8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 3 p.m., and read prayers.
Bill returned from Senate without re quest.
– Is it the intention of the “Postmaster-General to wait for the flotation of the £2,000,000 loan before proceeding with the promised postal works, or is he now doing something to meet the urgent demands for telephone communication ?
– Works are “being carried on in every part of the Commonwealth, and will be continued. The work now being done is an increase upon that undertaken for some years past.
– Will the Minister for Trade and Customs favorably consider the request of fruit-growers for assistance in marketing their fruit during the coming season?
– Yes, in accordance with the policy already announced; but the Government would like to see the industry better organized. It does not wish to ‘be asked to give assistance, as was the case last year, when the industry had got into a hole, and when not merely financial assistance, but the creation of machinery for the marketing of produce -were needed. We wish to see business men at the business end of the operation, and an organization established to properly control the whole output. If, when that has been brought about, it is found that financial assistance is requested, the Government will bo prepared to consider what financial help should be given.
– Will the Minister give to the House the names of the fruitgrowers and fruit-growers’ associations by whom the Government has been asked to market the crop ?
– If the question refers to the past crop, I say that there was a flood of Applications from organizations and individuals; if it refers to the next crop, my reply is that deputations of fruit-growers have waited on me. These wore introduced . by the honorable member for Wimmera (Mr. Stewart), and by the honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), and I was informed that the former represented the great body of the fruitgrowers of Australia and the Federal organization of fruit-growers. I promised them - a promise which I now iconfirmto call a conference of the fruit-growing associations of the Commonwealth, in the hope that an organization might be evolved similar to that controlling the dairying industry, a national organization that would deal with the whole question of fruit production and marketing. It is proposed not ‘to take emergency measures, but to deal with the whole question of production and marketing.
– Has the Minister for
Trade and Customs given consideration to the urgent request fox a determination of the question whether the Glasgow tractor is dutiable under Tariff item 177b?
– The honorable member refers, I take’ it, to a steam tractor for clearing timber and pulling down trees. That kind of tractor is not now made in Australia, and consequently the Customs Department is prepared to approve of its free importation under item 177b until such time as local manufacturing establishes itself, when the whole position will be reviewed.
Treatment of Visiting Australians
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister make representations to tho proper autho rities to ascertain if there is any truth in the statement appearing in the Argusof yesterday that an Australian resident whose passports had been approved by the American Consul in London was detained at Ellis Island on. the ground thai the Australian quota in America was full,, and that he was placed to sleep in a small room with forty other men, the blanketsbeing affected with vermin. If it is found that the allegations are true, will the right honorable gentleman ask that more humane treatment be extended to our citizens in the future?
– I shall be glad to have inquiries made.
– I wish to know from the Treasurer, in view of the necessity of encouraging those soldiers who have settled on the land under the Repatriation scheme, and who by reason of the high price they have had to pay for land and stock find considerable difficulty in meeting their obligations; whether he will confer with the Land Ministers in the several States with a view to extending the time for the payment of principal, from three to five years?
– The suggestion of the honorable member will have most careful consideration.
– Is it a fact that negotiations for the sale of the Commonwealth Shipping Line are taking place between the Government and an agent, and, if bo, will an opportunity be given to honorable members to discuss the matter before anything is done?
– I do not think thereis any truth in the allegation.
– Will the Minister representing the Prime Minister make available to honorable members printed copies of the proceedings of the recent Economic Round-table Conference convened by the Prime Minister, and held in Sydney?
– I think the report is in print, and I shall bring the matter under the notice of the Prime Minister’s Department.
– I ask the Minister representing the Prime Minister whether it is true that the Theodore Government, in Queensland, have placed an embargo of £700 per head upon all Canes entering that State - that is to say, that Danes without £700 in their possession are not wanted in Queensland by the Theodore Government?
– I am not aware of the facts, but I will have inquiries made.
– Is it the intention of the Government to continue sending Commissioners to America to assist the American manufacturers to export to Australia goods which can be produced within the Commonwealth; or do they intend to send one of the members of the Cabinet to America in order to get rid of the Commissioner ?
– The policy of the Government in regard to representation in America has been already announced in the Governor-General’s Speech, and in due time the honorable member will receive further information upon the subject.
– Have the Government received any report from Dr. Campbell Brown regarding his celebrated explorations in New Guinea?
– I shall ascertain, and let the honorable member know.
– I lay upon the table the report of the Joint Committee on Public Works, together with minutes of evidence, relating to the proposed establishment of an automatic telephone exchange at South Brisbane.
Ordered to be printed.
– In regard to the payment of a sum of money to the South African Government as compensation for inferior flour -shipped to that country from Australia, will the Minister for. Trade and Customs supply the House with the names of the exporting firms, and state whether or not it is the intention of the Government to hold those persons responsible for the repayment of the compensation ?
– I ask the honorable member to direct that question to the Prime Minister, who, with the Wheat Board; was responsible for that adjustment.
Kidman and Mayoh Contract
– On Thursday last the Prime Minister promised to make available to the House the terms of the reference to Sir Mark Sheldon, who was appointed arbitrator in connexion with the Kidman-Mayoh shipbuilding contract. When will the information be available?
– I shall endeavour to obtain the information for the honorable member, and, if opportunity offers, lay it upon the table at a later hour today.
– Does the Treasurer intend to make a statement with reference to the sugar agreement? If so, when?
– It is not my intention to make any such statement, but I understand that the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) will do so in the course of a few days.
asked the AttorneyGeneral, upon notice -
When it is proposed to bring the Industrial Peace provisions into general application?
– It is not proposed at present to create Tribunals under Part TV. of the Industrial Peace Act 1920, except under special circumstances. The question of the establishment of Councils under Parts II. and III. is receiving consideration.
Fruit Freights. - New Vessels
asked the Minister in charge pf Shipping, upon notice -
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister in charge of Shipbuilding, upon notice -
What are the number and description of ships now being built in Australia, and the estimated cost per ton of said ships individually?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: - 2 shelter-deck cargo vessels, 6,170 tons deadweight; estimated cost, £30 per ton. 2 shelter-deck cargo vessels, 12.500 tons deadweight, specially fitted with refrigerated space for carrying large frozen and perishable cargoes; estimated cost, £60 per ton.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Customs and Treasury officials are preparing a comprehensive statement. showing the position of the sugar business. This will be presented to the House within a few days by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and itdoes not, therefore, seem desirable to anticipate any portion of that statement.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The Customs and Treasury officials are preparing a comprehensive statement showing the position of the sugar business. This will be presented to the House within a few days by the Minister for Trade and Customs, and it does not therefore seem desirable to anticipate any portion of that statement.
Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Board, representative of the Commonwealth and State Governments and producers, particulars of which will be published later. The adoption of the scheme will, it is considered, not only afford the producers a direct voice in the management of their industry, but lead to the desired improvement. Much, however, rests with the dairyman himself and butter manufacturers. The Commonwealth has willingly made available its technical expert officers to assist in advising the industry in the manufacturing and marketing of butter and cheese.
Purchase of Houses
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Is it a fact that increased duty on spare parts of motor cars is being sought. If so, will the House be given an opportunity to express its opinion on the matter?
– Yes. The matter has been referred to the Tariff Board for investigation and report, and until receipt of that reportI am not in a position to say what action will be . taken.
Poultry and Agricultural Shows - Receipts
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable members questions are as follow:
In neither caso is exemption allowed by the Entertainments Tax Assessment Act if the entertainment is provided by a private individual unless the net proceeds are devoted to philanthropic, religious, or charitable purposes, and the whole of the expenses of the entertainment do not exceed 50 per cent, of the receipts.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Whether he will have a return made available to the House of Representatives of particulars of the entertainments tax received from 1st July, 1921, to 31st December, 1921, and from 1st July, 1920, to 31st December, 1920, with details of the various sources of the receipts ?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : - -
The amount of entertainments tax collected for the periods mentioned is as under: -
1st July, 1920, to 31st December, 1920. £318, 379
1st July, 1921, to 31st December, 1921, £323, 921.
No information can be given as to the details of the various classes of entertainments on which, the above tax was levied, as the departmental statistics are taken out for twelve monthly periods only.
The entertainments tax assessed for each class of entertainment for the financial year ended 30th June, 1921. is as follows: -
The corresponding statistics for the year ended 30th June, 1922, have not yet been compiled.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
Will he give the following particulars in regard to loans raised during the period that Sir Joseph Cook, late Treasurer, held office : -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Earnings by Blind.
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
If required by the mercantile marine, copies of these charts prepared by a photographic process can be purchased on application to the Secretary to the Naval Board.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Whether the Government will lay upon the table of the House the file dealing with the Mananok-Putunain marriage at Kaewieng, New Ireland?
Mr. GREENE (for Mr. Hughes).The papers are at present at Rabaul, but copies will be procured and further consideration given to the honorable member’s request.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Foreign Oil Company
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
In view of the statement made by Senator Russell (as member of the Government) when introducing the Income Tax Assessment Bill on 10th December, 1921, that a certain foreign oil company had been evading taxation, and that Australia “ had been robbed right and left throughout the war,” what action has been taken?
– The Department is giving serious attention to the application of the recent amendment of the law to the case mentioned in the question, and to a number of similar cases.
(By leave). - I desire to submit to honorable members the following statement of the receipts and expenditure in respect of the financial years 1920-21 and 1921-22:-
I cannot at the moment deal with loan moneys. The fact that I am able to do so in relation to the Consolidated Revenue Fund only five days, including a Saturday
and a Sunday, after the close of the financial year, reflects the greatest credit on the Treasury officials.
– And also on the Treasurer.
– I have Lad the figures printed for distribution so that honorable members may follow me closely. Although the figures are . only on an approximate basis, they are so near to the exact position that they will not need any material alteration.
The total approximate expenditure out of revenue for the year 1921-22 was £65,118,265 compared with an actual expenditure of £64,624,087 for the year 1920-22, and an estimated expenditure of £64,104,458 for the year 1921-22. Thus the approximate expenditure for the last financial year exceeded the actual expenditure in 1920-21 by £494,178, and the estimated expenditure for 1921-22 by £1,013,807. The four main headings of expenditure are “ Ordinary Votes of Departments,” “ Special Appropriations, Other than War,” “Additions, New Works and Buildings “ and “ War Services.” The estimated expenditure for the year under “ Ordinary Votes of Departments’ ‘ was £15,745,769. The approximate expenditure, being £16,200,164, exceeded this by £454,895. The estimated expenditure under “ Special Appropriations, other than War” was £14,637,025. The approximate expenditure, being £14,972,586, exceeded this by £335,561. The estimated expenditure on “ Additions, New Works and Buildings” was £2,518,41.1. The approximate expenditure was £2,584,359, an increase of £65,948. The estimated expenditure on “War Services” was £31,203,253. The approximate expenditure was £31,361,156, an increase of £157,903.’ Under these four headings the total increase of £1,013,807. which I have shown, is made up.
I desire now, very briefly, to deal with the four different headings, the first of which is “ Ordinary Votes of Departments.” It will be seen from the statement in the hands of honorable members that the ‘estimate totalled £15,745,769, but that the expenditure has been £16,200,164- an increase of £454,395. I propose to indicate now the sources from which that increase has been derived. It will bo noted that the second Department appearing in the list of Departments is that of the Prime Minister. The estimate of expenditure was. £416,798; the actual expenditure was £539,658 - an increase of £122,860. The items which have contributed to bringing about the increase comprise the following: - First, there has been a payment of £32,500 in settlement of the claim by the South African Government in respect of flour shipped from the Commonwealth.
– I presume the Government will get that back again.
– We are very hopeful that the Wheat Board will realize their obligation and refund the amount to the Commonwealth Treasury.
– Not much hope of that !
– I may not enter into a discussion of the matter at this moment: I am merely placing the facts and the figures before honorable members. The next item is a contribution to the League of Nations totalling £14,500. The amount set down on the Estimates was less than that which we have been called upon to pay, because the Government were hopeful that the new basis of payments contemplated at the Assembly last year would have come into operation and that, thus, we would have been relieved. The matterhas not yet reached finality, by medium of the ratification of the different States concerned, and, therefore, the Commonwealth Government will be required to find the amount which I have just mentioned in order to make Australia’s appropriate payment to the League. The next item is in respect of the Royal Commission on Taxation. Here, there is an excess amount of £5,000 over the estimate. This has been brought about by the long continuation of the services of the Commission. The present occasion is not appropriate for me to enter into a discussion of the work done and being done by the Commission; but I do not think that any Commission upon income taxation, in any part of the world, has approached its work with a more serious determination to fully investigate the subject and to give of its best in coming to a decision. The next item in order has to do with the Australian delegation to Washington, in respect of which a sum of £8,500 is involved. That outlay, of course, could not have been in contemplation when the Estimates were framed. Towards the relief of distress occasioned by the maritime strike, the item of £4,450 is merely a belated payment to the New
South Wales Government. The Commonwealth authorities were under an obligation to meet this, but when the Estimates were being made up, the authorities concerned had no knowledge of the matter. The last item under the heading of which I am now speaking totals £49,000 j it is in respect of relief of distress in Europe. Honorable members are sufficiently familiar with the circumstances to appreciate the action of the Commonwealth Government.
– Has the sum to do mainly with the provision of meat for Russia?
– It was mainly employed in providing meat. The total of these items to which I have just alluded is £1 13,950 out of the full amount of the increase, namely, £122,SC0; and it. will be for honorable members to consider how far the expenditure had been unavoidable.
The next Department in the list under the head of “ Ordinary Votes of Departments “ . is the Treasury. The estimate amounted to £1,207,2S0, and the approximate expenditure has been £1.330,S34 - an increase of £123,554:. I shall now indicate the chief causes of the increase. The first has to do with taxation, in regard to which, for temporary assistance, we have had to find no less than £50,000 additional. The only factor here, to which I can draw the attention of honorable members is the amount of income tax which has been collected during the past year. The estimate was £15,000,000, and .the best-equipped critics stated that that was a hopelessly exaggerated expectation. There has been collected, however, £16,790,645. Another item . to which I would call attention has to do with the maintenance of persons in charitable institutions. The outlay in this regard was under-estimated by £12,000, and the difference has had to be provided. I am not attempting to excuse the position, but would merely remind honorable members that this is a very difficult matter for any one to estimate exactly. Respecting coinage, an increase of £26,000 is shown. The output and return from coinage depend exactly _ on tho amount spent on its production. Honorable members will note, under the heading of “Receipts,” that revenue amounting to £130,000 was estimated from this source, whereas the approximate sum derived was £178,352 - an increase of more than £48,000. In order to secure that increase, however, we have had to incur additional expenditure amounting, as I just stated, to £26,000. Remission of fines under Taxation Acts total £6,000. There are certain cases where grave injustice appears to have been done under our Statutes, which are necessarily rigid. There is no power by which unjust imposts can be remitted by the Commissioner of Taxation, and the only method is to pay the sums involved from the Treasury funds, and to place the amounts upon the Supplementary Estimates for the information and consideration of the House. With respect to the Government and Stamp Printers, an expenditure of £9,000 had to ‘be incurred owing to greater output from the activities concerned. Inscribed stock frauds are responsible for £7,000. I cannot at this stage enter into a discussion concerning whether the frauds should or should not have occurred. They did occur, and the money had to bo found to cover the losses. The approximate total of these items which I have just been relating is £110,000; and the total increase of expenditure upon the Treasury Department is, I repeat, £123,554.
The next Department to which I shall refer is that of Home and Territories. The estimated expenditure was.£771,78S ; the approximate outlay has been £860,255- an increase of.£8S,467. That is more than covered by payments made in respect of one item alone. I refer to oil investigation in New Guinea. The sum is made up in two parts.’ An actual total of £96,000 has had to be paid, and £25,000 of it is in respect of the purchase of the British Government’s interests in oil investigations in New Guinea, while the remainder consists of the actual cost, including arrears, amounting to £71,000. I think honorable members have very distinct views with regard to the whole question of oil investigation and exploration in New Guinea ; but it is not for .me at this stage to discuss the question. I am giving the House these figures only to show how the increase has been brought about. At the appropriate time, no doubt, honorable members will raise every possible point in regard to the question. The one point I am now putting is that in this item we have £96,000 which has been added to the expenditure of the Department. The total increase on the estimated expenditure of the Department is £88,467, so that, excluding this item, there has really been a reduction in its expenditure.
The estimated expenditure in respect of Air Services was £100,000, whereas the approximate expenditure for the year has been £152,058, an increase of £52,058.
– Is that in respect of civil or defence aviation, or does it represent the expenditure on the combined services?
– It represents that on the combined services. The amount provided on the Estimates proved to be insufficient to meet the expenditure required for, not an additional establishment, but for the establishment existing at the beginning of the year, and eventually these additional amounts were found for the Department. They were provided, however, only upon the promise that a saving of a like amount should be made in the vote for New Works, so that when, in connexion with the Budget, we are considering the position as a whole, honorable members will find that there ha3 been a saving on New Works equal to the additional amount that has been made available ,to the Department in connexion with the General Estimates.
The estimated expenditure of the PostmasterGeneral’s Department was £7,455,533, and the approximate expenditure has been £7,758,399, an increase of £302,866. It is clear that in this vote, there had been some under-estimate for the maintenance of existing services. I am speaking now, not of increased services, but merely of maintenance and other moneys which had to be found unless services were actually going to be discontinued. The other side relates ‘to repair and maintenance of lines in existence. If that work had been discontinued, tho position would have been that when we came to put into operation the larger and continuous scheme that we now have in mind, we should merely have created further arrears that would have to be picked up. I have had a considerable amount to do with the increase in this direction, and am quite prepared to defend it. It appeared to me to be useless to cut down services and to allow main tenance and repair charges to accumulate, and property to depreciate just when we proposed to extend the whole of our operations, and to start on an entirely new basis. It is for the House to determine the wisdom or otherwise of our action in making available these additional moneys.
I come now to the Department of Health, the estimated expenditure for which was £108,568, whereas the approximate expenditure amounted to £144,106, showing an increase of £35,538. There is one cause only for this increase, and nhat is the preventive measures that had to be taken in connexion with the threatened outbreak of bubonic plague. I. cannot bell the House whether every penny of the money so expended was properly spent, or whether it was necessary to expend it. I would, however, take honorable members into my confidence to the extent of telling them that we were threatened with an outbreak of bubonic plague, and that while I hope that I have a certain measure of courage as Treasurer, I had not the courage to act contrary to the views of the whole of our medical advisers, and to take the risk of an outbreak of bubonic plague in this country.
– Are not the States responsible for such preventive measures?
– They are. when the plague is within, our gates, but they are not responsible for the cost of fumigating vessels and other work of the kind.
– Would such work have cost over £35,000 when it extended over only a few months?
– The greater part of it was so expended.
– I shall leave my honorable colleague the Minister for Health (Mr. Greene) at the appropriate moment to defend that expenditure. I am only explaining the cause of this increase, and stating why I, as Treasurer, had to find this additional amount of £35,000.
That completes the figures relating to the ordinary departmental votes. Coming to “ Special Appropriations, other than war,” the estimated expenditure was £14,637,025, and the approximate expenditure has been, £14,972,586, an increase of £335,561. In respect of Invalid and Old-age Pensions, Maternity Allowance, and payments to States under the Surplus Revenue Act, there was a total increase of approximately £100,000. On the other hand, payments in respect of interest and sinking fund decreased approximately by £100,000, so That these two groups of items balance each other. The increase is due to the fact that, as will be seen by reference to the items under “ Special Appropriations,” provision has been made for the Defence compensation which will be payable, if the necessary action is taken by Parliament, to the -personnel retiring under the reorganization scheme.
– But is that money to come out of the funds for 1921-22.
– That is the suggestion; but it will be open to honorable members to discuss the point. We take the view that if it had not been decided to refer this question to Parliament for its determination, the whole scheme would have been finalized and cleaned up during the last financial year. As it is, it has not been possible to do that. In due season a measure will be introduced for the authorization of these payments, and it will then be open to honorable members to express their views upon the action which has been talc en.
– There is, so far, no authority for a special appropriation.
– No money can be paid in respect of the compensation scheme until the necessary Bill has been passed.
– The money has not been, and cannot be, paid, until the scheme is passed by Parliament. We consider, however, that it would have been spent during the last financial year if the matter had been treated as being within the discretion of the Government, and we have accordingly provided for it in connexion with the last financial year.
In respect of the item “ Other Special Appropriations,” which were estimated at £291,000, the approximate expenditure for 1921-22 was £328,524. The bulk of that increase was accounted for by the advance of £25,000 which was made to the Soldiers Co-operative Woollen Mills at Geelong. The Act declares that this advance shall be made out of revenue, and this loan will be repaid to us.
For additions, new works, and buildings, the estimate for 1921-22 was £2,518,411, and the approximate expenditure was £2,584,359. The approximate expenditure over the estimate shows an increase of £65,948, and that increase is entirely due to the fact that during last year we had to make provision for paying to the British Government an amount of £163,000 for munition-making plant, ordered some years ago. This was quite unexpected; we had no knowledge of the pending payment, but the plant had been ordered, and had come to hand, and provision had to be made to pay. But for that payment the amount under this item would have been substantially less than the anticipated amount.
– When the honorable gentleman says that nothing was known about this, he knows that the records of the order were in both Departments.
– I am afraid the honorable gentleman misunderstands me; it was not known that this payment would be due during the year, but, naturally, we had full information as to the ordering of the plant.
The War Services estimate’ wa? £31,203,253, and the approximate expenditure was £31,361,156, or an increase over the estimate of £157,903. Under the heading of repatriation of soldiers, there is a decrease of approximately £160,000, and in the case of other war services of £61,000. The increase all falls under War Pensions, which show au amount of £378,000 over the estimate. That* increase in war pensions is due to the fact that Parliament, at the end of last session, passed a.n amending Act which considerably liberalized the provisions, and as a result it has been necessary to find a very much greater sum in the past six months than we had any knowledge of when the Estimates were framed.
I think I have covered in sufficient detail the expenditure side, and put honorable members in a position to fully digest, understand, and consider the figures.
On the revenue side the estimate was £6.1,787,350, and the approximate revenue is £64,913,085, an increase . of £3,125,735. The principal item is Customs and Excise, the revenue from which was estimated at £26,131,000, and the approximate revenue received £27,630,392, an increase of £1,499,392, or approximately £1,500,000. The reason for the increase is, of course, that thetrading conditions have proved to be better than was estimated at the time that the estimate was framed. It will bo remembered that the Customs Estimate for the year just closed showed a substantial reduction on what had been received in the previous year. At the beginning of the present year the trading indications appeared to be that a substantial reduction would be effected. There has been a substantial reduction, but not so great a reduction as was anticipated. The income tax was estimated to return £15,000,000, but, in the result, £16,790,645 has been received, an increase of £1,790,645. The main reason for this is that at the beginning of the year there was carried over no less than £4,494,285 of moneys to be collected in respect of the year 1920-21.
– The screw has been put on?
– That money has come in.
– What proportion of the arrears has been actually got in ?
– Of the arrears carried over from 1920-21, all have practically been got in. This was reflected in the income tax figures during the earlier months of the year. Then, under ordinary circumstances, very little money comes in, but in this instance quite substantial sums were received in respect of the arrears of the previous year.
– Are there many arrears now?
– There are a certain number, but we do not start the year we are now in with anything like the amount to be paid in respect of income tax as was the case twelve months ago; the arrears have, to a great extent, been reduced.
– Can you estimate what arrears there will be?
– I think I am doing quite sufficient estimating as it is. One item which has assisted the revenue is the payment on account of the army of occupation £835,000; but of this we have heard a good deal, and I need not elaborate the’ point.
The principal decrease has come about in connexion with the war-time profits tax, the estimate for which was £2,000,000, and the approximate revenue received £1,306,708, a decrease of £693,292. As honorable members know, this is a very difficult tax to administer, and it causes an infinity of trouble to finalize. The Act ceased to operate in 1919, but, of course, payments were deferred for a certain time under the measure. I hope now that we aregetting to a ‘ period when we shall be able to close up the whole of the old transactions, and to start without any war-time profits tax to confuseour figures, and cause trouble and difficulty.
The next item is that of the Government Line of Steamers, the estimate in regard to which was £300,000 ; but it has not been deemed prudent or safe to. put in any approximate result at this time. The reason for this is. that we cannot get the accounts in from Great Britain for a considerable time, and it would not do to put down a balance as a cash basis, as operations are conducted in the Treasury. That means a reduction in theestimate of £300,000.
In the case of the Australian note issue the estimate was £1,400,000, and the approximate receipts are £1,261,482, a decrease of £138,518. A satisfactory feature about the decrease is that it indicates that the assistance which was necessary ‘by way of advance during the period of war finance is gradually beginning to disappear, and it is not necessary for the banks to lean so heavily on the note fund ; that is at least one healthy sign tending in the direction of deflation.
– Are the banks paying their interest?
– Yes. There are innumerable other items, but I do not wish to weary the House.
– What about sugar?
– We are to have a long statement about sugar, directly, and I do not wish to anticipate it.
The estimate of transactions for the’ whole year, 1921-22, made at the ‘beginning of the year, show receipts £61,787,350, and expenditure £64,104,458, a deficit of £2,317,108. The approximate transactions for the year are - Receipts £64,913,085, and expenditure - £65,118,265; a deficit of £205,180. Therefore, the estimated deficit of £2,317,108 has been turned into a deficit of £205,180, an improvement in the position of £2,111,928. On the approximate figures, as now estimated, an amount , of £6,413,147 will be carried forward by way of surplus for the present year as against an estimated ‘ amount of- £4,301,219.
I have set out in broad outline as far as I can. the transactions of the’ past year.
My statement and comments will nave placed- honorable members in a position to judge with fair accuracy the results of the transactions which I have reviewed, and will have afforded them information and data which they oan consider during the next four or five weeks, as I shall have to do, in1 connexion - with the framing of the Budget. Whether, in their conclusions, they will have more success than I, will only be seen upon the presentation of the Budget.
The following papers were presented : -
Income Tax Assessment Act - Regulations
Amended- StatutoryRules 1922, No. 89. -
Public Service Act - Appointments and Promotions of -
Dr. A. J. Botbamley and Or. C. E. Wiburd, Department of Health.
F. Strahan, Prime Minister’s Department.
H. J. Cross, Prime Minister’s Department.
War Gratuity Act - Regulations Amended - Statutory Rule’s 1922, No. 87.
Address-in-Reply : Censure Amendment.
Debate resumed from 29th June (vide page 57), on motion by Mr. Jackson: -
That the following Address-in-Reply to the Speech of His Excellency the Governor-General be agreed to- by this House : -
May it please Your excellency -
We, the House of Representatives of the Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, in Parliament assembled, beg to express our loyalty to our Most Gracious Sovereign, and to thank Your Excellency for . the Speech whioh you have been pleased to address to Parliament.
.- lt is not my intention to deal now with every paragraph of the Governor-General’s Speech. Many, of the proposals referred to in it will come before us at a later stage, when we are asked to legislate in regard to them. . Let me commence by congratulating the mover and seconder of the Address-in -Reply upon the manner in which they put the case for the Government. One would hardly judge from the volummousness of the Speech that we are entering upon the final session of the Parliament, because the proposals mentioned in it would be sufficient to keep any Parliament engaged for its whole term. Doubtless Ministers are indulging in windowdressing in view of the fact that they must meet the electors within the ‘near future.
In - a paragraph- which - deals with the Washington Conference, satisfaction is expressed with what waa accomplished at the Conference, and therefore I wish to place it on record that it is the Labour party in this House that is entitled to much of the kudos, because we brought prominently before the country the need for the1 representation of Australia at the Conference when the Government seemed indifferent on the subject. The holding of the Conference had been in contemplation for many months, and while the Imperial Conference was still sitting in London, yet nothing was done by the Government to secure the representation of Australia at it. The Prime Minister, after his return from Great Britain, made a report on his mission to the Imperial Conference, and from his remarks we gathered that he had suggested to the President of the United States the convening of a Conference to discuss the questions since dealt with at Washington, and that his suggestion was not accepted at the time. Subsequently the right honorable gentleman made no attempt to deal with the matter. He told us that he expected that Great Britain would be represented at Washington, and that probably Mr. Bonar Law would represent <the Dominions there. But when the Labour party here took strong exception to that arrangement we had, I am pleased to say, the support of many other members here and that of the press. Public opinion was for once in accord with us.
– Does the honorable member suggest that the Labour party is usually at. variance with public opinion ?
– No ; but in some quarters there is always opposition to anything that emanates from the Labour party. As a result of our efforts in this case, Australia was represented at the Washington Conference, though we did not secure the representation of both the political parties in this House.. The point I am making now is that the Government was forced by the public opinion which our criticism aroused to secure the representation of Australia at Washington. With what happened there I have no fault to find at the present time. The determinations of the Washington Conference will come before us later, when we shall be able to discuss them in the’light of the information given by the report of our representative.
Paragraph 5 of the Governor-GmieraVs Speech deals in these terms . -with immigration -
In view of its importance to the Commonwealth, the subject of immigration lias been receiving the close uttentiou of Ministers. -Large soheines ore being negotiated with the Government of the United Kingdom and the Governments of several of the Slates, in accordance with the Empire Settlement Act. An agreement making provision for the passages of migrants under the Act ‘has been made between the British and Commonwealth Governments, and, in . pursuance of the agreement made’ for joint co-apcraibion between ‘the Commonwealth and the States, approval has recently been given to measures -for the assistance of the . immigration . of boys, and of British ex-military olllccrs from India.
To my mind, there is no justification for the expenditure of large sums of money on the encouragement of immigration until some proper scheme of laud settlement has “been devised. ^Notwithstanding the words put into the mouth of the Govenior-Geuer&l, no such scheme is yet iu existence Recently arrangements wore made . between the Commonwealth and Western Australian Governments for the encouragement of settlement, but the other States have not agreed to any definite scheme. Last year large sums were spent here and in Great Britain on the upkeep of offices for the facilitation of immigration. But this expenditure will not be justified until a matured policy of land settlement has been devised. Australia needs more population; but the first duty of its legislators is to provide for the employment and settlement of its, own people; and to-day in the various States there are thousands of persons who for years have been trying in - vain to obtainland on which to settle. While our own rural populations are unable to obtain the land that they need for their operations, we should not spend money to bring persons here from abroad to settle on the land. The duty of *be Commonwealth and State Governments is to see that land as made available, first, for the peoplo already in Australia, and, afterwards, for immigrants. We should be able, were the right methods devised, to settle thousands of persons on the land within a very few years. Large areas suitable for close occupation are to be found in proximity to most of our cities, and efforts should be made to have . them thrown open . to small settlers. As it is, the would-be settler is told to go out to the remote parts of the Commonwealth and take up Crown lands. If he does so, ho finds that there axe uo convenient railways for the transport of his produce to market. At the same time we allow the big landholders to lock up their land or to keep it comparatively unused. This state of things is detrimental to the advancement of Australia. The small man who tries to settle far from railways has’” no hope of succeeding, and when immigrants’ settle 7inder such conditions they make known their failure to their friends in the Old Country, and thus prejudice Australia’s reputation. If necessary, legislative action should be taken to throw opon the large estates which arc now not being put to their best use. Those who hold land without using it should be required in a young country . like this to make it available to others who will use it, and with land thus available a proper scheme of settlement eould be devised which would suit the needs of our own people and enable us to absorb settlers from abroad. At the present time our railways run for many miles through land -suitable for small settlement which is not being fully used, and no attempt has been made to throw it open for useful occupation. We should say to those who lock’ up their land, “If you are not prepared to use it yourselves, you will be compelled’ by legislation to allow others to do so.”
– What about settling immigrants on Crown lands?
– Most public men who have gone into the subject know that there is very little suitable Crown land available.
– Hundreds of millions of acres of Crown lands are available.
– Most of that land is unsuitable, because it is far from markets, and without proper means of access. The greater part of it is at loag distances from the railways. Small settlers cannot succeed on such land. If settlement is to prosper, the Crown lands of Australia must be opened up by the construction of railways giving easy access to markets. Even men with a good deal of capital must fail if they settle . in places remote from markets.
– A man is a fool to do so.
– Yes ; yet nothing is being done by the Commonwealth and State Governments to open up the country.
Mr.Corser.- Something is being done, even in Queensland, to make land available.
– I am glad of the admission.’ In Queensland a Labour Government is in power. All I know is that the Prime Minister refused to assist the Queensland Government to raise money for the purpose of settling the Burnett lands. Mr. Gullett said that that was one of the matters ia regard to which he found fault with the Commonwealth Government while he was in charge of immigration. The opportunity was there; but Mr. Gullett says that because a Labour Government was in power in Queensland nothing could be done by the Commonwealth Government to help in the settlement of- those landa.
– That was notthe true reason.
- Mr. Gullett was at the head of the Immigration Department, and in receipt of a good salary ; he should know something about the matter, and he resigned because of the unsatisfactory manner in which the Prime Minister was dealing with immigration.
– He had a better job in view.
– I think Mr. Gullett was receiving from the Government £1,500. per annum, and I doubt whether he is getting so much now.
– He had the other job before he resigned from the Government service.
– I bet he is not getting half of the salary he was receiving from the Government,
– Mr. Gullett rather than continue in the anomalous position in which he was placed, and feeling that be . could not do justice to the important subject of immigration, resigned from the Government service. I urge the Government first to find employment for our own people, to open up the country so that the Department can say to the newcomer, ** Hera are 200 or 300 areas of land available for selection “; then select the most suitable type of people. Every sort of man cannot’ be put on the land, and’ if the Government are not careful they will be importing people from Great Britain and other places who axe unsuitable. Indiscriminate settlement of that kind will condemn the scheme. Unless the Government have proper organization to deal with the immigrants on their arrival, the whole policy is doomed to failure. Honorable members on this side of the House are opposed to immigration at this time of stress when thousands of our own people are unemployed. Let the Government first find employment for thosb people, and if then they can find openings for others we shall assist them to* get immigrants. We agree that it is necessary to increase the population of Australia, but the immigration scheme should be placed on a sound business footing, and only if that is. done will it be possible to make a success of it.
I come now to the agreement in regard to wireless telegraphy. Bub for the action t^ken by the Opposition, Parliament would probably have accepted the agreement submitted by the Prime Minister to enter into an arrangement with the Amalgamated Wireless Company, regardless of whether or not the proposal was satisfactory to- the Commonwealth. Honorable members on this side pointed out that the agreement was loosely drawn, and that its acceptance was not likely to be in the best interests of the Commonwealth. After a good deal of debate, the Prime Minister agreed to refer the matter to a. Committee representative of all parties in the House. I am pleased to say that that Committee justified everything said from this side of the House. It found that the agreement had been loosely drawn, and had not received that careful attention which should have been given to a project involving the Commonwealth in an expenditure of £500,000. Whilst the Commonwealth had to find the same amount of money as the other party to the agreement, it was to receive only three-sevenths of the representation on the directorate. Everybody knows that the Commonwealth should have control in a matter of this kind. It should not provide £500,000 for people who are speculating in this company, and allow them the preponderance of power. The Committee altered the agreement, but I believe that the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Brennan) still dissents from the arrangement even in its amended form. He says that the project is experimental, and that there is a grave doubt as’ to whether it can. be carried out satisfactorily owing to the likelihood of atmospheric interference with’ tho transmission of messages from time to time. He ques- ‘ tiona whether Parliament should accept the proposal, but says that if the scheme is to be carried into effect the Commonwealth should control it. There is a good deal to be said for that point of view. But what justification is there for the Government proceeding with this agreement without first submitting it to Parliament for ratification? There has been too much of that sort of thing ever since the outbreak of the war. During the war period responsible government was in abeyance.
– It was the House thatdecided that the Government should proceed with the agreement after investigation by the Committee.
– I know that, and I am finding fault with the House. Parliament should rise to its responsibility and insist that projects of this kind should be submitted for its approval. We could not foresee what might develop in connexion with the inquiry by the Committee; yet this House agreed that after the inquiry the Government should be allowed to enter into this transaction. Whether the proposal be good or bad, the proper procedure is to submit it to the House for approval. Whenever the expenditure of a large amount of public money is involved^ Parliament should have the right of saying yea or nay. If that is not done, what becomes of our parliamentary system? Are we carrying out our duties to the public if we allow the Government to expend money in this way without parliamentary sanction? We are not. The public expect Parliament to control the purse; and it is not in the interests of the Commonwealth, or any other country, that Parliament should permit the Government to commit the people to the expenditure of huge sums of money without direct parliamentary approval. *1 notice with satisfaction that at last the Government intend to do something in the provision of better telephonic and telegraphic facilities for the people in the country, and I claim that the Opposition blazed the track” in connexion with that proposal. When the Estimates were before the House, I moved for the reduc tion of the Defence vote by the amount of tho anticipated deficit, and I said clearly that the Labour party believed that the 1 money thus saved could be better expended in giving increased facilities to settlers in country districts. We made it clear that such expenditure would provide employment, whilst also assisting primary production. At that time the League of Nations was appealing, through Lord Cecil, to Governments throughout the world to reduce their naval and military expenditures, or, at any rate, not to increase them beyond the amount expended in the previous year; but in spite of. that appeal tho Commonwealth Government were actually proposing to increase the Defence expenditure by more than £900,000.
– That WaS before the Washington Conference.
– Yea; and I said, on behalf of the Opposition, that the Defence Estimates should be reduced and the money thus made available applied to the provision of telephonic and telegraphic facilities in the country. The settlers out-back were compelled to wait throughout the war period for better facilities, and the Postmaster-General stated some time ago that 13,000 applications for telephone lines were awaiting attention.. In every honorable member’s electorate a large number of applications for telephones are held in abeyance until the . Government can get money to proceed with the work. If the Government had given heed to the advice of the Opposition twelve months ago, a lot of this accumulated work could have been done and more employment could have been provided. Ever since that time the Government have been dismissing from the Defence Department employees who could have been given work in connexion with the erection of telephonic and telegraphic lines in the country, and the total expenditure of the Commonwealth would not have been increased ; whereas the Government now propose to borrow £8,000,000 for this purpose. I am not finding fault’ with that project. These works should be carried out, and money for them must be found. It is idle to talk about assisting the primary producer unless we take the necessary steps to bring them within reasonable distance of their neighbours and markets.
In very many parts of the . Commonwealth settlers are so far removed from railway lines and other conveniences that they may be- regarded as” almost . outside the pale of civilization. Throughout the war period they’ have been asking for better means of communication, yet nothing has been done. We were told . from time to time that the Government could not secure the necessary material until the war was over. During the last two or three years, however, the material has . been available, but construction works have not been put in hand. It is only because during the last session the Labour party brought this . matter prominently before the ‘House, and. moved the reduction of the Defence Estimates, and also because there is a general election looming ahead, that the Government now seek to take credit for their intention to do something in this regard. Honorable members on this side of the House will do everything possible to assist the- Government in providing the people in country districts with the facilities which are required, and which are considerably overdue. The sooner the Government put these works in hand the better for all concerned. I hope there will not- be another year’s delay in carrying out these projects, and that the reference to them iri the Governor-General’s Speech is not merely . ‘another pre-election promise.
In regard to the reference to cooperative effort in the marketing of primary products, nobody will hail with greater satisfaction than we shall any proposal to assist the primary producer in that way. The policy of the Labour party is to eliminate the middleman. The primary producer does not get a full return for what he produces. But, on . the other hand, the consumer pays a very high price for the produce. Why? Because there are so many intermediaries. The middlemen have to get from tha handling of the produce probably a better return than the producer receives, and they fix the profits which the consumer has to pay. - The time -has arrived for some co-operative scheme, whether or not it be under the asgis of the Government, whereby the primary producer may market his stuff through a co-operative’ agency, and whilst not overcharging the consumer, receive a fair and reasonable return for his labour. ‘ I realize that on account of existing conditions the. ‘man upon the land very often does not get the return to which he is entitled. I am and always have been a believer in’ ‘co-operation. I have been an advocate of co-operation, for years past.- It means everything to the producers and consumers, and if any step which is not simply window-dressing is taken in the direction of bringing them into. closer touch, it will have the support of the Labour party.
I had a good deal to say the other day about the administration of the Customs Tariff (Industries Preservation) Act. We are told that the Government are watching the matter vory closely, and that if they do not find the provisions of the Act satisfactory, they will take steps to amend them. I trust that they will watch the operations of this measure more’ closely than they have been doing. I. believe that a considerable quantity of cheap stuff has been entering Australia, to the detriment of our own people engaged in industry. Several newspapers have commented on the attitude I have taken up in regard to this . matter ; and one in Sydney last week made the statement that I advocate higher duties, that I do not really know where I stand, that I am afraid of trading with Germany, and that I am against German goods coming to Australia. I have always advocated that wherever goods come from - Germany, Belgium, France or elsewhere - their value should ‘be assessed at the British par value; and that our Tariff should be applied to that value. I am in. favour of trading with every nation under the sun, but I am equally in favour of protecting our own industries.
– Yours is a conditional sort’of policy.
– It may appear so to a member of the Country party, but let me explain it. ‘We are entitled “to trade with any country to which, we can export our produce or articles we manufacture here, taking from the people of that country articles not capable of being manufactured in Australia. There are many commodities we import which we do not manufacture. If the Government’ are ; n earnest in regard to this question, . let them apply our Tariff to the ‘-British par value of all goods coming’ from countries with depreciated currencies. The process is quite simple. It evidently suits the “policy of certain newspapers to misrepresent the views’of honorable members.
– The honorable member sees quite plainly that under his proposal German goods could not enter Australia.
– I have just made my position clear.
– -The position is not so simple as the honorable member would indicate. In one breath he is in favour of trading with every country, and on the other hand he is in favour of a Tariff that would prohibit it.
– The position is quite simple. Before the war, we traded with every country and imposed a Tariff which we endeavoured to make adequate to protect Australian interests. We ought to protect our own industries, but at the same time we are entitled to trade with other countries in respect to commodities not supplied by Australian industry.
I take this opportunity of replying to the statement made by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in. the course of the debate on Friday last, when he claimed that Australia could not compete with the British . manufacturers because of the. cost of coal. The right honorable gentleman is reported to have said : -
How could they expect to compete end hold the markets when . they were, paying 50 per cent, and 100 per cent… more to produce an article than their competitors. Mr. Charlton had endeavoured to make out that coal was cheaper here than in Great Britain. There was nothing so dangerous as a half truth. It was perfectly true that we produced best coal cheaper than Great Britain, but we did not produce^ more cheaply than Great Britain the coal which was necessary to make the coke for the manufacture of steel. We produced it at a higher coat, and that was the milk of the cocoanut. . The price of coal for steel purposes was 37s. 4d. in Australia, compared with 22s. Cd. in Great Britain and I3s.11d. in America.
That there is no foundation for the right honorable gentleman’s assertion is shown by the figures furnished by two manufacturers from Great Britain who have received cabled information an this point within the last month. Evidently some one has been “ ringing in “ a tale on the Prime Minister, and the right honorable gentleman has taken it for granted that it is correct. He knows nothing about coal; I do. The price of Australian coal is lower than that which is being paid for British coal.
– For small coal ?
– In the production of coke in New South Wales 75 per cent, of small coal is used, and 25 per cent, of round- coal. The information I shall., quote will prove that the small coal which the British manufacturers are getting at 9s. a ton is practically dust; it is refuse coal that has been accumulated at the collieries for years past, and is of very little value; it is sold in job lots for some particular purposes, and cannot be regarded as first-class coal. Nothing but first-class coal oan be used for making coke. Ait Newcastle the price. of round, coal is 21s. 3d. per ton, and that of small coal 17s. 9d. per ton. According to the statements of the management of the steel works at Newcastle, the average price paid for coal is 19s. Id. per ton for making coke. They are unable to get 75 per’ cent, of small coal, and consequently the average cost is higher than it would otherwise be. What is the price of coal in Great Britain? The following appeared in the Sydney Daily Telegraph on 16th June last: -
During the post month Mr. George Cradock, of George Cradock and Company, Australasia, wire rope importers, Pitt-street, has been in Sydney on business connected with hig firm. Yesterday he passed on to Brisbane, but willsoon return. Whilst he wag here, being interested in the coal prices question, he cabled . a fortnight ago to the Company’s works at Wakefield, Yorkshire, and received the following reply: - “To-day’s prices at. works are: Shire Oakes coal, 25s.; re-heating, 32s. 6d.; boiler, 26s., . varying weekly.?’
Mr. Cradock explained that these quotations are for coal delivered at Ms works. The Shire Oakes colliery is 30 miles away. The re-heating coal is got from a mine 10 miles off, and the boiler coal ib supplied from a colliery about. 3 miles from the works. He said he expected New South . Wlales coal would have been much higher than he finds it, namely, 21s. 9d. f.o.b. Newcastle. This rate,. as it will bc seen, is well below English . prices.
In every case mentioned the price is 2s. or 3s. above that of the best Newcastle. Writing to the Sydney Morning Herald on 17th June last., Mr. C. F. Mallett say9 -
I have been advised from London that the present prices of screened coal delivered to the principal British steel works and to the Belgian steel works are as follows: - Welsh, 22s.; Midlands, 25s.; Tyne, 17s. The Belgian steel works mostly import Tyne coal, at the cost of 26s. c.i.f.’, to which would have to be added the coat of transport from wharf to steel works. The price of coal in Newcastle is 21s 9d. for screened. I also understand that the ore used by the Broken Hill Proprietary Company gives about 63 per cent, of iron, whilst the ore used by Britain gives 30 per cent., or less. The freight out is considerable, and the Tariff on rails weighing 50 lbs. per. yard is - British, 35s. per ton, intermediate 60s. per ton, general Tariff 75s, per ton, so that it will be seen that the price of coal is relatively a very small factor in the great difference in the . cost of production of, say, steel rails at Home and out here.
These statements are those of gentlemen who have used’ coal ‘ extensively in Great Britain, They are surprised at the low price of coal in Australia. In the face of these facts it is useless for the Prime Minister to talk of “ half truths.”
– In the face of those figures why’ cannot the Australian manufacturers meet the competition from oversets?
– I confess I do not know Why. The Australian workman oan do a day’s work with the workman of any country.
– Coke is cheaper in Great Britain than it is here.
– There ‘ are many phases of this question I do not under- stand. The Australian steal manufacturers have the - advantage that the ore they use has double the percentage of the iron contents of the ore available to the British manufacturer. They have also cheaper coal.
– Yet their coke costs more than that used by the British manufacturer.
– They make their own coke. Why should it be dearer ? Is there something wrong with their” appli- an ces?
– No; it simply shows that the figures you have given . are wrong.
– They are not my figures; they’ are those of impartial manufacturers who have cabled’ to Great Britain for them. Taking all things into consideration ope is surprised. I ami not at all clear as to the position..
– There is a sorew loose somewhere.
– Of course there is. I have submitted these extracts in reply to the Prime Minister’s statement and in’ order to make my position clear. There is no “ half lie “ about them.
Whatever may be said for or against arbitration, no one can claim, that the Arbitration Act has; received sympathetic administration from the present Government. For a> considerable time past Justices on the Bench, have been, complaining about the congestion of arbitration work, and asking, that additional Justices should be’ appointed, yet nothing has been done until within the last few days. When it was found that in many cases cited before the Arbitration’ . Court the hours of . work tad been reduced to fortyfour per week, the Government took steps to amend the Act, and provide that there must be three Judges on’ the’ Bench, , to deal with the question of hours. However, they’ ‘ did not appoint additional Justices, and rendered it impossible for the Arbitration Court to deal with this matter. After a time Parliament was asked to further amend the Act, and provide that one Justice could deal with the question of hours, but that any appeal from his award must be decided by three Justices. Every one realized at the time what would be the effect of this amendment, and that theposition would still remain unaltered. That is exactly what happened. Until last week no appointments were made to the Bench, notwithstanding that there were about eighty oases ° awaiting’ consideration. First of all, the Government blocked the Court from giving an award for reduced hours. Then they amended the Act, and provided that the Court could give such an award, but at the same time they refused to provide the machinery which would enable the Court to function. I do not wish to take up much “time in dealing with matters relating to arbitration ; I simply state my regret at the unsympathetic way in which the Act has been administered. There are many public men who are opposed to the Federal control of arbitration, and desire to take action with a view to having the whole subject-matter revert to- the States. No doubt an opportunity will be afforded honorable members of discussing the vexed question at a later stage.
With respect to the Sugar Agreement’, it is a matter for comment that not one word having to do with the subject appears in the Governor-General’s Speech. I was pleased to learn only to-day that the Government have further considered the question of the Agreement, and are about to make a statement thereon. Even so, why should there have been no rereference to tho matter in . the Speech? Tho Prime Minister has recently been on’ a “ stunt “ up and down Queensland, assuring the. people of that’ State that the question was a burning one, and’ that lie was favorably disposed to the views of Queensland. But, he told them further, the subject waB such that it would have to be submitted to Parliament; the Government would require to secure a majority of members to agree to whatever might be proposed. Surely the Prime Minister can speak for the Government ! Is not the matter distinctly governmental ? It is obvious that when the Sugar Agreement came up for discussion in Cabinet there was a difference of opinion. Individual members could not come to an agreement. Probably some Ministers opposed a renewal of the Agreement, while others were in favour of that course. Meanwhile the Prime Minister is endeavouring to find a way out. Cannot the Government come to a decision ? Dare they not ? It would seem that they have to submit all such knotty questions to Parliament in order to evade their own responsibility. I maintain that the matter of the Sugar Agreement is primarily a Government responsibility. As for the party for which I have the honour to speak, we stand for a White Australia. Some people to-day ‘ are going back upon that principle!.
– I do not think any member of this House is against it.
– We know that the Premier of South Australia (Sir Henry Barwell), who is a very prominent Liberal, has stated that we should have black labour for the Northern Territory. And now one hears of Senator Fairbairn practically acquiescing in that view. The honorable senator is also a supporter of the Government. Is this the thin edge of a sinister wedge? If the situation is permitted to develop unchallenged there may be others turning aside from the Australian ideal. Eventually, indeed, it may become a policy. I repeat that the Labour party opposes any interference with the principle of a White Australia. At the
Baine time, we maintain that the sugargrower should have fair and ample return for his labour.
– So should ©very primary producer.
– Certainly; and I have many times said so. The workers on’ the sugar-fields in Queensland get only about half a year’s labour. At the end of the season they find themselves unemployed, and it is exceedingly difficult to secure work to tide them, over to the next season. But why should the price of sugar be so high to-day ? ‘And why, at the same time, should there be no statement in behalf of the Government respecting a reduction of the retail price? I know that the charge to the consumer was increased because of the heavy Importations which had to be made during the war. The sugar then bought from .outside sources cost us much more than £30 6s. 8d. par ton. To-day, however, the public want to know whether they are to be given relief. Is it necessary to continue to charge 6d. per lb., even though the Agreement may be continued? The growers and employees are securing only reasonable conditions; but there may be others who are getting more than a fair thing. I want to know something, for example, concerning the position of. the Colonial Sugar Refining Company. It is doing exceedingly well. I do not know whether the company finds itself in such ar position because of its handling of Queensland sugar. At any rate, the pub- .. lie would like to know a. little more about its business activities, for, if it is making more than a fair thing, they are the sufferers. The net profit of the Colonial Sugar Refining Company for the year ending 3 1st March, . 1920,’’ was £289,565, a percentage to capital of 8.90. Up to the end of March, 1921, the net profit was £326,939, a. percentage to capital ‘of 11. To the end of March last the net profit was £452,191, a percentage to capital of 17.39. Where did the company get’ that profit? Did it derive it under the Sugar Agreement?
– Are those figures in. respect of the gross or the neb profits ?
– I quoted the net profit; they are the company’s disclosed profits. In considering the renewal of the agreement the position of the company should be very seriously borne in mind. If the Colonial Sugar Refining Company is getting only a fair thing, and’ the profits just mentioned have -dot been derived by medium of the agreement, that is another matter; but it will be for the Government to indicate the. sources.
– Honorable members have been informed over and over again that the principal profits of the company are derived from its Fiji business, and nob from its Australian activities at all. The Colonial Sugar Refining Company is simply getting a refund of its refining charges, and £1 per ton. That is all.
– Other refiners find that they cannot carry on at the same price.
– At any rate; honorable members and the’ public at large desire to . be informed of the true and exact positidri, and of the prospects and proposals for . the future. I repeat that I stand for the maintenance of ‘ good conditions in the industry. This subjectmatter was debated in the- House of - Representatives on the 30th March, 1920, when my late beloved Leader (Mr. Tudor) discussed the subject in connexion with. an. adjournment motion. In reply, the Prime Minister. (Mr: Hughes)’ referred to the large importations of sugar, which had cost so much. The right honorable gentleman stated . that the position might be summarized as follows: -
The Prime Minister proceeded to state that the increase in the price from 3½d. to 6d. per . lb. had been caused as follows -
With respect to the item (c), lj.d.of the6d. is being charged to recoup the Government on the nyoey lost by them in connexion’ with the ..importation, of sugar. A year has elapsed since that deficit mentioned by the Prime Minister accumulated. I want to know, what amount has been co- lected by the Government, by charging consumers 6d. per lb. - which includes ; the lid. just referred’ to, between the end of March, 1921, and the 30th June, 1922. Have the Government collected sufficient to recoup themselves? ‘ If so, why is not -the price of sugar reduced by at least lid. per lb.? That could be done and the agreement kept intact.
– The imported sugar may have been unsold.
– I shall have some figures to supply with respect to that aspect. If the consumers, were to be given their sugar for lid. per lb. less they would be satisfied, and the agreement could remain in force. For the past fifteen months the approximate consumption has been 837,000 tons! The Prime Minister stated on 30th March, 1920, that the’’ Government received lid. per lb., which is £14 per ton, involving a sum of £4,718,000.
– A great deal of that sugar has been sent away in jam.
– That is all the more reason for a full explanation.
– There has been a rebate granted upon exports. Further, the increased wages in the industry and augmented shipping charges have reduced the lid. very considerably.
– Why should there not be a full explanation of these matters?
– A complete statement will be made in due time.
– Now is the time when the Government Should furnish the country with all the facts. If honorable members are to accept the statement of the Minister for Defenco (Mr. Greene), just offered, namely, that unforeseen costs have reduced the lid. due to the Government, I maintain that there would’ still be left more than £3,000,000 by way of profit to wipe out the deficit which had accumulated more than twelve months ago.
– How much sugar was sent away in jam overseas?
– No one, apparently, is able to enlighten honorable members.
– The Government are able, but apparently not willing, to enlighten us.
– It may be put that way. . -It is my desire and intention, if possible, to secure full and complete information. I have just pointed out that, in’ connexion with the approximate consumption of 337,000 tons, the item of 1½d. per lb. due to the Government accounts for £4,718,000. From that there should be deducted £20 per ton by Way of rebate- on’ sugar supplied to jam and milk and confectionery manufacturers. The estimated quantity of this latter is 4^000 tons, covering the past - fifteen months. I noticed in an article published in the Age, by the way, that the estimate was stated to be 40,000 tons; I have made inquiries, however, and have been informed that the amount is 4,000. At £20 per ton, the sum thus involved is £80,000. U that is deducted from the total of £4,718,000, there would be £4,638,000 with which to wipe out the Government’s deficit of £220,302 upon the imported -sugar.. The Prime Minister may »be able to explain the whole position; certainly, a statement is due. X emphasize that I- am not opposed to the. creation and maintenance of conditions which give a reasonable return both to the growers and their employees ; and, if the Colonial Sugar Re-‘, fining Co. are not making exorbitant profits under the agreement, I am not concerned with that activity. I would be prepared to give favorable consideration, in fact, to a renewal of, the Agreement.
– Does the Tionorable member say that the estimate of sugar used by the jam manufacturers is only 4,000 tons, seeing that in one year alone they exported 79,277,560 lbs.?
– The honorable member ‘has the same opportunity that I have to test the position. I have made inquiries from the proper quarter, and have been furnished with, the estimate which I have just given.
The only other question with which I intend to deal is that of invalid and oldage . pensions. I am more than surprised that in His Excellency the Governor- General’s ‘Speech there was no intimation that the Government had determined to liberalize <the invalid and old-age pensions system. I do not know how the -.aged and infirm have-contrived.-to carry on during . the last six or seven years, in view of the high cost of living. Although prices have been soaring, no attempt has been made by the Governinent to give them an increased allowance to meet the additional changes thus imposed upon them. Some years ago the invalid and old-age pensions were increased from 10s. - to 15s. per week; but nothing has been -done to help pensioners since prices first began to rise. The Labour party on numerous occasions have advocated an increased . payment. We have endeavoured again and again- to induce theGovernment to take action, but have, always been met with the reply that the financial position of the Commonwealth would not permit of an increased payment. iSix Joseph Cook, when Treasurer, told us on several occasions that he could not accede to our request because of the strained . condition of the finances. While on the one hand the Government refuse, any increase, we find them on the other hand reviewing the old-age pension payments. I am aware that, under the Act, it is the duty of the Department to review from time to time the pensions paid ; but it is very strange that it is only at this juncture that, steps have been taken to comply with that requirement of the law. I have not a word to say against the officers administering the Act. It would be impossible for ras to have a better set of officers. They are mosthumane and considerate. Who, then, has been responsible for the action of the Department in reviewing the . pensions received by the aged and infirm? Has this action been taken by the officers on their own initiative, or has the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) instructed them that expenditure must . be cut down wherever possible? I do not know who iB responsible, but I do know that the effect of the reviewing of the pension payments is ‘that in very many, cases the pensions have been reduced. It may be that in s6me cases the amounts have been increased.- As to that, I know nothing; but I know that reductions have been made, and I find it difficult to understand why this action should have been - taken just when we are passing through a boom period. Every one knows that the values of properties, as compared with . pre-war prices, have increased from 60 per cent to 80 per cent.
– It depends , upon . the class of property to which the honorable member is referring.
– I have in mind the class of property owned by invalid and old-age pensioners. In New South Wales, since the appointment of a State valuer-general, the valuation of properties has been increased to the extent of f rom 60 per cent, to 80 per cent.
– For taxation purposes.
– Yes. This has seriously affected the position of invalid and old-age pensioners. ‘ “When we increased the pension from 10s.. to 15s. per week we did not - increase the property limitation. We allowed it to remain at £50. There - are many pensioners’ who, either because, they were incapable of looking after themselves,, when they had a little home of their own, or for other reasons went to live with friends. Others, again, are residing in rented cottages, while many live in their own homes, and have a cottage which they rent. Their position is affected by the valuations made. If the cottage which a pensioner was renting was valued, before the war, at £300, that involved a reduction of £12 per annum in the amount of his pension. In most cases cottages in New South Wales which before the war had placed upon them a valuation of £300 are now valued at £500 by the Valuer-General, and this increased valuation of £200 means. a further reduction of £10 per annum in the pensions payable to, persons so situated. The position, therefore, is that while the. Government refuse to increase the invalid and old-age pensions, they are at this -same time causing to be carried out a review of the whole system which tends to further disadvantage pensioners. This review has been undertaken while the property market is booming, so that instead of getting an increased- allowance, pensioners, because of the greatly enhanced valuations, are suffering . a decrease. The review of the system should have been allowed to stand over- until the property market became normal;
-Does the honorable member contend that things are so good that the value of property all over Australia is increasing?
– The Minister, like every one else, knows that property values increased to a very large extent during the war period. The prices ‘of property and everything else “ boomed “ during the war, and much of the trouble with which we are now faced is due to that fact.
– Property values have not gone back.
– That is so. I have been referring particularly to. the valua-‘ tions made by the Valuer-General of New South Wales, whose valuations are adopted by the Invalid and Old-age Pensions Department. The Department has no regard to valuations, carried out by local auctioneers or other valuers, and the re1 suit is that valuations have been increased throughout New South Wales. “Whenever I return to my home at Newcastle, I am met by aged and infirm people, who complain of the inroads thus made on their pensions. They say that just at a time when they were expecting the Government to increase their pensions they are having -them out down. Only last month. I received the following letter on the question: -
Municipality of New Lambton,
New Lambton, 10th June, 1922.
Charlton, Esq., M.H.R., Melbourne.
Dear Sir, - I am directed to bring under your notice the fact that reductions have been made’ in the amounts paid to a number of old-age pensioners by the Begistrar of Pensions.
Recently, forms were sent out by the Department requesting information as to the value of their properties, &c, which in most cases showed an increased value over previous years, accounted for by the. fact that this area is valued by the Valuer-General.
Some pensions have been reduced by as much as 7s. and 8s : per week.
You will readily, understand what this means to the old people in this district, and I must aak, therefore, that you approach the proper authorities with ‘a view to having this matter adjusted to their benefit.
H, Short, Town Clerk.
There is also good reason, to complain . of the failure ‘ of the Government to increase the amount which a pensioner may earn without suffering a reduction of his pension. When the invalid and ‘ old-age pensions- were increased no addition was made to the amount which a pensioner may earn, so that if a man earns more than £26 a year he suffers a corresponding reduction in his pension.
There is . no reason why the invalid and old-age pensions should not be increased by 5s. a week. When I urged, on a former occasion, that such an increase should be made, I was told that the finances would not permit of it. I remind the House that our finances to-day are in a much better position than they were last year. The surplus of £6,618,327 on the operations of the year 1920-21 was paid into a trust account to provide for invalid and oldagepensions, and authority was given the Government to ‘.pay war pensions out of ‘thesame fund. . When we- urged at that time- that the invalid and old-age pensions should be increased we were told that the moneys to the credit of the fund would be exhausted in a very short time. We find, as a matter of fact, however, that there is a deficit of only £206,000 on the operations of the year just closed, so that practically the same amount of money is still available for this purpose. As the result of the alterations to be made in our defence system, largely as an outcome of the Washington Conference the Government will have at their disposal this year £1,750,000 more than they had during last financial year. The Government are going to borrow the money necessary to provide increased telephonic and telegraphic facilities to country residents; and if they out down the Defence expenditure, as proposed, by £1,750,000, they will be to that extent better off than they Were last year. That being so, what is there to prevent us from increasing the invalid and old-age pensions by 5s.- a week? The reduction to be made in the Defence expenditure will practically provide for such an increase. On the 1st inst. there were 105,172 old-age pensioners and 38,941 invalid pensioners, making a total of 144,113. An increase of 5s. per week would involve an additional expenditure of £1,873,476, or only a little more than the amount which the Government will save by cutting down the Defence scheme as proposed.” In view of the high cost of living, Parliament is not justified in refusing to increase these pensions. I have at hand the latest figures in regard to the cost of living. The Commonwealth Statistician shows that last month it increased instead of decreased, and it is still increasing.
– Rentals, especially, are increasing.
– That is so. The cost of living last month was higher than it was in May. Despite this fact, many invalid and old-age pensioners are having their pensions reduced. Instead of cutting them down, the Government should increase them. In order to become entitled to a pension, a man must have lived in this country for at least twenty years, so that these old people have borne the heat and burden of the day in the development of Australia. Surely it is our duty to see that thev are liberally treated ! The cost of living to-day is 45 per cent, more than it was in 1913. That calculation takes into consideration only rentals and the cost of food supplies. It has no regard to the cost of clothing, and everyone knows that wearing apparel has increased to an even greater extent than the cost of food. In view of the position, I urge that the Government should at once liberalize our invalid and old-age pensions system. I am as anxious as is any man that the finances of the Commonwealth shall be properly safeguarded, but I contend that when in order to conserve the finances of the country the Administration is placing the poor and suffering of the community in a position of want, it is showing an utter disregard of one of the true functions of government. It is the essence of good government to cater for the wants of the people, and especially to look after those who have grown old and infirm while toiling in the interests of their country. Such people should at least be given sufficient to keep the wolf from the door. They are not so provided for to-day, and I therefore move -
That the following words be added to the proposed Address : - “ but we regret that your Advisers have made no provision to liberalize the old-age and invalid pennons.”
– In view of the amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton), I move -
That the debate be now adjourned.
Motion agreed to; debate adjourned.
House adjourned at 5.17 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 5 July 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220705_reps_8_99/>.