8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
– I ask tho Prime Minister if all restrictions on trade with late enemy countries have been removed. If not, what reservations are made, and what are the reasons for them?
– So far asI know, the only country on which there are trade restrictions is Germany, following what has been the policy of this country for many years. I have said, not once, but many times - indeed, I said it only a few days ago - that I should like the House to express an opinion on the subject. I am waiting to hear that opinion. When the Estimates are under discussion honorable members will have an opportunity to state their views on things in general, and perhapsmay use it to deal with this subject. I shall be very glad to listen to what they may have to say about it.
– Following upon the Prime Minister’s , statement that the House would be asked to decide whether or not Australia should trade with Germany, I desire to ask the right honorable gentleman whether it is a fact that he stated, in 1919,. that there were some people who wanted to trade with Germany, and that if they did they would have to get some one else to lead them, as he would not doso?
– If the honorable member is going to refer me to what I said during the war. I shall be very glad, at any time he pleases, to go through everything from A to Z. I wish he would make a start with the business, because this procedure is very tame.
– I ask the Prime Minister whether, at the recent Imperial Conference, where he represented Australia, naval defence was discussed ; to what extent, if any, an arrangement was come to; and if it was decided that the Naval Base for the Pacific should be outside Australia?
– The questions are of the utmost importance, but hardly fall into the category of urgent questions. The only answers I can give now are that the matter was discussed, and a decision arrived at. The Naval Base of our Navy is not to be shifted to Singapore.
– It was my intention to ask of the Leader of the Country party, or of the Leader of the Opposition, the question which I am about to address to the Prime Minister, and which I do not put to them because they may be precluded by the Standing Orders from answering it.
– Is the honorable member again acting under orders from his chief?
– What a kindly lot of Communists they would make! As I am misrepresented by the interjection, I wish to reply to it by saying that I have consulted nobody, except the Leader of’ the Country party, regarding this question.
– You are acting under orders.
Other honorable members interjecting,
– Will the honorable member for Darling cease from interjecting? If members will persist in interjecting when questions without notice are being asked or answered, I shall have to ask the Government to consider the advisability of not replying to such questions unless theyare of an important and urgent nature. Question time has become prolific of disorder. I ask members to restrain themselves and to allow questions to be asked and answered without interruption.
– I desire that you, sir, will request the honorable member for Darling to withdraw his statement that I am acting under orders, because I regard it as offensive.
– I ask the honorable member for Darling to withdraw that statement ?
– I withdraw it, and ask that the honorable member for Capricornia may be instructed to withdraw the offensive references he made to me.
– The only reference I made to honorable members opposite was contained in the explanation, “ What a kindly lot of Communists they would make!” If the honorable member for Darling or any other honorable member takes exception to those words, I* withdraw them. The question I ask the Prime Minister is whether, in view of the uncertainty in the minds of both business people and manufacturers caused by the fact that the Customs Tariff schedule has not yet finally passed both Houses of Parliament, he will postpone the consideration of Supply, in order that the remaining requests of the Senate for the amendment of the schedule may be dealt with immediately ?
– I should notbe warranted in doing that. I do not doubt that the Tariff will pass through both Houses. A Tariff like the present one is to some members the chance of a lifetime. They will never again have such another.
– Has the Prime Minister seen the startling statement in the Age of the 15th October regarding the unsatisfactory administration of the Island of Nauru? Will he have inquiries made into these statements, and especially into the allegation that slavery is practised on the Island ?
– I have not seen the startling statements referred to, or any statements recently published in the Age, but I do not propose to take notice of statements in that paper, startling or otherwise.
– I understand that the Government, after the Loan Bill has passed through the Senate, will have authority to borrow £5,000,000, and intends to raise the money in London. I ask the Treasurer, therefore, if he will make arrangements for the transaction to be carried through by the London branch of the Commonwealth Bank instead of by those who have formerly conducted our loan business in England?
– The Commonwealth Bank authorities are already our agents in London, and assist us in every possible way in connexion with financial transactions there.
– Has the attention of the Prime Minister been drawn to the action of the honorable member for West Sydney (Mr. Lambert), who, as Lord Mayor of Sydney, when that city was mourning for the late Honorable John Storey, ordered the Union Jack at the Town Hall to be pulled down and rehoisted in an inferior position, despite the emphatic protest of the Town Clerk?
– I heard of the matter, but I was not in Sydney at the time, and do not know the actual facts. I understand that another instance of the kind occurred later. As the honorable member for West Sydney is here, let him speak for himself.
– Arising out of the question put by the new Minister for the Navy, I desire to draw attention to the fact that I have before me a British newspaper of 8th August, in which there appears a paragraph in connexion with the unveiling of a statue to Mr. Lloyd George at Carnarvon. A most regrettable incident to me, sir, is that the statue of Mr. Lloyd George was not draped with the Union Jack. I regard this as a matter of much importance, which it is proper to refer to in connexion with the question put by the new Minister for the Navy. The statue of Mr. Lloyd Georgewas not draped with the Union Jack, or with the red flag of Bolshevism, but was covered with the Red Dragon of Wales.
– Order ! Will the honorable member explain what his question has to do with the business of the House?
– Do you not think, sir, that it is right that we should utter a protest against the fact that the statue of Mr. Lloyd George was not covered with the Union Jack, but with the Red Dragon of Wales?
– I am not prepared to offer any opinion on a matter which is outside the cognisance of this House. The honorable member’s question is quite out of order.
– I thought it would be, sir.
-Will the Prime Minister state whether it is correct, as reported in the press, that duringhis recent visit to Great Britain, he unveiled a monument to Lloyd George which was draped by the Welsh flag and not by the Union Jack, and that he made no protest?
– Order! It is not in order to ask questions based upon newspaper statements.
– I will vouch for the accuracy of the report.
– I ask the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation if bis attention has been drawn to a paragraph appearing in the Age, to the effect that a person prosecuted bythe Department for stealing timber asserted that the Department was indebted to him to the extent of £27, which he could not obtain ?
– I noticed the paragraph referred to. The report may be correct, but the statement is false. No money was owing to the employee referred to except the amount due to him for the interval between his last pay and the time when the prosecution was started. The statement attributed to him is quite false.
– Three questions have just been asked on the basis of paragraphs which have appeared in the public newspapers. T have frequently directed attention to the well-known parliamentary rule that questions based on mere statements appearing in newspapers are not in order unless honorable members asking the questions make themselves responsible for the accuracy of the statements. . T draw attention to the matter again in order that honorable members may not feel aggrieved if I have to remind them of the standing order.
– I wish to ask a question of the Prime Minister, but I am not quite sure whether you, sir, will allow me to do so as it has reference to a statement appearing in the Age newspaper, the accuracy of which I cannot guarantee. I wish to ask the right honorable gentleman if his attention has been drawn to the cable appearing in the Age-
– Order! I have just directed attention to the fact that such questions as the honorable member proposes to put are not in order.
Surplusoffrozenmeatinlondon. mr.livingston.-iasktheprime Minister if, when the proposed Conference is called together on the 31st October, he will, ask the Premiers of the States to take into consideration the wisdom of suggesting that the surplus meat in stores in London at the present time might be transferred to the starving people overseas in order that the meat we have going to waste here might be despatched to the stores in the Old Country?
– That would be a very good idea, of course; but I suppose that the position is that the British Government have bought the meat referred to, and the vicarious generosity suggested by the honorable member might not appeal to them. Probably what they would say, if I made the suggestion put forward by the honorable member, is that since we have plenty of meat here, we might send some of our surplus commodity direct to the starving peoples overseas.
– Some weeks ago I asked the Prime Minister to table reports from the State Premiers concerning unemployment in Australia. The right honorable gentleman said that it was impossible for him to accede to my request until he obtained the permission of the Premiers of the States to do so. I ask the right honorable gentleman now if that permission has been secured, and, if so, whenhe will lay the papers on the table?
– I do not remember the honorable member asking the question, but no doubt he did so. I shall make inquiries, and give him an answer later.
Alleged Criticism by the Treasurer.
– I ask the Treasurer if his attention has been drawn to a statement made by Sir Denison Miller, Governor of the’ Commonwealth Bank, to the effect that the Queensland loan arranged with certain financiers in the United States of America was obtained onvery favorable terms, and just as favorable as could be, or have recently been, obtained in London. In view of that opinion,’ and the criticism of the Treasurer, that the terms were extortionate and extremely high, will the right honorable gentleman now apologize to the Queensland Government for his unfounded statement?
– I have never criticised the terms of the Queensland loan as extortionate, nor have I criticised that loan in any way.
-The right honorable gentleman has done so.
– Never at any time. If the Queensland Government have secured a loan on good terms, good luck to them.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral whether it is a fact that it is proposed to reduce the number of deliveries of letters in the suburbs from two to one per day. If so, what is the reason for this retrograde movement?
Mr.WISE. - If the honorable member will look at his business-paper he will see that a similar question appears as the second question on notice.
– I wish to repeat a question to the Prime Minister which I put to the right honorable gentleman on his return from London, when I asked him if the Federal Government propose to do anything to assist in the marketing of next season’s wheat. Owing to threatened competition for freights and divided control, the right honorable gentleman will admit the importance of the matter to wheat-growers. Do the Government propose to do anything to assist in the marketing of next season’s wheat?
– I have already received, I think, two deputations on this matter. I set out my personal opinions on the subject when addressing my constituents in Bendigo.. Shortly put, my reply is that I cannot see what advantage can arise out of the Pool without unity of control . I am not responsible for the lack of coordination, and as my party was returned upon the distinct understanding that there should be no compulsion, I do not propose to use any. Let those who are responsible for disunity now bring about unity.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that during his recent absence in London this House unanimously carried a motion in favour of a compulsory Pool for next season’s wheat, and that the right honorable gentleman’s colleagues acquiesced in the resolution? If so, will that fact cause him to vary his decision ?
– I suggest that the Prime Minister explain the circumstances.
– I am not responsible for what the Government does when I am away. I need not state that I was delighted to see it still in existence when I came back from the Old Country, but, despite what the honorable member has said, my answer remains unaltered.
– Has the Minister in charge of shipbuilding decided to make a statement to the House in reference to the leasing of the ferry boat Biloela to Mr. Scott-Fell?
– I shall avail myself of the first opportunity to satisfy the honorable member’s inquiries.
– Will the Treasurer state when we may expect a complete financial statement in regard to the Commonwealth Shipping Line ? Is it possible for us to have such a statement this week?
– It is not. I suggest to my honorable friend that he address hia question to the Prime Minisber, since the control of the Commonwealth Shipping Line centres in his Department. A complete balance-sheet is not available, nor do I think it can be for some little time. The accounts, I understand, are kept in London, and we have sent to us the barest indications of the results of the year’s operations.
– Would not those accounts be made up to the end of June last?
– Yes. Speaking from memory, I think that last year the line earned a profit of about £460,000 or £470,000.Of that amount £250,000 was taken into reserves to provide for depreciation. Other charges were deducted, and the Treasury received a small amount. Somehow or other these financial concerns have a way of dealing with their profits like that of the Commonwealth Bank. -They do not seem to care to hand over their profits to the Treasury, no matter how much they may be, nor how they have been made ; but the fact remains that a good profit was made during the last financial year by the Commonwealth Shipping Line.
– Has the Minister for Works and Railways received the report of the Royal Commission in regard to the break of gauge, and is that report available to honorable members?
– The report was laid on the table of the House last Wednesday, and ordered to be, printed. Attached to the report were certain plans that had to be printed in colours, and this has involved a little delay in the Government Printing Office, but the report should be printed and available for distribution this week.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Postal Electricians’ case, before Mr. Atlee Hunt, wherein the Arbitrator condemns the conditions under which the men are working in. the telephone workshops in the various States?
Spencer-a.treet, Melbourne, before the summer, so that the conditions may be reasonably comfortable, by (a) having a more effective draught fan installed in connexion with the polishing buffs,’ such as the standard system required by the Victorian Factories Act; (b) the installing of an up-to-date system of cooling the workshop in place of the obsolete apparatus now installed ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Yes, I have read the judgment, hut can find no mention of a general condemnation of the workshop conditions in the various States. In regard to the Melbourne and Sydney workshops, the Arbitrator states that “the conditions are fair.” Plans for new workshop buildings in Melbourne arc being considered at the present tome. The site is available. Until the new workshops are provided the Department has made the existing workshops reasonably comfortable. 2. (a) The present dust extraction system fitted to the polishing buffs is reasonably efficient, and, ifimprovements can be effected, suitable actionwill be taken.
Yes, where circumstances justify such action.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– No proposal to make the alteration in the services mentioned by the honorable member has yet received my consideration. The facilities which it is the function of the Department to provide are made the subject of frequent review, in order to eliminate any unnecessary expenditure ; and insure that services justified iby public requirements are maintained withinthat limits of funds available forthe purpose. As a result of this supervision many proposals are sub- . initted for consideration from time to time, but none is given effect to which would depreciate the utility of the postal service to the public unless financial stringency renders that action necessary.
Expropriation Board’s Administration
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. Nothing is known of the offers mentioned. The policy of the Expropriation Board ls to accept the highest competitive offer available on arrival of the products in Australia, no private offers being accepted. In every case the price secured represents the highest obtainable by competitive tender.
asked the Minister re: presenting the Minister for Repatriation, uponnotice -
Whether any arrangement has yet beenmade with the State Government of Queensland to provide for the erection of War Service Hornet on gold-fields where the land tenure isminers homestead lease or perpetual lease?
– The Government has been unable to arrange with the Government of the State of Queensland to vary the tenure of leasehold land in the gold-fields areas, to permitof War Service ‘Homes being built upon land, the freehold of which, on completion of their purchase, will be available for thesoldier. Renewed efforts will be made.
Direct Communication with the British Isles.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Works and Railways, upon notice -
– ‘The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The following papers were presented : -
Defence Act - Royal Military College - Report for 1920-1921.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &e.- No. 6 of 1921- In the matter of the Australian Postal Electricians’ Union.
In Committee of Supply: Consideration resumed from 30th September (vide page 11657) :
– In moving -
That the further consideration of the Estimates of Expenditure for additions, new works, buildings, &c., be- postponed until after the further consideration of the first item of the General Estimates.
I should like to make an explanation. It’ appears that about the whole position there is some misunderstanding, which I very deeply regret. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) came to me on Friday and talked over with me the whole matter of procedure. I told him that the usual woy to deal with Estimates was by moving, in respect of a particular item, a nominal amendment, containing any instruction which it might be thought fit to attach to it, and that the Committee, on that understanding, would vote on the item. “But a difficulty has arisen, so far as the honorable member is concerned, in that he is unable to make an arrangement with the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) to allow him to submit his amendment first. Of course, I cannot control the business of the Committee.
– We are the Opposition, anyhow.
– Quite so.
– The Country party is only a wing of the Ministerial party.
– I hope, therefore, that my honorable friend the Leader of the Country party will acquit mc of anything but a desire to assist him in the consideration of his amendment. I should be very glad indeed, now, if the Deputy Leader of the Opposition could see his way clear to allow the honorable member for Cowper to proceed. But if he insists on his right to speak, I am powerless. All I can do is to submit the motion for the postponement of the Works Estimates, pending consideration of the General Estimates. If the honorable member for Cowper feels that he is suffering any disability in the matter, I can only say that I sincerely regret it.
.- The arrangement made between the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and myself a fortnight ago was that, in view of the necessity to get Supply last week and to consider the Senate’s amendments to the Tariff schedule, the debate on this subject should stand over for a time, and that on the resumption- of business this week we should deal with the General Estimates, in connexion with which it is the recognised privilege of the Leader of the Opposition to follow the Treasurer. That is a right which cannot be taken away from the Leader of the Opposition. It is a privilege conferred upon the occupant of the position by Parliament itself. When the right honorable the Treasurer had spoken, I asked him across the table to postpone the debate on the Budget. He did so, and the Committee then considered the Works Estimates. This action was done on the understanding that we should resume consideration of the Budget to-day. and, as Deputy Leader of the Opposition, of course it is my right to reply to the Budget speech of the right honorable gentleman. I do hot feel inclined to give way.
.- As a matter of personal explanation I desire to corroborate the statement made by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) in regard to the arrangement made with the right honorable the Treasurer a fortnight ago. It was understood that the Budget would be taken to-day. An amendment in my name was placed on the business-paper dealing with the Estimates and their reconsideration, and I understood it would be dealt with today. I have no desire, nor do I ask that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition should forgo his right to speak in this debate in his right place, as the question of finance is, in my judgment, far above all party considerations. It vitally affects the whole structure of government. Therefore, I do not feel aggrieved in the matter. I accept the Treasurer’s assurance that any difficulty that has arisen was unintentional on his part.
– I regret that honorable members are not called upon to resume consideration of the requested amendments in the Tariff schedule. Honorable members must know that a considerable number of manufacturers
– Order! The honorable member will not be in order in discussing the Tariff on the question of Supply.
– I am not proposing for a moment to discuss the question whether there shall be ahigh or low Tariff in respect of any particular item. I am reminding the Committee that a large number of manufacturers, as well as the general public, are entitled to know what is to be their position in regard to the Tariff duties.
– I am loath to intervene, but the honorable gentleman must know that he should have raised this issue before the House went into Committee.We are now considering another matter altogether, namely, the postponement of the Works Estimates until after the consideration of item No. 1 in the General Estimates.
– I am submitting reasons why the Works Estimates should be postponed with a view to discussing the Senate’s requests in respect of the Tariff schedule, in order that business people may know where they stand. There are £500,000 worth- 10,000,000 pairs- of cotton socks and stockings in bond at the present time. The importers are waiting to learn what the duties will be, and the Australian manufacturer wishes to know whether the Australian market is to be flooded with those goods.
– Is it competent for the honorable member to discuss the third item on the business-paper upon a motion to postpone one section of the Estimates in order that the Committee may deal with another section?
– I have already pointed out that the suggestion put forward by the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) should have been made in the House. We are now in Committee of Supply dealing with another matter.
– The Treasurer has moved for the postponement of the Works Estimates in order that the Committee may consider the Budget. I propose the postponement of the Works Estimates in order that we may deal with the Senate’s requests in respect of the Tariff schedule.
– The Treasurer’s proposal is to postpone one section of the Estimates in order, that the Committee may consider another section. The two matters are apropos. The consideration of the Senate’s requests in respect to the Tariff would not be apropos. I ask the honorable member to submit his suggestion in regard to the order of business in the House.
– The interests of business people and manufacturers in our community ought to be considered by us before we enter upon a long and futile discussion upon the Budget.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from 29th September (vide page 11603), on. motion by Sir Josephcook: -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division 1, The Parliament, namely, “.The President, £1,100,” be agreed to. ‘
.- I desire to intimate that I shall conclude my remarks upon the Budget by submitting an amendment.
– Have you also me up your sleeve?
– Yes ; I congratulate the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) uponthe very clear way in which he has presented his Budget. He afforded honorablemembers every facility to follow himvery easily. It is pleasing to note the very hopeful view the right honortable gentleman takes in regard to our primary products. The future welfareof, the country depends largely upon the’ nature of the seasons we enjoy. Fortunately, during the last few years these have been very good, and there is every appearance of the incoming season being’ equally good. The only doubt is whether or not the prices we obtain for our sur-. plus products in the overseas markets will be nearly up to those recently received, for upon this our future prosperity depends, entirely. I shall not devote much time to this matter now, because in the course of my speech I intend to deal with one or two. matters at considerable length, but I think that the Government should take some steps towards the establishment of a Wheat Pool. There are difficulties in the way, I admit, principally owing to the fact that the States control the land and railways; but as the farmers throughout Australia have, in no uncertain manner, expressed a desire for a Pool, I think the best interests of the country would be served by the Government doing something in this direction. I trust that the Commonwealth Government will endeavour to meet the representatives of the States and carry into effect the wishes of the farmers. Ifno Pool is establishedI am afraid the returns from the sales of our produce overseas will not be as good as. we might expect to receive through the operation of a Pool. The adoption of various policies in the different States for the. disposalof wheat will not work out to the benefit of the producers. . Honorable members on this side ofthe Chamber are particularly anxious that the wheat-grower shall get a fair return for his labour and that the consumer also shall get his wheat at a fair price. We believe that this can be brought about by a Wheat Pool properly managed by a Board comprising representatives of the consumers as well as the producers. At any rate, if nothing is done in this direction the Government ought not to lose sight of the fact that during the war, in response to their request to the. farmer to raise wheat, additional areas were put under cultivation, and that if the farmer is now permitted to suffer a disadvantage by not being in a position to ; get a fair return for his labours, the effect upon Australia as a whole must be detrimental. . We are depending upon the money we obtain from; the sale of our primary produce overseas to help us through the trying times ahead.;
The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), pointed out that we have been obtaining, the. cheapest sugar in the world, and that may be true, because during the early stages of the war we were getting supplies at lower rates than were ruling in other; countries. . In 1916, sugar was being retailed at 3½d. per lb. - the average for six years was 4d. per lb. - and since 25th March, 1’920, the price has been 6d. per lb. . The last-mentioned price is considerably above the world’s parity, because sugar is now being soldi elsewhere at a lower price than it is being retailed here. Provision hasbeen made whereby jam makers can obtain supplies at the world’s parity when the. sugar is to be. used in the manufacture of jam ; but we are anxious to know how. long it will be before the consumers throughout Australia will be able to purchase sugar at a lower price. This is a matter of vitalconcern to the people of the Commonwealth. The production of cane in 1919-20 was 1,350,000 tons, and for 1921-22 we expect to produce 2,160,000 tons. With that quantity available, the price to consumers should be considerably reduced. Surely thereis no reason why; the present high rate should continue.
Notwithstanding the criticism appearing in the press from time to time, and the statements made’ in this House that capital is” being driven out of the country, it was very pleasing to hear the Treasurer state that no less than 2,032 companies were registered in Australia during 1920, in which capital amounting to £148,270,614 was invested, and that for six. months of 1921, 737 companies had been registered in which£89,989,292 had been invested. When we are informed that capital is being driven out of the country, and that industries are being retarded’, owing to the action of industrialists, we need only refer to the Treasurer’s statement to find the answer. More companies are being registered, anda larger amountof capital is being invested than has been the case before.
The Treasurer also referred to the question of shipbuilding, and pointed out that provision had been made on the Estimates for £3,000,000 for defraying the cost of ships built in Great Britain. In connexion with our shipbuilding policy, the time has arrived when we should build in the Commonwealth.
– If such a. large amount of capital has been invested-, why has there been so much unemployment?
– Principally because we arc in the aftermath of war, and industry generally has been interfered with here as has been the case in other countries.. I know that we shall be told that ships can be built cheaper abroad than here. That is probably true ; but we must not lose sight of the fact that by building ships here we employ our own people, and in doing so assist in maintaining a greater number of producers who, in turn, contribute to the revenue. The need for more population is on every one’s lips ; but what is the use of repeating such a cry when we are sending £3,000,000 out of the country to pay for ships that can be built in Australia 1 At the request of the Government, preparations were made at Walsh Island, and at other shipbuilding yards, for the construction of ships of the dimensions that are being constructed abroad, and those controlling the shipbuilding industrywere informed at the time that the work would be permanent. But immediately after the war terminated the ship construction policy of the. Government was changed, and ships are now being built of material produced in enemy countries, whilst our own people are out of employment. It has always been contended that it is essential, in, the interests of the Commonwealth, that we should have our own iron and steel works ; and now that such works have been established on a sound basis, the Government are preventing industries in which iron and. steel can be utilized from operating. The present policy of. the Government to construct ships abroad prevents a number of our. own people obtaining employment, not only in the . shipbuilding . yards, but in the steel and iron works which produce the material, which the shipbuilders require. Even if the cost of building here beslightlyhigher, we shouldbalance the positionby expending the ‘money in our own country’, andfinding employment for our own people,”
It is pleasing to note that the war expenditure from revenue is decreasing,, and that it will be much less this year than it was during the last financial year ; but, in bringing about a reduction in our war expenditure, we must be careful not to do an injustice to those who went overseas to fight. If the reduction in expenditure is legitimate, we have no opposition to offer; but if it is to be made at the expense of the men who are partially or wholly incapacitated, the policy is wrong, and will not have our support.
The Treasurer also referred to what were known as “ Fisher’s flimsies,” and this matter is of particular interest to the Labour party. It is very refreshing to carry our minds back to the period between 1910 and 1913, when Labour was in power, and recall that we were held up to ridicule in this House and by the press because wewere bringing a note issue into operation. We were told that we were men lacking experience, and knew nothing concerning finance. Our critics at that time said that every note should have a sovereign behind it, and they went further, and said that we would bo inundated with notes reeking with disease and carrying infection throughout the Commonwealth. What do we find? The Treasurer, in his Budget speech, said - .
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, Ihave 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.
Itis very pleasing, indeed, to note that the legislation that we were condemned for introducing- has proved such a huge success. . Australian . taxpayers have been saved nearly. £8,000,000, . and the investment of that sum is bringing in ‘a larger return everyyear. The Treasurer’s statement shows clearly that in 1910-13 the Labour Governmentrendereda great service to the’ Commonwealth’ by passing the - Australian Note Act. . . “Let me ask honorable members what legislation was responsible for this country successfully prosecuting the recent war? Was it not legislation passed by the Labour Government ?-.l venture to say there is only one , answer, and that is “ Yes.” Which party was it brought about the creation of the Commonwealth Bank? Was it not the Labour party? And was it not in this connexion, with the note issue, that the Commonwealth found the necessary money to finance us during the great ordeal?’ There is other legislation to the credit of the Labour party, such as the land tax, and so forth. The programme carried out by the Labour party when in power stands out in comparison with the legislation passed by any other party during the existence of this Parliament.
There is another matter to which I desire briefly to call attention. The Treasurer in his Budget speech told -us that the arrears of the various direct taxes are estimated to amount to the huge sum of £7,500,000. He has stated since that it was nearly £8,900;000, but that something like £3,000,000 had been collected. The sum seems a large one to be outstanding.
– It represents deferred payments.
– The Treasurer does not make that clear in his Budget speech, by which we have to be guided. It is stated in black and white that this represents arrears of direct taxation. I do not know, who the people are who owe this large amount; but, if it is necessary to prosecute the poor man in order to enforce the payment of his income tax of 10s. or 15s., it is equally necessary to prosecute others who owe larger sums to the Commonwealth. There may, of course, be good reasons why this . is not done.
– There is an appeal tribunal, and numbers of cases have not been settled. :
– We are not told so by the Treasurer, who simply said that there is this large amount outstanding.
– That is correct, but there are reasons why it is outstanding.
– We are told that the accumulated surplus at the 30th June, 1921, -was £6,618,327, and the Treasurer says- - ‘ ‘ - This means that, not only was the surplus at the beginning , of last year, viz., £5,724,806, kept intact, but I was able to add to it to the extent of £893,521.
Of course, it is a good thing to have a surplus, but when it is at the expense of the aged poor of this country it is a bad thing. There is not a shadow of a doubt but that we ought to have increased old-age pensions during the life of this Parliament.- Notwithstanding the high increase in the cost of living, we find that the aged and infirm are asked to subsist on 15s. per week. This surplus is placed in a Trust Fund for the purpose of paying old-age pensions, and re-.
Gently we have decided that it shall also pay war pensions. If we had devoted part, of this money to paying an extra 5s. per week to the aged poor, it would, with 140,396 pensioners, have entailed an expenditure of only £1,825,148. Are the old people entitled to this increase? If they are, why should we begrudge them it? Why not amend the Invalid and Oldage Pensions Act in order that we may pay it? The great point is that this extra payment would not involve additional taxation, seeing there is over £6,000,000 in the Trust Fund. From time to time honorable members on this side have asked the Treasurer to increase the invalid, and old-age pensions, but he * has always informed us that he had no money, and that any increase would mean additional taxation; yet, we find that there is a surplus available of not less than £6,000,000. While it is necessary to economize we should not economize at the expense of the aged poor. I wonder how these poor people live, in’ view of the high cost of all commodities. Some of these people have to pay house rent out of their pension, and they ought to be provided for, even if it should mean additional taxation. “There is now sufficient money in the Trust Fund to pay an extra 5s. per week for three years, and I hope, therefore, that the Treasurer will give some consideration to this matter.
The estimated revenue for the year 1921-22 is £61,787,350 ; and the expenditure, £64,604,158; showing a deficiency on the year’s transactions of £2,817,108. The surplus available from the year 1920-21 is £6,618,327, leaving an esti- mated, surplus at the 30th June, 1922, of £3,801,219. It will be seen that there is a - deficiencyon the year’s transactions of £2,817,108. We, on this side, as a party, desire to see the ledger, squared, though not at the expense of employment in this country. We desire to expend as much as possible on services that are absolutely necessary to the welfare of the people, and the development of Australia.
– May I remind the honorable member that there are 9,000 people depending on these votes alone. .
– That may be; but if the ledger is to be squared - if the amendment given notice of by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), is given effect to, what becomes of the argument . that . we used in regard to the Postal . Department the other day’? Speaking from memory, I think we are asked to expend about £1,300,000 extra on that Department, and if the Estimates are to be reduced that expenditure must share in the reduction. Every man and woman in Australia knows that postal facilities have been lagging behind for several years, in consequence of the war and the inability of the Government to obtain the necessary material” for carrying on works. In the interests of the development of Australia we cannot legitimately cut down expenditure which affords employment to so many - affords more employment, perhaps, than a similar amount would afford if expended for defence purposes. The money expended on the Postal Department would not only give much employment, but would open up the country in a way that is absolutely necessary if we are to settle more people on the land, and increase our population. We, on this side, do not want a deficit, but if the accounts are to be squared, it must not be at the expense of the man in the country or the man in the city. The man in thecity requires expenditure on the provision of telephonic, telegraphic, and other facilities, just as does the man in the country, but such services have been starved for years. We do not desire to interfere with what may be termed the utilities of public service, but would rather see reductions in expenditure directed to the increase of means for the injuring of mankind by bloodshed:
I see from the Budget speech -that the expenditure from war loans is decreasing, and that is very satisfactory.Inow desire to turn- to the comparison . of total expenditure. We are told in theBudget speech that the total actual expenditure for 1920-21 was £92,874,314,while the estimated expenditure for 1921-22 is £81,397,632. There is’ an increase, of £1,495,448 out of . Works loan, and- a decrease in the expenditure out of revenue of £19,629, while the decrease of expenditure out of war loan is £12,952,501, making the net decrease £11,476,682. I desire to draw the attention ‘of the Treasurer to these figures. This Budget’ deals with millions of pounds more than was the case . a . few years ago. It has gone up by leaps and bounds. I have been thinking of what happened in the 1910-13 Parliament, when the Labour party was sitting on the Government benches. It was then that weprovided for all those works which have been the backbone of this country . duringrecent years, although we’ were, at the time, held up to ridicule and condemned. . The right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) himself wrote a work called The Financial Carnival. In it he stated that -
Yet another reason for keen scrutiny remains. A new order of tilings with respect to auditing has been inaugurated by the present Treasurer. The balance-sheet of any private firm or company isusually signed by the auditor. ‘In. the case of the Commonwealth transactions there is no such report or signature by the AuditorGeneral.
I want to remind the right honorable gentleman that those remarks are as’ applicable to-day as they were when’ they were written. Where is the AuditorGeneral’s report on the present Budget? Members of this House have been placed at a great’ disadvantage owing to the’ absence of that report. The AuditorGeneral’s report is valuable for the purpose of indicating to members whether certain items in the Estimates should’ be permitted, and whether there is anything irregular about them. It is impossible to get that information from the statement presented to the House by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). Evidently Parliament is in no better position to-day than when the Treasurer wrote that pamphlet, for we still have the Budget before us without having the Auditor-General’s report upon it. The following passage also occurs in The Financial Carnival-^-
The. total taxation per head last year for all Australia was at least £5 5s. per head- £26 5s. per family. On the average, therefore, every family pays 10s.. per week in taxation. Add to this the vicious, cycle set up by our Arbitration Courts, by means of which all the awards are made eventually, to land on - the shoulders of those who ask for them, and the mystery _ of the tremendous increase in the cost of living begins to clear perceptibly. We are “ paying for our whistle,” and paying for it dearly.
If we were “paying for our whistle and paying for it dearly “ when it cost £5 5s. per head, what can be said when it is costing us £12 18s. lid. per head ? It does not now appear to be a “ financial carnival,” but a financial tornado. And we are getting rid of the money. Out of the £64,000,000 of revenue, £31,000,000 goes for war services. This leaves £33,000,000 with which the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has to manage the affairs of Australia., outside of war services. “When the . strictures contained in
The Financial Carnival were made against the party on this side of the House, the. Government was not getting anything like that amount of revenue. I think that the total amount approached £20,000,000. To-day,- with a revenue of £33,000,000, the Government is unable to make ends meet. I can only point these things out so that the right honorable gentleman may have his memory refreshed, o
The public debt of the country has increased considerably, and, to-be fair, one has to admit that the war is chiefly responsible.
– The war is almost wholly responsible.
– Those of us who approved of entering into the war must expect a bill of this kind, but to-day the newspapers that urged Parliament . and the people to leave no stone unturned, and to spend every shilling obtainable, to prosecute the war, are condemning Parliament because of the heavy expenditure. Our debt to-day is £401,720,000, of which a sum of £69,710,993 is recoverable from the States. This leaves a net debt of £332,009.032, which is less now by £8,800,872 than it was at the end of June, 1920. Whatever attitude members take up, they ought to be fair, and say that Parliament was responsible for committing -the: country to the war debt..-
That debt has to be carried, and, whatever else .happens, it must be met. If it is necessary to impose additional taxation for the purpose of meeting it, theburden must be borne. We cannot repudiate the debt.
– Put it on the right-, shoulders.
– Yes; that is the need. I believe that an expensive mistakewas made by this Government with regard to war gratuities. Members on thisside of the House urged, when the last appeal to the country was made, that the money for war. gratuities should be. borrowed, and. that the soldiers should’ be paid in cash. ‘ In the light of what has transpired since, it is obvious that our advice was correct. The Government could have borrowed at that time at 5 per cent. We now pay 5^ per cent, tothe lads who hold the gratuity bonds. The i per cent, would have paid the cost, of floating a loan, and the public debt of this country would not have been increased one shilling- by the loan. On the other hand,- a great deal of trouble and much expense of administration would have been saved. The cost to the coun-try would not have been half of what it hoa actually been. The Labour party’s advice would have . saved probably ‘ £100,000,- or more, if it had been foi-: lowed. «Unfortunately, Parliament did’‘not accept the advice, and it was decided’’ to cash gratuity bonds -according to the* circumstances of the’ recipient. To-day’ the branch, of the Department dealing11 with these bonds has to be- kept alive, but1 if the Labour party’s advice had been - acted upon the work would have been-: completed some time ago, and the staff , might have been dispensed with. In re,,gard to sinking funds, I consider that it is a good thing that we are providing funds to liquidate our debt., This coun-try ought to make ample provision byputting money into sinking funds to liqui-date that debt. We cannot continue to* carry the present burden of debt yearafter year, and the sooner we can liquidate it the better it will be for all. It may take a long time to meet the” obligation, but if we make ample provision, we will be doing the right thing.
I find that in connexion with repatriation the Government has stated that thereis a reduction in the cost of that work. That announcement is very pleasing, asfar as it goes. If we are able to discharge part of our obligations to the soldiers by their becoming fit and, able to follow their usual occupations, it is a very good thing. But, on the other hand, any policy that deprives the soldiers of their rights is wrong: In regard to repatriation, generally, I do not know that the Government are doing the right thing in all cases. There have been brought under my notice the circumstances of soldiers who are unable to follow their former employment, and are not earning half what they earned prior to enlistment, and yet have been deprived of their pensions. . That was never intended by this House. Whilstwe are anxious to cut down expenditure as much as possible, we do not desire injustices of this kind to be perpetrated.
Had the bungling which has happened in connexion with the War Service Homes occurred in any Australian Parliament a few years ago, the Government responsible for it could not have continued in office for twenty-four hours. The War Service Homes administration has been unsatisfactory, since its inception. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) stated in Sydney a -few days ago that if this, service was unsatisfactory soldiers should at least remember that the administration was in the hands of fellow soldiers. From time to time, I have said that we were not justified in appointing to positions requiring knowledge and experience returned soldiers simply- because they were soldiers. I would give as much work to soldiers as is reasonably possible, but when the expenditure, of £100,000,000 of money is involved, should we appoint men to responsible positions merely because they are returned soldiers? Should not the first consideration he experience and qualification for the work to be performed? Whether or not the Commissioner who was dismissed recently was qualified and received a fair deal from the Government,. I do not know. The reason given for his dismissal was that . he was . an uncertificated bankrupt, but if his services were satisfactory his bankruptcy should not have debarred him from occupying the position. If it was necessary to dismiss him in order to comply with the Public Service regulations he could have been reinstated. On the other hand, if the man’s services were unsatisfactory, he had no right to continue to hold the position, and the Government could have dismissedhim for amore solid reason than his bankruptcy. The Commissioner was informed last year that he -was to proceed asrapidly as possible with the construction of War Service Homes,.
– Subject to the grants of money by this Parliament.
– The Commissioner was informed that a large number of soldiers required homes, and the Government desired construction expedited. He. estimated that he would require £10,000,000 to do what was expected of him in the year. The Minister reduced his estimate to £7,000,000, and the Treasurer later reduced it to £6,000,000. Then the Commissioner, being under the impression that as he had been instructed to expedite construction more money would be available if he required it, pushed the work along, got the machinery in full operation, purchased land for building sites, and thus in about five months expended the whole of the vote of £6,000,000. The vote having been limited to , £500,000 per month, and it being found that the money was being expended at the rate of £1,000,000 a month, was it not the duty of somebody to point out to the Commissioner that he was spending in excess of his vote,, and that no more money would be available when the amount made available by. Parliament had been exhausted? Did anybody do that ? Can it be urged “that those who were administering the affairs of the country did not know what money was being expended on War Service Homes ? Were they not aware that instead of £500,000 per month, the, Commissioner was spending at the rate of £1,000,000 per month? Could they not see that the continuance of that policy was sure to bring about chaos? The Commissioner was purchasing houses and land and erecting houses. The obligations into which he entered had to be met, but this policy was allowed to continue until the discovery was suddenly made that the vote was nearly exhausted. No explanation by any Minister can overcome the fact that the Government are responsible for that maladministration. They were responsible for appointing the Commissioner, and they are answerable for what they allowed him to do’. But nobody seemed to take any notice of what was being done, and the Commissioner was under the impression that he could continue his policy of free spending.
– No, he was not.
– That is the statement he made.
– He was voted £6,000,000 for the year, and he proceeded to spend £12,000,000.
– When the Treasurer saw that the Commissioner was spending at the rate of £1,000,000 per month, why did he not pull him up ?
– As a matter of fact, it was the Treasurer who did pull him up. He gave us all sorts of excuses for his heavy initial expenditure, and told us that it would be lighter in the second half-year. I accepted his statement for a month or two, and then brought him to a standstill.
– It is true that the Treasurer did pull him up, but not until about November of last year, when the money had been already expended.
– It had not all been expended.
– At all events, the Government had to provide another £1,000,000 for War Service Homes, and even then the Department couid not meet its obligations.
– We had to pay our debts whatever else happened.
– If there had been proper administration of that Department, its affairs could not have drifted into chaos.
– Parliament deliberately took the control of the War Service Homes away from the Minister.
– But all vouchers for expenditure must go. to the Treasury, rhere they are checked.
– Quite so; but the Treasury knows nothing about the commitments of a Department.
– Land was purchased in different parts of Australia in excess of the requirements- of the Department, and high prices were paid for it. The officials who were purchasing on behalf of the Government did not take the necessary precautions to ‘ ascertain the value of the land. They did not even inquire of the town clerk or mayor of the municipality in which they were purchasing, but- went to the land jobbers themselves for information. Thus it happened that men who had bought land at reasonable prices, and held it for, perhaps, nine months, in some cases more and in others less, were able to sell it to the Commonwealth at prices considerably above those they had paid. Moreover, much of the land was unfavorably situated; some of it was low-lying and insanitary. Upon this land the Commission has been building homes which soldiers have purchased, and in time the purchasers will find it desirable in the interests of health to abandon those homes.
– Should the Minister himselmake an examination of land prior to purchase ?
– No. The. responsible officer appointed for the purpose of advising the Minister in the matter should do his duty thoroughly, because otherwise the Minister would be placed in a false position. I venture to say that, in connexion with some of the purchases, that duty was not carried out completely.
– The Commissioner had nothing to do with the purchase.
– I am aware of that. It was another public officer whohad to report to the Minister, and on the strength of his report the land was purchased. Where the land was valued at above a certain sum - I think £2,000 - it was to be reported on by an officer.
– The SurveyorGeneral.
– And the Minister was guided by that report. We have purchased a great deal of land that will never bo required, because it is impossible to carry on the work of erecting homes to such an extent as to utilize all the land that has been acquired for the purpose. It is questionable whether we shall ever be able to dispose of the whole of that land. In Newcastle it may be done, because there the Department has built on the worst possible land it could get in the district. Sites on raised ground have not been built on, but land on which nobody else would think of erecting houses has been set apart for the. soldiers. It will be a difficult task for the soldiers to pay for these houses, owing to the high initial cost. In some instances the occupants will have debts of £600 to £900 or £1,000, and that will be a heavy load for working mcn to hear. I fail to see how they will ever discharge their obligations if property values, fall. We can expect, therefore, that many of these men, after struggling for three or four years, will be unable to go on paying for their homes, and will have to leave them. The soldiers do not know what their houses will actually cost. The complaint is that the Department has agreed to provide dwellings for a certain sum, and when the soldiers have received their accounts the total cost has run into £200 or £300 more than the amount agreed upon. These are matters to which we cannot shut our eyes. While the press has been crying for economy in regard to necessary expenditure, it has only made casual comments on the administration of the War Service Homes/Why has the press not featured this subject as a reason for the displacement of the Government? lt is because the press does not know who might get into power. The Government is able to carry on its maladministration at great cost to the country, and yet remain on the Treasury’ bench. For incurring one-half the loss sustained in connexion with our War Service Homes, a Government in New South Wales - according to my experience of that State - would have been replaced within twentyfour hours. We appear to have grown very indifferent during the war period. We still seem to be in the clouds, and are willing to forgive political misdeeds, irrespective of what they are costing the country. A good deal of the money expended on these homes could have been saved, and that would have represented legitimate economy.
War pensions have been very much reduced. By way of a final protest, I point out that they have been reduced unjustifiably. The returned men have not had a fair deal. In some instances where they were entitled to a full pension, and in other cases where a proportionate payment was justified, they have been completely deprived of the pension on the ground that their disability was not due to war-like operations. Where men have served their country, it should not be necessary for them to lose a leg or an arm, or suffer similar bodily injury, to entitle them to a pension. If their earning power has been diminished through their going to the war, they, have a claim on the country.
On the question of immigration, may I suggest that we should first put our own house in order? Lord Northcliffe, and others, may feel’ constrained to plead for more population in Australia, but we should begin, by. finding employment for our own people, and making them contented. Then let us make land available for future immigrants. If we could place them on the land under a proper scheme, so soon as they reach these shores, without their coming into competition with people already working here, the Labour party would not object, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that thousands of our own citizens are unemployed to-day, and there is no prospect of immediate improvement in the position. What is taking place in other parts of the world,as a result of the war, is being reflected in Australia, and we contend that, until we can find constant employment for our own people, no immigrants should he brought out. Quite recently, some immigrants, who could not get employment here, returned to Great Britain.
– They could not get houses.
– That is so. They went back declaring that Australia waa not what it had been represented to them to be. Could there be a worse advertisement for the Commonwealth than that?: The Government are now providing for a joint immigration scheme for .the States and the Commonwealth, and although’ some of the States have not ‘expressed a willingness to participate, money is being made available for the purpose of bringing out immigrants. The first duty of Parliament is to make available land that will be most suitable for settlement. From one end of Australia to the other the best land is held by a few individuals. Advocates of immigration should begin by passing laws in the Federal and State Parliaments to compel the owners of large areas which are not being used to the best advantage to cut the land up and make it available for those who wish to come here from overseas. The best immigrant is the man who comes out to Australia of his own accord, who xhas been attracted here because of his knowledge of the actual conditions prevailing and the opportunities offering. > In New South Wales there is to be heard .the cry for a million farmers, who are to : he placed on a million farms. Sir Joseph ; Carruthers, who is the most active in ithis propaganda,, would not pass legislation when he was in power for the purpose, of making good land available either rto newcomers or to those already in Aus itralia/ who were seeking an opportunity jbb get out upon farms of their own. And ; he will not ‘ say a word ito-day in’ support of the passage of legislation for cutting pp into living blocks great unused areas ^ held by certain rich people.
Mr.Rodgers. - The large owners are f voluntarily offering.
– There may be some, but very few are doing so. On the north coast of New South Wales I know ®f land owned by just a few people which, If it were cut up, would carry a population of hundreds. tSVitih respect to the Northern Territory and its.’ administration, there is much dissatisfaction amongst the residents. Since his return from Darwin, the Minister for’ Home and Territories (Mr.
Poynton) has-been, taking drastic action. The people are insistently complaining of taxation without- representation.
– They had that for years, under Labour Governments.
– Quite . true ; . but that is no’ reason why representation should not be given to-day.
– And it is no reason why itnere should be any refusal to pay taxes.
– Here is a record some of the Ordinances which have foeen applied to the Northern Territory -
I have before me a report by the Acting
Administrator, dated 13th June, 1920, in which he states -
Although two out of every three men in Darwin were unemployed on the closing of the meat works, there was no rioting or disturbance of any kind. The Territory has been remarkably free from serious crime during the whole year.
This law-abiding attitude of the workers was, I believe, largely due to the Prime Minister’s pledge that the people of the Northern Territory would be granted representation in the Federal Parliament, after having had the parliamentary franchise taken from them since 1911.
I think the taunts that have been hurled at the workers here, by certain misinformed people, that they are variously Bolshevists, Industrial Workers of the World, and Anarchists, can be refuted by the record they hold that a larger percentage of men voluntarily enlisted for the Front than in any other part of Australia, that they subscribed more per capita to theRed Cross Fund, that they carried the conscription referenda on every occasion, and have erected a magnificent monument in- Darwin to their fallen comrades.
There could be no better testimony to the loyalty ‘of the people of the Northern Territory. Here is a further statement from the same report -
It is an interesting reflection that while the various States of. the Commonwealth during the last forty-six years have been covered with telegraph lines, even to the most remote settlements, not one mile has been built by the Government in the Territory, and yet it can be said, that no ‘ Public Service is more valuable, and no’ other agency, for the expenditure incurred, is more stimulating to development.
. ‘ The Northern Territory is the last province of Australia to claim the toga of citizenship. . .
The promise of the Prime Minister of Australia that a Bill would be introduced to give the people of the’ Northern Territory a representative in the National Parliament was received throughout , the Territory with the keenest pleasure.
– That Bill was introduced.
-So far, the residents of the Territory’ have not secured representation. The statement of the Acting Administrator proceeds -
For twenty years the people of the Northern Territory, thanks to South Australia, enjoyed the fullest franchise, and could proudly claim both State and Federal representation.
On the 1st January, 1911, the Commonwealth assumed the control of the Territory, and all citizenship and voting power was taken from them, and this condition has continued, up to the present, although section 122 of the Commonwealth ‘ Constitution ‘ expressly provides that “The Parliament may make laws for the government of any Territory surrendered by any State . . . and may allow the representation of such Territory in either House of the Parliament to the extent and on the terms which it thinks fit.”
A new era is dawning for the Territory; there is now a definite prospect of the early introduction of legislation to give the people of the Northern Territory a representative in the Federal Parliament, and this has given general satisfaction.
We have the power to give them representation in accordance with the terms of promises made; but nothing has yet been done.
I desire now to call attention tei some features of administration in the Mandated Territories. It is my intention to quote from reports published in the Age, wherein certain statements are made by persons who, obviously, possess a wide knowledge of the Mandated Islands. If these comments and charges contain any considerable proportion of truth, I can only say that the sooner action is taken by this Parliament the better it will be for Australia. A correspondent, writing from New Guinea to the Age, alleges cases of the flogging of natives. The Age report states -
He gives details of cases where floggings were administered on the instruction of subordinate officials, in’ spite of a Government proclamation absolutely prohibiting such form of punishment. . . . He supplies particulars of the evidence that was given at an inquiry held on 25th July into the alleged flogging of a native named Jerimota, who was employed at the New Guinea Club, Rabaul. Two former police hoys swore that they only gave Jerimota five cuts with a .cane. It was stated at the inquiry that a member of the New Guinea Club had been so incensed at the condition in which he found Jerimota after the flogging that he struck the police master and knocked him senseless in the road. … On 15th August, states our correspondent, another in- 0quiry was .held into the alleged flogging of two natives at the order of a youth of eighteen or nineteen, who was employed as a road master. In this case it was alleged that a luluai (a native chief) and a tultul (subchief) had been flogged. Questioned by the Board of Inquiry, the road master said that he had never been told officially that there was such a thing as a Native Labour Ordinance. He had never been led to believe that he could punish a native for a serious offence, but he imagined that - he could do so for a small offence, where it seemed unnecessary to trouble head-quarters. The .luluai, in his evidence, said that the police boy -unloosed his loin cloth, gave him tcn cuts with a cane and ten with a heavy stick. The police boy then told him to flog the tultul, and handed him a heavy stick, with which he gave the tultul twenty strokes. The Board of Inquiry found that the two floggings had been- administered.
With respect to the natives employed om Nauru Island, it is claimed in the Age that slavery is being practised under A very thin disguise. The newspaper rerport states -
A widely-travelled engineer who is now iia Melbourne, and who has worked on the islam! for nearly a year, has many charges to level against the management of the Commission.Tlie most serious of these allegations relates to a question of policy, and suggests the introduction of a very thinly disguised form of slavery in the phosphate fields, which will - arouse the indignation of the people . of Australia.
Hitherto the labourers employed on Nauru have consisted entirely of Chinese coolies ami ‘ kanakas. There are about 700 Chinese and 200 < kanakas employed in various capacities. These, are indentured for two years, and are paid:! at the rate of 32s. a month, with 4s. a month* bonus, and food ‘ supplied. Recently a new” system has been introduced. Members of the staff have been sent recruiting in Admiralty -Islands, and have enlisted a number of “ boys * from that territory. In the last three months the first batches of these “boya,” numbering forty-one, have arrived, and have been set to work. These are being paid 5s. a month. They receive 2s. of this 5s. each month, and the remaining 3s. is retained until they have finished their term, which varies from two to three years.
These natives, though unaccustomed to carrying heavy burdens, are put to the same task as the Chinese, and are required to do the same amount of work each day, loading 6 tons IS cwt. into trucks. They are herded in a compound, and, according to all reports, have anything but a happy time. The allegation is a grave one, demanding the immediate attention of the Government. These are methods which are not likely to appeal to Australians.
The Chinese, too, apparently have little reason to rejoice over, the change in management which has taken place recently. It is declared! that their rations were drastically shortened a> few months ago, being limited to 20 lb. of beef per day per 100, and many irritating restrictions were imposed on their . movements. This led to a number of strikes and disturbances, of which nothing has been heard. In one of these disturbances the Chinese came in conflict with the police, and two coolies were wounded. They opened a theatre, for which they subscribed nearly £400, and imported costumes from China. The manager did not like the performance, and the theatre was arbitrarily closed. Severe penalties have been imposed for trifling offences. One Chinese waa sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for stealing a handsaw. Another was awarded six months’ gaol for. stealing some old sleepers, although’ he had the explanation that they were given to him by another Chinese, who received them from a white resident. These and man/ other similar instances are quoted -by tha traveller as indicating the antagonistic poling adopted foward the Chinese, which, he- d1clares, threatens to lead to serious - trouble* - “ There is a. further complaint against the management, which is declared to display an unreasoning antipathy toward Australians. The officers of the Commission are drawn mostly from men who, before the change-over, were employed as clerks, or in some other minor capacity, and they have adopted a policy which has established cliques and led to many quarrels on the island. A typical instance is given, in which the manager and an Australian who ssrved for four years in the A.I.F. was concerned. The Austraiian was at work in his officewhen the manager entered - and he went on working. The manager rebuked him, and ordered that he should stand up when his superior entered the room. The Australian resigned on the spot. Other Australians have had similar experiences.
– The statements that you have read are anonymous.
– They are the statements of a man who says that he was for a year on the island, and they should be inquired into, so that Australia’s name may not be associated with the upholding of slavery.
– I do not think that a person whomakes anonymous statements can- claim the right to have them inquired iwto. It is a fair thing to require this man to put his name to the statements that have been read by the honorable member.
– It would he better if hedid so ; but the fact that he has not done so . does not absolve the Government from the obligation of inquiring whether slavery is being practised in Nauru under Australian administration.
I am sorry that the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook)-, in outlining the proposed amendments of the income tax legislation, has not promised an increase of the exemption. It is not necessary for us to have the report of the Taxation Commissionin order to deal with that matter. If, when the cost of living was very much lower than it ‘ is now, an exemption of £150 was fair, the present exemption should be at least £300. It was never intended that the poorer persons in the community shouldbe made to pay income tax; the tax was imposed so that those who were able to do so might contribute towards defraying the cost of the war. In the circumstances, there is no justification for leaving the general exemption at £150, and the exemption for single persons without dependants at £100. When the tax was first proposed,
I held that the exemption should be not less than £200; and now I am of opinion that it should be increased in proportion to the increase in the cost of living. Not only should the exemption ; be increased, but it should be made uniform, ‘ and ample allowance should be made in respect of children. I shall say nothing about the annual average proposal of the Treasurer until the Bill is before us; but I wish to say a few words on the proposal that the recipients of the rebates distributedby co-operative societies shall notbe taxed on these rebates if the societies have already paid taxation on the money. It must be remembered that a society formed in accordance with the Rochdale system of co-operation is quite different’ from an ordinary co-operative company which seeks to make profit. Under the Rochdale system, . working ‘ people combine to purchase goods at wholesale prices for distribution among themselves. The societies charge for these goods something like current prices, so that they may get sufficient capital to work on; (but when their balance-sheets are made up at the end of the half-year, or at other intervals, they repay to their members any sum they may have over and above what is necessary for working expenses. These repayments are not in the nature of dividends on money invested; they are merely a return of capital.
– Are they not similar to the interest paid by Savings Banks?
– No; and to tax them is to impose double taxation on the memlbers of co-operative societies, which is not the right way to encourage cooperation. The members of these societies pay tax on their incomes over and above the exemption, and should not . be taxed on the money they put into cooperative societies to supply themselves with goods.
– Do they not make an investment of that money?
– No. A person who bought goods from a firm like Anthony Horderns, and received a discount of, say, 2s. in the £1, would not be required to return the total amount of the discount so received - say, £5 or £10 - as income.
– It is taxed.
– That is not so. Why, then, should the members of a cooperative society pay tax on the capital that is returned to them? What the Treasurer promises is that if the society has paid tax on the accumulated funds which , are paid to its members in the way of rebates, these members shall not be taxed on what they so receive. The law, however, does not require a society to pay tax, on such money. For years we have been told that the people should cooperate in the matter of production and supply, reducing costs by cutting out the middlemen ; and yet it is proposed to impose double taxation on those who follow that advice. However, I shall deal more fully with the matter when the Rill is introduced.
I come now to what I consider the most important subject before us. I have, said that we, on this side of the chamber, desire economy; but we do not desire economy at the expense of the utilities of the country.
– Do you suggest that Defence is not such a utility?
– The economy that we desire should be made in connexion with the Defence Estimates.
– Would you not propose retrenchment in some of the big Departments as well as the military?
– If the honorable member can show where legitimate economy can be exercised, he will find that the Committee will support him in any proposal he may make to that end. During the war it was said from almost every platform that the war was a war to end war, and that the useless expenditure on armaments for the destruction of mankind would cease after we had won the war. The Labour party stood behind every movement for bringing about disarmament. The members of it supported the establishment of the League of Nations when prominent men threw cold water on it.’ We saw that it would make for the salvation of the peoples if we could get thom to come together for the settlement of international disputes without recourse to the arbitrament of war. But we have “been met with opposition from unexpected quarters. At the recent Conference of the Assembly of the League, forty-eight countries were represented, and it was resolved, on the motion of LordCecil, that there should be no further expenditure on armaments for at least two years, to give time for the putting into operation of the League’s proposals. Now, several of the big nations of the world are sending representatives to a Conference to be held at Washington to discuss, disarmament or the limitation of armaments. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), as I said a week or so ago, did not appear too sympathetic with the object in view, and an utterance which he made in Sydney last week supports my statement. He said that now that President Harding had come down from the clouds, and believes that what is practicable is not disarmament, but the limitation of armaments, he is with him whole-heartedly. Plainly, the right honorable gentleman was not previously behind the proposal for the Conference, and did hot push it until he found that popular feeling favoured its objects. When he found that it was thought here that something should be done on the lines suggested by President Harding, he took certain action ; but his speech . in Sydney shows that until President Harding made a certain statement last week, . he was not whole-heartedly with him. The Labour party stands for the limitation of armaments, and, indeed, for the abolition ‘ of armaments at the earliest moment that it can be brought about. If the people of Australia were asked to-morrow whether they preferred to spend money on machinery for the destruction of human life or to have the utmost done to bring about arrangements with the other nations of the world for complete disarmament, nine-tenths of the population would vote for the latter proposal.
– Would the honorable member not require some assurance of safety before he agreed to disarmament?
– Hear, hear!
– We should have that assurance from the knowledge that the other nations of the world agreed with us in bringing into force either the limitation of armaments or complete disarmament.
– They have not agreed to that yet.
– It is true that they have not, and my complaint is that the public men, not only of this country, but of the various countries of the world, appear to have been unimpressed by what happened during the recent disastrous war, or they would be bending all their energies to breathing the breath of life into the League of Nations in order that action might be taken by the League to bring war to an end. We on this side stand for preventing war altogether if that be at all possible. We believe that there should be an understanding amongst the peoples of the world recognising that we are all brothers. Every effort should be made to prevent the expenditure of money upon weapons ofdestruction and to divert its expenditure to purposes of more advantage to the people of every country. That is the policy which the Opposition placed before the public from time to time during the war. We expected that after the war the leading men of all countries would bend their energies in that direction. We did not look to them to be talking about the likelihood of war in this or that part of the world, and the necessity for preparing for it, because as surely as we have preparation for war, so surely will that bring about war. That has been the experience of the world. If we bend our energies in the opposite direction, and the representatives of the different nations come together for the purpose of abolishing war, something will be done in the interests, not only of our own country, but of the whole of mankind. If that course be followed we may hope that something will be done to realize the desire expressed in the preaching of the Nazarene many years ago. He did not preach war. On the contrary, He looked for a time when the implements for the destruction of the human race would be beaten into ploughshares. We should do all that we can to hasten the advent of that time, but we cannot do so unless some effort is made to curtail expenditure on armaments.
We on this side are prepared, in common with the members of the Country party, to have the Estimates referred back to the Government for the purpose of reconsideration, but we have no wish to bring about any interference with necessary works. We do not desire that there should be further unemployment in connexion with the Small Arms Factory or any other Government institution.
– If the amendment of which notice has been given is carried,the Small Arms Factory will go.
– And the Maribyrnong Factory, too.
– The Small Arms Factory might have been utilized for the production of articles for use in this country. Who was it that prevented that being done? The Government prevented it. They said, “ That is not our policy; we will not permit it. We would rather dismiss the men at the Factory and throw them upon the labour market than allow that to be done.” My honorable friends of the Country party joined with me only a week ago in expressing approval of the additional expenditure proposed on the Estimates for the . Postmaster-General’s Department. The amount placed on the Estimates of the current year for that Department exceeds the amount voted last year by £1,300,000. That proposed increased expenditure- was very generally approved. Do the members of the Country party now intend that that expenditure shall be cut out? Do they desire to cut out that expenditure for increasing the facilities of the people and the development of the country? It appears to me that it is the intention of the Country party, according to the amendment of which notice has been given by the Leader of the party (Dr. Earle Page), to have the Estimates of revenue and expenditure balanced by cutting down expenditure proposed for Departments in which it is absolutely necessary that increased expenditure should take place.
– Not at all.
– I shall await the explanation of members of the Country party. I direct their attention to the fact that it will be a very difficult matter to cut down the Estimates by £2,800,000 without interfering with the additional expenditure of £1,300,000 proposed for postal and telegraphic services.
– We might save £1,000,000 on Federal salaries alone.
– If my honorable friends can, without interfering with the proposed additional vote of £1,300,000. for the Postmaster-General’s Department, show us how we can save £2,800,000 on the Estimates which have been submitted, they will find the whole House behind them; but they have yet to make out their case. I move -
That the item be reduced by £1 with a view, to the reconsideration by the Government of the Estimates of Expenditure in order to reduce the expenditure proposed for. Military, Navy, and Air Services by £2,817,108, and so eliminate the expected deficit.
I submit that amendment for the reasons I have given. We desire to see a balance of accounts be’tween revenue and expenditure. As a party, we stand for true economy, but we desire to further the interests of the country. We wish to give increased facilities to people who settle in the back-blocks. Of what use is it to cut down tn.e expenditure proposed for postal and telephonic services and then ask people - to go out into the back country, where they may have no facilities even to call up a doctor in time of sickness? We know the heavy expenditure incurred in connexion with Defence. We know the feeling that exists ‘in every part of the world in favour of limitation of armaments, if not of complete disarmament; and, speaking for the workers of the world, I am satisfied that it is their desire, if they could accomplish it, to bring about complete disarmament and universal peace to-morrow. In view of these considerations, we say that the main.” thing to be done is to reduce the expenditure of the Defence De- partment. Why should riot the nations decide to settle their disputes by inter- national arbitration? Why should dif- “ fererit ‘countries’ be plunged in ‘war be- : cause of differences of r opinion amongst leading men ° in the process of secret diplomacy? ‘ ‘We know nothing of what is being done, we are never told what is hap pening; we’ know that ‘negotiations are carried on in secret by men representing different countries up to a certain point, and that then war descends upon the world like an avalanche. We go to bed in , peace, and rise in ‘the morning to find war projected, arid ‘within twenty-four’ hours we get it. We should’ direct our thoughts, -the’ thoughts of the work’ers of the world overywhere, and of the public men representing ‘the different ‘nations in other directions. We should direct them along r the path of peace. ‘ Let us usher in the rcra spoken of by Christ Himself of “ On’.earth peace, good-will toward men.” We can only hope to do so by doing away with machinery for the destruction of mankind.
The amendment I have moved should commend itself to honorable members. They have protested for years past against war, and have asserted the necessity for doing away with all wars.’ They are aware of the enormous expenditure we have incurred in consequence of the recent war. Apart from the money we have borrowed in connexion with that war, we are paying out of revenue alone this year no less than £31,000,000 towards war expenses. We must take some steps to check this growing burden. If we do not do so no one can predict what will happen should we meet with bad times. Fortunately for us, in recent years the seasons have been . good’ and have ‘ assisted to tide us over our difficulties. It would appear that they will stand to us for still another year, but if we do not put our: house in order and do not put an end : to reckless expenditure on means for the destruction of life, we shall be recreant to our duty, and will not be doing right in the interests. of those whom we represent in this Parliament.
– Before dealing with the . amendment which- has been submitted, I should like, sir,, to ask your ruling as . to whether it will be put from the Chair in the form, in . which it has been moved.,- or whether as put from the Chair it will conclude at the words ” £1.” The form in which it will be put may materially -alter its character. . - The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter): The honorable member seeks my ruling on a question of procedure. The - procedure’ of the Parliament and of the ‘ State Parliaments, and particularly the New South Wales Parliament, with - the procedure of which I am more familiar, has been that when an amendment of this character is proposed for the reduc- tion. of an item it must be disposed of before any other amendment is submitted. I find that Jbhat is the practice also of the House of Commons. For the infor- mation of honorable members, it would, perhaps, be well if I read to them what the practice of the House of Commons is. It is stated in these terms -
The reduction of a grant, or item must be of a substantial, and not of a trifling, amount - -
That is a point we do not closely observe nor may a series of motions be made upon the same grant raising substantially the same issue. When two or more amendments upon the same grant are at the same time tendered to the Committee, the Chairman puts first the amendment which proposes the largest reduction, and then, if that be not accepted, the lesser amendments.
And so on. That is the practice followed, not only in the House of Commons, but in this Parliament, and in the Parliaments of the States. I, therefore, rule that the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) is now open for discussion, and when that has been disposed of, the main question may be open to further amendment.
.- I should like to congratulate the Deputy Leader of the Opposition on the close resemblance of the terms of his amendment to those of an amendment notice of which I have had on the business-paper for the last fortnight. There is some slight difference in the actual terms of the two amendments, and I hope when the present amendment has been disposed of’ in the manner referred to by the Chairman, to bring forward one which will appeal, not merely to” the members of the Opposition, but to honorable members on the Government side as well. It will be an amendment which should appeal to the whole of the members of the Committee, and will permit of this matter of finance being dealt with as it ought to be - ‘as a non-party matter. It should do away with the folly of preventing Parliament, which is really elected to deal with the finances of the country, having ‘ no say, other than as permitted by the” Government, in the disposal of funds raised by taxation.
I may say at once that I shall oppose the amendment now before the Chair in its present form, because I do not think it is possible, in existing circumstances, to reduce the Defence Estimates by .£2,817,000. I think I shall be able to show that it is possible to re- r, duce the Estimates, as a whole, by that amount, and, in such a way as will not entail the dismal picture painted by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) of the curtailment of the expenditure on postal services. I hope, before I sit down, to be able ,to suggest a better system than that now adopted for dealing with’ the postal service.
The trouble relates not so much to the amount that is voted for the Department as to the time of the year at which it is placed at its disposal. The money is frequently made available in about the tenth, month of the financial year, and the Department, in its effort to expend it within the brief period at its disposal, is very like a carpet-snake that has swallowed a smalt wallaby whole, and has to sleep throughout the winter to digest it. The Department cannot digest the funds placed at its disposal so late in” the year if-
Several honorable members interjecting,
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter). I make a strong appeal to honorable members to cease these interjections. It is manifestly unfair, that an honorable member addressing the Chair should be prevented by such persistent interruption, from giving full expression to his views.
– I venture to say that no one has fought harder than my colleagues and I have done, both inside this chamber and outside of it, for the extension of postal, telephonic, and telegraphic facilities.
At its entrance, into this Parliament ° the Country party at once challenged the Government on its method of administering the finances and presenting its financial statement. The Government immediately beat the party drum, and by a party vote defeated our first attempt. The only result achieved was the securing of a definite promise by the Government that the Budget for the succeeding year would be presented not later than August or September, so that honorable members might have an opportunity to discuss the national expenditure before the money was actually spent. When the Budget was presented last year, we discussed it at length, and submitted a motion providing for a reduction of the total estimated expenditure by £1,000,000. Unfortunately, the newer members on the Government side of the House were deluded by Ministers into the belief that they would be able to effect reductions when the individual items were under consideration, and they declined in the circumstances to support us in this demand for economy. Later on they discovered that it was quite impossible to effect reductions. Despite these two warnings, and notwithstanding the definite promises of economy which were made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) before he left for the Imperial Conference, the Government have apparently done nothing of any moment to bring about economical administration. An examination of the Budget shows that, as compared with the expenditure last year, it provides for an increase of £1,030,000 on the cost of running the ordinary services.
The Country party again raises the issue of economy. It recognises the responsibility of honorable members for making some very determined effort, whether the Government wishes it or not, not only to square the ledger, so far as revenue and expenditure are concerned, but also to. put the public finances in such a position that we can give a lead both to the States and to private enterprise in making some provision to meet the tremendous commitments of the next few years. We desire again to point out the folly of regarding such action as a party matter, and the .absurdity , of making a vote on a matter of reduction of expenditure a question of want of confidence in the Government. I say that, not because I have any reason to wish that the Government shall continue in office, but because our position is so serious that we must view this matter as we looked at some of the big national issues during the war - we must deal with it as a united, and not as a divided, nation:
– So that the Country party’s gun is not loaded.
– The gun that is not loaded is that from which the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has fired his motion.
Three- years have elapsed since the close of the war. The days of inflated values and high prices are going out. The time has surely’ come, after the orgy of living for seven years at war rates of income and expenditure, to take stock of our position and face the issue of national solvency. The war has destroyed somewhere in the vicinity of £50,000,000,000 of actual wealth in the world, with the inevitable result of a general paralysis of industry and upsetting of exchange, and the Government of every country finds itself burdened with huge financial com mitments that hang like millstones round its neck. We, in Australia, with a bare 5,500,000 people, owe £300,000,000 of war debt for which there is no tangible asset. It is manifest that there is only one sane policy for our Government, as for all Governments, to pursue; and that is one of national economy that will lift the weight off industry and stimulate production.
National ‘economy means something more than not spending a few pounds here and discharging a man or two there. It means more than just balancing expenditure with income. It means the proper marshalling and mobilization of all the resources, both human and material, of the nation, to secure the greatest production, the maximum efficiency and the elimination of waste.
– I have heard that before.
– I have used the argument before, and it is worth repeating. Such economy may mean actual expenditure. It is not economy to leave your fields untilled ; real economy is spending money wisely for the best result. Such ideal economy is impossible without the revision of our system of government, with its duplication and extravagance. I shall not deal with that aspect to-day, except to point out that the Government is avoiding attempting; it by its evasion of the calling of the
Federal Convention. The Government, even without that Convention, can deal with the question of reorganizing its own Departments and eliminating waste.
The great war through which we have just passed was not the first big war to devastate the world. There have been others. All have left behind them legacies- of debt and financial disturbance. History shows, however, that the nations that rehabilitate themselves most rapidly after war are those that pay as much as possible of their war costs out of revenue, and then dispose of their dead weight of debt in the shortest possible time.
The history of the last 150 years’ prices shows the reason for this. Price movements, as indicated by their index number value in the case of Napoleonic wars from 1789-1809, rose from 85 to 161. They, stayed at that rate, remaining fairly constant till the end of the war. From 1809 to 1849,. they declined from 161 to 64. In the United States of America, in1873, after the Civil war, the index number was 100, whereas in 1896 it was 51. The war has involved Australia, . like every other country, in a huge load of debt, and if we do nothing to relieve ourselves of that burden while prices are high-and they are going to sink below their present level in accordance with the universal tendency observed in connexion with all world-war conflagrations - we may have, judging by the past, to find in forty years two and a half times as much goods to pay off that debt as would be necessary at the present time. Australia paid 17 per cent. of her war expenditure out of revenue up to June, 1919. She has now paid 30 per cent. England paid out of revenue nearly 30 per cent., the actual figures being 28.75 per cent.
With this guidance from history, the main effort innational finance during the war period should have been to reduce ordinary expenditure to the lowest possible limit, to pay as much war expenditure out of revenue as possible, while war prices were obtainable, and to create large sinking funds to retire the debt while those favorable circumstances existed. Now that the war is over the chief effort of Australia should be to encourage producing industries by easing the incidence of taxation, and that can be done only by reducing ordinary expenditure to the lowest possible limit, by curtailing borrowing and by paying off as much as possible of our war debt before prices sink lower. This has not been the policy of the Government. The only Department in which any attempt has been made is that of the Post Office. Opinions differ as to the advisability of this attempt, and as to whether the pruning knife has been inserted in the right place. The activities of the Department have been hampered and its services starved, as we see them to-day. True economy is to be secured, not by making a big lump-sum reduction as proposed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, but by reductions in the right proportion. The savings made should be in properperspective. In my prof ession we know that an operation on the neck is successful if the knife is put in properly, but’ if’ it is not a vital part is’ touched and the patient dies. As the result of the method of finance adopted by the Government, our accumulated sinking fund this year is £8,237,590 on a war debt of £401,000,000. In connexion with . the Napoleonic wars, Pitt’s first Administration raised £325,000,000,and created a sinking fund of £42,500,000. His second Administration raised £68,000,000, and created a £22,500,000 sinking fund. The value of establishingsuch a large sinking fund was seen in the maintenance of a firm market for fresh issues and the giving of opportunities to regulate the market to some extent. We have seen the necessity for this in connexion with the Diggers’ loan, which was issued below par at 6 per cent. In this war England paid out of revenue about 30 per cent., while Australia, up to June, 1919, had paid 17 per cent., and to June, 1921, 30 per cent. Australia is paying £11,196,000 this year out of loan for war services, although the war has been over for three years.
– Not. for war services.
– They are so described in the Budget.
– For repatriation, soldier settlement, and so forth.
– They are all set out in the Budget as war services. I shall deal later on with the pay of the Expeditionary Forces. The result of this method of dealing with the war indebtedness and the provision of sinking funds is that Australia’s State and Federal debts together total £798,750,000, madeup as follows: -
This is equal to about £160 per head of the population, or £640 per breadwinner. There has been an enormous increase during the last few years in the indebtedness of theStates, although theydid not have any war expenditure. The States’ debts in 1914 amounted to £317,500,000, while in 1920,exclusive of. loans granted by the Commonwealth for soldier settlement, they amounted to £419,000,000, showing an increase of £101,500,000. Interest on a consideralbleproportion of this indebtedness is free from taxation, and offers no source of income to either the Commonwealth or State Governments. Heavy loans are maturing before 1927. Excluding the war gratuity of £25,000,000, the Commonwealth this year has to find £2,000,000 in respect of Treasurybills. In 1923it has to find £43,000,000; in 1924, £77,500,000, and in 1927, £87,000,000. The Commonwealth loans maturing between 1921 and 1927 amount to £219,000,000. The States this year have to meet loans amounting to £17,000,000 in 1922, £22,000,000; 1923, £22,000,000; 1924, £33,000,000; 1925, £20,000,000; 1926, £10,000,000; and in 1927, £30,000,000, or a total of £154,000,000 to be renewedor paid off. This is equal to about £75 per head of the population,or £300 per breadwinner. The average rate of interest is as follows : -
If the Commonwealth renews at the rate at which the last war loan was floated in England, namely, 6 per cent., at £95, it will cost us £1,095,000 to issue at £95, and the annual interest bill will be increased by, say, 11/4 per cent., or £2,742,500. The renewal at such a rate of the States’ loans would increase the annual interest bill by, say, 2 per cent., or £3,000,000. The total annual increase in respect of the interestbill payable by the Commonwealth and the States will be £5,250,000 if the present price of money is maintained. Even if the. market improves, and we have to pay only half this interest, there will still be an increase of £2,600,000 per annum in the expenditure under this heading alone; and as against it we shall have nothing to show.
– That is not enough.
– The only way to meet the present position, and to restore and improve our national credit to such an extent as to justify a conversion scheme, is to confine all borrowing to developmental purposes. To save the additional impost that borrowing in a bad market would impose, it is imperative that we should improve our credit.
Mr.West. -i said all that twenty years ago.
– Having assets is not of any avail when times are bad. The possession of railways, ships, land,or soldiers’ homes, especially when most are showing huge losses, will not help, although the Treasurer seems to think that it will, if one may judge from his statement on page 11 of his Budget speech, because he makes no differentiation between war debts, against which we have no assets, and the £60,000,000 which he says are represented by tangible assets. Therefore, when it is asserted that the public debt is not a burden becauseit is represented by tangible assets, it becomes, a misunderstanding of the nature of credit. Even granting that the States have carried out public works with the £16,750,000 loaned by the Commonwealth, there is no means of testing their saleable value, because there is no market in which they could be sold. The real security for the public- creditor is not the assets in which his money is invested, but the character of the people to whom he lends, and their reputation in money dealings. We have seen this demonstrated in the wool market. Banking; Authorities lend money, not against the wool, but against the man’s reputation, which, after all, is the prime factor in financial transactions.
– Then if a farmer goes to a bank and asks for an advance against his produce, the banker will inquire about his character, and not about the quantity, of wheat he holds?
– A bankerwill estimate the character of a customer by the condition of his account over a stated period. On various occasions I have had dealings with respect to mortgages. It is well known that if a man makes no effort to increase his margin of security, people who are accustomed to lending money against securities will not touch him at all. And this is rapidly becoming the position of the Government. The best method is to live within one’s income, so as to reduce indebtedness, and at the same time to have the reputation of being anxious to continue to do so. The worst way is for all the Australian Governments to join in a Rake’s Progress of budgeting for a deficit. Western Australia, Queensland, New South Wales, South
Australia, Tasmania, and now the Commonwealth. Government, have all done this.
With all these huge commitments falling due before 1927, and the prospect, as I shall show presently, of a reduction in our national income, the actual position, in the eyes of our creditors to-day, surely must be that we are spending a great deal more than we are justified in spending in the circumstances. Recklessness is not displayed in calling attention to it and trying to stop it, as the Treasurer suggested recently, but in the course the Treasurer is adopting of disregarding the beacons of warning.
To an individual confronted with a parallel situation as Australia, there aire only two alternative courses, namely, (1) increase his income, or (2) diminish his expenditure. A State cannot increase its income unduly because its revenue conies out of taxation which, as we see in certain cases - the Post Office and New South Wales Railways may be quoted as instances - has already reached its limit. Further increases in rates and charges will only lessen returns. Therefore, the only course open is to reduce expenditure. This is what every other country in , the world except Australia seems to be doing. In Australia there is acarnival of financial folly, to quote the Treasurer’s own words-
– Why do you not prac tice this economy, and confine yourself to your own vocabulary?
– Because I. think that to live outside one’s vocabulary is not so dangerous as to live outside one’s income.
– But you know “hewho steals my purse steals trash.”
– That may be true, but, to complete the quotation, I am afraid it appears that the Treasurer may be destroying not merely the purse but the good name of the Commonwealth. In this carnival of financial folly the Treasurer proposes coolly to use half of the surplus gradually acquired over fourteen years by past Administrations to wipe out the deficit.
– Acquired in fourteen years? Rubbish!
– Well, these are from the Treasurer’s own figures for 1907-8 (see page 12, Budget). This pro posal, too, is made at a time when the incidence of Tariff rates is higher than ever before, and the Government expect to receive more from land tax than ever in the past, and a greater revenue from income tax than the whole cost of governmental services ten years ago.
– Absolutely untrue.
– Three years afterthe war, the Treasurer’s Budget shows a deficit of £2,800,000 with taxation up to breaking point, even at present inflated values.
– The honorable member’s statement is absolutely incorrect. I estimated on deflated values to the extentof£5,000,000.
– When asked for an explanation, the Treasurer weakly says he is spending £20,000 less from revenue than last year - £20,000 saved out of £64,000,000! But if we investigate the position we shall find that ordinary services are actually going to cost £1,030,000 more than last year; and on the other hand, the Treasurer has been enabled to effect certain reductions, due entirely to the cessation of the war conditions and not to any attempt on his part to effect economy, totalling the huge sum of £3,545,647, made up as follows: - Savings on war pensions, £739,739; on vocational training, &c, £1,417,215; on. war services, £536,761; temporary loan repaid to Notes Fund account, £857,932. Included in one of these items there is a saving of £216,325 on war gratuities alone, and yet the Treasurer can show a reduction in expenditure from revenue of only £20,000 as compared with last year. As an offset against these amounts, he has only an extra £1,500,000 for unavoidable charges, such as interest and sinking funds, &c.
– Not true in any way.
– There is, therefore, really not a reduction of £20,000, but an increase of £2,000,000, on last year’s expenditure, of which, as I have shown, £1,030,000 is attributed to expenditure on ordinary services. In addition, we find that in his frantic search for this marvellous reduction of £20,000 upon last year’s expenditure from revenue, the Treasurer has resorted to taking out of loan funds £923,794 for Post Office works, notwithstanding that that Department is estimated to make a profit of £1,800,000, a difference between £9,300,000 of revenue and £7,500,000, the cost of ordinary services, which he swoops into general revenue, and he proposes to spend from Loan Funds instead of Revenue £162,000 on passage money for assisted immigrants, which under no circumstances can be considered a charge against loans.
– That is an absurd statement.
Dr.EARLE PAGE. - When he finds himself in a corner on this point, the Treasurer says, in the House, that he is spending £11,000,000 altogether less than last year. Outside the House, because, I suppose, there was no Hansard reporter present, lie stated that the figure was £17,000,000. It is true the Treasurer is budgeting to spend £17,000,000 less than he budgeted to spend last year, and £11,000,000 less than the actual expenditure; but a glance at his Budget shows that the whole reduction of £11,000,000 is out of loans. He will have £12,500,000 less to spend on Repatriation, &c, out of war loans than last year, so that the reduction of £11,000,000 cannot be placed to his credit. He has not saved any money, but has simply taken the difference, viz., £1,500,000, of loan money which he has saved from Repatriation, and provided for its expenditure on other matters. This seems to be a deliberate attempt to throw dust in the eyes of the public.
– The honorable member, by omitting the facts, is deliberately throwing dust in the eyes of the people now.
– What is the explanation of these continual deficits in Australia? Surely, it is that the problem has been approached from the wrong end. The Treasurer estimates the Government expenditure and then makes its income stretch out to cover it. Let us adopt the usual business process of estimating our income, and then insisting upon expenditure coming within it. This policy has been adopted in England. In a circular sent to all the Government Departments, by the authority of the British Cabinet, the UnderSecretary to the Treasurer stated that in order to enable revenue and expenditure to balance in 1922-1923, there must be a drastic reduction of expenditure. He said there was no hope of solving the financial problem that confronted the nation by additional borrowings or additional taxation. He directed the attention of the Government Departments to the fact that in 1922-1923, the total amount available for the Supply services-, which now cost £602,751,000, will be £490,000,000, a reduction of approximately 20 per cent. The circular insists that each Department shall at once take steps to bring about a reduction of 20 per cent. in its expenditure by the beginning of 1922-1923, or earlier.
What have we available to spend on the conduct of our governmentI A glance at the sources of our national income will show us that prices for our principal products are approximating to those before the war. Wool is about at the prewar level, butter is falling rapidly, hides are down, meat is almost unsaleable, sugar has dropped, jam is a drug on the market, timber mills have ceased working in many parts of the Commonwealth, mining operations generally are suspended, and wheat is falling. All primary products are in a slump which may last for years. Indeed the index figures’ previously quoted suggest that it will last for years. Even manufactures have decreased in total quantity, though soaring prices have deluded us into the idea that they are rapidly expanding. New South Wales, for example, produced, in 1920, £16,607,000 only, based on the value of her products in 1911, as against a production in 1911 of £19,143,000- a reduction of nearly 20 per cent. in quantity. Last year we had a trade balance against us of £32,000,000, our imports exceeding our exports by that amount. This year our exports, which pay practically the whole of our external interest, and a good proportion of our income tax, are less in quantity, and our imports, which must pay the whole of our Customs duties; have slumped to the extent of nearly 40 per cent. . Despite this, the Treasurer has budgeted for this revenue from the optimistic side. It is true he allowed for a decrease of £5,750,000 from Customs and Excise, or 16 per cent. of last year’s total, or 25 per cent. of the Customs total alone but this does not cover the fall.
– What are you allowing for Excise? You cannot take these general figures on importations alone, unless you also allow for Excise, which is a very important item.
– I have taken out the whole of the Excise on the Minister’s own estimate.
– Then your results must be wrong.
– I am dealing solely with Customs duties. I have cut. out the Excise figures.
– But the Treasurer’s Estimates included the Excise revenue.
– The Treasurer has separated them in his Budget. I do not know whether the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) had seen as much of the Budget as the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Wise) and the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) had when it was presented, but they seemed quite ignorant concerning it. Even if the volume of goods were the same, the price alone has dropped more than the Treasurer has allowed for, and it is notorious that last year huge shipments were made on old orders which will not come this year. Evidence is nob wanting that the limit of the purchasing power of the people has been reached: for the first two months of this financial year a drop of nearly 40 per cent. in our import trade is shown; and the financial writer of the Daily Telegraph estimates a total drop for the year of 50 per cent.
– My information from people in the trade is to the contrary.
– If the Treasurer doubts my statement; here are the figures produced by his own ‘Department. “ They show a decrease On our imports for the first two months of £11,714,000 as com- pared with the corresponding period of last year.
– Is it not the object of the Tariff to diminish imports?
– That is what we are told by the Minister for Trade and Customs, but the Treasurer expects it not to have any effect on his Estimates. On the figures I have given the loss to the Customs revenue would be £9,000,000;that is to say, £3,250,000 greater than the . Treasurer has estimated it to be.
– That is all nonsense.
– These are the departmental figures.
As regards income tax, despite the fact that the exports were £18,000,000 less last year than in 1919-20, and despite the fact that manufactures have lessened in their total quantity, the Treasurer estimates that the income tax will yield £750,000 more than was received in the last financial year. The exports have fallen from £19,000,000 in the first two months of last year to £16,000,000 in the first two months of this financial year, and every one knows that scores of taxpayers have not the wherewithal to pay wages, let alone taxes. We know, to our cost in many cases, that firm after firm have declared reduced dividends, or actually passed dividends. I know four canning companies who have lost £256,000 within the last few months, and they were previously paying income tax.
– It may interest the honorable member to know that already we have collected this year £3,000,000 of arrears of taxation.
– The Treasurer will still have several millions of war-time profits tax to collect. I have knownof men who have had to borrow in order to pay their income tax.
– They must have a good character.
– They tell me that theyhave to work very hard to keep it.
The Post Office optimistically estimates a greater revenue than was received last year, although it is £1, 000,000 short of last year’s estimate. Is there anyjustification for this forecast?
– The first three months of the year show that their revenue is above the estimate.
– Shipping is estimated to produce £300,000. I would specially draw the attention ofthe Committee to the groupof anticipate profits from shipping sources, which have been optimistically stated at £300,000. I would like to ask the Treasurer where , he anticipates getting this amount. Anexamination of the last balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Line of Steamers shows anextremely unsatisfactory, state of affairs. The gross . earnings for the year to June, 1919, totalled £2,294,354, while for the year 1,920 they fell to £1,180,150. Insurance and brokerage .showed at £84,377 in 1919, but declined to £50,262 in 1920. This shows that the gross earnings are £1,148,319 less than in the year 1920. Against this the gross expenditure was only reduced by’ £184,991, while the total profits slumped from. £1,160,034 to, £137,958.’ This, profit of £137,958 was; only arrived at after writing off £50,000’ less under the heading “Depreciation” than the amount ‘ of the previous year. In view .of the enormous slump in freights now being faced, to assume that, the Consolidated Revenue is likely to be enhanced from the Commonwealth Shipping Line, is indeed an optimistic forecast.
– Is the honorable member aware that this year 10 per cent, is being paid to a depreciation fund ?
– When the robbers are charging’ 8s”. per case, they ought to do so !
– The net profit estimated from the Australian Note Issue, shown at £1,400,000, seems excessive in the light of the fact that a profit of only £304,000 was shown for the seven months’ period from December, 1920, to June, 1921.
To my mind, with the very stagnant condition of trade generally and the very serious outlook with regard to markets, it would be a very simple matter for the revenue of the Commonwealth now under review to fall short of what has been anticipated by. from £3,000,000 to £5,000,000, the lower figure alone making a total deficit of £5,800,000, which would practically . obliterate the so-called surplus and necessitate the discovery of sources of taxation hitherto untapped. The. English- Chancellor of the Exchequer . anticipated a drop _ of £200,000,000 in his annual ‘ income, and in six months the ac’tual drop has been £163,000,000. The Treasurer has left out of iris calculations any such possible drop, and proudly , says in a -Sydney interview that he is riot very, much’ concerned with what’ England is doing, ;and that we are in a very much better’ position. Yet the day before’ he had? put’ a Bill through, this House authorizing ‘ him to borrow £5,000,000 from’ a! country that is, in his opinion, in a desperate position. That, the- Estimates of the Treasurer are not very carefully . drawn .is indicated by the slipshod manner in which the departmental revenue is prepared, as . can be_ seen by comparing the estimated and actual revenue of 1920-21. The item of. nearly £3,000,000 excess from Customs and.. Excise, a shortage of nearly £1,000,000 in estimated Post Office revenue, an excess of £’750,000 in income tax, a shortage, of just on £2,000,000 in war-time profits, tax, and a. shortage of nearly £500,000 from the detained enemy vessels, all point a very serious lesson as to the unwisdom of this Committee in relying on the Treasurer’s Estimates too implicitly.
To sum up, at the best our position isthat the total national income, from which ultimately all taxation must come,will be little more than during the prewar period, but the revenue to be raised out of that income is about three times the pre-war revenue.
– A monstrous statement for a responsible man to make.
– The Commonwealth taxation to produce the revenue expected has risen from £2 9s. in 1913 to £9 12s. per head in 1921. This taxation, it must not be forgotten, must in the future be derived from a gross national income approximating prewarvolume and values, out of which our hugely increased State taxation must also come. This tax on industry, which even at the present inflated prices seems so excessive, and which has been so extremely embarrassing to industry that many have had to pay. their taxes by borrowing, must be increasingly oppressive under the certain conditions of lower prices, because the tax must continue, seeing that national liabilities have accrued which did not previously exist, and will be a , permanent charge on revenue, and against which .we have no reproductive or, tangible assets. Of such are the interest and sinking fund on the war debt of £300,000,000 and the £6,000,000 to £7,000,000. per year for war pensions, while .our promises to our returned soldiers are, in a large measure, still unredeemed. The total annual charges, from these sources alone exceed the total Commonwealth expenditure of all kinds of eight years ago, and, as the
State tax-gatherer comes along also with hi.* hugely increased impost, industry on every hand shows signs of being strangled” and lacks capital for natural expansion. Under these circumstances, one would expect in a Budget evidence of the most careful estimate of our governmental income, the most prudent handling of public funds, the most economical administration of public Departments, the most skilful planning and discretion in the programme of public works, and the utmost caution in any new appointment of public servants. What do we see? A most alarming increase compared with pre-war days in the army of public servants, the most wanton waste of public money in such scandals as the War Service Homes administration and activities, where I hope to show on another occasion millions have been wasted, the most careless planning of the use of public money, as evidenced in the Cockatoo Dock fiasco, where the total money voted for the year had been utilized at the end of the seventh month, and an actual increase in administration charges and services, apart from war services, of £1,030,000. All these are disclosed in the Budget.
Having examined the prospects of the national income and the amount available for the purposes of government and the inescapable annual charges, let me analyze the Budget in the light of this information. The Budget, which opens with, an admitted deficiency of £2,800,000, proves worse the more one examines it. The first striking feature is the general slovenliness with which it has been compiled. This is typical of the whole of the Government’s method of handling the finances which the apparent ignorance of the Ministers of their own Estimates on the introduction of the Budget illustrated pointedly. Take, for example, the entertainments tax, which produces nearly £.700,000. This is quite an important item, but there is nothing to show where one can find out anything about it. It is necessary to search right through the papers in order to achieve one’s object in ascertaining information on this or almost any other subject. There , is a difference pf - £1,000 in one place, and perhaps £4,000 in another. In the Prime Minister’s Department, for in- stance, the 1920-21 figures are shown as £461,330 on page 48 of the Budget papers, £462,391 on page 38 of the Estimates, £412,164 on page 48 of the Budget, and £416,708 at page 38 of the Estimates. This is characteristic of almost every Department. In addition, all through the Estimates, one finds such examples as are found under division 23, in which, in 1920-21, the vote of £100,000 last year appears under the Department of Home and Territories, and the expenditure as £12,830 under the Prime Minister’s Department. As similar differences frequently appear, doubt begins to assail one’s mind, and one asks if it is mere slovenliness, or if it is deliberate art. Has the Budget been deliberately faked?
– It is neither. The honorable member’s ignorance of the figures is responsible.
– I have obtained my information from the Treasurer’s own figures.
– The honorable member is accusing others when he is ignorant of the true position.
– One’s suspicion is deepened by finding that the alleged surplus is obtained by the failure to build permanent works out of revenue which the House last year was assured were indispensable, and not by any saving in administrative ‘charges. The’ Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) and other honorable members have said that they do not wish economy by a curtailment of our public works policy; but the Treasurer has failed to spend £980,000 that was voted in this connexion, and no one appears to be concerned. One finds that the works provided for out of revenue last year- helped to reduce the deficit this year by being constructed out of loan money, as shown on pages 380 and 381. There has been a skilful juggling of expenditure from one Department to another in order to defy pursuit of what actually occurred.
– The honorable member said just now that we were spending less this year in the Post and Telegraph Department than last year.
– I did not;, and I defy the Postmaster-General to find an error in the figures I have quoted. The sum of £147,000 was willingly voted for certain public works in connexion with the Postmaster-General’s Department, which have not been undertaken, notwithstanding the urgent necessity which exists. I have previously referred to the post-office at Mildura, which is a disgrace to civilization, and can only be compared with the Black Hole of Calcutta. The Treasurer said that, notwithstanding that the Government, after the preparation of the Estimates, was faced with a very heavy and Unprovided for expenditure for the basic wage and increased cost of living allowances, amounting to about £750,000, it was found possible to effect savings by the large sum which I have mentioned, namely, £4,250,000. The revenue for 1920-21 was £65,517,608, the expenditure out of revenue £64,632,087, leaving a surplus on the first transaction of £893,521. It would be interesting to note how this surplus was “manufactured.” The Treasurer had an unexpected revenue surplus, or, in other words, under-estimated his revenue to the extent of £2,150,000. He cut out new works to the extent of £972,000, and the vote for Air Services amounting to £242,000. He saved £140,000 on old-age pensions, and failed to spend £150,000 on soldiers’ graves. On interest and sinking funds for war loans, he did not spend £1,099,000. That is a peculiar kind of saving.
– It is nothing of the kind.
– In addition, the most alarming “manufacture” resorted to in the Budget is disclosed on page 358. The simple fact is that the huge sum of £1,190,000 was voted last year out of revenue for payment to Expeditionary Forces, including allotments of pay not exceeding two months of notification of deceased soldiers, and £1,210,000 was voted out of war loans for the same purposes. The Treasurer spent only £1,019,110 out of the combined vote, but cleverly charged the whole to loan and not to the revenue vote, thus deliberately “ dummying “ a surplus on the revenue account to the extent of £1,019,110. He did not expend on repatriation and other war services not mentioned £l;664,300, showing an alledged saving of £7,536,410 by means of an underestimated surplus, failing to carry out new works, taking it out of the soldiers, and by deliberately “dummying.” If this expenditure had been made, instead, therefore, of showing a surplus of £893,521, there would have really been a large deficit, despite the surplus in revenue, of £2,150,000. It is not my intention to deal with the Departments in detail, but I have prepared a general table in which ordinary services and war services are separately shown. I shall deal later with war services, as I consider enormous savings can be effected, especially in the administration of the Repatriation and War Service Homes Departments. As the statement is somewhat long, I should like to have your permission, Mr. Chairman, to have it included in Hansard.
– The honorable member has read his speech from beginning to end, and he should read the statement.
– I do not think any member of my party objected to the Treasurer reading his speech.
– The Treasurer read a statement, and not a speech.
– The ordinary and war services have been treated separately in. the table I am submitting, and the figures are, therefore, not in any way complicated.
Mr.Hector Lamond. - Has it been certified correct by a qualified accountant?
– Yes- by my friend, the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter). The figures correspond, with those given in the Budget speech, and absolutely balance.
– What does the honorable member propose doing with them?
– Embodying them in the Hansard report of my speech.
– Ithink the honorable member ought to read them.
– The table cannot appear in the Hansard report unless the major portion of it is read.
– I think the honorable member should read it.
– I understand it gives the expenditure for 1913-14 and for 1921-22. Does it discriminate between new Departments taken . over from the States during. that period?
– Such Departments are dealt with only as from the time when they were created.
– Does it show the Lighthouse Department? ;
– All new go*vernmental activities are shown in a separate line. -!
Generally speaking the table may be explained in this way: It shows the total expenditure for ordinary services, and special appropriation in the different Departments for the -financial year 1913-14, the expenditure under the same headings for the” financial year 1921-22, and the excess of the expenditure over 1913-14.
For instance, the total expenditure under the heading of “ The Parliament “ iri 1913-14 was £243,063, in 1921-22 it was £347,842, and the’ excess of expenditure estimated this year over 1913-14 is £104,779. In the Prime Minister’s Department the estimated excess expenditure over the same period is £147,537, as com- pared with 1913-14; and in some of the other Departments the excess of expenditure is as follows: - High Commissioner, £38,981 ; Attorney-General’s Department, 356,972; Treasury, £745,325; Old-age Pensions, £2,620,735 ; Maternity Bonuses, £25,010; Maintenance of Persons in Charitable Institutions, £61,669; Trade and Customs, £371,406.
– That is accounted for by lighthouse and navigation services.
– In the PostmasterGeneral’s Department there is an increase of £2,762,683. The total increase, including Departments which I have not mentioned,is £8,892,727.
– How much of that amount is in connexion with navigation and lighthouse services?
– The excess of expenditure on new works is shown at £372,411, and that in connexion with payments to the States is £662,725. In regard to war services, there is an estimated expenditure for the present financial year of £31,203,253, and in this direction enormous savings can be effected . The circular previously referred to states, inter alia-
It is recognised that it will be impossible to carry out the degree of economy demanded by the financial situation and still preserve all the existing services carried on by the State. Therefore the Treasury circular, with theauthority of the Cabinet behind it, instructs each Department to take into consideration the abolition of some of the services under its control, even though these services represent functions imposed by Statute. Where it is necessary to. obtain parliamentary sanction by means of a Bill to the abolition of any existing services, the Government will do so.
I take it this Chamber is not bound by the dead past. The laws are made tor Australia, and not Australia for the laws, and if we find the laws impossible to carry out, we will have to cut them out. Not to do so will be like a debtor tellinghis creditor that he must keept hepiano, and continue giving his wife £10 perweek before he can begin to pay his debts.
I have, further; separated from ordinary expenditure old-age pensions, maternity bonus, and maintenance of persons in charitable institutions, as I do not wish to suggest economy at the expense of the Aged and incapable.
A feature to which it is necessary to draw attention is the” number of em ployees in the Taxation Department; and to insure the comparison being quite fair, the year 1916-17 is taken in lieu of 1913-14, so that the income tax may be included. This year shows an increase from 637 to 2,027 in the number of employees, or 300 per cent., although the increased number of taxpayers to be dealt with does not increase in anything like the same proportion.
– You have covered the time of the war-time profits tax?
– That is so. I understand some of these increases were due to placing on the permanent staff some who were engaged as temporary employees in 1916-17; but this does not account for the appalling increase in the cost of running that Department -
– What is the percentage of the coat of collection in both periods?
– I shall deal with the question of the cost of collection in a few minutes, and show that, in the Department of Trade and Customs,while the total collected is going down, the cost of the Department, as a whole, is going up.
The Treasury, in addition to causing these increases in the Taxation Branch, has established Sub-Treasuries in each of the States. It would be interesting to know why this has been done, and what these officials do .
In regard to the Prime Minister’s Department, I would like to ask a few questions. It would be interestingtoknow why this Department has taken control of so many new activities that have come into existence. Surely the Port Pirie Wharf should come under the control of the Minister for Trade and Customs? One would also think that Cockatoo Dock and the Naval Dockyard would be better under the control of the Naval Department ? .
The Public Service Commissioner also comes under the Prime Minister’s Department. Can any satisfactory reason be given as to why there has beenan Acting Public ServiceCommissioner for nearly six years? Junior men are periodically lifted up to act in higher offices. Parliament especially made this appointment above Ministerial interference, placing it in the same category as that of a Judge of the High Court or the Auditor-General. The object of Parliament has been defeated for a period of six years. A Commissioner cannot formulate a policy unless he is free from the hope of favours to come from political parties. Acting heads are loath to do anything because of the .insecurity of the tenure of their positions ; and this fact has probably been responsible for much of the disorganization and dissatisfaction existing in the Public Service.
In. the High Commissioner’s Office there is no justification for the huge increase in salaries and expenses : -
Travelling expenses have increased by £4,000. The secretary’s ,«alary has been increased from £1,000 to £2,000, and he was given £100 for loss on sale of furniture after being appointed to his present office at nearly double his salary in Australia. »
As to the. Commonwealth Line of Steamers, the expenditure in the Sydney office has been increased from £4,750 to £S,200, or nearly 50 per cent, in one year, while there has been a huge increase in the case of the Adelaide office. Co-operative companies in these centres would be glad to act as agents and find freight; and why should they not have the opportunity, and, perhaps, make the line self-supporting?
In the Attorney-General’s Department the expenditure of the Investigation Branch was £4,244 in 1920-21, and £8,477 in 1921-22. Was the appointment of this new staff absolutely necessary ?
In the Defence and Navy Departments, whilst the military expenditure is slightly less than for 1913-14, there is an increase of £1,453,471 when the Naval and Military Departments are con- sidered along with the old Department of Defence, as these figures show: - “
The principal increase for which there is no justification is in the Permanent Military Forces -
It seems to me that this expenditure should ‘ be brought back to the normal expenditure of 1913-14. It is only Hie saving on ammunition of £250,000 in this year’s Estimates as compared with those of 1913-14 that prevents the excess being much greater. A further study of the Defence Estimates shows a decrease in the various factories where work was provided, and an increase in “General Contingencies” and fat salaries. There were 290 persons employed in the Central Office in 1920-21, and 1,273 employed in 1921-22, an increase of 983 officers.
For universal training, the Estimates for 1913-14 were £191,950, and for 1921-22, £434,302.
Sitting suspended from 6.80 to 8 p.m.
– Coming to the Department of Trade and Customs, we find that, although the Treasurer- is budgeting for a decrease of nearly £6,000,000 in revenue from this source, we are asked to increase the vote for the administration of the Department by over £30,000. If in a privately controlled business in which members of this House happened to be shareholders it was found that the management, with receipts going down- by practically 25 per cent., had increased the working costs by heavy additions in salaries and contingencies, there would be some trouble and need for an explanation. Why should we apply any different mode of procedure to the working of Commonwealth Departments than we apply to the handling of our own money ? A matter that needs a very definite protest from this House is the increase of seventy persons on the Central Customs staff and the increase in the salaries of the Central staff by £25,000. If the revenue decreases as forecasted, the very least we might ex pect is that the staff of the previous year would not be increased. In 1920-21 there were 88 officers in the Central, London, and New York staffs of the Customs Department, and this year there are 158, making an increase of 70 persons, with an increased expenditure of 90 per cent. With regard to the Department of Health, this absorbs a large part of the increase in expenditure. I am thoroughly in accord with the Federal control of health, but Federal and State activities in this direction should be co-ordinated. I cannot understand the Minister for Trade and Customs not pushing on with the calling together of the Federal Convention, which would enable us to bring about a complete co-ordination of the health services. Particularly should I expect him to do this whenhe knows that 98 per cent. of his constituents are clamouring for the Convention to be held at the earliest possible moment.
– Why are you blocking it now ?
– I am not blocking it. I am trying to bring it a little closer.
I desire to enter an emphatic objection to taking from the Postal Department the profits it makes and crediting them to general revenue, while compelling the Department to construct the greater portion of its new works out of loan funds. By this practice the Department year by year is carrying an increased burden. In my opinion, the profits that sometimes, accrue in this Department should be reserved to the Department, so that it can extend its facilities as much as possible. Last year this House granted £9,660,000 to the Postmaster-General, £1,391,000 of which was not used.
– Did you say last year? If so, it is not correct. You are quoting this year’s figures and calling them last year’s.
– I did not say it was all spent.
– It was neither voted nor estimated.
– Why should the House on this occasion be required to increase the expenditure from loan funds by over £900,000 when it is estimated that the Postal Department will receive an increase in revenue for the current year of just on £1,000,000? It is very evident that the estimated additional profit is being absorbed in other directions, while works that should be carried out and charged to expenditure from revenue are being charged against loan expenditure. A careful survey of the figures of this Department shows that the Treasurer anticipates receiving a total revenue of £9,311,000 for the year in which we are now working. Against this he estimates an expenditure of £7,455,000 for ordinary services. That would leave a surplus of £1,800,000, which should belong to the Postal Department, and would enable the Department to carry out the large list of works already approved of without making a special charge against loan funds.
– Your figures are all wrong.
– They are taken from your Budget. Evidently the surplus is going to be taken away and pigeonholed to Defence or some other extravagance that the Treasurer has in his mind, while loan funds, which the Government are afraid to apply directly to their Defence extravagances, are to be spent in the Postal Department. The special war tax is materially interfering with the revenue and the expansion of the Postal Department. I desire to make a protest against the disorganization that exists throughout the Department. The time has come when there should be a thorough re-organization of the whole system of working. A system of zoning should be introduced to enable offices to be worked from the nearest capital. If that were done we would get more out of the money spent than we get at the present time. Whether it is done or not, the Postal Department should at least be made selfcontained, and whatever profits it earns should be utilized for its extension and development.
– Would the honorable member mind reading these figures, which I hand to him, for this year? It is just as well that the facts should be stated correctly.
– According to this paper the total amount for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department this year is stated at £9,960,000. It includes £900,000 of loan money. The year does not affect the principle of the argument. The brief review that I have given, and the table I have had prepared, indicate where economies in ordinary expenditure can be effected.
It may be contended that no economies are possible because of increased wages awards during the last eight years. According to figures given by the Public Service Commissioner, the salaries of Commonwealth public servants have increased by £1,140,000, which makes the total salaries £5,700,000. There is plenty of room for economies to be effected in this direction. I would ask honorable members to turn to page 31 of the Estimates and to look at the items under “ Special Appropriations “ - interest on Commonwealth inscribed stock, £11,946,000; Treasury-bills, £57,500; registered stock, £360,000; interest on war gratuity bonds, £1,183,000. These items make a total of about £13,000,000. Then there is also the amount required for sinking funds and war pensions, over £8,500,000; interest on Australian war indebtedness to the British Government, £4,500,000; and commitments in reduction of the principal of that debt, £1,013,560. In face of such an expenditure, totalling £25,000,000, the time has come when we should cut our garments according to the cloth at our disposal. If we are going to continue to live beyond our means we must come, sooner or later, to a sudden and very bad stop.
I would like to refer to the additional new works, buildings, &c, referred to on page 34. It will be seen that the Defence Department is asking for an increase of over £500,000, which is to be spent from revenue. With the Minister in charge of this Department (Senator Pearce) away from Australia attending a Conference, which will deal with the limitation of armaments, ought we not to hold our hands for one year at any rate ? If we are going to spend any loan money at all it should be spent on reproductive, developmental work, which will bring in a return.
The Treasurer, when speaking on the Budget, dealt in the following words with the co-ordination of Federal and State functions : -
The economy that counts can best be obtained by a review and re-adjustment 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 inone 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.
That is the Treasurer speaking on the question of co-ordination. He seems to me to be speaking with his tongue In his cheek. I have looked on every page of the Estimates, and I cannot find one penny that has been provided for the holding of the Convention. I would like to know whether any money has been put down for that purpose. The Treasurer has been in power for four or five years, and has done nothing whatever in this direction.
– I can tell the honorable member candidly that I am not nearly so fierce on the Convention as he is.
– The right honorable gentleman says it is the only true way in which there can be economy.
– The honorable member does not represent his party when he talks like that.
– I represent my party unanimously.
– Does the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) know more about your party than you do?
– He thinks he does. Australia’s financial position and prospects of development are greatly complicated by our Federal system, and we will not secure effective economy or effective service except through the reorganization of the whole system of government, from the top to the bottom, by means of the Federal Convention. What is needed is the revision of our constitutional machinery so as to define more clearlythe Federal and State spheres of activity and of taxation, to simplify the systemof government, to abolish all duplicationof services, and to consolidate the public debts.
I intend to take another opportunity of dealing with the maladministration of the War Service Departments. The response of the Australian public to appeals for money has been most generous and spontaneous. The work done by the soldiers has been generously recognised on all sides, although the Prime Minister lakes all the credit to himself for giving them the rewards to which, they are entitled. The Treasurer seeks to make war expenditure a matter that is above criticism. No one objects to the soldiers being treated generously, but a well-considered and well administered scheme is necessary to secure fair treatment for them. Why should the wretched administration of war pensions be allowed to engender definite grievances, not merely against the Government, but also against Australia, by a harsh and rigorous system of’ administration against incapacitated men, while thousands cf pounds are wasted by physically fit men in official positions? Does the £450,000 spent on sawmills in Queensland, which have never worked, come out of revenue . or loan moneys? What provision is made for the £140,000 which has to be written off soldiers’ homes not properly constructed? Will this come out of revenue or loan funds ? What provision is made for war gratuity payments? Will this all come out of loan funds? The Treasurer says that the Commonwealth debt has been reduced during the year. Does this take into consideration, the war gratuity liability? Surely, at least, some sinking fund should be established for this. We are spending £739,739 less on war pensions this year than we spent last year, and the Treasurer is spending out of revenue £2,000,000 less on war services. The expenditure out of revenue on war services last year was £33,286,233, and the estimate this year is £31,203,253. The expenditure from loan funds” last year was £24,148,501, and this year the estimate is £11,196,000. The Treasurer has thus estimated a decrease of £15,000,000 in the expenditure, but of this decrease only £2,000,000 is deducted from revenue, while the remaining £13,000,000 is from loans.’ The further we get from the war the less war expenditure the Treasurer pays from revenue. It is a moot point whether it is right to regard interest and sinking fund on debt as a war service. Such liabilities have come to stay, and the present method of treating them, is misleading.
I have not time to go more deeply into the various items of the Budget. I have briefly indicated the prospects of our national income, the influence on production of the present heavy strangling taxation, and the huge commitments f alling due. I have exposed the hollowness of the Treasurer’s professions of alleged economy, and pointed out the path whereby financial righteousness can be achieved and national solvency maintained. Though the straight and narrow path is always a difficult one to tread, yet it is absolutely essential that we must tread it, for in a very few years we may have to undertake heavier obligations with regard to naval defence than any yet considered.
Before passing on, I would like to ask the Treasurer a few plain questions. la the slovenliness of the Budget a reflection of the irresponsibility and general methods of the administration of the Leader of the Government ? Are the evidences of dummying I have given mere slips, or are they deliberately intended to deceive the public ? Why is the revenue of the Post Office taken from that Department and allotted to other governmental activities, and in its place loan moneys voted to the Post Office for carrying out its works?1 Why is the £162,000 for assisted passages to immigrants paid out of loans instead of out of revenue? How can taxation ever be reduced if our indebtedness and interest bill is increased in every Budget ? If the Prime Minister thinks debt is a dead weight, why not start to remove it straightway? It cannot get any deader. Is the method of manufacturing a surplus by underestimating the income £2,000,000, cutting out new works £972,000, savings on oldage pensions £140,000, skinning the soldiers for £500,000 war gratuity interest, and failing to spend £150,000 on soldiers’ graves, the sole property of the Government ? “I have indicated many places where gross extravagance and unexplained increases in administration have taken place, and a possibility of large reductions. This has been possible without any knowledge of departmental workings. It is not my duty, but the duty of the execu»tive Government, to say where the most ready economy can be effected, and which services should bear the brunt of that . economy. That is a matter where inside departmental knowledge would alone avail. All I say is that the present Public Service is already too big in proportion to the population and production of this country, that it must not be increased without very cogent reasons, and that immediate economy can be effected, should be effected, and, so far as my colleagues and myself are concerned, must be effected. It should be effected, not by the superficial method of stopping well-earned increments ito faithful servants, but through the re-organization of the whole Service and the securing of general efficiency. That this method is the only way to do it is evidenced by the attitude taken up by the British Treasury, which in a circular places this duty on Departments themselves -
In order to enable revenue and expenditure to balance in 1922-23, there must be a drastic reduction in expenditure. There is no hope of solving the financial problem that confronts the nation by additional borrowings or additional taxation. … It is certain that any increase in taxation would seriously hamper the recovery of British industry and commerce, and thus ultimately intensify the difficulty of the position, and would on that account be most vehemently opposed by the House of Commons, and by public opinion in the country; indeed, what is required in order to maintain and stimulate industry and commerce - and secure full and regular employment in the country - is a reduction of taxation and of the burden of the State’s indebtedness as rapidly as possible, a process which can only be achieved by a continuous reduction of expenditure throughout the next few years, … It is recognised that it will be impossible to carry out the degree of economy demanded by the financial situation and still preserve all the existing services carried on by the State. Therefore the Treasury circular, with the authority of the Cabinet behind it, instructs each Department to take into consideration the abolition of some of the services under its control, even though these services represent functions imposed by Statute. W(here it is necessary to obtain parliamentary sanction by means of a Bill to the abolition of any existing services, the Government will do so.
With this I agree, both as regards statutory and ordinary appropriations, and I will give any Government assistance which faces the position from that aspect. The British Government has done ‘ this. What has our own Government done in three years to bring down the cost of government? It talks of duplication with its tongue in its cheek and appointed 1,500 new hands in 1919-1920, many of whom are engaged in services that are duplications of State activities. The war is over, and has been over for three years, but we have not yet started to put our house in order. We will never put our house in order unless we proceed on principles of sound business and accepted common sense. Every known business firm in Australia of any standing is preparing for trouble, brought about by falling prices, by meeting every possible expense out of revenue and not calling on capital. Micawber’s axiom is still true - 20s. income, 20s. 6d. expenditure, and the result is misery; 20s. income, 19s. 6d. expenditure, and the result is happiness. It is not merely Happiness, but safety, that lies in the course of keeping our expenditure within our means. This year Australia hopes for a good season. Picture Australia’s position if we had a bad season, and the present method of finance were continued next year. Is it wise, is it safe, to juggle with the future by budgeting for deficiencies with a revenue raised under the highest rates of taxation ever levied in Australia? Our demand to square the ledger, and establish adequate sinking funds, so as to maintain our credit is the only sane and prudent course. Any other than this is utter madness. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) says that English conditions differ from ours. Great Britain’s income will be £100,000,000 short of the estimate. I have shown that ours may easily be short of the Treasurer’s expectations. Is this country, saved by the valour of bo many of her sons, to be allowed to drift into -financial ruin by the cowardice and incompetence of her rulers? New Zealand, South Africa, Canada, and Great Britain are all grappling .successfully with the situation. Australia alone goes smugly on, disregarding the ominous writing on the wall.
The British Government thinks the position so serious as to have called together a special finance committee of men of the experience of Lord Inchcape. Finance will never be properly dealt with in this Chamber until a proper Committee of Ways and Means is appointed from all parties, or even a special Committee of Finance, consisting of representatives of all parties of the House, and of financial and banking interests, and of business knowledge and experience - men whose personal interests would not be in any way affected by any curtailment or otherwise of expenditure. .
I urge the Government to withdraw the Budget. I urge them to give up bluffing and deceiving the public with such statements as were published by the Argus this morning as having been supplied by the Treasurer. [Extension of time granted.~ The Treasurer is reported as having said in Sydney -
The steps I propose to take to restore public finances to .a sound basis will include -
Economy in State expenditure so as to provide for the State <to live within its means.
– I did not say that. Those were Sir George Fuller’s words.
– The statement attributed to the Treasurer continued -
Loan expenditure to be strictly confined to reproductive works of a permanent and necessary character.
The establishment of a sinking fund for the redemption of the public debt, such fund to be credited annually with a fair proportion of revenue derivable from our national asset - the Crown lands.
Honorable Members. - Obviously the Federal Treasurer did not say that.
– Did the Treasurer say this? -
In my opinion, the public finances can best be restored to a sound basis by the following steps, which I propose to enunciate at an early date-
– I did not say that. Those were Sir George Fuller’s words, which the Argus wrongly attributed to me.
– I accept the right honorable gentleman’s ‘correction. I urge the Government to withdraw the Budget - to grasp the nettle firmly, and to do what every business house is doing, namely, try to square the ledger and prepare for the lean years. I give notice of a further amendment -
That the item be reduced by 10s.
This, if carried, will be an instruction to the ‘Government to reconsider the Estimates with a view to their reduction by £2,817,108, the amount of the anticipated deficit, in order to square the ledger.
– I do not intend to traverse the speech to which we have just listened. I will say only this of it, that I doubt if, in my thirty years’ experience in Parliament, I ever heard a more bitterly /partisan speech; I doubt if I ever heard a more insulting speech delivered by any member of the House, to say nothing of a responsible leader. From first to last it was a tissue of misrepresentation and abuse, and, to-morrow, after I have had time to look at the figures quoted by the honorable member, I shall deal with some of them, to show how little he knows of the public finances of the Commonwealth. That he, of all others, should set himself up like a schoolmaster to teach everybody else their lesson in finance is to me amazing. The (honorable member has not been in the House two years.
– He and his party have kept the Government in power.
– I do not wish him to keep us in power a day longer than he thinks we ought to ‘be here. He has his own responsibilities and we have ours.’ It ‘has been very curious to hear the two party leaders express themselves concerning the Budget. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) began his speech with compliments. He said the Budget was a very clear one, and its features were so arranged as -to be readily understandable. The Leader ‘ of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), in turn,-
Stated that it was -a clumsily-constructed Budget, and that there was nothing Tight about it. There are the two opinions; and, if I am to take my choice, I naturally incline to the view expressed by the Deputy Leader of the ‘Opposition. The latter honorable member may be said to have heard more Budgets delivered than this gentleman from the north, who has descended upon us with all his financial ability and glory, to lecture us on what we ought to do. Strange to say, the Leader of the Country party finished up, after a two-hours’ ‘speech, without offering a single concrete suggestion for reform. , There is nothing right in the Budget, he tells us; everything is wrong. Not a single favorable expression has fallen from his lips during his two hours’ oration, and not one constructive proposal has emanated from those same lips during the whole of that period. After delivering this diatribe against the Budget, and against myself in particular, he deprecates the introduction of a party spirit.
– You must let one have his joke.
– A joke, is it? If we are to regard him as a joke, all right. But he is the responsible Leader of the Country party, and I venture to say the speech he has delivered to-night has not, at any rate, brought very much credit upon his party.
– His party can judge that for itself.
– I wish the honoralble member for Franklin would be a little quiet. He has already crossed swords with his Leader to-night in the little bout concerning the Commonwealth Line of steamers. His Leader deprecates the fact that we are losing money on the Commonwealth Line, and he is promptly answered (by his follower with a complaint that we are charging growers in Tasmania 8s. a bushel freight for their apples.
– So you are; it is robbery.
– We are charging too much, and earning too little!
-The higher you make the freights, the more you lose.
– I suggest that the honorable member consult some of the business men around him as to whether they generally lose more money by charging a stiffer rate. The Commonwealth Line of steamers has not been, and is not to-day. losing money. It is not now earning a large amount, nor should it; but it is untrue to say that the Line is a losing concern. It is not a question as to whether it is a right policy to carry on the Line. It is a question of stating a simple fact as to whether the Line is losing or making money; and the correct answer is that, by every commercial test, it is making money on its transactions.
– Where are you going to get that £300,000?
– Why, then, should the honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) repeat that hoary old statement that the Line is a losing concern?
– I asked you where you were going to get the £300,000.
– I hope I am going to get it. If the same deduction had been made last year in connexion with that Line as in connexion with any ordinary shipping line, there would havebeen over £300,000 profit this year. Last year the Line took 10 per cent. for depreciation, whereas the rate for an ordinary shipping line is never more than 6 per cent. It is the same with the Commonwealth Bank as with the Shipping Line. They take care that the Treasurer does not handle much of their profits. They try to cover up the profits in every possible way;but the profits are made. In the Commonwealth Bank the profits go to reserves, and in the Shipping Line they go to depreciation. My complaint is that I do not get hold of those profits; but, nevertheless, they are made. Last year the Commonwealth Line made nearly £500,000 profit gross. It was nearly all taken up by the 10 per cent. depreciation, in addition to special boiler reserves and other like devices for keeping the profitsaway from the Treasury. How can the Leader of the Country party suggest that the Commonwealth Line is a losing concern ? It does no good to misrepresent the facts in that way. On the one hand we have the Leader of the Country party telling us it is a losing concern, while the honorable member for Franklin complains that too much is being charged on Tasmanian apples. The Leader of the Country party has made a charge tonight, and he knows it is untrue.
– That is not fair.
– I ask for the withdrawal of that statement.
– He knows it is incorrect.
– I ask that the remark be withdrawn.
– Will the right honorable gentleman withdraw the statement he made? It is not in order.
– Of course, I withdraw it. It is remarkable how thinskinned these honorable members are.
After delivering two solid hoursof personal abuse to-night, the Leader of the Country party accuses the Government of deliberately blocking the proposed Constitution Convention.
– I said “ evading” the Convention.
– Is that the new word? The honorable member previously said we were blocking it. There is not a word of correctness about such a statement. I may say that the honorable member is now blocking the matter and stopping the Government from proceeding with its clearly expressed intention to call a Convention together. When the Leader of the Country party was speaking of this blocking of the Convention, I ventured the remark that there were many followers in his party who were not as keen as he on holding that Convention. He immediately told me that his party was with him. Is the honorable member for Franklin behind his Leader in calling for this Convention ? He is silent.
– I shall tell you when I get up to speak.
– There will be a good deal more to say when we get to the actual discussion of the Convention proposal, and nowhere in this House will there be greater divergence of opinion on that matter than in the Country party.
– We are game to express our divergence here, which is more than you are prepared to do.
– Then there is a divergence, and the Leader of the Country party was not correct in saying that his party was behind him in urging this Convention.
– You will hear where we stand.
– Honorable members in the Corner had better settle it between them.
The Leader of the Country party several times made comparisons between the year 1913-14 and the present time. What an absolutely idle thing for any man with any sense of responsibility to do ! Does he forget that the world has been in a conflagration during nearly all the intervening years? Does he know that every country has been torn out of its proper setting, and that an Armageddon has been fought?
– He was in it; he ought to know there has been a war.
– Of course; and, therefore, he should have known better than indulge in such rodomontade. In making such comparisons he should have made them in regard to every other aspect of public life as well as in respect to the Budget presented in the Federal Parliament. Let him make the comparison in regard to every other State. The Treasurer of Tasmania, according to this morning’s newspapers, states that in the last three or four years his expenditure has increased 63 per cent. I was reading some figures recently relating to all the States, and I hope to present them to the House to-morrow. I have had about enough of this diatribe in the press, and from honorable members, as to the extravagance of the Federal Government, and pointing to the great economy that all the States, more or” less, are exercising. I shall make a comparison to-morrow and shall show the House, comparing like with like, that during the past three years there has not been a State - even including Victoria - which has managed its affairs as economically as has the Commonwealth.
– May the Lord have mercy on their souls !
– No; rather, may the Lord have mercy on the figures. I shall let the figures speak for themselves. I want to test the statements of the Leader of the Country party, but I propose at the moment to furnish merely one sample of the way in which he has juggled with his figures. The honorable member has read an elaborate essay upon the finances of the country. I hope he will do me the honour of furnishing me with a copy of his statement. The honorable member had a copy of my Budget speech when I was delivering it in this Chamber. If he will return the compliment I shall be glad to give him a reply to-morrow in respect of his own figures, when I shall have had an opportunity, I hope, of checking them. Meantime, I repeat that I shall give the Committee one simple example of the way in which the honorable member can juggle figures. He stated that I saved £1,500,000 out of war expenditure last year. This is the way in which he said that I had manufactured surpluses: I had saved this £1,500,000 out of war expenditure and had increased the expenditure this year by £1,500,000. Now that sounds very bad. But why did the honorable member not tell the Committee of all the new expenditure which I have in the Budget for this year? Why didhe not tell of the £1,500,000 of new interest and sinking fund for which I have had to budget? Why did he not tell honorable members of the £3,750,000 of war expenditure which I still have to find this year? If hewanted to be fairand non-partisan in his criticisms, why did not the honorable member tell the Committee of the £200,000 which I am called upon to pay in respect of mails carried during the war? Why did not the honorable member inform the Committee of the £200,000 more required fox. old-age pensions, and. of the half-a-dozen other obligations of a somewhat similar kind ? Among these latter there is a total of practically £200,000 in connexion with theper capita payments to theStates. With these various sums alone there is furnished in this year’s Budget a total of £2,500,000, which no one can escape unless he is prepared to go in for a policy of repudiation. There is a sum of nearly £3,000,000, consisting of new expenditure which is inescapable. There is no question of whether that money is being spent prudently or otherwise, but it is a simple matter of whether we are going to pay our debts or repudiate them. When considering problems of retrenchment and readjustment one must pay one’s debts, whatever else one does. It would have been fairer for the Leader of the Country party, therefore, while accusing me of extravagance, in that I have £1,000,000 more upon my revenue side of the ledger this year, if he had told the Committee of this sum of from £3,000,000 to £4,000,000, comprising obligations which neither he nor I nor any one else dare attempt to shirk. There I leave the honorable member with his non-party speech, his bitter diatribe.
– I think we have had two of them to-day.
– Then his Leader’s speech was a bitter one after all ! The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams) should know. He is and has been a good judge. He himself has, been a party leader. Indeed, I fancy that he has had something to do with the framing of the speech delivered by his present Leader. I take his word for it that the speech of the honorable member for Cowper was a bitter one, and, if mine also was a little bitter, I am sure it will be admitted, that there was some justification.
I desire to make just one more reference this evening, and that, is to the constant way in which the lead given by the Imperial Government is being pointed out to me. I ambeing told that the Com monwealth should finance as do the British authorities. I rather hope that we shall not do so. As I see things in Great Britain, we are doing very much, better here. We have fewer obligations burdening our shoulders; we are in am altogether better and more privileged position. There, they are proposing to borrow £100,000,000 to square the revenue accounts. Here, we have a large surplus. While honorable members opposite want to destroy our defence estimates - at any rate, to cut them down to the extent of three-fifths of their total - I would remind them that our modest little amount is £7,000,000,but that the sum set aside for defence by the British Treasurer is £201,000,000. They say £7,000,000 is too much for Australia by two-fifths of its total.
– German workers today are better off because there are no armaments in Germany.
– Every one knows that the German workers did not disarm themselves, and that they would arm again to-morrow if they were permitted to do so. The German workers did not disarm themselves; the Allies did it for them. I would remind honorable members opposite once more that, in addition to the enormous total of £201,000,000 set aside solely for defence in Great Britain this year, that great democratic country of France, whose Government, I suppose, consists one-half of Socialists and Syndicalists, as a normal running concern
– Socialists of the same type as the Treasurer.
– I remind honorable members opposite that in France, to-day, the Budget for defence alonetotals £204,000,000. In the United Statesof America the defence vote amounts to £300,000,000, while Japan is getting well on towards £150,000,000, in respect of the defence estimates, of that country. These are the defence budgets all about us. Here are the guns pointing all round us. Honorable members opposite say,. “ Scrap ours.” Very well ! I am hound to ask whether this is the time, after all, for cutting down our defence estimates. The Disarmament Conference will shortly be held. Disarmament has been talked of for a. couple of years, but no nation, other than Australia, is laying its hands, as yet, upon its defence votes. Bather, all are awaiting the outcome of the Disarmament Conference.
– A test of their sincerity. Sir JOSEPH COOK.- A test of their wisdom and sanity, a test of their outlook on life. Here is a disturbed world, armed to the teeth, with sporadic fires still breaking out after the recent volcanic conflagration. And the statesmen of the world say, as prudent men, “ Let us be careful, ere we begin disarming, until we have tested the sense of the world upon the subject.” But honorable members opposite have no such qualms. They do not fear anything.. They have the most of all to lose, however ; the most cherished ideals of all, the greatest liberty, the greatest privileges of all; the greatest country to develop and defend. But they say, “No matter what other people may do - let them arm, or disarm, as they like - we will not arm. Bather, we will reduce our armaments, and so place ourselves more and more at the tender mercies of people with whom, we have no sympathy, whose outlook on life is altogether different from ours, whose destiny is as far removed from that of the inhabitants of this country as is the east from the west.”
– The Treasurer is talking just like Lord Northcliffe did when here.
– I wonder what Lord Northcliffe did ta “ you fellows.”
– He is a humbug.
– The inference 19 that I am also. At any rate, I hope that the debate will develop in a less bitter spirit than it has opened. I sincerely trust that we shall hear no more non-party speeches of the kind delivered to-day. If the speech of the Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Cowper, was non-party in character, then, for Heaven’s sake, let the party fires burn ! None could burn more fiercely than the blaze which has been characterized as a mild, non-party essay. I hope the honorable member will review bis speech.
– The Treasurer needs to look over it.
– I intend to do so; I shall punctuate it here and there.
– Punctuate it, or puncture it?
– Honorable members will learn to-morrow.
– I suggest that the Treasurer move an amendment before he sits down.
.- Those among the general public occupying the galleries to-night will probably have noted with some bitterness the hard and ironical laughter of older and more experienced politicians present in the chamber when the suggestion was made that the discussion on Australia’s finances should proceed without recourse to heated partisan feeling. My view is that no motion should be .debated, or vote taken, in this Parliament - except in respect of a direct motion of censure, or want of confidence - upon strict party -lines. I have listened to the reply of the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) to the speech of ‘the Leader of the Country party, the honorable member for Cowper! .(Dr. Earle Page). I know that the Treasurer does not feel the same anxiety with respect to the finances of the Commonwealth as do the honorable member for Cowper and myself j but there is one big difference between the Treasurer and honorable members who may wish to continue in public life.
– That is very Unfair.
– I believe it is a perfectly just statement to make. Every honorable member’ who desires to con- tinue in active politics will be called upon to bear the responsibility, or blame, when next he goes before his constituents. But the Treasurer, We are given to understand, is shortly to retire from the inferno of political life. While giving the Treasurer Credit for the speech which he has just made in defence of the Government, I cannot forget that parliamentary responsibility will shortly slip from his shoulders, while for the rest of us it remains. On every question except a direct vote of censure or want of confidence I shall vote as my conscience and individual judgment prompt me, and I appeal to the supporters of the Government to consider carefully the questions that have been raised. The main question is - Shall . the Commonwealth set an example to the States by living within its means? Both Commonwealth and State Governments are to-day heavily in debt, and they are going still further into- debt. The other afternoon reference was made to the action of the Government of the State one of whose constituencies I represent in borrowing money in. America. To me, it is of small importance where money is borrowed; what is serious is the increasing of our public debt, and the manner in which the money that we have borrowed is being expended.
– Another matter of serious importance is that we shall pay our way.
– I am pleased that we have already made a convert. Let me direct the attention of honorable members to the following table, which shows the way in which the indebtedness of the Commonwealth and of the States has increased since 1914.
– Have you forgotten the war?
– I am not likely to forget the war. The figures which I wish honorable members to consider - they are the latest available as to our public debts - are these : -
– That total is not quite correct, because there are amounts which are debited twice - once against the Commonwealth and once , against a State.
– I am less concerned even with the amount of our public indebtedness than wilh the necessity for renewing our loans in the1 future, which is the outstanding financial menace for Australia. To my mind, the system of taxation of the country - Commonwealth and State - is absolutely unsound. The position is much as if two men, not on good speaking terms, were trying to milk the same cow, each endeavouring; to milk her first, and to get more milk than his rival; or as if two men, not good friends, were drawing - cheques on the same banking account. In some cases we have three taxing authorities. For instance, the land tax is levied on the same taxpayer by ‘a local governing authority, the State Government, and the Commonwealth Government. Commonwealth and State finance are inseparable. If the States, through extravagance, and wastefulness, become insolvent, the Commonwealth must go down, too; if the Commonwealth meets with disaster through the same causes, it must drag the States with it.
– Hear, hear! We are one people.
– Yes ; one people and one taxpaper, but there are many tax-gatherers. This position must be faced by the Constitution Convention when it meets. The Treasurer has objected that the Leader of the Country party has not shown where reductions are necessary or savings can be effected; but an answer can be found to that in a little pamphlet published by the right honorable gentleman himself, in which he points out that no one who is not a Minister, and conversant with the Departments, can deal in detail with their finances. I think that there are many ways in which we could save, and many directions in which the Estimates could be reduced. While not prepared to say, “You must take so much off this or tha* proposed vote,” I feel that a considerable saving can be made on the Defence Estimates. A saving could also be made in the cost of parliamentary government.. There are too many of us politicians in Australia. Then we are spending a great deal of money on the High Commissioner’s office in London without getting much benefit from the expenditure. The Treasurer has told’ us that the steamers of the Commonwealth Line are profitable, but he was reported recently as saying that they were earning only 2 or 3 per cent. As- vessels are being bought with borrowed money, for which we pay interest up to 6 per cent, or more, I cannot see that they can be profitable if earning only 2 or 3 per cent. We of the Country party have been asked, would we save on the vote for the PostmasterGeneral’s Department? No one knows better than I, as a country member, how necessary telephone communication is in the country districts. I wish this to be extended rather than reduced. But in a remarkable document which has been sent to me there is a diagram^ not unappropriately shaped like a bi$ leaden weight, indicating that no less than £156,000 is to be spent at Canberra for telephones and telephone lines. Personally, I am against this tomfoolery df moving to Canberra. There are men who dream that they dwell in marble halls, but I am not one of them. If we are to pour money into Canberra in the way proposed, I believe that it will prove to be such a sink for expenditure that once undertakings get fairly going at Canberra no taxpayer of Australia of the present generation can hope for any possible relief. If it costs £500 to cut down two bottle trees in the Northern Territory, what will it cost to build a Federal capital?
The Treasurer objected to the comparison which the Leader of the Country party made between the management of the finances here and in Great Britain. He said .that we are in an infinitely better position here. If that be so, why was it necessary for us to go to Great Britain and ask the Imperial Government to fund a debt of £90,000,000 for us arid extend its repayment over a large number of years ? Let me inform honorable members that last year the Imperial Government paid off no less than £251,000,000 of debt. This year, they budgeted a surplus of £175,000,000, whilst here the Government of the Commonwealth have budgeted a deficit of something like £3,000,000.
It may be said, that by economizing and living within our means we shall be increasing unemployment. I say that that is not so. In my view, it is Government waste and extravagance that is the cause of unemployment. The Governments of the States and of the Commonwealth are incurring huge losses in connexion with their State - enterprises, and costly failures which have been recorded in connexion with them. This causes increased taxation to be imposed upon the people, which, in its turn, must necessarily restrict enterprise ‘and the development of fresh industries. The restriction of enterprise causes unemployment and that, as we know, is responsible for hardship and distress. It would be a poor country of which it could be said that unless the Government borrowed and spent extravagantly unemployment would result as the resources of the ann. try were not good enough in themselves to keep the people employed. I think that we shall be absolutely mad if we spend a great sum of money an. bring ing people out here until we have, solved our local unemployment problem. ‘ Every one would be glad to see peoplecoming here, especially those with a little capital, who could settle on the land and assist in the development of the country. But to send people to the Old Country with magic lanterns to induce immigrants to come to Australia, whilst there are numbers of men here, including returned soldiers, out of work, seems to me to be very bad business indeed.
I wish here to protest against the miserable and cowardly cry which we find repeated in every newspaper in Australia at the present time, that we are not able to defend this country. One would imagine that. Australians were the most miserable and helpless lot of cowards in the world. I remember reading in a report by a very distinguished general who came out here that if Australia were to have any hope to defend herself against an invading army the Australian troops would need to be in, at least, the proportion of three tol one against the invaders. I had not the honour to be one of the A.I.F. troops myself, and, therefore, I may be allowed to say without boasting that in the great war the Australian troops were at least as good as any others that took part in it. So far from men defending their own country requiring to be of a strength of three to one against the, . invader, judging from my experience of warfare, men defending their own country have themselves . at least a three to one advantage. I do not say these things in any spirit of boastfulness, but rather as a protest against the miserable cry to which I have referred. I am satisfied that if Australia were invaded to-morrow her people would put up a most tremendous fight and desperate struggle. I saw 70,000 Boers keep the whole of the British Empire, with sea communication uninterrupted, at bay for three years. In the last war we found that Russia, the nation possessing the greatest population of any engaged in the war, collapsed in ruin half way through the struggle; yet the German troops in East Africa, though comparatively few in number, held out in their own country throughout the campaign. Belgium, the most densely populated country in the world, was overrun in a few weeks. I do not mean to say that I do not wish to see immigrants come to Australia. By all means let those come who can. But ‘ I am in this matter in accord; with the views expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) when he said that the true way to secure immigrants is to make our local conditions so good as to naturally attract them to Australia.
I said that I did not approach the consideration of the finances of the country in any party spirit, and I shall never do so. An amendment somewhat similar to that given notice of by the Leader of the Country party was moved shortly after the last general election. I did not support it. On that occasion I voted with the Government.
– The honorable member saved the Government that time.
– Very well, I saved them. I voted with them because they represented a party that had been returned to power with the support of fully half the members of the House of Representatives and practically the whole ‘ of the members of another place. In my view, the people wished them to be responsible for the government of the country, and they were entitled to a fair show. I still think that a party having the support of half the members of the House of Representatives and practically the whole of the members of another place is obviously the party that ought to conduct the government of the country. But I have not been satisfied of late that the Government have been as careful of the public finances as they ought to be. I can mention a case in point, which I brought under the notice of the Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Rodgers). It was in connexion with Government expenditure in the purchase of the Canungra saw-mills, which are in my own electorate. One, perhaps, looks more closely into a matter affecting his own constituency, and may be disposed to attach to it more importance than others might think it deserves. On the other hand, there is a saying that what the eye does not see the heart does not grieve over; and when I see extravagance and waste by one Department L lose confidence also in the management of all the other Department®. I do not wish to enter into all the details of the matter, but I know that the Government bought the Canungra saw-mills for about £250,000. They bought it from people who knew the business from A te Z - - shrewd, careful, enterprising business men, brought up in the timber trade, and as the result of whose business acumen a thriving and splendid little community had been brought together.- I think it only fair to say that this purchase was carried out by the present Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen), and not while the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) was Acting Minister. I do not think that the Assistant Minister would have been so foolish as to have approved it. He is too keen a business man to have been induced to do so* and I know that he has had a difficult and. irksome task in clearing up what he found there.
After working the mill at Canungra for some time, the Department closed it down. I was asked to visit Canungra, as much distress existed there. I went up and received deputations from the men working in the mill, the teamsters, the carriers, the fellers, and the business men of the town. On the following morning I visited the mill before breakfast, and spent the rest of the day travelling on horseback through the timber scrub to the different dumps. I am not a timber man, although I have owned and sold pine, and have had some dealings in timber; but I am going to relate what I actually saw at Canungra. The mill was shut down, and I saw there very large quantities of sawn timber stacked in the open. We have had in Queensland about the wettest winter on record, and I found that great quantities of this timber had deteriorated. The . cutters showed me . stack after stack of timber in respect of which a certain amount would have to be allowed for depreciation. I went into the shed where the dressed timber was stacked, and found that there everything was satisfactory. In the mill yard, however, very large quantities of logs were rotting. I took from them handfuls of what-the men call fungus, and timber men know that when a pine log starts to throw off such things it is deteriorating.
– There is not one unsold log on the Canungra area.
– I am pleased to hear that. I know that the Assistant Minister (Mr. Rodgers) started to expedite matters after I had seen him in regard to the position.
– I had previously appointed a broker, and he had sold the bulk of these logs before the honorable member’s statement was made.
– Whether they have been sold or not, the fact remains that they had deteriorated, and I am not to be persuaded that those who bought the logs bore the loss caused by that deterioration.
– But the honorable member will admit that we had an abnormal season up there. There was a rainfall of 60 inches within a short time, and all the mills in Queensland were affected by the exposure of logs and sawn timber.
– I have heard it said that even had this mill remained in the hands of the original owners, it would have had to close down. Does the Assistant Minister maintain that?
– I am not prepared to say that personally, but many saw-millers in Queensland who had never closed down before had to do so during this abnormal period. We did not close till our stocks and depots were full, and we could not carry on unless we brought the whole of the timber trade on to its knees. We could have done that.
– The honorable gentleman is only proving that his Department got into a very tight corner. I visited various dumps in the scrub. In one place I counted 188 logs; at another I saw ten, and at still another twelve logs. I was unable to reach many of the dumps; but every one who has been in the bush knows that when a pine log is allowed to lie in the open during the winter months, very serious deterioration takes place. I do not wish to go further into the question of the unnecessary, hardships endured at Canungra. I merely quote this as an example of what the people of the Commonwealth are losing as the result of State enterprises.
– Does the honorable member know that all these logs were sold at a profit?
– Does the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser) wish me to believe that among the timber men of Queensland there is a fool who was prepared to buy the logs lying in the open at Canungra and to bear the whole loss caused by deterioration? The timber- getters up there showed me logs which they said were so rotten that the “ dogs “ could not be put into them. Does the honorable member say that some private individual was prepared to buy such logs and to suffer the loss caused by deterioration?
– I was informed before to-night, and have been informed again this evening, that the Department suffered no loss in connexion with the logs at Canungra.
– In a deal between a keen private business man and a State enterprise I know who would lose. The worst feature of this purchase is that the land itself was not acquired straight out by the Commonwealth, but is to revert to the original owners after a certain number of years. This must add much to the anxiety of the Minister, because the mill has shut down and there is a time limit within which the timber on the area must be got out. If it is not cut out within that time the Government must bear the loss. I could speak for an hour with regard to Canungra.
– I have been able to make an arrangement with the vendors of Canungra by means of which the Government will not lose a day, so far as concerns the expiration of the time within which the timber on the Canungra area is to be cut out.
– I am aware that the Assistant Minister has sent up some one to report on the whole question-, and I hope that the day is not far distant when this most unsatisfactory state of affairs will be ended. I have referred to Canungra only as an example of what we are losing on State enterprises. The honorable member for Franklin (Mr. McWilliams), who was a member of the Commission appointed to inquire into operations at Cockatoo Island, will probably have something to say concerning that State enterprise. These experiences hit the people of Queensland .very hard, because hundreds of thousands of pounds are also being lost on their State enterprises. I am wholly opposed to State enterprises, and the sooner they are wiped out the better. I believe that we should live within our means.
– What are our means?
– Our means are what we receive. If a man earns £1,000 a year and spends £1,001 per annum, he is not living within his means. There are two ways by which we can live within our means: One way is not to spend so much, and the other is to increase our income. I have already said that, rather than go into debt, I would help the Government, if absolutely necessary, in a proposal for further taxation, provided I had an assurance - which I have notat present - that not one single penny of Government money was going to be wasted.
I do not regard this as a party matter, and I shall not vote in a party spirit. I have no particular hostility to the present Government. As a matter of fact, if my sympathies had to be shown for one side or the other, they would be overwhelmingly with the Government. As a Queenslander, and one who has had experience of the “blessings” of Labour rule, I would not for one minute help honorable members of the Opposition to power in this House; nor would I support any Government that was kept in power by their votes. I want to make this quite clear.
– You are afraid there is going to be a crisis.
– Evidently there is not much fight in honorable members of the Corner party.
– At all events, the idea which I first mentioned, namely, to move for a reduction in the expenditure, was adopted by the Opposition.
– I was the first to move for a reduction in the Defence Estimates. It was my intention all along to do this. I told the Leader of the Country party last week-end of my purpose.
– But the actual wording of an amendment was, I think, suggested by me in this House. If the Government are wise they will accept the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). I understand the honorable the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) is going to take over the Treasury. Although we differ on Tariff matters, I admire the Minister for the manner in which he handled the Tariff in this House, and believe that if he could follow his own ideal and had a free hand he would make a successful Treasurer. I would also liketo see the honorable mem ber for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) the new Minister for the Navy. I think I can say this without making any invidious distinction with respect to the presentoccupant of that office. The honorable member for Wentworth is conversant with naval matters, and I. believe that, with him, administration in Navy affairs would be a labour of love. I think, also, that the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) would make a very good new Minister for Repatriation in place of the present Minister (Senator E. D. Millen), because I believe that the work of the Department would be all the better for the introduction of new blood. Finally, I would say that I have no hostility personally to the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). I admire him very much for his many fine qualities. I admirehim for his courage. I believe that, so far as his heart goes, the Prime Minister is the best friend the returned soldier ever had. But I am honestly and sincerely frightened of the Prime Minister’s ideas of finance and business. The other day he came back from the Imperial Conference in London, where, I believe, he did very good work for the Commonwealth, but he did not seem to be the least anxious about our financial position. He talked of airships and wireless telegraphy, and, in fact, he seemed to have his head very much in the clouds. I am gravely concerned about our own financial position. It seems to me that unless we take a stand and seriously consider the drift in financial affairs, both in the Commonwealth and the States, we shall be heading for disaster. I say this, not only in the hope of impressing honorable members, but to clear myself with my own constituents. I believe that, whatever may be the outcome of the amendment as disclosed in the division list, it is an honest attempt on behalf of the Country party - and I hope we shall get credit for this throughout the country - to step in now and. make the condition of financial matters a. definite and clear issue in this Parliament.
– I should like to know if the honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is prepared to grant an adjournment now. Many honorable members have travelled long distances to-day. Some of us have come 500 miles.
– Let us have the vote now. We shall then see who are sincere in this matter.
– Does the honorable member for Hume charge me with insincerity ?
– No; I am speaking of the Corner party.
– Let us have the vote now, and get it over.
– What does the Minister say? Does he propose to go on with the debate at this hour? If he thinks it wise to take a vote now, I am prepared to sit down.
– I suggest that we go on till about 10 o’clock.
– I shall not be deterred from saying what I want to say, and I think I shall prove to honorable members opposite that I am just as sincere as they are. I do hot exhibit a feeling of great relief when there is no real crisis about.
– Does that remark apply to the last speaker?
– I shall have something to say about mosquitoes that sting and honorable members who talk about a place they have never visited. I may also have something to say about the. sincerity of some honorable members with regard to bananas and sugar. I am not like the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best), who, although he has never seen Canberra, can tell the Committee all about it, and how bad it is. But it is extraordinary that the Government should be prepared to go to a vote after listening to two or three speeches - non-party speeches as they are supposed to be. I protest as a New South Wales representative.
– There are practically two proposals before the Committee covering the same ground, one to reduce the item by £1, the other to reduce it by 10s. Immediately one is disposed of the other will be submitted, and nothing can be lost to any honorable member by allowing the Committee to come to a decision on the first amendment, and permitting the debate to be resumed to-morrow on the second proposal, which is to be submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page).
Question - That the item proposed to be reduced (Mr. Charlton’s) be so reduced - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- I move -
That the item be reduced by 10s., and that this be taken as an instruction to the Government to reconsider the Estimates for the purpose of reducing the total expenditurefrom revenue by the sum of £2,817,108, the amount of the anticipated deficit, in order to square the ledger.
At this stage I desire to ask if the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) is prepared to report progress?
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That progress be reported.
Question put. The House divided.
Majority .. ..17
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Report of Select Committee on Senate
Officials : Parliamentary Service and Returned Soldiers - The President of the Senate: Case of Lift Attendant.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
– Before putting the question, I desire to direct attention to the report presented by a Select Committee of the Senate which contains one or two paragraphs to which I wish to refer. It states in paragraph 17 -
We regret that more returned soldiers have not been given an opportunity to secure employmentin the Parliamentary Service. Apparently the only positions open to them are in the lowest grade of the Service. So far as preference to returned soldiers to enter the Clerical Division is concerned, the policy is a dead letter. Vacancies have occurred and promotions have ‘been made, hut no returned man within the Federal Service or outside has got one or the other. The officer in charge of the employment branch of the Repatriation Department gave evidence to the effect that when those appointments were made he had a long list of clerks of all grades awaiting employment, many of whom had exceptionally good clerical qualifications.
We further express our disappointment that in the Parliamentary Service the policy of preference should havebeen manipulated in such a way that only the most menial and lowest grade positions are opento our returned soldiers.
It will be observed that this report refers to the “Parliamentary Service.” This is a report by a Select Committee of the Senate, and, presumably, it was intended to apply only to officers of the Senate, but it refers, as I have said, to the “Parliamentary Service,” and not to any particular branch of it. As a matter of fact, the only new or recent appointments to the House of Representatives Staff have been, with the one exception of a clerical position, three cleaners, and in each case returned soldiers were appointed. To the position of Clerk of Papers and Reading Clerk a returned soldier has also been appointed. As regard’s this House, at any rate, that paragraph in the report is. entirely incorrect and misleading. The vacancy for Serjeant-at-Arms was filled by a returned soldier, in the person of Captain McGregor, promoted from another office.
.- I desire to point out that an injustice has been done by the dismissal of one employee of this Parliament House. Under present circumstances, there is no justice in Parliament for any one who is not one of the officers. I regret to say that for a man whom I have loved greatly in the past I cannot continue to have the same respect in view of his injustice to an unfortunate young man. The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) will agree with me that that young man had to be injected with serum during the influenza epidemic. He took an adverse turn, as sometimes cases of the kind do, and the second injection was not carried out, because Dr. Stephens refused to do it. This young man, to my knowledge and the knowledge of other honorable members, during his employment as lift attendant suffered from his injured arm for from three to six months ; but his services have been dispensed with by the head of another place, whose name I am not permitted to mention. You, Mr. Speaker, have done all that a man and a gentleman in your position could do in regard to the employees of this House, but the other individual has certainly not done so ; on the contrary, he has gone so far as to state that the mother of this unfortunate young man wrote him a letter accusing her own son of doing what he should not do. That lady is willing to give evidence on oath that she never wrote a letter to either Senator Givens or anyother member of Parliament, The individual to whom I refer has not had the manliness to produce that letter ; and I say here, as I have said on the platform, that there is no justice for the underlings, for the under-paid men, in the Parliamentry Department while Senator Givens holds the sway he does.
– Order! The honorable member must not reflect on the President of the Senate.
– Then I shall describe him as. President of another place.
– It is unfair to attack a man in his absence.
– What I say is absolutely true, and the honorable member knows it!
– I never attack another man who is not here to reply.
– That is only the old “gag!” How can I go to another place and speak about the President? He has been challenged to produce the letter. Does the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Poynton) believe that such a letter exists?
– I know nothing about it.
– The honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Moloney) is not in order in his personal references to the President of the Senate.
– I only wish that the precedents sot toy former occupants of the Chamber in another place were followed now.
– Do not attack a man in his absence!
– If ever there was a fraud in the House, it is the honorable member who interjects.
– I ask the Minister (Mr. Poynton) not to interject, and I ask the honorable member for Melbourne to withdraw the words he has just uttered.
– I withdraw the words, which I was compelled to use because of the continual interjections.
– I regret that the honorable member should attack a man in his absence.
– Does the honorable member want any more? He had it once in the Refreshment Room, and he did not dare open his mouth!
– All who know me know that that is not true !
– There were three witnesses at the table.
– It is not true !
– There were three witnesses, and the honorable member saw nothing but his plate.
– To describe you, I should need a word of only four letters.
– The honorable member may use as many letters as he
– Order ! I have already informed the honorable member for Melbourne that he is not in order in referring to the President of the Senate. Up, to a certain point he had not spoken specifically of anybody, but of somebody of whom, officially, I wasnot supposed to know anything. As soon as I found the honorable member referring specifically to the occupant of the Chair in another place, I called him to order. I remind the Minister (Mr. Poynton) that I have several times called him to order for interjecting. The Speaker looks to members of the Government to assist him in preserving order. Ifa Minister persistently interjects in defiance of the call of the Chair, it makes the Speaker’s position extremely difficult.
– I hope the House, in its wisdom, will see its way to have a Joint Committee appointed to inquire into such matters as these, with power to compel every officer of the House to give evidence if necessary. There ought to be a thorough inquiry, and, at all events, justice meted out to the young man to whom I have referred.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.7 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 19 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211019_reps_8_97/>.