8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Dr. MALONEY presented a petition from certain returned soldiers and other electors of the Commonwealth, praying that the House might provide work for 700 returned soldiers and thousands of other unemployed in the State of Victoria now wanting relief.
Petition received and read.
– I ask the Minister for Defence if he will extend by six months the period within which application may be made for the grant to volunteers of the Australian Imperial Force who served with the British Forces? The date originally fixed for the termination of the period was November, 1920, but the period was subsequently extended from the 1st to the end of this month on new conditions. I know of some sixty diggers whowent to the bush, and have only just heard of this grant.
– I shall consider the matter, and consult with my colleagues about it, giving the honorable member a reply later.
– I ask the Acting Loader of the House whether the information that has reached the public within the last day or so, that several millions are to be spent on building ships for the British Navy, towards the cost of which the oversea Dominions will be asked to contribute, is correct? I understand that New Zealand is already providing for, or has provided for, her contribution. What is the position of Australia in the matter? What decision has the Government arrived’ at in regard to it?
– So far as I know there is no truth in these rumours.
– Before the Government comes to a decision about its shipbuilding policy, particularly so far as South Australia is affected, will Ministers meet the representatives of all the unions engaged in this business, with a view to discussing the whole question with them, in the hope of arriving at a satisfactory solution of the present difficulty?
– That has already been arranged for with the Prime Minister.
– Recently I received a deputation, by which that request was made, and I then suggested that the members of the deputation should arrange to see the Prime Minister on the subject.
– And an arrangement has been made.
– Has the Minister for Home and Territories received a report from the Commissioners appointed to alter the electoral boundaries? If not, when does he expect to receive it?
– I have not received a report, and do not expect to receive one for some time yet. I cannot say when it will reach me.
– Yesterday I asked the Treasurer a question, which he either misunderstood or evaded; therefore I repeat it to-day. Is it the intention of the Government to float its own loans in London, and to employ the branch office of the Commonwealth Bank there in connexion with the matter, instead of handing the business over to Sir Robert Nivison?
– The intention of the Government is to float further loans in the usual way.
Instructions to Delegates
– It was promised, either by the Treasurer or by the Prime Minister, that the House would be made acquainted with, or would have an opportunity of giving, the instructions to the Australian delegate at the Washington Conference, so that we should know what policy he intended to pursue. I understood that a course was to be followed similar to that taken in connexion with the representation of the Commonwealth at the recent Imperial Conference. Has the matter been decided on by the Government? Have Ministers determined what policy shall be followed?
– I cannot say what course the Prime Minister intends to take. He returned to Melbourne only yesterday after a week’s absence in his electorate and in New SouthWales, and I regret to say is not well enough to attend here this afternoon. I shall ascertain what he proposes to do. I remember the statement he made on the subject.
– On the Estimates £10,000 is provided for iron and steel bounty. Is it the intention of the Government to grant a bounty for the manufacture of iron and steel, in addition to giving the protection provided for in the Tariff?
– I cannot say offhand what the position is, but I shall inquire respecting it. I think that we are under a statutory obligation to pay a bounty in certain circumstances, if manufacturers comply with conditions that have been laid down; but no applications are now being made, and I am not aware that there were any last year.
– I wish to repeat to the Minister for Home and Territories a question which I have put to him twice already, and to which he promised an answer last week. It relates to Messrs. Kidman and Mayoh’s shipbuilding contract. I ask again when we may expect an answer to the question, and what the Government is going to do in the matter?
– I regret that I cannot give an answer now. As I said when the matter was mentioned last, it is in the hands of the Crown Law authorities. I have spoken to them about it since, and they have told me that they will be able to furnish a reply at an early date. I do not know more than that.
Admission of ChineseWomen and Children.
Mr.MATHEWS asked the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Is there any truth in the statement that the Prime Minister promised the Chinese deputation that permission would be granted them to bring their Chinese-born wives and children to Darwin for a period of three years?
If that is so, is it not a contravention of the White Australia policy?
What status will the children have who are born in Australia under this permission?
Are a number of Chinese, classified as “merchants,” but who are really local storekeepers, admitted to Darwin; and, if so, is this permissible?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
A promise was given that applications by Australian-born Chinese for permission to bring their wives and children to Australia for limited periods would receive consideration, but that every such application would be dealt with on its merits, the determining factors to be -
the circumstances, if any, which prevented the husband from proceeding to China to see his wife.
China, would of necessity take with them their Australian-born children of tender age. 4.No.
asked the Minister in
Charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Motion (by Mr. Charlton) (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Tudor) and the honorable member for Kennedy (Mr. McDonald), on the ground of ill-Health.
Motion (by Sir Joseph Cook) (by leave) agreed to -
That leave of absence for one month be given to the honorable member for Nepean (Mr. Bowden), on the ground of ill-health, and to the honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) and the honorable member for Bass (Mr. Jackson), on the ground of urgent public business.
In Committee of Supply: Debate resumed from 19th October (vide page 12054), on motion by Sir Joseph Cook -
That the first item in the Estimates, under Division I., The Parliament, namely, “The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
On which Dr. Earle Page had moved, by way of amendment -
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 expenditure from revenue by the sum of £2,817,108, the amount of the anticipated deficit, in order to square the ledger.
.- I wish, as a matter of personal explanation, to say that yesterday, while speak ing of the Estimates of the Post and Telegraph Department, I quoted some figures as being those for last year, when, as a matter of fact, they were the figures relating to the current financial year, as the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) showed me from his Budget statement. My mistake was due to a slip made by my typist, but it did not in anyway affect the argument.
– I regret that I have not had an opportunity of looking over the speech of the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page), as I said last night I should like to do. I arranged with the honorable member to let me have a proof of his speech; but he countermanded that afterwards, and declined to let me see it until he had corrected it this morning. It was then so late that I could make little or no use of it.
– It was available at half-past 10 o’clock this morning.
– It was available to me at about half-past 11 o’clock, and then I had not an opportunity of looking closely into it. However, I have no doubt that I shall get on quite well without it. I do not know why honorable members should laugh; but I was about to observe that, as the honorable member’s speech was handed out to the press early yesterday, I have no doubt that the resume of it published in the newspapers is fairly accurate. I have been obliged to rely upon the public press for the details to which I propose to refer.
Looking over the reported statements of the honorable member, I return again for a moment to the tone and temper of his utterances. I think it is much to be regretted that the honorable member should have disfigured his speech by the personal references in which he indulged.
– I thought the right honorable gentleman had exhausted that aspect of the matter yesterday.
– I intend to exhaust it a little more to-day.
– I hope the right honorable gentleman is not going to drag in party politics.
– The honorable member forCowper yesterday lectured the Governments of the whole of the States of the Commonwealth, and, indeed, of most of the countries of the world incidentally, on the subject of national budgeting. He described the State Governments as reckless and extravagant, and as indulging in a Rake’s Progress.
– Did he include the Victorian Government ?
– Yes, he did. I think we might let the Victorian Government alone. Already they are busily engaged in legislation against a deficit. Why they should be excluded from the honorable member’s criticism I do not know. He was very sweeping in his generalizations. We were all engaged in a “ Rake’s Progress,” and “ indulging in a carnival of financial folly.” He used the words “slovenliness,” “faking,” “dumping,” “ deliberately deceiving and bluffing the public,” “manufacturing surpluses, and skinning soldiers to do it,” and “ failing to spend money on soldiers’ graves.” Generally, his statements were that where there had been saving, there was faking, and where there had been no saving, there was extravagant waste.
I should like to examine a few of the honorable member’s statements to-day in the brief time at my disposal, to find out exactly what brand of economy he stands for. In his speech of yesterday he was almost universal in his outlook. He was retrospective for the last one hundred years. He went back to Napoleon’s time, and, coming on through the years, showed us in stately procession what had been done elsewhere, and directed our attention to those glorious and shining examples. Then at last he got down to “ tin tacks,” and suggested these things : That we ought to reduce expenditure to the lowest possible limit - in which I entirely agree with him - that we ought to pay war expenditure out of revenue - that was very clear also - and that during the war we should have done all these things, and at the same time have created large sinking funds for the purpose of paying off our indebtedness quickly. Those a-re not proposals for the “present, but statements as to what should have been done during the war. I had little to do with the Treasury, except during the last twelve months. I came in at the tail end of the hunt; but all I have to say about out finances during the war days is this: There were at the head of the Treasury and in control of it at the time men whose reputations for sound finance will not be challenged successfully by my honorable friend. Expenditure during the war day3 was reduced to the lowest possible limit. Take, for instance, the Post and Telegraph Department
– That was starved.
– It was starved during the war days, and we are trying now to catch up with its requirements.
– If the Government were to reduce the Defence
Estimates by £3,000,000, and provide for an additional expenditure to that extent in connexion with the Post and Telegraph Department, an improvement would be made.
– The honorable member has been making speeches ever since the sitting began.
– We had the same Government policy for three years. Last year the right honorable gentleman altered it.
– It was the policy for three years, and may I suggest that it was the policy of this Parliament.
– It was not.
– It was the policy of this Parliament, and the honorable member must take his full share of responsibility for whatever was done during the waT days. We are told by the Leader of the Country party that during the war more should have been spent out of revenue. Is it not rather late to make such a protest? Did any honorable member of the Country party urge the adoption of such a policy during the war days ? Not one of them. They have only made this discovery, through the mouth of their leader, now that the war has been well over for three years.
– What nonsense! Consider the promises made.
– The honorable member did not once, during the whole time of the war, advocate the imposition of more taxation than was actually put on, so that these observations from the mouth of his present leader as to what should have been done during the war are criticisms of his own party as much as any other.
The Treasury during those days was in charge of men like the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs), whom I have often criticised as being one of the most conservative Ministers that ever presided over the Treasury. He was followed by the late Lord Forrest, who, in turn, was succeeded by my immediate predecessor, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt). I have no doubt whatever that they charged the revenue during the war days with as much as they thought it prudent to do. The Leader of the Country party said, also, that during the war we should have created large sinking funds, so as to provide for the quick payment of our war debts. Is there any nation which did that during the war? I know of none. The nations had no money for sinking fluids in those days; they were obsessed with the one idea - with the one desire to raise enough money to enable them to pursue the war. The time for creating sinking funds was not when we were in a death-grapple with our enemies and fighting for our very lives. How absurd it would be for a nation when the war in which it was engaged was at its height to begin raking in money and saving it for the purpose of paying its debts when that war was over.
– Was there not a sinking, fund in connexion with every English loan raised during the war?
– If that is what the honorable member meant - and already he is beginning to “ back-pedal “ - the reply is that every loan floated here has a sinking fund attached to it. True, it is a very small one, amounting to only 10s. per cent., but Britain did no more than that. As a matter of fact, she did a great deal less. None of the Allies did what the honorable member suggested in his speech should have been done by us - not one of them created large sinking funds during the period of the war.
Let us pass now from the time of the war and deal with the present. So far as I can gather, the Leader of the Country party says that what we should do now is to reduce our ordinary expenditure - I stress that point - curtail borrowing and create a bigger sinking fund so as to discharge our war debts quickly. How are we to do all these things’ What is the brand of economy which he is so persistently preaching in these days? He never once told us. I shall come in a. moment to the only statements I can find that he made on. the question of how to do it. I want first of all to mention the things which he says we should not do. “He says, for instance, that we must not touch the basic wage; the increments to public servants must go on.
– Did he say that?
– He did; that is one definite statement that he made yesterday. The basic wage is involving us to-day in an annual expenditure of from £1,000,000 to £1,250,000.
– I said nothing about the basic wage.
– The honorable member put it in another way. He said that the Public Service increments must go on. The payments under the basic wage are increments, and I take it that the honorable member’s statement applied to that last increment as well as to others. If he did not say anything like that, may I ask if he is in favour of interfering with the arrangements that were made? He supported them in the House; they were put to him plainly at the time by the Prime Minister, and he supported them. Is he now prepared to go back on them? On the contrary, he says the Public Service increments must go on, and, therefore, we may not interfere with the pay of the Service. The pay of the Public Service is responsible for nearly the whole of the deficit in respect of this year’s transactions.
That, then, is one item from which, he says nothing must be taken in his process of economy. The honorable member also says that we must not “ skin the soldier,” and that we must not borrow any more for the soldier. One of his points of criticism yesterday was that I had provided in this year’s Budget for an expenditure of £11,000,000 on repatriation. He objects to that, but at the same time says we must not “ skin the soldier “ ; we must not give him any less-, and we must not borrow. Clearly, therefore, this provision, according to my honorable friend, should be made out of revenue. At the same time he says there must be a much bigger sinking fund. He did not indicate the extent to which he thought our sinking fund should be increased, and what he means by a big sinking fund I do not know. I doubled the sinking fund in the last Budget. Is he for doubling it again ? Is he in favour of paying an additional £3,000,000 out of revenue into the sinking fund ? The money could come from nowhere else. I should like the honorable member to say where the additional sum, over and above the sinking’ fund that we have, is tei be obtained.
– He will not * prescribe till you call him in.
– It is better that he should not. It is much easier to make broad general statements.
– That is what the right honorable gentleman, is now doing.
– No; I am trying, but not with much success, to induce the honorable member’s leader to come down to details.
Where, again, are we to look for economy at the hands of the Leader of the Country party ? Is he, like those outside, who are a giving him so much encouragement, in favour of interfering with what is known as the “ Salary Grab” ? He was one of those who asked for an increased allowance to honorable members. Is he now ready .to throw it away again? He was one of those honorable members who asked the Prime Minister to make the increase. Is there to be economy in Canberra?
– But the Leader of the honorable member’s party does not say so. He is for more, and not less, expenditure at Canberra. We are now beginning to realize to what extent his party is behind him with regard to his economy campaign. Unanimously, so he said yesterday; but the top and bottom of it all is that the honorable member for Cowper is an economist, not at all of the type that is doing duty with so much popularity and success in this city just now; yet, somehow or other, people outside encourage him.
These, then, are the things which we may not do in order to balance expenditure and revenue. We must not interfere with public servants’ wages. We must not interfere with anything relating to the soldiers. Anything attempted in that direction must be generous and liberal, and be done out of revenue instead of loans. He will have nothing to do with any-, thing but big sinking funds, which means another heavy drain upon revenue to the extent of, say, £3,000,000 or £4,000,000. Neither will he have anything to do with the taking away of any of those privileges which he has been at so much pains to acquire for himself and the rest of us. I am not blaming him for these things. I only want to know where his economy comes in, and I am proceeding to show, by the process of elimination, where it does not come in. He tells us plainly that we must do none of these things. What he says we ought to do is to reduce the personnel of the Public Service; and last night he suggested that we, the members of the Government, had our tongues in our cheeks when we talked about retrenchment, in view of the fact that, during the year 1919-20, 1,500 newappointments were made to the Service. I have not been able to test his figures on this point, so I cannot challenge them.
– I got my figures from the report of the Acting Public Service Commissioner.
– Then I have no doubt that the statement is accurate; and I am quite sure, also, that if 1,500 new appointments were made, there was very good reason for making them. My friend, the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt), was in office then; and I am certain that during those crucial days he made no unnecessary appointments to the Public Service.
– Probably some of the appointments represented a move from the temporary to the permanent list.
– That may be so, and as I am going to point to some instances of blundering on the part of the honorable member for Cowper in connexion with the Public Service Departments, I shall pass this statement for the moment.
Let us now examine his proposals for economy. The honorable member will not have us do any of these things I have mentioned. Eather he proposes taking many more millions from revenue for other purposes. This was his definite statement last night. Listen to his proposition. It is the duty of the Ministry, he declared, to say where economies can be effected, and which services shall bear the brunt of them. For the rest, he says, I want a general re-organization of the Departments!
– Quite right.
– These are the honorable member’s proposals for economy!
– They are pretty general in terms.
– Good old * general re-organization! It is not hia function’, so he says, to put his finger on any particular item which should be subjected to economy.
– That is what you said when you were in Opposition.
– I should think it is the duty of any honorable member in this House who is a believer in economy to point to any direction in which it may be effected. Though the Leader of the Country party, with meticulous care, told us what we must not do to economize, he never once stated how economy was to be effected. This, he said, %vas the duty of the Government. Economy . there must be, so he urged, to make up for those huge spendings which he himself prognosticated as being so necessary to the development of this country. He would spend millions more on sinking funds, millions more out of revenue on our soldiers, and millions more in order to secure the increments to the public servants; but he omitted to point out one particular item in which economy could be effected. All he says is, “Economy there must be, but you must effect it; for the rest let us have a general re-organization.”
– He was not so anxious that you should do it.
– Well, I would not mind if the honorable member had to face the task. He would then find out that it was not so easy of accomplishment as to talk about.
The Leader of the Country party also went on to criticise some of the Departments, and even complained of the makeup of the Budget, and pf the way in which the balances were got out. He accused officials of the Treasury of faking the figures. That is what his statement amounted to, for he must know that the Treasurer does not say what special item shall be placed in a particular part of the Budget. This is the duty of the accountants. But even this does not suit the honorable member, for the simple reason that he does not understand the Budget; and in proportion as he does not understand it, so he talks the more confidently about it.
– Suppose you explain.
– I am going to. Take, for instance, his statement about the Post Office. He said it was estimated that there would be a surplus over expenditure of £1,800,000.
– Over ordinary expenditure.
– I see. And what does the honorable member mean by ordinary expenditure?
– The ordinary expenditure is set down at £7,450,000!
– But that is not all the expenditure. That is merely the administrative charges. It does not include developmental expenditure, which is just as imperative in the Post Office as any other expenditure. It is easy to say there will be a surplus in a Department when you put in your expenditure only half the amount you require. Any one can do that. The total estimated expenditure in the Post Office this year is £9,660,000 and not £7,000,000 odd. It is nearly £8,000,000 for ordinary services, plus the capital expenditure on public works.
– That is what I pointed out.
– Then why did the honorable member say that the Department would have a surplus of £1,800,000 on the year? Was he endeavouring to bluff and deceive the public? Was that the object of his legerdemain? The facts are that £7,913,000 is to be spent for ordinary purposes, and £1,747,000 of capital expenditure, the grand total for the year being £9,660,000 ; and as the estimated revenue for the Post Office is only £9,311,000, so far from there being a surplus to go into other forms of revenue, the Government are this year putting £300,000 more into this Department than they are taking out of it.
– How much of the capital expenditure is from loan moneys?
– Roughly, about a half. Here is another half-truth to which the honorable member for Cowper gave utterance last night. He said that we were spending £900,000 from loan moneys on the Post Office, but omitted to point out at the same time that we were this year voting from revenue for public works in connexion with the Department nearly as much as we did last year. I object to the honorable member telling the Committee about half the vote, but saying nothing about the other half, thereby creating a deliberately false impression.
The honorable member went on to point out discrepancies between the total amounts showing in the Estimates and those set out in the Budget papers; and he said that the same fact could not be stated in the same way in the two different places; but, since he knows everything about the Budget papers and the Budget, he ought to know that the only place in which everything connected with a particular Department’ is brought to account is in the Budget papers. Sometimes items in connexion with a Department appear in the Estimates under the vote for quite a different Department. For instance, expenditure which appears under the vote for the Department of Works and Railways may properly belong to the Post Office. However, everything is brought to account in the Budget papers, where the grand total for tho whole Department is shown. If the honorable member was not aware of this fact, he could very easily have asked for an explanation instead of talking so confidently and so abusively about the manner in which the Estimates had been prepared.
– And this is what the Country party gets for keeping the right honorable gentleman in power.
– But this is a non-party matter. We are talking to each other as brothers.
– The right honorable gentleman has not been very kind in his remarks as a brother.
– I have been a little kinder than the honorable member’s leader was last night. In any case, the honorable member for Robertson is now no judge of the question. The Leader, of the Country party referred last night to the Defence Department. Here I am dealing with another of those items which he entirely misrepresented. In mentioning the principal increases in the Defence expenditure he included in the Permanent Military Forces a sum of £249,257 under Administrative and Instructional Staffs, which is clearly shown on page 124 of the Estimates as being expenditure for the year 1920-21. The honorable member’s figures were wrong. The increase which he claimed the credit of discovering is no increase at all. In stead of an increase of £576,000 over the expenditure in 1913-14, as he suggests, the amount really was £327,000. Again, he referred to the item “ Universal Training” last year, and showed that there was an amount of £191,950 voted last year as against an estimate of £434,302 for this year. He ought to have known that the amount voted last year was £350,505. I do not know what accountant the honorable member employed in getting out this information for him, but he really must be very “ slovenly.” There are about half-a-dozen cases of this kind, but I need not weary the Committee with them. They all arise from the same cause - lack of care on the part of the honorable member to look into a simple matter. The honorable member delivered a diatribe against the Department of Trade and Customs, and wanted to know why there was an increase of seventy on the central staff. There is an increase of seventy officials because seventy permanent men have now taken the place of seventy temporary men who were doing work which has come to be regarded as of a permanent nature.
– Then why does the cost of the Department increase at the same time?
– Because, as the honorable member insists, increments must be paid.
– Absolute rubbish!
– This is one of the most unfortunate items the honorable member could have selected for criticism. These seventy men, who have been made permanent, are graders and inspectors of primary produce.
– They are doing .the same work as the State inspectors.
– No; they are not.
– Would the honorable member move for the elimination of the item from the Estimates?
– Therefore, the honorable member would remove the control of the export of primary produce from the Commonwealth to the State. There is only one Department which can control exports, yet an honorable member, who represents a dairying constituency, is deliberately proposing to remove the Federal control of dairy exports.
– The States already have inspectors who are doing the very work which the Federal inspectors are doing, and I claim that there is no need for duplication at the present time.
– Very well; when we come to the item the honorable member should have courage to move for its elimination, and thus carry his beliefs into effect, removing the control of exports from the Federal sphere, and reverting again to the bad old days when each State did as it liked. Has not the movement in recent years to establish Federal control of exports led to the better standardization of our primary products, which again has resulted in the country being the gainer by millions of money?
– What about the veterinary surgeons in the Department. Are they also necessary?
– Of course, for meat inspection. Does the honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) object to that? .
– It is an absolute waste of money. Every one in Australia thinks so.
– I am told now that it is a waste of money.
– So it is.
– Does the honorable member for Corangamite know anything concerning the meat trade? Does he realize that the British Government will not admit a single carcass without a certificate from this end ?
– Why did you-
– Order! The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is out of order in interjecting.
– Very well; if you will not allow me to ask a question I shall leave the chamber.
– Were Federal officers responsible for allowing rotten stuff to be sent away by the Cockatoo Preserving Company?
– I do not know. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) can answer that question.
– They were not. State officers were responsible.
– It has been necessary for the preservation of our trade overseas to provide for Federal inspection, without which it is impossible to sell our dairy produce or our meat in the London market. Our reputation has been damaged by the haphazard methods adopted by State officials.
– Not in connexion with meat.
– If it had not been for the defective inspection inferior produce could not have been exported, and it has never been passed since there has been efficient Federal control. If the inspection has cost the Commonwealth a little, the produce has been the means of returning millions sterling to the Commonwealth.
– Every time I have asked a question concerning exported flour I have not been able to obtain any information.
– I am not dealing with flour. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) endeavoured to show that there would be a deficit in connexion with the Customs revenue of £9,000,000. The honorable member may be right. I am not a prophet, and I can only take the best advice available on the matter. I should like to tell the honorable member quite frankly that I have not increased the estimates of Customs revenue by one farthing. These Estimates have been framed by those who are best able to judge - the officers of the Customs Department. I have also been assured by those who import largely that imports for the second half of the year are going to be extensive. Very large orders have been placed in London, and will be coming forward during the second half of the year.
– That is a shame.
-It may be; but it is a fact,, and it concerns this estimate of revenue. The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) said that £31,000,000 was received through the Customs last year, but £10,000,000 of that was from Excise, leaving £21,000,000 from oversea importations. Therefore, if we are going to be £9,000,000 out in our estimate, the Customs revenue from im- portations will be decreased by “nearly onehalf.
– That is what the Daily Telegraph critic said. The actual figures are over 40 per cent, lower for the first two months of the financial year.
– Nothing of the kind.
– Does the Treasurer’s estimate include a reduction in Excise as well as in Customs duties?
– It does not. Excise is fairly regular, as the price of narcotics and spirits is not likely to decrease.
– It depends upon the consumption.
– I admit that. There may be a little shrinkage, but there cannot .be much, as the honorable member knows that the appetites of people are not likely to be curtailed. We may, therefore, be safe in saying that the revenue from Excise will remain practically the same. That leaves only £21,000,000 for Customs duties on importations, and the Leader of the Country party fears that that amount is likely to be decreased to £9,000,000. All my inquiries from merchants and others prove the contrary.
– Have you the figures for August, which I quoted last night, which show a reduction of £11,000,000 to £12,000,000 out of £26,000,000?
– That is nonsense. The honorable member is quite wrong.
– I mean the value of the imports.
– I do not know where the honorable gentleman gets those figures.
– They are absolutely correct.
– The Treasurer is only a month behind - that is all!
– I am glad I am only a month behind - I thought I was all behind! But now as to the income tax administration which has been so much criticised. All I desire to say is that there is no less than £8,900,000 of arrears in connexion with taxes; and a great deal of the trouble has been owing to the want of staff in the Department. , Last year I provided an additional £49,000 for additions to the staff, and as a result a tremendous amount of money has been raked in.
– But there is still £8,000,000 outstanding?
– Yes, at the end of June.
– That is not all income taxation, but includes war-time profits tax adjustment and so forth?
– It includes all general direct taxation. During the three months of this year, £3,000,000 of these arrears has been got in, and, therefore, it seems to me that our estimate is not “over the mark.
– Do you .expect to carry forward arrears at the end of the year?
– I expect to carry forward a reasonable amount, as is done at the end of every year. I do not intend to carry forward any abnormal arrears, for such a position cannot last.
– How much of the arrears was paid last year?
– Not a great, deal ; the Treasury officials tell me that we were very lenient last year, so much so that the arrears accumulated. Nobody knows how these things occur, but there is the fact that these assessments are outstanding and unpaid, and, therefore, I think the estimate is a reasonable one on the whole. Moreover, we have to remember - and this, after all, is a fair guide to the income tax - that the great staple products of this country last year yielded - more than the same staples did the year before; and last year’s income is the basis for the taxation of this year. The total income from the three great staples of wool, wheat, and dairy produce is very much above what it was in the previous year, and it cannot be said that the secondary industries last year did not do very well on the whole. Most of these industries did do well, and it is reasonable to suppose that the well-doing of last year is going to express itself in the taxation of this year.
– More reason for not getting behind!
– I hope we are not going to get behind; but I shall come to that aspect in a moment if I am allowed to present my case in my own way. A peculiar state of public opinion has developed lately in this country in connexion with Budgets and all concerning them. Somehow, the custom of years has suddenly become all wrong; what every other Treasurer has done from time immemorial is regarded as all wrong now that I am proposing to do the same in this year of grace. For instance, I am told I should not take the surplus into the year’s account. But every Treasurer has done that, and it has been done from the time there was a Treasurer. It is the customary thing; and if honorable members will look at the Budget-papers they will see that I am doing this year exactly what every Treasurer has done since Budget-papers have been presented to the House. The same thing is done in every Parliament of the world, but for some reason or other, as I say, the customary course has suddenly become all wrong, and nobody will look at anything in. the Budget except the estimated deficiency on the year. There was ‘an estimated deficiency last year of £5,000,000, and there was not a word of protest.
– We tried to get it down.
– Honorable members did not try to get it down; if they did, let me have some proof of the fact. That aspect of the Budget last year was never debated, and it never has been debated until the present year. Last year we proposed to spend £5,000,000 of this surplus, but we got through without spending any of it. I say, further, that, after all, these are only Estimates, and a prudent Treasurer will keep at his Estimates throughout the year. It does not matter what his Estimates are, or what the surplus is, if he sees a serious situation ahead he is not doing his duty to the Treasury or the country if he does not pursue the Estimates until the very last day of the year, with a view to curtailing expenditure wherever that can be done.
– The expenditure can get out of control.
– I know very well that the expenditure has not got out of control. The honorable member is criticising men who have controlled the Treasury thoroughly, with grip, gumption and strength.
– Not strength!
– The Treasury is not out of control, and the fact that it is not, expresses itself in these Estimates.
– How did the Cockatoo Dock fiasco come along?
– The Cockatoo Dock ‘fiasco “came along,” as the honorable member knows, as the result of an officer spending what he should not have been allowed to spend. Does the honorable member blame the Treasurer for that? It was the Treasurer that brought the thing up-standing by declining to go beyond the estimate of expenditure for the year. Why, therefore, taunt me about the Cockatoo Dock when it was I who prevented anything being done that was not provided for in the Estimates?
– It was a most disgraceful blunder to turn out 2,500 men for £io fault of their own !
– We had no need for 1,500 of these men; but, as a matter of economy, according to the honorable member, we should have kept them at work at full wages.
– You ought to have so regulated the work from month to month as to have kept them employed.
– No one knows better than the honorable member that all of them could never have been employed. Only about 1,200 of them can be employed under normal conditions.
– How many are there now?
– About that number, I understand, though I do not know exactly. The honorable member says that all these 2,500 men should have been kept employed steadily throughout the year.
– I did not say that. What I said was that, instead of keeping men employed all the year round on an annual vote, you spent nearly all in about eight or nine months, and then the men had to be turned out. It is the worst blunder I ever knew!
– After that irrelevant interjection, I shall get along. The curious point about financial affairs to”day is that, while every State is budgeting for deficits, and raising additional taxation, the spot-light of criticism is concentrated on the Federal Budget. “We are budgeting to the end of the year; and, even if we spend every penny provided for on the Estimates, we expect to end up the year with a surplus of between £3,000,000 and £4,000,000. No additional taxation is proposed; but, on the other hand there is to be a’ definite remission of taxation. Yet, ignoring all these things, the critics of the Budget fix upon the Estimates for the year - which, I repeat, are only Estimates - and they say that, therefore, everything is wrong.
– What remission of taxation is proposed?
– Remission of taxation will result from certain readjustments that are proposed; for instance, in connexion with bonus shares ‘ and from the introduction of the averaging system.
– The averaging system will not operate this year.
– It may.
– There will not be any remission of taxation this year because of the introduction of averaging. There will be a remission on bonus shares, but not under the other head.
– There ought to be, if we can get. at it.
– Do you infer that there will be a reduction in taxation thi3 year as a result of the adoption of the averaging system ?
– I do, indeed. I think there will be a definite reduction to all those who are employed in the primary industries. That, at any rate, is the intention.
– Now I know that you are wrong.
– I am quite sure that I am wrong. I admit that; so, therefore, let me get on with my speech. There has been so much adverse criticism of the Budget in certain quarters that I may be pardoned for taking some credit to myself for expressions of quite a contrary character. The Federal Society of Accountants, for instance, declared the other day that it was a good Budget, a safe Budget, and an excellent Budget. Only that I might blush in saying it, I could add that they said it was a statesmanlike Budget. I have also a letter from the Taxpayers Association of Queensland, which is an off-shoot of the Victorian Taxpayers Association run by Mr. Knight, Mr. Ashworth, and Mr. Winton. They run it very vigorously, and they went to the other States and formed branches. I am going to read a letter from one of their branches in Queensland. I think I am entitled to do so in the circumstances.
At our last meeting we carefully discussed Sir Joseph Cook’s Budget, and passed a resolution expressing gratification that considerable reduction in expenditure had been made, and also pleasure in seeing that no further taxation was contemplated, and that certain promises bad been made regarding the remission of taxation.
– They never saw the Budget.
– I omitted to read the first paragraph of the letter, which says, “Many thanks for forwarding copy of Budget and Estimates.” The letter also states -
The general feeling in Brisbane is that Sir Joseph Cook has applied the pruning knife in a reasonable manner, and that it would not be wise to urge further economies at this stage, unless the Government is convinced of the necessity of doing so at the present time.
– To whom is that letter addressed?
– I did not send the Budget papers to the Taxpayers Association in Queensland, and the reply was not addressed to me. It was addressed to another honorable member of this House.
– What honorable member? Was it the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) ?
– No. It was addressed to Mr. Cameron. How is it that there is nothing but condemnation of this particular aspect of the Budget - the balance for the year? The simple reason is that, in Melbourne particularly, nothing else is looked for. One generally finds what one is looking for if one looks long enough. As the critics are looking for something which will enable them to abuse the Government, of course they fmd it in this one aspect of the Budget. The fact that we have got a steadily decreasing Budget is nothing to them. The fact that the total spendings this year are estimated to be £17,000,000 below the estimated spendings last year is nothing to them. They conveniently ignore that fact.
– Surely you do not take any credit for that?
– I never said I did.
– The decrease is a result, mainly or incidentally, of the natural decrease of war services.
– Is it?
– You know that it is.
– I do not know that it is. I know nothing about it. I know that I could have spent many millions more if I had wanted to, and the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) would not have cavilled at it. It has been said that if half the surplus is to be spent this year the other half may be spent next year, and that we shall then be landed into a period of. chronic recurring deficits. Any critic can say these things if he likes, but the predictions may not be fulfilled. May I remind honorable members of one or two things connected with this Budget. First of all, take the item for Murray River Waters development. Last year £56,722 was spent, and this year we are proposing to spend £335,000. That means that £1,340,000 is to be spent by the Commonwealth and States on that project this year.
– Is not that capital expenditure ?
– Of course it is.
– We are discussing revenue expenditure only.
– I am not talking of revenue expenditure at the moment. I am talking of expenditure which, I believe, will assist in creating revenue. This item I have referred to is reproductive expenditure, which will help to develop the country. The sum of £1,340,000 applied to soldier settlement will give 1,340 new settlers along the River Murray. On the average, for every settled farmer there are ten others in the superstructure of society. Therefore, these 1,340 new settlers will mean an increase of 13,400 in population, from whom we stand a chance of getting a Customs revenue of £5 per head. Thus, from the expenditure on Murray River Waters development there may be an income of nearly £70,000 a year.
– We are not criticising that expenditure.
– I know you are not. I am only pointing out that the more reproductive expenditure we can put into the Budget the better investment it will be for the country, and for all concerned. Consider the item of £7,000,000 for soldier settlement. That comes within the same category. Take, again, the per capita payments to the States. All that money will go into the developmental processes of the States. If honorable mem”bers will analyze the Budget, they will find that about 12 or 13 per cent, of the entire £80,000,000 is devoted to reproductive enterprises; therefore, the revenue must expand as we develop the country in this way. How idle it is to suggest that, because we are spending a little more this year, we are heading, straight for bankruptcy, and that there is nothing to put to the contra. I agree with the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) that the determination of how savings can be made is a matter of detail, and, therefore, these lump sum reductions are the crudest and most foolish of all ways of attempting to economize. Suppose that the honorable member’s amendment be carried-
– We are sure to carry it.
– Carry it, for all I care. The honorable member is always very certain; that has been his characteristic during the twenty years I have known him. If the amendment be carried, I suppose that those who support it will want us to state very shortly where we intend to apply the economy. If we were setting out to apply that process of reduction, no Treasurer could usefully say where it could be effected until the year was well advanced. We might quite likely, by applying that wooden-headed method of reduction, economize in places where we should not, and leave altogether untouched the very spot where the reduction should be made. There is only one way in which we can retrench usefully, and that is by the Treasurer, whoever he may be, applying the pruning knife throughout the year as the departmental accounts come and go, doing his best to restrict the outgoing, keeping his eye on the revenue, and endeavouring, as far as possible, to balance his accounts. That was the method pursued last year, and the result was that £5,000,000, which at the beginning of the year was estimated to be spent, was not spent. Who can say at the beginning of a financial year what the revenue will be? It was four or five million pounds more than was expected last year ; this year it may be a little more or a little less than the estimate. Therefore, I repeat that the accounts which are before honorable members for the current year are only estimates, and the year may quite possibly show a surplus as large, at least, as the credit balance with which it began. But honorable members in the corner ignore all these considerations, and say, “ We shall take care that you do not use your own discretion. We shall dictate to you what you shall do, and to what extent you shall do it.’’ Very well ; if the Committee has made up its mind in that way it must proceed accordingly.
– That is the very thing we voted against last night.
– Yes, and today the honorable member’s party is putting forward the same proposal on its own account. At this stage I should like to quote some figures which have been prepared for me. Much has been said about the economies effected by the State Governments, and we have heard comparisons of the good government of the States with the bad government of the Commonwealth; the economical government of the States with the extravagant and wasteful government of the Commonwealth.
– Who said that?
– Not the honorable member. He used his shillelagh and whacked every State. Honorable members would do well to keep in mind the figures which I shall put before them. I asked my officers to prepare for me a comparative statement of administrative expenditure from revenue by the States and the Commonwealth during the last three financial years, and this is the result -
– Do the Victorian figures include loan money ?
– These figures refer to expenditure out of revenue in each case.
– That expenditure cannot all be from revenue. It must include capital expenditure. The expenditure from revenue in Victoria has not expanded to such an extent.
– If the figures include capital expenditure, my return is wrong. At any rate, it is expenditure from revenue.
– Is the Treasurer sure that all that expenditure is from revenue ?
– I repeat once more that it is. We read last night that, going back a further couple of years, the increase in Tasmania was, according to a statement by Sir Elliot Lewis, 63 per cent. The Commonwealth expenditure during the period 1917-18 to 1920-21 increased by 35 per cent., less than the increase in any State. The average increase for the Commonwealth and the States combined was 45 per cent. ; the Commonwealth increase was 35 per cent. Yet, somehow, the Commonwealth is held up to condemnation as a shocking example of extravagance.
– Does tha right honorable gentleman think that that comparison throws any light on the situation 1 The_ States are conducting large commercial” enterprises.
– I do, indeed, and I should have thought that the honorable member, who was Commonwealth Treasurer during portion of the period to which I have referred, would agree with me.
– I have been at both ends of that telescope, and I never used the comparison which the honorable gentleman is making, because I know how unfair it is.
– I am using it as a fair answer to the constant criticism of the Commonwealth by comparison with the States. Even the. State Governments criticise us, and accuse us of extravagance. I am entitled to show that the Commonwealth Administration has been more economical than that of any of the States. Look at the sister Dominion of Canada for the same period. In this case I must take the total figures, because there is no other method of comparison. Canada shows an increase of 103 per cent, in those three years. In New Zealand the increase is 85 per cent., so the Commonwealth, with 84 per cent., is below both of those sister Dominions. When everybody declares that the cost of government is inflated and highly extravagant, these simple facts ought to be known, so that the debate may proceed with full knowledge of the whole position. I shall put on record a statement which will show what the Budget contains, and how the expenditure is made up. First of all, I call attention to our statutory obligations payable out of revenue. The Leader of the Country party said last night that our statutory obligations ought to be criticised and altered. Very well, he knows what to do in that respect. Only this House can alter them. The Treasurer cannot. The Treasurer is in one sense the servant of the House.
– Only a Minister can bring in the necessary legislation.
– Only the Government can do that, but I would like the House to indicate what legislation it desires to be brought in with a view to dealing with these statutory obligations. Those payable out of revenue are:-
Thus the grand total of our statutory obligations is £43,413,130. The Treasurer cannot alter that amount except by way of legislation. In addition to that, I would point out, there is payable out of revenue inevitable expenditure arising from the war. The Leader of the Country party taunted me last night with the f act that I had four or five millions less expenditure this year on account of war obligations. That is quite true, but, notwithstanding that, I have for this year war obligations payable out of revenue amounting to £3,470,698. The unavoidable expenditure arising out of the war is as follows: -
The total unavoidable expenditure arising out of the war, exclusive of the statutory obligations set out above, is £14,666,698.
With respect to shipbuilding, in order to complete the programme commenced during the war, I had to budget for £3,000,000 this year.
– I hope the Government will not go any further.
– It is all very well to say that, but there is not involved here any question of shipbuilding policy, but one of paying shipbuilding debts.
– Does the Treasurer infer that there has not been a certain number of vessels ordered since peace was declared without the authority of Parliament?
– I feel certain that no vessels have been ordered since the Armistice. To what vessels is the honorable member referring ?
– Probably the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has in mind those big ships which are being constructed for the Commonwealth in English yards.
– They were ordered before the declaration of peace. Those large vessels were part of the general programme.
– Do I understand that none of those ships has been ordered since peace was declared ?
– The Minister for Home and Territories (Mr. Poynton), who has had charge of Commonwealth shipbuilding, says he does not think that any of these orders have been placed since the Armistice. I am referring to obligations in respect of part of the general shipbuilding programme, begun before the Armistice had been declared, and not yet completed or paid for.
– Can the Treasurer furnish the Committee, at some stage, with a list of the legacy items which occur in this Budget? I refer to debits brought forward from former periods. I would like the Treasurer, if possible, to show the total extent pf expenditure embraced this year, but debited forward from former years, not having been paid.
– I shall endeavour to provide the particulars.
With respect to the Department of the Postmaster-General, the ordinary service expenditure provided on the Estimates is £7,455,533. In addition - and here is where the Leader of the Country party went all wrong yesterday when he included these items in the general statement - there are the following items: -
Par new works, buildings, &c. , out of revenue there is a sum of £823,506; and, for new works out of loans, there is £923,794; making a total for the Post Office of £9,327,323. In further addition, however, there is interest on transferred properties, and there are other charges represented in the estimates of other Departments, bringing the total sum for the Post Office services this year to about £9,660,000.
– Does not the Treasurer think it wise to refer to the Public Accounts Committee the question whether future capital expenses in connexion with the Department of the PostmasterGeneral should not be lifted out of the ordinary balance-sheet? If the Treasurer places £1,000,000 of capital money into new buildings, he should not, through the years to come, continue to debit it to the year in which the amount was expended.
– No, and if the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) will examine the particulars contained in my Budget speech, he will note that I referred to that factor. I shall take an early opportunity of consulting the House upon the whole question - that is to say, upon the policy of financing the Department as to ite capital expenditure. We have no right whatever to charge everything to revenue in connexion with capital expenditure upon a postal building. We have a. right to expend capital out of loan, making the loan repayable as the life of the asset decreases.
– Hear, hear! That is the only way by which the Department can get a fair show.
– If a wall telephone has been fixed in a postal building, and it has a life of four years, its cost should be repaid during the period of its life. Similarly, if a telephone tunnel has been constructed, having an estimated life of 100 years, its cost should be repaid during the period of its useful service. I know that several proposals and projects have been advanced along lines similar to the present suggestion; but they have not materialized. It is time they did. The Postal Department to-day is hopelessly trying to catch up with arrears. This year I am providing £1,750,000 of capital expenditure, part out of loan and part out of revenue; but, in my opinion, it is unfair to charge almost everything to revenue, as has been done in the past.
With respect to defence expenditure, all I have to say is this: I am budgeting this year to spend about the same amount as I budgeted to spend last year - as a matter of fact, some £25,000 less.
– But the Treasurer states that, in the extra £4,000,000 which he has to provide, there is included, among other things, nearly £800,000 paid in connexion with defence.
– Yes, over and above what was spent last year. That sum has to do with works on order - big guns and munitions; all sorts of things. It is an extra consideration this year as compared with last year, but the total amount estimated this year is the same as last year, less £25,000. Last year there were expressions of approval from all round the House concerning the moderate character of the defence estimates. And all the newspapers mentioned the moderate amount which had been estimated. This year, however, everything is wrong; there has been a complete volte face upon the question of defence. Everything that was declared last year to be moderate, reasonable, prudent, and economical is declared this year to be wildly extravagant. The two items alone* - namely, post-office services and defence - take up £16,000,000 more. There is left now only about £4,000,000 of the total Budget. Of the amount of £81,000,000, only £4,095,000 remains, as a matter of fact. Here is where the increases for this year come in : There is £352,000 more for defence than was spent last year, and there is £579,000 more for ordinary administrative expenditure in the postal services. The latter item of £579,000 has to be added to the total of £1,750,000 for new postal works and buildings. [ Extension of time r/ram.ted.’] I emphasize that there is only about £4,000,000 left after consideration of those two Departments has been excluded. I do not know where the sum of £2,800,000 by way of retrenchment is to be laid hold of, if it is to be taken out of this balance of £4,000,000. I am quite certain that the Country party will say that it must not be taken off the postal vote. Hands off the Post Office! Very well ! Defence remains. The sum involved is between £6,000,000 and £7,000,000, and there is this balance of £4,000,000.
– A good deal could be saved on Defence.
– Yet the honorable member would not vote for the Labour party’s amendment last night !
– When one sets out to economize he sees that the area over which economy can range is circumscribed.
– You. say that you cannot economize I
– I do not say that it cannot be done; but I say that it is the duty of honorable members to give some indication of what they want done.
– You have just said that no one but the Treasurer can show where economy can be effected.
– Nothing of the kind. On the contrary, I have said that the Treasurer cannot interfere in regard to the greater portion of the public expenditure.
– You said that the only man who could make savings was the Treasurer, who was dealing with the expenditure of the Departments week after week and month after month.
– The best way in which to proceed is to leave it to the Treasurer to effect the economies that he sees possible; but what I was referring to when the honorable member interjected was the huge statutory commitments of the Government, which Parliament has authorized, and which it is the duty of the Treasurer to finance. He may not question them, except to his Cabinet and to Parliament. Parliament has imposed those obligations on the Government.
– No. The Treasurer asked for authority, and Parliament gave it, and it is from the Treasurer that recommendations for altering the statutory commitments are expected.
– Did the Treasurer ask Parliament for the maternity bonus ?
– The Prime Minister of the day, who was also the Treasurer, proposed the maternity bonus, and got Parliament to agree to it.
– That was so; but usually it is some Minister other than the Treasurer who puts before Parliament large proposals for expenditure. However, as no one knows better than the right honorable gentleman, it is the duty of the Treasurer to finance the policy of the country until it has been altered or repealed.
– It is equally his duty to recommend the alteration of that policy should he deem alteration to be necessary.
– Quite so. But the Treasurer is only one man in a Cabinet of twelve or thirteen, one representative in a House of Representatives consisting of seventy-five members, one member of Parliament in a Parliament of 111 members. The Committee knows my attitude in regard to some of the commitments which, by the irony of fate, I am called on to finance. I have never hesitated to express my opinion as to what should be done with the maternity bonus, which I have always held to be, in its present form, a waste of money. The members of the Labour party are themselves coming to that view.
– You do not propose, as a farewell flutter, to wipe it out ?
– I have heard it called the “ bangle bonus,” much of the money going into the pockets of rich women who do not need it. Every one knows my opinions on the subject; they are known to my colleagues, to the Committee, and to the public. It would be the easiest thing in the world for the Committee to express its views about any of our statutory obligations.
– The Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) has not demanded the repeal of any of them.
– No. Last night he said that he thought that our statutory commitments should be looked into, and, if possible, interfered with, to promote economy. “Would it not be better if, instead of proposing to reduce expenditure by a lump sum, he were to express hia opinions in regard to our statutory requirements? The Estimates are in the hands of the Committee, and it is for it to do as it thinks fit in regard to them.
– Is that .so?
– Yes, but it is for the Government to say what it will do when the Committee has expressed its wishes. That is responsible government, as I understand it.
– I have never heard the position put in that way before. The suggestion is that the Committee may hand the Estimates back to the Government, and the Government will not declare that criticism vital. Is not that so?
– I have not said anything of the kind. I am confining my remarks to the statutory commitments that have to be financed.
– But the Committee has an amendment before it.
– I have not forgotten that. My suggestion is that, instead of proposing to refer the Estimates back to the Government for their reduction by a lump sum, the Committee should indicate where economies should be made, if it thinks that they can be made. If members want advice from me, it is that they had better leave the whole matter in the ‘hands of the Treasurer.
– A moment ago you placed the responsibility on the Committee.
– No. I said that the responsibility for interfering with statutory commitments is with the Committee. My opinion is that at the end of the year our financial position will, with prudent management, be quite sound. Economies are necessary, and will be made. Already, savings are in sight, owing to the fact that four months of the financial year have passed, in which it has been impossible for us to spend the money that Parliament is asked to vote. But we desire to “get on with our Works programme at the earliest possible moment. Although we are saving money by not spending it, the country is being inconvenienced thereby. Pending the passing of the Works Estimates, I am doing the best I can with the Treasurer’s Advance. But we are crippled for want of authority to spend. Therefore, the sooner we finish with the matter under discussion, and get to the Works Estimates, the better it will be. If members desire economy, the Government will try to effect it; but should the Committee desire that the Defence Estimates should be cut into deeply, it should give a olear indication of that desire. For myself, I do not think it wise, in view of the present condition of the world, to diminish our Defence preparations very much. Whether the Defence proposals should be reduced, I hesitate to say. I have my own ideas about the defence of this country. Unless something can be done at Washington in regard to disarmament - and I do not anticipate any practical result very speedily, under the most favorable conditions, disarmament, as I see it, is a seven years’ problem. The entire face of the world has to be altered, the attitude of the nations of the world to each other has to be changed, and their Budgets rearranged. The best that can be done at the Conference will be to make a good beginning, principles being stated for future action. The working out and application of those principles, the gathering of details for the purpose of applying them, will be the labour of years. I do not’ think that you can scrap your armaments until general disarmament comes about. More than ever, as X see it, we need reasonable Defence, if only for the purpose of backing our reasonable policy-
– What is reasonable Defence?
– The kind of Defence that the honorable member does not believe in.
– Whatever may suit the “ brass hats “ !
– You are all glad to be behind the “ brass hats “ when the guns begin to shoot. I invite the Committee to give its attention to the details of these Estimates. If members can show where reasonable economies can be made, no one will be more glad than I to receive suggestions from them. I am obliged to honorable members for their attention, and, with the facts as I have tried to present them, and such others as I hope to supply as the debate proceeds, I hope that we may keep the discussion on as impersonal a plane as we can.
– That is the limit!
– The honorable member seems to think that his Leader may be personal for two hours, but that no one else should follow his example.
– I was not personal at all.
– The honorable member -was absolutely and purely personal; and insulting, into the bargain. However, I have had my say, and I think that we are quits, even on that score. I hope that when the end of the year approaches, it will be seen that the accounts will balance, and that we shall still have our surplus.
.- It appears to me that if, following the example of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), I were to move a further amendment to reduce the item by the sum of one halfpenny, I should be correctly gauging the value of this discussion. So far as the working masses of the people of Australia are concerned it does not affect them one iota. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) correctly summed up the situation when he scarified the Government for various misdeeds, and then informed us that, under no circumstances at all would he cast a vote which would result in the transfer of honorable members on this side to the Treasury bench.
– I did not say that at all.
– The honorable member may deny it now, but he said it last evening.
– I said that I would not keep honorable members opposite there.
– I do not blame the honorable member for what he said. My only regret is that other members of the party to which he belongs are not quite so candid. The honorable member was quite frank, and showed us that the only difference between the various family groups on the other side is with respect to the incidence of taxation. There is a squabble amongst them as to the persons upon whom taxation should be imposed, and from the point of view of the workers it is merely a quarrel between various bunches of exploiters. When different sections are hit by Government proposals we have these exhibitions from time to time of honorable members, such as the Leader of the Country party and his following, denouncing the Government for extravagance and waste, and talking about economy. It is only fair to those whom they attack to say that, when they are asked where they would economize, it is found there is really no difference between attacker and attacked. It is with them merely a question of changing the shoulders on which the hurden of taxation is supposed to be placed. My contention is that it does not rest on the shoulders of any persons represented by honorable members opposite, but on the great mass of the people. The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) in the suggestions he made for the reconstruction of the Ministry, led me to the conclusion that this little comic opera political sham fight between sections of honorable members opposite is merely an introduction to a - reconstruction of the Cabinet. It is an open secret that the Treasurer (Sir- Joseph Cook) is shortly to leave for Australia House, and the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) suggested that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) should take his place. The honorable member was rather liberal in distributing portfolios. The honorable member for Flinders (Mr. Bruce) was, I believe, to have one, and the new Minister for the Nav)’, as the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) has characterized the honorable member for , Wentworth (Mr. Marks), was to be installed in the position now occupied by the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith). What the honorable member proposed to do with the honorable member for Denison I do not know. The honorable member was too modest evidently to suggest that the portfolio of Defence might be filled by an unnamed individual. The people outside were to be treated to the spectacle of the castigation of the Government by the Country party for electioneering purposes, but the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) was careful to state that he was not going to take any risks of the transfer of the governing power from one side in this House to the other.
– Quite right!
– I knew that the honorable member would admit it before I had done with him. He has now returned to the position which he took up last* night. So that the time taken up in this debate has been wasted, that is to say, honorable members of the Country party did not mean anything by the action they took except to talk.
– The honorable member will see whether that is so when the vote is taken.
– We shall. If the honorable member can screw up his courage sufficiently to vote against his “pals” on the other side, the result will be not a change of Government, but a reconstruction of the Ministry, as he has indicated.
– I think that would be a very good thing.
– So that, in order to provide the Nationalist party with an opportunity to reconstruct the Ministry, the honorable member pretends to have a row with them. I believe that his remarks have indicated the motives actuating the Country party in submitting their amendment. There is nothing sincere about it; it is pure camouflage. The amendment submitted from this side, and which has been disposed of, was for the purpose of limiting the amount of money to be spent on defence. I am at a loss to understand the motives that were behind that amendment, because some of the people who bring forward an amendment to limit expenditure on defence propose by Tariffs and in other ways to build up vested interests in this country, whose international quarrels create the necessity for the use of armaments, naval and military. To attempt to cut down expenditure on armaments, and at the same time assist to create the causes which are responsible for war, appears to me to be highly illogical. I rose to point out for the benefit of the working classes what I consider to be the real motives of honorable members supporting the amendment now before the Chair. It is not with them a question of economy, of better government, of social amelioration, or of benefit to the working men and women of this country. Their purpose is merely to so confuse the minds of the people outside by sham fights inside this chamber, that their attention may be distracted from their real interests. We have had the Country party starting a sham campaign of economy. After their little bit of clap-trap-
– It was clap-trap, pure and simple, and the honorable member, as an old hand at the game, recognises it.
– I am a good listener to it.
– The honorable member was anxious about the display last evening; but the vote on the amendment of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition having been taken, his mind is now at rest. Knowing the real situation, he views with equanimity the coming vote on the amendment before the Chair.
– The honorable member may get a shock when that vote is taken.
– I would get a shock if I saw the honorable member voting against the Government.
– The honorable member would think that the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had lost his reason.
– No; I would think that the honorable member had come to the conclusion at last that further support of the Government was unsafe.
– The honorable member will find a good many coming in out of the rain when the umbrella goes up.
– I have no objection to honorable members saving their political skins by whatever means they can. My desire is to let the people outside know the hypocrisy of the sham fights that are continually going on here. It is to the interests of working men and women, whom I claim to represent particularly, that they should recognise that, whatever names or labels are given to various political sections in this Chamber, the fact remains that there are only two distinct sections here at most. When the fate of the Government is at stake, and it is a question of the transference of political power from one section to the other, that is plainly shown.
– The honorable member is making the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) look sad.
– If the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) had a portfolio, he would look sad if some gentleman behind him threatened to transfer it to some other person. But it is one thing to threaten, and another to be in a position to give effect to one’s threats, and bestow portfolios. The Minister for the Navy does not seem to be much perturbed, because he recognises that, despite the remarks of the honorable member for Moreton and the honorable member for Eden-Monaro, their votes are all right. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) also evidently recognises that the situation is without any danger to his Ministry.
– The honorable member must always bear in mind the dreadful alternative.
– I understand the honorable member’s reference. There is only one dreadful alternative to a politician, and that is a dissolution. There is not very much danger of a dissolution before the date at which this Parliament will expire by effluxion of time.
– Is that a stable secret?
– No; the honorable member knows as well as I do that there is not going to be any dissolution, because if such a thing were seriously threatened it would be very hard to find any opposition to the Government in this House at all.
– I am very glad to learn from the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that there is not going to be a dissolution. I did not myself think there would be, but I am glad to have my view confirmed by such an authority.
– The honorable member was speaking only for his own party.
– The difficulty about his party is that they would be quite agreeable to have a dissolution if they could bring it about.
– Who would ?
– The honorable member’s party. But they cannot get a dissolution because they cannot induce the party in the corner to follow them. The party in the corner cannot get a dissolution because they cannot induce the party opposite to follow them. Both of these parties are anxious that the other party should follow them, but neither is satisfied to follow the other.
– Does the honorable member expect us to follow the Corner party after the way they met us?
– I hope they will never follow honorable members opposite. In that lies our safety and the fact that there will be no dissolution.
– Can the Government induce all their party to follow them?
– We can. I am not going to deal with all the matters covered by the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). My remarks will be directed chiefly to his criticism of the Defence Estimates and to the speech made yesterday by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), in support of his amendment that the proposed expenditure in respect of the Military, Naval, and Air Services should be reduced by £2,817,180. It has been said that I do not desire peace - that I do not desire that the Washington Conference shall result in disarmament, because I am one of the so-called “brass hats.” It has been said, further, that the Government were unwise in selecting the Minister for Defence (Senator Pearce) to represent the Commonwealth at the Washington Conference, because he is of the Defence Department, is practically of the same kidney as the “ brass hat” brigade, and, therefore, would not be in favour of disarmament. Although I have done my duty as a soldier, I say deliberately and in all sincerity that I loathe the very thought of war, and pray that we in Australia may never be called upon again to take part in a war. It is not to be said, however, that because I take that view I am ready to scrap everything we have in the shape of a Defence Force, or that I am prepared to forgo all preparations for the defence of the Commonwealth. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition gave as his first reason why we should not indulge in what he described as “ wasteful expenditure on defence,” the fact that the war is over. Thank God it is over. But has the fire been extinguished ? Do not honorable members think that it may only be smouldering and may break out again at any moment ? That, I believe, is quite probable. Then again, the honorable member urged that the League of Nations had been created to prevent war and, with a furtive glance at our honorable friends of the Country party, he said, “ Why, then, this reckless extravagance? Why go to all this expense in creating a Defence Force, seeing that the League of Nations is going to prevent war?” I am in favour of giving the League of Nations a chance to put an end to war, and I hope that it will. But do honorable members opposite think that it will succeed in doing so? I would remind them that a few years ago industrial tribunals were created to put an end to industrial warfare. They were established to prevent’ strikes, and it was made compulsory for employers and employees to bring their disputes before them. With the passing of that legislation it was said, “ We shall have no more strikes. These tribunals will settle all disputes, and so render strikes unnecessary.” But did they do away with industrial warfare? We know that strikes increased thereafter to the extent of 100 per cent.
– Because those tribunals did not function.
– And the League of Nations may not function.’ Does it not occur to honorable members that just as these industrial tribunals have been unable to prevent a. resort to industrial warfare as between employers and employees, so the League of Nations may find it impossible to prevent a resort to force by the nations.
– Who said that the League of Nations would prevent war ?
– The Deputy Leader of the Opposition characterized as extravagant the Estimates relating to the Military, Naval, and Air Services in view of the fact that the. League of Nations had been established and the convening of the Washington Conference with the object of bringing about disarmament. We all believe that nothing better could happen than a general disarmament. I, for one, would like to see so happy a result from the deliberations of the Conference, or, at all events, a halt called in the mad race for supremacy of armaments. But can any one say with confidence that the Washington Conference will achieve that object? I do not think it will, and as the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) said this afternoon, in any event years must elapse before the work of the Conference could lead to such a result. That being so, it is idle to say that we should scrap our Defence Force because the war is over, the League of Nations has been created, and the Washington Conference is about to meet. The very holding of the Conference will cause the national searchlights to be thrown on the problems of the Pacific, which are so vital to Australia. Those problems will be brought before the whole world, and if no good results from the deliberations of the Conference, the danger of trouble in the Pacific will be greater than ever.
– Why not tell us what the Pacific problem really is?
– The honorable member knows that it relates chiefly to our ideal of a White Australia, for which honorable members ‘opposite, in common with the rest of the House, stand. We have been granted Mandates over territories in the Pacific, some of which are almost as big as Japan itself. This vast continent of ours is practically empty, and it would be absurd for honorable members to say that in these circumstances the Pacific problem is of no concern to us. It would not be wise, and I am not going, to discuss the Pacific problems in detail. I shall only say that it would be suicidal to scrap what we are doing in the nature of defence. If the Military, Naval, and Air Service votes were cut down as proposed we should have to scrap what we have done.
Mfr. Penton. - But that motion was - disposed of last night.
– Quite so; but the Leader of the Country party said that a large reduction could be made in the Defence Estimates. That would be a most foolish policy to adopt. Our men are brave. They have strong arms and stout hearts, but if they have not the wherewithal to fight should ever the necessity arise, their bravery will avail them nothing. We hope” it will never be necessary to fight here, but no one can say that the necessity will never arise. We would not have the wherewithal to repel . even
– The honorable gentleman ‘should now say, “ Long live war !”
– Not at all I repeat in all sincerity the statement I made earlier in my speech that
I loathe the thought of war, and hope that Australia will never again be engaged in one. I do not want, and never did desire, to see war, and I urge the Committee to pause before it attempts to cut down to any extent the Estimates relating to our Defence services. It is absolutely essential that the Military, Naval, and Air services should have the amounts that have been budgeted for them this year. The Estimates relating to those services have been cut down to the lowest point compatible with our national safety. If there were a raid on our shores tomorrow, our men would be brave enough, and would be capable of repelling the attacking force provided they had the requisite munitions. Honorable members opposite have attacked the Defence Estimates. The Estimates’ relating to Additions, New Works, and Buildings had no sooner been tabled than a dozen honorable members opposite came at me with open mouth in regard to them.
– Not at the honorable gentleman, but at the system he represents.
– Honorable members opposite wanted fight. Let me tell them that they know nothing about political fighting ; they are lacking in the first principles of party warfare. The Labour party is not what it was in the old days. What has become of the big men of the Labour movement in the old days ? Some of them are on this side of the House to-day. The Leader of the Country party yesterday spoke of a carpet snake swallowing a wallaby, and it seems to me that there is one little man on this* side who could swallow the whole lot of the Labour party.
Several honorable members interjecting,
– I appeal to honorable members not to interject. It is unfair that the Minister, who is responsible for the Estimates of his Department^ should not ba allowed to proceed without interruption.
– I rise to a point of order. la the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) in order in comparing the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to a carpet snake ?
– That is not a point of order.
– I can only say that if honorable members .opposite want fight, they can have it. Let them unleash their sleuth-hounds. .Let them trot out their real dogs of war.
– I thought that the honorable gentleman was a man of peace, and did not want war.
– I do not want war. In all earnestness, I appeal to the Committee to think deeply before attempting to interfere seriously with the Estimates relating to my Department. It would be a big risk to take. If the League of Nations appears likely to be able to do something in the direction of preventing future wars, I shall be more than satisfied. If the Washington Disarmament Conference is able to effect a reduction in armaments, and if I am then associated with the Defence Department, I shall be the first to urge a substantial reduction of our Defence expenditure. I know what it would mean to this country if general world disarmament could be brought about. But we cannot avoid a certain Defence expenditure, at all events, not at this stage. We dare not be without the means of effective defence. I was chided for having said that to be prepared for war is the surest way-
– To get it.
– No. It is the surest way to insure peace. Will the honorable member tell me which man is the more likely to be attacked in a house full of treasure - the man unarmed or the man armed with a six-chambered revolver fully loaded? There can be only one answer. I hope, therefore, that the Defence Estimates will not be interfered with by the Committee.
.- After what the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has said concerning the temerity of my honorable friend and Leader (Dr. Earle Page) for his criticism of the Budget after being , a member of this House for only twelve months, I feel that I ought to apologize for taking part in this debate, since I have been a member for only two months. I am young in terms of parliamentary experience, and it would appear, therefore, that, concerning anything which I may say of the Budget by way of criticism, my need for apology is the greater. The Treasurer’s remarks about my Leader on this point were, I think, uncalled for. They certainly caused me to feel resentment that a man’s only sin should be that he had been a member of this House for only twelve or eighteen months.
– That shows how well he is getting on.
– Perhaps there is something in that. In any criticism which I may offer to-day, it is not my intention to use figures, because I am aware that the figures provided, when pro- perly presented, can be made to prove almost anything, and I have some regard for my reputation. The amendment moved by the Leader of my party was never intended as a vote of no confidence in the Government. It was submitted simply in order to promote discussion on the Estimates. We wanted to make the issue clear, and have a thorough talk on the financial position of the Commonwealth.
– So you were not serious after all?
– We were quite serious. In the circumstances, .the only course open to us was to move for a reduction in the first item of the Estimates. This may or may not be regarded as a vote of no confidence. I am too young a member of this House to express any opinion upon the capability or otherwise of members of the Ministry. I do not know any one of them personally, with the ‘exception of my friend, the honorable member for Darling Downs (Mr. Groom). I have nothing against them, and, therefore!, anything I may say need not be regarded as captious criticism.
I would like honorable members to realize that outside this House the cry for economy is growing stranger every day. I was returned as the member for Maranoa for two reasons - one, my antipathy to anything approaching the class of legislation we have had in the .Queensland State Parliament for the last three or four years, and the fear that opinions expressed at a certain conference in Melbourne, and lately indorsed at the conference in Brisbane, might be taken up by the .party represented in this House; and the other reason was that I stood for economy. Throughout my campaign I urged that economy was vital to the welfare of this country. I am aware of the difficulty in which advocates of economy are placed. We are continually being asked to point out in what particular direction it is possible to economize. I do not think it is possible for any person, without inside knowledge of the Departments, to say just what can or cannot be done in this direction in the administration of our public services. Only the Minister in charge of a Department can express any opinion on that subject, and, no doubt, in certain circumstances the Minister himself would find this a difficult task,” for the reason that while Parliament is sitting he does not spend more than half his official hours in his Department. For this reason I should like Parliament to sit six days, or at least five days, a week in order that we might get through our legislative duties more quickly, and so allow Ministers reasonable time to attend to the work of their Departments.
The responsibility for passing the Estimates rests upon every member of the Committee, but primarily, owing to our method of machine politics, upon supporters of the Government. Has any honorable member on the Ministerial benches given these Estimates the amount of consideration that is demanded of them 1 Surely they realize their responsibility in this respect. It is thrust on them through their leaders, and if they do not accept the Estimates, their only course is to leave the party. Honorable members will be required to put themselves right with their constituents on this matter. In practically every newspaper iri Australia to-day criticism is being levelled at Government expenditure, and the leaders of all our financial institutions are continually warning the people against unnecessary Government and private spending. Therefore, those whom we represent look to us to do our utmost to cease unnecessary expenditure in the Public Service. We shall be required to tell our constituents what we have done on the floor of this House or inside the party room to meet the cry for economy which is now ringing throughout the Commonwealth. We are in a serious position, and, with the knowledge I have, I warn honorable members that we have not yet reached bedrock. The time is coming, possibly within the next year or two, when our position will be like that through which
Queensland passed in 1893, and Victoria a year or two prior to that. We must prepare for the future. I do not like to pose as a pessimist, bub I feel it my duty to issue this warning. We have been told that the Budget shows a surplus, but this has only been possible by including the surplus brought forward from previous years. Possibly it is customary to do this in Budget statements, but, as a matter cf fact, the Budget does not show a surplus on the year’s working. Our position as a nation is exactly the same as that of a man who receives £5 per week in wages, and spends £6 by drawing to the extent of £1 on his children’s savings, and then goes down the street rattling the money in his pocket, declaring that he has a surplus on his week’s operations. I do not say it is wrong to budget for a deficit; but it is wrong to talk continually about a surplus when there is no surplus at all, in the general acceptation of the term, on the year’s operations. It is easy to talk economy. Everybody is doing this at present, but very few are practising economy. It is well known, of course, that Government activities are not carried on with the same degree of efficiency as are ordinary business concerns. Nevertheless, it is customary to compare the expenditure of one Government with that of another, and to regard the result as a test of economy. The only way to determine this question is to compare the expenditure of a Government Department with the expenditure on similar services outside, and see then if a Department is being conducted more economically than, or as economically as, a private business concern. It is a mistake to compare the expenditure of one Government with that of another, because all Governments are tarred with the same brush. When we are asked what economy means, we simply reply, “ It does not mean cutting down salaries, but it means efficiency - that is, getting the utmost out of every penny spent.” And when we are asked where it can best be done, we point out that there are hundreds of ways. But we must always remember that it is the one man who is providing the wherewithal for running all our Governments, State and Federal; it is the one man who pays the two taxes. Therefore, it is useless to set the Commonwealth against the States, because, while the quarrel is in progress, there is still only one man to foot the bill and pay expenses. We complain that Departments, Federal and State, have been duplicated, and when we are asked whose fault it is, we point out that the States already had all these Departments in existence, and that the fault must lie with any Government which has stepped in and duplicated them. “We have had an explanation this afternoon in regard to the cheese experts, graders, and so forth, employed by the Trade and Customs Department; but the fact remains that these graders were honorary Commonwealth officers (previously. Here clearly is a case of duplication of Departments.
The Country party are not in favour of a starved Public Service. I speak very feelingly on this point, because one of my first positions was in a Government Audit Office. I was receiving a salary of £42 per annum, and was due for an increase to £54 per annum when retrenchment came along, and I was not given my advance. Practically I was in the position of paying an annual income tax of £12 on a salary of £42. Of course, I got out, and it was the best day’s work I ever did. But many people raise the old-time cry of “Dock the public servant.” During my election campaign I was asked to state my attitude towards the Public Service, and I said that public servants were exactly the same type of people as were to be found anywhere else, and that there were good men among them and bad; but that there were no more bad among them than were to be found in any other section of the community. I said that the people could only get what they paid for ; that if they paid low salaries to their public servants they would get an inefficient type of officer ; but that if they paid good salaries they could employ better men, and hold them. I have seen men in the Government Departments drawing salaries of £200 a year who, outside, could easily earn £2,000 a year if they devoted to their work the same time and energy they gave to their tasks in the Public Service. Is it, then, to be wondered at that these men become discontented, especially when they are made the butt. of every party that happens to be in power at a time of financial stress? My attitude is that there must be no reduction of salaries in the Public Service. Of course, I am talking quite apart from the question of the basic wage. Good salaries should be paid, in order that we may secure the services of good men, and hold them, and encourage them to do their utmost for the Government employing them.
A Government Department is like a wasp’s nest, that starts with one little nest, which by-and-by is built upon by other wasps until the bulk increases enormously in size. We find that the system inaugurated at the commencement of a Department is still in existence when it ‘has grown to large dimensions, and no attempt is made to keep a watchful eye upon it or bring about any alteration of method that may tend to efficiency. The system inaugurated years ago, for example, in Government Departments is still adhered to. An Economy Board ought to be appointed, not from inside the Service, but from absolutely the most efficient men to be secured outside. The salaries of the members of that Board should be high, birt they should be told that they are appointed for a certain time, with absolutely no right of re-appointment. This would do away with any jockeying towards the end of their appointment, because the member of the Board would know that, no matter what happened, he would not get a fresh appointment, and, therefore, he could give his best service to the end of his term. It is time the Public Services of the Commonwealth and the States were thoroughly reorganized. A better system throughout would, I am sure, lead to the exercise of more economy.
In regard to trading activities, the majority of people hold that it is the duty of a Government to govern, and not to trade. The best thing the Commonwealth Government can do is to take into consideration how speedily, and also how profitably, they can get out of any trading activity in which they have engaged. No Government should undertake a trading activity, except, perhaps, by way of experiment, which, once having been parried out, could then be dropped, whether successful or otherwise, thus showing the way to private enterprise. Under the system of Government stroke the economical work, which one can obtain under pri- vate enterprise is impossible. In speaking of the Government stroke, I am not talking of loafing; the average man does not loaf. I am simply referring to the system in force in all Government work, and which is wrong from an efficiency point of view. The present Government are committed to a shipbuilding programme; but, as soon as they can do so, they ought to give notice that they intend to cease the building of vessels. They ought alao to sell every ship; otherwise the Commonwealth Line of Steamers will very soon be in the same category as Government railways. We are told that it is economical and beneficial for the State to own railways, and I do not say “ Yes “ or “No” to that contention; but very soon” we shall find that our steamers aro not paying, and the sooner, therefore, we can get rid of them the better. We made a big profit on them in the first year ; and when investors were seeking opportunity for investment was the best time to sell them instead of waiting until a slump came about. The Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Eyrie) has referred to munition making. This is a work that should be undertaken by private firms, not by the Government of Australia. A costly plant and experienced men are required for this work ; and when we realize that our market for the ammunition or guns we make is limited to this country, we cannot wonder that the price of everything turned out at Lithgow should be very much higher than we would pay to- the private manufacturer. It is true that the machinery at Lithgow could be applied to the manufacture of typewriters, bicycles, and so on; but I am absolutely opposed to the Government devoting the works to that purpose. If the Lithgow plant were handed over to private persons on the condition that they could manufacture what they chose so long as the works were reserved for the supply of a certain quantity of ammunition and arms, and were to be transferred to the control of the Government during war time, a vast saving would be effected in the product we secure from that establishment, and I am sure the change would be of benefit to the people engaged in the factory. Some people believe that the cessation of’ Commonwealth trading activities would lead to unemployment. On the contrary, it would mean greater employment, because once private traders learned they were not likely to suffer from the competition of any Government concern, they would launch out and start new industries, thereby providing more employment and greater prosperity, which, after all, would mean less proportionate taxation.
It is true that our taxation is nothing compared with that which is imposed in Great Britain, but there is really no ground of comparison between the two countries. Great Britain is an old country, with old-established industries which can stand the present taxation, whereas Australia is a new country, with new industries. When a child falls it becomes frightened, and will not walk again for a certain time. Australia is like a child. The present continuous taxation is hampering our manufacturers, and they are fearful about venturing upon new activities. The Go,vernments - State and Federal - in raising loans internally, and in imposing taxation, are taking from the people money which otherwise would be spent in the community at large, creating employment. In Maranoa I did not find any man who raised objection to the payment of income tax during the war, because it was recognised that it was vitally necessary for the Government to get as much money as possible during that ‘ time of crisis. Since the war, however, considerable objection has been raised, and the people are seeking some freedom from the payment of taxes. The imposition of a tax not only takes money out of the people’s pockets, but also has a most depressing effect upon them. If a man spends money upon something from which he hopes to get a return, and finds that he has wasted it, he has only himself to blame; but, at any rate, he can see that upon which he has spent his money. When he is called upon to pay taxation, he draws a cheque for the amount at which he is assessed and the money goes completely out of his view. The taxation which the farmers are paying in dribs and drabs every year has a most depressing effect upon them. Some of them imagine that they are simply working for the Government. They are losing heart. My remarks in this respect, of course, apply also to State taxation. As I have said previously, it is the one man who pays both Commonwealth and State taxation. It would be well if both taxing authorities could come together and agree as to where one should tax and where the other should not, approaching the task with the thorough understanding that all the time it is the one man who pays both taxes, and with the clear intention to make the burden upon him as light as possible. If this were done, the people generally would be in a better frame of mind than they are at present.
The Country party have been twitted with having advocated economies affecting every section of the community but themselves. The expenditure upon postal services has been referred to. With my leader, I agree that the Post Office, like every other Government activity, should be made self-supporting, and I cannot understand why it does not pay. It made a surplus during the last four or five years of well over £1,000,000, but now we aro told that it is not paying to the extent of about £300,000. We know that the charges to the people have practically been doubled. In these circumstances, the Department ought to pay; otherwise there must be something wrong with the administration. On the figures placed before us, the Department should be paying, and should, according to the Estimates, continue to do so. There is a difference between the proposed expenditure and the anticipated revenue, which represents approximately £1,500,000, which may be termed a profit, but which is counterbalanced by the payment for certain works, some of which is to be met out of revenue, and some out of loan. But that makes no. difference whatever to the real profit and loss account of the Department. Such works should not be paid for out of revenue, because they are permanent, and therefore future years1 should bear their share of the cost. In view of the increased charges/ which have recently been imposed on mail matter, and on telegraphic and telephonic communications, the Post and Telegraph Department should be showing a substantial profit. Even if the Department were not showing a profit on the service rendered, those who are compelled to reside in isolated centres should not be unduly penalized, but residents in the larger centres of population should assist in providing conveniences for those in the back-blocks.
The members of the Country party have been twitted with advocating economy, and at the same time seeking the assistance of the Government in connexion with works which would be of benefit to the electors they represent. It has been said that we are1 in favour of wheat and other produce pools; but when we consider the question of Wheat Pools, we must remember that the expense incurred does not fall upon the Commonwealth Government. A Wheat Pool insures to a producer the assistance that a Protective Tariff affords to a manufacturer. A Protective Customs Tariff enables a manufacturer to produce and dispose of his products at a reasonable price, and a Wheat Pool assists a wheat-grower to secure a fair and reasonable return for his wheat. The same may be said in regard to sugar. We have had Protective Tariffs since the inception of Federation, and factories have been established in New South Wales and Victoria, although few have been started in Queensland. The members of the Country party, and those constituents I have the honour to represent in the district of Maranoa, consider that the sugar, wool, and wheat industries should have protection, so that produce can be marketed at a fair and reasonable price. Whenever the question of a Wheat Pool is raised, reference is made to the world’s parity; but we have not heard much concerning the world’s parity for farming implements, or the world’s parity in relation to the wages received by farm labourers. We are in favour of those residing in the sparsely populated centres receiving a fair deal. Primary production is decreasing, and Australia at present is labouring under the weight of a heavy superstructure. We were informed by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) of the number of new companies formed, and of the amount of capital invested in new industries, but I do not think £1 of that amount has been invested in primary industries. All the money has gone into secondary industries, and if I were a capitalist I would not put it into primary but secondary industries, because of the opportunity of securing a better return on my capital. The superstructure is pressing directly and indirectly upon those engaged in rural pursuits, and it is they who have to foot the bill. The amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party was submitted to enable us to fully discuss the whole position. It does not matter to me who happens to constitute the Government, provided the administration is sound and the legislation necessary in the interests of the whole community. Our present position has really been thrust upon us, and it is not my wish that the amendment should be regarded as one of no confidence. Although it is only ten weeks since I was elected, I am not afraid to again face my constituents. During my recent campaign I went into the far west of my electorate, which is three times the size of Victoria, and in six weeks travelled 4,500 miles, and addressed a meeting every night. I do not fear another election, and whatever threats may be made they will not prevent me from voting in the direction I consider right. I do not desire to embarrass the Government, but I wish those matters which are of vital importance to the people to be dealt with fairly. I could not go back to my constituents, after telling them that I am in favour of economy, without expressing here my views on the subject. It is quite possible that if the administration during the present financial year is satisfactory the Government may be able to show a surplus, and if such should be the case our criticism will have been justified. There is at present, however, no prospect of such a favorable result.
– I listened very attentively to the speech of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page), and I desire to say at the outset that, in my opinion, his criticism of the Budget figures was justified. His statements have been replied to by the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), and, so far as I can see, he did not give any additional information to that contained in his Budget speech. He certainly gave some reasons why the figures were placed in the order in which they appear, and he also made many excuses for the increase in public expenditure during recent years. The outstanding feature of the Budget presented by the Treasurer is that he anticipates a deficit of £2,817,108 at the end of the present financial year, and I think I am expressing the views of other honorable members when I say that we should live within our income - that is, by meeting proposed expenditure out of revenue. That is the attitude that business men adopt, otherwise they would soon meet with financial disaster or even bankruptcy. Whether the Treasurer is justified in spending more than he expected to receive because he has a surplus from previous years is the question that has been considered at this juncture.I do not place any importance on that aspect of the question, because it is clear that expenditure has been increased, and we have to consider whether there is any prospect of meeting it in future years. The Treasurer estimates that the revenue from taxation will not be less than it was last year, and that that from income taxation alone will be greater. My principal difficulty in regard to the Treasurer’s view-point is that he does not fully appreciate the position, particularly in regard to the revenue from the income tax. I am absolutely astonished at the right honorable gentleman not realizing what is taking place in the commercial world and in connexion with our agricultural, rural, and mining industries. If he were in touch with these activities he would realize that incomes from those associated with these undertakings will be much less this year than they were last year. The revenue from this source last year was less than the year before, and it will be still further reduced for 1921-22.
– Has the honorable member taken into consideration the arrears of income tax which will eventually be paid?
– The revenue from income taxation last year was £14,351,408, and the Treasurer estimates that the amount that will be received from this source during the present financial year will be approximately £15,000,000, showing an increase of £648,545. Those are the figures I am disputing. The Treasurer surely cannot expect to receive increased revenue; the very fact that there is £5,000,000 outstanding at the present time should indicate to him that there is a very small chance of his income tax estimate being realized.
– He is fortified by the opinion of his chief expert in taxationthe Commissioner.
– The Treasurer did not tel the Committee that ; he told us that about the Customs revenue hut not about taxation.
– It is a fair assumption.
– Not always.
– Of course, I am not following the figures of the Treasurer’s experts. My absolute knowledge is confined to the division of the State I represent; but I think I am justified in saying that the slump in values is in ratio throughout Australia. I know perfectly well that the income of nearly every individual in the division I represent will be much less next year than it was last year. I am certain also that very many who are receiving demands for income tax have not £1 wherewith to pay it; and that is one of the reasons so many millions have not been collected. I regret to say that, in my opinion, the Treasurer will have great difficulty in collecting a large amount of that money. It is common knowledge that the values of our primary products have decreased. The export meat market a few years ago realized many millions of pounds, but to-day there is practically no market, and no prospect, I regret to say - because it affects me personally - of our finding a reasonably good market overseas during the coming year. Under all the circumstances there will be very little income from meat sold abroad.
– That will not affect this year’s revenue, but next year’s.
– If the honorable member had been here a few minutes ago, he would have heard me say that it is not only the year that confronts us now that has to be considered when we are discussing the question of the great increase in public expenditure, and that the time has arrived when we should “take a pull,” and, at least, live within our means. If we carry on as hitherto, with the prospect of being approximately £3,000,000 to the bad at the end of the year, what is going to happen in the following year? Only one thing - increased taxation to meet the expenditure - and I say, with full assurance, that the people of Australia cannot pay it. No doubt, the greatest slump, so far as rural industries are concerned, is in the values of meat to-day, but right through there has been a great decrease; and, therefore, the income from these sources mast be reduced. The mining industry in my division will be very seriously affected. That industry to-day is “ up against it “ to a greater extent than probably any other in the Commonwealth. Some of the companies at the present time are making heroic efforts to continue to give employment, but many have had to cease operations. Under the circumstances, men must be thrown out of employment, and certainly there will be no dividends. Even companies which have made profits in the past, and have always been considered the strongest - such as the Mount Lyell - are faced with serious difficulties, inasmuch as every ton of metal they produce is now produced at a loss.
– What about past years, when profits were made?
– Unfortunately, a company is not able to balance its ledger by referring to the surpluses of past years. Those profits have been distributed to the shareholders, and spent, part of them, no doubt, in paying income tax. As I was saying, the Mount Lyell Company, one of the best and strongest in the land, is in such a position that if there is not some’ increase in the values of their products, they will have to seriously consider ceasing operations. We are not at the present time considering whether the Mount Lyell Company has done what is right in spending all their profits in the past; the question is whether there is any prospect of increased income from such sources as mining and agriculture, and of the Treasurer realizing his expectations regarding the” income tax. I am afraid the Treasurer does not appreciate the economic position - the serious slump there is in all the producing interests in Australia - when he speaks with such confidence regarding the prospect of revenue in the future.
I am not much concerned with the method in which this amendment has been brought forward, nor with the tactics employed by different parties. Judging by the discussion that takes place outside this House, especially in the newspapers, it would appear that the public are watching the tactics and the little thrusts and parries of the different parties very much more than they are considering the real question at issue. That question is whether we are living within our means - whether we are justified in continuing to spend money as we are doing to-day, or whether the time has arrived when we must reduce the expenditure in order to meet our expectations regarding our income. “Whatever may be the views of other honorable members as to the differences between the Treasurer and the members of the Country party regarding the methods of criticising the Budget, or the manner in which that criticism is offered, I say deliberately that I have not deviated from the course I decided on in regard to the Estimates. I was convinced from the time I first saw the Budget that there was no earnest effort to economize; that is evident in the Estimates as produced to us. We have had in the past a good many discussions on the question of economy, and the possibility of reducing, expenditure. It is easy, of course, to quote figures and easy to answer them; but we cannot get away from the fact that people are not in a position to pay additional taxation. The people who have to pay the taxes are of opinion that no more money can be got from this source. As to the State of which I have the honour to be one of the representatives, I read recently a very short report of the Budget speech of the State Treasurer. That speech makes quite evident the position that confronts Tasmania, which has always been looked upon as the Cinderella of the Commonwealth. At any rate, she is poor, and she is poor because she is small, and every inroad made by the Commonwealth upon the legitimate sources of taxation by the States hits Tasmania particularly hard. The Treasurer of the State proposes this year to increase the income tax by something like 20 per cent. The Commonwealth has encroached on practically every domain in the States; and here is one of the directions in which we can economize. In spite of anything that may bo said to the contrary, there is no doubt as to the duplications that exist in our Public Service. It is all very well for the Commonwealth tq blame the States, and for the States to blame the Commonwealth, but I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) when he says that all the public activities were exercised originally by the States, and. that the present duplications are the effect of encroachments by the Commonwealth. This afternoon the Treasurer referred to the inspection of produce for export, and urged that prior to the Commonwealth taking over control, and appointing its own inspectors, the quality of the exports was not what it should have been, or used words to that effect. I consider that the Treasurer was not justified, in any sense, -in saying what he did, because our wheat, butter, fruit. meat, and, in fact, all the produce we export, had just as good a name in the Old World, fifteen” years ago, when the inspection, if there was any, was carried out by the States, as they have to-day. At any rate, before the Federal Government was justified in appointing their own inspectors, and taking over this work, there should have been some distinct agreement with the States to ‘ ‘ cut out ‘ ‘ the States’ inspectors, so as to avoid duplication. If the States consider it is their right to control their own exports, and to have their own inspectors, then the Commonwealth has no right to encroach. The main point, however, is that in regard to many of these activities there is duplication. I do not think any one is justified in saying that this could not be remedied if a determined effort were made.
– If anything is done, it must be with the consent of the States after a Federal Conference.
– I know that, in Tasmania, there is, speaking generally, strong resentment felt against the encroachments of the Commonwealth on the State domains. The farmers of Tasmania would prefer to have State inspectors, if there are to be any; but, speaking with some knowledge of farming, I do not think they desire inspectors at all.
During this debate, as in all debates of a similar character, those who have criticised the expenditure and talked about economy have been asked to quote some particular item in which economy can be effected. That is not very difficult, though I wish to say, at the outset, that in my remarks regarding Departments in which economies can be made, I agree with the Treasurer in what he said on this aspect of the question, namely, that they must be made by the Treasurer himself in all Departments. It is absurd to propose to reduce the Estimates for one Department hy £500,000, or those of another by £2,000,000, as was yesterday proposed by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). What is required is economical administration in all Departments; and I, at any rate, am satisfied that there is not such administration to the extent there might be. But one of my chief criticisms in regard to the expenditure of public money is that Parliament, at the present time, has practically no control of the finances of the country. I have my responsibility to the people I represent, and I consider that I occupy .a position of trust. It is generally recognised that this Parliament should control public expenditure. There are evidences in the Estimates of many cases in which the authorized expenditure has been exceeded by large amounts. I, as a private member, have no means, as far as I can judge, of preventing money being expended in excess of the amount authorized by Parliament. When Supply Bills are brought down items of expenditure are not given. i Take, for instance, the Prime Minister’s Department. I mention that Department because it is the first on the list, and probably the chief offender. Last year we voted £108,000 for that Department, and a sum of £217,000 was spent, or nearly double the amount authorized. What control has Parliament over such expenditure? Even if the Government allowed us, as has been suggested, to name the amount that should be expended in any particular Department, what assurance could we have that that amount would not be exceeded? What check have we over expenditure incurred during the financial year? If any one can explain to me how we can control that excess expenditure before the next year’s Estimates are brought before Parliament, I shall be very glad.
– It will be found that the bulk of the increase is on the Mandated Territories. -
– We will examine them in a few moments.
– We shall afterwards inspect the Supplementary Estimates, which have not yet arrived.
– I think the honorable member has failed to notice two important items. In connexion with the payment to the League of Nations, we voted £15,000, and we paid £68,000. A sum of £37,700 was voted for the Prince of Wales’ visit, and £50,371 was spent.
– I had noticed those items, but I did not intend to quote them, because I quite agree that some latitude in the matter of expenditure must be allowed. It perhaps could not be foreseen at the beginning of the year what expenditure would be entailed by the Prince of Wales’ visit. He had to be received in a manner befitting his exalted position, and in a way that would do justice to the loyalty of the people of Australia. I do not question an item of that kind. Last year we expended £6,287 for a Royal Commission for the Unification of Railway Gauges, and this year £10,000 has been placed on the Estimates for the same purpose. I would like to know when this Parliament authorized the expenditure of money for inquiring into the unification of railway gauges. -What right has even the right honorable the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) to expend money on such projects without first securing the authority of this Parliament ? The State I represent has to bear its share of .that expenditure.
– I think there is an agreement with the States.
– I do not know anything about an agreement, although there may be one. My point is that this Parliament should control the purse, and that no money should be expended unless Parliament authorizes it. I would like to know what benefit Tasmania will derive from the unification of railway gauges.
– Put a railway across the strait!
– It would be very handy, indeed, if that were done; but when we cannot get ships to carry passengers between the mainland and Tasmania, there”’ is little hope of Tasmania deriving any benefit from the expenditure of the public funds of Australia in the direction I have indicated; but I am not taking exception to this item because of Tasmania’s position in the matter. There, are many items of a similar kind for which Parliament never gave authority. We were given to understand that the Government engaged a man by the name of Birtles to travel across Australia and report on the best route for a railway to the Northern Territory. I take it that that inquiry will have to be paid for out of revenue, but I have not heard that Parliament has authorized any expenditure of money in connexion with it. Another item to which I wish to direct attention is that of the Scientific Expedition to New Guinea. Last year a sum of £3,051 was provided for this expedition, which, presumably, is still patrolling New Guinea. Expenditure on any item is not restricted to the amount stated on the Estimates, or to the amount spent in the previous year. What authority was given to the Government to send such an expedition to New Guinea? Dr. Campbell Brown is the leader of that expedition. He is very well known in the division from which I come. I mention this fact to show that this Parliament has not complete control of public expenditure, although that is its right, which it should insist upon. I, as an individual member, as far as I am able, am going to insist upon it. Otherwise we cannot expect that reasonable care will be exercised in the expenditure of public funds. In connexion with the Prime Minister’s Department, there is a High Commissioner’s office in London. Last year I availed myself of the opportunity, during the discussion of the Estimates, to criticise the expenditure on the High Commissioner’s office. I moved that the amount proposed to be provided be reduced by a sum of £7,000, or to the amount spent during the previous year. That motion was defeated. The amount placed on the Estimates was £53,974, but £73,514 was expended. Is there any justification for the expenditure of over £73,000 on the High Commissioner’s office when this Parliament authorized an expenditure of only £53,000 ? The amount expended represented an increase of £19,000 over the amount spent during the previous year, and a large increase upon the amount authorized by Parliament after severe criticism in this House.
– That kind of thing is happening in many other instances.
– That is so. I am citing instances that have come prominently under my notice. The secretary of the High Commissioner’s office was formerly secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department in Australia. The man who occupied the position previously received £1,000 a year. Immediately Mr. Shepherd was appointed his salary was doubled to £2,000. His salary is now £500 more than that of the InspectorGeneral of the Commonwealth Forces, and very much more than that of any of the secretaries of our great spending Departments in Australia. Can the right honorable the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), or any other member of the Government, justify the expenditure of money in that way? Will they say that they are exercising that careful scrutiny of small details which is expected of them, and which the Treasurer claims to have exercised? I say, deliberately, that they cannot justify any such claim. I do not wish to criticise a public officer, but Ido not think that there are many members of this House who consider that the appointment, in the first place, was a good one. There are not many members who will say that an officer occupying that position is entitled to a salary of £2,000 a year. The best business men in our cities, who are running very prosperous business departments, are receiving very much less than £2,000 a year. It has been stated that Mr. Shepherd has very big expenses to meet. Probably that is true; but right through the Department we find that large increases in expenditure have taken place, amounting, in the case of temporary employees, to no less than £10,000. I will admit that it is very difficult for any one in Australia to criticise successfully items of that kind, but certainly some explanation of the increases in expenditure should be given to this House. When it is found necessary or desirable to expend large sums of money - sometimes amounting to thousands of pounds - over and above the amounts authorized by this Parliament, the particular item should be cited and an explanation of it given when the Supply Bill is brought before the House, or, at any rate, at the very earliest opportunity.
– May I direct the honorable ‘ member’s attention to another item? An advance is made to the Treasurer to enable bini to make advances to public officers to meet expenditure particulars of which will afterwards be included in a parliamentary appropriation. For that purpose the Treasurer receives £1,500,000 a year - to meet unforeseen expenditure which has not received the authority of Parliament. Parliament authorized the expenditure of that £1,500,000.
– I do not think that meets my criticism. Because we give the Treasurer £1,500,000 to meet unexpected or unforeseen expenditure, that is no reason why expenditure not specially authorized, such as that included in the items which I quoted, should not be brought before this House and explained in detail when Supply Bills are brought down. I do not think my criticism is answered in the least degree by what the right honorable gentleman has said. With regard to expenditure generally, and to the directions in which it can be cut down, I would cite the expenditure on Cockatoo Island and Williamstown dockyards. That expenditure can be, and ought to be, curtailed. We find that there are numerous officers - experts, I presume - at both places. There are an engineermanager and subordinate engineers carrying out similar functions at each of those places. Many thousands of pounds have been expended without building any ships, or even employing any hands; the money has been absorbed in the maintenance of highly-paid officers, and what results do we see for it? The revelations in connexion with the Royal Commission which inquired into the administration of Cockatoo Island Dockyard were very disquieting. I am very much afraid that the members of that Commission were mainly concerned with the reemployment of the men who had been discharged, rather than with bringing to light unjustified expenditure, and clearing up criticism as to the shocking methods employed on the Island. It appears to me that a lot of white-washing was indulged in.
– I take strong exception to that remark.
– With the exception of the honorable member who signed the minority report, the members of the Commission were mainly concerned with the re-employment of the men. Of course, no one desires to see men out of employment, but the mismanagement of the Dockyard, and the large expenditure for no appreciable results did not appear to receive much consideration from, the Commission, with whose report I was very much dissatisfied. I think I am entitled to say that much.
– The honorable member can say that without casting reflections on honorable members who served on the Commission.
– I am reluctant at all times to give personal offence, but as a public man, I cannot shirk my duty, even though my remarks may not be acceptable to honorable members. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) indicated that there would be a considerable reduction of expenditure in certain directions, particularly in connexion with repatriation and pensions. Although I am quite willing to admit that there is ‘room for great economy in the amount expended on War Service Homes %nd yet have more houses built than were built last year, yet if the Treasurer can only economize at the expense of the soldiers his policy will not be received with much satisfaction. I, as a representative of the people, and knowing a good deal about what some of the wounded and sick soldiers are putting up with to-day, regard that proposal as unjust. Naturally, there will be a reduction in the amount required from year to year for war service pensions, but there is not the least doubt that pensions are being unwarrantably reduced. This matter has been brought before the House on many occasions, but if there is one matter upon which honorable members are unanimous it is that justice must be done to the men who suffered because of their war efforts. We have asked that an independent Medical Board should be appointed to review the cases of soldiers who express dissatisfaction with their pensions. I agree with the remarks which were uttered upon this subject yesterday by the Acting Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton). To my own knowledge pensions are being reduced in many cases on the ground that the disability from which the soldiers are suffering was not due to war service, but was pre-existent. I have said -on other occasions, as was said by the Acting Leader of the Opposition yesterday, that the only fair attitude for the medical officers to adopt is that if a soldier was accepted for service any disability he suffered subsequently must be regarded as due to war service.
– We have brought this matter up on many occasions, but have never achieved anything.
– That is so, and it is time that some drastic action was taken. We have pleaded, remonstrated, warned, and threatened, but the Government have done nothing. Senator John D. Millen, the honorable member for Wilmot (Mr. Atkinson), and I have for the past six months endeavoured to get justice done to one soldier, from whom I have a letter in my possession now. He drew a full pension for two years; and six months ago, when he was lying on a sick bed and more in need of his pension than ever before, it was abolished, on the ground that his ailment was not due to military service. Can honorable members imagine anything more absurd? Ministers have asked us why we do not bring specific cases before them. We have done so, and the honorable member for Wilmot will confirm everything I have said. We have pleaded this man’s case before the Repatriation Board, but we can get no redress.
– I sympathize with the honorable member, but he should not in the same breath advocate the cutting down of the Estimates.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– On more than one occasion we have protested strongly against the reduction of the soldiers’ pensions, and have asked that this obvious grievance should be remedied. The Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) interjected that he agreed with what I said as to the injustice done to returned soldiers who were maimed, but that I should not vote for a reduction in the Estimates. The only items in which the Treasurer has shown that he would be able to bring about a substantial reduction are those that would detrimentally affect the soldiers. Against such a course I protest most strongly, because I contend that, although a reduction’ of pensions will come about naturally in time, the reductions now being effected are made at the expense of soldiers who have beenbadly injured, and are sicker to-day than they were previously. If they have carried a pension for two or three years, not many medical men will agree that it is possible to say now that their disability is not due to war service, but was pre-existent to the war. I have already quoted a case, that came under my personal notice, of a man who had been sick and drew a pension for two years, after which the pension was cut out altogether. Another instance is that of a man who was shot through the ‘ stomach, during the war. On his return he submitted to numerous operations. I travelled some distance to see this soldier, because the case had been mentioned to me by his townsmen as one of obvious injustice. The man bears evidence of a fearful wound, and he has to wear a truss to keep his bowels in position. At one time he was granted the full pension, but it has been gradually reduced until now he gets only 12s. 6d. a week. It is said that he is fit to work. It would make any but a strong man weep to see that returned soldier and to be told that he is able to do manual work. There is no possibility of his being a malingerer. I saw him before the war. He was a strong, able-bodied fellow - a champion wood-chopper, as a matter of fact, and now he bears evidence of being a sick man, quite unfitted for manual labour. His pension has been reduced because the Medical Board say that as he is only to a certain degree incapacitated he is fit to work. To such treatment of returned soldiers I shall not submit. We have brought these instances before the House time and again. We have asked for the appointment of local boards to reconsider such cases, but we have had no remedy. There is only one action to take, because it is useless to protest further.
I hope the reconstruction that has taken place in connexion with the War Service Homes will remedy the chaos that existed in that Department.For that chaos I hold the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen) personally responsible. Despite what has been said in this House by way of interjection, that Parliament deliberately took the power out of the Minister’s hands, and threw it upon the Commissioner, that is no justification for the condition into which the Department drifted. The Minister surely is responsible for the expenditure. We gave the
Commissioner power to spend up to £5,000 without the approval of the Minister, but some £6,000,000 was evidently expended before half the financial year had passed. Until that time the Minister did not discover that the homes were not being built, and that the Department had drifted into chaos. Although the full report of the Commission has not been submitted, we have seen sufficient of the evidence, and the Minister, I say again deliberately, must be held responsible. The Treasurer stated, on one occasion, when the Government was charged with not standing up to its responsibilities to the ‘Soldiers, that it had “ spent £100,000,000 on repatriation. Indeed, the Government has spent something like that amount, but that is not standing up to its obligations to the returned soldiers, because the soldiers have not had the benefit of the money spent on the War Service Homes. Land speculators, dishonest contractors, and such like have reaped the advantage, and not the returned soldier who has had to pay £800 or more for a house. In many cases the soldiers’ applications have been lodged for years, and still they cannot get homes. Where homes have been provided, the price charged is much in excess of what the average man can afford to pay, or what the property will be worth in the near future.
There is but one course for me to take in regard to the amendment of the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). I have made my attitude perfectly clear, in the past, on the question of efficiency and economy in the expenditure of public money, and in the. administration of public Departments. I am convinced that we shall be up against a very serious financial stringency for years to come. The condition of Europe must be appreciated by every honorable member who reads, and its financial position must affect us very seriously. Australia has its commodities to sell, but Europe is not in a position to buy them; consequently there is a great reduction in values. The worst effect of the war, apart from the fearful loss of life, is that everybody has got into the habit of spending money freely, and living extravagantly. The British Government set the great example, during the war, of spending the savings of a century, and pledging the nation’s credit for the future, with the avowed intention of keeping up the so-called morale of the people. Everybody had money to spend during the war. It is easy to get into the habit of living in luxury, and hard to get out of it. The countries of Europe are, in the main, bankrupt, and, in so far as they are unable to find money for the purchase of the goods we can supply, Australia will be the sufferer. The- time will arrive when we shall be compelled to cut down our expenditure. It is no use the Treasurer saying that we cannot reduce the Estimates. It must be done, because we have not got the money to spend. If it is said that we cannot reduce the Budget by £2,800,000 this year, what will happen next year, when we shall not be able to find the money? Now is the time to start to reduce expenditure. The time when we should have made a commencement to retrench in our- public expenditure is long past, and the sooner we make the attempt the sooner will Australia got out of its difficulties. I have no doubt that we shall pull through. Australia is in a better position to face financial stringency than any other country I know of. The advice given by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), and many others, is that the only way to get out of this trouble is for the nation to work. I am a great believer in the gospel of work; but we should encourage men to labour in the expectation that they will be able to better their position, and make homes for themselves. If, after they work, we tax them practically out of their homes, there is very little encouragement for them to continue. It is useless to preach such a gospel to them if we are going to take from them all the profit of their labour.
There is only one course for me to take, and that is the straight one. It is plain to me what I should do. I pledged myself, when on the hustings, to absolute economy. That is the only pledge I made, and I am going to stick to it. It is for the Government to decide what they will do, if the amendment of the Leader of the Country party is carried. We must reduce our Estimates. If that is not done, I cannot continue to be a supporter of the present Administration. I shall vote for the amendment of the Leader of the Country party. It is the only thing for me to do, if I am to preserve my self-respect. It is the right thing to do in the interests of the people of Australia, and particularly in the interests of those who are fighting against the hard times experienced in my own electorate. I am prepared to face the music, whatever it may he. It is stated in the press that honorable members are afraid of an election, but I do not think that fear affectsus very much. The possibility of a worse Administration taking the place of the one we have has a deterrent effect on some honorable members, who might otherwise criticise the present Government. It is obvious that there is no danger of the Opposition coming into power. I have no fear in that respect. If I had no other objection to the Opposition than in regard to the action which was exposed yesterday - I refer to the subjectmatter ofthemotion tabledbythat party - that, in itself, would be sufficient. A party which will not support defensive measures to insure the safety of its country is not one that I would follow in any circumstances. It is all very well to talk glibly about disarmament. It may be well enough to speak of reducing the Defence Estimates, or of practically cutting them out altogether. Those who would do away with defensive preparations by land, sea, and air, cannot, at any rate, have experienced the sensation of being bombed from the air. Those who have witnessed the wreckage of warfare do not talk lightly of disarmament. I have been through two wars, and I am bound to say that if there should be any possibility of preventing war in the future, with honour, I shall always stand for peace. But those individuals who will not endeavour to insure peace by taking all necessary precautions and preparations against war, can never hope, and should never expect, to have the support of the people of this country. Obviously, the reason why the Labour party is in the position that it occupies in this House is that its views and attitude upon the defence of Australia are not commendable to the people. That reasonable economy is possible, even in the Defence Department, I have no doubt ; and, if it can be effected, it must be. I think that economy can be brought about, still leaving Australia with an adequate defensive policy. But, as for the proposition to cut out the whole of the Defence proposals, that is absurd and, indeed, impossible.If I thought there was any danger of the coming into power of the party which is advocating such a thing, I would certainly hesitate before casting my vote. I desire to see effective economy. I think it can be brought about without any loss of efficiency. I have the greatest respect for the majority of the Ministers. I have already criticised the Minister for Repatriation (Senator E. D. Millen). I do not wish to be considered to have shown any lack of personal respect, but I am bound to say that I have no confidence in his administration. Unless Ministers generally can handle their finances with more evidence of care and scrupulous consideration for thorough economy, I must take up the attitude towards the Government which I have already indicated.
.- Whatever happens I suggest that honorable members be cheerful about it. The other day the Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith), when a certain question was put to him answered, “ Lead, kindly Light.” I may add, in the present situation, “Amid the encircling gloom.” The Government of to-day may be likened to the pale horse of the Scriptures. The Apostle John in his Book of Revelation wrote -
And when he had opened the fourth seal ….. I looked, and, behold, a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him.
I do not suggest, for one moment, that the Treasurer’s name is Death; because, for one thing, he has a new life opening upbefore him, according to reports; and I desire to make no inference concerning what may follow. But since the Budget was presented a very considerable amount of criticism - indiscriminate, it may be - has been hurled at the Government. I have been so perplexed that I have deemed it well to make a very close individual investigation of the Budget, in order to arrive at some reasonable conclusions. Later, I shall refer to an analysis which I made so that I might satisfy myself concerning the present position. One hears at every turn prophets, false and otherwise; but prophets truly are those who advocate economy. All honorable members realize that economy is necessary in order to restore and re-establish our country after a period’ of seven years of war and the period after war. A great many people, unhappily, seem to think that the war is over. The violence of the war is ended, but its after effects will not have been done with for many years ; and so the administrators of this country, and everybody, in fact, axe compelled to consider the question of economy. . No Government can force the people to economize except by excessive taxation. It is true that excessive taxation exists at present; but are the people who are preaching economy economizing to the fullest extent? Economy must come from the individual, to institutions, and to the Government; otherwise there must be failure. A Government may impose economy upon the people; but the people, when their turn comes, at election time, will force the Government into economy. There are a great many lines along which economy may be exercised. I am convinced that the first line can be drawn in this House, and by the Government directly. Honorable members who preach economy should be satisfied to have their parliamentary remuneration cut down by half. If they were to engage themselves sincerely in the affairs of this country they could perform its parliamentary business in three months, and be free to attend to their own interests for the remainder of the year. Great extravagance occurred only last year when Parliament sat practically from February until December. All the costs and charges attached to that long session can probably never be assessed. From the analysis of the Budget figures which I have made, I must admit that I cannot see how, with the present statutory obligations, the government of the Commonwealth can be carried on at a lower expenditure. With the appalling weight of statutory obligations which bears upon the Government I fear that they will be unable to meet all calls with the sum for which the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) has budgeted. With the reduction of the prices of all primary products, except wool, the Government may not collect the revenue which they anticipate. The only process of economy which can be applied is for this House, at a later stage, to resolve itself into a Committee to consider to what extent we can reduce! our statutory obligations.
– If we are unable to do so our national obligations will grow still heavier, and taxation must be increased. The more money that is taken from us by way of taxation the less we shall have with which to develop our undertakings and enrich this country. There are very grave considerations at stake. The Treasurer poured a little oil on the troubled waters, in Sydney, the other day, when he said he hoped and believed that at the termination of the financial year he would be able to show a surplus. I hope that his successor will be able to do so, any how.
– Is that a threat?
– At any rate, if the present Administration may be likened to the pale horse, I do not wish to see that which followed the vision ! In a Budget such as that for this year, and with the responsibilities imposed on the country, it is desirable and necessary that, apart from criticising, honorable members should make themselves familiar with the intricacies of the Budget; I mean that they should examine the country’s finances irrespective bf the particulars contained in the statement of the Treasurer. An investigation of the accounts of the Government, however, naturally involves a certain amount of criticism. We are all entitled to engage in such criticism, so long as it is fair and reasonable. There are many matters in regard to which one must at the present time consider what should be the action of the Government. I agree with the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) that the sooner the Government draw out of all their commercial undertakings the better, so that the losses which always occur under Government control may be ended, and that Ministers may have ample time for the administration of the ordinary Departments.
I shall weary the Committee only as briefly as possible with the result of my investigation of the Budget in regard to several important points, and I hope that I may be permitted to read the statement which I have prepared, because it contains figures which I wish to have recorded with accuracy. I propose to hand it to the Hansard reporters . when I have finished my speech. A great deal has been said about “ savings,” but I ask whether, if certain moneys appropriated by Parliament had been spent, the Treasurer would not have found himself with a very large deficit at the end of the financial year? Whether the money not spent may or may not properly be termed “savings,” the facts are these: In his. Budget speech the Treasurer said that he had saved £452,256 during the year in the Military Department and on Air Services. Of that sum, nearly £100,000 was saved by not spending the parliamentary appropriation for the development of civil aviation. Parliament voted £100,000 last year for this purpose, but only £4,732 was spent. Nearly £150,000 was “ saved “ by not establishing the services authorized by Parliament, the cost of which was estimated at £200,000, of which only £58,155 was spent. In this way the “ saving “ of £250,000 is accounted for. In support of these figures I refer the Committee to page 206 of the Estimates. While the costs of running the Defence Department were, in most instances, kept just within what was estimated, a saving of £159,000 was shown by not putting into operation in its entirety the universal training scheme which had been approved, for which £350,000 was voted and only £199,000 spent. The saving on other training was £40,000, and this was effected by not carrying out the objects for which Parliament voted the money. Thus the Treasurer may claim to have saved only £3,000 by the careful administration of the Department; £449,000 of the total declared savings of £452,256 being obtained, as I have shown, by not spending the parliamentary appropriation. The declared savings in respect of Additions, New Works, and Buildings amounted to about £982,000; the vote being £3,070,502 and the actual expenditure only £2,098,203.
I wish to compare for a moment the Budget of 1913-14 with that of 1921-22. These are not strictly comparable because of the war, but it is necessary to place them side by side to gain an idea of the extraordinary increase which has taken place in the expenditure of the Commonwealth during the last seven years. For the year 1913-14 our expenditure was £25,332,385, but the Treasurer estimates to expend this year £81,397,632.
– You must make allowance for the depreciation in the value of the sovereign.
– I am not taking that into account, and I have not seen a sovereign for years. The difference between the amounts I have just mentioned, which shows how our expenditure has increased, is £56,065,247. Of this enormous sum, a large part is applied to war purposes, such as general repatriation, war pensions, War Service Homes, &c. This expenditure is set down at £42,399,253, and, of course, was not provided for in the Budget for the year 1913-14. This must be deducted from the expenditure estimated for the present year to make a fair comparison between the expenditure of 1913-14 and 1921-22. If that deduction be made, it will be seen that our ordinary expenditure, that is, expenditure other than war expenditure, is 50 per cent, greater to-day than it was in 1913-14, the estimate for this year’s expenditure other than war expenditure is £38,998,379; while, as I have said, the expenditure in 1913-14 was £25,332,385. In other words, the estimated ordinary expenditure of this year exceeds by £13,665,994 the similar expenditure of 1913-14. The ordinary votes for expenditure, which in 1913-14 amounted to £13,578,746, have been increased for this year to £22,519,044; an increase of £8,940,098, or nearly 75 per cent. Of the total estimated expenditure for this year- £81,397,632- £42,399,253 comes, as I said, under the heading of war expenditure, and the remaining £38,998,379 is made up as follows: -
Before criticising Ministers for failing to economize in their ordinary administration it is necessary to ascertain exactly what field that criticism should cover. So much has been said about extravagance that we must, first of all, ascertain how much of the total expenditure can fairly be brought under review in thi3 connexion. Of the £22,519,044 under the heading of “ Ordinary Votes and Appropriations,” £6,703,275 represents special appropriations regulated by Statute, and are therefore out of the control of the Government, so that the expenditure for which Ministers can be criticised amounts to only £15,815,769. The total expenditure may, therefore, be divided into that towards which criticism cannot be directed, and that upon which such criticism is fair. The following analysis of the Treasurer’s Budget figures should make this clear: -
I have analyzed the expenditure for the years 1913-14 and 1920-21 in the same way, and the following table will show how the total expenditure under these two headings has increased: -
The figures quoted show that increased expenditure, apart from war expenditure, on items beyond the control of the Ministry, as compared with 1913-14, is only about £3,500,000, whereas an increase of over £9,000,000 has taken place for the same period in the expenditure directly under the control of the Ministry. Here, in itself, is an immense field of criticism. The figures mean that the ordinary cost of running the routine of government, quite apart from war matters, but including new works, is £9,000,000, or 60 per cent, higher than in 1913-14.
This analysis does not include war expenditure. Including this expenditure, however, an analysis of the Budget gives the following results: -
These figures include all expenditure, both from Loan and Revenue.
The whole of the war expenditure has been placed under the heading of “ Payments beyond the control of the Ministry.” The items under the heading “ Special Appropriations “ include GovernorGeneral’s and parliamentary salaries, salaries of certain other Commonwealth officials which are regulated by Parliament, pensions, allowances, and bounties, &c, and interest and sinking funds on loans other than war loans.
Coming to expenditure within the control of the Ministry, the following result is obtained: -
Under the heading “ Ordinary Votes “ is included all the costs of departmental administration. To take the Treasury as an example: This Department administers the Invalid and Old-age Pensions and Maternity Bonus Acts. The actual pensions and bonuses are not included in the figures following “ Ordinary Votes,” but the cost of administering the Acts is included. That is to say, the cost of upkeep of Pensions Office is included, but not the pensions, &c, themselves. So with other Departments.,
Combining the figures thus analyzed, the following general summing up of the position may be noted: -
The figures given above include all the Commonwealth expenditure from Loan and Revenue. All war expenditure is included in the item “ Beyond Control.” Hence the enormous increases. The item “Within Control” includes the ordinary cost of departmental administration, as well as expenditure onNew Works, &c.
– I ask the honorable member to resume his seat. I think it is my duty now to direct the attention of the Committee, as I intended to have done before, to the necessity of observing our rules and orders of debate. One of these, which is imperative, is that no honorable member shall read his speech. I have no desire whatever to interfere with what has gone before, but I felt it my duty to inform the heads of different parties that in future I shall require observance of that rule. I have no objection, and in fact realize the reasonableness of it, to honorable members quoting from notes where they find it necessary to refer to a large number of figures, but to read a prepared statement of figures is altogether opposed to the standing order. I ask the honorable member forNew England (Mr. Hay) now, and other honorable members, to in future comply with the rule to which I have referred. The necessity for it must be obvious to every one. I again repeat that it is imperative. The practice has been going on now for some time, and, I notice, has been growing to such an extent that it might soon develop into a real abuse of the standing order. The honorable member may quote from a statement of figures, because I know how difficult it is to retain a great number of figures in the memory, but I ask him not to continue to read his speech.
– I think you are quite right, sir. As a matter of fact, I spent some time last evening and on other occasions in listening to the reading of speeches, and I have merely followed an example which you have permitted, but I shall not transgress in future.
Of the expenditure of £38,998,379, £14,637,025 is regulated by Statute, and £24,361,354 is not so regulated. To make a long story short-
– There is nothing to prevent the honorable member refreshing his memory, line by line, or even word by word,but he must not read his speech.
– May I appeal to you, sir, to say whether I may refresh my memory ? To make a long story short - and, by the way, these interruptions by the Prime Minister are very disorderly - I may as a general summary explain that with respect to expenditure beyond the control of the Government because of statutory obligations, from which they cannot escape except by repudiation or failure in some direction to observe the law, in 1913-14 the amount was £10,043,680, in 1920-21 it was £71,924,363, and in 1921-22 it is estimated at £57,036,278. The expenditure within the control of the Government was - In 1913-14, £15,288,705; in 1920-21, £20,949,951; and in 1921-22 it is £24,361,354. So that during the period from 1913-14 to 1920-21 the expenditure within the control of the Government had increased to the extent of £5,500,000 or thereabouts. That, of course, was quite a reasonable increase, because of the war conditions which prevailed. But the expenditure over which the Government have control increased from £20,900,000 last year to an estimate of £24,361,000 for this year. Again, I must admit that there have been circumstances over which the Government have had no control - increased wages and increases in a thousand different ways. I say a thousand advisedly, because I mean it, since there are so many different channels by which costs have increased during the last year that it is very difficult at a glance to estimate the sources of increased charges.
The figures show that increased expenditure on items beyond the control of the Ministry, as compared with 1913-14, is only about £3,500,000, whereas an increase of over £9,000,000 has taken place for the same period in the expenditure directly under the control of the Ministry. This is apart f rom war expenditure. Here in itself is an immense field of criticism. The figures mean that the ordinary cost of running the routine of government, quite apart from war matters, but including new works, is £9,000,000, or 60 per cent. higher than in 1913-14.
It is obvious, from the glance at the figures which have been supplied, that economy must be effected from within, that Ministers must reduce thecost of running their own Departments; for this is a matter in which it is difficult for members to make concrete suggestions. The Economic Commission made extended investigations into the working of the various Departments, and it would be interesting to know how many of their recommendations have been put into effect. At the same time, due allowances must be made for increased awards and all other conditions which count in increased expenditure.
What I desire to say, not quite in conclusion, but as a “ semi-final,” is that departmental expenditure has ‘increased to the extent of very nearly £1,000,000 over last year. Again, I must repeat that certain increases, due to awards, the basic wage, and in other ways, have to some extent accounted for the increase. These facts have, no doubt, also been responsible for the increase in expenditure in nearly all Departments in 1920-21, compared with the sum voted for that year. For instance- May I read these figures?
– The honorable member may refresh his memory from his notes.
– May I frequently refresh my memory? For instance, the vote for Parliament shows an increase in. this way of £10,256. I have no doubt that that is due to increased salaries. I confess that I was one of those who voted for increased salaries. I was new to Parliament, and, as Kipling says in “ McAndrew’s Hymn “-
I was but four-and-twenty then. You wadna’ blame a child?
I find that the expenditure for the Prime Minister’s Department was increased by £58,439 over the sum voted, the Treasury by £109,748, the AttorneyGeneral’s Department by £22,150. I do not blame the Minister for this increase in view of all the anxiety he has had to suffer because of industrial and other troubles. There was no reason why the expenditure for his Department should not increase. The expenditure for the Home and Territories Department shows an increase of £20,631, and for the Defence Department a decrease of £209,281. What was my honorable friend the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) doing? The Trade and Customs Department shows an increase of £80,000, and the Department of Works and Railways, controlled by the economical Minister (Mr. Groom), an increase of only £2,634. What could he have been doing? The PostmasterGeneral’s Department shows an increase of £522,992, and I wish it had been £1,000,000, because we would then have had better post and telegraph services. I shall quote no more figures.
I have considered very carefully the whole situation, the conditions of the country, and the prospects ahead of us. With the prices of all our primary products tumbling, and the inability of primary producers in many directions to carry on their undertakings, I suppose that I, like a great many others, have reason for anxiety.
– The honorable member is not the only one in the chamber to-night who has reason for grave anxiety.
– Is that so? I asked the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Groom) the other day what land was likely to be made available on the Murray River irrigation areas. My object in putting that question to him was to ascertain what suitable land would be available for the settlement of either Australians or those who come from abroad. Unless we make proper provision for those whom we propose to settle on the land we had better leave the job alone. We cannot hope to be successful by dotting down a man here and a man there, and saying to them, “Here is your land; carry on.” Something more is required of us. We can make a success of land settlement in this country of ours, not by the haphazard methods which have been adopted so frequently, but by taking reasonable precautions to insure that the people will succeed when they are settled on the land. I asked the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Watt) this afternoon whether he had ever known of a closer settlement scheme carried out by any Government in Australia that had been successful. He replied, “ I knew of one, but it was more or less of an accident.” Is that right? Mr. Watt. - It is.
– There are many grave responsibilites associated with the task of settling the people on the land. It is useless to endeavour to convince oneself that people can be successfully settled today under the conditions that obtained in connexion with land settlement fifty years ago. Times have changed, and the people want better conditions. While I am prepared to advocate immigration - the bringing of European people to this country in order to settle them on the laud and so to increase our production - I think there are a great many people in Australia whom we have first to consider. Care should be taken to choose areas suitable for proper community settlement and to provide not only means of transport and marketing facilities, but the financial backing and all that is required to make the settler prosperous. If land settlement to-day were placed in the hands of those who know and understand the business there would be no cause for fear as to the future. If the Government settled, say, fifty people on a given area under conditions which led to those people becoming prosperous, we should quickly have another fifty people settling around them. Nothing is more calculated to bring success to this country than the settlement of the people on the land under good conditions. If the people already on the land are not prosperous we cannot expect others to come here to go on the land.
I am not going to further delay the Committee. I have been asked how I am going to vote. I shall tell honorable members what I propose to do. I was sent to this Parliament to support decent government, and I am not going to deceive .myself. I propose to sit on the side in a division opposite that occupied by the Labour party.
– I shall move for the appointment of a Select Committee to find out where the honorable member is.
– We shall not need a Select Committee to -fmd out where the honorable member is going at the next general election. I defeated my Labour opponent at the last election, and my constituency returned me to support the institutions of government in which I believe. I am not going to deceive myself. My esti mate of this country is very high, and my hopes of its future prosperity are unbounded. I do not believe, however, that it can prosper while our undertakings are cramped and tied up in a thousand ways as they are to-day. There are many things required of this Government. It has been said by members of the Country party that the amendment moved by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) is not intended to be a motion of censure, but that it has been submitted merely with a desire to bring the Government to its senses, and to- compel it to exercise economy. I do not know whether it was intended that a brick or a peanut should be thrown. At any rate, I was returned to support the* institutions to which I have always belonged, and which I think are best calculated to insure good government in this country and to promote its continued prosperity. Therefore, I shall vote according to my opinions; and if it be the desire of honorable members to go to the country in order to get the views of the electors, I am perfectly satisfied what the opinion of my constituents will be.
– I am somewhat at a disadvantage in taking part in this discussion, but I feel it is necessary that I should, set out the views of the Government on the amendment submitted by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). I shall endeavour to do so as shortly as possible. I regret more than I can say that I have to deny myself the opportunity, which I should have welcomed, of being able to deal with the amendment and its mover in a . way that both deserve; but as that is not possible, I shall do the best I can in the circumstances. Honorable members should consider what it is that the Committee is asked to do. You, Mr. Chanter, have been a long time a member of this Parliament. I ask you if you can recall an amendment of this sort put forward with the avowed purpose which the honorable member for Cowper declares is his intention? What he asks this Committee and the country to believe is that he has submitted his amendment not at all in a party spirit ; that this,, indeed, was the last thought he had in his mind. He would have the Committee and the people believe that he was animated by the purest and most patriotic motives.
He declares, in effect, that his amendment is not to be regarded as a vote of want of confidence in the Government. One honorable member of his party, so I am informed, this afternoon made a statement that he did not regard it as a vote of no confidence in the Government. Apparently the honorable member for Cowper, who has come into this arena of public affairs late in life, and who has had no experience of these matters, thinks that this is the way in which the business of the country can be carried on. I shall not, for reasons that I think are fairly obvious, permit myself to refer to the personalities in which he indulged in this non-party amendment of his, or to his criticisms of my right honorable colleague the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), myself, and every other member of this Government. Apparently, in his opinion, my colleagues and myself are grossly incompetent, and altogether futile persons. What, then, are we to think of the honorable gentleman when he says that he proposes to refer to us, who, according to him, are grossly incompetent and guilty of reckless extravagance, the delicate and difficult duty of determining just in what way the Estimates are to be reduced by the sum of £2,800,000? The honorable member for Cowper, no doubt, will derive some little light, and, perhaps, benefit, from the remarks that have fallen from the lips of the honorable member for New England (Mr. Hay) . The world is very sick, staggering under a fearful burden of debt, and with its feet torn and bleeding, stumbles at every stride it takes. My honorable friend, the member for New England, pointed out that we have emerged from the greatest trial to which the civilized world has ever been subjected ; that trade, commerce, and finance are alike chaotic and disorganized. With the whole world stricken to its very soul, groaning, grumbling, and seeking light, the honorable member for Cowper comes here with copy-book maxims about living within one’s income and other things that one can get out of Smiles’ Self -Help, and other counsels of perfection. Look at the Budgets of all the great countries in the world to-day. Is there one that can compare favorably with the Budget which has been presented by my right honorable colleague the Treasurer? If so, which is it? Is it that of
England? Is it that of France? Is it that of America ? Is it that of Canada ? The honorable member has told us a great deal about economy, and we all believe in economy. This Government has tried to practise it. But there is wise economy and there is foolish economy. In Hansard debates of last year, page 5570, I find some remarks made by the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) that are most pertinent to the present debate. I commend them to my oolleagues generally. The honorable member’s words are as follows : -
The honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) gave us an address in which, so far as I heard him, he seemed to favour the economy of increased expenditure, for which a great deal could be said at the present moment. Australia is an immense, undeveloped continent, and it would be extremely uneconomical for us, even in a time of straitened finance, to be content to leave things as they are. No private person who held a property worth improving would be content to lose money by allowing a temporary tightness of the money market to prevent him from developing it. In this regard, the honorable member made a splendid vindication of the Budget. It is chiefly a Budget of development. But not only is Australia a heritage, on which we must spend money in improvement; it is also a country which is open to attack from all sides, for which we must provide means of defence. IF the Budget be analyzed, it will be seen that its proposals for expenditure are mainly in one or other of these directions.
– They were at that time; but you have fallen from grace since then.
– The amendment which the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) has submitted is, so far as I know, without precedent, and, the honorable member must be told, can have but one effect. Last night the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) took quite another course. He moved for the reduction of an item, and although I did not agree with his views, his course was straightforward. He was prepared to take the responsibility for reducing an item to which he objected. He said, in effect, “ Here is a world which has lately been through the greatest war of all the ages. It is sore stricken, and weary of war. Let us beat the sword into a plough-share and, as far as possible, rid ourselves of this intolerable burden of armaments. I ask the Government to cut down these
On that amendment the Committee knew where it stood; hut as the honorable member for Cowper voted against it, we are to assume, if we can assume anything from what he says or does, that when he calls upon us to reduce these Estimates by £2,800,000, he does not mean that we are to follow the suggestion of the honorable member for Hunter, and cut down the expenditure upon defence. In fact, his vote upon the amendment indicates that we must not do so. Very well, then, where are we to cut down our expenditure? I suggest that the honorable member. is not able to tell us whether we are to cut down our Estimates. He cannot point to any definite item, and say this must be reduced. Of the total Budget of £81,000,000, £43,000,000 is to be spent on soldiers. Does the honorable member contend that we are giving too much to the soldiers? .The fault I find with the Budget is that it gives them too little, and later on I shall have something to say about that aspect of the matter. The honorable member will not venture to say that we can cut down the” money allocated for. war pensions, War Service Homes, land settlement, or any other branch of repatriation work. Are we, therefore, to cut down the salaries of public servants? The honorable member has certainly suggested, in fact, 1 think he said, that there were too many public servants. Let him indicate plainly what he means. Are we to dismiss public servants? If so, from which Department ? Are salaries to be reduced ? If so, whose, and by how much? I say that if there is to be any cutting down of the salaries of the public servants of this country, while I have a voice in the matter, al start will be made in this chamber. The problems confronting the world to-day are the results of the great war, trade depression, disorganization of finances, high prices, fluctuations of markets, unemployment. No one knows what price he may expect to get to-morrow for his produce. The remedy almost invariably suggested is Government aid. The honorable member does not seem. to understand the disease from which the world is suffering. He speaks about economy, but he does not tell
Us where we should economize. Can we do it by cutting down the vote for immigration, land settlement, or the Murray waters scheme? I refer honorable members to what the honorable member for Robertson. (Mr. Fleming) said, namely, that this country wants development and people. Well, how are we to develop the country, and how are we to people it? If the Government retains the confidence of honorable members and the country it will bring the people here; but will not do so unless ft is able to put them on the land. And it can only do this by a vigorous but wise policy of development. It will not bring people here to put them into the crowded cities, and so swell the ranks’ of the unemployed. Let the honorable member for Cowper indicate any item of expenditure to which he takes exception. Is it the money to be spent upon the Post Office, upon the carriage of oversea mails, or upon the payment of old-age pensions? The honorable member has taken the course of throwing upon the Government the onus of reducing the Budget, because he himself is unable to put a finger upon any particular item he would take the responsibility of cutting down.
I have no wish to detain the Committee. The Government cannot accept the amendment, as the honorable member ought to have known when he submitted it. If he did not know this, he is certainly not fit for the position- he occupies. If he did know it, what he has said has been an effort to mislead the Committee and the country. As for economy, the honorable member must not think that he is the only person who is anxious that the Government should live within its means. While the Government cannot and will not accept the honorable member’s amendment, or any general direction such as is contained in it, it fully recognises the need for economy, and that as a general principle it is desirable that we should live within our income. We shall make an honest and determined effort ti do that. Further, the Government invite the Committee to indicate where economy can be effected; and, provided that that economy does not strike a vital blow at the policy of the Government, we shall accept the decision of the Committee. More than that no Government has ever done, and no Committee has a right to expect. That being the position, I venture to express the hope that honorable members on both sides of the. House will reject the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page). It is perfectly obvious what will happen if the tactics to which the honorable member and certain members of his party have resorted are continued. The Government stands for certain principles, upon which a great majority of honorable members in this House were elected- including the honorable member. But responsible government is impossible if the tactics of the honorable gentleman are to continue. I venture to hope that this amendment will be rejected by an overwhelming majority of the members of the Committee. If it is a party matter, and is to be regarded as a vote of no-confidence, let honorable members, of course, exercise their own discretion ; but if it is an honest desire for economy, I suggest that it be dealt with in the manner I have mentioned. If honorable members will show where economies can be effected when items are before the Committee, the Government will accept the decision of the Committee on all matters which do not emasculate their vital policy.
.- As the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has done me the honour of referring to some remarks I made on the last Budget, I desire to say something concerning this one. The right honorable gentleman has quoted a term which I believe I used on that occasion, “ the economy of increased expenditure.” The party to which I belong has always stood, and I hope will always stand, for the economy of increased expenditure, where that expenditure is such that it will enable the country to secure a return for the outlay. The Prime Minister knows that it is not the amount of money spent which has caused the trouble, but the manner in which it has been disbursed. He also, knows that the Government have not been getting full value for the money expended, and the Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) realizes that for the last twelve months at least he has not been receiving anything like full value at a time when money is dear. The Government have been floating loans at the high rate of 6 per cent, because the lenders realize that, the Government are not petting full value for the expenditure. The Treasurer said in his Budget speech -
One notes with gratification some favorable omens in the general situation. Within the last six months the Bank of England rate’ has dropped from 7 per cent, to 5£ per cent., and tl nt money is becoming cheaper is evidenced by - the latest news from London th at, short loans can be obtained as low as 3J per cent., whilst three months’ bank bills are now only 4J per cent.
The Government have to pay over 6 per cent., fox the reasons submitted by the Leader of the Country party, and because they are not administering our affairs in a way that will create confidence in the minds of the world’s financiers. The Prime Minister has said that heavy expenditure is necessary in order to develop the Commonwealth; but that is a very slender argument and altogether beside the question. He also stated that it was the duty of those who favour a reduction in the- Estimates to show where savings can be effected, when he knows that the only people in a position- to recommend reductions in expenditure are the heads of the Departments who are in close touch with the different branches of governmental activity. The right honorable gentleman must recognise that it is not our business to tell him exactly where money can be saved.
We know that expenditure can be curtailed, because in many instances money is being squandered. Take, for instance, the administration of the War Service Homes Department. When this House passed measures framed for providing assistance to returned soldiers, honorable members were generous in their attitude, because they realized their obligations to the returned men. We passed those measures in the hope that the returned soldiers and the country would get full value for the outlay. It is common knowledge all over Australia that money was poured into the War Service Homes Department, much of which has been wasted, and that the administration has not only been lax, but absolutely inefficient. The Department is now endeavouring to rectify the position, irrespective of whether the ex-soldiers get full value or not. I have before me particulars concerning eighteen homes erected for returned soldiers, six of which were sold at the cost of erection, six under the cost of erection, and the remaining six at more than they cost to build. It is unnecessary for me to give particulars concerning the six sold at the cost of erection, but details concerning those sold above the cost are as follows : -
– Sold by whom?
Mr.FLEMING.- By theWar Service Homes Commission, to returned soldiers.
– At a profit?
– Yes; even the Treasurer did not know that this had been going on..
– I certainly did not.
– These are concrete cases, some of which have already been brought before the House. I have spent I do not know how much time during this last session pointing out how the pensions have been administered, and the way in which the soldiers have been dealt with in connexion with land settlement and War Service Homes, but neither the Treasurer nor any other member of the Government takes any notice. It would really seem as if they did not know what is going on, for when I quote these few instances the Treasurer is surprised.
– I am, and I say it is a scandal if this has occurred !
– Of course it is a scandal, and I am glad that the Treasurer realizes it; but why does the administration not realize such things without our having to bring them before the House time after time? In case seventy-three, the house cost £808 9s. 2d., and the soldier paid £850. The most noticeable case is where the house cost £578 13s. 4d., and the soldier paid £800.
– Are you quite sure?
– I am sure of these figures; I should not quote them if I did not know them to be correct.
– In what State was this ?
– In Western Australia.
– Are you quite sure your informant had all the charges?
– The Deputy Commissioner says so, and he ought to know.
– Perhaps it is something like what occurred last night in the case of the Post Office Estimates, when only half the amount was stated.
– It is no use trying to throw me off the track by questioning these figures, for they come direct from the official source. Here are definite cases, which I shall hand to the Assistant Minister for Repatriation afterwards.
– You say that the Deputy Commissioner himself gives these figures; do you not know that if the Deputy Commissioner charges the soldiers in that way he is flying in the teeth of the Act?
– What has that to do with the matter? If he is “ flying in the teeth of the Act,” the administration is allowing the thing to be done. What are the heads of the Departments for? They are there to safeguard the interests of the community, to see that we get full value for our money, and that the Departments are run on business-like and proper methods. When authentic cases are quoted from the Department’s own records they are questioned. Could we have a greater condemnation of the Minister than that?
– But this is the official who is responsible by law to give the complete cost.
– The Assistant Minister, by his own admission, does not know what is going on.
– How can I know of an individual case in WesternAustralia?
– Of what use is the Minister unless he gets men under him. he can trust? The whole of the administration has been such that the position is becoming disastrous.
– It was disastrous before you ceased to be a direct supporter of the Government!
– It takes time to find things out. I supported the Government so long as I thought they would carry out their election pledges and fulfil the intentions of the House, but when I found that the administration was so helpless that it could not carry out those intentions with anything like business capacity, then, naturally, I took my place where I could criticise it. And I am going on to criticise until steps are taken, not only to remedy the injuries done to returned men, but to put the affairs of Australia on a sound footing.
– Where did you get the figures?
– In Perth, Western Australia. I shall now take the six cases where houses were sold to returned men at under the cost price. In case No. 3, the house cost £877 8s. 3d., and was sold for £800; in case 68, the house was built for £1,0331s. 2d., and sold for £860. The soldier did very well there.
– He might not do very well.
– That is true, because, in quite a number of instances, the houses cost more than they are worth, though, in other cases, the men got remarkably good value. This arises from the fact that values have risen since the initiation of the scheme. Naturally, if the houses had been built at anything like reasonable rates, the soldiers would get far more than the market value. If the scheme had been carried out on proper lines, and real business acumen displayed, our soldiers would have got the houses at under contract price outside. However, in case No. 15 the house cost £1,019 19s. 9d., and was sold for £750; in case No. 215, the house cost £947 15s., and was sold for £800; in a case given under letter E, the house cost £1,120 18s. 3d., and was sold for £875; and in case No. 24, the house cost £810 3s. 6d., and was sold for £800. I submit that these figures in themselves are an absolute proof that the Minister in charge is not handling the Department so as to get a fair, honest deal for the returned men. I do not say that the Minister is wittingly deceiving the soldiers, but I do say that incompetency in such cases is almost as bad. It is our duty, as representatives of the people, and, I take it, it is particularly my duty as a representative of the returned men, to try and get things rectified. When the Government will not rectify matters there is only one thing to do, and that is to put men there who will rectify them.
– Do you really believe that is going to happen?
– I sincerely hope so.
– These things are done by returned soldiers.
– Certainly they are, to a large extent, but that does not exonerate the Minister for Repatriation. Every one knows that amongst the returned soldiers there are bad men and good men, men of business capacity and men with none. The Government could get just as capable men from amongst the returned soldiers as from amongst any other section, but the Government, in many cases, have not selected the right men. When an employer finds that an employee is not the right man for his purpose, he gets rid of him and appoints another. There is no necessity to go outside the ranks of the returned men to get men quite capable of seeing that we obtain the fullest possible value for every pound we spend, and that all the soldiers are given a fair deal.
– You would not expect a private to get any of these jobs. They are only for colonels.
– The privates have been just as well treated as have the officers. One good point about this country is that it does not matter what social rank a man may occupy, he gets an equally fair deal. It is nonsense to talk about “ colonels “ as against privates, or the wealthy man as against the poor man ;. my experience of Australia is that if a man “has it in him,” it does not matter whether he was “ born with a silver spoon in his mouth,” or works with his hands-
– Or has a brass hat on his head.
– Or has a brass hat on his head, or bluchers on his feet - if a man is prepared to do his work, he gets a fair deal. We here enter our protest as emphatically as we can against the waste of money. We are not showing the Government where they can retrench by cutting down the Estimates of this Department or that, but, in a broad, general way, showing the necessity for that application of proper business methods and better administration all round. It is easy for the Prime Minister and the Treasurer to stand up and try to throw us off the track by asking us’ to point to particular items that can be reduced. I think I have said enough to show that a great deal can be done in tightening up the administrative methods of this country. Unless the men now in charge of the Government can do it, others must be put in their place.
Mr.Rodgers. - I can assure the honorable gentleman that the cases he speaks of are not known to the central administration, I mean that the central administration does not know of cases in which a soldier has been charged for more than the completed cost of his house. Personally, I do not know of one such case. If that be the general position, I shall direct that every soldier shall get his house at the completed cost, and not more than the completed cost.
– The Assistant Minister is now letting himself in for something. I do not think that he really knows what he is saying.
Mr.Rodgers . - I know what the Act provides. The Government will stand up to the Act.
– It is rather singular that no Western Australian member has called the attention of the central authorities to the circumstances.
– The honorable member forIllawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) knows that I am in a specially favorable position for getting the particulars from the men. I get scores of letters every day from returned men all over Australia. I have been here week in and week out trying to get these grievances put right.
– Are they isolated cases?
– They are not isolated cases. There are plenty of them. I ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) to support me in getting these things put right. The Treasurer has told us in his Budget statement that he expects to get an increased amount this year from income tax. That seems to me to be another proof of lack of business knowledge. The right honorable gentleman may be able to collect some of the money which has not been paid, but which should have been paid during last year. The collection of the arrears may make up some of the amount he is budgeting for, but it is quite certain, and is within the knowledge of every man interested in production, that the income tax this year must be considerably reduced. The prices of all primary products have fallen, and not only that, but in many instances the numbers of stock have also decreased. Men are to-day making up for their losses of the last two or three years, where they can, by breeding upstock. There will be practically no income tax this financial year from very many people who, in the past, have been paying large sums into the Treasury. The income tax is a particularly sore point with the man on the land. We know that the Treasurer had aRoyal Commission appointed, which was supposed, in some way, to rectify these grievances. The Commission has been sitting for a long time, but so far we have not had any report from it. The man on the land is still paying double, and sometimes treble, taxation. In the face of this the Treasurer comes along and tells us that he is going to extort more money from the man on the land this year than last year. We are told by the Prime Minister that we are not as heavily taxed as are the people in the Old Country. There is no possible comparison between the position here and that in the older lands. In those distant countries, which have been longer settled than Australia, less money is . required for developmental purposes. Every pound taken from the primary producers and manufacturers of this country in the way of income tax reduces the amount that can be put into production. In an older land, where everything is more developed, where it is not necessary to keep on improving properly and extending manufactures, it does not injure people so much to have to pay heavy income tax; but in this country, where all our earnings are needed to put into capital account to extend our affairs, to improve our country, to increase our flocks and herds, to develop our land, and to improve our production, it is disastrous for the Treasurer to tell us that he is going to raise more by income tax in the present lean year than he has raised in the preceding years.
There are one or two other matters to which I want to refer. We have been challenged to mention any items which can be reduced without impairing the efficiency of the Departments concerned.
We all know that it is not our business to do that, but I want to mention particularly the way in which we are squandering money in training our boys. I do not think any one would accuse me of wanting to reduce the defence efficiency of Australia. I realize as fully as any one else that there are very many dangers looming ahead; that the world has not yet adjusted itself to peace conditions; that we shall probably not see real peace again in our time, and that we may never be able to get back to the old sense of security. I do not want to see anything done which will reduce in any way our power to defend ourselves when the trial comes, as come it must. I can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that a great deal of money which is now being spent on so-called defence is sheer waste. “Under the present system our boys are not being made fit for war service, but are being given a disgust of the compulsory system. I have taken some trouble to find out the defects of the system. Take, for instance, the University Rifles, a corps which includes men who, above all others, should be taking an interest in the future of this country, and in preparing themselves to hold safe this magnificent young land. They are feeling disgusted with the system of training, and are feeling that they are only being ‘ ‘ made fools of,” to use their own expression. Why is this? It is not because they do not take any interest in the future of this country. It is not because they do not want to do their duty by this country. It is because of the method by which they are being trained and handled. I have seen these fine young fellows in charge of the officer who is supposed to be training them. He told them to double, and, like many other young fellows would have done, they responded in a haphazard and careless way. He became annoyed, and tried to brush them dp. One or two of them laughed, and he told them that he would keep them at the double until they had learned how to double. When he talked to them in that way, they quite naturally got more careless and more irregular than before. Then, instead of keeping a firm hand on them, and making them do as he had told them, he let them sit down on the grass for the rest of the time. That is the sort of thing that is going on. I have seen a similar occurrence on the- Dandenongroad. Men, who were supposed to be training, laughed when a dog ran by. Their officer took them to task. There was really something comic about the incident, and they only laughed the more. He tried to make them stand up against the fence for half-an-hour. When some of them got tired they sat down, and he had no authority to make them do otherwise. The whole thing ended in a fiasco. Men are not being- trained in a way which will make them efficient for the time which undoubtedly will come when the present young men of Australia will have to defend their country. They are being given a dislike for the whole system of training. We must have discipline, but should impose it in a way which will meet with the appreciation of the men.
– They all like it.
– They do if it is properly imposed. But no man will stand a half-hearted instruction to do a thing, and then be allowed to do as he likes. An officer must insist on his men doing what they are told to do, otherwise he may as well admit that he is incapable of handling them. This is another instance which proves that if one cared to go through the administration of the Government he could show many directions in which they have failed, not so much in the spending of money, as in getting a return for it.
I wish to deal with income taxation, not from the point of view of the producer on the land, but in order to point out the way in which the Government have failed to obtain taxation which, in the opinion of many people who have investigated the matter, should be obtained. On the 29th September last I asked the Treasurer -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
The Treasurer’s reply stated that there had been no evasions; but still he admitted that income tax which should have been paid had not been paid. In view of that reply, I asked him on the 5th October -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
I ask the Committee to note the words “ to prevent the evasion in the future.” There we have an admission in three different forms that evasion has been taking place. On the 12th October I asked the Treasurer the following question: -
– So far as is known, all taxes due by importing firms under the various Taxation Acts have been recovered.
There we have an illustration of the present Government’s lack of administrative and business ability. In those three sets of questions they contradict themselves three times. They say there have been no evasions, and then they say that there have been evasions, and that certain sums cannot be recovered. Why cannot they be recovered ? Have the Government made any genuine attempt to deal with the matter?
– It was brought specifically under their notice.
– It has been brought under their notice on many occasions. All Australians who are interested in taxation know that the British Imperial Oil Company has been evading taxation; and why the Government will not at least take the advice of somebody outside the Department, with a view to recovering the money that is due to them, is hard to explain. If a man in the country forgets to submit a return of income, or makes a slip, even through ignorance, that can be construed into an evasion of the tax, the Government lose no time in bringing him to book. But a big firm, which has been importing oil into this country, and which the Government admit has been evading taxation, is allowed to go scotfree. So long ago as 1916 the “ late Mr. Palmer, formerly member for Echuca, brought this matter under the notice of the Government. The first Government acknowledgment of his complaint was made in 1917. Mr. Wagstaff, general manager of the British Imperial Oil Company Limited, stated before the Inter-State Commission in 1918 -
The British Imperial Oil Company is part of what is known as the Royal Dutch Shell Group….. The British Imperial Oil Company has only two shareholders, consisting of the Anglo-Saxon Company Limited and the Asiatic Petroleum Company Limited.
The British Imperial Oil Company is one of 119 subsidiary companies owned by the Royal Dutch Shell Combine. The Anglo-Saxon Company Limited is a distributing company in the Combine. The Asiatic Petroleum Company Limited is a shipping company in the Combine. The Royal Dutch Shell group holds 60 per cent., and the Shell Transport Company 40 per cent, of the Combine shares. The agreement between the AngloSaxon Company and the British Imperial Oil Company is short, and provides that : “ The local company shall be charged the market price for benzine as published in New York,” and that all prices shall be c.i.f. Section 53 of the Income Tax Act states that any agreement entered into for’ the purpose of evading taxation shall be declared void; and another section provides that a person who is proved to have evaded taxation may be fined an amount representing three times the taxation for which he was liable. What does that mean? The importation of benzine into the Commonwealth during the five years 1916-20, in cases of 8 gallons each, totalled 11,871,588 cases, of which the British Imperial Oil Company imported approximately 8,330,107 cases. The cost of the benzine to the British Imperial Oil Company per 8 gallons is - Distillation, including all costs up to this stage, 4d. ; freight,1s.1d.; duty, 8d. ; distribution, 2s.; cases and tins, 2s. 6d. ; total, 6s. 7d. The retail prices ruling in Australia during the five years 1916-20 were: - 1916, 17s. 6d. per case; 1917, 20s.; 1918, 24s.; 1919, 25s.; 1920, 28s., or an. average for the five years of 23s. per 8 gallons. The profits of the British Imperial Oil Company as disclosed by the above figures on the sale of benzine only were: - 1916, £841,366; 1917, £1,252,242; 1918, £1,345,740; 1919, £1,734,259; 1920, £1,925,000, or a total of £7,098,607. If the Government collected income tax upon that amount and fined the company as the Act entitles them to do, they would recover £6,000,000. The people are anxious to know why the Government do not test this case, or why they do not, at any rate, get an outside opinion concerning the matter. When, however, we bring up the matter in the House, we receive only evasive answers such as those I have read to-night. The Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) accusedthe Leader of the Country party (Dr. Earle Page) of, if not falsifying figures, at any rate lending them a wrong colour. Has the Leader of the Country party ever done anything to compare with the evasive and directly contradictory answers given by the Treasurer? It astonishes me that the right honorable gentleman should accuse the Leader of the Country party of putting a wrong complexion upon figures when those figures were quoted from official quarters, whilst the Treasurer, who is in charge of the finances of the country, gives replies that are evasive, misleading, and contradictory. I impress upon the Government that before they go raking up the last few pounds of taxation due from men who are suffering in the back country, they should recover those large sums that are owing to them as instanced by the facts I have quoted concerning the British Imperial Oil Company. That concern was owned by the enemy during the late war. Now it is deliberately evading taxation in a large and general way. If the Government carried out its duties properly, it could get enough money in taxation from that company to cover the estimated expenditure for the increased postal and telegraphic facilities required throughout Australia. But nothing is done, and the Government wonder why fault is found with its. administration. As the Government shows so little sympathy for those who are labouring to increase the country’s production, we contend that it is time we had a Government in power which would so handle the affairs of Australia that, not only would encouragement be given to primary producers and others, but they would have some advantage over those outside competitors with whom we have been trying to deal through the Tariff. In addition to accusing the Leader of the Country party of putting the Budget figures in an unfair light, the Treasurer taunted him with being a new man in the House. Let me remind the Minister that a threeyearold horse has been known to win the Melbourne Cup, and on some occasions that three-year-old has been Australianbred. I see no reason why an Australian, although new to parliamentary life, should not lay down the right and proper lines on which the Commonwealth should be governed. The members of the Country party, like all others here, got their mandate from the electors; and if we think a certain honorable member is fit to be placed in command of our party, it is not for the Treasurer or any other honorable member to taunt our Leader with being a parliamentary novice. The Leader of the Country party has already proved his ability in the country. In his own profession he stands high. I am sure the honorable member can carry the weight and do the distance. We have been training him for some time, and, if the House will only give him a reasonably good start, he will land the stakes and bring the money home.
– I ask the Minister in charge if he will consent to progress being reported?
Motion (by Mr.Groom) proposed -
That progress be reported.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
The following paper was presented: -
Arbitration (Public Service Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 7 of 1921- In the matter of “ Travelling Time,” as affecting various Public Service organizations.
House adjourned at 10.12 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 20 October 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211020_reps_8_97/>.