8th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
.- (By leave). - I desire to make a short statement in regard to the regulations which were passed in May last under which the export of wool from Australia was regulated.
At that time, owing to a fall in price of all wools, and a complete cessation of demand for certain classes, the wool industry was threatened with financial disaster, and as the financial prosperity of this country is closely interwoven with the wool industry, the Government considered that any action which it could take to prevent the collapse of one of our, and incidentally many other dependent, primary industries was justifiable.
Honorable members will remember that when the position was placed before the House, Parliament agreed to the issue of regulations governing the export of wool for a period of six months. These regulations expired on 9th November, 1921, and the Government has been urged to agree to a continuance of the restrictions, it being represented that the action taken by the Government had materially assisted in restoring stability to the wool market.
Honorable members are aware that it is the policy of the Government, as expressed on frequent occasions in connexion with the various commercial activities of the Commonwealth, to return as soon as possible to normal conditions. Government interference with trade is only justified when such interference is desirable in the interests of the whole of the community. The Government does not consider that the continuance of the wool regulations is justified. The conditions at present existing are not at all analogous to those which existed six months ago. The increased demand for wool, particularly on the Continent, is a most important factor in the improved condition of the industry, the position being that while in January last the Continent took only 33 per cent, of the total sales, in June 65 per cent., and in July 63 per cent., were taken by the Continental buyers.
After considering the matter, it was agreed that the regulations should be continued for fourteen days from 9th November, which period expires to-day. The Government does not propose to further extend these regulations.
If, however, circumstances should arise in the future which make further regulations or restrictions desirable, if, for example, there is a threatened collapse of the market either as a result of a “ bear “ movement or from any other cause, the Government proposes to re-impose the present regulations.
– Does the Prime Minister intend to amendthe Income Tax Assessment Act during this session by increasing the exemption in respect of children and removing the double taxation of members of co-operative societies ?
– The Government is well aware of the anomalies in the taxation of the Commonwealth, and of the need for a comprehensive measure to adjust these on. the basis of the recommendations of the Taxation Commissioners. If time permits - which will depend largely on the attitude of honorable members towards the business of the House - the Government will introduce such a measure this session.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that the New Ledger, the journal of the Australian Clerical Association, has been refused by the postal authorities registration as a newspaper? Will the honorable gentleman look into the matter, and see whether, as. the trade journals of the organizations of the employing classes are granted registration, this journal should not be registered?
– I shall look into the matter.
– Can the Prime Minister inform the House concerning the negotiations in London, for the disposal of our surplus meat now held there?
– I have not yet received a reply to the lengthy cablegram which I sent to the Secretary of State for the Colonies making certain concrete proposals which had been discussed and approved by a large and representative deputation that waited on me. As soon as I receive an answer to that cablegram, I shall make *in announcement on the subject to the House.
– Is the Prime Minister aware that during the past six months 63,000 tons of steel have been imported into Australia - much of it practically dumped here - and that the Newcastle Steel “Works CarlI] ot carry on unless they are given protection from such competition? Will the Government proceed with the Tariff Board Bill and the Anti-dumping Bill this session, so that this protection may be given.
– I have said many times that it is the intention of the Government to go on with that legislation. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) brought the matter up last Friday, and I then again set out the policy of the Government in regard t<J it. I hope that the Anti-Dumping Bill will be introduced this week.
– The expropriation of properties in New Guinea having been completed, the Government lias given careful consideration to the policy to be followed in regard to the plantations there, and has decided that for every reason it is better that it should cease to own them. They will, therefore, be offered for sale, special provision being made for preference to returned soldiers. The regulations which will be drafted will be made available to honorable members at the earliest possible moment.
– On Thursday and Friday last, when the temperature was very oppressive, owing in part ta the humidity, the conditions in this chamber were very disagreeable, and I wish to know from you, Mr. Speaker, if a special effort could not be made to improve its ventilation? First class engineers, skilled in questions of ventilation, might be asked to make an investigation of the problem, so that when we again get weather like that of last week, the air in the chamber may be purer and cooler.
– As the honorable member knows, the weather last week, and the conditions in this chamber, were more than ordinarily oppressive, but it is a fact, nevertheless, that whenever there is a full attendance of honorable members, and a large number of persons in the galleries, the air of the chamber quickly becomes vitiated. Attempts have been made from time to time to improve the ventilation of the chamber, after expert advice has been obtained, and considerable sums have been expended upon them, but the results have not been satisfactory. The main difficulties in the way are due to architectural ‘defects in the planning of the chamber. I am having tests made of the atmosphere of the House by professional experts, and I expect to have a report during the week as to the results of the tests. After that I shall consider what remedial steps should be taken.
– As economy should begin at home, will the Prime Minister consider the advisability of following the splendid example set by the Prime Minister of New Zealand in regard to the reduction of the salaries of members of the Government and of the House?
– My right honorable friend the Prime Minister of New Zealand has had his photograph taken, iu evening dress, and with a flag in his hand. I shall be very glad to follow that example.
-When the Government are dealing with the plantations in the Mandated Territory of New Guinea, will the Prime Minister see that some provision is made whereby Australians, and especially returned soldiers, who have been asking for some time for permission to search for oil there, may be afforded opportunities to do so? Will the right honorable gentleman see if something cannot be done in the way of throwing, that country open to Australians who desire to prospect for oil at their own expense ?
– No ; I am not in favour of such a course. The Government of this . country have incurred great expense in connexion with these Mandated Territories, and oil, if oil there be, is one of the assets to which the Government must look. The Government are paying a great deal of money for prospecting; we have employed the best experts available in the world; and we do not propose to allow by dummying and those other circuitous processes which are not unknown to oil companies, these valuable deposits to get out of our hands.
-Will the Prime Minister, at an early date, make a statement to the House in regard to the alleged cruelty to natives in New Guinea, in addition to the pleasant generalities which the right honorable gentleman has already had published in the press?
– Yesterday I made public a statement in regard to this matter, after looking into the facts very closely. The position isthis: Under German rule there was cruelty to natives, and discipline and order were maintained by corporal punishment. Since civil administration has been established in New Guinea, the only cases of corporal punishment that I know of are those set out in the statement I made available yesterday. I think honorable members will agree with me that everything that can be done has been done to deal with those who were guilty. I might call the attention of honorable members to certain facts, which, I think, we cannot ignore. There is a tendency amongst the natives, according to the report, to prowl around the bungalows of white women, to frighten and to molest. This cannot be permitted. This practice has grown to such an extent that something has to be done. If punishment were administered in these circumstances, I do not know that any honorable member would censure it, if his own wife, or other female relatives, were the victims. It is right that we should protect the interests of the natives, but we must not forget the interests of the white population. In any case, those who were guilty of cruelty have been punished, and dismissed; more than that we cannot do.
– Is the Minister for Trade and Customs aware that the activities of the Bureau of Science and Industry are considerably hampered owing to lack of funds? In view of the very important work that is carried out by the Bureau will the honorable gentleman take steps to make the necessary funds available?
– I am afraid it is true that the amount of money which might be desirable has not been placed on the Estimates this year for the work of the Bureau. At the same time, we are endeavouring to use the funds that are at our disposal in the best possible way, concentrating on those things we think are likely to lead to practical results, and laying the foundation for a number of investigations in the future, when a little more money will, probably, be available.
Storesof Meat in Britain.
– Some time ago I asked the Prime Minister if he would confer with the British Government, and the otherGovernments interested, to see if means could not be devised to free for the starving people in Russia the meat now stored in Britain, and thus permit the meat now wasting in Australia to be sent Home to occupy the released space?
– This matter has been under consideration by the Government for some time, and has been the subject of communication between this Government and the British Government. We were desirous of following in the footsteps of Britain, and asked for advice in regard to the matter. It is obvious that if the object Australia and its citizens have in view is the relief of starvation in Russia, the subscribers must be assured that the money subscribed will be available for those who are in need of it. Such assurance could not be given by His Majesty’s Government, and, in the circumstances, the Commonwealth Government thought it could not take the lead in this country. I have read the statement by Sir Philip Gibbs in this morning’s newspapers; the condition of affairs portrayed is positively appalling. But the responsibility for that lies, of course, on the Government which is solely responsible. We are not, however, to deal with the sins of Governments, but to consider the state of those unfortunate people who are starving. Speaking for myself, I say that if we have the assurance that the money subscribed will reach those unfortunates, and be used for their relief, this Government will be prepared to make a recommendation to the House and the country in regard to it.
– Having regard to the statement made by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), in Sydney, that the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) would be invited to join the Ministry in due course, and in order to allay the anxiety of other Ministerial supporters, will the Prime Minister let the House know what the Government propose to do in regard to either the formation of a Coalition Ministry or the reconstruction of the present Cabinet?
– I shall make that announcement at such a time as will allow honorable members to regale themselves with it on the festal day of the year - Christmas Day.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs inquire by cable or letter regarding the report that paper is being made from grape-vine branches?
– I shall be glad to make inquiries in due course.
Option of Land Purchase
– In view of the fact that the French Government are strenuously opposing any sale of land in the New Hebrides to the Australian Government or anybody else, does the Prime Minister intend to proceed with the debate upon the option of purchase by the Commonwealth, or will he strike that Order of the Day off the notice-paper?
– When I made a statement to the House on this subject some time ago, I expressed a doubt as to whether the French Government would agree to such a sale; I knew that it would not. I shall be very glad to make an opportunity for discussing this matter if hon orable members so desire, but there are very many other items of business to be discussed.
– I think itmight as well be struck off the notice-paper.
– Very well.
Payment for Fire Brigade Services
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister in Charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
In view of the fact that the Board of Control of Shipbuilding has offered a lease of the vessel Biloela to the honorable member for Dalley at a rental of £15 per week, will the Minister issue instructions to this Board to offer the vessel to the employees of Cockatoo Dockyard, and also to the citizens of North Sydney, on a lease on the same favorable terms? ,
– If the honorable member for Dalley will arrange for accredited representatives of the employees at Cockatoo Dockyard to submit a definite request for the lease of the Biloela on the terms mentioned, the Board of Control will be prepared to favorably consider the same.
Payment to Disabled Employee - Examination of Telephonists
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - .
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The Acting Public Service Commissioner has furnished the following information: -
Merchant Shipping Guild
asked the Prime Min ister upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - 1 and 2. No record can be traced of an offer being made by the Merchant Shipping Guild to work, on a co-operative basis, interned vessels taken over during the war.
Gold and Coal Mining
– On 3rd November the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked the following questions, upon notice: -
No official statistics are kept which would enable a precise answer to be furnished to the honorable member’s questions, but the following information is based on a reliable estimate : -
-On. the 16th November, the honorable member for Melbourne (Dr. Maloney) asked for information regarding the rentals paid for Commonwealth buildings in Melbourne and suburbs, the Departments using such buildings, the terms of the leases, &c. I now lay on the table a statement giving the desired particulars.
The following papers were presented : -
Papua - Oilfields in -Reports on operations of the Anglo-Persian Oil Company during August and September, 1921.
Ordered to be printed.
Public Service Act -
List of Permanent Officers of the Commonwealth Public Service as on 30th June, 1921.
Promotions of -
Defence Act - Regulations amended - Statutory Rules 1921, No. 213.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to : -
That leave be given to bring in a Bill for an Act to make provision for a National Convention for the purpose of the revision of the Constitution of the Commonwealth, for laying the proposals of the Convention before the Parliament, and for other purposes in connexion therewith.
Bill presented by Mr. Hughes and read a first time.
Additions, NewWorks, Buildings, Etc.
In Committee of Supply (Consideration resumed from18th November, vide page 13009) :
Proposed vote, £400,000.
.- This is a vote that requires very careful consideration at the hands of the Committee. We are all desirous of developing aviation, but I think the development should be along civil rather than military lines. These Estimates show that the Government propose to branch out very extensively in the provision of air services for purposes of defence. In the last financial year we spent only £77,040 upon the acquisition of sites and provision of aircraft equipment and plant for Military Aviation, but this year we are asked to vote £375,985 for the same purpose, an extra £298,945. No money was spent last year upon the acquisition of sites, &c. for civil aviation, but this year we are asked to provide £55,216 for this purpose.
– What was the amount voted last year for air services?
– I am dealing only with the actual expenditure of last year. In considering these Estimates the Committee has been guided not by the amount voted last year, but by the amount actually spent. All honorable members recognise how essential it is to prevent unnecessary expenditure at the present juncture. We do not know what may happen. An effort is being made by the Great Powers to reduce their armaments.
– And the suggestion has been made that aviation ought also to be ruled out as being a barbarous method of warfare.
– Yes; I was just about to quote the following from this morning’s Argus -
Speaking at Amiens to an Anglo-French audience, Field Marshal Sir Henry Wilson, Chief of the Imperial General Staff, said that the development of the aeroplane movement seemed to him to be the development of a movement for killing women and children. Soldiers did not like it. He questioned whether air forces ought to be developed. If those who controlled the world wished to limit the sorrows of future wars, they should consider whether it would not be better to limit aeroplanes than submarines.
This military authority questions the wisdom of spending any money on air services for defence purposes, and yet we in Australia are proposing to spend still more in this direction. I quite agree that civil aviation ought to be developed on sound lines for the benefit of our remote districts, and, therefore, I take no exception to the proposed expenditure on the civil branch of aviation, but I must oppose the proposed heavy additional expenditure on the military branch. Air Force works under the control of the Department of Works and Railways are estimated to cost £200,260 this year. Last year no money was spent in this direction. There seems to be no justification for this proposed expenditure. The Prime Minister. (Mr. Hughes) announces that he is prepared to reduce the Air Services Estimates by £100,000. I think that he could easily take off £200,000, and even then the vote would still be considerably more than was spent last year. When every one is putting forward efforts to prevent expenditure on military preparations, I think that we could easily mark time in this direction. In the future we could review our position, if it should be necessary to do so. For the moment, however, we are not justified in voting this additional expenditure. No doubt there are some very good and brave men in our Air Force, whose services I would like to see utilized in civil aviation, where they could do good work, but according to the Estimates under the control of the Department of Works and Railways, we are providing only £14,000 this year for the cost of building hangars, workshops, barracks, &c, for civil aviation. Two hundred thousand two hundred and sixty pounds is estimated to be spent on building hangars, workshops, barracks, &c, for the military branch. We are informed in the schedule that the expenditure on air services under the control of the Department of Works and Railways, totalling £214,260, is less an amount of £86,260 which it is estimated will remain unexpended at the close of the year; and that the Air Service votes under the control of the Department of Defence, totalling £431,201, are less £159,201 which it is estimated will also remain unexpended at the close of the year. I do not understand why amounts are placed in the Estimates which it is not intended to spend, except that it is a notification of the intention of the Government to continue the expenditure in the next financial year. If we do not clip these intentions in their infancy, later on we may find the expenditure on our Air Force growing to great proportions, possibly amounting to millions of pounds. At any rate, after deducting the amounts estimated to be unexpended at the close of the year, the net vote for Air Services this year is £400,000, as against an actual expenditure of £77,040 last year, or an additional proposed expenditure this year of £322,960.
– Letus take off £200,000.
– That is what I intend to move. The total proposed expenditure on civil aviation is £69,216, leaving £330,784 proposed to be spent on the military side, as against an actual expenditure of £77,040 last year.
– Do not forget the commitments.
– There is no escape from the figures I have quoted. The Minister may be able to explain the item of £200,260 for the construction of buildings, &c, for the Air Force, but on Friday last he pointed out that his Department was committed to an expenditure of £82,000 in connexion with this item.
– No. I pointed out that the commitments amounted to £82,000 on the military side under the control of the Department of Defence, and £24,606 on the works side, and that in addition tenders had been called for works amounting to £15,247.
– The Minister will see that he cannot place the £82,000 anywhere else, because the item to which I have referred is the only one which covers it.
– I direct the attention of the honorable member to the item in subdivision 1 of Division 12 Royal Australian Air Force, £375,985.
– I shall let the Minister explain the matter at a later stage. He has referred to votes of £82,000, £24,606, and £15,247, making a total of £121,000.
– Those are total amounts. The £15,247 covers the total amount oftenders.
– The Assistant- Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), speaking ton Friday last, said the commitments amounted to £82,000.
– Yes, that is on the military side.
– The amount is not of so much importance as is the fact that we have been committed to this expenditure without Parliament being consulted.
– No, Parliament appropriated £294,200.
– Of which only £77,040 was spent.
– That is so; but there were still commitments to be met in the next year.
– If the Minister will look at Division 14, he will find a vote of £200,260 set down for the Royal Australian Air Force “towards cost of construction of buildings, hangars, workshops, barracks, and earthworks,and preparation of aerial routes and landing grounds.” None of that money was appropriated last year. That is a fresh vote.
– If the honorable member will look at the footnote to the item to which he has referred, he will find that that was provided for last year under subdivision 1 of Division 12.
– There is nothing in the columns for 1920-21 for the item to which I have referred to show that any of that money was voted last year.
– It was covered by the vote of £294,200, which appears in the 1920-21 column opposite subdivision 1 of Division 12. All construction work last year was paid from that vote. That is explained by a note to the item to which .1 have referred the honorable member.
– I see the footnote to which the Minister refers me; but I cannot understand why no amount should appear in the column for 1920-21 opposite subdivision 1 of Division 14. The Estimates should be set out in a way in which the votes will be plain to honorable members, and they should not be called upon to search pages of the Estimates to discover how much has been voted or is proposed to be voted.
– I think the Estimates are perfectly plain. The matter is made clearer by the separation of the votes, as has been done this year.
– I do not think the Estimates are clear. It is very difficult for honorable members looking at them to understand what has been done.
– An honorable member would need to be an ‘accountant to understand them.
– Exactly. If we are committed to the expenditure of this money, it is of little use asking Parliament to pass these votes. Of what use is. it to bring down these Estimates at all ‘if, when exception is taken to the votes, we are told that Parliament has already appropriated part of the amount, and that we are committed to a great deal of the expenditure proposed?
– Last year did we not approve of the vote for £294,200?
– That was last year, and the Government did not expend the vote.
– The vote passed last year Was the authority f ot the commitments.
– ‘The Government must carry on upon that appropriation. If the contention of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition were correct, all work authorized by a vote of Parliament should stop on the 30th June of each year.
– And start again on the 1st January.
– And in the meantime all the staff employed on the work would have to be dismissed.
– What is the amount asked for this year, after deducting commitments ?
– That is what J am trying to find out.- I do not quite know what the commitments are. Two Ministers disagree as to what they are.
– The commitments are £82,000 for acquisition of sites, and so on, £24,606 in connexion with buildings, and tenders are out which total £15,247. Roughly speaking, the commitments amount to £126,000 or £127,000. Of the £400,000, the total vote for Air Services, the Government propose to take off £100,000, and the difference between £127,000, the total commitments, and £300,000, or £173,000, is the amount which the Committee is being asked to appropriate.
– I think that the expenditure proposed for this year is far too much. We are not justified in such a heavy expenditure on this service at this juncture, when there is so much doubt regarding this form of defence. Pending the result of the Conferences that are being held abroad on the question of defence, and in view of the opinion of the leading authority I have quoted, as to whether, in view of the destruction of women and children it is advisable to have an Air Force for purposes of defence, we shall, I think, be acting wisely if we reduce the vote proposed very considerably, without- regard to commitments.
– What does the honorable member mean by his reference to women and children?
– I refer to their destruction in warfare by Air Forces. Leading authorities are, on that account, now raising the question whether Air Forces should not be scrapped altogether.
I have no objection to the Government endeavouring to improve and develop civil aviation, because that might render good service. People in the back-blocks might in that way be greatly benefited. But it is quite another matter to ask us at this time to spend so much money on an AirService for defence purposes. I think thatthe proposed total vote of £400,000 for Air Services should be reduced by £200,000.
– We need to be careful not to injure civil aviation.
– I do not intend that the reduction should affect the vote proposed for civil aviation. I intend that my amendment should be an instruction to the Government that, whilst the vote for civil aviation may be agreed to, the total vote for Air Services should be reduced not by £100,000, as promised by the Government, but by £200,000. I move -
That the vote be reduced by £200,000.
– I am indeed sorry that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has definitely moved for the reduction of the vote by £200,000, because the carrying of the amendment will mean the scrapping of the Air Force. I should like to say, with regard to the honorable gentleman’s statement as to the possibility of fighting from the air being prohibited in warfarebecause of the possibility of the destruction of women and children -
– A little thing like that will never trouble the militarist.
– The honorable member might wait until I have finished before putting in a dirty remark like that. I agree that something should be done to prevent the possibility of air-craft being used in time of war to drop bombs upon non-combatant civilians, thus causing loss of life among innocent men, women, and children. Such a horrible thing should not be possible; but it does not follow that we must lead the way towards bringing about the prohibition of such a practice by scrapping whatever preparations we have made in connexion with the establishment of our Air Force. Rather, there should be international regulations governing the whole matter.
Of course, if the League of Nations is to function at all, it should be easy for that body to frame laws, or regulations, regarding the use of air-craft in warfare.
– Hear, hear ! It should limit the spots on which bombs may fall.
– The honorable member is constantly gabbling; he is a chattering nincompoop. It should be a simple matter for the League of Nations to frame restrictive rules; and, perhaps, such a body could enforce them. Only in that direction can we look for anything in the direction of safeguarding noncombatant peoples. But for an honorable member to suggest that, in order to prevent possible loss of life among women and children by aerial attack, the Commonwealth should scrap its new organization for the creation and maintenance of an Air Force is ridiculous. The ideal, of course, would be, for all the nations to agree to aerial disarmament. Thereafter, I would immediately say, “By all means, let us scrap the Australian aerial organization.”
– But would any international agreement of the kind stand the test? Was not the use of poison gas and flame projectors tabooed by the nations prior to the great war ?
– Quite so; yet, as every one knows, they were used to the fullest extent. International agreements did not prevent their employment. Perhaps an agreement, based upon the prevention of the use of air-craft over non-combatant territory, thus imperilling the lives of innocent people, would also be broken under stress of actual war conditions. But I repeat that, if it could be shown that there was a probability of the nations scrapping their air organizations, I would be agreeable to the same course being adopted in Australia, despite the fact that the procedure would involve a great upheaval in this country. I have previously mentioned that there is a staff now employed upon our Air Services numbering 350. It was the policy of this Parliament and country that an Air Force should be established. The necessary staff, which includes married men, has been appointed, and contracts have been entered into, in respect of a number of individuals, covering a period of six years.
– How many are under permanent engagement?
– Actually the whole staff; and thus the country is committed to a considerable extent. If the estimated sum were cut down, as is now suggested, how could the balance be expected to cover the purchase of equipment and stores, and the erection of buildings, including hangars, and everything else? On the naval side of the Services, the Government have already scrapped one squadron of flying boats, following upon the original cutting-down of these Estimates by the late Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook), ere ever the figures had come before honorable members. But there are such considerations as the establishment of hangars and the housing necessary for all kinds of stores and equipment. These take up large space” and involve considerable expense. “We have a great number of machines at present under temporary canvas covers. The Imperial Government made us a present of 100 machines, with absolutely full equipment, down to the last detail, even including oil. It was a magnificent gift.
– But they are all brokendown “ busses,” are they not?
– No; they are very good machines, and they are liable to suffer considerable deterioration through exposure to all weathers. A large portion of the money originally intended to’ be spent was proposed to be devoted to the housing of these machines.
– Broken-down “ busses.”
– I appeal to the Chair for protection from the persistent interruptions of the honorable member for Batman.
– Order! Every honorable member is entitled to be heard by the Chair without interruption.
– I wish the honorable member for Batman would go for a flight in one of these machines; he might possibly break his neck. I emphasize that, with a definite commitment of £82,000, the Government are left, for all purposes, with £148,000. If honorable members cut off another sum of £100,000, the remainder might be sufficient to build a couple of hangars; but that would be about all. The position would be absolutely ridiculous. It is absurd, therefore, to suggest that a further amount of £100,000 can be cut off.- When I first introduced the Estimates for the Air Services, I stressed that I would not have it understood that the Government were ready to bargain, and to whittle something off here and something else off there, at the behest of any and every honorable member. I pointed out that I had worked the whole matter down practically to the lowest possible sum. Yet, without any bargaining, I afterwards agreed to cut down the Estimates to the extent of £100,000. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has said, however, that that is not enough. If I had indicated in the first place that I would be agreeable to a reduction of £200,000, the honorable member would still have said the same.
– Hear, hear! And so he should have said.
– It does not much matter what honorable members may say. I do not care much what the Deputy Leader of the Opposition proposes to do. If he wishes to smash the Air Services he is welcome to go ahead; but he should bear in mind that any such action would cause a great deal of unemployment, and would create an undesirable position in Sydney so far as concerns a firm from which the Government have ordered a number of machines.
– How many men were employed in the Air Services last year?
– The Services can scarcely be said to have been started last year. The civil aviation side had only been under way for about three months of that period. However, the number on the staff last year was 130, and, to-day, the total is 350. If the honorable member persists in his amendment, and if the Committee supports Mm - well, we shall see what we shall see. ‘
– In discussing these matters some members of the Committee find themselves in a difficulty. They realize that expenditure must be reduced; but, personally,. I think we are going about it in the very worst possible way. A much better method than that which has been adopted would be to ration the Departments, and to let the Ministers bring down revised Estimates. Retrenchment is necessary, and if we cannot get reductions in the Estimates in one way we must get them in another. I am prepared to encourage civil aviation as far as I think the finances of the Commonwealth will permit. I believe that aviation will confer enormous advantages upon some of the wayback parts of Australia. In the far north of Western Australia the settlers are weeks, and sometimes months, without a mail, and the conditions are almost intolerable. It is quite impossible to expect settlement on a scale of any magnitude in such conditions. At present enormous areas of country are peopled by a few white men, the great bulk of the work, including boundary riding, being done by aboriginals. It is unreasonable to expect families to go back into that country unless they are given some better means of communication with the centres of population than they have at present. The same conditions apply in the Gulf country and in the north-west of Queensland. In his proposals for assisting civil aviation, I believe that the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) will have the sympathy of the Committee, but too large a proportion of the vote is set aside for military, and too little for civil purposes. While not’ desiring to pose before the Committee as one who has any knowledge of military affairs, I can say that I believe that one of the best means of defending Australia would be to encourage civil aviation. We would then have a body of trained aviators and machines ready at any time, if called upon, for defence of the country. If the Assistant Minister presses his vote for this large sum for military aviation, I think the Committee will decide upon making a further reduction than that proposed. No member of this Committee wishes to be very severe on these items.
– The “items” do not care very much.
– Then I am sure the Assistant Minister will acquit honorable members of any desire to be unduly severe on him personally. To enable the Commonwealth to pay its way there must be a total saving on the Estimates of upwards of £2,000,000. The Committee has to achieve its object by lopping off so much here, and so much there, as the items come before it. The Committee is not able to deal with the situation as it ought to be dealt with. So far ‘as I am concerned I mean to effect some very considerable reductions in the total amount of the Estimates. Cannot the Assistant Minister see his way to increase largely the civil aviation portion of the vote, and reduce the military ‘aviation portion ? If there is one thing which is going to benefit settlement in Australia, and bring something like encouragement and hope to the people who have gone out to the back-blocks, it is improvement in the means of communication. By a system of civil aviation the outlying portions of Australia can be brought very much closer into communication with the world and the centres of population in the Commonwealth. This would promote settlement, and would be of enormous advantage to Australia generally. I followed the speech of the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) very closely, and1 I could see in it no hostility to the civil aviation portion of the vote. If the Assistant Minister will transfer a portion of the vote from the military to the civil side of aviation, he will get a very much larger total vote than if he insists upon keeping the larger portion for military purposes, whilst throwing only a morsel to civil aviation. Military airships are taken out occasionally for jaunts, but civil machines and their pilots may be employed regularly under contract to carry mails into the back blocks. I believe that mails will be carried shortly between the mainland and the island State of Tasmania. ‘ I believe an offer has already been made to the Department with that end in view. If the daily and weekly avocation of the men and their machines is to carry mails under contract, a force immensely superior to any that could be trained under a military system would be ready in time of trouble. I appeal to the Assistant Minister to meet the Committee in this direction; otherwise, he will probably have his vote reduced beyond the amount he suggests.
– I want to point out to the Committee exactly what the effect will be if this vote is reduced by £200,000.
– Are these military aeroplanes to he called into operation only in the event of an invasion of Australia ?
– They are intended both for the Army and the Navy, and will be used only for defensive purposes. In the work of fixing sites, and soon, they will be able to do a lot of useful survey work. Under this heading the Committee is asked to provide £400,000. If the amount is reduced by £200,000, the position will be extremely difficult. The Defence Department is already committed to the expenditure of £82,000 in connexion with the ordering of machines, supplies, &c. ; and there are commitments totalling £24,606 for works under the Works and Railways Department; tenders have been called for works at Point Cook, estimated to cost £15,237. In addition, there is an amount of £69,216 for civil aviation - £55,216 under the Defence Department, and £14,000 under the Department of Works and Railways. Therefore, if the total vote be reduced to £200,000, there will be only about £10,000 or so for the provision of hangars and other essential requirements. That amount will be useless. If the vote be reduced as proposed, it will mean practically wiping out the whole Air Force. Would we be justified in doing that? It is admitted that an efficient Air Force is essential for the adequate protection of this country. Therefore, honorable members should consider carefully what will be the position of the Army and the Navy if the Air Force is practically cut out. . The Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) points out that this proposed drastic reduction of the vote will result in the dismissal of some hundreds of men, some of whom have been engaged on sixyears’ contracts. He has made exceedingly heavy reductions in the vote, and the compromise should be accepted in a fair spirit. I ask the Committee not to carry this policy to excess by practically destroying what must always be regarded as an essential part of our defence scheme.
.- The Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) has, I think, supplied very good reasons why the vote should be reduced, seeing that the proposed expenditure will be confined chiefly to new works. The expenditure last year was £77,000. If we add to that another £100,000, there should be sufficient to pay wages and keep in employment the men at present engaged. There is a remarkable discrepancy between the amount asked for purely military aviation and the amount required for civil aviation development. It is extraordinary that nearly six times as much should be spent on activities designed for the destruction of human life and property than is asked for constructive civil work. We all know how the castiron regulations of the Defence Department will work. Machines designed for defence purposes will not be made available for service in a civil capacity. They will be engaged on purely military work. As the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has already pointed out, there is a likelihood of military aeroplanes being scrapped, and they ought to be. Poison gas, as an agent for the destruction of human life, is mainly distributed by means of aeroplanes; and if the Washington Disarmament Conference deals with this aspect of warfare, the use of military aeroplanes might be abolished There should be no increase in our defence vote under this heading, at least until the Washington Conference has come to some decision upon the use of aeroplanes in warfare. If Australia builds up her Military and Naval Air Forces, and if other nations do likewise, and if professors and scientists continue perfecting methods for the production of poison gas, we may quite safely scrap all our naval vessels, and still be able to carry on a devastating war from the air. The development of a military Air Force is pregnant with the most disastrous possibilities to mankind. When the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking, the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Greene) interjected that last year the Government did not spend the amount asked for. Similar statements have been made to the Committee from time to time, and we have frequently been told that the Government are not going to spend the money, although they are asking for it. We have been told that they have spent only £77,000, but are committed to £100,000, and the figures are being twisted in such a way that it is difficult to ascertain the exact position. I am quite prepared to give a vote which will assist in scrapping military air services until the Washington Disarmament Conference has come to some decision which may assist us. If the expenditure on the military side were reduced, even to the extent of discontinuing all work, I would be prepared to vote a good deal more for the development of a civil air force, because in extending that branch we would be training men who could be transferred to a military air force should the occasion arise. At present we are only tying up £200,000 to £300,000, and needlessly employing men, when the money could be profitably utilized in other directions. If these men were being usefully engaged, and could be transferred to the military branch in time of war, I would be prepared to support the vote; but with the information now before us I intend to support the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton).
.- While I desire to see this vote considerably reduced, I do not wish to do anything to destroy the efficiency of our Air Service. I think that, subject to certain promises and considerations, we might very well be satisfied in reducing the vote by £100,000.In the first place, I should like the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) to assure us that none of the promised reduction of £100,000 will be taken from the civil aviation branch.
– I am prepared to give that assurance.
– I am pleased to note that honorable members appreciate the value of civil aviation, and realize the possibilities of opening up the country by this means. The honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) and I were very assiduous in making representations to the Department in an endeavour to encourage civil aviation, and I understand that other honorable members have also moved in this direction. We actively urged the Government to assist, as far as possible, in the building up of a civil aviation branch, realizing that it would not only be the means of developing the Commonwealth but also of great commercial advantage. The men employed in that branch of the service would form the nucleus of an air defence force for use in the event of war. A good deal is being done to assist civil aviation, and tenders have already been called for the conveyance of mails by air from Sydney to Melbourne, from Adelaide to Sydney, and from Adelaide to Broken Hill. I am anxious that something should be done by this means to open up the country between Sydney or Brisbane, and Camooweal and Port Darwin, because if steps are taken in this direction the residents in that outback country will not only be benefited, but the service will also be of advantage from a defence point of view.
– Civil aviation should be attached to the military branch as far as possible..
– Yes. The honorable member for Wakefield (Mr. Richard Foster) is aware that the Government have subsidized an air service between Geraldton and Derby, and I would like to see that service extended to Port Darwin.
– Where are those places?
– The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) assumes that I am mentioning this service because it covers a portion of my constituency; but I think he also realizes the difficulties experienced by the people in that Territory, and does not overlook the importance of such a service from a defence point of view. If we encouraged the civil aviation branch the pilots would be able to render considerable assistance to the Defence authorities by supplying them with photographs and reports concerning the country over which they have travelled. Greater assistance should be given in the matter of subsidizing services over a sparsely-populated country than those over closely-settled centres, because in the latter shorter distances have to be travelled, and there is also the possibility of revenue being obtained by the carriage of passengers. That does not apply to the services in the outback country, and it is in connexion with those that Government assistance should be given. The total sum provided in the Estimates under control of the Defence Department is, approximately, £647,000, and. of this amount the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) has said that £159,201 will not be expended this year.
– The absolute appropriation is £400,000.
– I know that the amount has been placed in the Estimates in this way, and it enables the Government to anticipate that the unexpended amount will be included, otherwise they would not tell us that they required £375,985 for the Royal Australian Air Force. The natural assumption is that we are giving the Government the right to proceed with works which will cost £375,985, which they propose to spend, less £159,201.
– There is nothing new in this vote.
– But there can be only one object, and that is to let the Committee know that the Department does not intend to expend’ the whole of the money in the present financial year. Personally, I am quite prepared to support a reduction of £100,000 on this vote, subject to no reduction being made in the amount to be granted for civil aviation. I think it is the desire of a big majority in this Chamber that civil aviation should be encouraged to a greater extent, and that there should be less expenditure on aviation in the Defence Department.
.- I hope the Committee will accept the proposal of the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie), who has stated quite definitely that there is no intention to interfere with the development of civil aviation. One honorable member has said that, until the Washington Disarmament Conference has dealt with air defence, the Committee should take no action whatever; but the honorable member immediately went on to say that, if he were given the opportunity, he would vote against any expenditure on aviation in connexion with the Defence Department. In that respect I think the honorable member was inconsistent. The question of air services has not been discussed at the Washington Conference, nor have we any intimation that it is to be considered there. It must be admitted’ that in the event of an attack on Australia we should have to depend a great deal on aerial craft for defence. With an efficient air service we might be able to keep in check some foe inclined to break every rule of warfare agreed upon between the nations. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) stated that aerial craft would be used in killing women and! children. The world was definitely promised before the late wai that poisonous gases would not be employed under any circumstances, but we know too well that they were used. Where would Australia be to-day if, as part of the British Empire, it had not employed those gases against its late enemies! It is useless to say that all armaments should be scrapped. Some honorable members would prevent Australia from retaining any Forces at all, either for home defence or for use overseas. Although armaments should be limited, there is just as great a necessity as ever for us to be prepared for war. We should not only have the necessary number of men trained, but the best possible equipment should be obtained for them. Another honorable member has stated that nothing of a humanitarian nature has ever been done by the iron hand of militarism. Let me remind him that, when a civil aviator got into trouble between Victoria and Tasmania, the authorities did not rely on civil aviators going to his assistance, but sent the best military aviator the Defence Department could despatch. It is a mistake to imagine that military men are fond’ of causing bloodshed. They are no more likely to disgrace their uniform than are men in civil occupations to resort to barbarous practices. The Committee has been informed that the commitments under this vote amount to about £124,000. Are we to repudiate them? The question of how many men may be thrown out of employment by the proposed reduction of this vote does not come into consideration. When a mine is closed, hundreds of men may be sent on the tramp, and’ it may be a couple of hundred miles to the next mine, but those miners do not complain. They make far less fuss than is made when fifty men are rendered idle at some factory. If a. cessation of armaments could be brought about, I would support it, even if it meant every man employed in the work being idle for six months; but honorable members must realize that a complete elimination of armaments is impossible. While we have them, we must have’ the best. In Western Australia there is a civil air service, and I am sorry that this vote is to be cut down, even to the extent proposed by the Minister.
With a big coastline such as that of Australia, seaplanes are absolutely necessary. The other day I had a letter from settlers in the south-west of Western Australia, who depend for all supplies, other than those they can grow for themselves, on a vessel which serves their part of the coast. They complained that there is now no boat calling, and these conditions have lasted for a month. Were there military or civil seaplanes available, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) would not have given me the answer which I received when I asked if anything could be done for them. He said that nothing could be done because no vessels were available. Were there seaplanes available, this or any other Government would have sent them to the assistance of settlers who are doing good work in opening up the country. Civil aviation will be a costly affair, and what has been done in Western Australia has already cost this Government a good deal ; though I trust that the result will be an adequate compensation. The north-west part of Western Australia needs opening up inland, and excellent work is being done in providing aeroplane communication there, although this is costing the Australian people a good deal of money. If the use of aeroplanes is found to improve the conditions of out-back centres, and to make life there more bearable, more people will go out-back, and there will be less discontent in such places. Had the estimate not been cut down, the Minister could, I think, have provided for a service of seaplanes along the coast. There are parts of the coast on which vessels cannot travel safely at some periods of the year. We know what has been the fate of vessels that have met a willywilly on the Western Australian coast. A steamer of the largest size may never be heard of again if she encounters one of these disturbances. A seaplane service, however, military or civil, could patrol the coast - the seaplanes would not keep right out over the ocean, of course - and this would greatly benefit the people residing in those parts. A great deal of the money spent on military aviation has really been in the interests of civil aviation, because it has provided for landing grounds and aerodromes. All the work done in connexion with the survey of air routes from Adelaide to Kalgoorlie and to Norseman, from Fremantle along the coast to Geraldton, and inland from Peak Hill to Leonora, has (been provided out of the military vote for aviation, but has been really in the interests of civil aviation. The greater part of the work has been done by military air officers, and military mechanics have been lent for the assistance of civil enterprise. The Ministerhas given a definite promise that no money shall be taken out of other votes for military purposes.Economy is all very well, and, no doubt, members sincerely desire to economize, but it is not always economy merely to buy the cheapest thing obtainable, or to spend the least possible amount of money. We possess a great asset, and we should spend sufficient money to make the most of it. Our airmen have proved themselves the best in the world, or, at least, as good as any that are to be found elsewhere. In civil aviation in Australia there is not a man, with the exception of perhaps two, who was not a military officer. Our civil aviators have been recruited from the military, and they are busy teaching others the game. Having the right class of men, we should provide them with good material. Later in the consideration of these Estimates we shall be dealing with proposals for wireless expenditure. Will our friends who talk economy unceasingly wish to cut down the vote for wireless communications, seeing how necessary these are in Australia, which has such wide spaces to bridge ? A wireless system and aeroplane services worked in conjunction should greatly improve conditions out-back.
– The honorable member is now speaking of civil, not of military, aviation.
Mr.FOLEY.-Most of the vote for military aviation has been spent on foundational work for civil aviation. I am sorry that this vote is not £100,000 more. If I know the Australian people - and I have met a good many of them - those of us who say to them, “We have voted to build up something which will be of great commercial value, and may also be useful in time of war,” they will not turn down; but they will turn down those who say to them, “ In every single instance I voted to reduce expenditure.” Those who are so keen for economy that they think this vote ‘should be reduced, ought to propose a reduction of their own salary. If they are not prepared to do that, the people will deal with them.
– The honorable member is anticipating too much.
– I would not vote to reduce the parliamentary allowance, because my election was a declaration on the part of my constituents that they favoured the present amount. Aviation is necessary for commercial reasons, and a proper commercial system would prove of great advantage from the military stand-point should war ever break out again.
.- Every honorable member desires to do the right thing in regard to these Estimates. Personally, I am satisfied that the work done so far in connexion with aviation is merely experimental, and will have to be scrapped. We have yet no proper Air Service. Citizens of Sydney, who have spent a considerable sum in trying to develop aviation, have told me that the Government and private persons will do well to go slow in their experiments in this direction. We do not know whether the great instruments of destruction in future wars will travel on the water, under the water, in the air, or on the land. We read in periodicals such as the Scientific American that a gas is now known which could destroy every living thing within an area of 2 or 3 miles surrounding any place where a bomb containing it was dropped. Therefore we are at present much in the dark as to the defence preparations which we should make. If I thought it necessary that the Government should make aeroplanes on a large scale, I would support the proposal; but in our financial circumstances, and with so much uncertainty as to the future, we should not embark on any greater expenditure than may be absolutely necessary. I think that it will be a wise course to reduce the vote under consideration. At the inception of electricity, I was engaged in the ordinary way of my business, on an installation in one of the largest offices in Sydney; but owing to the then scant knowledge of the generator all my work proved useless, and other means of light had to be obtained. All the early telephones have been scrapped, and there is now talk of the latest system in the United States of America being treated in tlie same way. In view of these facts, it would be wise for the Committee to insist on a reduction of this vote. Of course, if some system of aviation were found that would be permanently efficient, Parliament would have no hesitation in providing the necessary money for its adoption; but we are not now warranted in spending money on experimental work, or imposing on. ourselves a heavy load in connexion with defence. We have sent what we may call an ambassador to the Washington Disarmament Conference, and it would be ridiculous to undertake great expenditure on defence works of any kind until the result of that Conference is known. We have been told that the ‘number of employees connected with the Air Services has been increased from 130 to 350, and I confess I do not understand the action of the Government in permitting that to occur. I am told by well-informed persons that invention is as yet a longway from providing any flying machines suitable for commercial purposes. I am not asking that this vote shall be reduced simply for the sake of reduction. If the Government had the confidence of the
– No; I merely say “if” the Government had the confidence of honorable members, the position might be different. In my opinion, the presentGovernment have made greater mistakes than any other Ministry in Australia ; too much has been done by regulation, and never before have we seen so great a departure from constitutional government. The Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) has given us all the information he can, but, really, I do not think be. possesses much knowledge regarding the vote before us. I feel quite confident that the great majority of the people outside, even supporters of the Government, feel that the proposed large expenditure on experimental work connected with aviation is unwarranted. The money is required .foi’ purposes of much greater importance in other directions. Honorable members are under a misapprehension when they talk about the reduction of this vote throwing men out of employment; if the vote be reduced by the amount proposed, the money can be spent in providing other work. Many of us were quite jubilant when peace was declared, but there is not a syllable in the 92,000 words of the Peace Treaty about economics and exchange, which are really at the root of all our troubles to-day. The best minds, not only in Australia, but throughout the world, are baffled by this problem, which at present appears almost insoluble. The Government ought not to regard the amendment as moved in the spirit of antagonism, for it is really submitted in the best interests of the country, and my vote will be given in its support.
.- I regard a reduction in the vote by 25 per cent, as fairly substantial, and I am pleased to note that the Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) is prepared to leave unaffected the allocation for civil aviation. In a young country like this, however, with the limited means at our disposal, there ought to be more co-operation between the civil, military, and naval services. In civil aviation men could be trained for military work, and, with a view to economy, a scheme should be devised by which each branch might dovetail one into the other. The training might be undertaken by the military, and landing places utilized for both civil and military purposes.
– That is what is proposed.
– If the Minister proceeds on those lines, the whole of the £300,000 could be spent on aviation for Australia - civil, military, and naval. I do not feel that this vote should be struck out altogether, for we must keep abreast of the times. I do not fear any immediate attack on Australia, but, while devoting the greater part of our attention to civil aviation, we should keep in touch with naval and military aviation. This would insure regular communication between the large spaces of Australia.
– I am prepared to support the amendment of the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton). Even if the proposed reduction be made, there will still be ample funds to carry on the Air Services more efficiently than last year, when we spent only £77,000. We have been informed that the number of employees has been increased; but the reduction pf the vote, if made, ought not to interfere with the continued employment of the larger number. Like some Jew shopkeeper, the Government have “ come down “ £100,000.
– I explained that.
– Yes; but I repeat that last year we spent only £77,000, and, even with the reduction, the proposed expenditure is a big jump. There are great developments in- aeronautics; and there is not the slightest doubt that all our present machines, sheds, and so forth, will have to be “ scrapped “ in a year or two. We ought to “mark time” in regard to our Air Services as in the case of the Army and the Navy. There is no economy in abolishing our submarines and battleships, and. at the same time, spending double the money on our Air Services, which, as I have said, are subject to such rapid developments. We ought at least to await the result of the Washington Conference, for it would be useless to cripple our Navy and leave ourselves open to bombs and gas from the air.
– We want our Air Services to prevent that.
– The Washington Conference and the League of Nations are trying to prevent barbaric methods of warfare; and the feeling of “the civilized world is against bomb dropping.
– It is practised, nevertheless.
Mr. RILEY.We did not approve of it during the late great war ; at any rate, I am sure the honorable member would not have approved of it had he been in any town so attacked’. The Government would be well advised to agree to mark time in connexion with our air policy. Within a few months we shall know the result of the Washington Conference. We have indications of a reduction of Defence expenditure in every other direction, yet the Government are proposing increased expenditure upon the Air Service.
– We have agreed to strike off £100,000.
– But compare the £300,000 that will be left with the actual expenditure of last year. We have not been told what provision is being made for manufacturing our own machines, or what later machines have been placed on the market which will be likely to supersede those already in Australia.
– We ;are making flying machines.
– I understand that an order has been placed in Sydney for the construction of some’ machines.
– I do not object to that order, but the expenditure it represents does not account for the large amount of money which the Government have placed on the Estimates. I have been told on good authority that men who earned distinction in the flying corps as pilots and’ mechanics spend their time at Point Cook marching up and down and wheeling right and left. Why should these men be compelled to undergo ordinary drill? They should be in a class on their own, and taught something higher than mere parade-ground drill. Even if the Estimates are reduced by £200,000, as the Deputy Leader of the Opposition has proposed, -the £200,000 which will remain will be sufficient to provide for an efficient Air Service. I agree with those honorable members who have urged that we should spend more money on the civil side of aviation. For instance, if we train pilots to carry mails, the services of those men will be available for defence purposes in time of war, and their knowledge of the country will be invaluable.
– We are not striking off :any money from the items for civil aviation.
– I would prefer to see the provision for military aviation further reduced, and that for civil aviation correspondingly increased. We are all anxious to do the right thing. We do not wish to leave the country undefended, but it seems to me that this vote provides an opportunity to save a good deal of money.
.- So far as I can judge from the debate upon these Estimates, the amendment pro posed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) will be defeated, but having been ever since I have been a member of this House regarded as being to a certain extent the spokesman for the Air Service I feel that I ought to associate myself with this debate. I, too, like the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley), regret that the Government have agreed to reduce this proposed vote by £100,000. I have stated in the House before that I am not in favour of colossal expenditure on the Navy, Army, or Air . Services during the next few years. But we are now at the very start of the Australian Air Service, and I think that a reduction of even £100,000 may partially cripple that scheme, although I was delighted, to h-aar the Assistant Minister (Sir Granville Ryrie) say that the reduction will not affect the provision for civil aviation. Whilst I agree with the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) that, if possible, we should vote more money for the encouragement of civil aviation, I desire to pat the Government on the back for what they have done in that direction during the last twelve months. The greater portion of the money provided in these Estimates is for the building of hangars and other accommodation for the gift machines that were sent out from England. It is well known to honorable members that flying machines are very delicate instruments, and that even when housed in tents they deteriorate very quickly. One would understand these Estimates better if he were an accountant - they are an absolute maze to me - but I gather that most of the money proposed to be spent is for hangars, sites for aerodromes, and spare parts, all of which we must have. The Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Gregory) made a very good speech upon the subject of civil aviation. We all know what it may mean to a young and extensive country like Australia, and upon this point I draw the Committee’s attention to a recent speech by President Harding-
Aviation is inseparable from either the army or the navy, and the Government must, in the interests of national defence, encourage its development for military and civil purposes. The encouragement of the civil development of aeronautics is especially desirable, as relieving the Government largely of the expense of development, and of maintenance of an industry, now almost entirely borne by the Government through appropriations for the military, naval, and postal air services. The air mail service is an important initial step in the direction of commercial aviation.
Sir F. H. Sykes, than whom, I suppose, no man in England knows more about flying, in responding to the toast of “ The Imperial Forces of the Crown,” proposed by the PrimeWarden at a Livery dinner of the Fishmongers’ Company on 16th July last, said -
They were trying to put aviation on a commercial footing, because it would be a tremendous step forward in the improvement of inter-communication, especially within the Empire, and because they believed that air supremacy would not be obtained by building up military air fleets at a large unproductive expenditure, but by expanding trade, facilitating travel, and harvesting profit from the air. They hoped that commercial aviation would play a similar part in the country’s prosperity as the mercantile marine had done heretofore. All history proved the close connexion between progress, power, and communication. In the future development of civil aviation they looked for the assistance of the Dominions.
The Imperial authorities may be looking to us for our assistance, but we shall not be giving it to them if we reduce this proposed vote by £100,000.
– Does not the honorable member think that the amount which will be left will be a very good start ?
– When I have the toothache, I go to the dentist; if I want my boots repaired, I go to another expert. The Ministers sitting at the table are the experts upon these Estimates, and when they tell the Committee, as they have done, that a reduction of these Estimates by £200,000 will mean the closing-down of the aviation establishment, I am not prepared to vote for such a reduction. They have a more intimate knowledge of the facts than I have. What is happening in Japan, Java, and China, just north of Australia? Large air fleets are being built up, especially in Java. I do not for one moment say that they are intended for purposes of aggression, but air fleets are developing rapidly in those countries, and mostly under British tuition. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) has told us that Field-Marshal Sir Henry Wilson is reported in to-day’s newspaper as having said that we should wipe out the air services because they kill women and children. I worked in close conjunction with the air services on the Belgian coast when they were bombarding Zeebrugge, Ostend, and other places. The air squadrons usually started on their mission at about midnight, and to watch them starting was an interesting and weird experience. There would be perhaps thirty or forty machines lined up in a row, and every pilot in turn would be called before the squadron leader, who was, perhaps, a young fellow of 22 or 24 years of age, with two rows of ribbons, all earned, on his breast. Leaning against the corner of a shanty and smoking a cigarette he would call up his different pilots - “ No. 4. Have you got your chart? Do you know your objective? “ “ The submarine dock, sir.” “ All right, get ready.” “ No. 5. Do you know your objective?” “ Sheds Nos. 3 and 4, sir.” And so every man in turn was questioned. Each had a chart upon which his objective was clearly marked. When everybody was ready, the order would be given to stand by and then let go, and one after another the machines, withoutlights, rose into the air, manoeuvred for a few minutes, and then made for their objectives. At daybreak all the machines that returned were counted in. Some never returned, and, subsequently, little pink envelopes were sent to relatives in England. The Squadron Commander would interrogate his pilots - “ No 5. What did you get?” “Sheds Nos. 3 and 4 sir.” “All right, check in.” “ No. 4. What did you get?” And so on, right down the line. All those pilots were definitely instructed not to destroy women and children if it was avoidable, but to concentrate their bombs on the fortifications or other definite objectives. I am informed that 200 military machines are in use in Java. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) has pointed out that defence aviation has not been considered by the Washington Conference. I do not know whether it is to be considered; I thought the Conference was to deal only with naval armaments. But if that Conference does come to an agreement to limit armaments, what will be the part allotted to Australia? It will be the provision of light cruisers, submarines, destroyers, and aircraft. If the present air unit is wiped out, and we Lave to make a fresh start, we shall lose valuable time, and a recommencement will cost us more than the £100,000 that the Government have agreed to take off these Estimates. I ask the Committee not to agree to the amendment for the reduction of the proposed vote by £200,000. The honorable member for Kalgoorlie referred to seaplanes. What he said was perfectly correct. We should have more sea-planes than land machines, and I refer honorable members to the map of the Australian coastline for the reason. Along the New South Wales coast, for instance, there are, north of Sydney, great rivers at intervals of twenty-five miles, and on the south side there are Jervis Bay and various other sheltered inlets providing calm water upon which the machines can descend in any weather. Just before I left England I had the pleasure of seeing nine great seaplanes that were ready for the bombardment of the German coast. They were enormous machines. I am over 6 ft. 2 in. iu height, yet I could not reach within 3 feet of the cockpits. They were designed to hold masses of bombs, but they now carry twelve passengers. Not only could they climb to an altitude of 8,000 or 10,000 feet in a few minutes, but they could “ taxi “ along the water. For patrol purposes in calm weather, even on the ocean, these machines can taxi. I think that we ought to develop the use’ of these sea-planes to a greater extent than we have. I am glad that the Government have seen fit, from an economy stand-point, to take £100,000 off their estimated expenditure; but I should be sorry if it crippled the Air Force in any way. I shall vote against the amendment to reduce the vote by £200,000.
– As this is probably the only opportunity Parliament will have this year of discussing aviation, whether it be in its relation to defence or to the transport of mails and passengers, I desire to say a few words on a matter which is cognate to the issue before the Committee. I hope that honorable members will not agree to the suggestion that the vote be reduced by £200,000. I do not think they thoroughly ap preciate what the conquest of the air means to a great island continent like Australia. If we had been asked before the development of aviation what was the greatest benefit that could be conferred upon a handful of people in a sparselysettled and immense area, we should have replied, “The annihilation of distance.” And if we had been asked what was the greatest handicap imposed on the people in our remote parts, we should have replied, “ The difficulties of communication; the isolation which is inseparable from- residence in the great wide spaces of our island continent.” Honorable members who have had an opportunity of living the life of a settler out:back know the position of a man living in the interior of this continent, cut off from communication with his fellows, knowing nothing of the life in the world outside, or, indeed, of events of interest in his own country. As the years go on, such a life proves less and less attractive to the average man. Wireless telegraphy has shown us a means by which we may radiate the news of the world throughout Australia. We have been asked to take advantage of it, and I hope that this Parliament will do so. But another method of communication has now been made available to us through the conquest of the air, and this vote brings the matter directly under consideration by the Committee. Honorable members are apparently unanimously of opinion that civil aviation should be encouraged; in fact, general regret appears to have been expressed that more money has not been made available for the purpose. It certainly is a very good indication that the Committee, misled though some honorable members may be in regard to the effect of the Washington Disarmament Conference upon the destinies of nations, is thoroughly alive to the importance of civil aviation, whatever doubts it may have as to the necessity for, and expediency of, providing for the air defence of Australia. I hope that honorable members who have soared into the seventh heaven of optimism, after reading the reports of the unexpected and gratifying progress of the negotiations at Washington, will come down to earth and refresh their memories by looking at the history of the progress of mankind through the ages.- I think it will chasten them a little. We may say what we please about our expectations of the great good that is to come out of the Washington Conference; but as yet it is but a project which has not taken definite shape. Many projects, not less ambitious than this, have been put forward from time to time, and, indeed, have, emanated from the most unexpected quarters. Long before our time the Czar of all the Russias put forward a proposal of a like kind. The dove of Peace was to spread its soft wings and fly freely over a world sick of war. The world, though astounded that such a proposal should emanate from such a source, was in the seventh heaven of delight. All nations were enraptured over it. But it passed, and dissolved into empty air, while the world went on its bad old way, stumbling at last into the bloody morass of the great world war. It is one thing, of course, to limit armaments; it is another thing to tear out from mankind those deeply-seated, deeply-rooted motives and impulses that make for war, and implant in their place a love of peace. Whether the Washington Conference can do this or not, time will determine. But one thing is certain: that five and a-half million people cannot afford to beat the sword into the ploughshare and quietly lay down with nothing between them and destruction, without reasons much more substantial than a mere resolution of the Washington Conference, which, even if given effect to, does not abolish war, but only limits naval armaments. We should not take the first step in a matter vital to our existence while other nations do nothing. The Washington Conference has approved a proposal to limit naval armaments, yet it was only yesterday that the very nation that made this proposal launched a great battleship, and within the next few days its example will be followed by another of those who embrace the proposal for disarmament with great enthusiasm - Japan is also to launch a big warship. The only nation which has been consistent, and shown its bona fides, is Great Britain, which has given an order striking consternation into the hearts of the people of England, and, incidentally, throwing thousands ‘of men out of employment. We love peace, but we live in a world of stern realities. Australia has no great battleships, and the effect of the decision at Washington will leave us untouched, or nearly untouched, so far as our naval expenditure is concerned. The battlecruiser Australia is already* out of commission, and whether it be scrapped or not it does not affect the issue, because it does not exist as a fighting unit. If now we are to scrap our Air Forces a means which has been fashioned by circumstances expressly for the use of a small body of people like ourselves, to whom has been intrusted the destiny of a great continent, we shall be placed at an appalling disadvantage. I am surprised that honorable members should suggest a further reduction of this vote by £100,000. I agree with the honorable member for Wentworth (Mr. Marks) that it would have been better had we stood by the vote as first submitted. It is only because I am satisfied that it is impossible to spend the £100,000 during the current year, that the Government have made the suggestion to reduce the vote to that extent.
Under cover of this vote, I want the Committee to consider another matter which, strictly speaking, is outside the scope of our present discussion, but is certainly relative to it, and which I mentioned when I had the honour of presenting to honorable members the report of the proceedings of the Imperial Conference. I refer to the question of airships. The time at our disposal for saying “ Yes “ or “ No “ to this proposal will shortly expire. Opportunity is now presented to Australia to take advantage of this new method of communication, and bring itself within eight or nine days of Europe. The matter is enormously important to this country. If it be merely regarded as an advertisement, it will be the cheapest advertisement we could have; but if the experiment proves successful, as I fully anticipate it will, we shall in one bound be loosened from the fetters imposed by our remoteness and brought in close touch with the western world. I hope honorable members will give earnest consideration to the recommendation which I had the honour of submitting to them some weeks ago. I informed the House that the British Government had decided to scrap the magnificent fleet of air-ships it had secured as the result of the expenditure of £40,000,000, but had abstained from doing so in order to give this Parliament a chance of saying whether it was prepared to take advantage of the unique opportunity of ascertaining by experimental flights whether air-ships could safely make a journey between Australia and Europe. I then ventured to hope that this Parliament would express its opinion on the matter at an early date, and that it would do so in the affirmative.
– How is it that no item was placed on the Estimates which would enable honorable members to discuss the question?
– The Estimates had been placed on the table before I had an opportunity, of speaking on the subject. This is clearly a matter for which no Government should be asked to accept sole responsibility; It is a question . for Parliament. I do not place the proposal before honorable members as part of the Government’s policy, but I bring it forward because I think it is the duty of this Parliament to say whether it should or should not take upon itself the responsibility of carrying out the experiment. I want to put the position shortly, in terms of financial responsibility. For a two-years’ period of experimental operations there would be involved an expenditure of £1,339,000, or, allowing for expenditure upon experiments of flying to Australia, £1,647,000. The idea was that Britain and those of the Dominions concerned in the scheme would contribute as follows: - Britain one-half and the Dominions the other half. I am not in a position to say what Britain or the other Dominions will do. But what I would ask the Committee to express an opinion upon is this: Assuming, for the sake of argument, that £1,647,000 represents the total expenditure of Great Britain and all the Dominions for giving effect to the scheme, it would mean a yearly expenditure of £”800,000. Estimating the Dominions’ share of that yearly expenditure at £400,000, and that our share of that would be one-half, the expense to Australia would be £200,000 for each year of the two-years’ period. That is the expenditure involved in a scheme in which Governments only would take part. Mr. Ashbolt, the AgentGeneral for Tasmania, and a most capable business man, put forward a scheme which was brought before the Air Committee, composed of the highest experts in Great Britain, in which the general public would be asked to take up shares. He proposed a joint Government and private enterprise scheme, with a capital of £1,500,000. Under his scheme the Dominions would subscribe £375,000 towards the first issue of £750,000, and £375,000 towards the second issue. The general public would subscribe £375,000 towards the first issue, and the British Government would take up the whole or part of the second issue of £375,000, otherwise the general public would take it up. There would be a subsidy of £500,000 per annum for ten years, the British Government contributing £250,000 towards this for ten years, and’ the Dominion Governments £250,000 also for ten years. I shall not delay the Committee by attempting to elaborate these details. If honorable members consider the question of sufficient importance, and if prima facie their minds are not hostile to the proposal, but they are willing to consider it, I shall have prepared, and will table, a statement setting out the prospective liabilities of the Commonwealth Government, if it should become a party to the proposal, and will then fix a convenient day on which to give honorable members an opportunity of saying yes or no to the scheme proposed. Honorable members will see that if they are hostile to the scheme it would be but wasting the time of the House to consider the matter.
– The right honorable gentleman does not expect the Committee to consider the matter now?
– No, . the honorable member could have heard me say so.
– I was waiting a week ago to know what opportunity the right honorable gentleman was going to give honorable members to discuss the matter. There is no item “on the business-paper upon which it could be discussed.
Mr. HUGHES.~It is very easy for honorable members to say, “We do not think the scheme ought to be considered,” and if they do say that I shall not bring it before them.
– I do not say that. What I said last week when the right honorable gentleman made an interjection to the effect that he had brought the matter before the House, and honorable members had not offered an opinion upon it, was that there was no specific item on the business-paper upon which we could do so.
– The honorable member is thinking of the matter of shipping.
– The right honorable gentleman also mentioned the matter of communication by air.
– There were three important matters to which I referred - shipping, wireless, and air communication - to which I am now referring. I quite understand that opportunity will have to be found for the consideration of the questions of wireless communication and of communication by air. As soon as I have a definite proposal on the subject of wireless communication I shall table it, and honorable members will be able to discuss it. What I ask now is that the Committee should say whether it is desirous of discussing this matter of air communication. If it says that it is, I shall assume that honorable members are prepared to consider the proposal on its merits, and are not irrevocably hostile to it.
– Could the right honorable gentleman not move the addition of some words to the Air Service Estimates which would enable the Committee to consider the matter?
– If the Committee does approve of the scheme, the £100,000, by which the Government propose to reduce the Air Service Estimates, might very well be used for the purposes of such a scheme as that which I have mentioned. I shall leave the matter now. I am confident that we shall lose a very great opportunity, which will never recur, if we allow this matter to pass. These airships cost in the aggregate millions of money. They are to be handed over as a free gift to give effect to the scheme I have outlined. That they can make the passage from England to Australia I am as certain as that I can walk down the steps of this building. The question is, have we faith and are we prepared to spend a little money in order to demonstrate this to the people of Australia and to the whole world? Once we have demonstrated it, the development of this means of communication must rest on a business basis. But the Government must come in to pioneer the way. If we can bring mails from England in this way it will give a great impetus to civil aviation in this country. I shall not detain the Committee any longer. I hope in the first place that honorable members will not agree to the proposal that £200,000 should be struck off this vote, and secondly, I hope that they will indicate briefly whether they approve of my suggestion that, after tabling some information which will be useful, I should seek an opportunity to fix a date for the discussion of the airship proposal.
– The Government have proposed a reduction of the vote for Air Services by 25 per cent. If we reduce the vote of £400,000 by £100,000, that will leave £300,000. If from that amount we take £122,000 for commitments, that will leave £178,000, and as £69,000 is the vote proposed for civil aviation, that leaves only £109,000 for the Air Service for the Military. If we believe in defence at all, we must give the Defence Department some money for this service, and in my opinion £109,000 is little enough for this branch of defence. I consider aviation isthe most important branch of defence for a country like Australia. This should be evident when we take into consideration the way in which it may promote the development of the continent. Our battleships and military forces do not contribute one iota to the development of Australia. But the expansion of aviation, whether under military or civil control, must materially assist in the development of our unoccupied spaces. I have been very pleased to listen to the advocacy of civil aviation. My only complaint is that the vote proposed to assist it is insufficient. Already there has been an arrangement entered into with a Western Australian company for the carriage of mails, involving a sum of £25,000 per annum. Two tenders are being called for services between Sydney and Adelaide and Sydney and
Brisbane, .and a deputation has asked for a similar service through Central Queensland. For the assistance of these services, I find that apart from votes in these Works Estimates for the construction of hangars and so on, there is set down in the General Estimates a sum of only £17,000. It is, possibly, out of order for me to refer to the General Estimates, but my purpose is to suggest that as there probably will be some unexpended balances of the votes appearing in these Works Estimates, I should like to see the amounts unexpended on these votes transferred to the votes appearing in the General Estimates to be used for subsidizing commercial air services throughout Australia. If the Government would give the Committee an assurance that that course would be followed, it would, possibly, induce honorable members to pass these Estimates as they stand. With regard to the service mentioned by the honorable member for Dampier (Mr. Gregory) to the Northern Territory, I should like to say that ever since February last a company has been operating in the interior of Queensland, with head-quarters at Longreach, and running north to Cloncurry, and at times coming down south as far as Charleville. That company has been operating fairly successfully, but, as honorable members are aware, it has no mail contracts such as the Western Australian company has, and has had to depend for its revenue entirely on passenger traffic and special traffic from different towns into outlying parts of the country. The position has been reached that it has been found impossible for any company to carry on if it is to be entirely dependent upon such sources of income. People at present do not greatly trust aeroplanes. They may venture in them for a joy-ride, lasting fifteen or twenty minutes, but, generally speaking, they do not regard them as quite safe and dependable. We are in such a position now that if, because of lack of support, these commercial air companies should cease operations the effect may be that civil aviation may be set back possibly ten or twenty years. Once people lose capital in a venture, it is difficult to induce them to make a fresh start. If, as I suggest, unexpended balances of the votes appearing in these Works Estimates are transferred to the General Estimates for the purpose of subsidizing civil aviation, we shall be £n a position to favorably consider applications for assistance from any company operating throughout Australia. The Prime Minister has referred to the loneliness of many of the great outback areas of Australia. When little more than a boy, I lived for a time in the north-west of Queensland, and I was struck with the lack of womenfolk in those empty lands. The life there was such that holders of properties would o not think of bringing the women of their households away from the towns and cities to share the harsh, isolated conditions with them. The domestic servants were chiefly Japanese. In the absence of the women of the families, there was no home-life; and, altogether, little inducement was offered to extension of settlement. I was once travelling in the north-west areas, when I came to a station which was 160 miles from the nearest railway line. There I met a little woman, the wife of the manager. Six months previously, before her marriage, she had been in a millinery establishment in Brisbane. I asked her if she did not feel lonely. She admitted that she did, but added that, since the telephone had been, connected with the station, she was now able! to talk with’ ner neighbour. This neighbour, I might add, was some 40 miles distant. Even so, the presence of this modern facility made the lady’s loneliness somewhat less marked. With the extension of the use of the telephone and of the motor car the great empty distances out-back have been, to some extent, bridged; thus, the conditions of settlement have been made a little more bearable, and, to that extent, just a little more attractive. It does not necessarily follow that the telephone and the motor car are in general use throughout the back country, but that the facilities are there, to be drawn upon when necessary, for the purpose of getting into touch with civilization. Similarly, with the establishment of aeroplane services, it is not so much a question of additional provision for regular travel to and fro across the lonely parts of Australia, but that the people out beyond may know that, in case of actual need, they may swiftly get into touch with civilization by way of such speedy services. Even distances up to 600 miles from the railhead may be very quickly bridged by a flying machine. The Government would be acting wisely if they were to provide a little more to assist the development of civil aviation, so that the services already in existence might be still further developed. It would be an encouragement to development out-back if the air services were conducted, not only along the main routes, such as, for example, between Sydney and » Darwin, but if branch services could be established in other directions. With such opportunities for maintaining contact with civilization, settlers would not be so averse, perhaps, to taking their womenfolk into the lonely regions. This country cannot be settled in the absence of women. It is essential that conditions of life should be made better for people in the distant areas of which I have been speaking. Concerning the matter immediately before the Committee, I am totally opposed to the views expressed by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), and I shall vote against the amendment.
– That shows how inconsistent is the honorable member, remembering the vote which he gave a little while ago.
– While I was prepared to vote with the object of bringing about a reduction of the general Defence Estimates, it is not to be assumed that I believe that this country requires no means of defence whatever. The success of the amendment would entail scrapping all measures of defence by way of the air. The proposed expenditures, both upon the military and the civil side of the services, are fair and reasonable. And they would be more so if it were provided that the portion devoted to the military works, if not expended, should be transferred to the development of &he civilian service.
.- The Prime Minister has suggested that matters touching upon international air services, wireless, and the like, should be dealt with by Parliament prior to the consideration of the Estimates; but that ^ statement is not convincing. The Prime
Minister is trying to make it appear that the subjects, generally, are interwoven. I do not propose to debate that aspect, especially since the Prime Minister has promised that an opportunity shall be afforded for honorable members to go into the whole matter on some future occasion. But, as for the further statement of the Prime Minister, that honorable members’ views are being influenced and their motives actuated by the Washington Conference, I can only say, for this side of the House, that the Opposition has made its position perfectly clear, and that its members are consistent. I am surprised, however, in listening to the views of members of the Country party. With the press of Australia behind, them every time, they constantly talk, outside of Parliament, of what they intend to do, in Parliament, in the matter of retrenchment. But their actions are utterly inconsistent. Only a little while ago they voted to secure a reduction of the Estimates by the amount of the estimated deficit. Today, however, they oppose a specific proposition for reduction. The experienced Deputy Leader of the Country party (Mr. Gregory), who has been, the bridge-builder for the Government all the time, has spoken in this Committee with one voice to-day; but the young and inexperienced Leader of the Country party has been speaking with another voice outside of Parliament. These inconsistent views are only emphasized by the opposition of the Country party to the amendment which I have proposed, and it is time the public learned where that party really stands. Its members must be either for one thing or another; but they do not appear to know from one day to the next where they are or how they will vote.
– They are all right this time, anyway.
– Of course, they are, from the point of view of the Minister controlling the air services. It will be agreed that the Country party is getting a lot of publicity in its campaign for retrenchment. But, inside of Parliament, its members are not true to their colours. In the face of their reduction vote of a few weeks ago they now desire to increase Defence expenditure. I can only say that I am sorry for their leader. I can admire a man who is consistent, no matter in what direction; but I have very little admiration for those who change their views, practically, from day to day. The Leader of the Country party has all the press behind him when he talks to the people about retrenchment. What must be his feelings when he hears members of his ownparty combating retrenchment this afternoon? The honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) stated that, upon the matter under discussion, the proposals of the Government involved an expenditure of only £109,784 on the military branch of the air services. That is correct. When the Government agreed to cut down the vote by £100,000, the effect was to leave £300,000. Of this, £69,216 is to be expended upon civil aviation - a phase of aerial activity which should be legitimately encouraged. Thus, a sum of £230,784 remains out of the £300,000. The Government have informed honorable members that actual commitments involve a sum of about £121,000. The Deputy Leader ofthe Country party endeavoured to justify the Government in plunging into such heavy commitments, notwithstanding his vote and those of his colleagues only the other day.
– The commitments arose out of a vote of this House.
– I am not arguing upon that point, but am calling attention to a case of gross inconsistency. It is about time honorable members in the Corner were exposed and put in their proper places.
Last year, only £77,040 was spent upon the air services. The honorable member for Dampier announced that, after allowing for the commitments undertaken by the Government, he and his colleagues intended to authorize the expenditure of a sum amounting to £32,744 in addition.
– And that will all be practically upon civil aviation.
– No; the sum of £69,216 has been set aside for that purpose. The further amount of £32,744 is an additional item for aerial defence purposes. If they are consistent, the members of the Country party can vote in one direction only; but on every occasion either the party as a whole or some of its members are found to be “ trimming.” They are never solid.
– We are not Caucusbound; we use our own judgment.
– I agree that members of the Country party are not Caucusbound. Neither are they bound by anything they say. They speak with two voices. Honorable members will not be justified in increasing expenditure in regard to the air service for military purposes. What the future may bring forth no one can say; but I refuse to accept the argument of Ministers who assert that we must be prepared, and must not take notice of anything that is done elsewhere. Every country is making some preparations. That is what we are told; and it is quite true. But, as surely as the nations are preparing, so surely will they precipitate war. We should turn our attention along paths of peace, and should be specially careful to avoid all warlike expenditures. As for those officers and men who are employed in the aerial services, their position may become difficult; but surely, seeing that they are all verycapable, their services might be usefully employed in the direction of civil aviation. Their qualifications and their energies should be turned to the best interests of the community rather than in the direction of preparing this country for warfare.
– I can see nothing inconsistent in the attitude of the Country party, whose members take the view that the offered reduction of £100,000 is, in the circumstances, fair and adequate. The Government have conceded a reduction of £250,000 upon the general Defence vote, which is equivalent to about 25 per cent. Now, a reduction, also equal to 25 per cent., has been offered upon the vote for the aerial services. In indicating our acceptance of, and satisfaction with, the reduction, there is nothing inconsistent.
– If members of the Country party support an increased expenditure here and desire to see more money spent upon the Post and Telegraph services, how do they propose that the Government shall balance accounts?
-The Country party has already endeavoured to secure a straight-out reduction of £500,000 on one vote, and has not succeeded. For myself, I shall be agreeable to accept so much as has been offered now. The Prime Minister has invited the sense of the House concerning such questions as an airship service between Great Britain and Australia. It has been said that a certain class of people rush in where angels fear to tread. Great Britain has been spending scores of millions of pounds upon .the airship problem; but now she has given up her activities in that direction as a hopeless and altogether too expensive job. That is the decision of Great Britain, with all her resources. But the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth has returned from Britain with his head, so to speak, in the clouds. And he proposes to submit to the Commonwealth Legislature a scheme by which we may be committed to an expenditure of several hundreds of thousands of pounds annually. If there were anything commercially feasible in an airship service, it would be first established between America and Great Britain. On no condition shall I be led to vote any money in support of this scheme for linking up Australia and Britain with an airship service. Australia already has too many expensive white elephants, such as Australia House, Canberra, and the Northern Territory, and we ought not to add to them.
.- The honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt) seems to consider that the announcement by the Assistant Minister for Defence (Sir Granville Ryrie) that he proposes to cut £100,000 off the Estimates, represents some sort of concession to the principles which the Corner party have been espousing for the last few weeks. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), when speaking on this question, told the Committee that he suggested taking £100,000 off the Estimates because the Government had not time to spend it.
– ;The Prime Minister did not say that.
– The Prime Minister said the financial year was so far advanced that the Government suggested taking £100,000 off the Estimates. The obvious inference is that there is not sufficient time for the Government to spend the money. The same explanation was put forward by the Prime Minister in connexion with the previous Estimates,
when he said that five months of the financial year had expired, and, therefore, there remained only seven months in which to spend the money. If the honorable member for Moreton decided not to spend something because there was not time to spend it in, he would hardly be entitled to regard that as a saving. I suppose the position is such that honorable members in the Corner party are quite content to clutch at a straw. If the Estimates are to be reduced, the only way to reduce them is to carry the amendment moved by the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), which, when the Prime Minister’s statement is taken into consideration, means that the real Estimates will be cut down by £100,000. A sum of £100,000 will be cut off because the money cannot be spent in the time, and another £100,000 if the amendment is carried. Much has been said’ about the Washington Conference, and Great Britain has been cited by the Prime Minister as a shining example, because it has suspended its shipbuilding programme, and thrown some thousands of men on the Clyde out of employment. Great Britain, the United States of America, and Japan are, we are told, coming to some sort of arrangement not to do away with armaments for naval and military purposes, but to adopt a species of truce for ten years, leaving the naval and military armaments, however, in relatively the same position as before. The reason for that is seen immediately one tries to understand the economic position of those three countries. We see Great Britain getting out of Mesopotamia and limiting her expenditure there. At the same time there is a proposal for cutting down the Naval Estimates. Great Britain, when she went to the Conference, proposed to launch a programme of four ships which were to cost from £8,000,000 to £10,000,000 each. This means that if a naval agreement were arrived at there would be a saving of at least £40,000,000. The same forces are operating to cut down the huge naval programme in the United States of America. At the same time; there are millions of unemployed in Great Britain, and from 6,000,000 to 85000,000, according to different computations, in ,the United States of America. The economic position of these countries is such that some arrangement must be come to in order that they may tide over the period of reconstruction. They are trying to reconstitute themselves. Their markets have gone. Their factories are idle, and, therefore, they are forced to come to some agreement for economy. In Australia the same thing is taking place. Is not this clamour for economy that is being heard day and night at the root of the agitation for cutting down the various Estimates? If it were not for the clamour on the part of Big Business in Australia, and the demand for a reduction of wages in Government and private employment, honorable members on the Government side of the House would almost have been frothing at the mouth at a suggestion from this side that the Defence Estimates should be cut down.
– They are talking of reducing wages inside this House.
– I have no fear of their success in that particular propaganda. I know that honorable members on both sides of the House look at that question from a broad, national standpoint.
– The honorable member is not game to risk a vote on it.
– The honorable member needs to be careful of what he says on that subject.
– I am not saying anything about it. My sentiments are on record. My vote will not change, whatever others in the Committee may do. I support the amendment for cutting down the Estimates because I oppose all expenditure on armies and navies. As a workers’ representative, I am opposed to voting any sum of money for maintaining armaments that are used by the owners of this country, as of every other country, in fighting their battles without regard to the interests of the workers, whom I represent. Therefore, I shall support all amendments moved in this House for the purpose of wiping out votes for armaments for the Army, Navy, or Air Services, which will be used by the representatives of certain interests in this country for the purpose of embroiling our workers with the workers of some other country. I cannot understand any one supporting a reduction of armaments because of the Washington Conference. That Conference, in my opinion, is one of the greatest hoaxes that has been perpetrated on humanity. The
Prime Minister mentioned, incidentally, that we should remember attempts that had been made in a similar direction in the past. He recalled the action of the Czar of Russia in convening the First Peace Convention at The Hague. A few years later Russia was at loggerheads with Japan. Notwithstanding that the arbitration tribunal had been set up at The Hague, as soon as the Russian concessionaires on the Yalu got in “holts” with the Japanese timber merchants war took place. The same position may develop as the outcome of the Washington Conference. We hear a lot of talk about the new democratic method of diplomacy, and of that hardened old diplomat, Mr. Balfour, who is supposed to be one of Britain’s most astute elder diplomats, being converted to the new system of open-door diplomacy. Thus the stage is set at Washington with senators and congressmen in the galleries vociferously applauding all that is being said about disarmament and the “five, five, three” standard. But immediately the Conference proceeds to discuss the real business, that is the Far Eastern problem, away goes all this business of the new diplomacy, and we find the delegates meeting in secret caucus behind closed doors. As soon as it becomes a question of parcelling out territory, they drop the open-door diplomacy. Discussions about the limitations of battleships and other types of warships takes place in the open, because decision on these matters will not make any material difference to the principal nations engaged in the Conference, seeing that the power of Great Britain, of the United States of America, and Japan will be just as effective after as before the Conference. Therefore, all this talk at the Conference is for public consumption. When it is a question of dividing up territory, or of doing a bit of”dickering “ in regard to peoples and lands, as in the case of the Siberian and Shantung questions, the delegates retire behind closed doors.
– Order! The honorable member is now discussing a matter altogether outside the motion.
– I am endeavouring to show, Mr. Chairman, why we should not commit ourselves to further expenditure in regard to defence; and I am pointing out that the real business of the Washington Conference, which, of course, has a bearing upon our defence problem, is being discussed in caucus, and that if the British, Japanese, or American interests become involved, efforts will be again made to fool the people of Australia into a new war, as they were fooled in regard to the recent war.
– The honorable member is going far beyond the terms of the motion, and, therefore, his remarks are not in conformity with the ordinary rules of debate.
– I am endeavouring to contradict the arguments of those people who put forward, as the reason why they support the cutting down of these Estimates, the belief that the decision of the Washington Disarmament Conference must influence our Defence policy. I am trying to show the fallacy of that argument by drawing attention to the fact that the work that has been done openly at Washington cannot affect the international situation actually, and that we know really nothing about the real business of the Conference which, as I have stated, is being transacted behind closed doors. This secret business vitally affects Australia. It may involve this country in war. My purpose in voting to cut down these Estimates is to curtail the power of those people in Australiawho, in common with their kindred class in other countries, are at any time responsible for warfare. Seeing that I cannot get rid of those who manipulate politicsin such a fashion as to force the working men and women of various countries into war, all I can do is to endeavour to curtail their power as far as possible by voting to cut down Estimates of war expenditure, such as are now before us. I agree with other honorable members as to the wisdom of spending, for the development of civil aviation, the amount proposed to be cut away from the military side of aviation. Honorable members do not want the peculiar conditions of this country to be stressed at any great length. All who have travelled throughout Australia realize what an incalculable benefit the development of civil aviation would be. Great benefits may also be expected from the development of air communication with Europe and America. I shall do what I can to cut to the lowest possible amount the sum to be spent on defensive armaments, whether on land or sea, or in the air.
Sitting suspended from 6.29 to8 p.m.
Mr.LAZZARINI (Werriwa) [8.0].- I endeavoured to follow the speech of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in regard to an air service between Australia and Europe, or Australia and Great Britain, and its relation to this vote. The right honorable gentleman endeavoured to create the impression that in casting a vote for or against this amendment we would be recording a decision on the other question. The Prime Minister distinctly stated that he wished us to express an opinion as to whether an air service between Australia and Great Britain should or should not be discussed, and that this was the only opportunity that honorable members would have of doing so. The only way that the Committee can express an opinion is by voting on a specific motion. Whether the question is worthy of consideration or not, it is the duty of the Government to allow an independent vote to be taken. I do not know if honorable members realize that they will be committing themselves in the manner suggested by the Prime Minister ; but I wish it to be clearly understood that my vote on this amendment will not give any indication as to how I shall vote on the other proposal. To say that by supporting the amendment moved by the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) we would be jeopardizing the proposal to establish an aerial service between Australia and Europe, and Australia and Great Britain, is absurd, because the proposed vote is largely for Defence purposes, and the proposal outlined by the Prime Minister has, I understand, no relation to Defence at all. These separate proposals should be treated on their merits, and my vote on this occasion cannot be construed to mean that I am voting for or against the suggestion to establish a service between Australia and Europe.
.- In view of what the world has gone through, and which we hope, by the wisdom of those gathered together in Washington, may be prevented in the future; this is the one branch of our Defence system which is most likely to secure my support. The Government are prepared to reduce the proposed vote by 25 per cent. ; but I would have preferred to have seen them scrap all their ships, because we would then have had an opportunity of utilizing the money in a more useful direction. We have 12,000 miles of coast-line, and we have been informed that the cost of a single super-Dreadnought would be sufficient to establish aerial stations around the whole of it. It would, 1 suppose, be necessary to erect one or two such stations on the long stretch of coast between Perth and Adelaide ; but between Adelaide and Melbourne, Melbourne and Sydney, and Sydney and Brisbane, I do not think there would be the same necessity. If we exclude the distance between Adelaide and Brisbane from the total distance around the Australian coast, 8,000 miles would have to be protected. If we allow a radius of 200 miles for each station, 400 miles would be covered, so that it would require 20 aerial stations to enable practically the whole of the Australian coast-line to be under observation. Speaking subject to correction, I think it can be said that the danger in the air is infinitely greater than the danger under the water, and it certainly is when the number of men employed in the respective services is taken into consideration. Every man who renders service in the air incurs great risks, and I have often wondered why those who risk their lives in this way should not receive similar payment, wear a similar uniform, and partake of similar food. There does not seem to be any valid reason why there should be any such absurd distinctions in connexion with the Defence Forces of Australia such as prevailed in the recent great war. The Minister for the Navy (Mr. Laird Smith) said that a, super-Dreadnought costs about £9,000,000, and I have been informed that a Dreadnought similar to that which the Japanese will launch in a few days, including all armaments, costs at least £12,000,000. I estimate that onehalf of that amount would be sufficient to establish twenty fully-equipped air stations round the Australian coast. I think honorable members will agree with me that no method of defence is likely to be of more use to mankind than aviation. The arguments of the honorable member for Maranoa (Mr. Hunter) were good, for it is true that this vast continent has only been embroidered with population, and that, beyond the coastline, many parts of the interior are unexplored, and their possibilities unknown. An air service manned by men of experience would, therefore, be of considerable importance in opening up the interior. I understand there is no desire in this House to limit the cost of civil aviation, and I am glad to know that there is likely to be some agreement on that point. Professor Luff, one of the keenest professional men in Great Britain, said that, in his opinion, before very long, a meeting of chemists would be of far greater importance to the defence of a country against an enemy than a meeting of generals; and if honorable members cared to peruse Martindale, they would find more substantial facts than some which have been submitted here. They would learn that the Germans devoted years of study to ascertaining how gases of a vile description, could attack human beings in such a way as tol prevent them from using their limbs. Gases were manufactured which would cause severe irritation where perspiration was1 most likely to occur, and where they would be most horrible in their action. It therefore seems tol be a mistake on the part of the Government to reduce the aviation vote. I would have been more pleased if they had swept all other Defence expenditure into the limbo of oblivion, and devoted their energies in fully equipping a modern service in the air to defend this great Commonwealth. I glory in the belief that Australians enjoy greater freedom than the citizens in Great Britain because, in that country, even after the horrors of war, and the supposed improvement in the; conditions of the people, the men and women, to a large extent, have to occupy a degraded position. Their franchise is only to be laughed at; but the time will come when even the aristocrats of the Homeland will learn common, sense, and will follow the practice adopted in the Dominions. When we consider the main Estimates, I shall be prepared to assist the Government in increasing the expenditure on air defence, so that our coastline may always be under proper observation, because, after all, it is the most effective form of defence. I hate and loathe the idea of war, and of civilized human beings being responsible for bloodshed. I do not think that 5 per cent, of the world’s population is civilized. History records that China is the only country which has been able to live in comparative peace, and extend its boundaries without war and bloodshed, but even China may have to take up arms in selfdefence. I hope to see the day when the seeds planted at Washington will grow into fruitful trees, and when peace will be established throughout the world.
Question - That the vote be reduced by £200,000- put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 23
Question so resolved in the negative.
Motion (by Sir Granville Ryrie) agreed to -
That the vote be reduced by £100,000.
Reduced vote, £300,000, agreed to.
Resolved (on motion by Mr. Groom) -
That the following resolution be reported to the House: - “That there be granted to His Majesty to the service of the year 1921-22, for the purposes of Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c, a sum not exceeding £2,518,411.”
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
Resolution of Ways and Means, covering resolution of Supply, reported and adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first and second time.
.- Honorable members have not seen the Bill, and I would like anassurance from the Minister (Mr. Groom) that the various reductions made by the Committee of Supply have been embodied in the Bill.
.- All the amendments made in the Estimates have been incorporated in the Bill, and the total sum has been accordingly reduced by £430,000, that is, from £2,948,411 to £2,518,411.
Schedule agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted; and Bill read a third time.
In Committee (Consideration of Go vernor-General’s message) :
Motion (byMr. Groom) proposed -
That it is expedient that an appropriation of moneys be made for the purposes of a Bill for an Act to authorize the issue and application of the sum of £8,370,406.
– Most of the details of the proposed appropriations are set out in the Loan Estimates. The motion I have submitted is the usual one for the appropriation of the money. When the Bill is introduced honorable members will have the opportunity of dealing with these details, the Committee having power either to reject or reduce any specific item. These items are not before us now; but when the Committee is dealing with the schedule to the Bill, every item will be open to discussion.
– The Bill is for the issue and application of the sum of £8,370,406; but the sums set opposite the items of the Loan Estimates total only £5,597,174.
– The Bill provides also for an expenditure of £3,000,000 in the redemption of Treasury-bills that were issued in connexion with works.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Standing Orders suspended; resolution adopted.
That Mr. Groom and Mr. Greene do prepare and bring in a Bill to carry out the foregoing resolution.
Bill presented by Mr. Groom, and read a first time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The measure authorizes the issue and application of the sum of £8,370,406, which sum is to be appropriated from Loan Funds for the purposes of new works, buildings, &c, and the redemption of Treasury-bills. The proposed expenditure on the items set forth in the Works Estimates totals £5,597,174, all of which is covered by this Bill; and, in addition, provision is made to the extent of £370,000 against the possibility of expenditure on ship construction proceeding at a greater rate than is anticipated; and £72,476 is set down for expenditure at the Federal Capital, that being the unexpended balance of £150,000 that was authorized to be expended last year. Lastly, there is provision for the redemption of £3,000,000 worth of Treasurybills. These sums total £9,039,650, from which is to be deducted £669,244, the amount available under appropriations authorized by previous Acts; leaving the sum of £8,370,406, which we now ask for authority to appropriate.
The Trust Fund investments of the Treasury include Treasury-bills amounting to £6,094,153. The moneys derived by the sale of Treasury-bills to the Trust Fund were used for works from time to time, payable from Loan Fund. By the end of the present year, however, the Trust Fund will probably be depleted, so that it will be unable to carry the whole of this investment. Authority is therefore sought to redeem £3,000,000 worth of Treasury-bills, and thus to restore to the Trust Fund the necessary cash. The position of the Trust Fund, I am advised, may be set out in this way : -
Included in the Trust Fund are the following amounts, which will be wholly expended during the current year: -
It will be seen that unless steps are taken to redeem a portion of these investments, the Trust Fund will be over-invested on the 30th June next by over £2,500,000.
The total expenditure out of Loan Funds for works in 1920-21, not including the redemption of the Northern Territory loans and Treasury-bills, was £3,877,912 ; and the estimated expenditure for 1921-22 is £5,597,174, or an increase of £1,719,262. This increase is made up of the following: amounts: -
If the Estimate for 1921-22 is compared with ‘the Estimate for 1920-21, which is a fair comparison, the increase is only £1,228,730. A portion of the provision for the current year is to meet purchases made last year which were not delivered by the 30th June last, and includes the sum of £901,239 for telegraph and telephone works, &c, which honorable members, no doubt, will approve.
– Does the schedule include, without alteration, the items of the Loan Estimates?
– Yes. It is based on those Estimates. The proposed loan expenditure was bound up with the other Estimates of Expenditure, so that honorable members might have the fullest information about the financial proposals of the Government.
– I realize that this is a Bill to be discussed, not on the second reading, but in Committee; and that its schedule embodies the Estimates of Expenditure out of loan funds. Evidently it is intended to use up- this year the surplus at the credit of the Trust Fund.
– The sums that I have indicated will be required, and,, therefore, we must replace in the Trust Fund the money used for the purchase of Treasurybills.
– As we are desirous of getting on with business, I shall defer most of what I have to say until, in Committee, we come to deal with the schedule of the Bill. I understand that whatever the Committee may decide in regard te the items of the schedule will take effect; that any reductions it makes must be carried out. An item to which I shall draw attention in Committee is that affecting immigration. I notice, too, that the Defence expenditure out of loan is to be greater this year than last. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has indicated that if honorable members wish to reduce any of these items, the Government will be only too pleased to comply; and we ought, therefore, to carefully scrutinize the figures in Committee, and give the Government a lead.
.- I do not know what the temper of the House is, but I am quite sure that honorable members do not understand what is proposed by this Bill. We have been given very little information in that regard; but I gather that this is the first time that we have proposed to erect postoffices and meet the expenses of immigration out of loan moneys. It is a most pernicious system to so provide for such liabilities. It is proposed that we shall continue, as we are now doing, to issue loans at £95 instead of at par, and to pay 6 and 6£ per cent., which really means about £6 14s. 6d. per cent.
– The immigrants are worth it all.
– But it is asking our children to bear the cost of bringing immigrants to Australia, because we have not the courage to bear it ourselves. I notice in the schedule an item of £4 for the erection of a wireless station at Port Moresby. I suppose this is a weatherboard shed; and we ought to remember that some years ago there was some public agitation because a State Parliament provided, out of loan, for cups and wooden spoons for the use of the Governors of the various States. Has the National Parliament actually reached that level? Very many country post-offices are exceedingly frail buildings, and yet the Government are asking this House to meet the cost of them out of loan, instead of out of revenue. Surely the time will come when the public men of this country will realize that this sort of borrowing must cease - there must be a limit to it. It has been said that the policy of Australia is one of “boom, borrow, and bust”; at any rate, that is the sort of policy we are asked to adopt now. At the present time, there is no part of Australia where the eye does not rest on pleasant and fertile landscapes, with sheep and cattle browsing in grass up to their knees; yet we are proposing to borrow money for such purposes as I have referred to. Since Australia has been Australia, no loan has proved so expensive as those floated by the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook). Hitherto we have met the costs, of immigration out of revenue, and we ought to continue doing so, for we must remember that some of these immigrants will have died a short time after their arrival. In any case, we have been told by Mr. Chamberlain that every time an appeal is made to the London money market injury is done to the welfare of the Empire. That honorable gentleman has appealed to the Dominions not to raise loans in England just now; and it is true that unless care is taken we shall never get rid of our economic and exchange troubles. We should export as much as possible, and do everything we can to diminish imports, with a view to bringing about the equilibrium of the money market. If there was any special need for a rush of immigrants, there might be some grounds for the provision proposed to be made by means of this Loan Bill, but such necessity is not suggested. In private business, when money is urgently required, an overdraft is obtained, or short-dated debentures issued, provision being made for redemption ; and that is the sort of thing we should do. I have heard honorable members make strong remarks about wholesale and indiscriminate borrowing by the States, but the Commonwealth is going the same road, as this Bill shows. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) does not attempt to deal in the proper way with the position; he regards matters in an . elastic expansive sort of way, and does not care where the money comes from, or what may occur in the future. I urge honorable members to pay a little more attention to the financial position of Australia. The ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) some little time ago gave us figures showing the taxation per head in Australia, New Zealand, and Great Britain; but if he had been honest and told all the truth, he would have added that Great Britain paid 33 per cent, of the war cost out of revenue, and to-day is devoting 33 per cent, of the revenue to the reduction of the war debt. That is an example we are called upon to follow in Australia to-day. I cannot make any proposal at this stage, and I do not know what the members of the Country party intend to do; but God help posterity if its fate is left in their hands, and its prospects are bad enough in the hands of the Government. It is for the Opposition to bring the Government and the country to an appreciation of sound financing. We know that all the extravagance is due to the abundance of loan moneys. The Government are something like a man who goes on the “ bust “ ; there is no worry about the future, and an absolute indifference in the expendi ture of borrowed money. I know these facts are distasteful to’ some honorable members, but it is time to make the truth known, and rouse public men to a realization of our actual position. In the States, too, as States, there seems to be just as much indifference to proper responsibility, and to the future; the only idea seems to be to create a glorious time by raising loan moneys. Have no honorable members had any commercial training? Have they had more connexion with finance than the spending of their own parliamentary “screw?” Do they think that everybody can be made happy and comfortable simply by borrowing? Surely there must be some desire for honest financing? Production is going ahead in Australia now; but God help us if we have a drought! Our friends of the Country party have never enjoyed better times or more luxury than now, but they ought to remember that there is a possibility of other droughts. We should then, of necessity, have to borrow; but there is no necessity now. There is abundance of wealth in Australia. When the last Commonwealth1 loan was being floated at £96 instead of par, Sif Denison Miller, Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, said that there was £147,000,000 in Australia bearing no interest, £157,000,000 bearing interest, and £121,000,000 in various institutions that should be put to use; therefore there was no need to worry about the raising of a paltry £10,000,000. If Federal finance, instead of being controlled by men connected with insurance companies, banking companies, the Broken Hill Proprietary Company, and other big commercial institutions, were controlled by Treasury officials paid to watch the best interests of the Commonwealth, the last loan would never have been offered to the public at £96. So long as influences of that sort are at work in the Treasury, so long will we have a continuance of this reckless indifference, and this unhealthy desire of certain men to enrich the companies in which they are shareholders. One man draws from an insurance company over £5,000 per annum, and as he cannot serve two masters, the company that pays his salary, and not the nation, is the master that he serves. He merely uses the nation to assist to make his company wealthy, and every £96 which the company paid into the last loan immediately appeared as £100 amongst its assets. Thus the directors are able to claim credit for the successful work they have done in the interest of the shareholders, who pay them handsome salaries to manage the company’s affairs.
– What about a vote on Canberran
– However indifferent honorable members may be to the financial position, I shall do my duty. I am quite satisfied to take the risk of ignoring the Federal Capital project for the time being, while I try to rouse the Australian people to a sense of their responsibility in regard to the loan account. Yet no press writer will dare to write a leading article upon the statements I am making to the House; honorable members will not find any financial expert drawing attention to my speech, but everybody knows that I am on sound ground, and that the attitude I am adopting will be counted to my credit in the years to come. At the present time, however, there seems to be a tendency to spend as much money as possible in order to cover up the acts of financial maladministration during and since the war. No endeavour is made to restore responsible Government, but it will have to be restored within a very few years, in spite of the indifference of honorable members. Fortunately, Australia is better able to get out of its financial difficulties than is any other country on the globe. No nation is better able to tread the royal road that leads to financial solvency, the general welfare of the people, and the removal of unemployment j but, proceeding as we are, there is no escape from the problem of unemployment. This continual borrowing has the effect of increasing the interest rate to those people who have to raise money on overdrafts and mortgages. We shall have to take steps to prevent this constant issue of what are known as gilt-edged securities. Until the interest on Government loans is reduced, the private borrower will continue to pay dearly for the loans that are so essential throughout the ramifications of industrial and commercial life.
– What does the honorable member, suggest?
– Primarily, a change of Government. We cannot effect any great change for the better unless we put the Government out of office, because those interests which support .them will not desire any interference with their present prosperous position, and their prospects of becoming rich in a very short space of time. I realize that the temper of the House is not suitable for the proper handling of a momentous question like the loan policy. Honorable members are too indifferent, and they lack sincerity. Their minds are influenced by the knowledge of post-offices or other works required in their electorates, and their attitude on the financial question is dictated by vote-catching motives. They forget all about principles. They ignore the future, and they do not care whether what they are voting for is honest or dishonest. While that atmosphere obtains, it is hard to persuade honorable members to vote against some of the proposals contained in this Bill. A Loan Appropriation Bill should never have been introduced at this stage. Provision for many of these contemplated works could have been made out of revenue, as was done in other years. Honorable members may say that that policy would mean an increase in taxation, but even greater taxation has been put on the industrial community by means of increased Tariff duties.
– The honorable member voted for many of them.
– And I would vote for them again, because the establishment of these big industries in Australia means increased employment.
– The Government will get no revenue if everything is made in Australia.
– If £20,000,000 worth of wages is circulated in Australia everybody reaps the benefit. While the industrial section of the community is drawing good wages, which means a high standard of living, the landlords, business men, and the merchants are prosperous. Therefore, I do not mind being twitted with having voted for a higher Tariff. Before I act I consider the principle involved, and I am satisfied that I was right in voting to increase employment for the industrial section of the community. When everybody is employed at good wages Australia will boom and we shall not require to borrow money for the purpose of bringing immigrants to Australia; they will come out voluntarily to share in our prosperity. We must discontinue the policy of borrowing on gilt-edged securities and the present high rates of interest. No man is more affected by the high rate of interest than is the man on the land. I remember that when the Labour Government were proposing to establish the Commonwealth Bank I was canvassing in the Werriwa district, and, at the suggestion of the manager of the local branch of the Bank of New South Wales; I addressed a meeting in front df the bank on a Monday morning. There are very many Scotchmen in that district, and my hearers were very anxious to gain some information about the projected Commonwealth Bank. They told me that they feared the consequences of its ‘establishment. I endeavoured to explain to them what the Bank would do. I must admit that it is not doing all I would like it to do, or all that the people expected and the Legislature empowered it to do. They said, “We are afraid that if another bank is established the result will be an increase in the rate of interest.” However, I was able to tell them that there was no such possibility. I pointed out that a Government institution would not need to earn profit; that sovereigns would be of no value to it, because, having the Commonwealth at its back, it had greater credit, and that its more extended opportunities for trade would enable it to reduce the rate of interest, and they would be shareholders. Well, the result was that more Labour votes were polled in that locality at the subsequent election than, had been polled there be- fore.
I had no intention of speaking at length to-night. Had I been prepared I could have given honorable members much more information than I have given them; but possibly when we are dealing with the general Estimates, if I am sufficiently recovered from the cold from which I am now suffering, I shall be able to say something more upon the finances of the Commonwealth. It is a subject that deserves all the consideration honorable members can give to it. If Australia is to be put on a sound basis steps must be taken to prevent the wholesale borrowing of money at high rates of interest. If I had my way, there would be only one borrowing authority in this country, because if a State goes on the money market, and gets into disfavour, the effect on the whole of the Commonwealth is extremely serious. The expense of our last loan flotation of £5,000,000 in London was enormous. After being issued at £96 to the underwriters, a discount of 7s. 6d. had to be paid on £2,000,000. Transactions such as this affect our financial stability, and teach us that we ought not to be obliged to go to any private office in London, but should issue our loans through our Commonwealth Bank agency in London. Under the present system, the people of England, outside a charmed circle in the private office from which our loans are issued, know nothing of an issue for four or five days. In the meantime, the underwriters take up the loan at £96, and issue the stock to the public at £98, thus making £2 per £100 profit. Can we wonder at the marvellous manner in which some people “ get rich quick “ ? I am sure that if the public of Great Britain had had the opportunity they would have subscribed to our loan at par. It was a gilt-edged security, upon which there ought not to have been need to pay a high rate of interest. This may not be the proper time to speak on these matters; but to me the proper time is when the opportunity offers. I have waited a long time for my chance to speak upon the deplorable inadequacy of our present system of borrowing. I was grieved to think that our last diggers’ loan was issued at £96 instead of par. Patriotism? God knows it is merely pocket! Before the issue I sought an opportunity to bring the matter under the notice of honorable members, but could not get it, though I sat here for hours watching for it. I knew that the people of Australia would have applied for the stock at par, instead of at £96. I was sure that the true Australian spirit previously displayed would not fail again; and I was never more surprised in my life than when I .heard the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) state the terms he proposed to offer. Those insurance and public companies who subscribed to that loan at £96 will have a splendid asset to show in their balance-sheets next year, and one which has cost them nothing. I do not suppose that they will pay income tax on that £4 per £100 presented to them by the Commonwealth Treasury.
I have tried to rivet the attention of honorable members upon matters I regard as of supreme importance in the interests of Australia, and I do not think that. my words will have been wasted. Some honorable members, at least, realize the position. Some one must do the work for the people, and I am prepared to take my share of it. The people expect the public men to give them a lead in such matters, and to tell them if the Government are following the wrong road in the matter of the issue of loans. They look to their public men to do what the public men in the land of my birth, Great Britain, are doing. The statesmen of Great Britain do not stoop to do what our politicians are doing. They are struggling hard to bring their country back to its former position, and are imposing taxation on themselves so that there may be no repudiation, and so that interest will not be flowing into certain people’s pockets. ‘For this they earn the applause of the citizens of their land; yet in Australia we, with better opportunities and with the best of seasons, must borrow money to put up a £4 weatherboard shed in Papua, or a £63 weatherboard shed somewhere else. Matters like this will not stand the light of day. We are asked to borrow money to build a little postoffice which may be obsolete within twenty years. Loan expenditure should be confined to great national works, such as railways, which will earn interest. If we were to expect our Postal Department to earn interest on capital expenditure, we should never develop the service. There might be a possibility of it with five times our present population, but there is no chance of it when there is still so much developmental work ahead.
This is the first occasion on which we have had proposals for borrowing money for expenditure on postal requirements. Sir J oseph Co’ k told us in his Budget speech that these postal buildings and these sheds, costing £63, or £4, should be built out of loan funds. Of course, we know why he has transferred expenditure from revenue account to loan account. He has done it in order to avoid having an inflated Budget. A blackfellow in
Papua could do the same. The people of Australia look to its statesmen to give them something better than this; they expect them to look a little ahead, and not merely act as politicians. Honorable members opposite when they appeal to the electors wish to be able to tell them what great fellows they are. They wish to be able to say that they have built post-offices without imposing fresh taxation. It may be considered fine to gull the public in that way, but in my view that method of dealing with the finances of the country is as full of deception as an egg is full of meat. I do not know whether honorable members are anxious to get through the business of the House before Christmas, but at all events I have given them something to meditate on during the coming recess, if they have the interests of Australia, at heart. The position of a member of the House of Representatives is the highest in the gift of the people. It is one which every member of the House should be proud of, and we should be prepared to make sacrifices in the interests of the people, who have conferred this honour upon us. That is what is expected of us. Parliament must solve the problems that are ahead. It is only Parliament that can solve them, because we have a better knowledge of affairs than can be possessed by the people outside. A man who has been a member of this House for a few years gains experience and knowledge if he attends to his business as he ought to do, and the knowledge he acquires should be used for the benefit of the people. I do not think that I have failed in this respect. I have constantly sought advice, and I learn something every day. I have learned that the time has arrived when, whether we like it or not, we must realize the importance of a proper understanding of the financial position of the country. It is no pleasure to me to have to direct the attention of honorable members to these things, but I feel that I should not be doing my duty if I did not bring them under their notice. I do not know how best to move in this matter at the present time. If I or members of the party to which I belong offer opposition to this Bill the result may be to delay the prosecution of public works which are necessary. At the same time I think it is wicked to deceive the people by telling them that the Government have brought forward a great Budget, when at the same time they float loans at 96 and at 6 per cent, interest. Let. me inform honorable members that in 1923 about £35,000,000 of loan money must be redeemed. Most of that money was borrowed at an average rate of interest of not more titan 3£ per cent., and we shall be unable in 1923 to borrow money to redeem those loans at less than per cent. 1 made a short calculation a few months ago, from which I discovered that the increased cost from interest would represent the taxation of every man, woman, and child in Australia to the extent of 5s. per head. That is the burden which the people of Australia will have to bear to meet the difference between the rate of interest at which some of our loans have been borrowed.0 and that which we will have to pay for money to redeem those loans.
– The honorable member thinks that the rate of interest will be kept up to 6 per cent, or 7 per cent, until 1923?
– I do not think that it will be possible to float loans at par in 1923 for less than 6£ per cent. That should be evident if we look at what is taking place on the other side. . of the world. The only possible relief in this respect may arise from the fact that the American people have to-day about twothirds of the actual gold in the world. Some of the southern countries of the American Continent are dealing in gold to-day. We may get cheaper loans because gold will be of no use to the Americans, as they will be unable to trade with it. That is the only hope I see for a lower rate of interest in 1923. So far as Great Britain is concerned, if we desire to do what is essential for her welfare we shall not go upon the London market for money for another twelve months. I am satisfied that if the Government cabled to England to-day on the subject, the reply they would receive would be, “Do not worry us at present for fresh loans, or until we are able to put our own financial affairs on a sounder basis.” I should like to have said something further on this matter, but I shall probably have another opportunity to refer to the subject before Christmas. “ I shall be pre- pared to give the House any knowledge I have or can obtain on the subject in an endeavour to restore the finances of Australia to a normal condition. Unless we do so we cannot hope to do away with unemployment and discontent. Nothing will so certainly remove discontent as the finding of employment for the people of Australia.
– There is, undoubtedly, a good deal of horse sense in the remarks of the last speaker, concerning the very large increase of borrowing in Australia. I realize the difficulty of making satisfactory arrangements between the Commonwealth and the States with regard to borrowing, but, undoubtedly, borrowing by the Commonwealth and by the States during the last few years has been alarming. When we consider the enormous debt of over £8.00,000,000 which has been incurred by the small population of Australia, and that a large proportion of the money has been spent on works which cannot be said to be reproductive; when we realize the large increase of taxation, necessary to meet our annual interest bill, and. remember that between this and 1927 £150,000,000, borrowed by the States, and £200,000,000, borrowed by the Commonwealth, must be redeemed, and that in respect of almost every loan that has been, borrowed, an increased rate of interest will have to be paid for its redemption, it should make us very careful indeed, when dealing with a Loan Appropriation Bill, to see that the money appropriated shall be only for works that will be reproductive. This is not a time at which to advocate the cessation of all borrowing, because there is a good deal of unemployment in the country, and money must be provided for the carrying out of public works that are essential, and which can be shown to be of value in increasing the productive capacity of the country. I should ha sorry to say, at this juncture, that I am adverse to all borrowing by Australia, but one cannot help realizing that we are faced with a very grave danger as a result of the abnormal borrowing of the past few years. We must pay a very heavy bill for it in the near future. I do not wish to appear as a pessimist, but I cannon overlook the difficulties which now confront us in getting the primary products of Australia to market, and the low prices that are obtained for nearly all of them. I realize that, in consequence, during the next year we shall find it a very difficult task to finance the Commonwealth and States of Australia. There are honorable members who say that we must increase taxation. We must be very careful about doing so, because every penny taken from the people in. the way of taxation must limit their opportunities for the production of wealth.
– We must borrow, or tax.
– But, surely, the * honorable member will agree that there must be some limit to borrowing by the people of Australia.’ He must recognise that, if he considers the enormous sums borrowed and expended during the war period. While realizing that it is essential that money must be borrowed, honorable members should assure themselves that the expenditure, whether from revenue or from borrowed money, is upon’ works which will be valuable to the people of Australia. I hope that the Government will not endeavour to put the whole of the schedule through to-night.
Much more information than has been made available should be furnished. There is one particular item having to do with the redemption of ‘ Treasury-bills raised out of Trust Funds for works, amounting to £3,000,000, which is provided for in this loan authorization. I can quite understand the Treasury - probably not having loan funds available - borrowing money from Trust Funds in order to carry out certain authorized works; but this is a Bill, not for loan authorization, but for loan appropriation ; and here is an item of £3,000,000 which has been expended. I want to know what the sum. has been spent upon. It appears to me that the money has been devoted to paying for works in regard to which Parliament has had no say.
– That sum represents money spent upon works which were authorized last year - works which have been carried out and have been paid for by the Treasury-bills which are about to be redeemed. The whole amount has to do with public works.
– I am glad to have that information. I note, further, that there is a very large amount placed to’ the credit of the Postmaster-General’s Department. The sum is to be spent upon works into which the Public Works Committee has inquired, and in respect of which it has made certain recommendations. That is all very well; but, surely, it is right that when Parliament is voting sums of money, even upon such matters as the construction of automatic telephone exchanges, the whole of the particulars should be made available. The automatic telephone exchanges which have been authorized in the various cities will cost an enormous sum of money, but only a comparatively few thousand pounds are set down here. The sum represents merely the cost of the buildings in which the* automatic exchanges will be accommodated. The actual apparatus will involve, in each instance, from £60,000 to as much as £90,000. That portion of, the schedule under review which deals with expenditure in the Postmaster-General’s Department should show in detail what is proposed to be expended.
– I think a quorum should be present. [Quorum formed.’]
– I cannot understand the desire of certain honorable members to burke discussion.
– I cannot understand why the honorable member should talk one way when he has just voted in another direction upon the matter of economy.
– And I cannot understand’ why the honorable member for Dampier should endeavour to cutdown a vote which will be spent upon the erection of little country post-offices.
– It is not correct or fair to allege that I have referred in the remotest fashion to any desire to cut down expenditure upon country postoffices. The honorable member for Eden- Mona.ro is not justified in making any such suggestion.
– On a point of order, I call attention to the fact that the honorable member for Dampier is misrepresenting me. He is taking exception to an allegation which he says I have made respecting his attitude towards the expenditure of money upon small post-office buildings. I am merely pointing out his actual position in speaking as he is doing.
– Order! The honorable member is not raising a point of order, but is making a personal explanation.
– In fairness, I wish it to be made clear that I have not mentioned the subject of building small postoffices, and I am certainly making no attempt to withhold money from being spent in that direction. My references are to the cost of automatic telephone exchanges; and I have pointed out that, in the sum set down in the schedule under the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, the amount is by no means large enough to cover the expense of installation. I complain that the necessary details showing specifically what the various amounts are to be expended upon have not been furnished for the guidance of honorable members. Is it right to authorize the expenditure of £1,500,000 by a Department which is not asked to indicate how that money is to be spent? I do not disapprove of expenditure upon the establishment of automatic telephone exchanges in the various capital cities. Indeed, the outlay is justified, and should prove a very good investment. My complaint is that honorable members have not been furnished with adequate information.
– I think we should have a quorum.
– Order ! A quorum is present.
-When the Bill is being dealt with in Committee, honorable members should be given all necessary information. For that reason the measure should not be disposed of to-night. Apparently, however, it is desired to have someof the items disposed of with the aid of a “ thin “ House.
– I draw attention to an improper departure which has been made in respect of the appropriations sought to be included in the schedule - a departure which is unjustified, and which occurs in connexion with one item only. The practice is that, where votes have been passed, the moneys for which are payable out of revenue, the balance unpaid on the 30th June each year lapses.When sums have been appropriated out of loan, the procedure is that the unexpended portion of the appropriation is taken from the total amount required, and the Appropriation Bill last introduced simply appropriates the balance. That practice has been generally followed in respect of fourteen items appearing in the schedule under consideration; but it has been departed from in regard to one item only. When examining the Estimates, honorable members were led to believe that £200,000 was sought to be spent this year on Canberra. As a matter of fact, what is desired to be appropriated by this Bill, and spent this current year, is a sum of £272,000. Honorable members should be made aware of this. This is the only instance in the Bill in which the previous practice,and the usual practice, has been departed from. The Bill contains a schedule, and in that schedule there are three columns. The first column provides the amount required for 1921-22. The amount which appears in the first column is in every case that which appears in the Estimates. The second column provides, “ Already available under appropriations made by previous Acts,” and in that column appears the balances unexpended in regard to loan appropriations on the 30th June. In the third column there is sought to be appropriated the balance of the gross amount after deducting the unexpended appropriations of last year. That practice has been followed in fourteen cases in the Bill ; but as far as Canberra is concerned the practice is totally different. Therefore, we find “Federal Capital at Canberra - towards cost of establishment, £272,476.” That is the amount required, according to the first column, for the year 1921-22. This is grossly misleading to the House. In the Estimates all that was sought to be spent for the year was £200,000. In the Appropriation Bill it is not put down as £200,000, but £272,476. That is to say, the unexpended amount at the 30th June last has been, in this solitary case, added to the £200,000. In all the other fourteen items in the schedule now before us, those amounts have been deducted. The practice is wrong; it is unusual; it is grossly improper.
– What is the effect?
– The effect is that in the Estimates theHouse is told that the amount required for the year is £200,000; but in the Appropriation Bill the Government seeks not only to appropriate £200,000, but to add the unexpended balance of last year. The items in the schedule of the Bill verify exactly what I say. Out of fifteen instances fourteen provide for a reduction of the amountappearing on the Estimates by the balance owing on the 30th June; but in the case of Canberra it is added to the £200,000. If the usual practice had been followed, the £72,000 would have been deducted, and the total expenditure for’ the year would be £200,000, as shown in the Estimates. According tothe first column of the schedule, £272,000 is required for the year; according to the Estimates only £200,000 is required.
– What about expenditure on the River Murray works ?
– I call your attention, Mr. Speaker, to the fact that the honorable member has not a quorum to listen to his Canberra views. [Quorum formed.]
– The honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) has asked, “ What about expenditure on the River Murray works?” The expenditure on this scheme from 1915 to 1920, as shown on the Estimates, is £335,000. There was an unexpended balance on the 30th June of £75,000. All that is sought to be appropriated now is the balance, after deducting that £75,000. The practice followed in the case of Canberra is grossly unfair, and completely out of harmony with” the other items contained in the Bill.
– The honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) alleges that the practice followed in the case of the Canberra item is improper. As a matter of fact; the House is informed definitely and clearly in the measure exactly what is being done, and was also informed in the Treasurer’s Budget statement. The Treasurer, in his statement, distinctly said -
Since the resumption of the development of the Federal Capital, work has proceeded steadily throughout the year. Last year the House voted £150,000 for this purpose. Of this amount, £81,417 was actually expended, but commitments for £50,000 more had been incurred. In all, about £140,000 has been either spent or contracted to be spent to date. This year we have placed on the Estimates the sum of £200,000.
This indicates that the £200,000 was in addition to the commitment under the vote of £150,000. That was the Treasurer’s intention. The schedule of the Bill makes this perfectly clear, and the House is not misled. It is definitely stated in the Bill : “ Amount required for 1921-22, £272,476; available from last year, £72,476; appropriated under this Act, £200,000.”
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 postponed.
– If honorable members will look at this schedule, I will explain the details of it. A sum of £34,000 is provided for London offices. This amount is provided for completion of contracts now in hand, and to adjust claims by contractors for increased payments on contracts already completed. The claims are made on account of abnormal increases in the price of materials in Great Britain as a result of war conditions. This sum of £34,000 is made up as follows : -
Payments due to contractors and subcontractors for completion of Australia House, £24,000.
War claims for abnormal increases in the price of materials, £5,000.
Architects’ and surveyors’ fees, £5,000.
Honorable members will notice that £24,000 of the amount is payments to contractors and sub-contractors under the contract, and £5,000 is payment for increased cost of materials. The balance is architects’ and surveyors’ fees, £5,000. The only item that can be questioned at all is the war claim of £5,000. This was considered most carefully, and, indeed, has been the subject of negotiations for quite twelve months between the contractors and the High Commissioner’s Office. I am satisfied that the amount claimed is fair and reasonable, and is, in the circumstances, proper to be paid. The next item of £100,000, “Subscription to capital of Refinery Company in accordance with Oil Agreement Act 1920,” is a statutory obligation, and needs no explanation. The next item, “Williamstown Shipbuilding Yard - buildings, plant, and machinery, £3,000,” represents estimated expenditure in additions to plant, machinery, and buildings for this financial year to enable the shipbuilding programme to be carried out. There is another item of the .same class in connexion with Cockatoo Island Dockyard for “ machinery and ‘plant, yard, and floating plant, £39,000.” That is made
Up of a number of items which I will read before turning to the consideration of the general question of shipbuilding - Yard machinery and plant (new proposals) -
These items are required for shipbuilding and ship-repa’ir work. The sum set aside for the Williamstown Dockyard is only £3,000, but the amount for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard, if we are going to build the 12,500 or 12,600 ton ships there, is much larger. The slipway has already been lengthened in order to take vessels of this tonnage. Whether the Committee will discuss the shipbuilding policy on this item or on the general
Estimates, I shall leave honorable members to determine. I think. myself, it would be preferable to deal with this subject under the general Estimates, for the reason that we could then discuss shipping and shipbuilding as a general policy, and, of course, the Government would accept the decision of the Committee on that matter.
– Cannot we discuss this question under the “Treasury”, which is the next division?
– I think it would be better to discuss it on the general % Estimates. Then, if the Committee decides not to go on with shipbuilding, those items not covered by contracts will, of course, fall. The Committee has the assurance of the Government that notwithstanding its agreeing to these Estitimates, if, at a later stage, it decides against shipbuilding as a policy, the items, excepting those which ar© covered by contracts, and to which we are committed, Will drop out.
– I understood, in the discussion that took place recently, that we had spent £600,000 on machinery for Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– No. We have spent £300,000 on that work.
– I thought it was agreed that we should go on building these ships and keep the men at work there.
– That is the policy of the Government.
– But why postpone this matter until’ we are dealing with the general Estimates?
– I am not postponing it at all. I am asking the Committee to come to a decision on that matter. If there is a desire to discuss it on this item, I shall take no exception to that course.
– Would it not be better to deal with the matter now, in order that the work may be gone on with ?
– That alone would_ not be sufficient. We must have some* clear and definite expression from the Committee on the question of shipbuilding. There must be no misunderstanding. It is only fair to the Government, since it has placed itself in the hands of tha Committee, that we should’ know what the Committee recommends should be done. Therefore, I think we should leave the general discussion on the shipbuilding policy until we come to the general Estimates, because these items represent only a small part of the shipbuilding policy of the Government. It is true, as the Deputy Leaderof the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) says, that we have some £316,000 worth of material for these 12,500-ton ships, and I made it clear when I spoke before on this matter that it would be unwise not to utilize that’ great amount of material. It must necessarily be wasted unless we proceed with the construction of the ships, but this is a. matter upon which the Committee will be asked to give a decision.
– Let the Committee decide the matter on this division, because the livelihood of hundreds of men depends on it.
– Personally, I would prefer the matter to be dealt with on the general Estimates, because we may then discuss shipping in its relation to shipbuilding and shipbuilding in its relation to shipping. I want, again, to assure honorable members that, in passing these items, they will not be committing themselves to the expenditure of money that is not, covered by contracts if later they decide that the Government shall not go on with its shipbuilding policy.
Let me now turn to the next item, the loan to the Western Australian Farmers Company Limited, forthe erection of wheat silos and other appliances, £20,000. This is a statutory obligation incurred under the Western Australian Fanners Agreement Act of 1920, and requires no further explanation from me.
The next item deals with immigration. The amount to be appropriated for passage money of assisted immigrants is £162,000. In respect of this matter, the position may be put shortly. Under the joint immigration scheme agreed upon between the Commonwealth and States, it was arranged that the Commonwealth should be responsible for the recruiting of immigrants abroad, and for their transport to Australia. An agreement was entered into with the shipping companies by which the immigrants may travel from the United Kingdom to Australia at a minimum fare of £38, of which £12 is contributed by the Commonwealth, leaving only £26 to be paid by the immigrant or his nominator. In approved cases, up to £16 of this £26 may be advanced by way of loan by the
Common wealth to the immigrant to be repaid by him in instalments extending over a period of up to twelve months from the date of his arrival in Australia. Under the British Overseas Settlement scheme, which expires on 31st December, 1921, free passages to the Dominions are granted under certain conditions to exservice men and their dependants, and every endeavour has been made to utilize to the fullest possible degree the provisions of this scheme by confining, as far as possible, the immigration activities to the end of this year to ex-service men and their dependants. This item may be set out under two headings. The amount provided under the first heading - £126,000 - should be sufficient to pay 14,000 assisted passages at £12 for adults, and, pro rata, for children, and the amount under the second £70,000 should provide for 7,000 advances, averaging £10 each, Less repayments - say, £34,000- this item will be £36,000, and the total for immigration purposes, £162,000. These figures will, of course, be subject to variation according to the proportion of passage money which each immigrant, or his nominator, can pay outright. Advances outstanding at 30th June, 1922, would be recovered and available for further passages in the succeeding financial year. The position, I think, is quite clear. This money is for part payment of passages of immigrants to this country at the rate of £12 per head. Further, we lend, in approved cases, £16 to the immigrant who repays the loan in instalments within twelve months of his arrival in this country. Instalments on such loans already made are being paid in a steady stream. Immigrants of this class are nominated by their friends, or other persons in this country, and I think it will be agreed that they are the best kind of immigrants we can get. As honorable members will see, we test their bona fides by not paying the whole of their passage money. We advance only a proportion, about one-third, but in especially approved cases, up to £16, which is repaid in the manner I have described. . I think the item is one to which the Committee might fairly agree without cavil. This covers the whole of the items under the Prime Minister’s Department. If honorable members want any further information, I shall bo glad to supply it.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- I should like the Prime Minister to consider whether we should not discuss the general policy of shipbuilding under the Prime Minister’s Department in the Loan Appropriation Bill. This course, I think, would be much better than waiting until we come to the general Estimates, because, as honorable members know, work at Cockatoo Island Dockyard is being hold up. I do not know thai there would be any objection to discussing this matter to-morrow in order that some direction may be given to those who are intrusted with the building of ships at Cockatoo Island Dockyard.
– I desire to ask you, sir, if, in discussing thevote for the Prime Minister’s Department in the schedule to the Loan Appropriation Bill, honorable members will have an opportunity of debating the statement made by the Prima Minister (Mr. Hughes) the other day in relation to shipping generally ?
– That is a matter for the Chairman of Committees to determine.
.- If we were to debate the question on the Loan Appropriation Bill, it would restrict argument on the more comprehensive question, because wo would be able to discuss only shipbuilding, and, according to our Standing Orders, would not be able to refer to that of ship-owning. As I believe it is the desire of honorable members to discuss the question in all its ramifications, we had better wait until the general Estimates are under discussion, when that opportunity will be afforded.
.-I think the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) should allow honorable members to come to a decision in this matter at the earliest moment, because it is very unfair, not only to the people generally, but particularly to those depending on the work of ship construction for a livelihood. Many of the men have been waiting for months for some definitepronoun cement, and some are almost on the verge of starvation. The men have agreed to the whole of the conditions which the Government proposed, and when they expected that the work was about to be recommenced they were informed that operations were to be held in abeyance for some time. Men have recently been discharged, and it is grossly unfair to keep them in continued suspense. If shipbuilding is not to be proceeded with, the men should he relieved of the misery of waiting, and thus have the opportunity of seeking employment elsewhere. The Prime Minister would be acting wisely and fairly if he allowed a decision to be arrived at at the earliest possible moment.
– I want honorable members to have the opportunity of discussing the Prime Minister’s statement on the Loan Appropriation Bill.
– I do not know whether that can be done. As the Christmas season is approaching, and the men are naturally very anxious as to what is to be done, the intentions of Parliament should be made known at the earliest possible moment.
– I quite agree that it is desirable to take a vote as early as possible; but I fail to see how this House can advise the Government in relation to an inseparable part of an important question on the items in the Loan Appropriation Bill. The question of shipbuilding cannot be considered apart from ship-owning, and the Government desire to ascertain the opinion of honorable members in regard to both activities. As the honorable member for Kalgoorlie (Mr. Foley) pointed out, on the vote in the Loan Appropriation Bill we can only discuss the question of shipbuilding, and not theoperations of the Commonwealth Line. We shall have to wait until the general Estimates are under consideration before we can deal with ship construction and ship-owning as well. When we have reached the item relating to shipping, it will be perfectly in order to discuss shipbuilding and the operations of the Commonwealth Line. The Government ought to know the intention of Parliament, not only in regard to shipbuilding, but as regards ship-owning. If it should be held that we cannot discuss the shipping question generally when the general Estimates are under discussion, I shall see that an opportunity is provided by moving that a paper be printed.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.36 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 22 November 1921, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1921/19211122_reps_8_98/>.