8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) reported the receipt of messages from His Excellency the GovernorGeneral transmitting Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure for the year ending 30th June, 1923, and Estimates of Expenditure for Additions, New Works, Buildings, &c., for the year ending 30th June, 1923, and recommending appropriations accordingly.
That the messages, together with the accompanying Estimates, be printed and referred to the Committee of Supply.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. On Friday last, the right honorable member for Balaclava (Mr.Watt), referring to a statement made by the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), and also to one by myself in reference to purchases of foreign sugar while he was Acting Prime Minister, stated that he had acted promptly, on the advice tendered, and that he had not been informed of the shortage before the date on which he minuted the authority for the purchase of sugar.
Mr.Watt. - I did not say that.
– That date was 2nd December, 1918. My honorable colleague the Minister for Trade and Customs and I had stated that the right honorable member had been approached long before that date, but that his authority to purchase had not been given until long afterwards, and that during the interval between the date on which he had been notified by our expert advisers, the Colonial Sugar Refining Company, that sugar could be bought at £13 10s., and 2nd December, an interval of five or six weeks, he did not give the necessary authority, so that we were compelled to pay a greatly increased price for sugar. I shall set out the facts from the papers.
The memorandum to which the right honorable member referred is dated 2nd December, 1918, and is minuted by him - “Buy up to 40,000 tons up to £17 10s. f.o.b.” The position may be set out as follows: - On the 9th October the Colonial Sugar Refining Company wrote the Government notifying them that sugar could be bought for £13 10s., and advising us to buy, say, 40,000 tons. On 22nd October, 1918, whilo I was in London, the right honorable member sent me the following cablegram: -
Sugar. - Owing to cyclones and frosts now estimate Queensland sugar crop this season will be only 205,000 tons; New South Wales 15,000 tons plus 53,000 tons surplus carried forward from last season. Therefore will require to import 20,000 tons for-working stock and for use for season ending July. Next season’s crop certain to be small. Cannot yet give estimate but we may require at least 50,000 tons imported between June 1919 and June 1920. Royal Sugar. Commissionhas purchased heavily in Java. Suggest you consult them with view buying from them or through them 20,000 tons for shipment between November and March. . . .
On 23th October I cabled to the right honorable member: -
Your telegram 22nd October, sugar. - Note estimated shortage and necessity for imports. Will see Royal Sugar Commission re purchase 20,000 tons and cable.
On 9th November I sent the following cablegram to him: -
Sugar. - Interviewed Royal Commission. Ascertained no purchase made Java sugar by Britain and that Java has an approximately 800,000 tons surplus for which owing to Cuba having secured Allied Government contracts there is no available market. As speculators are endeavouring to bull Java market suggest that you proceed cautiously. . . .
On 11th November the right honorable member cabled to me -
Your cablegram 9th November re sugar. Have discussed matter with Greene who approves but would like you to proceed on. lines indicated through Colonial Sugar Refining Company.
The right honorable member, on 20th November, sent me the following cablegram : -
My telegram 22nd October. Position not improving. We will require 35,000 tons imported before May and first arrivals must be not later than January. Is any Mauritius available? Kindly cable fully and advise what you have done. Matter urgent.
On 26th November I advised the right honorable member by cablegram of tha price of Java sugar, and on 4th December advised him by cablegram that we had an option over 10,000 tons, that prices had risen 6d. to ls. per cwt., and that the option must be promptly exercised. On 5th December the right honorable member cabled me authority to buy up to 5,000 tone at 18s. 3d. per cwt. f.o.b.
From those cables it is evident that the honorable gentleman was advised long before 2nd December, that he realized that we were 50,000 tons short, and that he notified me as early as1 22nd October to that effect, asking me to see if I could obtain the requisite: supplies of sugar through the Royal Sugar Commission..
– I desire, in. making a brief personal explanation, to deal with some phases of the remarks of the Prime Minister which I have been able to catch. The explanation which I made in this Chamber on Friday last, and which was founded upon documents handed to me by the Prime Minister after he had dealt with them, waa uttered with the object of taking exception to his statements, and to those of the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers), upon one point. That was, that while I was associated with the Government - and this was the burdon of the comments of both members of the Ministry - I had so delayed action in connexion! with sugar purchases from abroad that I cost the Commonwealth, and the control a considerable sum of money. That, I repeat, was the assertion to which I replied on Friday. I made no reflections upon individuals, but merely presented the facte which those two documents, which had just been placed in my hands, made plain. I did not say at any time - and a consultation with the records of Hansard will disclose this - that I was not informed of any shortage of sugar supplies until the 2nd December; but I pointed out that the letter handed to me from the table, after it had been made use of by the Prime Minister, was addressed to the then Attorney-General. It was dated, if I remember aright, some time in October. I remarked then that I had no recollection of having seen it before. I could not, and certainly would not, have said that I had not been informed of the anxiety of the Sugar Control with respect to the necessity for purchasing sugar supplies from abroad. The cablegrams to which the Prime Minister now refers, and some of which he lias read., were in his hands. It would be merely silly of me, therefore, to affect that I had no recollection of them at all. I do not remember their dates, or the nature of the representations made therein; but I do remember exchanging cablegrams with the right honorable gentleman regarding the coming sugar shortage. As I now hear those dates mentioned and listen to the substance of the cablegrams which have been read by the Prime Minister - and I take it that I shall be permitted to peruse them later, since the right honorable gentleman has had the advantage of making himself acquainted with their contents, while I have not yet seen them: - it occurs to me that his own statements prove that I brought to his attention, aa soon as they had been brought to mine, the facts of the shortage. I asked’ him to assist us by his inquiries; I telegraphed him several times. The delays, if there were any, were all from the English end, and not from the Australian end. I do not blame the Prime Minister, because at that particular time the war was just concluding. The pressure upon the two Ministers who had left Australia was very great; and I never complained then, nor since, of the. fact that I did not get replies to my cablegrams instanter. But, if the Prime Minister will look at the cables again, he will see that there were no delays at the Australian end.
– Yes ! You wereurged by the Colonial SugarRefining Company to buy when the price was £13 10s. When you bought, the quotation was £17 10s.
– I was not!The letter which the Prime Minister laid on the table last week was addressed, I repeat, to the Attorney-General of the Commonwealth. Whether that went to the right honorable gentleman’s colleague, the present Attorney-General (Mr. Groom), I do not know. There is nothing on the document to show that I ever saw it; I have no recollection of ever having seen it. Probably, it went on to the Sugar Controller.He had absolute access to my office, at any time and at all times. I never pushed him out, nor did I ever neglect his advice. The Minister for Defence knows that. He had more to do with all these matters than I had. But I venture to say that this present method which the Prime Minister has adopted is not a fair way of bringing up facts - is not a proper way of making use of whatever ammunition the Departments may have at their command. The right honorable gentleman has given me no notice of his intention to bring these documents down to the House, nor has he offered me access to them prior to his now making use of them. I am prepared to debate the matter with the Prime Minister if I am given opportunity to examine the files. He has seen fit, however - and the Minister for Trade and Customs also - to make unpardonable accusations of delay regarding the administration during the period when I was in charge; accusations about matters which are not provable and are not true.
– They are proved by your own documents.
– Every man who has ever held office has committed sins, has been guilty of faults. I do not pretend, there fore, that I have been free of error. But one fault of which I have not hitherto been accused is that of permitting or causing delay. I have probably been rather too impetuous in certain of my Ministerial acts; but I have not been guilty of delay, because I have always, sought to clean up my table of outstanding matters from day to day.
– You have been guilty of delay. You robbed the voters in Essendon. You delayed over that until Prendergast got there.
– I do not understand that. I am speaking of the administration of Commonwealth Departments. If the Prime Minister will give me that to which I am entitled, namely, access to alldepartmental files regarding the subjectmatter at issue, I assert now that he will not be able to prove one fragment of the original accusation that my delay cost the administration several thousands of pounds.
– I have already done so.
– No, you have not.
asked the Treasurer,upon notice -
Seeing that from year to year a large surplus is carried forward, the accumulated savings of many years, and that it now reaches nearly £6,500,000. will he consider the advisability of devoting a portion of the amount to the reduction of taxation ?
Australian Instructional Staff - Retiring Ages-
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
The exemptions referred to are in connexion with the qualifying, examinations for higher rank. Warrant officers of the permanent forces who attained higher rank during, the war have been exempted from these examinations fora period of five years from the date of the Armistice, i.e., till 11th November, 1923.
This is in contrast with the exemptions allowed to officers of the permanent forces below the rank of lieutenant-colonel, who received exemption for a period of only two years.
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Local, temporary, or honorary rank willnot be considered in reference to the age for retirement.
In time of war the ages for retirement may be extended for an additional period, not exceeding the durationof the war, and a period of three months thereafter.
Provided that this regulation shall not apply-
to officers and noncommissioned officers of the Provost Staff, nor to any officer of the Militia Forces whilst holding the appointment of area officer.
The ages for the compulsory retirement of officers and members of the Defence Force shall be as prescribed, but in special cases the Governor-General may extend the prescribed age of retirement for a period not exceeding two years.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– Inquiries are being made, and. replies will be furnished as early as possible.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Grant for Roadmaking
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
Can he give any information to the House re the Japanese new diving dress at Thursday Island, and state whether it is a fact that in ordinary dress the diver with the new headpiece can descend to the great depth , of60 fathoms?
– No information has been furnished to the Home and Territories Department respecting the new type of diving dress referred to, but inquiries will be made with a view of obtaining the particulars desired by the honorable member.
Officers - Salaries - Rentals
asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The number of officials employed in the Taxation Branch is: -
Repairs - Fruit Freights
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
When will the information he available which was asked for on the 27th July last by tbe honorable member for Dalley as to where the Commonwealth steamers were docked or repaired, and the cost of such work?
– The particulars asked for have been referred to the head office of the Line in London. When a reply is received further information will he furnished.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
What is the amount obtained from the refineries by the Government during the period of sugar control from the sale of by-products such as rum, molasses for fodder, treacle, golden syrup, methylated spirits, and rectified spirits?
– The information is being obtained.
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
Whether he will state forpublic information the ingredients and quantities required to comply with the standard set up for fuel alcohol?
– The following standard has been fixed for fuel alcohol: -
Spirit before methylation is to be of a strength of not less than 65 degrees overproof and to be methylated by the addition of 1 per cent. of wood naphtha,¼ per cent. pyridine, and not less than 2 per cent. of one of the following: - Approved coal tar naphtha, benzole, shale naphtha, petrol, gasoline, petroleum benzine, petroleum naphtha, or ether (sulphuric) .
The following papers were presented : -
Federal Capital Advisory Committee- Construction of Canberra - Second General Report.
The Budget, 1922-33 - Papers presented by the Honorable S. M. Bruce, for the information ofhonorable members on the occasion of opening the Budget of 1922-23.
Ordered to be printed.
Arbitration (Public Service) Act - Determination by the Arbitrator, &c. - No. 14 of 1922 - Australian Telegraphists Union.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That general business be postponed until after Order of the Day No. 1, Government business.
– I have the honour to present the accounts for the year ended 30th June, 1922, and the Estimates for the year 1922-23.
My most important duty is to indicate to the Committee the financial proposals for the current year. In doing so, however, it appears essential that I should endeavour to make a statement of such a character as will enable not only the student of national finance, but the average citizen, to realize the problems with which we are faced, and to form his own judgment as to the recommendations submitted by tha Government. Such a statement must of necessity extend to very considerable length. In view of the importance of the subject, I crave the indulgence of the Committee, with the assurance that I will not trespass beyond the limits that the circumstances of the case impose.
Financial Year, 1921-22. Immediately after the close of the past year, I gave to the House the approximate details of the receipts and expenditure of the Consolidated Revenue Fund. I stated that the final figures, when ascertained, would probably show very little variation from the approximate figures which I then submitted. In the result this has proved to be so.
The approximate result was as follows: -
The actual result as now ascertained, is -
At the date when I presented the approximate statement, I dealt at considerable length with the individual sums, and I do not propose to repeat now what I said then. I would, however, draw the attention of the Committee to the accuracy of the figures supplied to me by the Treasury officials. They were prepared and submitted to the House within five days -of the end of the financialyear, and some three weeks before the Treasury books were balanced. In a total of £65,000,000, the approximate and actual figures show a variation of only £4,723. I have never seen a comparable feat of accountancy, and am confident honorable members will agree that the responsible officers of the Treasury are entitled to the greatest credit.
Consolidated Revenue Fund, 1921-22. Summarized, the transactions of the Consolidated Revenue for the year 1921-22 are as follow : -
These figures show that during the past year Australia was able to meet the ordinary expenditure out of current revenue, except as to the comparatively small sum of £209,903. Though there was a deficit of that sum, the fact should not be overlooked that provision was made for Defence compensation to the extent of £300,000. This is a nonrecurring item, and could legitimately have been brought forward into the present year. If that provision had not been made, there would have been a surplus, quite apart from the surplus brought forward from previous years. Broadly stated, the result of the transactions out of revenue was that we were able to balance last year’s Budget and to carry forward a surplus of £6,408,424, as against an estimate of £4,301,219. This pronounced improvement in the position indicates that the recuperative powers of Australia are greater than we recognised a year ago. We can congratulate ourselves that, notwithstanding the unparalleled’ dislocation resulting from the war, and the world-wide trade depression, we have come through the past year in a manner which shows the stability of our national finances.
Expenditure out of War Loan, 1921-22. The expenditure out of War Loan for the past year was : -
In addition, £1,300,940 was spent on War Service Homes out of moneys received from the purchasers of homes, and from the sale of various assets.The total expenditure was £2,548,406.
The amount paid to the States for soldier land settlement is slightly less than the amount of £7,000,000 which was forecasted in the Estimates of 1921-22. This was due to the fact that the requirements of the States were somewhat lower than anticipated. The Commonwealth has carried out all its undertakings in this respect, and to date has met all the demands made upon it by the States under the existing agreements.
The expenditure upon War Service Homes shows a considerable reduction upon the amount estimated. This occurred because the Department was being re-organized. A curtailment of expenditure during this transitional period was unavoidable. While the Government deeply regrets the delay in providing homes for soldiers, it is convinced that the policy recently pursued will result in advantages to the soldiers which otherwise could not have been secured.
At 30th June last 6,278 houses had been built, 11,117 existing houses had been purchased, and 1,660 mortgages had been taken over by the Commissioner. Additions had been made to 100 existing houses. The total number of homes thus provided was 19,155. The total capital expenditure to 30th June, 1922, amounted to £14,864,766.
Expenditure out of Loan for “Works, 1921-22. The expenditure under this heading amounted to £5,246,503. That is £350,671 less than the expenditure authorized, but the individual figures show little variation from the estimated amounts, and it does not appear neces-sary to delay the Committee with details.
Total Expenditure, 1921-22. The expenditure out of revenue, war loan, and works loan may now be summarized as follows : -
Estimated Expenditure, 1922-23. In framing a Budget, the Treasurer’s first duty is to ascertain the expenditure necessary to secure the peace, order, and good government of the country. He has also to consider what moneys should be expended for developmental and other national purposes. He has then to look at his total expenditure and determine how much is of an ordinary character which must be met out of revenue, and how much, being of an exceptional and non-recurring character, may be met out of loan. I propose to deal first with expenditure of the latter kind.
Loan Expenditure, 1922-23. The chief loan proposals of the present year are -
Soldier Land Settlement. The Crown lands of Australia belong to the States, and the scheme of soldier land settlement is carried out by the Commonwealth and the individual States in co-operation. The money is found by the Commonwealth, and the settlement is controlled by the States. Three agreements have been entered into, and I propose to set out what the provisions of those agreements are, and what has been done under them.
The first was entered into in January, 1919, and provides for the settlement of 23,310 soldiers for £35,312,435, including £15,918,750 for advances to the settlers, and £19,393,685 for the resumption of land and for public works.
The second, entered into in July, 1920, contemplated settlement on the basis of £1,000 for each man. The £1,000 includes an advance up to £625 and an average Commonwealth contribution towards ‘land resumptions or public works of £375. 10,913 men have been brought under this arrangement.
The third agreement, entered into in November, 1921, entitles the States to receive advances from the Commonwealth up to £625 in respect of each man placed on the land since November, 1921. This is the soldier land settlement scheme which is now operative. To date, the Commonwealth has agreed to find money for 612 settlers in accordance with this arrangement.
The loans to the States for Soldier Land Settlement amounted, at 30th June last, to £33,153,273. The amounts paid to the States under each head were -
In all 27,858 soldiers have been settled on the land.
The States are responsible for repaying the moneys advanced together with interest at the rates at which the Commonwealth borrowed the money for the purpose. During the first five years, a rebate of interest is granted to the States at the rate of 2½ per cent. per annum.
War Service Homes. As part of the reorganization to which I have already referred, the Government is, wherever possible, handing over the construction of War Service Homes to State authorities. The necessary arrangements have been made with the States of South Australia and Western Australia; also with the Government Savings Bank of Victoria. It is anticipated that a similar arrangement will be made with the Government of Queensland at an early date. The Commonwealth has not been able to make an agreement with any authority in New South Wales and Tasmania. Construction in those States will therefore still be undertaken by the War Service Homes Department, and all the work will be carried out under the contract system. The Government is confident that the mistakes of the past will be avoided in the future, and that the provision of homes for soldiers and other eligible persons will proceed smoothly and satisfactorily.
ShipConstruction. The estimate under this heading is £2,100,000. That sum is required to carry out the shipbuilding programme indorsed by Parliament last year, which is briefly as follows : -
The completion of contracts with Vickers and Beardmore in Great Britain for five Bay steamers.
The completion of Poole and Steel’s contract for the three E Class steamers, two of which have already been taken over.
The final payments to Walkers Ltd. in respect of two ships which have been completed and handed over.
The settlement of accounts with the Government of New South Wales in connexion with the six steamers built at Walsh Island.
The completion of the 6,000-ton vessel at present building at Williamstown and the fitting out of the one launched a few months ago.
Thebuilding of two 12,500-ton steamers at Cockatoo Island.
It is anticipated that finality will be reached this financial year in connexion with all the foregoing, with the exception of the two 12,500-ton vessels.
Federal Capital. The provision on this year’s Estimates for the establishment of theFederal Capital at Canberra is £250,000. In addition, there is available the unexpended balance of last year’s vote, amounting to £129,234.
The Government considers that this total will provide for the carrying out of the Advisory Committee’s recommendations to the fullest extent that is economically advisable in view of the existing costs of wages and material.
In addition, the administration . and other charges have been included under this heading, as they form part of the cost of the establishment of the Capital, and the total provided should be shown under one head.
The Government is considering proposals for handing over the Federal Capital Territory to a Board of Commissioners, constituted on similar lines to the Board of Commissioners which controls the Federal Capital territory at Washington.Action is also being taken to encourage settlement and building by private enterprise.
River Murray Waters. An amount of £517,000 is estimated as the Commonwealth’s share of the expenditure in the present year under the agreement between the Commonwealth and the States of New South Wales, Victoria, and, South Australia.
The work of conserving and distributing the waters of theRiver Murray is of national importance, and there can be no doubt it has the approval of all parties in the House.
Postmaster-General’s Department. The question of providing for improved services by the Postmaster-General’s Department has received the careful consideration of the Government. A survey of the position showed that it was impossible to place these services on a proper basis out of revenue without imposing an intolerable burden on the taxpayers. Attention was then given to the question of making loan appropriations for the purpose, and information was obtained as to the systems adopted in the leading countries of the world.
The information showed that the practice universally adopted was to provide for capital works out of loan, provision being made for repayment by means of a sinking fund based upon the life of the assets.
The Government has acordingly adopted a scheme on those lines, covering a period of three years, and the following sums will be required: -
In that period, the arrears will be overtaken, much needed improvements will be effected in technical equipment, and the services will be placed on a modern basis.
The expenditure is very large, but is of a character which will earn sufficient to meet the interest and sinking fund charges. The Government believes the developmental character of the work will be widely recognised, and that the expenditure will not only add to the primary production of the country, but will also facilitate the expansion of the commercial enterprises of the commmunity.
Immigration. An amount of £200,000 is. provided under this heading, apart from the cost of administration. This is in respect of the arrangement which has been arrived at between the Governments of the United Kingdom and of the Commonwealth for the provision of assisted passages to Australia of intending immigrants. This arrangement forme part of the general scheme under the British Overseas Settlement Act.
In addition to the agreement entered into with the British Government, arrangements are being made between the Commonwealth and the States of Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales, under which the Commonwealth will make advances to the States for the purpose ofthe settlement of immigrants on the land, and will allow the States an interest concession over a period of years. Substantial progress has been made during the past few months in connexion with the whole question’ of immigration, and in view of the fact that the Prime Minister will make a statement to the House at an early date dealing with the subject, it is unnecessary for me to go further into it here.
Total Loan Expenditure, 1922-23. The loan proposals for the year amount to £17,250,924. Obviously this amount will increase the volume of the National Debt, and will inevitably invite criticism from that school of thought which advocates the complete abandonment of a borrowing policy and maintains that Australia should concentrate upon the task of reducing her National Debt.
While the Government believes that every effort should be made towards the repayment of the existing debt, it cannot accept the policy indicated. Australia is a great undeveloped country, and has unrivalled possibilities for the creation of new wealth. If the Government did not press on with the development of the country, it would fail in its duty.
The whole of the loan expenditure which the Government is recommending is of a reproductive nature, or is necessitated by contractual obligations.
In considering the loan proposals for the present year, it will be of assistance if. I set out the existing position with regard to the National Debt.
National Debt. The gross debt of the Commonwealth at 30th June, 1922, was -
The operations of the year just closed were -
The increase in the gross National Debt in the year amounted to £14,350,484.
The addition to the National Debt in each of the last ten years has been as follows : -
The table shows that the NationalDebt grew enormously year by year in consequence of the war, and that the rate of growth has now been definitely retarded.
The gross debt is not as great a burden upon the Treasury as would appear, because the moneys which are owed to the Commonwealth and the moneys in hand must be set off.
In arriving at the National Debt, as stated, no deduction has been made either for the valuable assets created by the expenditure of £21,304,448 for works or for the properties, valued at £11,186,169, transferred from the States to the Commonwealth. There have been deducted from the gross debt only such sums as are to. be repaid by the States or others, such sums bearing interest in the meantime.
In addition to the National Debt of the Commonwealth, there are the. debts of the several States. I am sorry I can not give the figures at the close of last financial year, and am compelled to use those relating to 30th June, 1921. At that date, the debts of the States were as follow : -
Combining the Commonwealth and the State Debts, we get the following result:
As practically the whole of the public debts of the States was incurred in respect of the creation of reproductive works, and as a portion of the Commonwealth debt was the result of borrowing for a similar purpose, it is probable that there are tangible assets which cost at least £450,000,000, which may be set off against the public debt. Ignoring such assets and taking the total gross debt of Aus tralia at £842,366,331, the following comparison may be made between the pre-war and the presentdebts of Australia and of other countries : -
Australia’s position compares favorably with that of other nations. When we remember the extent of the territory, the unequalled resources, and the incomparable climatic conditions of Australia, we can regard the future with a considerable degree of equanimity.
Expenditure out ofRevenue, 1922-23. The total estimated expenditure out of Revenue in 1922-23 may be compared with the actual expenditure of the previous year, as follows: -
This estimate represents the minimum expenditure out of Revenue which the Government can recommend to the Committee.
The estimate, which is £3,083,256 less than the expenditure of the year 1921-22, was arrived at after action had been taken to insure every possible economy consistent with efficiency and the maintenance of reasonable services to the people.
War Services. The details of expenditure on War Services out of Revenue are -
Interest. The amount is made up in the following way: -
Sinking Fund. There are two classes of contributions to theSinking Eund. They are -
The discharge of the debt to the United Kingdom is arranged for in an agreement, which provides for an annualpayment of 6 per cent upon the totalindebtedness of £92,480,156. That payment will extinguish the debt in 1956, or thirty-four years hence. The provision made in the Budget for this part of the war indebtedness is in strict accordance with -the agreement and on thesamebasis as for the past year.
The war has been over nearlyfour years, and the Government feels that the time has comewhen provision should be made for the gradual and regularredemption of the war debt according to a definite and systematic plan. The scheme in broad outline is that a Sinking Fund of ½ per cent. should be provided annually on the total amount of the indebtedness, and should be paid to trustees for the redemption of the debt. In this way the war indebtedness will be extinguished in fifty years, if the fundsin the hands of the trustees earn 5 per cent. per annum.
For the year 1920-21, provision for the redemption of war debt was made at the rate of slightly more than 1 per cent., and for the year 1921-22 at the rate of more than¾ per cent. on the indebtedness. At first sight this appears to be the establishment of a Sinking Fund at the rate of between¾ and 1 per cent., which would redeem the debt in from thirty-seven to forty-two years. In fact, such is not the case, because the amounts provided for Sinking Fund were applied annually in extinguishing the debt, and if the same procedure were followed, the amount set apart annually for Sinking Fund would be a reducing one. This would not result in the redemption of the debt in from thirtyseven to forty-two years, but the total redemption of the debt would be indefinitely postponed. The change obviously required is that the Sinking Fund shall operate on a basis of compound interest.
The question to be determined is whether the contributions to the Sinking Fund shall be at the rate of½ per cent., ½ per cent., or 1 per cent.
On the basis of½ per cent. the debt would be extinguished in fifty years; of ½ per cent. in forty-two years; and of 1 per cent. in thirty-seven years.
Having regard to the great burden that has been borne by the present generation of taxpayers, and the imperative necessity that these burdens shall be reduced as far as is consistent with prudent finance,the Government is of opinion that a Sinking Fund of½ per cent., which will redeem the debt in fifty years, is a fair and equitable arrangement as between the present generation of taxpayers and those generations which will succeed. Provision has therefore been made in the present vear for a½ per cent. Sinking Fund, and legislation will be introduced for effecting the change I have indicated.
War Pensions. The estimated cost of War Pensions in 1922-23 is £6,750,000, a decrease of £278,379 as compared with the actual expenditure in 1921-22. The decrease in the estimate is due to the fact that uhe physical condition of pensioners on the whole has improved.
The provision under this heading is large. This is to some extent accounted for by the liberalization of the pension payments made by the Act passed last year. It is, however, principally due to the fact that the provision for incapacitated soldiers and dependants is mere generous in Australia than in any other country.
The pension list includes -
Repatriation of Soldiers. Compared with the expenditure of last year, the amount of £1,771,000 estimated under this heading shows a decrease of £321,326. The reduction has been brought about by the progress made in there-establishment of soldiers in civil life. The country has still very substantial commitments to the returned soldiers.
A brief survey of the activities of the Department will afford honorable members information, and will also be of interest to them.
The principal items of the estimated expenditure are -
At the 30th June, 1922, 16,787 men had completed their training, and 12,712 trainees were still being dealt with.
Of those in training, 1,624 were attending technical and trade schools, 4,671 were engaged in workshops under the industrial training scheme, and 6,417 were attending night schools. It is expected that the training in technical and trade schools will be completed during the current financial year, but the handling of men in workshops will continue for a further period.
The provision for medical treatment shows that, unfortunately, there are many ex-soldiers who still require attention. At the 30th June, the number was 4,392, of which 2,258 were in institutions, and 2,134 were out-patients. I regret the anticipations are that there will not be any substantial decrease in these numbers for some time.
Other items included in the total are -
At the close of the past year, 2,071 children had been approved for benefits under the soldiers’ children education scheme, and of this number 1,266 had been admitted during the year 1921-22.
All these sums are payable under various Acts of Parliament.
Other War Services. Apart from the expenditure I have referred to, there is provided under the war services section of the Estimates a total of £361,631. Honorable members will no doubt ascertain the details for themselvea. These miscellaneous charges are diminishing, and will in future be of small amount.
I have now dealt with the proposed expenditure of the year on war services. I think honorable members will agree that this expenditure cannot be reduced. It is necessary for the carrying out of our honorable undertakings.
Interest. The interest on the National Debt (other than war) shows anincrease of £573,641. The onlycomment necessary with regard to this is to point out the substantial burden which is placed on the current revenue by a heavy increase in the loan expenditure. This emphasizes the necessity for confining loan expenditure to strictly developmental or productive works.
Sinking Fund. During the last financial year an amount of only £32,478 was credited to the Sinking Fund, whilst the estimate for 1922-23 is £170,000. The provision for this year is at the rate of 10s. per cent., and the increase is due to the borrowing during the previous year, and to the inclusion of the value of properties transferred from the States in the sum on which the payment to the Sinking Fund is calculated. Under the definite plan which the Government has in view for the redemption of the whole of the National Debt, it seems necessary that the extinction of the indebtedness in respect of the transferred properties should also be arranged for. The proposal for placing the Sinking
Fund in the hands of trustees applies also to the portion of the debt now under notice.
Invalid and Old-age Pensions. This expenditure is one which, I am sure, has the approval of every member of the Committee, and I do not believe a reduction is desired in any quarter. On the contrary, I have received numerous representations that the amount should be increased. In 1913-14 the cost was £2,593,501. During the present year, it is estimated, the expenditure will be £5,457,500. The increase is due chiefly to an increase from 10s. to 15s. per week, though, of course, some of the increase is due to the larger number of pensioners. Between 1913-14 and the present dale the cost of living, as indicated by the records of the Statistician, has increased by 43 per cent., while the increase in the rate of pension has been 50 per cent.
The Government has the very greatest sympathy for those who, through circumstances of ill-health or old age, have to look to the State for assistance. It believes, however, that an increase in the pension rate at the present moment would have an effect opposite to that desired . by the advocates of an increase. An increase of 5s. would involve an expenditure of something like £2,000,000. — would assist in holding up the existing burden of taxation at the present level. As a consequence, the cost of living would at least be maintained at the existing high rate. The Government takes the view that the proper course is not to augment the pension, but, by taking action which will reduce the cost of the necessaries of life, ,to increase the value of the present payment.
The matter has had very serious consideration, and the Government, after n< full review of the facts, has based the provision on the existing rate of 15s. per week. All the circumstances must, I think, convince honorable members thai; a proper view of the situation has been taken.
Maternity Allowance. The expenditure on maternity allowances has been the subject of the closest investigation. A study of the statistics of infantile mortality shows clearly that the great object of the preservation of child life has not been achieved by the payment of this allowance. The inevitable conclusion is that on the existing basis there is not an adequate return for the very large expenditure.
The Government has examined many alternative proposals, but none appear” satisfactorily to .solve the very difficult problem. One suggestion is that the payment should be restricted to cases where the family income does not exceed £300 a year. This proposal is supported by the fact that in many cases the allowance is received by those who do not need it. In many other cases the. allowance is totally inadequate. A consideration of the figures, however, shows that no’ solution can be found in this way. According to the Commonwealth Statistician, the limitation of the payment to incomes under £300 would reduce the total payable by only £29,000 a year. This amount is too small to allow increased benefits to be given in. necessitous cases, and’, for a saving of £29,000’ out of a total of £690,000, it is undesirable to introduce what undoubtedly would be an invidious distinction-. It has also to be borne in mind that a much increased expenditure would have to be- met for administrative charges were an income qualification imposed.
Investigations have shown that the question is closely interwoven with the % broad one of national health. The Government is convinced that no satisfactory solution of this very difficult matter can be arrived at unless it. is considered in conjunction with the question of national health, and has consequently decided to take no steps for the present year with a view to altering the existing system. It was announced in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech that a Royal Commission would be appointed for co-ordinating the activities of the Commonwealth and those of the States in relation to the health of the people. With a view to giving effect to this proposal, the Government is in communication with the States. The safeguarding of health is properly recognised as a function of the States, and the Government is opposed to the creation of dual control, too much of which has been witnessed in the past. It believes, however, that in a question of such vital importance to Australia it has a duty to perform, and it is prepared to co-operate with the States in well ‘ considered and economic proposals.
Payment to States under Surplus Revenue Act. An increase of £119,465 is shown, and the total payable is now £7,070,000. I do not believe that any thoughtful person is satisfied with, the present financial relations between the Commonwealth and the States, and itseems inevitable that in the near future the whole question will come up for discussion by representatives of the Commonwealth and the States. One of the difficulties of the position recently became prominent by reason of the fact that the period of ten years, during which a special payment was made to the State of Tasmania, had come to an end. “Unfortunately, the payments had been arranged at a fixed annual rate, instead of being gradually tapered off, and the sudden discontinuance of a large payment would have caused serious dislocation of the finances of the State. Recognising that the whole system of payments to the States must soon be reviewed, and being unwilling- to cause serious embarrassment to the people of Tasmania, the’ Government decided to continue the special payment for the present year. A sum of £85,000 is shown on the- Estimates accordingly. Honorable members will have an opportunity of discussing the proposal when the necessary Bill is presented U> the House.
Other Special Appropriations. The payment of the beef subsidy, which is estimated at £150,000, and the provision of £25,000 towards the cost of Australia’;; participation in’ the British Empire Exhibition, to be held in 1924, are included. Bills will be necessary to authorize these expenditures.
Provision is also made for an amount of £24,000 in respect of the superannuation scheme for the Public Service. Such a scheme is now, generally recognised as essential to the efficient conduct of private enterprise, and the principle is equally applicable to the Public Service. A Bill will be introduced during the present session to give effect to the Govern ment’s proposals, when a full explanation will be afforded the House. At this stage I shall content myself with an indication that the scheme is ‘of a contributory character.
Under the heading of “ Other Special Appropriation* “ are included many small statutory payments, details of which are contained in the Estimates.
Altogether, the estimated expenditure under “Special Appropriations” is £15,869,274’, as compared with an expenditure of £14,968,433 during last year. The increase of £900,841 has, T think, been justified in the remarks which I have made on the moTe important of the sums.
The figures which I have just given include amounts for Additions, New Works and Buildings, as well as for Ordinary Departmental Expenditure.
It will, I think, assist honorable members if I deal with these two- amounts separately.
Additions, New Works, and Buildings. The amounts estimated for this year compare with the sums expended last year as follows : -
The large reductions are in the Defence Department and the Postmaster-General’s Department .
The decrease iu the PostmasterGeneral’s Department is brought aboutby the new policy which I have already referred to with regard to Post Office New Works.
The reduction iu the Defence expenditure has been made after the most careful consideration by the Government, and after consultation with the Council of Defence. The reductions which have been effected would have been impossible but for the Washington Conference. The greatest responsibility resting upon any Government is that of preserving the safety of the community. After full investigation and taking- in to accoun t all the circumstances of world politics, the Government determined upon the reductions which have been announced . As the Defence expenditure appears under different headings in the Estimates, it will, I think, be convenient if I bring all the items together and indicate to the Com mittee exactly where the reductions have been effected. The figures are -
Ordinary Votes of Departments.The amounts estimated this year compare with the sums expended last year as follows : -
Every figure is the result of the closest investigation, and the Government is convinced that, on the existing cost of material and rates of pay, the estimate represents the lowest amount which is compatible with efficiency and the supply of reasonable services to the community.
I realize the necessity for economic and efficient administration of the Government expenditure. In order to ascertain whether this was brought about, I took as a standard the pre-war expenditure of 1913-14 and compared it, item by item, with the proposed expenditure for 1922- 23. This appeared to be a proper basis, as the ordinary expenditure was of necessity abnormally inflated during the period of the war. That catastrophe is now four years behind us, and we are entitled to expect that the ordinary expenditure should again be approaching a normal sum.
The result of this comparison has been to show that the expenditure for the coming year, estimated with the utmost regard to economy, must show a substantial increase as against 1913-14. This was inevitable, even apart from increase in the services, because of the increase in the remuneration of the public servants, necessitated by the increase in the cost of living, and because of the greatly augmented price of all supplies. To show the effect that these factors have had I give to the Committee the following information : -
I now desire to compare the estimated expenditure for the present year with the expenditure of tho last pre-war. year, 1913-14, and to indicate to the Committee some of the facts which have led to the increased expenditure, in addition to those which I have already given -
From these totals, I think, two items should be excluded, so as to arrive at the essential facts to enable honorable members to exercise judgment. The two items are as follow: -
After making the deduction, we find the position to be - ,
The reason I have excluded this expenditure, is that in. both cases it is based upon broad principles of policy which the Government proposes to submit to the House, and to which I have already referred.
I believe that there are certain possibilities of reducing expenditure in the two Departments referred to, and I will indicate them to the Committee later, but that fact in no way affects the purpose for which I am using the figures at the moment. If the expenditure is reduced, the total difference between the expenditure of 1913-14 and 1922-23 will also be reduced, and I think, on consideration, honorable members will agree that it is necessary for a clear view of the position that the deductions in respect of Defence and Post Office should be made. I may here point out that in the period under notice the revenue of the Post Office has increased from £4,511.000 to £9,650,000.
Excluding the Departments of Defence and Post Office, the increase in the Estimates for the present year over the expenditure for 1913-14 amounts to £2,126,242.
In this increase are included amounts in respect of increased activities of the Government which have the unquestioned approval and support of the House.
There are also amounts which were inevitable as the result of the Commonwealth’s increased operations in consequence of the war. I give to the Committee a list of such items, showing the expenditure in 1913-14 and the estimated expenditure in 1922-23. with short explanatory notes where they appear to be required -
The increase under the items which I have enumerated amounts to £1,196,522, and reduces the amount of tho increase of £2,126,242, which was unaccounted for, to £929,720. I .have, however, only dealt with the position in ‘broad outline, and indicated to the Committee .some of the major alterations which render a return to the .pre-war basis o’f expenditure -impossible. To ‘have given full information as to every item would have involved wearisome detail. The whole of the increase as against .the vear 1913-14 has been justified in the revision of the Estimates, and when they are under consideration the Government will give the most detailed information justifying every amount.
I have .now placed before the Committee the facts with regard to the increased expenditure as against the pre-war year, and have endeavoured to show that that increase was inevitable and can be justified.
I now desire to turn to the possibilities of a reduction in the .future.
The two ways in which a reduction can be brought about are by -insuring more efficient service as a result of better organization of all the Departments, and by a reduction of the amount paid to the individual members of the Public Service.
With regard to the first of these points, the Government believes that it is taking the most practical course to -effect “this by the appointment of the Public Service Board contemplated by the Bill now before the House. The Government, therefore, proposes to press on with this measure at the earliest possible date. -When appointed, the Commissioners will reclassify the whole of the Public Service, and will act as auditors of efficiency.
It is also proposed to amend the Arbitration (Public Service) Act so as to remove all public- servants in receipt of over £310 per annum from the operation of the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920. If this is done, it is believed it will be possible to obtain greater efficiency throughout the Service, and particularly to alford greater opportunities for advancement to those members who show marked ability.
With regard to the second point, the Government has given the ‘most careful consideration to the question of salaries in the Civil Service. The result has been to show that no .reduction of a .general character, such as, for example, -a percentage reduction on the ‘lines adopted in New Zealand, could be .brought about without the gravest injustice.
An investigation of the salaries shows clearly that they are not on a higher basis than those paid for similar work outside the Government employment, and, in many cases, particularly in regard to senior officers, they are substantially lower.
Certain allowances were added, however, to enable the public servants to meet the burden brought about by rising prices. Now that prices are falling, a reduction of these allowances can with equity, be considered, without any lowering of the standard of living, to which the Government is emphatically opposed. The Government recognises that, as th executive authority, the duty rests upon it to take the necessary action to effect a reduction in such allowances, as and when the circumstances with regard to the cost of living justify its so doing.
The whole of the Public Service, with very few exceptions, was placed under the Public Service Arbitrator by the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, and, as he has embodied the regulations as to the basic wage and child endowment in several awards, the present pay and allowances received by the Public Service are the result of findings of the Arbitrator.
The control of the remuneration received by the Public Service having been entrusted to an independent tribunal, the Government takes the view that any alteration must be a matter for the tribunal. It will, therefore, approach the Arbitrator from time to time for a judicial review.
As it is contemplated to amend the Arbitration (Public Service) Act 1920, with a view to removing officers receiving over £310 per annum from the control of the Arbitration- Court, the Government proposes to insert in the Public Service’ Bill now before Parliament a clause providing that so long as cost of living allowances continue, the Public Service Commissioners shall make a quarterly review of the allowances payable to such officers.
Beyond taking all necessary steps to insure so far as possible that the allowances for cost of living do not remain in excess of the amount justified by the circumstances from time to time prevailing, the Government does not see any method by which the remuneration paid to public servants can be . reduced without grave injustice.
In view of the necessity for reductions, both inside and outside the Public Service, to correspond with the decrease in the cost of living, the Government believes that a great obligation rests upon Parliament to set an example in this matter. It accordingly proposes to submit to the House an amendment of the law whereby the parliamentay allowance payable to members will be reduced from £1,000 to £800.
While it is realized that the present allowance is by no means extravagant, and that the alteration represents a very real measure of sacrifice by ‘honorable members, the Government is convinced that the authority of Parliament will be strengthened if it shows readiness to submit itself first to the reductions which it proclaims that others must be prepared to accept. Thus Parliament will be able better to take steps towards the re-adjust- . ment of our economic position.
Commonwealth Government Trading. Before dealing with the revenue figures it is desirable that I should refer to the criticism! which has been directed against the Government in relation to its trading activities. I think it will be conceded that undertakings which are necessary for the requirements of the State itself, are properly conducted as Government enterprises. Of this character are the activities of the Government Printers. Balance-sheets and trading accounts of both these activities are prepared, and the accounts reveal a small profit.
Activities about which doubts might exist are those under the control of the Defence Department, such ae the -
Where the output of an establishment is absorbed by the Defence Department there is no doubt it is legitimately conducted under direct Government supervision. Where, however, the whole output is not used by the Defence Department, and the factory must come into the open market to find customers, the consensus of opinion is ‘that the legitimate functions df the Government have been exceeded. The Government is accordingly handing the Woollen Mills over to private enterprise, and will retain only a nucleus staff in the factories, which must be continued for the safety of the Commonwealth in accordance with the new Defence policy.
Balance-sheets and trading accounts are published of these activities of the Defence Department, and I think honorable members have the fullest information with regard to them that they could desire.
The other trading operations of the Government are connected with shipowning and ship-building.
The policy with regard to ship-owning has been indicated in the GovernorGeneral’s Speech, and, at an early opportunity, the necessary legislation will be introduced to place the Commonwealth Line under independent control. When this has been done, thefleet will be put on a basis of capitalization which will enable it to be run in competition will other shipping companies.
The Government’s intention to hand over shipbuilding, which was purely a war activity, to private . enterprise was announced as far back as December last. The Government is gradually shedding its interest in this direction-, and the only work now being carried on is the completion of the programme which had been entered upon when the announcement was made to the House.
It is sometimes suggested that the guarantee which the Government has given to voluntary pools, such as the Wheat Pool, constitutes Government trading. This view cannot be sustained. The only action taken in these cases by the Government is to stand behind the Commonwealth Bank in any advances which are made. The management and control remain in the hands of the industry affected. The Government’s policy in this connexion is to encourage the producers to organize, and, when organized, to assist them financially in the marketing of their produce. In no sense can this policy be described as one of Government trading.
Estimated Revenue 1922-23. On the present, basis of taxation and receipts, a careful estimate of the probable revenue of 1922-23 is as follows: -
Customs and Excise. At the beginning of last financial year there was some fear we were about to enter upon a period of trade stagnation. The expectation of dullness had been fostered by a knowledge that many commercial firms had purchased largely at the high prices prevailing some time before, and had made considerable losses. The period of difficulty seems to have passed, because there has been a marked increase in importations. The figures are as follow: -
These facts might lead us to expect a great increase in the revenue during the next few months, but I prefer to exercise caution, believing that the volume of imports in the last quarter of the year cannot continue. I have paid regard, also, to the fact that a very large proportion of our revenue comes from stimulants and narcotics, and a considerable increase in the collections from these sources certainly cannot be forecast.For these reasons I have adopted what might be, under all the circumstances, regarded as a conservative estimate, putting down the Customs and Excise revenue of the present year at £28,000,000, as compared with £27,630,359 collected during last financial year.
Income Tax. The £16,790,682 which the income tax yielded in 1921-22 included arrears of about £4,500,000. The amount assessed but not collected at 30th June last totalled £3,800,000. Adding and deducting these sums, we find that the year just closed benefited by arrears to the extent of £700,000. We may therefore say that the income applicable to 1921-22 was about £16,000,000.
In making the estimate for thepresent financial year it has to be remembered that while wool-growers last year earned large incomes which are liable to tax this year, the total profits of the wheat, dairying, and meat industries suffered decline. The distributing businesses in the early part of last financial year had not recovered from the stagnation and losses to which they had been subject, and this must also be taken into account in estimating the income tax to be collected this year.
On the whole, I believe we could not safely calculate that, at current rates, the income tax would in the present year yield more than £15,250,000.
Australian Note Issue. Honorable members are aware that the note issue of the Commonwealth, which was formerly under the control of the Treasury, is now under the management of the Chairman; and Directors of the Note Issue Department of the Commonwealth Bank. The profits of the issue are not retained by the Note Issue Department, however, but are paid into the Treasury for credit to the Consolidated Revenue Fund. The profit arises out of the interest paid by the Commonwealth and the State Governments on securities which were purchased out of the Notes Fund during the time it was under the control of the Treasury and by interest on advances made to banks. These advances were not necessary for the ordinary purposes of the banks, but were made in order that the banks might assist the Treasury . in its huge war transactions.
Though all the issues of notes during the war and during the post-war period were justified by necessity, it cannot be denied that the Australian currency was inflated by issues beyond what were permissible by sound currency practice. < While that is admitted, it must be’ pointed out that Australia did not err in this direction as much as many other countries did. This is evidenced by the well-known fact that the difference between, the value of the sovereign and the £1 note is trifling as compared with the difference between gold and the value of the paper currencies of many other nations. Though the depreciation of our currency, as compared with gold, is now comparatively small, it behoves us to work steadily towards the restoration, of the value of our paper money, and, in this connexion, it is interesting to observe the changes which are taking place in the volume of notes in circulation.
In October, 1918, the issue was at its highest point, the amount’ then being £59,676,401. In August, 1921, the circulation had fallen to £58,102,985. And on the first day of August in this year it was £53,390,809.
Between the highest point and . the present one, there has been a fall of £6,285,592. At the same dates, the amounts of notes held by thi* banks in their tills were, respectively, £40,563,925, £34,384,719, and £30,986,820. Here the drop is £9,577,105.
The position is not exactly the same in relation to notes held by the public, because between October, 1918, and August, 1921, the amount increased from £19,112,476 to £23,718,266. It must be noted, however, that in August of this year the public held £1,314,277 less than they did twelve months before.
Altogether, the circulation of Australian notes shows a substantial reduction, and there can. be no doubt this is indicative of deflation, and an approach towards normal conditions. This point cannot truly be said to have been reached until Australian notes are interchangeable with gold, and the existing prohibition of export is discontinued.
The estimate of revenue from the Note Issue Department for the present financial year is £1,150,000, which compares with £1,261,482 received last year.
Interest on Loans to States for Soldier Land Settlement. An amount of £1,300,000 is estimated to be received under this heading during the present year. This is more than balanced by an amount in the item of interest on the expenditure side, as the Commonwealth allows to the States on all advances for the purpose of soldier settlement a rebate pf 2$ per cent, for the first five years. I desire to make it very cleaT to the Committee, in view of certain statements that have been made, that the Commonwealth charges to the States only the amount of interest which it has to pay for the money it advances, less the rebate I have mentioned. This basis was arrived at by mutual agreement between the States and the Commonwealth, and any suggestion that the soldiers are being charged excessive rates of interest in consequence of any action of the Commonwealth is unfounded.
Commonwealth. Government Line of Steamers. For the present year I have not included any amount in respect of the surplus earnings of the Commonwealth Line. The reason for this decision is that, although the line had shown a surplus of receipts over expenditure, a study of the balance-sheet is necessary in order to arrive at a true appreciation of the position. This cannot be done until the audited accounts are received from
London. In view of the serious decline which has taken place in the value of the fleets of all shipping lines, it is improbable that an appropriation to Consolidated Revenue of any part of the surplus earnings for the present year would be justified.
The question of the capital value of the vessels owned by the Commonwealth Line is at the moment receiving the careful consideration of the Government in connexion with the proposed transfer to independent control. When the necessary measure is introduced for giving effect to this intention, the fullest information willbe afforded to honorable members.
Consolidated Revenue Fund 1922-23. The estimated receipts and expenditure out of the Consolidated Revenue Fund are as follow: -
A study of the above figures must afford very great satisfaction to honorable members and to the country as a whole. They show that the estimated expenditure has been decreased by £2,080,765, and that it is estimated to show a surplus of £494,557, whereas twelve months ago it was estimated to show a deficit of £2,317,108.
Correct Principles of Finance. I have now dealt with the estimated receipts and expenditure of the Commonwealth for the coming year.
Before turning to that portion of the Budget statement which is, probably of most interest to honorable members and the country, I propose to apply a test in order to ascertain whether the proposals which the Government is putting forward are based upon correct financial principles. This may best be done by referring to the authoritative opinions expressed by the International Financial Conference held at Brussels in 1920. At that Conference the following principles were laid down:-
This the Government has done by reducing the expenditure of the year within the limits of the revenue moneys which are available. Had this not been practicable, an imperative duty would have been laid on the Government to impose fresh taxation to meet the deficit.
This principle the Government has applied, and a reduction of £1,787,503 has been effected, while still retaining what is necessary for the preservation of our national security.
This principle has been carefully followed in framing the Government’s proposals.
This principle the Government has rigidly adhered to, and while prepared to assist by the provision of productive work, it will not countenance the introduction of doles.
The Government has adhered to this principle.
The Government’s proposals provide for all recurrent ordinary expenditure being met out of revenue.
The Government recognises the necessity of following this principle, and it proposes to abandon all the artificial arrangements which had to be entered into to secure the money necessary for war purposes.
As shown in the earlier part of my speech,the Commonwealth is carrying out this policy.
I have indicated earlier the Government’s views on this matter.
As already shown, the necessity for this is very present to the Government.
The necessity for the utmost caution in bringing about deflation has been shown by the results in those countries which attempted too quickly to effect this purpose. The
Government’s policy is to steadily; and scientifically return to normal conditions.
The result of this analysis is to show that the Government’s proposals are framed in accordance with the findings of what may be regarded as the best modern authority.
Conversion and Future Loans. It is within the knowledge of honorable members that, during the next few years, the Commonwealth and the individual States of Australia will be faced, not only with the necessity of converting many maturing loans, but will also have to raise further moneys for the development of resources.
During the past twelve months there has been a steady and continuous easing in the money markets, both in Australia and abroad. This tendency is shown by the following table of quotations, in Australia, for Commonwealth securities: -
There has been a similar improvement in the market prices for Australian securities in London, and a marked decline in the interest payable on loans issued there by the Commonwealth and the States. Flotations in January, 1921, were made at a price to return the investor about £6 10s. per cent. per annum, and, generally speaking, underwriters were left with a large percentage of the issues. The last Commonwealth Government loan, which was issued in March of this year, was made at a price to yield the investor £5 6s. 4d. per cent. per annum, and was fully subscribed.
The cheapening of money is shown, too, by the fact that the London market rata for short loans twelve months ago was 5 per cent., while to-day it is 1½ per cent. The Bank of England rate in June, 1921, was 6 per cent., in June, 1922, 3½ per cent., and now it is 3 per cent.
These facts show clearly that during the past twelve months the alterations in the money market have been distinctly in favour of the borrower. The reason for this tendency appears to be that, owing to the world-wide stagnation in trade, investors have had to invest in
Government securities, instead of in industrial and commercial undertakings.
Whether the present tendency for easier money will continue, no one can express a confident opinion. If the present dislocation of the world’s trade continues, there is a probability of a continued demand for Government securities, which will result in even lower interest rates.
Should success attend the efforts which are being made to reorganize the finances of Europe, however, a great demand for money for the re-establishment of commerce and industry will certainly arise, with a consequent hardening of interest rates.
The basis upon which the Commonwealth will be enabled to convert its existing loans and to raise new moneys is dependent upon the factors referred to.
The question has from time to time arisen and been discussed as to the advisability of Australia raising its loans on the local market. The policy of the Government on this point is clear. In so far as such requirements can be met out of the surplus wealth created year by. year, the Government will look to the local market. In doing this, strict regard will be bad to the capital requirements of Australia in the realm of nonnational finance. We have seen in the past the results of Governments borrowing more on the local market than was warranted, in view of the requirements of private finance. The Government proposes to give theclosest attention to the requirements of local enterprise when considering whether borrowings shall be undertaken in the local market or abroad.
Commonwealth and State Finance. Owing to the large amount of Commonwealth and State loans maturing during the next ten years, and the close relations between the Commonwealth and States in regard to the financing of soldier settlement and immigration, the necessity for the co-ordination of Australian borrowing as a whole is becoming every day more evident.
The question of the taxation of interest on Commonwealth and State loans will also require very careful consideration, in view of the Commonwealth’s fixed policy of not issuing any further loans free of Federal income tax. The States, on the other hand, follow the practice of issuing their loans free of tax, and as the Commonwealth does not tax interest on State loans, subscribers to those loans receive their interest free of all income taxes. This inevitably places the States in a favoured position as compared with the Commonwealth, and some solution of the difficulty must be found. The Government proposes entering into communication with the States in regard to these matters, and is confident that some satisfactory arrangement will be made.
The duplication of Commonwealth and State activities is also receiving the attention of the Government. Negotiations are at present in progress with a view to the amalgamation of’ taxation Departments, and there is reason to hope that a settlement of this long outstanding problem will be found.
I have already indicated that a serious effort is to be made to co-ordinate the activities of the Commonwealth and the States with regard to Public Health, and similar efforts are in contemplation with regard to Electoral Rolls, Science and Industry, and Statistics.
The Government, recognising the necessity for a reduction of administrative expenditure throughout Australia, and believing that economies can be effected, by the avoidance of duplication, proposes to take all steps in its power to bring about co-ordination between the Commonwealth and the States wherever possible.
Taxation. It is within the knowledge of the Committee that the Royal Commission on Taxation has submitted three reports.
In these, practically all the questions relating to Income Tax have been dealt with. The Government has now had an opportunity of considering the reports, and proposes to introduce a consolidating Income Tax Bill, with a view to placing the whole of the Income Tax law of the Commonwealth upon a definite basis.
While I do not propose here to deal with all the alterations which will be embodied in that measure, I must refer, to some of them, as they have a direct bearing upon the incidence of taxation. The points which I have to mention are as follow : -
Assessment of all Incomes at Rates applicable to an Average Income for a period of Five Years.Under the Income Tax Assessment Act 1921 the principle of taxing the actual income of the year at a rate ascertained by reference to an average income was adopted for incomes derived from primary production. It is now intended to alter the law to make this basis of assessment applicable to all incomes.
The Fixing of Live Stock Values within a Minimum and Maximum Prescribed Standard Value. The practice since the introduction of income tax legislation has been to assess natural increase in live stock on the basis of a standard value prescribed by the GovernorGeneral. In certain cases these standard values operate harshly. It is intended to alter the law so as to enable stock-owners to select their values for natural increase within prescribed maximum and minimum limits, which shall be uniform for the Commonwealth for a particular species of live stock. The maximum will not exceed, and may, in some States, be less than, the existing standard values and the minimum one-quarter of the prescribed maximum values. When a. taxpayer has selected the basis upon which to make his returns he will be required to adhere to such basis in his returns for all years.
Taxation of Bonus Shares in Companies. Considerable doubts have arisen as to whether bonus shares are liable to be assessed for income tax in the year of distribution. To allay such doubts it is intended to provide that bonus shares shall not be regarded as income, or liable to income tax.
Taxation of Undistributed Profits of Companies. Considerable hardship has been imposed by the provision’s of clause 16 (2) of the Income Tax Assessment Act 1921. It is intended to amend the law so as to provide -
Remission of Taxation.I nowcome to the most interesting part of the Budget statement. On the year’s transactions have shown an estimated surplus of £494,557. In addition, a surplus of £6,408,424 was brought forward into the present year’s accounts. The estimated position at the end of the present year is that a surplus of £6,902,981 will be shown.
It is now necessary to direct the attention of the Committee to the question how this surplus should be dealt with.
It can be left intact as a safeguard against a future falling-off in revenue; it can be employed for the reduction of debt, or it can be used for remission of taxation.
To leave it as a provision against a future falling-off of revenue is, in my opinion, economically wrong. A fundamental principle of national finance is that the State shall only take out and. keep out of the hands of the taxpayer the amount necessary for the meeting of the current disbursements of stable government. The. retaining of a large unemployed surplus is unjustifiable, and must tend to economic waste. The Government is, therefore, faced with the problem that it is not justified in retaining the surplus estimated to be in hand at the end of the current financial year, and must recommend to the Committee what it conceives to be the best method of dealing with the accumulated funds in hand. Two alternatives have to be considered. They are, either to employ the amount for the cancellation of debt, or for the purpose of reducing taxation.
To employ it for the purpose of reducing the national debt would not, I believe, be employing it to the greatest advantage. Provision is being made for the redemption of the national debt on a definite basis, and very little additional benefit would be gained by the employment of the accumulated surplus for this purpose.
The Government believes that such part as can be employed prudently should be used for the purpose of reducing taxation.
I think all students of economics are agreed that nothing curtails development, hampers trade and industry, and reduces the standard of living of the people more than crippling taxation. In comparison with other countries of the world, our taxation is not excessive, but having regard to our particular circumstances, it is having a disastrous effect. We are a young country with illimitable natural resources but no great accumulated wealth. A burden which could lightly be borne by an old country with its great capital resources is one which might strangle the future development of a young nation. The Government, therefore, proposes to employ £3,200,000 of the accumulated surplus in the reduction of taxation and in encouragement of manufactures. The Government feels justified in recommending the use of that sum in the manner suggested without any fear that, in order to make the revenue and expenditure for the year 1923-24 balance, it will be necessary to re-impose taxation.
The directions in which relief is contemplated are as follow : -
At the time the Customs Tariff was dealt with in the Blouse all our metal manufacturing industries were fully occupied, and it was anticipated that local manufacturers would be able to supply the whole of the requirements in galvanized iron, fencing wire, wire netting, and tractors. For reasons which I need not go into, this has not proved to be the case. As a result, a revenue Tariff is now being collected which waa never intended. This means that primary production will be burdened with duties without securing the benefit of local production and competition.
Realizing the national importance of our primary production and how essential it is that the requirements named should be available to our producers at the lowest possible price, the Government proposes to alter the duties in the following manner: -
In order to safeguard the local manufacturers a bounty will be paid at the rates of -
Wire netting - 10 per cent.
Wire, fencing - 15 per cent.
Iron, galvanized - According to the rates provided in the Bounty Act passed in 1918.
Traction engines - At various fixed amounts according to the horse-power of the engines.
The bounty paid will be sufficient to enable a condition to be imposed that, whenever available, locally-produced raw materials are to be used in the manufacture of goods upon which bounty is claimed.
The estimated effect of the reductions of taxation and of the bounty isas follows : -
The Government believes that its proposals with regard to the remission of taxation will have the approval of the Committee and of the public. It also is confident that they will have the effect of stimulating trade and industry, promoting enterprise and development, reducing the cost of living, and attracting surplus capital from overseas now awaiting investment.
The effect of the reductions of taxation and the payment of bounty upon the estimated figures which I gave to the Committee earlier in my speech will be as follows : -
These figures are the last that I have to give, and complete the information I desire to place before the Committee.
It has been my duty for over six months to consider in the closest detail the finances of the Commonwealth. This work enables me to make a considered pronouncement on our financial position which will, perhaps, be of interest.
With a full realization of the responsibility resting upon me, I tell the people of Australia that there is no country in the world whose present circumstances are equal to ours, and whose future prospects are comparable.
– All that we require is stable government and sound finance for a reasonable period. Given this, local and foreign capital will be available for the development of our primary and secondary industries. Trade, commerce, and production will be promoted. Population will increase and the national revenue will expand. A steady and continuous reduction of taxation will follow. Employment will be abundant, and effective wages maintained on a high level.
The Government considers that its present proposals will establish that confidence in Australia’s future stability which is essential to our progress. In that belief, I commend the Government’s financial proposals to the Committee for acceptance.
I move -
That the first item in the Estimates under Division 1 - The Parliament - namely, “ The President, £1,100,” be agreed to.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) agreed to -
That the consideration of the General Estimates be postponed until after the consideration of the Estimates for Additions, New
Bill received from the Senate, and (on motion by Mr. Groom), read a first time.
Debate resumed from 3rd August (vide page 1112), on motion by Mr. Austin Chapman -
That, in the opinion of this House, His Majesty’s Ministers of State for the Commonwealth should, after the prorogation of the session of Parliament in 1923, advise His Excellency the Governor-General to summon the session to be held in 1924 at Canberra, the Federal Capital.
– When the debate on this question was adjourned a fortnight ago, I was giving expression to the opinion that the Government were hoping to bring down wages to something like the pre-war level, before proceeding in earnest with the work of building Canberra. Such a fall would be lamentable. If there is any serious intention on the part of the Government to reduce wages in connexion with the building of the Capital it will be met with vigorous opposition. The wages of those engaged in the building trade largely govern the wages paid in other industries, and, that being so, this is a matter in which I am deeply concerned. I hope that those who are vigorously advocating the building of the Capital will be equally vigorous in their opposition to any reduction in the wages paid to those employed there. I have no desire to attack the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster), but Iunderstand that, when he visited Canberra, and told the workers that he was going to lower wages, he was mobbed.
– That is not correct.
– I am told that the honorable gentleman, fearing that he might be attacked by the workers, cleared away to Yarralumla.
– That is not so.
– I would point out to the honorable member that the motion before the Chair is for the transfer of the Parliament to Canberra, and has nothing whatever to do with the question of wages.
– I bow to your ruling, sir, but I think I should be allowed to make a passing reference to an interjection made by the Minister when this question was last before us, that he hoped to see wages come down considerably. I contend that a good deal of building will have to be carried on at Canberra before it is ready for occupation by this Parliament. I give the Minister warning that if he tries to bring down wages there the Government will not get the Capital built. If any such attempt be made, I shall not support the building of Canberra. I hope that the Government will take the hint, and that there will be’ no interference with the wages of the workers.
.- I had hoped that the honorable member for Eden -Monaro would withdraw his motion, which involves the expenditure of something like £500,000.
– Seven hundred thousand pounds has been voted.
– The money would be better spent on developmental works throughout the Commonwealth. I am not opposed to the Federal Capital being in NewSouth Wales, but I object to the building of Canberra. I move as an amendment -
That the word “Canberra “ be left out with a view to insert in lieu thereof the word “ Sydney.”
Whatever reasons there might have been some years ago for the building of Canberra, no good reason exists to-day for its selection as the Federal Capital.
– I rise to a point of order. I submit that the amendment moved by the honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston) is out of order in view of the constitutional requirement that the Federal Capital shall be in New South Wales, but shall be distant from. Sydney not less than 100 miles, and that until Parliament meets at the Federal Capital it shall meet in Melbourne.
– The amendment is not yet before the Chair.
– The honorable member for Barker is only joking.
– Not at all. The proposal to build Canberra is, however, a huge joke. The material necessary for the building of a capital city is not to be found there. The Commonwealth could have no better capital than Sydney itself. Sydney has one of the most magnificent harbors in theworld, and no country has a better front door to its territory. It would be ridiculous to establish the
Federal Capital in the bush, I do not think honorable members have taken into consideration how seriously the transfer of the Parliament to such a place as Canberra would affect all associated with it. We are told that temperory Houses of Parliament are to be constructed, and also a hostel for the accommodation of honorable members. Imagine what would happen if we were all housed in the one hostel. Honorable members, despite the control exercised by Mr. Speaker, find it impossible to agree in this House.I should like to see them all living in a hostel with no Speaker to keep them in order!It would be necessary to build, not only a Parliament House, but churches, schools, and a university at Canberra, and a sum of £500,000 would not go far in providing for such requirements.
– We should not object if the vote were increased to £1,000,000.
– The honorable member and I, even if we livefor another 100 years, will not see the Parliament meeting at Canberra. There is neither wood, water, nor stone for building purposes in the district; and another objection is that it is right off the main trunk railway systems. Before long we shall have a. railway running from South Australia through the Northern Territory. As an Australian familiar with the wants of the country, I enter my protest against this project. I enter my protest against our removal to Canberra. I prophesy that, as an outcome of the elections, a majority will be returned to this Legislature which will be opposed to the transfer. I admit that much money has already been spent at Canberra; but, seeing that it is a bad job, let us do the best we can to amend it by forthwith cutting our losses. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) has just been extolling this great country and its great people.
– The only thing wrong is that we have abad Government.
– The Government is not at all a bad one; although there are plenty of honorable members from whom we could select a really firstclass Government. I hope the day will come when we shall have elective Ministries, and then Australia will be better off than ever. I do not wish to ac ouse the honorable member for EdenMonaro of advocating the speedy’ transfer of Parliament to Canberra merely to catch a few votes. No honorable member does that kind of thing; but it- is a pity that the time of this House should be wasted upon such a motion. In Central Australia we have some of the most fertile land in all the continent, and yet it is lying idle and empty. We cannot hope to keep it if we do not put it to use; and, to do that, we must get into touch with it by Tail communication. It would be far better to spend the money which is being devoted to the establishment of the Capital, upon the construction of the North-South railway. I would prefer this Parliament to meet in the bracing interior of Australia, rather than at Canberra. I say to honorable members, “Let us go to that salubrious climate in the heart of Australia.”
– And let us die there!
– I would rather die at Alice Springs than at Canberra, for I am sure I would rest more peacefully. I trust that the motion will be withdrawn; but, at any rate, if I can get a seconder, I shall press my amendment, substituting the word “ Sydney ‘’ for “ Canberra.”
– What about some place in .South Australia?
– There are many places in that State which are far to be preferred.
– Mount Gambier, for example?
– There is no more ideal spot on the face of the earth in which honorable members could live, and work, and die. Am I to understand, sir, that my amendment is in order?
– I shall inform the honorable member when his ‘amendment is seconded.
.- The subject before the House does not concern the suitability or otherwise of Canberra as the site of the Federal Capital. That has already been determined. Some honorable members may think, apart altogether from their views as to the wisdom of the transfer, that it might not be possible for this Legislature to meet there by 1924. There is nothing to prevent our. performing our legislative duties at the Federal Capital if the Government so desire. It is of no use to raise arguments regarding the cost of building material. Present day costs are about as low as they ever will be. We can never hope to return to the “basis of prices ruling before the war. I trust, also, that the working-man’s pay will never be ‘lower than it is to-day; if Australia is to flourish we must see to it that the standard is not reduced. It is futile for opponents of Canberra to object that the proposed temporary Parliament House could not be built in time to accommodate us for the 1924 session. The history of the erection, both of the Sydney and the Melbourne Exhibition Buildings confounds that argument. Either of those two structures would be more than, ample to accommodate this Legislature, with its staffs and paraphernalia. The Sydney building was erected in nine months; and the Melbourne Exhibition Building, which was begun twelve months later, was built in a year. The work took rather longer, because the job was more’ substantial. Some of the annexes of the Exhibition Building in Sydney are of timber, while those in Melbourne are of brick and cement. No one will say that there is not sufficient material in the Melbourne Exhibition Building with which to rear a temporary Parliament House at Canberra; and no one will suggest that more labour must go to the building in the Federal Capital than was employed on the Melbourne work. Honorable members should make a special effort to rid themselves of the Little Australia sentiment which hinders the performance of their duties here. We should all aim to breathe the true Federal atmosphere, for that would do more than anything else in the direction of achieving the noble ambitions of those who fathered our Constitution.- There are some honorable members who take a very low national view. It would do them good if they were compulsorily transplanted to the wider, freer realm of the Federal Territory. The mere factor of decentralization is an important one; the Commonwealth would benefit if another centre were created rather than that the capital cities should become more and more congested. The Canadian and American peoples axe proud of their Federal Capitals; they are worthily . proud of the true Federal atmosphere which surrounds the work done in the National Legislature. I cannot understand, the objections of some honorable members to the establishment of the Australian Parliament at Canberra. The public generally would indorse the transfer two years hence. I have nothing to say against Melbourne or its people; I like them. . I admit that this city has very many more attractions than Canberra can possess, at any rate for a great number of years. But are there any members of Parliament who will be swayed in their judgment because, after the performance .of their duties in this building, they have become accustomed to amusing themselves at some vaudeville show down the street?
Another important consideration is that Melbourne is the home of only a small proportion of the members of this Parliament. It is a very serious consideration to quite a large number that they should be compelled to establish practically a second home in this city. I ask honorable members to set aside all those considerations, and see if they cannot rise above their own petty personal interests. Those who accept the responsibility of representing the people must be prepared to suffer some disabilities for the nation’s good. I admit that Melbourne from a’ social, personal point of view would be more suitable to me than Canberra, for I like plenty of company and brightness; but selfish considerations should be put out of mind. Unfortunately, some honorable members concentrate their thoughts upon getting rich quickly in Melbourne by attention to professional and business interests. .1, too, could engage in business in Melbourne if I wished to do so; but I would like to remind honorable members that the business of the country should be their first consideration. It is not right that honorable members- should rack their brains during the day in following their own callings, and give only the fag end of their energies and abilities to parliamentary duties. Even if an honorable member had a brain five times the size of his head, it would be sufficiently taxed if he were to devote himself thoroughly to studying the welfare of the nation. I, personally, am Australian in sentiment; my views. are not narrowed by. my association with Sydney, although- it is the greatest city in Australia.. One honorable member referred to South Australia, but the population of New South Wales is five times that . of - South Australia, and will double itself in another decade. Honorable members who have spoken in opposition to the motion have not established any valid reason for delaying the removal of the Federal Parliament to Canberra. I feel .confident that if we who are now in opposition were on the Government benches the Capital City .would be’ ready for occupation by the year 1924. Of course, nobody will dispute that the abilities of honorable members on this side of the House are much greater than are those of honorable members opposite. The past political history of the Commonwealth has demonstrated that to be a fact. I understand that the majority of the Government are now in favour of removing this Parliament to Canberra, and I appeal to the House to pass the motion in the best interests of Australia.
.- We all recognise the fact that the establishment of a Federal Capital was a condition of the Federal compact, and I have not heard one of the opponents of the removal to Canberra at the present time suggest a repudiation of that condition. Our opposition is based on the ground that the time is not opportune for the expenditure of a large sum of money to give effect to that project. It is recognised by everybody that, mainly through war causes, construction of every kind is very dear to-day, and some time must elapse before normal conditions oan be restored. People differ in opinion as to what normal conditions will be. I cannot see any prospect of returning to the conditions which prevailed prior to the great world war.
– Does the honorable member know of anybody who wants those conditions restored ?
– Nobody desires the Commonwealth to take a backward step. We boast that .Australia has become, a nation., and we cannot forget the sacrifices by which she attained that, dignity. The Great War upset the economic and industrial conditions throughout the world ; but we have been reminded by the Treasurer to-day that Australia has a bright future. We all hope that not only will the Commonwealth maintain its present prosperity, but that it will be looked upon- by the whole world, as a: fitting place inwhich to settle more people, establish new industries, and invest additional capital. Such things must make Australia a wealthier country than it is today. The optimistic Budget speech of the Treasurer was worthy of the man and the Commonwealth. But I do not see how anybody can reasonably suggest at this juncture that the Commonwealth should incur the expenditure of removing this Parliament to Canberra. I do not adopt that attitude merely because I am a Victorian representative. Naturally, I appreciate the atmosphere of Melbourne, and it seems to meet with the approval of honorable members from other States.
– Does the honorable member wish to keep the Federal Capital in Melbourne for ever?
– I do not suggest that Melbourne any more than any other city has a claim to be the seat of the Federal Government. But for the war I believe this Parliament would have been sitting in Canberra ere this. It may be said that our opposition to the spending of money on a bush capital at this juncture is due to the fact that we are Victorians ; but I remind the House that, in addition to the Victorian members, there are representatives of Tasmania, South Australia, and Western. Australia who are protesting against the proposed expenditure. The present Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) is not very anxious to rush this project forward.
– How does the honorable member know?
– I judge from the attitude the Minister has taken up during the last few days.
– If the honorable member is referring to the Age report of my speech, I have a pretty good answer to that.
– The Minister, through the columns of the press, has indicated that, although he is a convert to Canberra, he is not desirous of rushing headlong into a heavy expenditure.
– That report in the Age is one of the worst I have read.
– I should be surprised if theAge reported the Minister incorrectly, but the honorable gentleman will have ample opportunity to reply. The Advisory Committee which was appointed to prepare a scheme for the construction of the Federal Capital, in accordance with Mr. Griffin’s designs, reported that it would be necessary, to build the city in three stages. The expenditure already incurred at Canberra, including approximately £800,000 forthe purchase of land, amounts to nearly £2,000,000. The Public Works Committee reported that the cost of furnishing and equipping the proposed hostel wouldbe £15,000. I notice, also,in the report of the Committee that it is proposed to build two additional hostels, at a cost of £152,900, and I should like to know whether these are in addition to the hostel, the erection of- which we sanctioned the other day.
– I cannot help wondering whether we are not running ahead of the propositions or suggestions of the Committee - whether we are not in too great a hurry to meet the desire of New South Wales members, more particularly, to have the Seat of Government nearer their homes. I suggest the possi- ‘ bility that it is proposed to erect buildings of a temporary nature which must eventually be scrapped tol make room for permanent structures.
– Would you recommend that the buildings be of a. permanent character ?
– Not at this juncture.
– Because the Commonwealth to-day is not in . a position to lavish money on works that are absolutely unnecessary. Of course, in ten or twenty years, if funds then permit, we might move to Canberra; but there seems now to be too great a hurry in this regard, especially in view of the fact that there are so many other avenues in which expenditure is necessary. We haive heard some good news from the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) to-day, and We are hoping for quite a good time for this country within the next few years ; but, at the same time, while someof the money devoted to the Federal Capital will be reproductive, much of it will not, and in any case the expenditure cannot be reproductive for some considerable time. As I pointed out before,we have already spent about £2,000,000 on preliminary work, and it is suggested that thereshould be a further expenditure of £1,719,000. spread over three years. In the report of the Advisory Committee we are told -
Having briefly described theprinciples to be adopted and the more important of the works and services proposed for the first stage, the
Committee isnow in a position to give an estimate of cost, covering all services for that stage. For convenience, this is shown in schedule form, and amounts to £1,799,000, the expenditure of which sum would be spread over three years approximately in the proportions shown in the schedule.
I should like to know whether that report is being adhered to by the Government. Are the works there referred to being carried out?
– I laidon the table this morning the second year’s report, and it should prove interesting reading to the honorable member.
-I shall take an opportunity to read that report, which may furnish me with further information. This is a question that should not be approached from a party point of view, or from a Melbourne point of view; it is too important to be so regarded, and ought to be dealt with from a national point oi view. Of course, we do not see eye to eye with each other on many questions, and we are entitled to our different opinions, being responsible to no one but ourselves and our constituents for what we say or do. To me, personally, it is a matter of indifference whether we meet here in Melbourne or at Canberra. It is asserted that we ought to go to the permanent Seat of Government in order to remove ourselves from the influence of the press ; but this is an argument that does not appeal to me, because the press will have its representatives also at Canberra in order to keep the people informed as to the doings of the Parliament. I question very much whether any of us in our private business, if we were faced with heavy obligations,’ would launch out on a new venture of any magnitude in the way in which it is proposed that we should proceed with the works at Canberra. The whole business will cost this country, not hundreds of thousands, but millions of pounds, and we are really not now in a position to face the expenditure involved.
– We spent forty times as much on the Henderson Naval Base.
– That may be so, but what Parliament or person does not make mistakes? The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) reminded us very recently that it is very easy to be wise after the event, and no doubt the Government have made mistakes in the past. At present we are in a home provided for us by the courtesy of a kindly State Parliament. We have all the conveniences and facilities possible under existing conditions, and I cannot support a proposal to now expend a sum of £250,000. If I did support such a proposal, I should feel I was not doing my duty to my constituents, or to Australia as a whole. The question has been discussed until it is nearly threadbare, though it would be quite easy to declaim in trumpet voice on the merits or demerits of Canberra. It is, of course, unfortunate that we, who are opposed to this proposal, are in a minority, but the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) has told us that he has plenty of “fight” left in him, to enabli him to continue the battle. The Government declare that the work must proceed, but I urge that Victoria ought to be considered just as much as New South Wales or any other State. Only to-day a friend of mine, who is a man of large experience in the building trade, expressed the opinion that in regard to the Federal Capital it would be just as well to “ hang off “ for a time, owing to the high prices of material and labour. I myself claim to speak with a certain amount of experience of the building trade, and to-day, when I was in touch with some of the largest firms in town, I found it most difficult to make arrangements for the supply of labour and material. It is said that there are many men unemployed, and that may be true, but the question is whether these men are skilled or unskilled workmen. If the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) thought that employment could be provided by clearing ground at Canberra for future works, he would approve of expenditure for that purpose, but, of course, he knows that there are so many avenues in the Commonwealth in which unemployed labour could be absorbed on reproductive works, and, therefore, he declares that the projected expenditure at Canberra is totally unnecessary.
– We will get the money back again.
– I am surprised to hear the Minister claim that expenditure at Canberra, at a time when the cost of operations is excessively high, will prove reproductive. My main objection to the contemplated expenditure on the Federal Capital is that it is quite unnecessary. No one in this House has any desire to repudiate the compact made with the State of New South Wales.
– The honorable member is wobbling, as he did on the sugar question.
-I did not wobble on sugar. My attitude on that question has been quite consistent. I have never slipped since I have been a member of this House. I did not even slip on the Tariff. I supported many proposals for those high duties of which the honorable member who has just interjected is such an advocate. I gave my various votes in regard to sugar according to my conscience. We were given the Committee which was promised, and the figures for which we asked. I have to answer for my actions to my constituents, who are satisfied to give me a. free hand in the matter, and none of them would be so ridiculous as to consider it my duty to displace a Ministry simply for fun. I have never responded to the crack of any party whip. My votes are always dictated by my own conscience. Even on the matter of transferring the Seat of Government to Canberra, I am prepared to listen to any arguments put forward by older and more experienced honorable members. This Parliament should not be made up of men who simply walk in and out like machines. We do not want machinemade politics. We want men here who will vote according to their conscience, and not from fear of any Government Whip or pressure outside. I have been falsely charged with having been afraid of the Government Whip, and of what the Government might do to me outside; but those honorable members who make the charge are themselves subject to the crack of the whip and outside pressure. They have been told by the people of New South Wales to get Canberra built no matter how it may affect the fate of any Government. I agree with them that the building of the Federal Capital is a part of the Federal compact, and Victorian members have no desire to repudiate that compact. The honorable members for Kooyong and Fawkner do not oppose the transfer of the Seat of Government to Canberra for the sake of kudos. There isnot much of that left in the question. It has been so threshed out that the people now accept
Canberra as a foregone conclusion, but there are still some honorable members who are under the impression that by hammering away at it they may secure further converts to their own views, like the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster), who is now asking Parliament to hurry matters at Canberra by spending another £250,000 this year in addition to the unexpended balance of £129,000 still available. Surely the latter sum should be ample for current operations at the present excessive cost of building. It is all very well for the honorable members for Eden Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) and Illawarra (Mr. Hector Lamond) to advocate the building of a Federal Capital at Canberra in the heart of the former’s electorate. These honorable members accuse Victorian representatives of being afraid of the Age and the Argus and the Housewives Association. But they themselves are afraid to say exactly what they believe. The Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) points the finger at me, and says, “ You have slipped.”
– A guilty conscience.
– I did not slip on the particular orange peel to which the honorable member is referring.
– No ; it was sugar.
– As I have already said, I gave my vote on the sugar question according to my conscience, and I am glad to know that this House and the country got from the Government what was required of them, despite the attitude taken up by honorable members opposite. The honorable member himself “ slipped “ on a question relating to one of the most important industries in the Commonwealth. I do not blame him, however, because I know that he voted as his conscience dictated. I have never been “whipped” into giving a vote. It is said that the representatives of Victoria are afraid of the Age, the Argus, and the Herald, and are influenced by them in the votes whichthey give in this House. I can only say that if this were so I should not have voted as I did recently on certain questions. As a matter of fact, I have voted quite recently in direct opposition to the views advocated by those newspapers in respect to certain matters. The representatives of New South Wales have been “ whipped “ to support the early removal of the Federal
Parliament to. Canberra. We all know the extent to which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is influenced by the Queanbeyan Age.
– What did the honorable member say at Malvern?
– I said that I was a free lance, and would vote as I pleased. The honorable member undoubtedly has regard for the views expressed by newspapers in his own electorate. When he comes here and criticises the Government, practically tearing it to pieces, he gets half a column in the local newspaper, as to the stand taken up by him. The press is entitled to criticise us, and I enjoy its criticism provided that it is genuine. The Budget statement delivered to-day by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) was an excellent one, especially when we remember that the honorable gentleman has been in office for only a few months.
– The honorable member is now departing from the great subject of Canberra, and is discussing the Budget.
– In the Budget we are told that provision is being made for an expenditure of something like £250,000 this year on the building of Canberra, and I am therefore entitled to refer to it. If this motion be carried we shall spend in the immediate future not £250,000, but a great deal more on the building of the Capital. My opposition to the building of the Federal Capital at presentisnot founded upon selfish motives. I oppose the scheme because I believe that the money could be spent to better advantage on reproductive works, which would find employment for returned soldiers and many others now out of work.I urge the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to withdraw his motion.
– How is the honorable member going to vote?
– I shall vote against it.
– What did the honorable member say at Brighton ?
– From various public platforms I have announced my opposition to the expenditure of large sums of money on the building of the Federal Capital. If the honorable member were the representative of some other division he would not be so enthusiastic in his support of the case for the building of a Bush Capital. In the entrance-hall of this building there are paintings which show that the Canberra district is practically desert country. The honorable member for Barker (Mr. Livingston), who speaks from his heart, has told us this afternoon that in Canberra there is neither timber nor stone for building purposes. In schedule H of the report of the Advisory Committee there appears a list of the works that are to : be carried out in certain stages. I cannot understand the motives and actions of the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster). Only a comparatively few months ago, the Minister, who is now “ fathering “ this wildcat scheme, “ fathered “ those members who were the most emphatically opposed to it. I remember how he behaved on a deputation to the Prime Minister, when he said, “ For God’s sake, shut down expenditure on this Canberra business.” The kindest thing I can say of him is that he is inconsistent. While I concede him the right to change his mind, we, who once made him our spokesman, have an equal right to remain of the same mind. It seems to be only a few days ago since I saw the Minister walking up and down outside of this chamber, red in the face, swinging his arms wildly, and saying, “ I will protest even unto death.” He was equally vehement when he said, “ I will not follow any Government who will be so wasteful as to spend any more money on the Federal Capital.” However, it would appear that there is a majority in this Chamber which will support the Government in spending another £250,000 this year. Honorable members appear to have been whipped into subservience. They have been threatened that if they are not consistent in their support, they may suffer from a shrinkage of their campaign funds.
– Order! The time allotted’ for the consideration of Orders of the Day has expired .
– I understood that honorable members were to be given the benefit of the same length of time as their business would ordinarily have received on private members’ business day if the Budget had not intervened.
– That is quite true: but that time has to be divided between Orders of the Day and Motions, The time devoted to Orders of the Day and to notices of motion has been, allotted in the same proportion as if the Treasurer’s Budget speech had not intervened. Those combined periods will now carry the consideration of notices of motion on to 9.40 p.m. instead of 6.30 p.m.
– What will become of my motion which has just been debated 1
– It will not disappear from the notice-paper.
.- I move -
That, in the opinion of this House, old-age and invalid pensions should be increased to One pound per week.
Rather than that I should make a long speech upon this subject-matter, I would prefer a vote to be taken.
– You voted against an increase of the pensions the other day. ‘
– That is untrue !
– It is not !
– Is the honorable member in order in. saying that I voted against an increase of pensions?
– The honorable member is not in order in interjecting, and I must ask him to cease from doing so; but I must also ask the honorable member for Eden-Monaro to withdraw his statement that what the honorable member said by way of interjection is untrue.
– I withdraw. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) was up in the billiard -room, no doubt, when the vote to which he has referred was taken. If he would keep away from the bar and the billiard-room he would know what is going on in this chamber.
– The ‘honorable member is joking, of course. He has never seen me in the billiard-room.
– The honorable member pretends that he does not go there.
– The honorable member is not speaking to the motion.
– The reason for my moving as I have done is that I am of opinion that the present weekly amount of pension is inadequate. I refuse to believe that this country is so poor that it cannot pay a little more to its aged and invalid folk. The Old-age Pensions Act was passed in 1908. The matter of fixing the sum which pensioners should receive was placed in the hands of a Committee, which subsequently became a Royal Commission. I had the honour of being its chairman. We visited all the States, and took evidence in every capital. We had actuaries at work throughout Australia in order to ascertain what the payment of pensions would cost the country; and we had to determine what we thought Australia could afford to pay, keeping in view the minimum sum on which pensioners could be expected to live. The Commission came to the conclusion that 10s. a week was the least amount on which a pensioner could subsist. To-day, £1 a week is not more than was 10s. fourteen years ago. The Commonwealth is rich enough to be able to afford to look after its poor people and invalids a little better than it does to-day. We are not keeping them half alive upon the present basis of payment. We long ago accepted the principle of payment of .pensions, and we have confirmed it by increasing the payments first to 12s. 6d., and now to 15s. a week. Can we not now do a little more, not merely to help deserving old people to barely subsist, but to recognise that many of them were the pioneers who made it possible for us to live in far greater comfort than they have ever been able to do? What is the use of our affirming that the principle is right if we are going only half way to honour it ? The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) held out some hope to-day that, when the state of the finances permitted, something might be done for pensioners. I have every confidence in the Treasurer; I know that he would do the best he could. This is no party matter. It is to the Treasurer that we must all look to find the money; but he is in a very difficult position. While we may talk, and urge, and take no responsibility, he is the accredited custodian of the public purse, and it is his task to endeavour to make ends meet. Foc that reason I am persuaded of the sincerity of his statements to-day regarding the hope of increasing the pension rate. May I be permitted to add that his Budget has done the “ Treasurer the greatest credit? It was the finest Budget Speech to which honorable members have had .the pleasure of listening in this chamber. It should have the effect of giving confidence to the people, and that is what is needed. I trust that the outcome will be to make Australia a still richer nation, so bringing us nearer to my ideal of paying our. old folk and invalids a sum approximating that to which they are really entitled. The Treasurer told us to-day, after having consulted financial experts, and after having in recent years been abroad, that Australia is in a better financial condition than is any other country in the world. That being so, something should be done to further assist the old folks. I think, also, that the Treasurer should be in a position to ease some of the terms of the Old-age Pensions Act. At present the administration is cumbersome, although I give officers of the Department credit for their sympathetic attitude. They give generous and reasonable consideration to most of the old people who have to come to them for money. I was chairman of the Commission that inquired into pensions, and that body laid down the principle that the pension was not a charity dole. After all, the man who has blazed the track and has worked in the backwoods is as much entitled to consideration as are those who, though they have never been in hail and snow, have never experienced hard times or known what if is to be doubtful whence the next week’s rent or food would come, yet receive higher pensions. Parliament decided in 1908 that the aged poor should not go hungry or ill-clad. The original pension was 10s. per week ; but when food became dearer, and clothes were more difficult to obtain, the amount was increased to 12s. 6d. Later conditions again became harder, and Parliament, practically unanimously, raised the pension to 15s. a week. Yet to-day that sum does not purchase as much food and clothes as 10s. did when the principal Act was passed. I rely upon that fact as one of the strongest arguments in favour of the increase in the pension. After all, what would it cost?
– An increase of 2s. 6d. would cost £1,000,000, and an increase of 5s., £2,000,000.
– I would be content if I could get for the old people another 2s. 6d. The House might well decide to make easier the lot of the aged poor.
– Why did not the honorable member vote for an increase?
– I advise the honorable member not to interrupt me, or I shall say some nasty things about him. He need not be angry because his salary is to be cut down.
– My salary is not to be cut down. I have never taken more than £600.
– The honorable member said, in the House, that he would pay part of his salary to some of his German friends in his electorate.
– I said I would pay it to widows.
– The honorable member, while paying money to Germans, poses as a patriotic Australian. I will quote later what the honorable member said on that occasion.
– Anything I said will bear repetition.
– The honorable member must not think that brazen effrontery will pass for intelligence in this House.
– These personalities are out of order. The honorable member for Angas must not continue to interject. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro must keep to the motion before the Chair.
– I do not think that the estimated cost of an increase of the pension will deter any honorable member from supporting the motion. The proposal is not new; it has been on the business-paper repeatedly. It was discussed quite recently, and it was to that occasion that the honorable member for Angas referred by interjection. The Opposition submitted a proposal in regard to pensions, but the carrying of the motion would have involved the defeat of the Government, and, consequently, many honorable members who are friends of the pensioners - no man dare say that I have not stood by the pensioners - had to vote against the proposal. That .attempt to fire the Government out reminds me of a story. A speaker, addressing an audience, said, “ Now you come to two roads. One leads to destruction and the other leads to damnation. What are you going to do ! “
A man in the audience said, “ I am taking to the woods.” That is what many of us had to do when the Opposition brought forward their proposal in regard to an increase of the pension. I was not prepared to cast a vote which would put honorable members opposite on the Treasury bench.
– The honorable member prevented the pensioners from getting an increase.
-No ; they couldnot ha ve obtained an increase as the result of that motion. The only effect of it would have been to put the Governmentout of office.
– That would not have been a bad thing.
– When the honorable member trades on the poor of the Commonwealth for electioneering purposes he is making their lot more difficult. I doubt the earnestness of honorable members opposite when they adopt such tactics in regard to this question. Why should the pensions of the poor be a party question ? Do honorable members opposite contend that honorable members who sit on the Treasury bench have not as much consideration for the poor and sick as have they themselves? The fact that the members on this side do not pose as representing one particular class, and do not pander to them in order to secure seats in Parliament, is no evidence that their hearts are not as warm and their intentions as honest as are those of honorable members opposite. This notice of motion, has been on the business-paper for a long time. When the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) brought forward his proposal, earnestly and with good intention I admit, I refused to take a point of order against him, although ifI had done so the debate on his proposal could not have taken place. I preferred to let honorable members put forward their electioneering pretext, for I argued that the people who supported them must be fools indeed if they could not see through such a ruse. When honorable members return to the hustings they will find that the electors are not such asses as some of their representatives may think they are. I resent accusations from a “ Johnny-come-lately from South Australia “ He and his colleagues made these statements with the object of quoting them from Hansard to the people outside this House. But whilst the people who return those honorable members to Parliament may have been foolish at the last election, they are quite intelligent enough to see through these little dodges.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m
– I have very little to add. My reasons for proposing this motion may be briefly summarized. I think this country is rich enough to give these old people: and invalids a reasonable living allowance. It cannot be disputed that 10s. in 1908, when, I think, the Act was passed, would buy as much food and clothing, suitable for these people, as £1 can buy to-day; so that in raising the pensions to the amount proposed we are only placing them on the same footing as formerly. I know that taxation is heavy, and that people cannot bear more; but there are many avenues in which savings can be made in order to provide increased pensions. Why do we require two Savings Banks and two sets of officials? Why do we require two Electoral Departments, with two sets of electoral rolls, and all the attendant expenses? Why do we require two Taxation Departments?
– Are you sure the amalgamation of the Taxation Departments would be a benefit?
– I am certain it would prove better than the present arrangement. If we wish to have two Taxation Departments we ought to have two sets of taxpayers.
– Are you sure that in Western Australia the amalgamation has been to the benefit of the taxpayer?
– I have not the practical experience of the amalgamation in that State to be able to say.
– I have.
– What I mean is that, if a State is charging a taxpayer an income tax of1s. in the £1, and the Commonwealth is charging him 6d. or 9d., a great saving could be made by the Commonwealth collecting the whole and handing the State the1s.
– Why do we require so many Parliaments?
– I agree with the honorable member that there are too many Parliaments. It would be better to do away with the State Parliaments and their 600 odd members, for surely one Parliament is sufficient. This National Parliament could do the national work - and looking after these old people is a national work - and then we could do away with all the Governors and Government Houses. In this way money could be provided for old-age pensions without resorting to extra taxation. Many of the advocates of an increase in the amount of the pension are not advocates of extra taxation; and certainly, if instead of seven Governors and Government Houses, with fourteen Parliament! Houses, the national work were left to the National Parliament, the people in the country could be relied upon to look after their own affairs - all the wise men are not in the cities. Then, again, I suggest that, instead of bringing these old-age pensioners to a post-office on a certain day to collect their pensions, it would be much easier if the Government arranged to pay the pension every fortnight, or every month, to the credit of the pensioners in some savings bank. If that were done the old people, if they did not require the money on a particular day, could go some other day, whereas at present they have to attend personally, or obtain the services of an agent at some cost to themselves. Such a plan would tend to economy, for doubtless if the money were placed in a savings bank the old people would not draw it out unless it were absolutely necessary to do so. I remind the House, too, that there is a savings bank now within the reach of every one in the country.
– The State Children’s Relief Department adopts that plan in New South Wales.
– If so, it has adopted a very good one. Many of the old people have to walk, or, at any rate, travel miles in order to obtain their pensions, or, as I say, pay for the services of an agent.
– And very often they have to wait a long while at the postoffice.
– That is so. I submit that it would ‘ be a vast improvement if the old-age pensioners were allowed to earn money for themselves in addition to the pension. In my district there is a man over sixty-five years of age, who occasionally gets, a little work, and when he does so, it militates against his pension to the extent, perhaps, of 5s. or 10s. This particular man does not object to that so much, because he prefers to work if he can; but if he happens to lose his job, he has great difficulty in getting on the pension pay roll again. I am not speaking thus in any carping spirit, because, notwithstanding the complaints of many of these old people, the officials of the Department, considering the awkward job they have> are very sympathetic, and do their work exceedingly well. Honorable members know that whenever they have occasion to write or interview those officials, they and the pensioners concerned receive ail consideration. I suggest, however, that a better method than the present should be adopted.
– The present method is a tax on thrift.
– Quite so. I confess I do not quite see what the Treasurer could do in the direction I have suggested, but it seems to me that it would be easy to have the money paid to the credit of the pensioners in a savings bank. One objection I have heard to the plan is the difficulty of insuring that the death of a pensioner is properly recorded, and that the money does not get into the wrong hands. In any case, I think the plan I suggest would be an improvement. As to the two savings banks and two sets of officials, the State Governments in many country towns are buying expensive land on which to erect banks, in order to compete with the Commonwealth Savings Bank.
– The Commonwealth Bank first attacked the State Savings Banks.
– The Commonwealth Savings Bank is carried on ‘in the post-offices taken over from the States, over which we have control. The only thing we do not seem to do is .to increase the number of taxpayers; I mean that we do not encourage people to go on the land and so forth, although we talk a great deal about such matters. I am opposed to fresh taxation, because I think we are just about at breaking point.
– We shall have to wait a long time for economy if we wait for an amalgamation of the savings banks’.
– The honorable member may be right, for we find the Departments going to law with each other, and employing King’s counsel, in order to settle what functions belong to the State, and what to the Commonwealth. It seems to me that if the Commonwealth Government were strong enough it should “ present a pistol “ at the heads of the States. After all, the Commonwealth has to find the money.
– Not for the savings banks.
– Yes, for the savings banks.
– Not in my State.
– Anyhow, what percentage of the whole taxation does the honorable member’s State pay? The State I come from pays half the taxation of the Commonwealth; we find the money, and those gentlemen from other States make all the noise.
– Who is making all the noise now?
– How much does South Australia contribute to the Commonwealth taxation? Considering the noise that the small States make, it would, perhaps, be better to form a company and buy some of them.
– We pay the land and income tax.
– But how much does that amount to? I am always pleased to see men standing up for their own State, but New South- Wales is a State of which we may be proud, for it provides half the revenue of the country. What would happen if New South Wales were to stand out of the Federation to-morrow?
– That has nothing to do with the question before the Chair.
– There is too much expenditure in this country, and it is the business of the Commonwealth to reduce it; and much saving could be made in the three or four directions I . have indicated, thus leaving additional money for old-age pensions. I have pleasure in submitting the motion, and I hope we shall have an opportunity to go to a vote.
– Would you vote for it if it did go to a vote? You did not the last time.
– The honorable member has no right to say that sort of tiring, because it only breeds “ trouble in the camp.” What right has the honorable member to question my sincerity in this matter?”
– I do so because you voted against the motion to increase oldage pensions.
– That is not true. The honorable member knows that that motion was a placard for the elections.
– It was to increase the pensions:, and you voted against it.
– It was a motion to put the Government out. After all, while I am keen on many of the proposals I advocate, I am not keen to put the Opposition on the Treasury bench.
– You put your party first!
– I put my country first. If the motion referred to had been carried, we should have had a very different Budget to-day.
– Even if that motion had been carried, it wouldnot necessarily have meant a Labour Government on the Treasury bench.
– It would have meant putting this Government out.
– It might have meant a reconstruction of the present Government.
– In which the honorable member for Eden-Monaro might have been Treasurer !
– I would not care for the job. Judging from what some honorable members opposite have done, I am afraid that if they had control of the Treasury, they would want to do away with the Auditor-General. We have had a Labour Government in power ; but I deny the right of honorable members opposite to arrogate to themselves solely the title of Labour representatives. There are men in the corner, and on the Government benches, who have done as much for labour as have those honorable members opposite who so loudly voice their own virtues from the housetops. Their standing up here and proclaiming themselves Labour representatives does not prove their sincerity. I judge those honorable members by their deeds. Who gavethe labouring classes the great privileges they enjoy to-day?
– Who gave them old-age pensions ?
– What Government gave the working classes shorter hours?
– Order ! The honorable member is goingbeyond the question.
– I am asked who gave us old-age pensions, and I reply that it was a Liberal Government. I know that many of my honorable friends opposite are honestly and sincerely in favour of old-age pensions. I know that they will do their very best for the old-age pensioners. I trust that this will not be made a party, question. The honorable member for [Darling has no need to accuse me of insincerity in regard to it, because I would not vote for the amendment to the Address-in-Reply submitted by the Leader of the Opposition, which I regarded as a “ catch motion.”
– Is not yours a “ catch motion?”
– I am quite clear on that score. No one knows better than does the honorable member that I could have stopped the debate on his Leader’s amendment if I had chosen to raise a point of order.
– I did not raise the point of order because I wanted to give honorable members an opportunity to make their electioneering speeches. However, I trust that my motion will be debated and agreed to. The country can afford to pay increased pensions; and it is quiteevident to all that an increase is necessary.
– I am surprised at the honorable member for EdenMonaro moving a motion for the purpose of trying to get invalid and old-age pensions increased from 15s. to £1 per week, because only a few weeks ago he voted against a definite proposal submitted in this House by the Leader of the Opposition for the liberalizing of the invalid and old-age pensions. I do not intend to speak very long on this occasion. I have already, in the previous debate, expressed my views on the subject; but the point is that I voted as I spoke. The constituents of the honorable member for EdenMonaro will not find by a perusal of his speech of to-day and of his vote of six weeks ago, that consistency which one expects in a representative of the people in this House. When the honorable member submitted his motion, I interjected, just as the honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) subsequently did - although I noticed that he was treated more courteously than I was. I interjected, “ But you voted against it.” The honorable member said, “ That is not true,” a statement which he afterwards had to withdraw. The records show that the honorable member voted with the “Noes” upon the following amendment submitted by the Leader of the Opposition to the motion for the adoption of the AddressinReply : -
We regret that your advisers have made no provision to liberalize the old-age and invalid pensions.
By his vote the honorable member said that he did not regret that the Government had made no provision for liberalizing these pensions, and my interjection hardly called for his remark when he said, “ If the honorable member will keep away from billiards and the bar, he will know what happens in this House.” I suppose that if I had risen immediately and said that these words were objectionable, they would have been withdrawn. However, I must defend myself against such aspersions. I defy any one in this House to say that he has ever played a game of billiards with me.
– The honorable member knows that what I said was jocular. I know that he does not play billiards.
– It was not jocular. The remark was made with a good deal of feeling. A similar statement was made by the honorable member on a previous occasion, and he subsequently said that if I would delete certain remarks from my recorded speech, he would take some out of his when correcting his Hansard proof if Mr. Speaker would sanction the omission. This sort of thing has happened again, and I do not propose to take it lying down. Honorable members on this side have said to me when the honorable member for Eden-Monaro is on his feet, “ Go easy; he gets excited,” and I have spared the honorable member, but I have done with all that now. When he attacks me I shall attack him. Unfortunately, I cannot play billiards. In the two and a half years I have been in this House I have not been in the billiard Toom more than once or twice. In regard to beer drinking, honorable members might describe me as a “ Jimmy Woodser,” but not one can say that I have ever had a drink at the bar in the refreshment room. Therefore, when the honorable member, in a burst of anger, or in an attempt to browbeat another and prevent him from putting in a pertinent interjection, makes statements which are quite contrary to fact, and practically descends to gutter tactics, I have a perfect right to stand up to him.. I interjected as I did because I hate inconsistency, and, as the honorable member had voted six weeks ago against an increase for old-age pensioners, I could have no other opinion than that he was inconsistent when he submitted the motion to-night, particularly as a couple of hours previously the Treasurer had told honorable members that, although the Government had an accumulated surplus of £6,000,000, they could not see their way clear to increase old-age pensions without resorting to increased taxation. In face of the attitude of the Government, the honorable member could not have been sincere in submitting his motion. He has told us that he could not support the amendment of the Leader of the Opposition because, had he done so, it would have meant the defeat of the Government, as would probably have been the case, so that when it comes to a question of considering the interests of the old-age pensioners as against the fate of the Government, the honorable member prefers to sacrifice the former. I accept that admission on his part. The purport of his remark to which I have taken exception was that I was neglecting my business in this House.
– It is a long time since the honorable member called for a quorum.
– I was coming to the quorum business. It is not because I have not been in the chamber; but first let me deal with the purport of the honorable member’s charge, namely, that I have been neglecting my business in this House. The attendance roll shows that I have been in attendance on 200 days, as against 132 days on which the honorable member has been here. That is to say, for every two days he has been at his work in this chamber I have been here three, days. The honorable member remarked that I should have my salary decreased. Let me tell the honorable member that if he has been drawing his £1,000 a year, I have not, so that the proposed reduction in salary would not affect me. Now as for the quorum matter.
– Order !
– I am. accused- of having neglected my work in this House, but there is abundant proof that I have attended to it, and I think that I have a perfect right to produce evidence to defend myself.
– The question before the House has nothing to do with quorums. The honorable member has not said very much about the motion. As for his desire to refer to the matter of quorums, I may inform him. that it is just as disorderly to reply to an interjection as it is to make the interjection itself.
– You seek to prevent me from referring to the matter of quorums on the ground that it has nothing to do with the business before the House. Have beer and billiards anything to do with the Business before the House?
– If the honorable member will carry his mind back to the circumstances under which that statement was made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman), he will remember that he was guilty at the time of making a disorderly interjection, which drew from the honorable member who was addressing the Chair the retort complained of. It is only another illustration of what is likely to happen as the result of making interjections, and now the honorable member himself is devoting most of his time to replying to something said in answer to a disorderly interjection made by himself. I have not interrupted the honorable member so far because, as the honorable member for Eden-Monaro had made the statement complained of in retorting to the interjection, I thought it only fair that the honorable member should be allowed sufficient latitude to say something in refutation. However, the matter has now gone far enough.
– I know that it will be unavailing on my part to protest, but I have a lively recollection of what happened last session when I took occasion to utter a protest against something said in this House, and I cannot help remarking that I am extremely sorry the rules of the House prevent me from expressing my thoughts. In the previous debate, and in this debate, the honorable member for Eden-Monaro roamed from Daa to Beersheba and nothing was said.
– The honorable member is now reflecting on the Chair. I called the. honorable member for EdenMonaro to order on more than one occasion. He had an opportunity of rising immediately after the speech of the honorable member for Eden-Monaro and making a personal explanation before proceeding with his speech upon the motion itself, and would then have been perfectly in order in refuting any misrepresentation concerning himself that may have been made. But he is not in order in reflecting on the Chair. I am anxious to be perfectly fair to every honorable member. If honorable members would refrain from interjections there would be no provocation for heated retorts and personalities.
– I know that I have to bow to your ruling, sir, but if I were eer- tain that we were on the eve of an election* I would say something more, and I shall probably say it when we come to the end of this Parliament. I will not hide my feelings. However, if I have to deal strictly with the matter of old-age pensions I will do so. All I can say is that as I have spoken I have voted, and that in this House votes count for a good deal more than “ gab.” Honorable members may laugh, but they know very well that that was not an accidental statement on my part. They know that votes count for more than talk, and that my vote and my voice have always been used in the cause of the invalid and old-age pensioners. I rose this evening, not so much to fight their claim- since I have fought for it again and again - as to defend myself against some of the statements concerning me which had been made by the honorable member for Eden-Monaro.
.- It is just about time that definite action was taken to provide a reasonable living pension for the old and infirm of the community. That which they receive to-day is absolutely inadequate to maintain them . in any degree of comfort. Their position has been .’going from bad Ito woree. The increased cost of living, as well as other things, has added to their difficulties. But when we asked the other day that their pensions be increased, we were told that the Government were not prepared to grant them any measure of relief. It is to be regretted that the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), as announced by him in his Budget statement to-day, is not prepared to increase the invalid and old-age pensions. It is a strange commentary upon the administration of the Commonwealth’s affairs. To use the :words of the Treasurer, “ this rich young country in which we have unbounded confidence” is not prepared to provide a reasonable living allowance for the old people who have borne the heat and burden of the day, and who have done its pioneering work. In their declining years they find that “ this rich young country,” made rich by their labour, is not prepared to render to them a fair return for what they have done in its interests. Is it not also a strange commentary upon the administration of the Government that the Treasurer announces that out of the accumulated surplus he is prepared to allocate something like £3,000,000 to relieve the ; burden of taxation on the shoulders of the wealthy, while he is not ready to do anything more for the old people of the community ? He is willing in this way to reduce taxation on wealthy companies which exploited Australia during the years of the war - companies that made profits out of the lives and sacrifices of the men of Australia. - but he and his colleagues, while prepared to take £3,000,000 out of the accumulated surplus for that purpose, are not willing to find another penny to help the old-age pensioners.
– The honorable member is anticipating the discussion of another question.
– I would expect such an objection from the honorable member. Any subterfuge is good enough to enable honorable members opposite to evade their responsibility to the old people of Australia. What do I care for the honorable member’s technical objections? The great outstanding fact is that thousands of old men and women are crying for justice. They cannot exist upon the miserable pension which they are receiving to-day. I would set aside mere technicalities, I would brush aside all the flummeries of procedure, in order to obtain for these old people an .adequate allowance.
We have also to consider the position of the invalid. One would imagine that, even if the Government were not prepared to do justice to the aged poor of the community, the unfortunate plight of the invalid would appeal to them. As it is, an invalid member of a family, the average earnings of which amount to £1 per head per week, cannot obtain a pension if he lives with his parents. If, however, his parents are prepared to throw him into the street - to refuse to maintain him - ‘the Government will grant him an invalid pension. We all know of families of four, five, or six, where the father is receiving a basic wage of £4 or £5 per week, and where a pension is denied an invalid member of the family so long as that father maintains him. If the Treasurer would give a little attention to the claims of invalid children so situated he would do good service.
– Is the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) in order in threatening the honorable member for EdenMonaro (Mr. Austin Chapman).
– Do not be silly;
– It is a pity that some of the old-age and invalid pensioners of Australia cannot see for themselves the attitude adopted by many honorable members opposite towards this question. This is a matter that should not be treated lightly. A few months hence, when we go to the country, honorable members opposite will be telling the aged and the invalid what they are prepared to do for them; but now, when by their votes they could do something for these people, we find them treating the whole subject in a light-hearted way. The Treasurer says that the Government cannot find the money to provide adequate pensions for invalid children who are living with their parents, but they can find money to relieve of taxation the exploiters. They can find means to relieve wealthy monopolies like the Colonial Sugar Refining Company and other great corporations of taxation to the extent of a fO per cent, reduction, involving something like £3,000,000, but not one farthing can they find to relieve the sufferings’ of invalid and old-age pensioners.
– Why did not the Labour Government grant them relief when they were in power?
– They did. Despite the opposition of men like the honorable gentleman, the Labour party, when iu office, was able to put upon the statutebook of the Commonwealth a measure providing for invalid and old-age pensions.
– They did not introduce that legislation. The honorable member’s statement is incorrect.
– I shall tell the honorable member something that will prove to be correct, and that is, that when, as the result of the next general election, we are returned to power, justice will be done to the invalid and the aged. Their pensions will be immediately increased. Instead of availing ourselves of the accumulated surplus to reduce the burden of taxation upon the shareholders of the wealthy, we shall see that the wealthy pay their fair share of taxation in order to provide the funds necessary for the maintenance of the old people of the community. By means of taxation we shall compel the wealthy to find the revenue necessary to maintain invalid children who are denied a pension by the present Government. These are some of the things for which our party stands. Unlike the present occupants of the Treasury bench, instead of talking about these reforms we shall carry them out when we are returned to power. I hope the day is not far distant when the people of Australia will be given an opportunity to return to power the Austraiian Labour party, so that justice may be done to the old and the invalid of the Commonwealth.
.- There seems to be a tendency on the part of some honorable members to make speeches on this question for purely political purposes, and to use the invalid and old-age pensioners as the football of politics. The case of those who are in receipt of old-age and invalid pensions is deserving of very care ful consideration, since their lot is by no means an easy one. We were told to-day by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) that, having given the matter the most careful attention, he cannot see his way to propose an increase. As the result of the increased cost of living the purchasing power of the invalid and old-age pensions to-day is little more than half what it was a few years ago.
– How did the honorable member vote on the last occasion.
– The movement of the Opposition in respect to pensions on the last occasion was a vote of censure on the Government, which I opposed. I take the view that our charitable institutions, and particularly the benevolent asylums, which are doing splendid work for the poor, should receive much greater assistance than is at present accorded them. They spend their money more wisely and judiciously in the interests of the feeble and the aged than those people could spend it for themselves, and they are not receiving the assistance to which they are entitled. The Act itself is largely responsible for the trouble which exists respecting old-age pensions; and, to a degree, similar criticism may be applied in the matter of invalid, pensions. As it stands, the Act encourages idleness. 1 know of pensioners all over Australia who are quite able to earn a few shillings with which to add certain necessaries and comforts to those which their pensions may buy. But, as soon* as they do a little work, some busy-body reports them, and the amount of their pension is cut down. When a pension has been granted, its recipient should not be interfered with. He or she should be encouraged, rather, to earn a few shillings to be added to the amount paid weekly by the Government. If the Act were liberalized in that direction there would be hundreds of pensioners only too ready to take advantage of it. I know of cases i» my own electorate where invalids, although they may be unable to work during the greater part of the year, are, at certain times and seasons, capable of doing various light tasks.’ And they would willingly perform them in order to make a little more money ; but, as soon as they get a bit of work, they run the risk of sustaining a reduction in the amount of their pension. This point is worthy of grave con sideration. Also, reasonable and liberal assistance should be afforded to the various benevolent Institutions.
.- I agree with the honorable member who has just resumed his seat that something more should be done for the inmates of benevolent institutions. The way in which old-age pensions are administered to-day creates invidious distinctions. I see no reason why the Government should not grant to all inmates of benevolent asylums the asylum pension, at any rate, of 2s. per week. In some instances, inmates receive that sum, while others are not entitled to it.
– They are refused it on a technicality.
– Practically on a technicality; sometimes, because they are inmates of the hospital attached to the institution in question. These unfortunates, owing to their invalid condition, are unable to go outside of its walls. If ordinary inmates have friends outside who will take them in and provide a temporary home, they may leave the institution and apply for the old-age pension. And, provided that the home in which they are temporarily residing is satisfactory to the Department, the applicants are paid the pension. If they return to the institution while still in receipt of the pension, the Department continues to pay them 2s. per week. It pays the institution 10s. per week, and the Commonwealth makes a profit of the remaining 3s. Many inmates of benevolent institutions now adopt the practice of temporarily going into friends’ homes, so- that, upon their subsequent return, they shall be eligible to receive the weekly sum of 2s.
– They take a risk by leaving. The/y may have their pension stopped.
– I am referring to inmates of benevolent asylums who have not previously been in receipt of the pension. After they have been out for a month they are eligible to make application. Indeed, they often have the necessary papers prepared for them in the asylum. These documents may actually be sent on to the Department before they have temporarily left the institution.
After a brief absence, I repeat, they return, and are eligible to receive the 2s.; and the institution is paid 10s. The invidious distinction to which I have referred arises between those who have not been made eligible and who, therefore, do not receive any amount of pension and those who have taken the necessary steps and are iii receipt of the weekly dole. If they are inmates of the hospital attached to the institution they are, unfortunately, prevented by their state of health from going outside in order to become eligible to apply to the Department. But the fact is that those inmates who are the most urgently in need of the 2s. are the Hospital patients who cannot secure it. They may find even that small weekly sum capable of purchasing them various little comforts and attentions, perhaps, from their fellow inmates; but the 2s. is not available to them. Thus, there are created in all such institutions two different classes. The favoured class draws the 2s. and buys small luxuries and attentions, while the other and most needy class - at least, from the view-point of health - can get nothing. The distinction should be done away with. The Commonwealth should be ready and willing to pay all these inmates 2s. per week, thus putting all on the same basis. Such a proposal would make no great additional drain upon the resources of the Commonwealth. However, the Government take the view that if they pay the asylum pension of 2s. to the inmates of an institution they will be compelled, to pay the States 10s. per week for their maintenance). This, to my mind, is not necessary. Surely the small payment of 2s. could be arranged without incurring the larger expenditure. In any case, the sum would be drawn from the amount of 15s., which would be paid to these persons if they were pensioners.
There has been experienced much difficulty with respect to invalid pensions, particularly in the cases of those who reside with their parents.’ I know of some families which’ are in great distress. A specific case recently came under my attention. In one home there was a daughter thirty years of age who was imbecile and paralytic, so that she could not in any way attend to herself. The father, aged seventy-one, was blind. The mother and the remaining daughter were endeavouring to keep the house going, and to look after the two helpless mem bers of the family. Originally, they had owned their little home; but they got into financial difficulties, and were compelled to sell ; the proceeds, amounting to £600, they placed in a bank. Now, because there was a sum of £600 in the bank in the name of the parents, and because the invalid daughter was living at home with them, her pension was cut down. The Department took the view that her father and mother were able to partially provide for- her. The outcome was that all’ were in great distress, and they had to live upon their, tiny capital. There was no relief, however. So soon as they had sold their home and turned it into money the pension was reduced. I know of another, case in which a father was maintaining an imbecile son. The youth was all right while at home, under the father’s influence. The Department took the view that, since the son was living in his father’s home, he was being adequately maintained upon the parent’s means. As a matter of fact, the father could barely afford to keep him, and provide the necesary medical and other attentions. Had the lad been eligible to receive a pension, his father could have maintained him under his personal influence, and looked after him properly ; but, in the circumstances, the youth had to be sent to a mental institution, where he was kept at the expense of the State. Altogether, there should be a much more liberal interpretation of the Act.
Regarding old-age pensioners, I agree with the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) that the manner in which the Act is administered is equivalent to setting a premium on laziness. .The Department says, in effect, that so long as a pensioner sits around and does nothing, he or she is eligible to receive the full amount of pension, but that if more than a certain sum is earned the pension will be reduced. The policy is a bad one. Everything reasonable should be done to encourage pensioners to earn a little money to be applied, with the weekly pension, to eke out a decent existence. If these people can make a few shillings here and there, surely they should be entitled to do so rather than that they should be discouraged and actually penalized. In this direction especially, the administration of our pensions legislation should be liberalized.
.- It ia an extraordinary fact that, whilst there are so many expressions of sympathy in this House for the old-age and invalid pensioners, there is no practical sympathy. Pot honorable member after honorable member to protest that something should be done, and at the same time stand idly by and see nothing done, is so much hypocrisy. During the last five years there has not been, to my knowledge, one word said against a liberalization of the Old-age Pensions Act, but when a vote was taken on the question in the House quite recently, seventeen members voted for an increase of the pensions and thirty-six against it. Of course, the minority were all Labour members. I do not anticipate that the members supporting the Government will force them to do anything for the pensioners. It is all very well for Ministerial members to rise in their places, and say what should be done; they have the power to do it, and their duty is to force the hands of the Government in caucus. But such a stand by them might embarrass the Government, and Heaven forbid that the Government should be embarrassed even for the sake of the old-age pensioners. When the comfort of the Government is at stake honorable members do not think of the aged and invalid poor. Therefore, the sooner the Government are defeated the better it will be for the pensioners, and it is to be hoped that the aged people will know exactly what is taking place in this House. Honorable members opposite talk about electioneering speeches and propaganda. Give us on this side of the House an opportunity of doing something, and we shall do it; we shall increase the pensions to £1 per week immediately; we shall liberalize the regulations in order to permit a man to earn up to £2 or £2 5s. per week ; we shall amend that portion of the law which prevents a wife who is separated from her husband receiving a pension. These are not electioneering promises. When we last went to the country, we told the people that if returned we would increase the pensions to £1 per week, and, notwithstanding that we were defeated at the last general election, that pledge still stands. For the reason that many of the aged people are in institutions, and many others are too feeble to go to the polling booth, we shall gain very little through this humane policy, and it is precisely because there is no influence behind the aged and invalid that the Government are contemptuous of their claims. Sympathy? Stacks of it. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) literally overflowed with tears when he spoke of the awful conditions under which the invalid and oldage pensioners live. They receive stacks of sympathy, but sympathy will not feed or clothe -or house them properly. And there is no old man or woman in the Commonwealth dependent upon his or her pension who is living a life which a human being is entitled to live, especially in advanced age. I must say that the New South Wales branch of the Pensions Department is the best conducted of any of the Commonwealth Departments, and is administered as sympathetically as the Act will allow. But the regulations are so rigid that absolutely no discretion is allowed to those who are interpreting and administering the law. It is the tragedy of our soldiers that the administration of the war pensions has been’ transferred from the Pensions Department to the Repatriation Department, which, if it has not bungled the business in trying to economize, has, at any rate, cut out pensions which should not be cut out. Case after case comes under my notice every day. I have .before me now the circumstances of a soldier whose shoulder was shattered with shrapnel, as a result of which curvature of the spine has set in. He has been back in Australia three years, and, during the last six months, has lost 10 lbs. in weight. He is shrinking daily, yet his pension was reduced by £1 per week a few weeks ago. An appeal against the decision has been lodged, but such is the extraordinary administration of the war pensions that I do not anticipate that this soldier will get any redress unless some action is taken in this House. There are many such cases. I receive daily, as I suppose other honorable members do, instances of men and women who, in the autumn of their life, are in need of some comfort, such as blankets. The only way in which they can get blankets is by approaching a Department of the State. Of course, old people require more bedclothes, more clothing, and more nourishment than do younger people ; yet many of the old folks are dependent upon the charity
Another injustice is in connexion with the amount of money which an old-age pensioner may possess. Many, if not all, men ‘and women who are approaching sixty-five and sixty years of age respectively endeavour to accumulate a small banking account, to eke out their pension. But if by any means they amass £200 or £300 they are practically denied a pension. No matter how much money they have within, reason - if they oan accumulate £500, good luck to them - the fact of having that money should not be a bar to their receiving benefits under the Old-age Pensions Act. I would- allow pensioners to receive up to £2 10s. per week, and to earn £1 10s. or £1 15s. per week, as the case might be, if they oan do so. Generally speaking, a man who reaches the age of sixty-five under present conditions in Australia, especially if. he belongs to the working classes has not much capacity for work
Another reform that is necessary is the provision of homes for the old-age pensioners. A city dweller can have no true conception of the poverty and degradation of the old people. In the rural- towns the conditions of these old people are open to the eyes of everybody; thanks to the kindly citizens in the community, some of the needy ones are helped along. If one picks out the most degraded habitation in any country town he is sure to find it occupied by an old-age pensioner. It would be so easy, and would not cost a great deal of money, to supply the men with a 10 x 10 or 12 x 12 weatherproof house en the banks of the rivers, or oh the edge of the reserves along the travelling stock routes. A bushman does not like the city, and only goes to it because he must do so in order to enter some institution, into which he is forced because his pension is not sufficient to provide him with adequate food and clothing; the payment of rent is impossible. Having regard to the fact that this House has the power in its hands to help the old people, the following letter which has been sent to me is both pathetic and tragic: -
I am taking the. liberty of writing you a letter on behalf of a lot of old-age pensioners, to see if you can do anything for us, as we are simply starving -with the cold and hunger. Everything is so dear up this way that we cannot buy them. Beef is 8d. per lb., sugar 6 1/3d., and as for clothes, they are out of our Teach altogether. Tobacco is 12s. per lb., matches 15d. per dozen. We wish you would try and bring it forward in .the House, and try and get us a rise of 5s. If we got it rose to £1, we could get along so much better. We hope and pray that you will do your level best on our behalf, and we will ever pray for you, and be ever thankful to you. We. think if you were to put it to the Country party they would help you, and we are all sure that any human .person on the other side would vote with you. I can assure you our lot is bad this cold winter, as we cannot buy warm clothes, only cheap rags. We who have blazed the track and put up with the hardships hare now to perish. We cannot get a house. They want too much rent, 16s. and £1 per week. So we have to live in cheap calico tents which will not keep out the rain, so we do hope you will try and get us a rise of 5s., and we will ever pray for you.
It is pathetic, tragic, that in a country such as ours the aged and infirm should find it necessary to write such letters as that. If honorable members could only place themselves in the position of many of the aged of this country they would take the necessary steps to remedy this state of affairs. It is not in the power of the Opposition to do anything, but it is most certainly in the power of the Government to help these people, and remove what I personally consider a disgraceful slur on this fair country of ours,
.- The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) claimed that the old Liberal party was instrumental in introducing old-age and invalid pensions, so far as the Commonwealth is concerned. If my memory serves me right, in the early days of Federation, the Ministry led by the late Mr. Deakin, of which, I think, the honorable, member for Eden-Monaro was a member, introduced old-age pensions, but forgot to find the money for them, and the measure they passed proved utterly ineffective. It was only when the Labour party, sitting in the Corner, and led by, I think, Mr. “Watson, delivered their ultimatum to the Liberals, that anything was done. The Labour party then was the “ boss “ of the Ministry, and they showed that Ministry that money could be put into a Surplus Revenue Fund that could be appropriated for the purpose. It was only when the Labour party threatened that if something was not done they would transfer their support to the Opposition that the money was found. It is true that the Liberals passed the Act which provided for these pensions, but it is also true that they failed to find the necessary money; indeed, that Government went out of office before any money was found, and not a shilling was paid under their regime. It was only when the Labour party came into power that the money was really found for invalid pensions. So much for the claim that the Liberals were instrumental in finding the money for old-age and invalid pensions.
I have a case here to which I should like to direct the attention of the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce). It is the case of a returned soldier named Patrick Meehan, a total cripple, who is in receipt of a pension of 10s. 6d.- per week. He has been unable to obtain an invalid pension for the reasons set forth in the following letter from the office of the Commissioner of Pensions: -
This claimant enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force, and was discharged therefrom in October, 1917 - reason, medically unfit, not due to misconduct. Since his return to Australia claimant has not been able to follow any occupation owing to his bad health. He was, therefore, incapacitated before he returned, and consequently is disqualified under the section quoted.
This man left Australia to serve his country, and when he returned he was totally incapacitated. The Repatriation Department, or. the Pensions Branch attached thereto, took the view that his injuries were mainly pre-war, and assessed them at only 10s. 6d. per week. The Commissioner of Pensions, acting under the regulations, I suppose, says that the Department can give him no more because his injuries were incurred outside of Australia.
– If the suggestion is that he was- on service outside Australia when he became incapacitated, and you will send me the facts of the case, I shall look into them.
– This man is in a very serious position, and I should like to point out that this case, and quite a number of others, could be easily dealt with by regulation, and the lot of many unfortunate people made much easier. For instance, a number of old people are in hospitals and other institutions totally incapacitated, and if they were able to leave for a week or two, they would be entitled to claim old-age pensions. They could then return to the institution, knowing that for the rest of their days they would receive an- allowance of 2s. per week. To-day many, because they cannot leave the institutions, are getting nothing, while others who have been able to leave temporarily are receiving the allowance. All these poor people should be treated alike, and the present harsh and unfair arrangement abandoned. Then, .again, there is a very harsh regulation in regard to the payment of an invalid pension to the crippled member of a household. The Commissioner, in estimating the earnings of the family, calculates a living allowance for the bread-winner of £30 per year; and if the aggregate earnings of the family work out at that amount per individual, no pension is paid to the crippled member. That appears to me a very cruel interpretation. A man earning, say, £4 a week is surely not expected to live on £30 per year, which would barely find him in food, let alone clothes; and I strongly urge that the earnings should be calculated at the higher figure of at least £52. Such a change as this would give relief to a number of genuine and hard cases. Then, there are the cases where husband and wife are separated. Every day, in Ballarat, I have brought before me cases in which the husband and wife have not lived together for perhaps ten or twenty years. If the wife is the claimant, and the husband is shown to be working and earning £4 per week, the wife is supposed to be receiving half, unless she has secured a judicial separation or a divorce. In the cases I have in my mind, the wives never see their husbands, and never receive a shilling; and unless they go to the expense of consulting a solicitor, and succeed an inducingtheir husbands to consent to a judicial separation, they are debarred from any advantage under the Act. This, again, is a matter that does not require legislation, but could be dealt with by regulation.
I trust that the Treasurer will reconsider the statement he made this afternoon in regard to the pensions. I am 3ure there is no one in the community who would wish to see old people here in a state of semi-starvation; but I seriously say that there are thousands in that condition. I know quite a number in Ballarat who are getting 15s. per week, and are paying 8s. for the rent of a house or of a room. It is absolutely impossible at the present time for those people to buy food and clothing with 7s. per week. The Treasurer can take £3,000,000 from the pensions fund to relieve the wealthy classes of this country from taxation.
– There is the limitation of the exemption to £200.
– I understand that that will benefit the taxpayers of the country to a very small extent.
– It means £600,000.
– Even so, I would far rather the exemption were left untouched, if old-age and invalid pensioners are not to receive their due. If we can take £3,000,000 out of the pensions fund, what is to prevent us taking half of that to make up the pensions to £1 per week? I sincerely hope that honorable members will vote in accordance with their convictions, irrespective of how the Government feel, and thus do justice to the old people of this country.
.- I sympathize with the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) in the attack made on him to-day. The’ suggestion was made that, in submitting this motion, the honorable member is electioneering. I have known the honorable member a very long time, and I know that there is no more retiring and modest public man. Indeed, I sometimes think of himin the guise of Tennyson, who was so shy that, when out walking, he actually ran away to escape the glances of inquisitive tourists. It is unfortunate that so many of us are not understood, and Bracken’s poem was written to describe that unhappy position. I myself am misunderstood. I was misunderstood the other evening. I went down to the housewives’ meeting, and I was told that I was advertising myself, simply because I tried to do my duty.
– They tell me that if you had not left you might have qualified for an invalid pension !
– No doubt I might have so qualified if some of the men present had had their way. There is a tendency to misinterpret the actions of honorable members who, on the eve of an election, make speeches like that of the honorable member. We are within a few months of the time when we shall be seeking the suffrages of the people of this country, and naturally anything we say which appeals to the electors, and persuades them that we are acting in their interests and trying to protect them against adversity, may secure some of their votes. I would nol; for a moment like to believe that the honorable member submits this motion with a view to securing his return for Eden-Monaro, but it is true that it looks very much like it.
– You were in favour of £1 per week, at one time!
– I had the privilege, it is true, of increasing the pension myself on one occasion.
The honorable member for Darling (Mr. Blakeley) referred to the circumstances of old-age pensioners in the backblocks. I remember a time before oldage pensions became the law of the land, when it was not at all an infrequent occurrence to meet elderly people walking from station to station out-back seeking rations. I think that they got their 10 Iba. of flour, 2 lbs. of sugar, J lb. of tea. But we never see that sort of thing in Australia to-day. “We never see any man seventy years of age carrying his swag.
– The Labour party has prevented that.
– That is one of the good things that the moderate Labour party did when it had the power, but of course the honorable member knows that such moderate legislation as that- does not now find a place on the platform of the extremists. They are out to take the wealth of the rich, and distribute it amongst the poor, and when they bring this about old-age pensions will not be required, because the policy then will be share and share alike. However, in respect to old-age pensions, the question is how; far we should go in distributing public funds in this way. I remember hearing Sir William Irvine speaking of old-age pensions, and deploring the fact that, we were indulging in paternal legislation calculated to sap the independence and fibre of our race. Sir William had succeeded through a long and. strenuous life in attaining his ambitions. He now occupies a very distinguished position in this community after having overcome many obstacles which other men cannot surmount. When he spoke in this way he was what we might call a successful man, and I have no doubt that he thought that what he had done others could do by the application of industry, by keeping the word “ duty “ in front of them, and by not succumbing to the various temptations that beset the path of humanity. I have no doubt that others .could do what he has done.
– If they have the same start in life. - v
– Not necessarily. We know many men who. have won through from a very poor start in life. I could name same of them who are on the Treasury bench to-day. The honorable member for Darling says that he would allow old-age pensioners to earn up to £2 10s. per week. Let me inform the honorable member that all the experiments we have been trying in this country have been tried in the Old Country with varying degrees of success. There was a time when the British Government was supplementing the earnings of the people who were deriving only small incomes, but that policy was found to be very unfair, because employers availed themselves of the Government subsidy, and put their employees on lower rates of wages. In paying an old-age pensioner £1 per week, and allowing him to earn another £1 10b. per week, there is a distinct danger of disturbing the industrial market, because some employers employing old-age pensioners would immediately take advantage of this. They would say, “ You are getting £1 per week from the Government, and should be able to work for us for another £1 or £1 5s. per week. There is a limit, therefore, beyond which we may not go in paying money to men over sixty-five years of age and women over sixty years of age. I hope I am- not regarded as being, unsympathetic. My experience of public life leads me to the conclusion that all our efforts in. the way of State enterprises, such as State fish shops, State meat shops, and State restaurants will fail. I repeat that I am not- unsympathetic. I believe that we should do a great deal better as public men if we tried to assist the young and the old who cannot protect themselves
– The time allowed for the discussion of general business has expired.
.- I move-
That this Bill be now read a second time.
The obligation of the Commonwealth and its citizens under certain Treaties signed at Washington needs statutory sanction. This Bill is to enable effect to be given to two Treaties signed at Washington on behalf of His Majesty and certain other Powers. With the other Treaties we are not concerned. The obligation in respect to them requires no statutory authority. But our obligation ‘ in respect to certain provisions in the Treaty for the Limitation of Naval Armaments and in the Treaty to protect neutrals from submarines and to prevent the use of noxious gases and chemicals in war need this authority.
– I call attention to the state of the House. [Quorum formed.]
– The Bill gives the Commonwealth these powers, and closely follows the lines of the British measure. The Minister of State for Defence is the responsible Minister, and the Bill is expressly applied to the Territories under the authority of the Commonwealth.It provides in clause 5 that no person shall, without a licence from the Minister, build any vessel of war or alter, arm, or equip any ship so as to adapt her for use as a vessel of war, or despatch, or deliver, or allow to be despatched or delivered, any ship which has been so built, altered, armed, or equipped either entirely within or partly within the King’s Dominions. A licence is refusable only as a means of enforcing and securing the observance of the terms of the Treaties. Clause 7 of the Bill is most important. It provides for the carrying out of Article III. of the Submarine and Poison Gas Treaty. The penalty for contravention of these provisions of the Bill is £500, or imprisonment for two years, or both, and the ship, in respect of which the offence is committed and her equipment are liable to forfeiture.
The Bill, as honorable members will see, is to give effect to the Treaties that were ratified by this House. As the matter is one which all parties are agreed is salutary, and in the interests of, not only the Commonwealth, but the whole Empire, I have much pleasure in submitting the Bill to the House.
– I agree with the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) that the Bill should meet with the approval of honorable members generally. It gives effect to two Treaties signed in Washington as a result of the recent Conference, and the provisions of which are satisfactory from the point of view of, not only Australia, but all nations interested in the Pacific. They give us reason to hope that for the next ten years, at least, we shall be secure against any aggressive action in the Pacific, and will be enabled to reduce to a very considerable extent our naval and military expenditure. In these days, when economy is so strongly preached, such relief will be very welcome.
My only regret is that the Conference did not go further. I admit that good work was accomplished by it. Much has been done in the direction of reducing the cost of armaments, but I regret exceedingly that the Conference did not agree to abolish altogether submarine warfare. It is a pity that it did not adopt the views of the British Delegation. It is, however, some satisfaction to know that, as a result of one of the Treaties covered by this Bill the horrors of submarine warfare will be considerably modified, inasmuch as under it a submarine may not sink a vessel until a search has been made and contraband of war found upon it, and, what is more, until the passengers and crew have been removed to a place of safety.
I see no objection to the Bill. I thought that it would have contained provision in regard to the use of poisonous gases; but I gather from the Prime Minister’s statement that we have no need to deal with that matter. There is no occasion to debate the Bill. The Washington Conference was a step in the right direction. I hope that it is but the forerunner of others that will go much further in the way of reducing the cost of armament in this and other countries.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
– Is it the pleasure of the Committee that the Bill be taken as a whole?
Honorable Members. - Hear, hear!
.- I know very well that any sentiment to which I may give utterance will not carry much weight with the Government or the House as at present constituted; but I do not hesitate to say that none of the prognostications which have been indulged in as to the happy outcome of the Washington Conference will be realized. I do not think it is possible to bring about the peace of the world until the world is governed by the people themselves. While the destinies of the nations are in the hands of vested interests there will be no possibility of doing away with war. Wealthy vested interests will create causes of national dissension. They will stir up the hatred and venom of the people; they will do everything possible to arouse the basest passions of humanity in order to serve their own selfish interests. I look forward to the day when the industrial section of the whole world, instead of fighting and quarrelling amongst themselves - instead of arousing sectarianism and other causes of bitter hatred and passion - will combine to do away with war. So long as base human passions are aroused by interested individuals, so long shall we have heavy expenditure on Naval and Military armaments. I look forward to the day when the Parliaments of the nations will represent the people, and be a true reflex of the opinions of the people. There will then be no longer any occasion for the nations to make such agreements or Treaties as those to which this Bill relates.
– Then will come the millennium.
– Even if we cannot hope for the millennium, let us try at all events to bring about a better condition of affairs than at present exists. The party to which I belong, and in which I have spent a lifetime, has always set itself against the ambitions of vested interests which have done so much to bring about, not only war with- its attendant miseries, hut everything that is diametrically opposed to the teachings of Christ. I look forward to the day when the Labour party will have a greater influence upon the destinies of Australia than it has at the present time. When it has, the peoples of other countries will look to Australia as a country that has set an object lesson to the world. It is not many years since the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), who was then a member of our party, gave expression to sentiments such as I am uttering to-night, and urged that instead of men being set at one another’s throats, we should so legislate as to establish happy and peaceful relations among all classes of the community. No one can say that the legislation passed when the Labour party was in power in this Parliamentwas not based upon humanitarian ideals. Unfortunately all classes of the community, even those with whom I am closely associated outside this House, have their passions aroused by designing men who are prepared to enrich themselv.es even if in so doing they make other people poor.
We shall, of course, pass this Bill; but does any one believe that it will have any real effect so far as the signatories to the
Treaties are concerned. Only a few days ago a Conference of the Allies was held in London with the object of relieving the economic situation. Because of vested interests it was unsuccessful. What is the position to-day in Russia? That country is fighting one of the greatest fights in the world’s interests. She has suffered for centuries, and her people have been compelled to take extreme measures, such as are not necessary in a highly civilized community, in order to obtain relief. The people pf Russia, I believe, will raise her to a position of which they will have cause to be proud. No one wants war. It should be just as easy for National Parliaments to settle national disputes without recourse to “war as it is for us to amicably settle the ordinary disputes of social life. The day will come when we shall have reached that happy position. I do not think much value attaches to the passing of measures of this kind.
I do not think this Bill is worth the paper on which it is printed. If any nation feels that she is deprived of some privilege, or injured in her trade, or that there has been an improper encroachment on her frontiers, there will be trouble. Happily we have no frontier difficulty here. If honorable members think that any good will be done by the passing of this Bill, I shall offer no opposition to it. If my views were generally shared, the people would be the better for it. It is our duty as representatives of the people, irrespective of whether we please or offend, to seek to improve world conditions so that every one may live in comfort and relative ease. Why should- we quarrel about wealth? Wealth, in itself is of no avail. This is a wealthy country, yet we have here thousands who have a hard struggle to live. It should be our aim to assist them. I hope this Bill will bear some fruit, but whether it does or does npt, I shall, at least, have done my duty in giving expression to-night to the views that I hold.
.- This Bill has not excited a great deal of interest, nor has it invited very much discussion. The reason is that, as the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) has rightly said, the ratification c»f these Treaties is not a matter for this Parliament. The Commonwealth is not a party to the Treaties; the Commonwealth is not qualified to become a party to any Treaty. A Treaty is a matter for a sovereign State, and for sovereign States alone. This procedure is a mere piece of affectation. It is merely a pleasant design to placate the vanity, particularly, of the Prime Minister- (Mr. Hughes) to suggest that we effect any public purpose of whatever kind or value by lending our names and according our votes to the ratification - so called - of these Treaties. Only sovereign States may make Treaties, and it is not pretended by those overseas, who have been really the parties to these Treaties, that it is for Australia to either give or refuse ratification. Ratification has already been completed by those qualified to make it in the heart of the Empire itself. Tt is only the British Parliament, speaking for and on behalf of the Empire, which is qualified to ratify Treaties as between nations. I have said this before, I admit, and I have no hesitation in taking this opportunity to repeat it, for the simple reason that we should clearly endeavour to realize the position as it is. If we are to assert our inalienable loyalty to the Imperial connexion, and to the principle of Imperial solidarity, it is idle, on the other hand, to claim for ourselves the rights of a sovereign people as between nations. We do not possess, and it is useless for us to assert, any such privilege.
So much for our position in regard to these Treaties. Of course, it is pleasant to express approval of what has been done. It is particularly pleasant to the Government to record their view that something has been achieved. It is but natural that they should suggest to Parliament and the country that the fact that they sent the Honorable George Poster Pearce to Washington accomplished something of benefit to the Commonwealth. I do not admit that anything was gained in this regard, and I have contended more than once that that gentleman was not a suitable or satisfactory representative of the Commonwealth upon anything in the nature of a Peace Conference. Moreover, there always is and has been a great ‘ deal of humbug about these compacts, which are politely described as Treaties. If any one cares to become acquainted with the facts concerning some historic Treaties, he will perceive that these polite agreements are good only so long as military necessities do not require that they be broken. During the war period I had occasion to probe the value of Treaties as an international medium for bringing peoples together, in connexion with that claim which we made and so often repeated, namely, that bur late enemies had been guilty of gross perfidy in that they had regarded a certain Treaty as but a scrap of paper. Even during the war I felt it to be my bounden duty to tell the people from my place in this chamber - when it was scarcely safe, even here, to do so - that there waa not a single instance in British, French, or German history where Treaties had stood in the way of military operations, in which those Treaties had not been disregarded, and, through the exigencies of military necessity, treated as scraps of paper. That which has been the practice in the past and has actually hardened into a principle of international law, and is no longer regarded as an act of perfidy, will doubtless be continued in the future. That is to say, in cases of military necessity, the terms of a Treaty made in times of peace may be disregarded. But what is the value of a Treaty which may be scrapped in time of war ? A Treaty made in times of peace serves no purpose but to suit the ends of persons, such as the Prime Minister, who have made so many “hifalutin” speeches about the peace of the world ; but who, at a moment’s notice or from political necessity, becomes a champion inciter to bloodshed. What is the use of their talking of peace when no one wants to fight? At a time when men like the Prime Minister were inciting People to fly at each others’ throats and tear each other to pieces, in the name of God and humanity, we desired to hear from those .who knew something of the spirit of healthy pacifism.
We, as a Commonwealth, have no standing in these matters; it is pure affectation for us to make believe that we have. But there is another reason why these Treaties, apart from that fact, are not likely to have even that small measure of useful result in restraining warlike peoples which has sometimes followed fitfully from the making of other Treaties. When we came to negotiate at Washington we excluded many of the great nations of the world - some of the greatest, indeed. “We shut out those peoples with whom we had recently fought, for the reason that they had been the last with whom we had fought. We always exclude from peaceful negotiations those with whom we really need, more than with any others, to make peace. We always shut out those with whom we are fighting, or have recently struggled; and so, in this instance, we debarred from representation or consideration those great nations which, more than any others on earth, we needed to join with us in the promotion of world peace. We excluded Germany, Austria, Russia, and others. And, taking to ourselves the pleasing unction that we actually controlled the destinies of the world, we sent representatives from London, while others went to Washington from Paris and Rome to meet friends in America to lay down the law as to perpetual peace. We did so after slamming the door in the face of those with whom the making of peace was the most to be desired. That is the second reason why I do not pay much attention to this scrap of paper which we are so pompously passing to-night under the title of the ratification of certain Treaties.
What is more important is that these Treaties have little value, for the reason that those who assembled at Washington to discuss permanent peace had no appreciation of the spirit of peace. They assembled,’ not in the spirit of a generous giving, but of a contest as to who should give least and get most, so that when the fighting should start again’ it would not be said that one nation was less prepared than the other to. enter into the newest conflict of folly and bloodshed known as war. And, when fighting commences again, I can imagine the right honorable gentleman who leads the Government rising in his place and saying that the time has come for every shilling and for every man to be concentrated upon the construction of ships of war to resist the coloured enemy from the East, or the white race from the North or South, when every man in the country must be conscripted, willy-nilly, to carry a weapon of destruction in order that there shall be asserted the great principles of loyalty and patriotism and sacrifice, and so that the Empire shall be upheld which, but for the intervention of this
Government, would, so they say, be tottering to its doom.
We heard of Conferences convened while the war was on. We heard and read of real Peace Conferences while the war was still being waged, of understandings proposed by people who really understood the immortal principles of peace. We heard of meetings held, for example, at Geneva, at which there were representatives not alone from the Allied countries, but from every nation, belligerent and non-belligerent; delegates who had come together in the spirit of compromise and good-will, who had gathered with some correct historical perspective, determined to declare to the world courageously and openly that they knew well that, in every war there had been humbug and lying on every side, and little of the generous spirit of pure patriotism based on truth and mutual good-will.
This Parliament will ratify the Treaties. The Committee will agree to deal with them in globo. They will be accepted in the lump, because it mattery little whether we ratify them or not. I assert again that it is all mere makebelieve; we are not party to them. We can only hope that when the spirit of those men who are responsible for the making of war has been changed, some such result will be achieved as h’as been suggested by honorable members’ in this House, including the leader of the party to which I have the honour to belong. We may look forward to that time; but we will not bring it appreciably nearer by way of the ratification of these documents, or by medium of this solemn act of makebelieve. It will be brought nearer only through a changed people, through an awakened Democracy - a Democracy having the courage to say with all its strength and with emphatic purpose, that it recognises that in refusing to fight it will achieve far more than has ever been gained by fighting in the bloodiest conflict ever fought.
Bill agreed to, reported without amendment, and report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
– I move -
That this Bill be now read a second time.
In 1911 this Parliament passed an Act to enable statutory declarations to be made before “a Police, Stipendiary, or Special Magistrate, or a justice of the peace, or a Commissioner for Affidavits, or a Commissioner for Declarations,” and it is proposed in this Bill to add the words “or a Notary Public.” It is also desired to extend the Act to the Territories of the Commonwealth, including those held under mandate. That is the whole purpose of the Bill.
– I have no opposition to offer to the Bill.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time, and passed through its remaining stages without amendment or debate.
Port Adelaide Post-office - Apprentice Mechanics in Postaldepartmentwirelesstelegraphyagreement.
Motion (by Mr. Groom) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
.- About twelve years ago an agitation was started inthe district of Port Adelaide for the erection of a building more suitable than that which at present houses the post-office for that district.Fromthat time onward there has been continuous endeavour on the part of the citizens to secure more convenient facilities than have been afforded up to the present. Various Postmasters-General have submitted to the citizens of Port Adelaide schemes for the erection of a new post office, but they have all proposed that the building should be placed on what 19 known as the morgue site. The block preferred by the citizens of Port Adelaide is the police station site, which, however, the Postal Department does not feel justified in accepting at the. price which the State Government have been asking for it. The present Postmaster-General (Mr. Poynton) has intimated his desire to proceed with the erection of a one-story building on the morgue site. I desire to place on record a letter which I have received from the secretary of the Port Adelaide District Trades and Labour Council in order to indicate the feeling of the people of the district, and especially of those representing the labouring people, who comprise the greater part of the population -
Fort Adelaide District Trades and Labour Council, 15th August, 1922.
Dear Sir, -
In dealing with the report of the Citizen Committee meeting convened by the Mayor of the city, H. Slade, Esq., at which no decision was arrived at, I am instructed to write to you re the above council’s attitude in the building of a post-office in the city of Fort Adelaide. We wish, sir, to enter onr emphatic protest against the action of the Federal Government in the building of a one-storied poet-office in what is known as the morgue site in this most important city and front door of South Australia. We are of opinion that the offer submitted is nothing short of no-confidence in this city, seeing,sir, that we as citizens are desirous of having all the Commmonwealth officers placed under the one roof, and are told it is very inconvenient to have a building of more than ono story; when within one week wesee that the Federal Public Works Committee recommends the building of a fivestoried building at the cost of £115,000 in the city of Adelaide. Sir, we think that is sufficient to justify our protest, and we pray you will use your best endeavour to see that justice is done to us as citizens of this city of Port Adelaide. Anticipating your early and favorable reply.
Yours fraternally, (Sgd.) D. Jonas,
All the South Australian representatives in this House have received a similar communication, and I express my appreciation of the support they have promised to render in endeavouring to secure the adoption of that site which the citizens of Port Adelaide consider the most suitable and convenient. I have received another letter from the president of the Retail Traders Association of Fort Adelaide, Mr. R. Frazer, who offers the services of his association to mediate between the Commonwealth and State Governments with a view to arriving at a more satisfactory understanding regarding the purchase of the police station site, or a smaller area at the same location. I mentioned this proposal to the Postmaster-General, who, however, said that it was no good to him. No doubt he has made up his mind as to where the new post-office shall be located. It must be said to the credit of. the Minister that he has delayed proceeding with the building in order to secure some knowledge of the desires of the Citizens’ Committee, and I hope that whatever delay has been occasioned will he justified by securing to the people of Port Adelaide a post-office building in the most suitable and convenient site.
. -I desire to call the attention of the Postmaster-General to what is taking place in regard to the training of boys as mechanics in the Postal Department, and to askhim to endeavour to have the injustice rectified. A boy at the age of, say, fourteen years, is taken into the Postal Department to be trained as a postal mechanic. Having served his apprenticeship, and having further qualified himself by attendance at technical and night schools, he naturally anticipates that a berth will be found for him in the Service. Not one, but dozens of boys in South Australia, who have given two or three years of their life to such training in the Postal Department, find themselves at the age when they should be getting some advantage from their training, turned out of the Postal Department because they have reached the age of seventeen years and there is no employment for them. Nothing is worse for the community than that boys who have spent three years in training themselves for a mechanical calling should at the age of seventeen years be thrown upon the streets. No other employment of the kind is available for them, because they have been trained solely for postal mechanical work, and they have no occupation to turn tobut ordinary unskilled labour. The Postmaster-General will realize that that is a pernicious system.
– Is it not the outcome of preference to returned soldiers?
– No. I shall not quote any particular case, but I Could mention a couple of cases into which that consideration has not entered at all. But if the principle of preference to returned soldiers means that boys who have undergone three years’ training in addition to further study and training in their own time are to be thrown upon the streets at the age of seventeen, the sooner the Department says to these boys, “ There is no possible chance for you in the Service; do not waste your time”, the better it will be for them. The treatment which the boys now receive kills all their ambition. All their training goes for naught, and it is too late for them to commence training for another skilled occupation.
I do not make any complaint against the. Postmaster-General or the Department, but I ask the Minister to consult with the Department and the Public Service Commissioner, so that when there is no prospect of employment being found for these boys in the Department, they may be advised not to waste the best part of their early lives in training for a service in which there is no scope for their employment.
– When do the Government propose to make a statement to the House in regard to the Wireless Telegraphy Agreement?
– I think that would be a very fair question to ask the Prime Minister.
– But the Prime Minister is not here. We are partners in a great concern involving nearly half-a-million of money. There has been a dispute between the Commonwealth directors and the Wireless Company directors over the appointment of’ a seventh director. The matter has not been before us for a month, and I think I om quite entitled to ask the question.
– I have no objection to the honorable member asking a question, but I think it ought to be put to the Prime Minister.
– Then I shall ask the Prime Minister to-morrow.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at10.31 p.m.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 17 August 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220817_reps_8_100/>.