurer mean that all proposed expenditure; apart from that upon defence, should be dealt with forthwith ?
– I shall have no objection to that course after the matter now before the Committee has been dealt with. The Treasurer cannot camouflage the issue. I do not see the necessity for postponement. A vote should be taken immediately, and I look to honorable members of the Country party to cast their votes according to their utterances. If they do so, the Government will be compelled to take a different course of action from that of obeying the “ brass hats “ of. the Defence Department. Honorable members have been informed that the Government have had their orders from these military gentlemen in control, and that they must obey.
– That is not correct.
– And now, if honorable members will vote as they have indicated, the Treasurer will be compelled to take orders from this Committee. The Assistant Minister for Defence failed to show any signs of climbing down until certain speeches had been delivered from a quarter whence there has been given a long truce.
– Order! The honorable member is once more departing from the subject-matter before the Chair-
– Then I shall repeat that no postponement can alter the actual position. Honorable members will be no better able tomorrow to judge of the rightness or wrongness of the situation than they may be at this moment. I certainly cannot see that anything which the Prime Minister may say on Friday, can bring about an alteration.. It has been said that the proposed expenditure is double what it was last year, and if honorable members will turn to page 170 they will find that there has been an increase in the general expenditure over last year of £353,000.
– Order ! I must remind the honorable member that the postponement of this vote is the question now before the Chair.
– The increase is relevant- to the postponement, and I am endeavouring to show that a matter in which so much is involved should be decided at once. The Treasurer would like to have until to-morrow to consider the position, and he has practically said, “Don’t shoot; I am coming down.” The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) must know whether these Estimates are right or wrong.We werefrequently told that the last war was to end all wars, and the taxpayers of the Commonwealth are not likely to favour the expenditure of large sums of money on Defence when disarmament is on every tongue. The military officers who are “bossing” the Government are merely asking for increased expenditure in order to make their positions more secure. We should decide here and now whether this outlay is justified, and I shall vote against the proposed vote, and also against the proposed postponement.
.- The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said that for the past fifteen years it has been the customto introduce these Estimates at the earliest possible moment after the Budget speech has been delivered, in order to enable public works to be proceeded with. As a new member, I do not think the practice has much to commend it, because I find it almost impossible to grasp all that is placed before me in the brief time at my disposal. I am extremely pleased that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) has explained some of the items in detail, and I trust that he will be as much out in his estimates this year as he was last year, because it will enable the Treasurer to show a greater surplus. It is easy for one to realize that the position of the Minister in this Chamber is anything but a pleasant one.- Honorable members in opposition are continually urging the extension of public works and the expenditure of large sums of money in order to provide employment, but when provision is made they immediately commence to criticise the Government.
– Order! The only question before the Chair is whether the proposed votes indicated shall be postponed or not. The honorable member may give reasons for or against the postponement, but he must not discuss the Estimates.
– I want to persuade the Committee not to agree to any postponement, because I cannot believe that any statement the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) may make will seriously affect the Estimates now before us. I cannot help feeling that the statements of those in favour of the continuance of the work at the Cordite and Small Arms Factories are levelled principally at what has been termed the “brass hat” section. There are “brass hats” in all undertakings; they are necessary if any organization is to be complete, even in the Labour movement. I desire these Estimates, which have been framed by those who are advising Australia in military matters, to be passed if the Committee is of the opinion that the expenditure is justified. The old parrot cry, that the last war was to end all wars, is not sufficient to defend Australia. We need a more substantial defence than that. I believe the Australian people will support a policy of disarmament if the leading nations of the world will also agree. One of the greatest nations has been the last to definitely agree to consider a policy of disarmament. Whatever policy may be adopted in the future will not justify a reduction in the proposed Estimates, and until such, time as disarmament is generally agreed upon by the leading nations of the world we must make reasonable preparation for defence. If we were to take the advice of the extreme Oppositionists, Australia would be totally unprepared for an attack from the East. If it had not been for the unpreparedness of Great Britain and the demand for disarmament many thousands of lives would have been saved during the recent great’ conflict. As a taxpayer I am prepared to be taxed to a reasonable extent in order that this country may be adequately defended. “We cannot blow hot and cold on. such an important question.
.- I am entirely in agreement with the members of my party who favour the postponement of this vote, which is full of anomalies, more so perhaps than any other. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), in his Budget speech, told us in a most emphatic manner that the revenue from various sources during the ensuing financial year will be considerably reduced, and, as one who takes some interest in. finance, I have to admit that there is a good deal of truth in his contention. If we cut down the Defence vote by £500,000 the Treasurer should then be in a position to allot the money to the Post and Telegraph Department, which is in urgent need of money for the purpose of developing its services. If honorable members, instead of being prepared to hurry these Estimates through, reviewed the financial position of the Commonwealth, they would find that not one shilling was set aside for the purpose of meeting post-office requirements for 1921-22 in three of the largest States. Unfortunately the Government put up the very worst man to explain the position in order to justify this proposed increase of expenditure on Defence. He made more blunders and displayed more inconsistency during his short speech than would have been evidenced by any other Minister had he spoken for three hours.
– The honorable member is very rough on the Assistant Minister for Defence.
– Would honorable members be surprised to know that, although the Defence authorities are so anxious to get this extra money, there was over £70,000 unexpended last year? Why, then, this marvellous haste? I hope the Committee will come to a vote on this proposal, because I am sure that nearly all honorable members are in favour of making an additional £500,000 available for essential public services such as I have mentioned and which are so urgently needed. In the case of one State last year the Postal Department did not spend one-fourth of the amount available, and in the case of another one-sixth of the sum voted. Yet the Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) has been telling us that he did not have money to expend, and we have been assured by the press that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) by means of these economies has saved the country £6,000,000. Honorable members have been kept away from their parliamentary duties for a much longer time than they should have been. If the Government desire to get down to business), they now have an opportunity to prove their sincerity by making this money available for urgent public services such as I have mentioned, and which will provide employment for a large number of men. Every honorable member must know that there is a large amount of unemployment at present. The last letter I received from those who interviewed me before I left Sydney stated that four out of five mechanics had been out of work for four months. If the Government are so anxious about this question of unemployment, let them get away from the employer’s idea of creating less employment so as to compel men who want work to crawl on their .stomachs and ask for it. Let the Government spend the money “ which has been authorized by this Parliament. How can members ‘on this side of the House sit silent when they know the real position outside as regards employment? We must appeal to honorable members behind the ‘Government on behalf of the great masses of the people, who, after all, create the wealth of this country.
– Order! I ask the honorable member to come back to the motion before the Committee. He must know that to merely mention the postponement of certain votes and then deal with matters entirely foreign to it is out of order.-
– No honorable member endeavours to uphold the position of the Speaker or Chairman of Committees more than I do. If in this case I am out of order, it is owing entirely to my sense of responsibility as a representative of the people. I have a feeling for those who arc going short of food, and for the children who are not getting what they require. That is my reason for having diverged. I hope honorable members on the other side will assist the Opposition. When in Queensland on parliamentary duty a few weeks ago I noticed a statement in the press there by my friend the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), which makes me feel sure that he will vote with the Opposition for the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). If he does so, he will not legret it.
House adjourned at 10.13 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 29 September 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19210929_reps_8_97/>.