8th Parliament · 2nd Session
Mr. Speaker (Hon. Sir Elliot Johnson) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence whether it is a fact that’ in retiring men from the Navy, under the Defence Retrenchment Scheme, preference is being given to Britishers rather than to Australian horn men?
– It is not a fact.
– As the Prime Minister is not present, I desire to ask the Minister in charge of the House whether it is a. fact that the Prime Minister is contemplating a, retreat from Moscow?
Question not answered.
– Now that the Prime Minister is present, I wish to ask him ‘whether it is a fact that he is again “ flirting “ with. NewSouth Wales? Does he intend to forsake Bendigo for North Sydney?
Question not answered.
– I wish to ask the Minister in charge of the House whether it is a fact that the general election will take place about 25th November next?
– I do not know why the honorable member should refer to such an unpleasant subject. I have no doubt that he will have ample time in due course to ascertain the actual date on which the general election will take place.
Proclamation or Redistribution Schemes
– Will the Prime Minister state when it is proposed -to proclaim the schemes which have been passed by this Parliament for the redistribution of the several States into the Federal Divisions, and also whether the Government approve of the second redistribution of the State of Victoria into Federal electorates, as set out in the report of the Commissioners which was presented yesterday to the House?
– The AttorneyGeneral has just given notice of his intention to move to-morrow that the second report of the Commissioners for the redistribution of the State of Victoria into Federal Divisions be adopted. As to the other schemes which have already been approved by the Parliament, preparations are being- made to have them proclaimed.
– I desire to ask the Minister for Defence whether the War Gratuity, which the Government have now decided to pay to Australians’ who fought in the British Forces, independently of the Australian Imperial Force., will be available also to Australians who joined and fought with the British Navy?
– The extension of the time during which applications for payment of the Wax Gratuity may be lodged does not affect in any way the regulations under which the gratuity is paid. The regulations, whatever they are, will stand. All that we have done is to extendthe time during which applications can be made.
Remission of Duties
– When will the Treasurer be able to give effect to the proposal, forecast in his Budget statement, to grantremissions of duty in respect of tractors and wire-netting? The question is considerably perturbing the public mind.
– To give effect to the proposals of the Government in regard to the remission of the duties and the payment of the bounty it will be necessary to bring in certain Bills. They will be introduced at the earliest opportunity.
– On the 24th August, the honorable member for Robertson (Mr. Fleming) asked the following question: -
I desire to ask the Prime Minister whether it is a fact that annual increments to public servants of the Commonwealth are this year to be withheld? It is reported in New South Wales that the annualincrements to the public servants of that State have been stopped, and that similar action is to be taken with regard toCommonwealth public servants. Is there any truth in the report?
I then promised to have inquiries: made of the Public Service Commissioner. I am now inreceipt of advice from him to the effect that he has no knowledge of any proposal or intention to withhold discretionary increments this year. He points out, further, that other increments must, of course,be grantedunder the awards of the Public Service Arbitrator or the Public Service regulations.
Commonwealth “ Domicile
asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
Mr. FENTON (for Dr. Maloney) asked the Attorney-General, upon notice -
Will he, in view of its importance, read to the House the letter he has received from the Law Institute of Victoria hearing upon the law of divorce, and particularly upon domicile?
– I shall lay a copy of the correspondence referred to. upon the table of this House for the information of honorable members.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are asfol low: -
asked the Minister representing the Minister for Home and Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
Assistance to Local Manufacturers
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
As Parliament has made available a sum of money to assist civil aviation in Australia in connexion with mail services, will he state whether it is the intention of the Government to render assistance to the manufacturers of aeroplanes and parts in Australia?
– The Government is investigating the most practicable method of rendering assistance to firms who are engaged in, or are desirous of engaging in, the manufacture of aeroplanes and parts in Australia.
Provision op Private Letter-Boxes.
asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
Whether a Deputy Postmaster-Generalis justified in refusing to provide additional private letter-boxes in country post-offices where a guarantee is given that the same will be availed of at the usual departmental fee charged ?
– Owing to late delivery of private box fronts by the contractor, delay occurred in the installation of private boxes at a number of offices in Queensland. If the honorable member will be good enough to furnishme with particulars of the case to which be refers, I will have inquiry made in the matter.
Removal of Clothing to Pentridge
asked the Minister for Defence, upon notice -
– I shall have inquiries made, and reply to the honorable member’s questions as early as possible.
Voting by Proxy.
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow : -
asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
Upon what date was the sale of the five wooden ships by the. Government to F, J. Sandez completed?
– Fourth August, 1922.
Concession to Queensland Jam Manufacturers
asked the Minister for Trade and Customs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follow: -
– On the 24th August the honorable member for East ‘Sydney (Mr. West) asked the following question : -
Will the Treasurer endeavour to Have the annual report of the Auditor-General placed in the hands of honorable members before we are called upon to deal with the: Estimates?
I then promised to see what could be done. I have made inquiries, and it would appear that the report will be available in three or four weeks.
The following papers were presented : -
Sugar - Copy of correspondence concerning purchases of foreign sugar by the Government.
Australian Imperial Force Canteens’ Funds Act - Statement of Income and Expenditure to 30th June, 1922, together with AuditorGeneral’s Report.
Question - That Mr. Speaker do now leave the chair - resolved in the negative.
In Committee (Consideration resumed from 30th August, vide page 1773) :
Clause 1 agreed to.
Clause 2 (Authority to borrow £12,000,000).
.- It is my intention to move that the amount be reduced by the sum of £1. I have taken this, the first opportunity I have had for some considerable time, to bring under the notice of honorable members the matter of the loan accounts, the methods by which loans are raised-, and the advice the Government secure in the floating of loans in Australia. Loans are floated in London through a firm of stockbrokers. I have endeavoured to find out how this firm got the business into its hands. Up to the present I have not been able to obtain that information, and I must assume that the arrangement was made prior to the present Government coming into office. The firm of stockbrokers is the firm of Robert Nivison.
– Lord Nivison.
– I am dealing with the firm.
– He was Sir Robert Nivison.
– I suggest to the honorable member for East Sydney that he might allow the clause to pass, and when the Committee is dealing with the schedule to the Bill he can move a reduction on the schedule.
– I do not wish to lose my privilege to discuss these matters.
– The honorable member will not lose any right by adopting the course I suggest.
– I assume, sir, that you will watch my interests in the matter.
– We cannot deal exhaustively with the schedule if we now agree to the clause.
– These clauses are simply explanatory. The schedule deals with the various items, and it will he competent for any honorable member to move any reduction he pleases on any of the items of the schedule. I suggest that in accordance with the usual practice the explanatory clauses should be allowed to pass. I will then submit the schedule in Departments, and the honorable member for East Sydney or any other honorable member will have an opportunity to move any reduction he thinks proper. A general discussion can then take place on the first item.
– Will the discussion be confined to that particular item?
– No; it may take place on any or all of the items.
– Discussion may take place on any or all of the items upon the submission of the first item.
– I desire to make some remarks generally with regard to the loan position, the question of the sinking fund, and the different items in this Bill. I intend to confine myself strictly to references to the whole subject under discussion. I should like to ask you, sir, whether my remarks will be in order on any one of the clauses or on the first item of the schedule showing the allocation of the loan.
– I have already indicated to the Committee that it will be more convenient to follow the usual practice, that there should not be a debate on the clauses, but that honorable members should wait until we come to the schedule. I will submit the schedule in Departments, and on the first item it will be competent for honorable members to discuss anything relevant to the Bill.
– Will not the discussion be confined to the Department involved by an amendment?
– No. The usual custom has been to allow a general discussion on the submission of the first item of the schedule. That is why I suggested to the honorable member for East Sydney that he should allow the explanatory clauses to pass. When I submit the first item of the schedule the honorable member for East Sydney, the honorable member for Parramatta, or any other honorable member may discuss questions relevant to the Bill in the broadest possible way.
– May I ask that you, sir, will not confine the discussion?
– The Chairman has said so three times. The honorable member will be able to say anything he desires on any or all of the items.
– Do you, sir, confirm the statement of the Prime Minister ?
– Certainly. I have already indicated that on the submission of the first item of the schedule the discussion may be as broad as the honorable member desires, so long as it is relevant to the Bill.
– I notice that clause 2 of the Bill refers to a lump sum of £12,000,000. If the Committee assents to this clause, will honorable members be debarred from making any amendment in the schedule dealing with the £12,000,000?
Clause agreed to.
Clauses 3 and 4 agreed to.
– I shall put the first item, on which a general discussion may take place.
Prime Minister’s Department.
Proposed vote, £863,896.
.- I propose to move - ,
That the item “ Contribution of Commonwealth towards construction of roads by States, £250,000,” be reduced by £ 1.
I shall first deal with the question of the flotation of loans in Great Britain. The firm of stock-brokers which conducts the loan business on behalf of the Commonwealth has not been very long in existence. The originator of the firm was Mr. Nivison, who at one time was connected with the London and Westminster Bank, which formerly conducted most of the loan transactions for the States prior to Federation. Mr. Nivison served his apprenticeship to banking in Scotland, but, like most Scotsmen, he found his way to London, and became connected with the bank to which I have referred. That bank, I may say, did the whole of the loan business for the State of New South Wales. Mr. Nivison seems to have established a very fine business for the firm which he founded. Not a member of the firm has been in Australia. In my youthful days I was familiar with London, and in the West End I got in touch with many men who to-day are much wealthier than I; and from my knowledge and experience, I have formed the opinion that stockbrokers are not the proper persons to conduct the loan transactions of the Commonwealth of Australia. This country to-day stands very high in the opinion of the people of Great Britain; indeed, from all one can learn from those who know, her position in this regard is superior to that of any other Dominion within the Empire. As a rule, the business of stockbroking firms is moire connected with company flotations , than with what is known as high finance. Such firms are very often in the hands of gentlemen who may be described as speculators; and to- day Australia is, perhaps, the only Dominion that, carries on its business through such channels.
– Canada, India, and South Africa all use stock-broking firms.
– The right honorable member will have his turn later. Mr. Nivison, by reason of his connexion with the London and Westminster Bank, no doubt, has a good knowledge of Australian investments; but I call the attention of honorable members to the fact that two loans have been floated by South Africa and India on much more advantageous terms than have the loans issued on behalf of Australia. The Indian loan was for £12,500,000, and the South African loan for £2,000,000, and the business was conducted by the London County and Parr’s Bank. I am sure honorable members will agree that such a banking institution as that has much better opportunities for inducing people to invest than can any stock-broking firm. We now have our own Commonwealth Bank, and in view of the good name and high reputation of Australia, surely we might conduct business of the kind through our own institution. Some time ago I asked the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) why a certain loan was being floated, and he informed me that it was for the purpose of covering certain Treasury bills to meet sugar purchases due in London. I may say, however, that that statement is not borne out by the present Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), and I do not knew which is the correct one. On the 7th February, 1921, a loan of £5,000,000 at 95 was floated, the nominal interest being 6 per cent. The business in connexion with that loan was conducted by the Nivison firm, and I find that the cost of flotation was £166,303, leaving the amount actually received by the Commonwealth at £4,583,697. If honorable members care to examine the details of this loan, they will find that the interest of 6 per cent. works out at £6,416,303, and the net result was that, with principal and interest together, our indebtedness was increased by £11,000,000. These, I submit, are rather staggering figures, and something will have to be done sooner or later to bring about an alteration in this regard. In London today there is a tendency to invest in this sort of gilt-edge security, with the result that money is diverted away from commercial and industrial enterprise. Until we take steps to materially reduce the rates of interest we must expect people with money to invest to turn their attention to loans of the kind. Another loan, floated in October, 1921, was one of £5,000,000 at 96, with nominal interest at 6 per cent. The cost of flotation was £155,177, leaving the amount received by the Commonwealth at £4,644,823. The interest works out at £6,355,177, making the total liability £11,000,000. These two loans are issued under dates that I do not understand. The same practice appears to have been followed nowhere else. They fall due after ten years, but they may continue for a further ten years. Coming, as these arrangements do, from a stock-broking firm, it appears to me, rightly or wrongly, that there is some motive for that course of action. It seems to me that this action has been taken so that *if the loan isnot redeemed at the end of ten years it will automatically continue for a further ten years, and we shall have no opportunity to alter the conditions” in any way.
Regarding the last loan - the Peace Loan - I am quite unable to discover who decided that the loan should be issued at 96 in Australia. It was raised for the purpose of meeting expenditure arising out of the war, and I believe that there was sufficient money in .this country at that time to float the loan at par. Some explanation of these favorable terms may be found when we consider who were the advisers of the Government at that time. Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer, and we have a Finance Committee, included on which are Mr. G. Swinburne; Mjr. H. L. Heron, general manager of the Commercial Bank of Australasia; and Mr. J. J. Garvan, managing director of the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company. Realizing that these three gentlemen are the advisers to the Treasury, I can only come to the conclusion that commercial influences have been at work. These commercial men hold very high positions in institutions which invest very largely in this class of security. With their knowledge of the value of the securities ‘and the concessions available to the organizations that they represent, they could not be expected to give any other advice to the Government than that the loan should be issued at 96. The Treasury ought to be controlled by the Treasurer, who is responsible to this House, and our own officials, and by nobody outside. The gentlemen on the Committee are drawing salaries of thousands of pounds a year in the commercial positions they occupy, and it is their duty to safeguard the interests of the concerns which they represent, and of which I believe they are very faithful servants. All their interests are1 bound up in those institutions. I do not wish to speak disrespectfully of these gentlemen as citizens, but I want them to be deprived of a position which gives them an opportunity to know what is happening in the Treasury. I can recall occasions when State Ministers have availed themselves of the knowledge that a railway was about to be proposed by the Government, and have purchased land in «close proximity to the route. Why should these gentlemen who advise the Treasury not avail themselves of the knowledge they possess and use it in the interests of the organizations they serve? One of “them is a banker ; another holds a high position in an insurance company, and the third, Mr. Swinburne, seems to be an indispensable servant of the Government since it came into office. Mr. Swinburne ‘loses one position to-day and falls into another to-morrow. No doubt he is a very valuable servant of the Government. These gentlemen, however, cannot fill two positions and serve the interests of both honestly. The Government would be wise to act upon my advice. Mr. Swinburne is already a candidate for this Parliament. He has every right to be a candidate, but I cannot agree that he ought at the same time to occupy the position of adviser to the Treasury. The £5,000,000 loan floated in London cost £166,303, and that for £10,000,000 floated in Australia by our own Bank, of which we are all shareholders, cost only £52,860. The amount received from the loan floated in Australia was £9,630,602, and the interest payable is £6,508,498. When we redeem that loan, the country will have had to pay £16,139,100. I feel confident that if the last Peace Loan had been floated at par it would have been subscribed equally as well as it was ultimately subscribed. The Australian Mutual Provident Society, the Mutual Life and Citizens Assurance Company, and others who invested their hundreds of thousands of pounds in this loan, received scrip representing £100 for every £96 which they invested. That difference at the end of the year would produce a very great improvement in their balancesheets. I do not blame them at all, for their interests are bound up with those of their proprietors and shareholders. All Australian loans should be floated at par, and the rate of interest should be reduced when current ‘loans are renewed. Our national expenditure is going ahead by leaps and bounds. Unless some step is taken to reduce the interest payable on our loan indebtedness, the future will hold out very little hope for any reduction in taxation. Next year loans to the extent of £39,000,000 will fall due, and if we re-issue the scrip at 1 pen cent, less interest, it will mean to the taxpayers an annual saving of £398,000, or £4,000,000, roughly, in ten years. We have no option in time of war; we must pay high rates of interest, and the people must empty their pockets into the Treasury; but now that the war is over, it is our duty to set to work to gradually wipeout our indebtedness for unproductive war expenditure. There are two kinds of loan expenditure. We spend loan funds upon public utilities which earn interest and sinking fund, and we spend money upon warlike operations which earn no interest. Australian stock-holders should not object to a reduction in the rate of interest payable to them, seeing that a reduction would be at the present time of material assistance to those who helped Australia in its time of trouble, while others became phenomenally rich at the expense of the general community. A reduction in the people’s taxation would make money available for investment in commercial and industrial enterprises. That country is most prosperous where land is cheap, and where the rate of interest is low. When I was a youth, before I left Great Britain to see the world and settle in Australia, my father told me that I ought speedily to become wealthy in a country where land was cheap if I would onlyput into my work the same energy that I displayed in my amusements. Not long ago we learned that Sir Robert Nivison, the head of the British firm of financiers which underwrites our loans, had been created a peer of Great Britain. One of the greatest scandals ever heard of in British parliamentary life has been the method of bestowing titles during the last few years. When a wealthy brewer of New South Wales was created a baronet some years ago, it cost him so much to advertise his name by contributions to party funds and gifts that he advised his sons not to follow his example. I do not know how much Sir Robert Nivison (now Lord Glendyne), spent to secure his recently bestowed honour; I merely mention the fact to show how prosperous he must be. No doubt some consideration was deemed to be due to him because of the conditions on which he floated Australian loans among his particular friends. I am sure the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) agrees with me that our gilt-edged securities should not pay such high rates of interest. There appears to be an impression abroad that a return to low-wage conditions will restore Australia to that sound condition she occupied prior to the war, but I take quite the opposite view. [Extension of time granted.] I am totally opposed to any policy having for its object a reduction in wages, because low wages must necessarily imply a lower standard of living, and this in turn must be reflected in our social and commercial life, and of itself it cannot be expected to solve the problem of unemployment. Those honorable members who may be living in a min ing district, or for that matter in any district that depends upon one particular industry for its prosperity, will readily realize what a sudden cessation of employment means to everybody concerned, and how essential it is, by wise financial provision, to do all that is possible to assure continuity of employment. The problems arising from heavy interest charges on war loans are causing a good deal of anxiety to the Chancellor of the Exchequer in Great Britain and to the Chancellors in all European countries, as well as in the United States of America, for, although that country is in possession’ of the great bulk of the world’s gold, it. can do nothing with it, owing to the unfavorable condition of European markets, due, as I have shown, to excessive interest charges on war loans and resultant unemployment. If in Australia we accept the theory that low wages point the way to commercial salvation, how can we expect to attract men and women emigrants from the Mother Country? If the decision of our Arbitration Courts and all the other established tribunals are in the direction of lowering wages and the standard of living, how can the Government ask for loan money for the purpose of bringing immigrants to Australia? This certainly is not a statesman-like position to take up, although it may suit the politician. If there are any statesmen in this House they have now a splendid opportunity to display courage by insisting on the maintenance of the present standard of living, so that this country may be the admiration of the world. There would then be no need to ask for loan money for immigration purposes, because, owing to our advantageous conditions, there would be a steady stream of immigrants desirous of bettering their position in life. My sole purpose is to bring about this happy position. Honorable members on this side of the House - and I feel, sure I can speak also for Country party members - will heartily support any policy with that object in view. The suggestion I have outlined is within the range of practical politics. I have laid the facts before honorable members, and I have shown that there is urgent need for a change in our methods of finance if we are to expect greater stability in the near future, and get back to that happy position. Australia occupied in 1913. So attractive was this country then that no less than 87,900 people came to Australia as compared with 14,000, representing the highest number of immigrants in any one year during the regime of the present Government. The logic of these figures is irresistible. If we could only get back to that enviable position we should not need to spend any loan money on immigration, because a contented and prosperous population would be an inducement to other desirable immigrants from overseas’. Unfortunately, many new comers after a residence of only six or seven months in this country have returned to the Mother Land disappointed at finding that under present conditions the prospects here were not better than in England. I trust that some course such as I have outlined for the easing of our financial burdens will be adopted, because, if we can accomplish that, we shall be doing something to make Australia a most desirable country for people to live in.
– In the somewhat lengthy remarks I propose making in connexion with the Bill now before the Committee, I am concerned not only with the methods and costs of raising loans, but with the manner in which we are to pay the rapidly accumulating loans that have been piled upon 5,500,000 people. You have been good enough, Mr. Chairman, to inform me that I shall be quite in order in discussing matters directly and indirectly related to the measure now before us. I am very glad the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) laid it down in his Budget speech that consideration had been given to the principles which were unanimously decided upon at the Brussels Economic Conference, which principles, he thinks, should govern Commonwealth finance. It will be remembered! that the Australian representative at the Brussels Economic Conference was Mr. Collins, the Secretary to the Treasury, who is an excellent officer. I have not forgotten the fact that the Treasurer was able, within a few days after the termination of the last financial year, to submit figures which very closely approximated the actual figures. I take it that Mr. Collins, amongst others, was a party to the conclusions arrived at at the Brussels Conference, and I am glad that the Treasurer has promised to give effect to those principles in the financial policy which he has laid down.
– But we are not discussing the Budget.
– No; but I am. coming to item No. 1 in the Bill, under which the Government propose to advance money for the construction of roads by State Governments. So far as I can see, this policy does not completely agree with resolution No. 4 arrived at at Brussels, which provides “ That provision for unemployed doles should not be recognised. ‘ ‘ The Treasurer has said that the Government have rigidly adhered to this principle, and that, while they are prepared to assist reproductive works, they will not countenance the payment of doles. Technically, the amount of £250,000 for the purpose of constructing roads by the States could, perhaps, be placed to a loan account; but, actually, so far as I can gather from the public press, and so far as I remember, an admission has been made in this House that this sum has been granted for the relief of unemployment inthe various States, and will be allotted to the States on a per capita basis. I would have much preferred an item such as this being met out of revenue instead of being paid out of loan, and an obligation of 7 per cent. in the first year, or of £17,500, as interest and loan expenses being imposed upon the finances of the Commonwealth, and every year afterwards a sum of £12,500, assuming the money is borrowed at 5 per cent., until it is paidoff. The Treasurer, in his recent statement, informed the House that the public debt of the Commonwealth at the end of this financial year would be £416,000,000. The proposals under review actually mean that we are adding to the permanent debt of the Commonwealth a sum of £12,000,000 net, and it has been suggested that we are going to pay off our public debt at the rate of 1/2 per cent. per annum. If we are to establish a sinking fund of1/2 per cent. per annum on the £416,000,000, and also add to the public debt of the Commonwealth £12,000,000 per annum, I am sure the Treasurer cannot inform the Committee when that debt is likely to be paid off.
– The existing debt will be paid off automatically, and the other drawn in.
– I am quoting these figures not so much in the form of criticism as for purposes of record. In the last pre-war Budget of 1913-14 similar items to those now included in the Loan Bill were paid for out of revenue, and such expenditure, according to the latest Budget, is now to be met out of loan. As an illustration, I may mention that in the Bill now before the Committee, there is £250,000 towards the establishment of the Federal Capital; but in the Budget of 1913-14 a sum of £251,000 was appropriated from revenue for the same purpose.
– Which principle does the honorable member believe in?
– I believe in raising a separate loan for the erection and completion of the Capital, such a loan to be dissociated from Commonwealth finance and controlled by a Commission. If that were done I believe that in a few years the interest on that loan could: he paid, and a redemption fund established from receipts from the Territory itself. Many similar items which were paid for out of revenue in 1913-14 have now been included in a Loan Bill. Although I am directing attention to them, I am not complaining, in view of the heavy national debt, as the interest on the public debt, war pensions, and many other items amounting to approximately £30,000,000 per year, is paid for out of revenue, but the sooner we get down to something definite and concrete in connexion with a statutory sinking fund the more stable will be our trade and commerce and developmental conditions. The Government are of the opinion that a sinking fund of J per cent, per annum should be established, redeeming our debt in fifty years, and they consider it is an equitable arrangement between the present generation of taxpayers and those who will succeed us. There is a good deal to be said from that point of view.
– Is it contended that with a sinking fund of per cent, per annum the debt will be redeemed within fifty years?
– Yes, with compound interest.
– Based, of course, on 5 per cent. ?
– Yes. There is a great deal to be said with regard to the attitude of the Treasurer, always provided that every pound of loan money expended represents absolutely reproductive expenditure. If, however, we go on as we are now year after year, I have already suggested that the increase in our national debt will not be met by the sinking fund proposed by the Government. Like a good many other people, I had an impression that the ex-Treasurer (Sir’ Joseph Cook) had established the principle of a 1 per cent, sinking fund, which, would result in the redemption of the public debt at 5 per cent, compound interest in thirty-seven years. I am glad to know that the Treasurer has forecast legislation whereby a statutory sinking fund may be established, but I am not quite sure’ as to whether the whole of the national debt, or only that portion of it particularly representing war. expenditure, is intended to be dealt with by the Treasurer.
– It comprises all the debt. I have made that quite clear in the Budget speech. It includes the properties taken over from the States.
– Will it represent the whole of our gross debt, or only our net debt ?
– The gross debt.
– I am glad to hear that, because in going through the Budgetpapers I noticed that the Commonwealth has a good many assets, and a good many credits that I think, and hope, will some day return, in any case, the bulk of the money lent on them., together with the interest. If a sinking fund is established in connexion with our public finances, and if, in connexion with that legislation, we make it obligatory on the part of the Treasurer that no return upon money spent out of loans shall go back into the Consolidated Revenue, but shall be devoted to the redemption of the public debt, then the debt will be cleared off sooner than in the time I have mentioned. I must express my disappointment at finding that the supposed establishment of a* 1 per cent, sinking fund by the late Treasurer was an illusion, and that there is no statutory or other authority in connexion with the matter.
– I think there was to be a sinking fund of about per cent.
– I understood from the Treasurer that it was an illusion.
– It is not an illusion ; but it was not a sinking fund based on the principle of compound interest. It was a sinking fund by which Commonwealth securities were purchased and redeemed at the rate of 1 per cent, in one year, and then at % tier cent.
– But there is no statutory obligation on the pant of the Treasurer to pay anything off the national debt, and I think that the trend of this legislation should be in the direction of placing the debt under an independent Board of Commissioners, free from interference by Parliament, so that, following on the lines adopted by the British Government, the full amount of compound interest could be earned, and the best use made of the money received towards repayment. I feel that Providence has blessed Australia over a longer average of years than usual.Like the Pharaoh of old, we may be in for a lean time, and in that case, obviously, our income tax and Customs and Excise duties, from which sources the bulk of our revenue comes, will of necessity be considerably contracted. Unless we, at all events, endeavour in some degree to prepare for such a time as that, we may in future years look back upon to-day, and express regret that we had not been a little more provident.
– You forget that population and prosperity will increase as years go on.
– I am glad to hear that very optimistic prophecy; but I think that a careful people and a prudent Legislature should remember the seasonal history of Australia, and, at all events, take some care for the morrow. We should not legislate or act as if to say, “ After me the deluge,” or “ Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”
– Or, “ Make hay while the sun shines.”
– Quite so. Therefore, I would again stress the point that, in my opinion, it is bad finance not to pay as much as we possibly can off the public debt in times of prosperity, so as to be prepared to some extent for the possible reverses of the morrow. I believe that we could well afford, with the present average revenue, to pay into our sinking fund at least the sum of £3,000,000 annually. That, of course, would be a minimum of3/4 per cent. of our total indebtedness of about £400,000,000. On the basis of compound interest at 5 per cent., that would pay off the whole of our national debt in a period of forty-two or forty-three years. In addition to a sinking fund, on the basis of our current revenue, of3/4 per cent., or £3,000,000 per annum, we should have coining into the sinking fund - if it were established on what, in my opinion, is a satisfactory basis - the repayments of loan money that had already been advanced in this direc tion and the other, and which could not be appropriated by the Treasurer for the time being. There would be the return of the loan moneys in connexion with advances to the States, some of our commercial activities, War Service Homes, and in many other directions. These would increase that sinking fund, and, if we paid into it an average of £3,000,000 per annum, it would not be forty-two or fortythree years before we extinguished the present debt, but it would probably be redeemed ten years sooner than that.
Coming to the question of the straggling accounts that should be allocated by a Treasurer in connexion with the reduction of a debt, I may say that I always remember that my honorable friend, the Treasurer, has been in office for only six months, and I am hopeful that he will have a clear twelve months in which to clew up some of the odds and ends of national finance, and to put into operation some of those principles in. which, I gathered from his speech yesterday, he believes.
– Does the honorable mem ber believe in taking £3,000,000 out of the Trust Funds in order to permit of a reduction of the income tax ?
– I am not now discussing the Budget, but a good many arguments could be used to justify the adoption of that course by the Treasurer. After all, the surpluses out of which he proposes to reduce taxation have been accumulated during and since the war, and he himself, as Treasurer, will contribute £400,000 to the total.
Regarding the position of the Commonwealth Bank inrelation to the Commonwealth debt and Sinking Fund, I desire, first of all, to draw the attention of the Committee to the fact that the Treasury had lying idle in the Commonwealth Bank a sum of about £9,000,000, upon which it is paying interest to the bondholders, but receiving practically no interest from the Bank itself.
– I beg the honorable member’s pardon. The whole of the £9,000,000 is not in the Bank. The margin in the Bank is never as great as the amount shown as the total of the loan moneys that we have. We try to keep the margin as small as possible.
– I agree with the Treasurer so far as that principle is concerned, but he will see, as my argument develops, that for years the Commonwealth Bank has been placed in a very special position by the Treasury, and that the large profits made by the Bank during the last few years have been made chiefly at the expense of Commonwealth finance.
– - The Public Accounts Committee recommended that the Treasury should share that profit.
– The Public Accounts Committee, in a report on “ Commonwealth Finance,” dated 12th December, 1918, stated that-
Your Committee, viewing with concern the large amount of money (eighteen millions odd) on current account, which is not earning interest, recommends that action should be taken by the Treasury to make arrangements whereby Treasury balances held by the bank and not immediately required should be invested on a reciprocal basis so as to return interest to the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
I desire also to draw the attention of the Committee to the Auditor-General’s report for the year ending 30th June, 1921, in which he writes that -
Interest on fixed deposit with Commonwealth Bank amounted to £165,000 in 1920-21, as compared with £187,000 in 1919-20. This represents the interest on fixed deposit of amounts totalling £7,000,000. During 1920-21, the rate of interest received on £5,000,000 was 2 per cent., and on £2,000,000 the rates of 31/2 per cent, for six months and 3 per cent, for six months. The deposit of £5,000,000 was renewed for a period of six months at 2 per cent, from the 5th June, 1921, and deposits totalling £2,000,000 were renewed for a period of three months at 3 per cent, from 1st September, 1921.
So far as I have been able to ascertain, this excerpt from the report of the AuditorGeneral refers only to money upon which the Commonwealth Bank has paid interest. It has no reference whatsoever to money that has been in the Commonwealth Bank, and upon which the Treasury has been paying interest to bondholders, but in respect of which the Bank itself has paid no interest.
The Commonwealth Bank was brought into existence by the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911, in which it was provided that the capital should be £1,000,000, to be raised by the issue of debentures. By the amending Act of 1914 power was given to the Bank to increase the debenture issue to £10,000,000, and full control of the Bank was vested in the Governor. Section 30 of the Act of 1911 is important. It refers to the disposal of the profits of the Bank, and that is the point in connexion with the question of sinking fund that I wish to develop. Section 30 provides that -
1 ) The net profits derived by the Bank shall be dealt with as follows: -
Let us now consider what has actually happened. No debentures were issued either for capital or for any other purpose, but the Bank on the 31st December, 1921, had accumulated profits to the amount of £3,792,726, which in its balance-sheet was apportioned one-half to the Reserve Fund and one-half - on paper - to the Redemption Fund.
– And none to the Commonwealth . Government.
– And none to the Government. [Extension of time granted.]
– What did the honorable member mean by saying that onehalf of the accumulated profit was apportioned “on paper” to the Redemption Fund?
– The £3,792,726, which represents the accumulated profits of the Commonwealth Bank from the time when it first started trading until 31st December, 1921, has been allocated in the Bank’s balance-sheets one-half to the Reserve Fund and one-half to the Redemption Fund.
– But the honorable member spoke of the allocation of half “ on paper “ to the Redemption Fund.
– The £3,792,726 as shown on the balance-sheet of the Commonwealth Bank is allocated half to the Reserve Fund and half to the Redemption Fund. The Bank, however, has all the money. That is the point I wish to make. Referring back to section 30 of the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911, which I have already quoted, honorable members will note that, while the provision as to the disposal of the Reserve Fund to meet the liabilities of the Bank is mandatory, the disposal of the Redemption Fund, on the contrary, is optional, the word “may,” instead of “ shall,” having been used. I understand that successive Treasurers have been bothered with this position, and I am not sure that my honorable friend the present Treasurer is not also having trouble with it. I have good reason to believe that the exTreasurer, Sir Joseph Cook, always maintained that the Governor of the Bank had no right to keep this money, but that it should be allocated towards the redemption of the Commonwealth debt. The Governor, however, has treated this Redemption Fund as capital, and evidently intends to continue to do so.
I wish to pursue this subject a little further. I promise not to weary honorable members, but I desire to offer a few observations as to how the Commonwealth Bank’s profits of £3,792,726 have been made. Apparently, so far as I can pursue the figures, the explanation is fairly simple. It is that the prosperity of the Bank and its profits have resulted from the Empire having been at war for four years. In connexion with the large loans that have been raised in Australia and elsewhere for war purposes excessive profits have been made by it, while unusual profits, from a banking stand-point, have arisen from the Bank holding -large sums of Commonwealth Treasury money, at low interest, or none at all, and letting out those sums to other customers at a profit. The earnings of the Bank since 1914-15 are as follows: -
Most of these earnings, I maintain, were due not to the usual profits of banking institutions, but rather to the Federal Government’s enormous deposits with the Bank on which no or little interest is paid.
– The private banks would have “collared” those profits.
– If the private banks had been in the preferential position occupied by the Commonwealth Bank they possibly would have made a greater profit than is shown by the Commonwealth Bank. I want only to place this view of the matter before the Committee. If we have a
National Bank belonging to the people, and if it is making a very substantial i profit, largely by virtue of its Government connexions, it is only fair, seeing that we are overloaded with debt, and require to find a lot of money, that we should see whether the original intention of the Commonwealth Bank Act cannot be carried out and some of its large profits be used to augment our sinking fund.
Speaking of the enormous Federal Government deposits that have been held by the Commonwealth Bank without interest during the last few years - and I have gone back to the first statement of the Public Accounts Committee presented some years ago - it may be that in connexion with war finance at one time those deposits have amounted to a sum of, perhaps, £20,000,000. I know that the Bank has lent out money in London at short call at very high rates of interest. I believe that the deposits held in the Commonwealth Bank, for some years have averaged an amount reaching eight figures, that is to say, to £10,000,000 or more. When such huge sums of money are in the custody of the Bank, and it pays little interest on them, the operations of the institution are naturally highly profitable. In other words, possibly the Commonwealth has borrowed its own money, on which it has received no interest, and has paid up to 5 per cent, for it. I know that the Treasurer is endeavouring to get back to a more business-like position in connexion with these large amounts upon which, he is paying interest and receiving none. Yesterday he indicated very clearly in his speech that he did not consider it a business-like proposition to borrow money and pay interest on it for months and months before the money is utilized. I have drawn the attention of the Committee to the remarks of the AuditorGeneral in connexion with the small rate of interest paid on some of the sums deposited in the Commonwealth Bank. I should like to see, in connexion with this matter, a statement from the Governor of the Bank dissecting and separating his ordinary banking business from the evidently very highly profitable banking business which the institution carries on as banker to the Commonwealth Government.
I make these points with the deliberate object of directing ‘ the attention of the Treasurer and the public to the present position, so that when a. Bill is passed whereby a statutory sinking fund of whatever amount may be decided upon by the House is established, it will not only include the payment of1/2,3/4 , or 1 per cent. towards the whole of our sinking fund, but will include also the receipts from repayments of loans from various sources which have been treated as revenue by the Treasury, and will further include one-half of the earnings of the Commonwealth Bank, as I believe was originally intended by the framers of the Commonwealth Bank Act. It is not my intention to pursue the subject very much further. I am quite sure from what I can read into the remarks made by the Treasurer yesterday that he is perfectly au fait with the whole position. I have spoken as I have done in order to throw some light on a matter which I think requires attention, because when the question of Government versus private enterprise crops up, and we hear from our friends on the opposite side, they always give the country the Commonwealth Bank as an illustration of the success of Government enterprise. I have given the reasons why it is an illusion to suppose that the Commonwealth Bank is legitimately making the large profits which its balance-sheets show. I hope that if the Commonwealth Bank is to continue to receive this preferential treatment from the Treasurer and the Government, who, after all, represent the people of Australia, the people should in return receive some of the profits made by the Bank in the way I have outlined, particularly towards the extinction of our war obligations.
.- I have been very much interested in the statement just made in regard to the sinking fund by the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten). I should like to support his contention that the percentage contribution to the fund should be the largest we can possibly make consistent with our financial position. I should like to compliment the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) on his’ statement that in future it is his intention to see that there shall not be too much borrowed money left unutilized. I suggest that in the past we have not acted as wisely as we might have done when it has been seen that within two or three months a Commonwealth loan has been floated on very much worse terms than those of a loan floated by a State whose credit ought not to be nearly as good as that of the Commonwealth. There was one Commonwealth local loan at 6 per cent., issued at £96, and within about three months of its flotation New South Wales floated a loan at 5 per cent. at £95.
– The honorable member must not overlook the change in the market at the time to which he refers.
– I admit the change, but my point is that we have had the bulk of that money lying idle. I think that the course which the Treasurer proposes to adopt is a sound and safe one.
I should like to refer to certain items of the schedule, and first of all to the proposed contribution by the Commonwealth of £250,000 towards the construction of roads by the States. In my view that contribution should be made, not from loan but out of revenue. The proposed grant in aid is confessedly to be used for the purpose of finding employment, and the money is apparently to be expended in the maintenance of roads already constructed, and not for the purpose of the construction of new roads for the opening up of new country. I am satisfied that such expenditure should be defrayed out of revenue and not from loan.
There is an item of £10,000 down for the Cockatoo Island Dockyard - machinery and plant, yard and floating plant, upon which I should like to have some explanation from the Treasurer. We should be given some definite statement as to the exact position of this dockyard. I have learned during the last few days that different arrangements have been made with regard to the work of shipbuilding and repairing, and that certain boats which previously were repaired at the Cockatoo Island Dockyard are now to be repaired elsewhere. I am one of those who hope that the time is not far distant when the Government will free itself from these undertakings altogether. I think that the purchase of the Cockatoo Island Dockyard from the New South Wales Government was a mistake in the first place, and its ownership by the Commonwealth should not be perpetuated too long. There is some excellent machinery there, and if the dockyard were leased to any of several engineering firms at present in Sydney I think it would be found that many vessels which at present go abroad to be docked would be docked in the Commonwealth.
There is an item of £6,000,000 in the schedule to cover loans to the States for the settlement of returned soldiers on the land. In this connexion I should like to emphasize what I said last night with regard to advances for this purpose to New South Wales, South Australia, and Queensland. I refer to the control which I think should be exercised by the Commonwealth in connexion with the settlement of returned soldiers. It is evident from statements which have been made in each of the States I have mentioned, that a comprehensive system of reappraisement is to be adopted. There may possibly be tremendous losses incurred in connexion with the land settlement of soldiers, and there is no doubt in my mind that ultimately the State Governments will approach the Commonwealth Government and say, “These are our losses; what are you going to do to help us ? Are you willing to share our losses fifty-fifty V No matter how such losses are incurred or what method is adopted to meet them, I emphasize the fact that although there will be more than one Government concerned in the matter there will be only one taxpayer, who will be ultimately called upon to foot the bill. In the circumstances, the handling of these moneys will require the greatest circumspection to insure that they will be utilized to the best possible advantage.
I should like to make a few remarks with regard to the acquisition of land for post and telegraph purposes. I wish to remind honorable members that we have already lost many opportunities to acquire land at a reasonable price when it was immediately available. Such opportunities have arisen, and because no money has been available, or because the Treasurer has had too tight a hand on the purse-strings at the time, purchases have been delayed, and land which might have been secured at a reasonable price has increased in value by 50 per cent, or 100 per cent., and in some cases has been no longer available to the Post and Telegraph Department, which has consequently had to acquire much more expensive sites. In one of the districts of my own electorate, I may say that’ a site for a post-office has been offered in Gladstone, on the Macleay River. It is the last suitable site in the town which can be obtained at a reasonable price. The Post and Telegraph Department will have to erect a post-office in the town, as it at present only rents offices for the purpose, and if the opportunity now presented to secure this site is missed the Department will be compelled to pay a great deal more than it need pay at present.
I wish now to deal with the question of loans to be obtained to finance the proposed system of postal and telegraphic development. . I think that the right method of dealing with this matter has not been proposed. The Department is essentially a trading Department, and its accounts ought to be kept separate. This should be regarded as a self-contained business entitled to the use of its own revenue. If the revenue had been used continuously for developmental purposes there is no doubt that the present huge loan of £8,000,000 or £9,000,000^ would not have been necessary. Ever since the inception of Federation this has been regarded as the Cinderella of the Departments. At the very beginning we find Sir George Turner always exercising the “screw,” and since the Department has become productive, and especially within the last five or six years, it has been made the “milch cow” for the Treasury. In this connexion the following figures are interesting : -
– What does the honorable member include amongst the new works?
– I refer to new works paid for out of revenue. The money expended has always included interest on transferred properties, interest on new works, and every other statutory obligation incurred by the Department. On the figures I have quoted, a total of £3,569,540 has been taken by the Treasury - an amount greater than the total amount of loan and revenue moneys that are to be spent on new works this year.
In this connexion it is worth noting that by reason, of the fact that this Department has been starved in the way I have indicated, and its revenue diverted in other directions, instead of ‘being utilized as was requested by the Minister (Mr. Webster) in charge, when the excess was being passed into the general revenue, we find that the cost of many of the installations and of much of the material has enormously increased. We also find that, .because this money was not placed in some form of trust fund by means of which material could have been purchased, as it often can, in large quantities and at low prices at odd moments, such opportunities were lost. Then, owing to the fact that frequently the Budget has not been presented Until very late, the responsible officials of the Department have been left without funds for such a purpose; and the profits of the Department are nothing like what they would have been if the course I am suggesting had been adopted.
– At that time the purchase of Material was absolutely impossible.
– I have a letter here from an ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Webster), dealing with that very matter, and he says that the material available in 1916, for instance, was at a certain price, but the opportunity of purchase was lost, and it had to be bought later at a price more than 100 per cent, higher. Since the end of the war there have been many opportunities of buying in bulk, but they have been missed because there has not been any business-like method in the administration of this huge Department, and because it bas not been regarded as a self-contained Department, keeping its own accounts in the same way as the accounts of the Commonwealth Bank are kept.
– The honorable member means that the profits of the Department should be put to reserve and used to pay expenses ?
– They should be used for the development work of the Department. The progress of the country depends to a_ large extent on means of communication, for communication is civilization. From personal experience I know that one of the greatest drawbacks in the country districts, especially to women, is the lack of communication with their neighbours, the nearest town, and especially with medical mein. I venture to say that one of the prime causes of insanity in this country, and very frequently the cause of death, is the isolation and sense of isolation due to the poor telephonic services over many of our large areas. It would be possible to reduce the rates for those out-back districts, and install more telephones if the policy I suggest were adopted. At this time there ought to be a properlyplanned policy to secure the best possible organization when we are on the eve of spending £9,000,000 on the development of the Department. The need for this is shown by what happened in 1910-13, when loan moneys, amounting to £2,000,000, were made available. I have here a letter from the exPostmasterGeneral (Mr. Webster), who says -
I can readily foresee that during the boom arising from the expenditure of the £8,000,000 loan in four years, the Public Service will be obviously inflated, and many of the boom employees will find their way into an overcrowded permanent staff, to ultimately become a tax on the Postal Department during the lean years which will inevitably’ follow. In support of this contention I cite what occurred after the temporary lapse of .generosity by the Treasury during 1910-13, when some £2,000,000 of loan money was made available. Many men were added to the permanent staff, the casuals left when funds were exhausted, but those who secured permanent appointments remained. Later reports show .that over 100 men of all grades were declared to be excess officers in the Electrical Engineer’s Branch alone, this after making liberal provision for full normal requirements. The report clearly showed there was no legitimate work for those excess officers to do. I appealed again and again to the Public Service Commissioner to- relieve the Department of the incubus without success. That was three years’ ago, and though the works have equally been restricted during that time, these excess officers are still drawing their salaries or wages as hitherto. Evidently, because the Public Service Commissioner sanctioned their appointment when work was available, he failed to authorize their removal when informed that there was no work for them to do. Such was the sequel to an exceptional expenditure of about £2,000,000 of loan money; what will be the result during the expenditure of four times that sum in similar time?
– The honorable member knows that had the policy of extension been continued there would have been no excess of employees.
– The period then covered was one of three years, and the period now suggested is’ four years.
If the organization is not “ tuned up,” and made a great deal better, I am afraid we shall see very much more regrettable results than in 1910-13.
What do we find in the Department right on the eve of such an expenditure as is now proposed ? We find that the Secretary of the Department has suspended the Chief Electrical Engineer - that the two highest executive officers are at loggerheads, and have quarrelled. Just at the very time when it is necessary to have the utmost unanimity, and the most cordial feeling of co-operation, in order that this loan money may be wisely spent, the senior engineering officer has been suspended, and everything is in chaos.
– Is the suggestion of the honorable gentleman that, if it were considered advisable that this man should be suspended, he should not have been suspended 1
– No; what I say is that if he has been suspended it is im- perative at the earliest possible moment to have the whole matter cleared up. It is also imperative that whatever the merits or the demerits of the case may be - I am not going to discuss them to-day - there should be proper organization throughout the Department, or, as I say, we shall find a worse condition of affairs in three or four years from now than was found after 1910-13.
– I quite agree with the honorable member; but I cannot quite see what this point about the necessary, or the considered necessary, suspension of an officer has to do with the matter.
– The honorable member has said that these two officers have quarrelled; is that a fact?
– I simply have a newspaper statement, which says that the highest officer–
– You said that they had quarrelled.
– I take it that the mechanical side of this developmental policy will be the most important; and yetwe are told that the highest mechanical officer has been suspended. This is a matter of great importance, and, in my opinion, before any money is spent there should be a complete reorganization of the service. There ought to be from the Treasurer, or some other Ministor, an insistence that, whatever troubles there may be in the Department, there must be co-operation amongst the officers in the expenditure of this loan money.
– I do not think the honorable member was entitled to make a suggestion of the sort he did, if he has no evidence in support of it.
– In a Sydney newspaper, of 26th August of this year, there is an article headed -
Departments in Conflict.
We have had no refutation in this House of any suggestion of that nature. Public statements have been made in regard to it, and I think that the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) asked a question concerning it a few days ago. Although a loan proposal is before the Committee, no statement has been made regarding the present position in the Post Office. It is due to the Committee and to the public that before this Loan Bill is passed the whole of the facts, as they are known from the departmental point of view, should be disclosed. The present position is an unfortunate one that ought not to be tolerated. Before the Secretary suspended the other executive officer, the Minister should have taken action. These officers appear to sit in adjoining rooms and write notes to one another. I wish to urge my protest against a large loan expenditure being agreed tound er these conditions. The result can only be chaos, disaster, and useless and unnecessary expenditure. Later, at the appropriate time, I shall test the feeling of the Committee on the question of whether the Post Office should be regarded as a self-contained trading concern, and should be entitled to retain the whole of the profits it earns.
– I should not have intruded in the debate at the present stage had it not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten) in regard, particularly, to the Commonwealth Bank, its association with the Treasury, and the Act under which it operates. With some of his statements 1 entirely agree. I happened to be a member of the Public Accounts Committeewhen it examined some of the Treasury accounts. We discovered that at one period, I think in 1918, the Bank held about £18,000,000 of accumulated money belonging to the Government, and that on that money the Treasurer received not a penny in interest.
– It must have been very difficult to avoid that during the war period.
– The investigation further proved that the Governor of the Bank was able to place that money out on shortdated loans in the London market. These loans were mostly for three months, but some were for six months, and from them the Bank earned a considerable amount in interest. The Public Accounts Committee came to the conclusion that, as the Bank was making some of its profits out of Government loan money, there should be a .reciprocal arrangement between the Bank and the Treasury whereby the general revenue of the country would participate in the benefits. The Treasurer knows that, in a majority of the States, if not in all of them, the State Governments have an arrangement with the banks with which they deposit moneys whereby the banks pay certain sums by way of interest to the State Treasury if the moneys are not required for use by the Government. I think that system operates in Victoria and in some of the other States. If private banks are prepared to do this, the Commonwealth Bank ought also to be prepared to do it.
– There is never any serious difficulty with money deposited with the banks for long periods.
– It is admitted that in Australia we cannot deal with large sums of money in the way they can be dealt with in London. In war time or peace time there are opportunities for investing millions of pounds at short date in London, and both the Commonwealth Bank and the private banks make considerable sums of money in that way. Seeing that th6 Commonwealth Bank is operating under an Act of Parliament, and is, if not a Government Bank, at least a semi-Government one, it should allow the Treasurer to participate’ in some of the benefits from the investment of Government moneys. I do not know whether the Governor of the Bank is a very strong man placing his own particular interpretation on the Act under which he operates and insisting upon it, but it is a known fact, as he himself has stated, that up to June of this year the Bank had set aside profits amounting to £2,000,000 to reserve fund, and £2,000,000 to a redemption fund. It is stated in the Act that the redemption fund should be devoted,, from time to time, to the reduction ‘ of our public debt. Up to date, however, the various Treasurers have not been able to lav their hands on any of that money. I am favorable to the liquidation of the public debt in that way. I shall quote some figures which were cited by the Governor of the Bank to ari audience that assembled in Collins-street a few weeks ago to take part in the ceremony of laying two foundation stones of the Victorian branch of the Bank. One of -the stones was laid by the Prime Minister, and the other by the Governor of the Bank. To my mind, Sir Denison Miller proved conclusively that, while we may not participate in the redemption fund or in the interest on big loan moneys held by the Bank from time to time, benefits have, nevertheless, accrued to the Commonwealth, The honorable member for Parramatta emphasized the statement that as the Bank had: been established prior to the exceptionally abnormal period of the war, and had operated during the war period, it was an illusion to imagine that it had made what might be termed natural strides. Everybody admits that, for an institution like this, the war time provided a magnificent opportunity. I do not think that my statement can be successfully controverted when I say that, if it had not been for the war, it might have taken the Commonwealth Bank twenty-five years to have reached the position that it now occupies. Owing to the abnormal circumstances it has become today, I am glad to say, the Bank of banks in Australia.
– The Bank made money out of the war just as individuals did.
– I cannot permit the honorable member to put words into my mouth. I think I shall be able to quote figures, the accuracy of which can be proved, to’ show that the Bank has been a valuable institution to the people of the Commonwealth. The figures go to prove what the honorable member for Kooyong (Sir Robert Best) interjected, and the honorable member for Parramatta’ said, namely, that owing to the preferential position which it enjoyed tile Bank earned considerable sums of money. At the ceremony towhich I have referred the Governor of the Bank said -
War loans, peace loans, and a diggers’ loan were floated in Australia, totalling £250,172,440, and, in addition, war savings certificates amounting to £7,454,718 were issued. In raising these loans in Australia, if the pre-war methods of underwriting and cost of flotation as is paid in London for such work - which averages about £2 7s.1d. per cent. - had been adopted, the cost of flotation would have been £5,889,475, whereas the actual cost was 5s. 9d. percent., or £719,245, showing a saving of £5,170,230, in addition to which, the charges by the Commonwealth Bank for management of loans and commission for paying interest coupons, as compared with the charges made in England for similar work, disclose a further saving of £416,711, or a total of £5,586,941.
That is one of the benefits which have accrued to us from having a national institution such as the Commonwealth Bank. He further said -
The Bank also manages loans raised in London on behalf of the Commonwealth Government, the State Governments of South Australia and Tasmania, and various other bodies, totalling £78,000,000, of which £52,000,000 has been actually floated by the Bank itself. In addition, the Bank has raised loans totalling $22,000,000 in America on behalf of the State Government of Queensland.
That was a direct benefit, too. I do not know whether financial experts inside and outside the House will agree with me, but I believe that the Queensland Government, by operating through the Commonwealth Bank on the money market of New York, and by obtaining a loan for $22,000,000, influenced the London money market. Ever since the flotation of that loan in New York there has been a reduction in the interest rates on London borrowings. Therefore, the Bank, in operating for the Queensland Government, performed a valuable service, not only to the taxpayers of Australia, but to the taxpayers of many other countries as well. Sir Denison Miller also said -
The Bank, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, has taken an active part in the management of the various pools for the sale of wool, wheat, butter, and other produce of the Commonwealth, and has assisted in the finance of sugar purchases and the Commonwealth Line of Steamers.
The Bank also, at the request of the Commonwealth Government, built 1,874 war service homes, at a cost of £1,184,062, or an average of £632 each, and we believe that the soldiers are all well and comfortably housed, and practically all quite satisfied with the homes built. for them by the Bank.
– The less said about that matter the better. It was a most disgraceful thing from beginning to end.
– I presume that the honorable member is referring to the Governor of the Baric edging out the State authorities. I think the honorable member should not blame the Commonwealth Bank or the Governor of the Bank so much as he should blame the Government he is supporting.
– - I do blame the Government very strongly.
– The honorable member said at a public meeting, “ I have not hesitated to condemn the Government on this point,” but the Government can laugh up its sleeve and say to the honorable member, “ You may condemn us to your heart’s content so long as you vote all right.” I think that even the present Treasurer, when he ‘analyzes the work done by the Bank, will, like his predecessors, be prepared to give to Sir Denison Miller and his officials here and in London praise for the work they have done. I hope that honorable members, who seem to display some little feeling upon the subject whenthey are discussing the operations of the Commonwealth Bank, have not at the back of their minds a proposal to amend the Commonwealth Bank Act, and interfere with the good work it is doing for the taxpayers. When the Bank was established, in 1912, the chairman of directors of the Bank of Australasia, speaking in London, said -
The banking world is about to have’ a very serious competitor in the’, field against them, but I see no reason, if it is properly managed, why the Commonwealth Bank of Australia should not become in Australia what the Bank of England is in Great Britain.
I believe that if this gentleman were asked his opinion to-day he would say that the Commonwealth Bank had been admirably conducted so far as its constitution would permit, and had attained the position which he thought it would occupy if properly managed. Therefore, I feel inclined to cross swords with the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten), although, no doubt, he has studied the question right out and out. I have no illusions as to the £2,000,000 which I think the Commonwealth Treasurer should take from the Bank’s profits. In doing so he would only be carrying out the intention of Parliament.
– The money is safer in the hands of the Governor of the Bank than it would be in the hands of the Government.
– If , the fund in the Bank is to be used for the redemption of Commonwealth loans, the £2,000,000 could very well be used in this way.
There was another policy set on foot by the Labour Party in 1913, and Sir Joseph Cook, the present High Commissioner, readily admitted the benefit created by making the Australian note issue a Government monopoly. He was able to announce that when a loan of nearly £7,350,000 had accrued he was able to make use of the money earned by the Notes Fund for the purpose of paying off that loan, and thus relieving the taxpayers of the payment of further interest upon it. Many people are howling for economy, but the class of economy they preach is really of the mongrel type. True economy can only be effected in Australia by bringing the national and local Parliaments into their natural ambits; that is to say, the Commonwealth Parliament should be given greater powers, and the State Parliaments should become more of the type of provincial Parliaments.
The honorable * member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page) quoted a portion of a letter written by an exPostmasterGeneral, presumably Mr. Webster, pointing out that £2,000,000 had been spent on postal works from 1910 to 1913, and that this expenditure had led to a considerable increase in the number of Commonwealth public servants. He was alluding to the fact that officers who had been permanently appointed during that period had been retained, although the temporary hands were necessarily dismissed when there was no further work for them to do. On this subject I want to say that, notwithstanding articles which have appeared in the press, notably, in Melbourne, about “the man on the job,” the work of undergrounding telephones in our city carried out in the years referred to was a splendid undertaking, and has resulted in wonderful savings. No doubt some of the tunnelling was costly, but that was due to the fact that explosives could not be used in the city streets, and primitive methods had to be resorted to in breaking through hard rock. The undergrounding of telephones has led to immense savings in the Postal Department, and it ill becomes an ex PostmasterGeneral to refer in satirical terms to the work done.
My chief reason for rising was to say that the Commonwealth Bank has rendered great service to Australia. The very fact that it was chiefly instrumental in keeping down the interest charges on overdrafts during the war saved millions of pounds to the people of Australia. I could mention instance after instance to illustrate the value of the institution to the country, and I hope that nothing will be done by this Parliament to limit or hinder operations which are primarily conducted in the interest of the community at large, although they may to some extent deprive private institutions of a certain amount of business.
– I agree with the honorable member for Maribyrnong (Mr. Fenton) that the Commonwealth Bank’ has rendered good service to Australia, and I am not aware that any one has attempted to impugn its management, but I must say that it has been singularly fortunate. It has had the advantage of most lucrative business associated with war conditions, and its abnormal success has been almost solely due to Government money and the operations of the Government. During its short existence it has made extraordinary strides which, under ordinary trading conditions, it would probably have been unable to achieve in twentyfive or even forty years. I do not regard its progress with jealousy; on the other hand, I congratulate the Bank upon its success. Its Governor has not lost many opportunities. I have had occasion from time to time to condemn what appeared to be his avaricious attitude, which proved successful only by reason of the weakness of the Government of the day. I have in this House strongly condemned the duplication of the State Savings Bank, and also the establishment by the Bank of a War Service Homes Construction Branch, which was totally unnecessary, seeing that the State Savings Banks were thoroughly equipped with all the necessary machinery for the” efficient carrying out of work in this direction. Notwithstanding that an arrangement had been made with the Government of Victoria for the construction of War Service Homes through the Savings Bank, the Commonwealth Bank stepped in and said, “ We prefer to do this work,” and their representations were weakly yielded to by the Government with disastrous results. . I have, as an honorable member has said, voted with the Government, but I have on every occasion voted against the Government on these matters, which I have always condemned, and condemn today. However, that is past now, and no good can be achieved by recalling such matters, except that they come up incidently in the course of debate.
I am quite sure that the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) is alive to the necessity of establishing on a thoroughly sound basis the operations of the Government with the Commonwealth Bank in relation to the vast sums of money which are frequently deposited in the Bank by the Treasury, and held there available at call. The honorable member for Maribyrnong, as a member of the Public Accounts Committee, Has just reminded the Committee of a phase of this question by showing us that the Bank set to work and invested, to its own advantage, a considerable portion of about £18,000,000, which was held by it on behalf of the Government. The profits went, not to the Government, but to the Bank, and are, as a matter of fact, included in the £3,750,000 which now stands to its credit. The honorable member did himself justice when he pointed out that half of that sum of money should be available, in accordance with the spirit, if not the letter, of the law, for the purpose of redeeming the Commonwealth’s indebtedness. But a small proportion of the vast profits made by the Commonwealth Bank has been earned in the ordinary process of trading. The vast percentage of its profits have been gained because of the advantage enjoyed by the Bank in holding large sums of Government money from time to time, and also on Government operations, and, generally, by reason of the preference which was very properly extended to the institution by the Government. Since it was the opportunities afforded by the Government which enabled the Commonwealth Bank to make its vast profits, it is but a modest claim on our part that the law should be observed, and that half of them should go to the Commonwealth Government.
– For the particular purpose of redeeming our indebtedness.
– Yes. I am endeavouring to emphasize that point. I am very pleased that the honorable member for Parramatta (Mr. Pratten), who has given this subject his closest attention, and consequently is in a position to give honorable members the fullest explanation, has brought this matter up to-day. I intended, in the Budget debate, to urge the Government to take some steps in the direction indicated in these times of financial strain and stress. Section 30 of the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911 provides -
The net profits derived by the Bank shall be dealt with as follows: -
The Bank Reserve Fund shall be available for the payment of any liabilities of the Bank.
The Bank Reserve Fund referred to is that which is created by every wellconducted financial institution which seeks to guarantee its financial safety by the assignment of its profits in this way. The spirit of the concluding sub-section is that the remaining onehalf of the net profits derived by the Bank shall go to the Treasury for the purpose of relieving Commonwealth indebtedness. The section provides, further -
The honorable member for Parramatta has explained that he had lookedclosely into this matter, and had ascertained that there are no such advances, and that no debentures or stock had been issued by the Bank. Consequently, this moiety, which it was intended should be used in the redemption of debentures or stock, could not have been applied in that direction. But the section also states - . . if the fund exceeds the amount of debentures and stock in circulation the excess may be used for the purposes of the redemption of any Commonwealth debts or State debts taken over by the Commonwealth.
As there were no debentures or stock issued by the Bank, and no other moneys to be provided for or deducted from this moiety, the contemplation is that when there is a balance available it shall be employed for the redemption of our debt.
– Surely some Treasurer has asked for that, and perhaps the Governor of the Bank has had a good answer.
– His answer has been a refusal to part with the profits. He has possession of them, and in this case the proverb about possession being nine points of the law is very well illustrated. But I emphasize that the Government have a right to demand, and, if necessary, by legislation to compel, a refund of nearly £2,000,000, representing one-half the Bank profits, which may be applied towards the redemption of Government stock for which we are paying interest annually. Further resistance on the part of the Governor of the Bank to this course of action should not bo tolerated. I would not make this suggestion if the stability of tho Bank were likely to be shaken in the remotest degree. But the Bank has already applied the first moiety of nearly £2,000,000 to- its ‘ reserve fund for the purpose of meeting any contingencies .that might arise in the ordinary course of trading. To have accumulated a profit of £2,000,000 during a period of eleven or twelve years is a magnificent achievement, and in itself should be a guarantee, if any guarantee were necessary, of the Bank’s financial stability. It may be contended, of course, that no guarantee is necessary, because the credit of the Commonwealth is behind the Bank, and, consequently, the whole of the net profits, totalling £-1,000,000, instead of being utilized for the purpose of making additional profits for the Bank, whilst the Treasurer at the same time is paying interest on £4,000,000 of borrowed money, could be very much better utilized by the Commonwealth than by the Bank. I am not going to say, nor do I think, that the whole of the £4,000,000 should be returned to the Consolidated Revenue, but I urge that at least that portion of it which, it is contemplated bv the Act should be returned to the Commonwealth for the liquidation of Commonwealth indebtedness should be so refunded to the Treasury. I understand that the ex-Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) on one occasion humbly invited the Governor of the Bank to pay this moiety, but the Governor (Sir Denison Miller) refused to do so. We should not be satisfied with that gentleman’s refusal. He should be compelled to make a refund in the terms of the Act itself.
I do not propose to discuss the shipping question in the debate on this Loan
Bill, although I notice an item of some £2,000,000 to be appropriated for that purpose, because we have a firm and definite assurance from the Government that the policy is to put an end to the business of ship construction at the earnest possible moment, and we are relying upon the Government to carry out that undertaking.
– Is not this a final instalment ‘(
– I understand it is to be applied towards the payment for one of the ‘ ‘ Bay “ steamers and some of the “ E “ class vessels. Possibly it represents some balances due in connexion with those undertakings; but, as I have said, I am relying upon the assurance of the Government that the policy of shipbuilding is to be ended, and that none of this money will be used in connexion with any fresh obligations.
The only other item to which I desire to direct attention, and to which I offer my strongest protest, is the contemplated expenditure of £424,634 upon that financial sink known as the Federal Capital. At a time like this, when we are paying 80 per cent, more for labour than under normal conditions, it is a scandal that the Committee should be invited to vote £424,000 for such a? purpose. I do not intend to enlarge upon this subject, except to say that if anything is calculated to jeopardize the success of the loan, an item such as this should bring about such a disaster.
– Some of the money is intended to be used for the destruction of rabbits.
– That would be about the most useful purpose to which it could be applied. I again protest against this wanton waste of public money.
.- I should like an explanation concerning the item of £14,580 to pay for the employment of temporary staff, advertising, and other expenditure in connexion with the sales of surplus war equipment and stores. To me this appears to be most extraordinary, because I take it that all expenditure in connexion with the sale of surplus stores should be paid, not out of loan, but out of revenue. I understand that equipment to the value of nearly £1,000,000 has been disposed of. Clearly, then, the expenditure should come out of the amount derived from the sales.
– That cannot be done, according to the Audit Act.
Mr.SCULLIN.- Then it could be paid out of revenue.
– Not unless it is voted.
– Well, the amount could be voted out of revenue. I am not going to discuss the general financial situation. The proper time to do that will be during the Budget debate; but so strongly do I feel in regard to the contemplated expenditure on immigration that I propose later to move -
That the item, “ Passage money of assisted immigrants, £171,849 “-be left out.
If the Government are so flush of money that they want to pay the passages of people to come to this country to swell the ranks of our unemployed, then they ought not to borrow money to do it, especially at a time, too, when our army of unemployed is the largest in the history of the Commonwealth. The Government are dumping immigrants here by every ship that is arriving. .
– Will they not provide employment for our own people? -
– That is a most absurd argument, and yet it is one that is usually employed. The only effect of the policy is to dump unemployed in Australia.
– That is only your construction. Cannot these immigrants go out on to the land?
– Will the honorable member for Wilmot show me anything in this Loan Bill to indicate that the Government are going to assist them to go on the land ? And can he show that the Government are doing anything to give our own people a chance to get land?
– Have not the Commonwealth and the States agreed upon this policy?
– Yes; and I will tell the honorable member what the position is, but before doing so I want to trace briefly the history of this policy. To do this I shall confine myremarks to my own State, because I know better what happens here than elsewhere. In 1912-13 the Victorian Government launched a policy of assisted immigration, and in that year landed 20,000 immigrants. We were assured then, just as we are being assured to-day, that in every case the immigrants would settle upon the land, and not swell the ranks of unemployed in our cities. A careful investigation of the whole circumstances was made, andperhaps hon orable members would be surprised to learn that of the 20,000 assisted immigrants brought to the State only 214 were settled on, the land. In the year 1913 there were in the city of Melbourne over 7,000 men out of work, and at Bendigo, Ballarat, Geelong, and other large centres there were proportionately large numbers seeking employment. I was in Ballarat at the time, and when relief works were started it was found that a considerable percentage of those seeking assistance comprised men from overseas who had been duped and encouraged to come to Australia in consequence of the misleading and lying advertisements published in Great Britain. Let us consider the policy of the Government and the arrangements entered into between the Federal and State authorities. It was stated in this House by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) a Tew weeks ago that there were hundreds of applicants for every block of land where the rainfall is adequate and the necessary facilities are provided. A statement to that effect was made by the Minister on the 12th July of this year, and is to be found on page 343 of Hansard. It was a most extraordinary pronouncement, because he went on to say that the immigration policy of the Government is to assist the States in settling immigrants upon the land. He also said that there were certain conditions which had to be complied with, and these conditions briefly were that the settler must be an immigrant, otherwise money advanced by the Federal Government could not be expended, and that the blocks of land must be prepared for settlement only by immigrants. This statement, therefore, means that if blocks are made available for settlement by Australians no assistance will be forthcoming from the Federal Government. It is an astounding proposal, and, in effect, means that no mere Australian can have such land, because it is to be made available only to those who are brought from overseas. It is also equally astounding that the work of preparing the land is to be given only to those who have been brought from overseas. It is a dastardly policy for any Australian Government to adopt. One can travel from one end of Australia to the other and find stalwart young men, many of whom are the sons of early pioneers, who are willing to settle on land where there is an adequate rainfall and where the necessary facilities exist, but they are unable to do so. A Government which, supports such a policy should he sent into oblivion.
– Are not the States doing the work?
– No, they are not, and I have shown, according to the Minister for Defence, that for every suitable block there are hundreds of applicants. It is scandalous to spend nearly £200,000 in paying the passages of immigrants when Australian men of a desirable type cannot secure land on which to carry on farming operations. The Labour party take a very firm stand on this question, and its representatives have never said that they do not believe in additional numbers coming to the Commonwealth, because there is room for millions of our kith and kin in this great country. No one would welcome more than we settlers of a desirable type if work were available for them; but we strongly resent large numbers of men and women being dumped in our big cities and left practically stranded. I have made it a practice to meet a number of assisted immigrants - I have helped some - many of whom have landed practically penniless, and after vainly seeking employment have expressed a strong desire to return to Great Britain. I am pre-
Eared to give the names of a number who ave been misled, and who are anxious to return. Some who arrived by the Largs Bay, and could not find employment either in the city or in the country, had left permanent employment in’ Great Britain, because they had been duped by the advertisements issued by the Commonwealth and State Governments. Any honorable members who doubt my statements should visit the Labour Bureau and see what is being done. Let them interview the people arriving from overseas after they have been here a few days, and ask them how they are getting on. I have seen a man, with a wife and three children trailing behind him, whose only offer of employment had been one of 15s. per week and keep for work in the bush. The president of the New Settlers League at a public meeting in the Town Hall, in giving an illustration of the type required, said that we were getting suitable men who were willing to work on a dairy farm for 25s. per week and their “tucker.” Men have been offered a job in Gippsland at 15a. per week and keep, which is preposterous. It is a rank injustice to offer free passages^ which have to be paid for with Australian money, when thousands of our own people are vainly seeking work. The frequent reference to the “ right type “ of immigrant makes one sick. There is only one sound immigration policy that will make extensive settlement in the Commonwealth possible, and that is to force the big land-holders to dispose of the large tracts of country they are holding, thus providing land first’ of all for our own people, and increasing the number of manufacturing industries in the Commonwealth. Although we produce a huge quantity of wool, the Government now propose to sell the Geelong Woollen Mills, which have worked at a profit, and which have given employment to a large number of operatives. The policy of the Labour party is clear. We want our population to increase on sound lines; but we should commence on a proper basis. We do not wish large sums to be spent in bringing people here when there is no work available for them, and I trust the amendment which I intend to move will be agreed to.
.-In making a few general observations, I shall, first of all, refer to the Postal Department. I understand that this House has accepted the principle that that Department should be conducted as a public utility, and not be used for raising revenue. In consequence of that principle having been departed from, Treasurers during recent years have not failed to snap up any balances standing to the credit of the Department, with the result that a Department intended to assist commerce ana industry has reached a most lamentable condition, requiring, as this measure shows, the raising of a tremendous sum of money to bring it up to date. Not only has this public utility been impoverished in consequence of the action of past Treasurers in failing to recognise the fact that it was merely a public utility, but it has been used as an instrument to tax the people. We have been informed by the PostmasterGeneral (Mr. Poynton) that in order to make up lie leeway, he requires £9,000,000 to cover a period of three years. When we examine the figures of the last five years and those for the present financial year, we find that the Postal Department has contributed £3,569,000 to the general revenue, and if that amount had been spent in keeping the Postal Department up to date, £2,000,000 odd would not now be required for that purpose. It is correct to assume that a large number of permanent men in the Department have not been as actively employed as they should have been in consequence of the scarcity of money, and the placing of orders has been delayed to such an extent that fully six months of the year will have elapsed before authority is forthcoming; this is the antithesis to economy.
I have already personally complimented the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) on the excellent manner in which he placed his Budget before the House; but I should also like to say that it is a most excellent piece of windowdressing, particularly when we consider that an election is approaching. When one examines the Budget, however, it will be found that it is not as attractive as it appears in the window. The Postal Department last year made a profit of £1,130,000, and spent £940,000 on works. This year the Treasurer estimates that that Department will make a profit of £1,173,000, of. which amount he proposes to spend only £250,000 on works, making a profit to the Treasury - if he is going to misappropriate that revenue, as other Treasurers have - of £690,000, whilst he is proposing to borrow money to carry out the works for which that £690,000 should have been used; the practice is unsound. That is what has been going on in the past. We say that, not only has public money been misappropriated in that way, but the Government now have to pay interest and provide a sinking fund to do work that should have been financed from the actual profits of the Department in past years. It i9 mismanagement pure and simple, and we have to-day reached a cul-de-sac. I am glad that £9,000,000 .is to be borrowed, because increased postal facilities are necessary in any country that expects to make headway. I would like to know now from the Treasurer whether he still proposes to take revenue from the Post and Telegraph Department. It was laid down very definitely by the Hon. Alfred Deakin that this course should not be adopted, and the House seemed to agree with him. The ex-Postmaster-General (Mr. Wise) actually published the statement of Mr. Deakin as a kind of classic on the subject. One of the greatest of the Postmasters-General of the United States of America set out very clearly that not more than one penny of the revenue from the Postal Department should be taken into the general revenue.
– Do you say that, conversely, no portion of the general revenue should he devoted to the assistance of the Post and Telegraph Department?
– If the Government adopted the method of not diverting revenue from that Department, they would then see whether there was any need for an appropriation of general revenue for the purposes of the Department; and I doubt whether there would ;be. No revenue should ever be taken from the Department, and when it has a surplus, and all the facilities required are being supplied, the services should be improved in the direction of a reduction iu the price of stamps and lower charges for the service rendered. Both in outlying districts and in the cities many more telephones are urgently required. The present postal and telegraphic charges are so great that the- disadvantages suffered by the public, both commercially and socially, are appalling, and are making country life unattractive. It is manifest that the past policy has ‘been fatal to the progress of the Department and to the legitimate rendering of the services ‘ to which the community is entitled. Had the profit which has gone into the public exchequer, of over £3,500,000 during the last five years, been devoted to its legitimate purpose of improving the services rendered by the Department, there would have been no need to-day for the proposed loan. I am informed that 12,000 telephones are needed in Melbourne alone, and that there are thousands more required in Sydney, not to mention the needs in country districts. Telephone services would pay for themselves; and if this work had been kept up to date, interest would have been saved, revenue would have been raised, and loan money would have been unnecessary.
– How do you arrive at the amount of £3,500,000?
– I have computed it; and I ask the Treasurer whether it is his intention to appropriate anymore of the profits of the Post and Telegraph Department? The profits made by the Department, as compared with the amount spent on works, is indicated by the following figures: -
Subtracting the amount spent upon works from the total profits of the Department, there remains a profit to the Treasury of £2,162,333. The Treasurer also took1/2d. in the pound war tax, which amounted to £1,407,207.
– I am trying to see how you arrive at your amount of £3,500,000. The proper figure is just over £2,000,000.
– Does the Treasurer say that this war tax did not come out of the Department?
– It was awar tax, so made.
– The two amounts I have just quoted show that £3,569,540 has been taken from the Post and Telegraph Department, which should be regarded as a public utility, and nothing more, whereas it has been used as an engine for taxing the people. I would point out that there are other instruments of taxation. The most foolish of all methods has been adopted, because the result has been to place a larger burden upon the burden-bearers. It has meant reducing the people’s capacity to produce. The Department should be regarded as an instrument for production and the development of the country, and to impoverish this instrument is to weaken our means of wealth production and national advancement. I desire to know, therefore, whether it is the intention of the Government to further appropriate postal revenue. Surely it is folly to ask Parliament to vote two or three millions odd for this year as a quota of the £9,000,000 to be borrowed over a period of three years, while, according to his statement, the Treasurer is appropriating over £750,000 from the revenue of the Department this year.
– That is to secure a surplus.
– Of course. It is mere window-dressing. The worst feature is that the Treasurer, after doing these things, will give no assurance that the affairs of the Department will be put into a business-like condition.
I much regret that the Treasurer has not shown how provision is to be made for the concession in the form of a 10 per cent, reduction in the existing graduated income-tax rates. There will be another opportunity to deal more fully with this matter, but I unhesitatingly say that the proposed amendments to the taxation legislation will to a large extent prove a delusion and a snare to the people. We cannot make concessions without providing the money necessary to do so. There is no provision, even from the accumulated surplus, for the proposed concession in regard to computing income on a five years’ average.
– The extent of the relief proposed was all outlined in the Budget speech.
– Only to the extent of the 10 per cent. reduction. I hope I am wrong. There is provision for a reduction of 10 per cent., which is to be applied to all and sundry, but I fail to see any provision to meet the loss of revenue that will result from the amendment of the Income Tax Act to provide for the five years’ average. I claim that the Treasurer will get more revenue by the adoption of his proposal, and greater injustice will be done to the taxpayers. Before any Treasurer or Government can afford to be generous they should be just. We know that in the incidence of taxation the graduated scale works adversely to certain persons, but it is possible to apply it so that it will not operate in that way . There will be an opportunity later to submit examples showing how the taxation can be equitably applied.
– Does the honorable member think that the five years’ average system will be of benefit to the pastoralists ?
– It will be of benefit to all. When I spoke on the question towards the close of last session, I said very clearly that I was not seeking a concession for any section of the community. I pointed out that Commonwealth legislation should apply to all citizens of the
Commonwealth, since all have equal rights. I want every person to come under the income tax provisions, and the five years’ average of income to apply to all.
– Order! I have allowed the honorable member a good deal of latitude, but I must now ask him- not to discuss further the matter with which he is dealing.
– Then I shall have to avail myself of another opportunity to do so. What I have said on the subject has been merely by way of a trial flutter.
There is another item in this total of £17,000,000 which it is proposed to borrow that must naturally be questioned. I refer to the last item in the schedule, which provides for £4,000,000 for the War Service Homes Account. The Government, if it expects the Committee to agree to that item, will have to make very clear its intentions with regard to War Service Homes administration. We all desire that our returned soldiers shall be supplied with homes, and money for that purpose has been provided by the country and voted by the Parliament. Notwithstanding the speech made last night by the Minister representing the Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hector Lamond), I am not satisfied that this £4,000,000 will be spent to the best advantage. Having regard to the way in which the millions voted for the. building of War Service Homes have already been spent, I have serious doubts on the question. If we, as shareholders in a big business concern, appointed a managing director, and he in turn appointed a manager, to spend millions of money on our behalf, it seems to me that if that managing director, after carrying on operations for a couple of years, reported that he had not been able to “ deliver the goods” - that he had actually wasted . £5,000,000 or £6,000,000- we should hesitate to re-appoint him. We are here as directors representing the shareholders - the taxpayers - of the Commonwealth, whose money is invested in this scheme to provide homes for the returned soldiers who fought for them and their country. Our desire is that suitable homes shall be built for them, and that the best possible use shall be made of the money voted for that purpose. That, however, has not been done. Any alert
Minister should have been alive to what was going on under the Commissioner. It was stated in this House at the outset that suitable War Service Homes could be provided at a cost of £500 per man, but eventually it was determined that the maximum advance should be £700.
– The maximum under the Act was never £500.
– Quite so; but reference to Hansard will show that the suggestion was made that £500 would be sufficient. The maximum fixed under the Act was originally £700. The first evidence of mismanagement was soon forthcoming, and the Minister for Repatriation should have been alive to it, when those in control of the scheme said that they could not provide homes for £700, and asked that the maximum be raised to £800. That request was agreed to; but even £800 was not sufficient, under the system adopted, to provide a War Service Home. The Public Accounts Committee, of which I am a member, reported, as the result of inquiry, that the average cost per home greatly exceeded £800. We were told that homes had cost up to £1,100. The piling up of the building costs to that extent clearly manifested mismanagement. In South Australia, where the State Government undertook the erection of homes for returned soldiers, comfortable houses, fitted with baths, coppers, and other conveniences, were provided for less than £700, including the cost of the land. The homes built for £700 in South Australia, where the Commonwealth management did not exist, are equally as good as those erected at very much greater cost by the War Service Homes Department. There, again, we had evidence that the system obtaining under the Commission was inefficient, that the Commissioner was not fit to carry on his job, and I believe that, when carefully worked out, the loss to the taxpayers as the result of this mismanagement will prove to have been from £5,000,000 to £6,000,000.
– How is it that one cannot buy one of these houses to-day for £1,500?
– The honorable member hopes, by his interjection, to draw me off the track.
– No; as a matter of fact, I have been trying to obtain a house.
– My answer to the honorable member is that the houses erected by the War Service Homes Department in the several States, and by the State Government in South Australia, are very creditable buildings. Having regard to the number of houses that have . been built, the proportion of jerry-built homes is infinitesimal: There may be a little structural weakness in a building here and there, but, taken as a whole, the houses, from the point of view of their construction, are quite satisfactory. I dare say it would Be possible to sell the homes built in South Australia for more than they cost; but is this Government, because of that fact, to escape the consequences of its mismanagement and maladministration ? The inquiry made by the Public Accounts Committee did not show that there had been anything in the nature of dishonest practices so far as the Government were concerned, and no such charge is made. The complaint is that they did not understand the job to which they set themselves. They appointed as Commissioner an individual who quickly came to regard himself as a sort of Pooh Bah. He had millions to spend, and he considered himself to be the greatest and grandest man in Australia. The Minister should have been quick to observe this attitude on the part of the Commissioner, and should have stirred him up or passed him out.
It may be said to the credit of the Go vernment that as soon as the Public Accounts Committee proceeded to inquire into the administration of the War Service Homes Department - an inquiry which the Minister himself should have been able to make, since all sources of information were available to him - they took action. We discovered what the Minister himself should have found out. As the inquiry proceeded, we found that the War Service Homes Commissioner was quite unfit for his position, and the Government, acting on the evidence disclosed before us, sacked him. They did not say that they took that action because of our report, but the fact remains that we found out what was actually wrong. We pointed out, for instance, that scarcely any of those who had acquired War Service Homes in Victoria knew what they were to be charged for them.. Evidence was given before us that the men on inquiring at the Department were told that they could get a house for £700or £800. and that run that under standing they signed the necessary documents, only to discover later on that the cost had gone up to £900, £1,000, and even as high as £1,100. An attempt was made to pass off to the soldiers War Service Homes at such prices, but the Government were not able to cover up this mismanagement. The Public Accounts Committee also recommended that since these increased costs were the result of bungling on the part of the Commission the soldiers who had acquired homes should be given a fair deal by a reduction of the prices to a reasonable level. This can be done, however, only at the cost of the taxpayers of the Commonwealth. We reported on the favorable manner in which the South Australian Government had carried on the work of building homes for returned soldiers. The Government of that State followed businesslike methods. [Extension of time granted.] We were able also to report that the work done undera few of the contracts entered into by the Commonwealth Bank, whilst that institution had the responsibility of building War Service Homes, was not what it ought to have been, but the officials of the Bank were able in such cases to compel (he contractors to make good.
– Did the honorable member say that the Commissioner was dismissed after the Public Accounts Committee had furnished its report on the subject? If he did he had better correct the statement.
– He was dismissed after we had commenced the taking of evidence. The Commissioner was, so to speak, in full bloom after we had commenced our inquiry. We submitted four or five reports.
– The Committee did not submit any report on the Commissioner. Colonel Walker was dismissed long before the Committee’s report was sent in.
– The only difference between us is that you got in first. Honorable members will not laugh when they are apprised of all that has happened. I know what I am talking about. Colonel Walker, as Commissioner, gave evidence before the Public Accounts Committee. His evidence was recorded, and while I am not certain that we sent in our first report before he was dismissed, I am able to say that the evidence we took, and which was available to us, was available also to the Minister.
– Reports of the evidence also appeared in the press.
– Yes, the evidence was public property. It is a mere quibble for the Minister to say that we did not report before Colonel Walker was dismissed. I am not blaming the Minister for having dismissed the Commissioner. I certainly should not holdhim blameless if he had not dismissed him in view of the information that was before us.
– It is a strange thing that the Committee did not even stumble across the fact that the Commissioner was an uncertificated insolvent.. I stumbled across that fact.
– I think the Minister will find a reference to the matter in one of our reports.
– The Minister ought to have “stumbled” on the fact before he did and before he made the appointment. There was ample evidence of it in the shape of papers and telegrams in the Department when he made the appointment.
– I did not make a report on that subject.
– Of course not, and therefore the honorable gentleman should lie low.
– And allow the honorable member to talk rubbish.
– There is no rubbish so far as my statement is concerned. The evidence taken from time to time by the Committee was made public, and apart altogether from the Commissioner’s insolvency, the action taken by the Minister in dismissing him should have been taken long before had the honorable gentleman been alive to his great responsibilities.
The fact having been made clear by the Public Accounts Committee that homes erected by the Commonwealth Bank, and by the Government of South Australia. could be built more effectively, and at less cost, than by the War Service Homes Commission, the Government has wisely acted on our findings, and has endeavoured to cut short the work of the Commission. It proposes now to have the work done by institutions who carry on such enterprises in a business-like way. Had that been done before the taxpayers would have been saved millions of money which they have been obliged to raise in order to pay for the blunders of the Government.
– The system referred to by the honorable member was in operation in South Australia before the Public Accounts Committee moved a finger in the matter.
– I think the Minister will find that evidence was taken by the Committee showing that as soon as Colonel Walker was appointed Commissioner he rushed over to South Australia and tried to bluff theCommonwealth Government into the belief that he could handle the work to better advantage than the State Government. His officers went over to Adelaide to begin the work of the erection of soldiers’ homes. It would be interesting to look up the dates when all these things took place. It was a miracle that the work of the Commonwealth Bank and of the State Bank in South Australia was not also brought to an end. When the Government had before them the example of the work done by the State Bank of South Australia they should have mended their ways much earlier than they did, and it should not have been necessary for the Public Accounts Committee to investigate the operations of the War Service Homes Commission, and discover contracts made in schoolboy fashion which the Government in most cases will have to pay compensation to get out of. There should never have arisen the difficulty in connexion with timber mills and the Driver contract. The facts in connexion with the whole matter are enough almost to bring one to tears. The Government must continue to receive costly timber under a contract and sell it at a loss or let it rot on the ground. They bought timber mills in Queensland, and cannot use them. There were competent people running those mills, and the action of the Government has resulted in the destruction of a nice little township because the mills upon which it depended are left idle. In view of the way in which public money has been expended by the War Service Homes Commission we shall require, when we come to consider the proposal to spend another £4,000,000 under the War Service Homes Act, to know whether its expenditure is to be left to the same managing director who was responsible for the maladministration under which millions have already been wasted. If that is the intention of the
Government the Committee should take drastic steps to prevent effect being given to it. There is much more to be said, but as I admit that the Committee has already been very generous to me I shall conclude.
.- I have listened attentively, but with surprise, to what’ has fallen from the lips of the honorable member of the Country party who has just resumed his seat, the honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse). The statements he has made were made before by members of the Country party, and although they were answered by the responsible Minister the honorable member has repeated them, not with a desire to obtain information, but merely to condemn the Government. It is nothing to the honorable member that the statements he has made have been proved to be inaccurate. Ha still repeats them, because he thinks that he will damn the Government by doing so. That is only the more unfair, because the honorable member, in common with other honorable members, and with the people of the Commonwealth, must share responsibility for what has occurred. The demand was everywhere made that if a returned soldier could be found to occupy a position he should be appointed. The War Service Homes Commissioner was a returned soldier and waa appointed because he had had experience us a contractor in Queensland. This House passed a Bill, under which he was given complete control, and vested with the power to spend up to £50,000 without referring to his Minister.
– That is a great reflection on the honorable member.
– It is equally a reflection on every member of this House. But we were carried away at the time by our desire to do what we could for the returned soldiers. It was our duty to limit the powers of the Commissioner, and when we failed to do so, it is of no use for us to blame other people for what followed. Let us be men and stand up te what we have done. We have no right to blame, in this matter, a man who is as innocent, or as guilty, as ourselves. The honorable member for Swan (Mr. Prowse) has repeated assertions which have been denied and proved to be inaccurate, and he has attributed certain action of the Government to a report of the Public Accounts Committee when, as a matter of fact, that action was taken before the report of the Committee was presented. The sooner honorable members assist to improve things instead of belittling the Government the better. If the Government are now legislating sensibly we should assist them, and it is of no use’ now to rake up things that have been, done and cannot be altered.
I have listened attentively, also, to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) when he was referring to the proposed vote of £170,000 for immigration. If his remarks were published in Great Britain the people there would say that it was useless to send emigrants to Australia. Honorable members forget that we’ will not be permitted to hold this enormous territory, which is larger than the United States of America, with merely a handful of people. We must increase our population. Steps should be taken to introduce immigrants from overseas who will settle on the land. We hear some honorable members ask, “Where is /the land?” If they will travel through Queensland and Western Australia they will at once see the land. We have 421,000,000 acres of land in Queensland, and of that area only 19,000,000 have been alienated. The rest belongs to the Government. Some of it is held under lease, though not by the large capitalists the honorable member for Yarra talked about. Instead of underrating the resources of Australia, we should speak with more confidence of the future. From 110,000,000 to 120,000,000 of people have been settled in the United States of America, and we can as easily settle 100,000,000 of people in this country. There is room for them here, and the country is as good as, if not better than, the United States of America. We can grow in Australia almost anything that can be grown in any part of the world. How many thousands of men might be profitably employed now in cotton growing in Queensland ? The land is there for the purpose, and is held, not by the land grabber, but by the GovernmentIt could be obtained for £1 per acre.
– Will that land grow sugar?
– The honorable member has sugar, but not much else in his brain. The land will grow cotton profitably, and why should we not encourage immigrants to come out here and take up that land? Before the present Queensland Government got into power - and I know what I am speaking about, because I was, at the time, a member of the Queensland Parliament - land legislation was passed in that State, under which a man who desired to acquire land for agriculture might select up to 640 acres, according to the quality pf the soil. It was sold to him on twenty-one years’ terms. For the first five years the settler paid interest and. no redemption. Fifty per cent, of the cost was spread over the first twenty years> and the balance was payable in the twenty-first year. Advances were made for clearing the land. The first £200 advanced was made available to the settler at the rate of £1 for £1 spent by himself on improvements, and, subsequently, advances up to £1,200, inclusive of the £200, might be secured on the basis of 15s. in the £1. In my own district there are large numbers of second and third sons of Victorian farmers who came up to Queensland to grow maize and other products under those terms, and are doing very well.
We have no right to judge every State by the experience of a State the size of Victoria. We should not let it go forth, especially to the people of the Old Country, that we have no land available for immigrants. We have land for them, and there is profitable work for them to do on it. In Queensland, in the North Burnett district alone, there are some 4,000,000 acres of Crown lands that were surveyed before I left the State Parliament. They were cut into small farms, but quite large enough for the class of country. The average rainfall there is 30 inches per annum, and in part of the district in which railway construction is now being carried out there are 3,000,000 acres of land available that is suitable lor the settlement of immigrants.
– How and when does the rain fall there?
– It falls at periods of the year that make the land suitable for the growth of wheat, cotton, or maize. Honorable members imagine that because there are such small States down south that there are no States where it is possible to grow one class of product in one part and quite a different class of product in another. But when, as in Queensland, there is an area! of 421,000,000 acres, it can easily be imagined that there is room for many different climates, some tropical, some semi-tropical, some temperate, and some cold. All sorts of products can be grown in that State, so long as the right class of men are secured to settle on the land. One honorable member has told us about an immigrant who arrived in Melbourne the other day, and whom, because he could obtain no employment, the honorable member advised to return to England. Such a man, if he did return, would tell the British people that, because of lack of employment, Australia was no place to which to emigrate. That is advertising this country in the most unjustifiable way. If we do not secure a sufficiently large white population within the next few years we shall surely meet with trouble. Within the British Empire are some 400,000,000 coloured people, to whom it might become difficult to deny admission to Australia if we do not actively people it. If we desire, as we do, to preserve a White Australia we must show that we are justified in holding the country. The only way in which we can do this’ is by the settling of a white population, and that is what we ought to do; we ought not to “ run down “ or condemn this country by saying that there is no room for new arrivals. There are enormous areas of land available, and if and ‘ when people do come here, let them be so treated that they will be satisfied to remain on the land, as thousands have done in the past. These people, I am sure, would never desire to leave the land in view of the encouraging treatment they have ever received, and there are tens of thousands of others who could follow their example. We do not desire to bring people here who have no knowledge of agriculture, and who would simply .remain in the cities where there are already too many. We have the land available, and we have Governments - at any rate we had, <«nd we shall have them again - willing to render every” assistance to the nev. citizens. It should be known that a man with practically nothing may come to Australia and obtain land, and have advanced to him up to £1,200, the repayment extending over twenty-one years. If, as I believe is the case, the British people are made of the same metal as the pioneers who came here in. the early days, they can achieve success in the same way. In my own electorate, for instance, when I first went there, there were only 2,000 people, whereas there are now about 98,000; and that may be taken as typical of the progress of population throughout Queensland. Those people came here because they had pluck and determination, and the Government saw that they had a fair show.
– That is the difference!
– It is the fault of the people themselves if they do not elect State Governments who will see that new settlers are properly treated. Men in this House declare that our taxation is so heavy as to be a great burden on the people, but, if that be so, let us double the population and halve the taxation, which, in itself, would be a good thing. We have the land, and a climate as good as in the United States of America. Why, then, has the population of the United States increased from a very small number to 120,000,000? It is simply because people went to the United States with the determination to achieve success, whether on the land or in industrial life.
– And they never run down the country!
– No; they “bolster” it up all the time, because, in their opinion, there is no place like America. I was never so disappointed as when I heard honorable members “ running down “ this country. If this country is not good enough for a man to live in, let him leave it, and the sooner he does so the better it will be for the country.
– To whom does the honorable member refer as “ running down “ the country?
– The honorable member, for one.
– That is absolutely incorrect !
– A man who will advise another to go back to the Homeland on the ground that he cannot find a settlement here–
– I did not say that; you should not misrepresent me.
– Honorable members, instead of speaking as the honorable member did, should point out that it is the duty of all Governments to induce suitable people to come here, and, settling on the land, assist in building up this great Commonwealth and in preserving a White Australia. Let us by such means get rid of the tear thatin the near future some other country may come and take possession. It is notso many years ago, when, on behalf of a certain country not very far from us, which has no dumping ground for its surplus population, it was pointed out that we held this enormous territory, not. because we had won it in war, or had purchased it, but because we took it from the rightful owners on the ground that they were not utilizing it, and that it would be logical for the people of that country to send their surplus population here and utilize our vacant spaces. The fact that there is such a feeling abroad ought to be a warning, and stir us up to settle this country, but we cannot expect to settle it unless we ourselves show the great possibilities there are here.
– Do you not think there is a lack of good management in connexion with immigration?
– If so, it is the fault of the honorable member as much as that of anybody else. Why does the honorable member not endeavour to assist the Government in getting immigrants here? He ought not to complain because there is £200,000 on the Estimates for the purpose of bringing out the right class of people, for whom the State Governments will have to provide the necessary land. Such utterances as I have referred to are causing people to refrain from coming to Australia, which will be one of the greatest countries in the world when we are sane enough to present it in its proper colours, and not belittle it. To that end I plead that a good example should be set by honorable members. In this beautiful country of ours we could settle hundreds of thousands in the two industries that I am sure will be a success - the cotton and the tobacco industries.
Sitting suspended from 6.30 to 8 p.m.
– Before the suspension of the sitting for dinner I was dealing with the opportunity that we have in the Commonwealth to settle people on the land. I had dealt with the growing of cotton, and had pointed out what a great industry it was likely to become in this country, and more particularly in Queensland, in the near future. By the end of this year we shall have, I understand, 83,000 acres under cotton, and there are a great many people, even now, in Victoria who are talcing an interest in cotton-growing in Queensland.
The tobacco industry, also, might be greatly extended. I notice that an agreement has recently been made in Victoria between the Victorian Government and the British- American Tobacco Company, by which the company has undertaken to guarantee a certain fixed price for three years from the 30th June next for about 1,500,000 lbs. of tobacco per annum. No doubt that will be a great assistance to Victoria. Many parts of Queensland in past years have successfully grown tobacco leaf of a very good quality, and if the Government of Queensland will make a similar arrangement to that which the Victorian Government has made, a very large number, of people will, no doubt, be induced to go on the land in that State with the object of growing tobacco.
The Governments of the different States have an enormous area of available land upon which they can place immigrants of the right class.
– What does the honorable member mean by “ the right class”?
– I mean a man who understands the cultivation of the soil. He, in his turn, would create employment for a large number of people working in the different industries in the cities. It would be better if, in this House, we spent more time in advocating immigration than in criticising the Government. If the critics would only investigate the Government’s achievements during the war they would find that no Government in the Empire has done so much for its people as has the Commonwealth Government for the people of this country. Honorable members might look at what the Government did in connexion with wool, meat, wheat, butter, cheese, minerals, and fruits. We hear at the present time much criticism of the Government because of the slightly high price of sugar, but there was no criticism when the price in Great Britain and America was from ls. 2d. to ls. 6d. per lb., and we were supplying the retail buyer at 6d., and the manufacturers of jam, confectionery, condensed milk, &c, at over £20 per ton less than this, for export. There was no talk then of giving the sugargrower in Queensland the world’s parity. The attitude towards the sugar-grower is, “ We will take all we can from you and give you no thanks for it.” Outrageous attacks have been made . upon the Government - attacks of which, I am sure, the critics, from the press downwards, will some day be ashamed. It is the duty of members of this House, even more than the press, to make themselves cognisant of what has been done in every Australian industry. Honorable members are more responsible to the public than is the press. If they would investigate the facts they would be able to satisfy themselves that the Government, instead of deserving criticism, merits the’ approbation of the general public. I again appeal to them to do as the pioneers of the early days did, never lose an opportunity to boost up their country. If they did that, instead of condemning the Government at every opportunity, we would have no difficulty in getting a large number of suitable immigrants to settle on our lands, and start these various enterprises. This would greatly assist those who are already here, and have been bearing the burden and stress of the war and the heavy taxation that has followed upon it. The doubling of our population,,, which is quite practicable, would reduce our taxation per head very materially. The taxation imposed in Australia to-day compares very favorably with taxation anywhere else in the Empire, or in any other part of the world.
– And still the Government has taken some of the taxation off, and is going further into debt.
– Honorable members should remember that in a young country, which still has to be built up, one must do a certain amount of .experimental work. As in any other big enterprise, mercantile or otherwise, no immediate return is visible. We should get this country peopled to such an extent that we would be justified in holding it. Speeches made by honorable members denouncing the country go to Great Britain, and the people there who read them naturally say, “ That is no .place for us.” In the past we have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds to induce immigrants to come to this new country, and more particularly to Queensland and Western Australia. It would save the expenditure of a lot of this money if we had tact enough to “ boost “ our country instead of indulging in adverse criticism of it.
.- This is a question in which the public of Australia ought to take a greater hand than it has taken in the past. The proposal is to raise a loan. Clause 2 seeks authority “to borrow £12,000,000, and clause 4 relates to the issue and application of £17,000,000. Considering that we have so many wealthy men in Australia, I think the time has come when we should say that we will borrow only from our own people. The advantage of that policy would be that the whole of the interest would be paid and spent in Australia, whereas if we raise the loan from outside the country we shall have to send the money away continually. Although we are a gold-producing country, it is not always convenient to make up the balance of trade with ready cash. Unfortunately for us, rates of interest have increased very much. The percentage of interest charged on the public debt of the Commonwealth runs from 4$ to 6, but that is not the highest rate that we pay. The Government issued a loan at £95 per £100, and £5,000,000 was issued at £96. It will thus be seen that the interest paid is really over 6 per cent. The interest on the debts of the States runs from 3 per cent, to 7$ per cent. I am sorry to say that little Tasmania has to pay as high as 7^ per cent. I find on page 132 of the Budget-papers reference to a Tasmanian loan, which is redeemable in the United States of America, amounting to £100,090, upon which the percentage is 7$. Honorable members will agree with me that we must be prepared to pay a higher rate of interest than formerly, although, as I showed in the “House the other night, bank rates have decreased in Europe. The bank rate in England and SwitzerIand is the lowest, namely, 3i per cent.; but it goes up as high as 8 per cent, in Japan, and 9 per cent, in Finland. I am afraid that unless we go to America we shall have to pay far more in the future than we have been paying in the past. Here I would like to indorse the remarks of the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser). It is lucky for Queensland that the American dollar is approximating more to the value of the English sovereign. That will greatly reduce the burden of the Queensland loan. Why, may I ask, should we object to borrow from America? The Ameri cans have the same blood as we have, and they speak the same language. There are more white people speaking English under the flag of the United States of America than there are under the Union Jack.
I propose bringing before the notice of the Committee a statement by Sir Denison Miller, which, if it came from his heart, would cause me to forgive him for all the wrongs he has done in the past. When a deputation of the unemployed waited upon him, he was asked a question by a keen financial student named Scott, who has published a book called “The Circulating .Sovereign,” which is well known throughout the length and breadth of Australia. Sir Denison Miller, in his courteous manner, was passing the question lightly by, but was challenged upon it. I quote the report from the Sydney Daily Telegraph of the 8th July-
Sir Denison Miller yesterday afternoon received a deputation from the Employment Campaign Committee, appointed from a meeting outside the Trades Hall on 22nd June.
The deputation was introduced by Mr. Geo. Waite. . . .
After other members of the deputation had stated their views, Sir Denison replied at length. He said that the Commonwealth Bank was only as strong as the Commonwealth itself ; that of the Commonwealth note issue, £57,000,000 was in circulation, and the rest, £23,831,265, was carried about in the pockets of the people. His Bank, like other banks, was always willing to back what they thought a sound proposition.
In answer to the question that,, as Australia had found £365,000.000 in war credits, would he, as Governor of the people’s Bank, advance a similar sum for productive purposes, Sir Denison replied that he would do his best.
Later on, when asked if he was prepared to carry out that scheme, he said he was; and when I asked the then Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) whether Sir Denison Miller had power to pledge himself to this independently of the Government, the reply I got was that the Commonwealth Treasurer had no control whatever over the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. At any rate, if Sir Denison Miller is willing to carry out this scheme, why should we go overseas for money? I have always agreed with the late Lord Forrest, who declared that too much power had been given to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank, and I would vote for any motion submitted in this House to place him under the control of a Board of Directors, just as the managers of private banks are controlled. It is well known that I have had personal differences with Sir Denison Miller. As the honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Higgs) can bear evidence, when he was Commonwealth Treasurer I was obliged to tell the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank that he was sweating the employees of the Bank. I offered to resign my seat and allow him to nominate any one to fight me on the question of whether or not he was a sweater. The subject is not a pleasant one, and my interview with this gentleman was of a very lively nature. For an account of it I refer honorable members to the honorable member for Capricornia. When the foundation stone of the Bank in Sydney was being laid, in the presence of 2,000 people I asked Sir Denison Miller, three times, when he proposed to give up sweating the Bank clerks. Honorable members can imagine what sort of a speech he made afterwards. How he kept the incident out of the press I do not know. However, if he will do what he proposes for the organization of Australia, he will make for himself a name greater than that of any other financier of the world. As for the wonderful progress of his Bank, has any other bank started with the same advantages ? It had a whole continent to operate in, and the people in that continent speak the same tongue, and write and think in the same language. It was backed by the Commonwealth Government. It was not obliged to earn profits. Those profits today amount to about ?4,000,000.
When Sir Joseph Cook was Treasurer, I asked him why the citizens of Australia, who saved small amounts and deposited them in the Commonwealth Savings Bank, were not paid the same rate of interest as the Commonwealth paid to foreign money-lenders. Our States are paying the foreign money-lenders up to 7 per cent., and the Commonwealth is paying the same people up to a little over 6 per cent. Why should we not endeavour to’ stimulate thrift amongst the people by following the example of the great Napoleon, who fixed the French rentes at 4 per cent, and made France the greatest saving nation in the world? Why cannot we pay our small depositors
Dr. Maloney. in Savings Banks the same rate of interest as we pay to foreigners? I agree that some deduction should be made to cover the greater expense involved in keeping so many small accounts as would be required, because it is well understood that very little bookkeeping is entailed in paying bondholders a lump sum twice a year. But with a deduction of, say, 1 per cent., we could pay the Australian people the same rate of interest as is paid to foreigners. I have no need to emphasize the point that the more we can save to the people of Australia the greater will be the sum available upon which the Administration can draw in time of stress. On this matter of Savings Banks and rates of interest, I asked the then Treasurer (Sir Joseph Cook) the following question: -
What are the rates of interest paid on small amounts deposited in the State and the Commonwealth Savings Banks respectively in Victoria?
He replied -
The following are the rates of interest paid on deposits referred to: - Victorian State Savings Bank, 4 per cent, per annum up to ?500; Commonwealth Savings Bank, 3* per cent, per annum up to ?1,000, and 3 per cent, on excess deposits over ?1,000, the maximum interestearning deposits being ?1,300.
The Commonwealth Bank is paying $ per cent, less than is paid to citizens who deposit their money in State Savings Banks. I do not say that the reason for this is to help the State banks, because I know that Mr. Prendergast, the Leader of the Opposition in the Victorian Parliament, proved conclusively, when the State Savings Bank was only paying interest on deposits up to ?250, that the limitation was imposed for the purpose of forcing money into the Associated Banks.
What I propose to read now will show what an absolute dictator Sir Denison Miller is. I also asked the then Treasurer -
What “is the reason for the difference of such rates of interest?
He replied -
The power to fix rates of interest is specifically placed in the hands of the Governor of the Bank by section 38 of the Commonwealth Bank Act of 1911, and I am not aware of the reasons that actuated him in fixing the rates now obtaining.
Honorable members know that we could not get information from the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank. Even the thunders of the mighty daily press could not draw the badger from his place of retirement. The statements made by Mr. Ashworth have not been answered. In our -wisdom we referred to the Public Works Committee a proposal to build a note-printing establishment at a cost of £40,000. The Committee reported in favour of the proposal, and had the work been, undertaken by the officers of our Works and Railways Department no architects’ fees would have been paid. However, the control of our note issue was transferred from the Treasury to the Commonwealth Bank - my voice was one of the few that were raised in protest - and as soon as the transfer was effected Sir Denison Miller, ignoring the fact that money had already been spent in the preparation of plans .for a note-printing building to cost £40,000, said he proposed to put up a building costing £60,000, and he employed his relatives, Messrs. Kirkpatrick and Company, to prepare fresh plans. Have we ever heard of a similar instance of such treatment of Governmentowned property? Not a penny would have been paid in the shape of fees for the preparation of plans for the building as originally designed, but how much will be paid to the Kirkpatrick crowd for the preparation of plans for a £60,000 building? It is time this House took a hand in the matter, and followed the advice of Lord Forrest, by exercising some control over the Bank. Can any honorable member say that if the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank were to give some one an advance of £1,000,000 without proper security, this Parliament would have the right to interfere? All we could do would be to charge him with maladministration after the trouble was over. Not for an instant would I dream of having the Governor of the Bank under the control of this House as a whole. My idea is that we should appoint a board of directors, under whom he would act, just as managers of private banks act under boards of directors. No other bank manager in the history of banking has had the power that Sir Denison Miller wields. The highest geniuses in the financial world of America were commissioned to visit Europe and examine the system of every prominent bank. Not in one case did they find a system in existence similar to ours. Whatever my objec- tions may be, they are not personal, but I hold that power spoils a man. The greater the power we intrust to one man, the greater will be his fall when vanity at last destroys him.
In reference to the payment of architects’ fees, Mr. Ashworth writes -
Immediately it became known that the Bank bad purchased the Collins-street site, the Victorian Institute of Architects wrote to the Governor requesting him to make the building the subject of an architectural competition. A reply was received stating that the work had already been placed in the hands of a firm known as J. and H. G. Kirkpatrick. Mr. J. Miller, whose name does not appear, is also a member of this firm. A monopoly of the Bank’s work throughout ‘Australia has been given to the Messrs. Kirkpatrick and Miller.
I differ from Mr. Ashworth in politics, but he is a man of honour. He was a colleague of mine in this Chamber before the Federal Parliament occupied it. The matter he has described is the nearest approach to nepotism which has come under my notice in my thirty-three year.-; of political life.
I have detailed the proposal of Sir Denison Miller. At a later stage, according to a quotation which I have, he said that the scheme could be carried out. He said he could finance an organized Australia to the same extent as the Bank had financed it during the war. Is it not, therefore, foolish of us to think of going to England or America to borrow money? It is better for us to pay 1 per cent, more in Australia, because the whole of the money paid in interest would be spent here. The advice given by Abraham Lincoln, many years ago, comes to my mind. He was advocating a policy of building up the resources of the United States of America, and said something to this effect -
If you send money away from your country to hu)’ a locomotive you will never see that money again, and when, the locomotive is finished you will have neither it nor the money it cost. On the other hand, if you build the locomotive in your own land, when the engine is worn out the money will still lie spinning round and circulating.
Another cause of complaint was the charge made by the Bank authorities in respect of architects’ fees for the erection of War Service Homes. Any reputable firm would draw a set of a dozen standard plans for about ,£250, yet Messrs. Kirkpatrick claimed no less than £44,535, and when I asked what was the total sum paid to this firm I was informed that it was understood that the Commonwealth Bank had made certain payments to the architects mentioned in respect of these claims, but that so far the claim as between the Bank and the War Service Homes Commissioner had not been adjusted.
I wish the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) every success in the flotation of this loan, but I emphasize that if the Government were to allow local investors of small means the same rate of interest as will be paid to foreign money-lenders, we should be able to get the whole of this money in Australia. I do not want to raise the question, but the time may come when those who are blessed with wealth may be compelled to contribute to Commonwealth loans. Honorable members will recall, perhaps, my asking for a return of those who were willing to help this country in its hour of need by advancing money without interest to the Government. That return showed that only a paltry £1,200 Was offered. Of that sum some five gave £10 each, two unions provided £100 each, and one person £300. In the face of these facts, it is no use speaking about the value of sympathy in time of war, though I must not forget to mention that one generous person - whether man or woman I cannot say, because the Minister refused to publish the name - made a free gift of £50,000. I should like to see the name of that donor emblazoned on the walls of this Parliament as an honour to him for that noble gift.
Let me emphasize again that in the flotation of this loan an opportunity should be given to citizens possessed of small sums to show their love for Australia. When France lay at the feet of Prussia, to be bled white using the words of Bismarck himself, she soon demonstrated, by means of the small savings of her people, how she could overcome all her difficulties, for within eleven months the then unheard indemnity of £200,000,000 was paid, and the Prussian army of occupation had to retire from French soil, where they were to remain in possession until the money was paid. I appeal to the Treasurer to allow our own citizens an opportunity to invest in this loan. If I am any judge of my fellow Australians I am sure they will heartily respond to the invitation.
First item agreed to.
.- I move -
That the item “ Immigration - Passage money of assisted immigrants, £171,849 “, be left out.
I gave my reasons for my objection to this proposal this afternoon, but since then there has been some discussion on the subject, and as my views have been somewhat twisted, particularly by the honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), it is desirable now that I should take’ this opportunity of stating my position. It is very easy for some honorable members to talk about faith in your country, and in that way to create a, smoke screen behind which the Government can carry on what I regard as an unjust policy, namely, that of attracting immigrants to Australia without making adequate provision for them. There is nothing in this Loan Bill or in any Act of the Government to show that proper arrangements are being made for men or women who may come to this country in order to better themselves. When I pointed out that the Government were dumping people here by every vessel that arrived, without making land available or providing work, I was charged with a desire to run down Australia. I take second place to no one in pride in my country, and in safeguarding its good name. But I repeat that men are being landed here from the boats without proper provision being made for them, the best offer being 15s. or £1 per week and keep in the back-blocks, where they are expected to make a living for themselves and provide for their future. Not long ago I met one of these men, an ex-service man, who had left a wife and two children behind in England, and found himself in a desperate position shortly after his arrival. He told me that the best offer he could get was 15s. a week and keep away back in Gippsland, and as that was not enough for him he asked me if I could make any arrangement for him’ to return to his old job in England. I would have been less than human if I had not made some effort to meet his wishes to get back to his wife and children, and the job he had left behind him.
– And you call yourself a good Australian!
– I do. The first principle of a good Australian is his readiness to help another man, even if he does come here attracted from the other side of the world by lying advertisements which this Government or some other Government had published in England.
– When the honorable member speaks of “lying advertisements,” canhe give an illustration?
– I refer to the advertisements published in England.
– Can you quote one?
– I cannot at this moment.
– Of course not.
– But I have the assurance of men who had come out here on the strength of those advertisements. One man told me that he had been working on the railways in England, and after reading the advertisements inviting exservice men to come to Australia, passage paid or assisted, he called upon the immigration representative of the Commonwealth Government in London to ask if he would advise him to leave his job in England and come to Australia. That official urged the man to give up his job in the Old Country and come to Australia, because he said there were greater opportunities here for him to better himself.
– Where is the lie in that statement ?
– When that man landed he went to the local immigration officer and the Labour Bureau, and found that the best offer available to him was 15s. per week and keep, away out in the bush. There is the lie. The Labour party have never said that there is not room in Australia for more people. There is room for millions more people in this country, but it is no use talking about the millions of acres of unoccupied Crown lands, because at present there are no facilities in the way of railways or roads to enable that land to be profitably occupied. This is one of the reasons why thousands of our own people are landless to-day. On this subject I quote a statement made by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) in this House on the 12th July. I have here a report of his speech. The Minister said that the great trouble was that the price of land was too high, and that for every block thrown open where there was an adequate rainfall and facilities for occupation there were hundreds of applicants. That is quite true, and to repeat that statement is not to decry this country in any way. On the contrary, it may be regarded as “ boosting ‘’ Australia to say that so many people are anxious to settle on the land that the good blocks available are not nearly sufficient to meet all the demands. There will not be much chance of settling our Crown lands until we launch upon a comprehensive policy of railway and road construction. I had this well illustrated in my former Division of Corangamite some years ago. The Government sent people into the Otway Forest and forced them to cut down most valuable timber in order to make homes there. Those people practically worked their lives out trying to get a. living off the land, when, all the time, just outside the Otway Forest, there were thousands of acres of splendid country only waiting for the plough, but with a squatter’s barbed- wire fence around it blocking settlement. The Labour party, when the Fisher Government were in power, were the first to do anything to break up this land monopoly and to make it possible for land-seekers to get land. We have to make our position absolutely clear now. We are not running down Australia when we protest against the immigration policy of the Government. We say there is room here for millions of people, but provision must first be made for their settlement. It is a cruel policy to spend money as proposed under this Loan Bill to assist immigration to induce people to come thousands of miles, only to find, at the end of their journey, that they are being “ dumped “ into Australia. This afternoon I gave an illustration of what happened in connexion with the Victorian scheme of assisted immigration in 1912-13, when out of 20,000 immigrants who were supposed to settle on the land, only 214 actually became permanent settlers. At that time there were in Melbourne 7,000 or 8,000 men out of work, and a proportionately large number in such centres as Ballarat, Bendigo, and Geelong. Relief works were started, and a large number of those who were seeking assistance were immigrants. It is an injustice to the immigrants to bring them here to swell the army of unemployed, but it is a greater injustice to our own people who cannot get work or land on which to settle. It is astounding to realize that the Government are asking for authority to raise this amount for the purpose I have mentioned, and in the same Bill seek authority to provide £250,000 for advances to the States for road-making. That is essentially relief work, and immigrants are being brought to Australia to join those who are. out of work. The employment being provided by the States is only of a temporary nature, and I cannot understand why such an insane policy as that submitted by the Government should be supported. At present the land monopolists in this country hold sway, and the only blocks available are in districts where the rainfall is inadequate, or where railways or roads have not been constructed. The statement of the Minister for Defence is still ringing in our ears, that for every block where the rainfall is adequate, and where facilities are provided, there are hundreds of applicants. Notwithstanding this, and the fact that we have the largest army of unemployed we have ever had., the Government submit a proposal to spend this huge sum for the purpose I have indicated. It is unjust to those who are coming from overseas, and it is grossly unfair to our own people, to spend money on assisted immigration when no provision has been made to settle many good Australians who are awaiting land. I repeat the statement of the Minister for Defence that the Government would only advance money to the States for settling immigrants on the land, and that immigrants only were to be employed in preparing the blocks for occupation when Commonwealth money was used for that purpose. As an Australian who is proud of his country, and who believes in its possibilities, if properly governed, I strongly protest against such a policy, and I trust that the amendment which I have moved will have the support of the majority of the Committee.
– The honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), so far as I have been able to gather, objects to this item possibly for passage money for immigrants because there is unemployment in Australia. He says that these immigrants are being brought out to compete with or take the place of the men for whom temporary employment is being found on road construction.
– And to add to the number of unemployed.
– I think it was the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West), whose contribution to this debate I regret I did not hear, who was very severe in criticising the Government be cause they had brought into Australia last year, a miserable 14,000 immigrants, whereas in 1913, under a policy inaugurated and maintained by the Labour Governments of Australia - I. think there were Labour Governments in all States with one exception - 87,000 entered the Commonwealth. When one contrasts the criticism of the honorable member for East Sydney with that of the honorable member for Yarra, one sees how difficult it is to please everybody. On one hand we are censured for not bringing in a sufficient number, and on the other hand we are condemned by a member of the same party because the number is too great. I desire to ask the honorable member for Yarra whether he thinks that 14,000 immigrants, which includes men, women, and children, can be regarded as a serious factor in causing unemployment. The honorable member, apparently, took no exception whatever to the arrangements which have been entered into between the Federal Government and the State Governments under which the Federal Government are co-operating with theBritish Government to bring in large numbers of immigrants, involving the expenditure of millions of money.
– I do object to that, and also to this first instalment.
– I can quite appreciate the position of the honorable member for Yarra, and his attitude is typical of the class of men who comprise the Labour party to-day. He professes to be in favour of immigration, but he is against any definite scheme of immigration and against all immigrants. He has not, perhaps, taken the trouble to make himself familiar with the facts.
– That is just what I have done.
– I submit that the honorable member has not. As far as passage money is concerned, we have concluded an agreement with the British Government whereby they contribute £1 for £1 up to £200,000 per annum, which will enable some 30,000 immigrants to be brought into the Commonwealth. The original passage money per adult charged by the shipping companies was £38, of which £12 was contributed by the Commonwealth, leaving £26 to be paid by the immigrant. In some cases up to £16 of the £26 could be advanced by the Commonwealth as a loan, which amount was to be repaid in instalments over a period of twelve months from the date of the arrival of the immigrant in Australia. The passage money has now been reduced to £36 per adult, and, as I have said, an agreement has been signed under which the two Governments spend £200,000 each per annum up to the 31st March, 1923, on the passage money of immigrants. This £400,000 . will be spent m providing passages for adults at £36 each, of which the Government contribute £12 and the immigrant £24, of which latter amount £12 must be deposited in cash and the balance may be advanced to the immigrant and repaid by him after arrival in Australia. The two Governments share equally in these contributions, and the amount provided on the Estimates will be sufficient to cover the passage money of, approximately, 30,000 immigrants, including adults and children. That number will represent a very insignificant stream of population into the Commonwealth per annum, but I can conceive of no more remunerative investment for Australia than to bring here a large number of the right kind of people of our own stock to assist in developing this great continent. I do not agree at all with the honorable member’s diagnosis of the present position in Australia. It is true there are a number of unemployed men. Can the honorable member recall a time in the history of Australia when there has not been unemployment? The Assistant Minister for Repatriation (Mr. Hector Lamond) last night gave us a convincing reason why the Government did not launch out and build 8,000 War Service Homes per annum. It was because there was an insufficient supply of artisan labour.
– Are the Government bringing out artisans?
– No, if the honorable member refers to assisted passages. And it is laid down as a basic principle in the Western Australian scheme, and similar arrangements with all other States, that the only persons to be Drought here shall be those for whom there is land available. They must be given rural employment, and at the end of a prescribed period a block of land must be made available on which the immigrant and his family can settle. That is the immigration policy of the Commonwealth. It is undeniable that there is a shortage of certain classes of labour, and it is also indisputable that there is unemployment among other classes of workers. With almost negligible intervals, that has been the position from time immemorial; in some industries there has been an excess of labour, and in others an insufficient supply. It would be a very good thing if a large number of artisans of the right kind could be brought here, but it is also true that the policy of the present Government does not contemplate bringing out artisans. Our policy provides for settling immigrants on the laud, and we lay it down as a principle that we will advance no money to the States for any other kind of immigrant. I hope that that view will be supported by members of the Country party. At various periods there have been shortages of rural labour. That there has been> abundance of land suitable for settlement goes without saying. Under the arrangements made between the British Government, the Western Australian Government, and the Commonwealth Government, the bringing out of 75,000 immigrants in three years for Western Australia alone is contemplated, and, provided that a further number proportionate to the population of the larger States could be induced ‘to come here, there would be a larger influx than the number in 1913 mentioned by the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West).
It has been stated that the amount of money made available by the Government for road making is to be expended on relief works, but that is not so. What are the conditions precedent to land settlement and the development of Australia? Good roads and railways have to be set in the forefront of the programme. The roads in Victoria are good by comparison particularly with those in New South Wales. I cannot conceive how money could be better spent in New South Wales than in road making. What is the good of putting people on the land unless we bring them within access of markets ? So far from the money being spent on relief work, it is being devoted to the most reproductive work to which it could possibly be put. For every £1 set aside for roads we are devoting at least £5 to irrigation and to the locking and damming of the waters of the River Murray. For every £1 we are spending on immigrants, £20 has been appropriated for the settlement of Australian soldiers upon the land. I make that statement at hazard, but we have devoted very many millions to soldier land settlement. Only the other day I was asked by an honorable member to visit a part of Victoria where, I think, he said there were 1,100 soldiers settled. Millions have been expended by this State on soldier settlers, independent of Commonwealth expenditure.
– Sixteen million pounds.
– The charge that we are spending money on immigration, and leaving our own citizens uncared for, is refuted by the facts that I have mentioned. If the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) will look at the schedule to the Bill three lines below the item which he desires to reduce, he will notice the following item, which speaks for itself: - “ Loans to States for settling returned soldiers on the land, £6,000,000.” So that while we are devoting £6,000,000 to settling our fellow citizens, we are only spending £200,000 on* immigrants. That is my answer to the honorable member. He is certainly unfortunate in his preparations for this debate. The honorable member also stated that immigrants who are brought out here are not cared for. It is only fair to say that under the arrangement made by the Commonwealth with the various States, it is the business of the Commonwealth to organize overseas and arrange for the transport of the immigrants; but it is entirely within the province of the States to determine the number and class of immigrants to their respective States, and to receive and care for them on arrival. If the honorable member will look at the Constitution he will see how barren the Commonwealth is of authority in regard to this very vital matter. We have authority over immigration, but none over the immigrant when he comes here. This country is a continent, and it cries aloud for men to till its fertile soil; yet there is not one piece of land, except the Northern Territory, that is not in the hands of the States. But we have done all that is possible in this matter. The Commonwealth Government say to the States, “ You have sovereign powers, but we shall not advance you any money for immigration unless you are prepared to settle the immigrants on your land, and to see that they do not go into the cities.”’
– Are you willing to go to Mr. Whitehead and make inquiry as to the class of settlers coming here from overseas ?
– Will the honorable member make a definite charge as to whether immigrants have been brought here under false pretences? I think he said something about misleading advertisements.
– An ex-service man from India was induced by the representative of the Commonwealth to leave his job in India and come out here. The best imployment offered to him was 15s. a week in Gippsland, and bush-land keep.
– Is that a story that will hold water?
– It is typical of scores of cases.
– I shall look into the matter; but there must be something wrong. The idea that men are coming out here and working for 15s. a week is absurd.
– Did you read the speech of Mr. T. Ryan, M.L.A, at the annual meeting of the New Settlers League, where he said that immigrants were work ing for 15s. a week and their keep ?
– No ; but I shall make inquiries in regard to it. I should be very sorry to hear that the statement is true. I would remind the Committee that the States are masters of their own households. They determine who shall be brought here. Upon them rests the responsibility of looking after immigrants when they come here, and of providing them with employment. The Victorian State Government, I am told, has a representative who meets immigrants at the ship’s side, gives them advice and assistance, and finds them employment where they so desire. All the immigrants to whom the honorable member is referring are not immigrants for whom we are in any way responsible, except that we help to pay their passages to Australia. The States themselves select them and make their own arrangements for their reception. I am told that in this State employment is guaranteed for selected farm workers, that the immigrant is met at the ship, is conveyed to the Labour Bureau, and immediately placed in employment. I shall communicate to the Government of Victoria the particulars of the honorable member’s statement; and, if I find that men are being brought out here to work for 15s. a week, I shall be very glad to join with the honorablemember in publicly denouncing it. I am bound to say, however, that no immigrant has complained to me of the matter, nor, so far as I know, has any immigrant brought it before the notice of the Government of the State. The Victorian and Commonwealth Governments are now negotiating for an agreement for the settlement of ‘10,000 farmers, and as a commencement propose to introduce 2,000 settlers. The farms are to be made available ; the land is already inspected ; public works to a considerable extent are contemplated; and the expenditure” proposed, but not finalized, is £2,000,000 per annum for three years.
The honorable member, I am afraid, does not appreciate the far-reaching consequences of the immigration policy to which the Government of the United Kingdom, the Commonwealth Government, and also the Governments of the respective States, one by one, are being committed. Much publicity has been given to the Western Australian scheme. I inspected the lands that are ‘to be made available for immigrants in that State. I saw there a large number of Australian settlers who had been taken from the wharfs and employed on the group system, which is the policy that the Western Australian Government have adopted, with most admirable results. Employment on the wharfs is most unsatisfactory and hopeless, since as men grow old opportunities of work there are denied to them. The men whom I saw had been brought from the Fremantle and Bunbury wharfs and placed on the land. All of them were working diligently, and satisfied that at last they had an opportunity to make good. There is to be spent on this scheme, in Western Australia, £2,000,000 per annum. It is proposed to spend £2,000,000 per annum also in Victoria, and an agreement is being negotiated with the New South Wales Government to spend a similar amount. The spending of £6,000,000 per annum must produce beneficial consequences to the general body of the people. It cannot be contended for one moment that settling immigrants on the land will produce unemployment amongst those already in Australia. [Extension of time granted.] One of my honorable colleagues has just informed me that Mr. Ryan, President of the New Settlers’ League, to whom the honorable member for Yarra referred a few moments ago, told him this week that the Victorian immigrants had been of the most satisfactory character, and that not more than a dozen had left the home; to which they were sent.
– He made the same statement in the Town Hall. He said the immigrants were most satisfactory - they were working contentedly for 25s. a week and their keep.
– I am afraid we shall not get any further so far as that matter is concerned. I did not hear or read the speech made by Mr. Ryan, but now that the honorable member has called my attention to it I shall look into it.
I do not know that there are any other points to which I can, with advantage, direct my attention. The honorable member proposes to reduce this item because he says that there is unemployment here, and that, therefore, we ought not to spend money on bringing immigrants to Australia. I am as alive as he is to the importance of giving to our own citizens preference over immigrants. We owe that to them, hut I want the honorable member to look at the broad principles that underlie the economic problem. They are really very simple, and are only made difficult of comprehension by a terminology that baffles and stupifies the average person. The position is clear. We all get a living by working for each other, and, provided that certain conditions obtain, the more people, the more employment, and so the more wealth. The honorable member- for Yarra is old enough to recall that, years ago-, when the population of this country was>, perhaps, only two-thirds what it is to-day, unemployment was much more rampant than it now is. I, unfortunately, have had a rather chequered experience, and I know that to be a fact. As the population has increased, and other things have kept pace with .that increase, the position of the worker has gradually and steadily improved. We have come now. however, to a point where we are in the position of a man who has inherited a great estate, but finds it encumbered with a grievously heavy mortgage. There is no way by which we can pay our National debt except by exploiting to the uttermost the resources of our estate. We are too few to do. this effectively, and we must, therefore, get more men to help us to develop our country. The more people that come here the more employment there will be.
The honorable member might have said something about the fact that Great Britain is co-operating with us, and sharing the expenses of our immigration scheme. She is providing £200,000 per annum in order to assist in defraying the passages of emigrants from Great Britain to this country, and we are paying £1 for £1 with her. This, at the rate of £12 per adult, together with a loan up to £16 per head, which is repayable by the immigrant, will cover some 30,000 immigrants per annum. Surely the honorable member might have said something by way of approval of this far-reaching policy to which the Empire is now committed. It is recognised that there aTe too many people in Britain, and it is time that many were shifted to this country, where there are too few. So far from apologizing for the item to which the honorable member takes exception, the Government regrets very much that the prospects for the year under our immigration scheme are not such as to warrant a very much larger expenditure on passage money.
I wish to make it perfectly clear that the policy of the Government is confined to bringing out immigrants to settle on the land. We are fully alive to the necessity of providing employment, and of removing all the obstacles in the way of employing the great mass of the people, and we now have ready to lay before the House a proposal which, if adopted, would open up avenues of employment for literally thousands of men. I refer <to the proposal for the unification of the main trunk railway lines of Australia. The position is, as I have set out, and there is no need for me to further traverse the ground. I regret that the honorable member is unable to support this proposal, but I trust it will receive the indorsement of the Committee.
– I wish to make a personal explanation. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) in the course of his address referred to a statement I made this afternoon, but his reference to it was at vari- -ance with the fact. What I said was that during the regime of the Labour Government in 1913 conditions in Australia were so prosperous that 87.000 people came out to this country without the expenditure of one shilling ot loan money, and found employment, whilst with the present Government in power loan money has had to be expended on immigration, and the Government have been unable to find employment for 14,000 people.
.- The honorable member’s explanation is quite correct. In the first place, I should like to remind honorable members that the conditions prevailing in 1910 and in 1913, the years referred to by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), were very different from those of the present clay. In 1910 the Labour party came into power to find not merely an empty Treasury, but a. deficit of £500,000 which had to be made up. The gentleman who is now Prime Minister of this country claimed, while he was connected with the Government of that time, that the social policy of the Labour Government of 1910 and 1913 was of such a character that, without the expenditure of loan money, and because of its general policy for the imposition of land taxation, the issue of Commonwealth notes, and other measures of the kind, it opened up avenues of industry all over the Commonwealth. That is a very different proposition from that which we are up against to-day.
In answer to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin), the Prime Minister said that the Government are spending £6,000,000 upon the settlement of our own people upon the land. Permit me to say that they are not expending a single penny for this purpose, and do not propose to do so. What they propose is to lend £6,000,000 to the State Governments. They say that they wish that money to be expended on the settlement of returned soldiers. That does not affect in any way the question raised by the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene), nor does it answer the statement that honorable gentleman made on the floor of this House that for every block of land available in this country, apart from returned soldiers, there are one hundred Australians making application. That statement remains unanswered by anything the Prime Minister said. Not a single penny is being expended by theGovernment on the settlement on the land of Australians other than returned soldiers.
The right honorable gentleman, speaking a couple of months ago on the question, made the definite statement that the Commonwealth Government will not exspend a single penny on immigration unless they are assured by arrangement with the State Governments that the money will be spent on the settlement of the immigrants on the land. The State Governments must first of all provide land for every immigrant before any are introduced. He made the promise on behalf of the Government ‘that not a penny of public money will be spent to bring an immigrant into this country until they have an assurance that he will be settled on the land. The proposed vote to which the honorable member for Yarra has taken exception is not to be expended by arrangement with the State Governments. About a fortnight ago the honorable member for Hunter (Mr. Charlton) asked the Prime Minister a few questions as to how the proposed vote of £170,000 was to be expended, and he said in reply that it had nothing whatever to do with the States. He said it was proposed in accordance with an arrangement with the Imperial Government. He said that the Government proposed to bring out something like 16,000 people for an expenditure of £200,000. Apparently the Imperial Government is to select these immigrants, and £15 or £16 is to be contributed towards their passage money. To-night the Prime Minister says that with this amount of money it is proposed to introduce 26,000 immigrants. But whether the number to be introduced is 16,000 or 26,000, it is not proposed that a single one of these individuals shall be settled on the land.
When the Prime Minister attended the Premiers’ Conference in January last he said to the Premiers, “ I understand that there are 14,000 men unemployed in New South Wales. You cannot bring immigrants into the country and provide employment for them whilst you let your own fellow citizens go about the streets unemployed.” That was the right honorable gentleman’s statement last January. His second statement was that he would not permit a single penny of Commonwealth money to be expended on any form of immigration unless it meant clearly and definitely the settlement of the immigrants on the land. Not a penny of the proposed vote of £170,000 is to settle any men on the land of this country, either by the action of the Commonwealth Government or by arrangement with the State Governments. It is merely intended to give effect to an arrangement made between the Imperial Government and the Commonwealth Government, and the vote should not be permitted to pass All that is proposed is to spend £170,000 to land some 15,000 or 16,000 people in the cities of Australia. Some honorable member asked whether these people would be artisans, and the Prime Minister said that they would not. When the right honorable gentleman was asked what they would be, he said, “ I cannot say.” The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill), who, apparently, has met some of them, says that our immigrants are not farm labourers. As a matter of fact, we know that the bulk of these people are coming out from the cities of London and Liverpool, and not from the country districts of Great Britain. They have been denizens of the great cities of Great Britain, and they are being brought out here to come into competition with the people of our own cities.
A policy that will find an outlet for new people, and settle them on the land, is a reasonable policy. The Prime Minister to-day tells us that the more people a country has the more work it has. Great Britain before the war had a population of some 45,000,000, and it has about the same population now. It has ten times the population of Australia, and at last accounts there were something like 1,500,000 unemployed in Great Britain. The mere fact that that country has ton times more population than Australia has not served to settle the question of unemployment.
Mr.Corser. - She has but a very small area.
– I am not dealing with her small area, but with the argument of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister says the more people the more work and the less unemployment.
– That is not all that I said.
– It is a part of what the right honorable gentleman said. He has said many things. I cannot deal with them all at once. I am dealing with one at a time, and that is the limit «of human capacity. His statement was that growth of population means increased work and less unemployment. I say that that’ is not true of any country in the world. No man knows that better than does the Prime Minister, who for thirty years of his political existence said the same thing as I am saying to-night. Z remember the statement made by Mr. Lloyd George just before the war, that half the working population of Great Britain were worse fed and worse housed than they would be in the poor-houses or in the prisons. That is an answer to the Prime Minister’s statement, and shows that increased population does not settle the problem of unemployment. If it did, China, which contains a population of 300,000,000 or 400,000,000, would be a paradise. “We are justified in opposing the proposed vote of £170,000 for the introduction of immigrants and in opposing the expenditure of any money on the importation of human beings into this country under existing conditions. We talk about the development of our resources. What is a resource? Each human being represents a part of our national resources. When we see 13,000 or 14,000 men who are Australian born, or of our own nationality, unemployed in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria, and when we go round to the registry offices of this city and see armies of men standing there waiting for work, we are justified in saying, “ There is the wasted wealth of the country.” If the ingenuity of the Government is such that it cannot provide .work for its own citizens, and must witness the wealth of the community in the shape of its humanity walking the streets idle, we cannot justify the introduction of people who will only add to their numbers. We wanted cheap material in this country, and some 400 men were brought out to work at Lysaghts, in New South Wales. They were promised permanent work in Australia, They had been here for only about three months when Lysaghts made a reduction in their wages. In another six months they made a further reduction. In the course of twelve months they proposed three reductions, and subsequently tried to impose another. Here were men who were working in the steel works and in the tin industry of the Old Coun- try, and who were brought to Australia under promise of permanent employment and good homes. Many of these men have for months past been living on the generous contributions of the miners of Newcastle. They were brought out here from industrial districts in the Old Country, and from their old homes and associations on a promise’ of permanent employment and a wider outlook in life. It is a shameful and a scandalous policy to cut such people off from their former associations when such a prospect awaits them here. It is much better to leave them where they will be within reach of friends and relatives who can help them in their hour of distress, than to bring them out here with their women and children, when there is no outlet for their labour.
When the Government have shown that they are incapable of utilizing the wealth of humanity we have in this country, honorable members should be prepared to vote against any expenditure to bring more people into this country. I must again reiterate, because reiteration is sometimes useful, that the proposal to spend £170,000 on the payment of passage money for immigrants is an absolute contradiction of everything that the Prime Minister and the Government have stated on the floor of this chamber. The right honorable gentleman has stated clearly and definitely that there is not a penny of public money to be expended on immigration without a guarantee of settlement of the immigrants on the land. This money is to be expended in bringing men from Great Britain and landing them in our cities, where they will be in competition with the existing unemployed. Many artisans have been brought to the country, and, being unable to find employment to which they have been accustomed, they have tried to earn a few shillings in the country. I can mention a case which is typical of thousands. One man came to this country with one son. He left a wife and ten other children in the Old Land. He had left employment in electrical works at Liverpool, where he had been engaged for over twenty years. He was told that in this country he could get permanent work of a similar kind. When he arrived here he could get no work in electrical works, because there was an abundance of capable local men available. He had to go to the country, where he worked for a comparatively few shillings per week to save money to pay
Lis passage back to the Old Country, and he . refused to bring his family out to Australia. I can mention another case in my own district of a man who had been employed for many years in the Old Country as a caretaker and gardener. He brought his family out with him, and finding himself in competition with local men having local associations, he is having a bitter struggle to obtain work. Let honorable members go into Richmond, Brunswick, South Melbourne, Port Melbourne, or any other industrial part of this city, and he will find large numbers of immigrants who have only recently arrived in the country looking for work in competition with every class of workmen in the city and suburbs. These are facts, and under the pressure of their circumstances there are families herded in one room or two rooms, and in the industrial areas you will find three or four families living in one house in the endeavour to eke out the few pounds which they brought with them to this country. This state of things produces the competition for houses and the increase of house rents. In the street next to that in which I am living there are three immigrant families. There are sixteen persons in these families. Of the three men, only one is working, and one of the women has had to go out to work to help keep things together. This is typical of probably thousands of cases, and to permit that sort of thing to go on is certainly not helping the country. It is only accentuating the problem and hastening the disasters that are thickening all around. This multiplying of the population, this doubling and trebling it, does not settle the problem unless we see that the internal population is effectively utilized. Human beings, or cows, or other animals are used in order to promote production; but in Australia there are thousands of men whose labour is not being effectively utilized. Thus, I think, we are amply justified by the facts, and all the circumstances, by all the arguments and admissions of Ministers themselves, in opposing every item the object of which is to bring men out here and leave them destitute in new territory.
.- I rise to support the expenditure proposed on immigration, and I regard it as a pity that it is not doubled or trebled. I am delighted to think that the State Governments have at last entered into a system of co-operation they have long pro mised. The immigration policy has been delayed altogether too long. During the short time I have had the honour to represent my constituency I have visited every State of the Commonwealth. When we go through the magnificent lands in Queensland we see the prickly pear taking possession of 1,000,000 acres a year, acres on which not a “ tap “ has been done in the way of roads, railways, or other means of promoting settlement’. In New South Wales one may travel the great northern country, with the beautiful rivers, and thousands of acres undeveloped, where the people have been appealing for a scheme of electrical power, but are denied assistance in any shape or form. In Western Australia I saw the Peel Estate, and I can indorse the remarks of the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). That settlement is, in my opinion, a complete success. The estate of 86,000 acres was purchased by the Western Australian Government for a paltry 8s. 3d. per acre, and the work done in the way of fencing, and so forth is distinctly creditable. The estate is under the supervision of one engineer; and, having some knowledge of land, and of the working of land, I can assure honorable members that the work done and the procedure from start to finish is everything that could be desired. I visited quite a number of the homes of the immigrants, who are ex-service men, as fine at class as I ever saw in my life, and I venture to say that there are hundreds of thousands of others equally acceptable. In conversation they assured me that they did not require any “ spoon-feeding,” or assistance of that kind - that they had come here with a view to receiving fair treatment, and were quite prepared to give fair treatment in return. The one complaint I heard was in reference to the Tariff. I saw a couple of traction engines on which a duty of £1,000 each had been paid, and there was also a steam shovel, which was doing magnificent work in draining the country, on which £1,950 had been paid. These duties are regarded as an excessive burden on men who are preparing land for settlement. I also saw the Herne Hill Estate, which has been cut up into 12 -acre blocks, and the work there is also highly creditable. With a scheme similar to that adopted in Western Australia in every State in the Com.monwealth I am of opinion that we should go a long way on the road toward success. In Western Australia there is the State Agricultural Bank to give assistance, and there is nothing to prevent our having a branch of the Commonwealth Bank to do similar work. As to the advances which the Commonwealth Government are making to the States, I feel that the money could not be spent more judiciously.
I agree with the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) in his warning that we should make preparations, but the preparations I saw in Western Australia were simply perfect, and what can be accomplished in one State can be accomplished in another.
We have voted millions of money for the building of the Federal Capital, and that money has been spent by both Labour and National Governments in pursuance of the great centralization scheme. I would point out that in Melbourne we have half the population of Victoria, and I believe that the same applies to all the other capital cities; in fact, there is about 43.8 or 44 per cent, of the population in those cities. A system of land settlement on broad national lines, with a view to opening up and developing millions of acres, would undoubtedly be a step in the right direction. I ask honorable members which is the wiser course - to spend millions on such developmental work or to spend millions on defence? What ‘better defence could we have than Australia populated with millions of white people? A great deal has been said about sugar, but if we desire cheap sugar, we cannot populate Queensland by the immigration of white people. There is not a shadow of doubt that the cane-grower is the best protection that Queensland can have, and that State ought to be populated with the right and proper class of men. such as I have seen there, and such as, I am assured, there are available in hundreds of thousands. I had the assurance quite recently on firsthand authority that there are 50,000 Scotch immigrants, with a considerable amount of capital, who are prepared to come here in the event of our making reasonable preparations. I trust that those in authority are in possession of these facts, and that they are making preparations with a view to going fullspeed ahead on the lines I have indicated.
If we spend money for developmental purposes in works such as I have seen, and such as were outlined by the Prime Minister, I am quite certain it will be more beneficial than much of the expenditure in various other ways. There does not appear to be a great deal of opposition raised to the vote of £400,000 for Federal Capital works, but I venture to say that that £400,000 could be much more beneficially used in opening up and developing the country. Then there is the proposal to spend £57,000,000 on the unification pf the railway gauges. Probably this is a work that is needed, but will any person who has the love of Australia at heart, or has any knowledge of this vast continent, now unpopulated, argue for one moment that we could not spend the money a great deal more advantageously on land settlement as outlined by the Prime Minister? The first instalment of the cost of the unification of the gauges is £21,000,000, but a uniform gauge when provided will not produce one more bushel of wheat, one more bale of wool, or one more case of fruit. To spend the money in providing roads, railways, and other means of access to market would be travelling on really safe lines. This is a subject on which I may speak, because I know the position of the man on the land from A to Z.
I regret very much that we cannot pay the farm labourer more than 25s. or 30s. a week and keep, but that is owing to the fact that the farmer cannot pass his charges on. The manufacturer can pass on added cost to the consumer. With arbitration awards and so forth it is impossible for the farmer to pay the labourers more, because he has to compete in the world’s markets. To a very large degree the farmer is on his own, and in consequence of the absence of unity and organization, owing to his isolation and position, he has to meet all colours and rates of wages in the world’s competition. Nobody would be more pleased than myself if the farm labourer could be paid £4 a week, but, in view of what the farmer receives for his products, that is absolutely impossible.
I have the greatest pleasure in indorsing to the fullest extent this proposed vote, and I trust “that the Governments, State and Federal, will, as I have said, go full steam ahead with the immigration policy. In this they will have the backing of the Country party to a man, provided there are reasonable safeguards. No doubt there is a great deal in what the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) said in regard to the necessity for preparation; but as far as I can gather from what I have seen in my travels, and so far as I have knowledge of the State Government of Victoria, all reasonable care and all reasonable preparations1 are made. The more assistance we give the State Governments, the greater satisfaction the State Governments will give the Commonwealth.
.- I desire to reply to one or two statements by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), but before doing so I should like to refer to the conservative arguments of the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey). That honorable member objects to the amount proposed for immigration on the ground that there are some people here unemployed and that Australia practically is carrying enough people for the production of the country. If we go back to the early days, when the people first settled in New South Wales, we find that exactly the same argument was used then . In those days the settlement at Port Jackson was extremely short of food, and the -cry was that there were too many -people in the Colony. Then boats had to be -sent to South Africa to bring wheat and other grain here in order to maintain the people in the vast productive areas of “ sunny New South Wales.” From those early days to these we have heard the same cry every now and again; but when -more people did come to New South Wales they extended the area of occupation and proved the productivity of the country. “To-day New South Wales, while it is infinitely more productive than it was in those days, is not yet producing one-tenth of the possible production.
The honorable member for Bourke has told us that wherever an area of land is thrown open there are hundreds of applicants for each block, to use his own words.
– They were the quoted words of the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene).
– And they are true of “New South Wales.
– I know it is true in regard to certain favoured areas, and I shall tell the Committee exactly why. Today it is the policy of almost every State Government to throw open lands in favoured spots at a price below their real value; consequently, there is a great rush of applicants. But are there many applicants for the land lying outback? What is the trouble to-day? Suppose our forefathers had. taken up the position that they would only have blocks of land near a railway line, a main road, or a picture show, where would we have been ? There would have been no Australia to-day. Our fathers and mothers went out into the back country, and drew the railways after them when they had proved the land’s productivity and found employment for hundreds, and, in some cases, thousands of men. Now, because those men and women happen to have put a little into their pockets by their pluck and enterprise, they are told they are robbers of the public. They are being taxed off the land because crf the aggregation of people in the cities, though those cities were only made possible by the people who went out into the back areas and suffered all the consequent hardships.
Honorable members must know that there are thousands of square miles of country in, Australia, just as good as the areas which our fathers took up, and those thousands of square miles are just as available now as were the other areas in the early days. The great trouble in Australia is that people will not go out into those areas and do what our fathers and mothers did to make them productive, and thus spread civilization throughout the country. The opportunities to-day are better than they were when I was a boy, and the opportunities when I was a boy were better than they were when my father was a boy; and so it is all along the line. It is tiresome, and it is casting an indignity upon our country, to say that there are no opportunities for young men to-day because a few men are wandering about unemployed. Unfortunately, there are more men unemployed to-day than there should be, but that is very largely due to the dislocation caused by the Tariff. Because there are some men unemployed, shall we take up the conservative stand and say that we will not progress or bring more people here? No man in this Committee or in the country is a greater lover of the wide spaces than I. If I had my way, and it were possible, every man would have all the room he desires. I would do away with the slums in the cities. But how can we do that? What possibility have we of improving the standards of living in Australia unless we develop our country more thoroughly?
It is because I believe that the foundation of all true success is the further development of this country; it is because I realize, much to my sorrow, that we must have more people here if we are going to hold this country as a white man’s country; and it is because I think it would be a “ doginthemanger “ policy to keep out our own flesh and blood from under the British flag, and our own cousins across the sea, that I support this Loan Bill to bring more people to this country. It would have been better, however, if a more definite scheme had been brought down. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) has told us nothing definite regarding the Government’s proposals. He said that £200,000 per annum was to be paid by Great Britain to bring people to this country, and that £200,000 was to be paid by the Commonwealth for 26,000 immigrants per annum. On the other hand, I think that he said that the immigration scheme would mean £2,000,000 expenditure per annum by Western Australia, £2,000,000 by Victoria, and £2,000,000 by New South Wales.
– I did not say that we had completed those agreements, but that on the basis of the Western Australian scheme that was what it would mean.
– If the State authorities can bring those agreements up to the pitch of perfection operating in Western Australia, it will be a happy day for Australia. I have been in that new State, where there is so much land unoccupied, where men are making new homes, and doing very well, and where the opportunities for any young man who wants to take them are better than they were in New South Wales thirty or forty years ago. The cry of “ No opportunity “ seems to me to argue a weakness and a decadence which should not exist in this young community. Let any man who knows anything about primary production go out into the . back country in either of our big States, and he will find that the opportunities today are infinitely better than they were when’ he was a boy. We could do much to settle people in this country if we would adopt schemes which have been successful in other countries. What was it that settled Canada? Canada, as a producing country, is not, in my opinion, to be compared with Australia. It is not to be compared in regard to the opportunities which it offers to young men, but men and women are raising families in Canada in conditions which would seem utterly hopeless to Australians. What was it that opened up the ice-bound territories of Canada? It was the fact that the Canadian-Pacific railway was constructed through that country, and the fact that the company that constructed the railway had an interest in settling people on the land. I believe that, in these days, when Australia is short of money - and it might have been advisable in any day - we would be well advised to offer a land grant scheme for a railway to be built through the centre of Australia. The route could be taken either from New South Wales to Port Darwin, or from Adelaide to Port Darwin. I believe that great benefit would accrue to Australia if the Government were to make arrangements to establish a land grant railway through that great area which is now practically unsettled. The Government could hedge the agreement round sufficiently to protect the whole of the interests of Australia, and a great point gained would be that we would have further activities in the direction of bringing people to this country. We want to give people an incentive to settle on our vacant lands, and we need to give some powerful organization an incentive for settling them there. Until we do something like that we shall not be able to make full use of this magnificent land of ours.
The Prime Minister said the land was in the hands of the States - so it is to a large extent - but the only Commonwealth activity in connexion with it is one of the things which is driving people off the land. Although the land is in the hands of the States, the Commonwealth Government has not hesitated to put a land tax on it, and to increase that tax. I can assure the right honorable gentleman, as I have been through the mill, that one of the things which is operating very greatly against increased production and further settlement to-day, and which, above all other things, is driving people to the cities, a.nd creating slums which are an eyesore to every true Australian, is the fact that people are being taxed off the land. One of the most effective things which this Government and this Parliament could do to increase settlement would be to lessen the taxation imposed upon the people who are struggling in the outside districts.
– The honorable member forgets that the slums existed before the land tax was imposed.
– That is because same of the people came out from the Old Country with old ideas and created the slums, but in this young and vigorous country, where we have raised in the wide and open spaces a people who have proved themselves to be among the best in the world, we can surely emancipate ourselves from those old ideas. The land tax is keeping those slums in existence. If the conditions in the back country were made more productive, if the primary producers, large and small, were given an opportunity of making good, and of getting some recompense for the work they do, then I think the city people would, in many instances, be only too glad to go out-back and take their chance. A few years ago the professional men in town were generally sending their sons on to stations in the back country. The idea thirty years ago was to get every boy on a station. Is it so to-day? Instead of the sons of professional men now going on the stations, the owners of the stations are putting their boys into professions in town. Thirty years ago it was the usual thing for the artisan to want to get on the land and become a farmer. The honorable, member for Newcastle (Mr. Watkins) knows that thousands of them became successful farmers, but to-day the farmers in the country districts are sending their boys to the cities to work on the trams, in the Police Force, or anywhere else where they can get a job.
– The Minister knows that it is so all over Australia. He himself has obtained city billets for men from his own constituency. When I was a State member I was pestered by men in the country who wanted billets in any occupation in town. That is what is happening in Australia to-day, and until we can alter it our immigration policy will not be the success that it ought to be. While an immigration policy is undoubtedly a wise one to pursue, so long as it is properly managed, and while there are thousands of our, own folk overseas prepared to come here to help us to retain Australia, and prepared to help us to carry our burden, the only way in which we can make a real success of it is by making the conditions more favorable in country districts. Many of the people who will come from Great Britain have been trained on farms, and they will be capable of taking up production if they are given an opportunity of doing so. When, towards the latter period of the war, I was sent back from France to England, I moved about for some time, and saw quite a number of people connected with -the land, men of the best type, who wanted to come to Australia, but first of all they were anxious to be assured that they would be able to get on the land on their arrival. There’ are “thousands and thousands of people in Great Britain who would be only too glad to come to this young country of sunshine and hope if they could be given the opportunity of. going on the land and’ making good. Our whole future from, the immigration point of view depends on that one fact - that we must bring the right people here, and put them on the land in a way that will give them a chance of success.
– Since honorable members of the Country party are very anxious to bring immigrants to Australia, I might as well relate my experience as a representative of a city constituency. While the Labour party do not object to populating the country as rapidly as possible, they object to doing so at the expense of people who are already here and out of work. Some years ago, in The Case for Labour, the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) wrote very strongly against flooding the labour market.
– Hear, hear! I am of - the same opinion to-day.
– It has been proved beyond doubt that there are unemployed in every city and throughout the country, and while that state of affairs exists the Labour party will not be justified in voting for any expenditure to bring others to the local labour market.
– The provision on the schedule is for the payment of the passages of persons who will come out under the Western Australian, Victorian, and New ‘South Wales schemes, under which £2,000,000 will be spent in each State upon land settlement.
– So far, New South Wales has not finalized any such scheme.
– There is not nearly enough provision in this schedule for one State, let alone three.
– But while no provision has been made by the States it is criminal on the part of any Government to bring people here.
– It does not operate yet. The Western Australian scheme will be signed in a few days, and will then operate, and this vote is to pay the passages of people who will come out under it.
– Is the provision to apply to Western Australia only?
– I do not say that.
– That is the point. It is all moonshine to say that we cannot hold Australia unless it is populated by a teeming white race. We have kept it with a. smaller population than we have at the present time, and to say that we must have many more millions here be*fore we can hold it is a reflection on the intelligence and manhood of the country.
– We have never held the country. It has been held by the British Navy and Great Britain.
– It is a bogus cry to say that we cannot hold Australia. Who is to take it from us? We are as well able to protect our country as are the people of other countries.” If others in the vicinity of Australia are prepared to come here and fight us for our country we shall put up a pretty solid opposition.
– Were there no unemployed here when the honorable member himself came to Australia?
– Yes ; and if I had had my return passage money I would have gone back. Unemployment was intense at the time. There were thousands of people out of work. Men and women were lying in the parks unable to get shelter.
– iSo the honorable member is himself a living example of the fact that the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) has been talking nonsense.
– The Prime Minister says that immigrants will make Australia. That is right, if they will stop here, but every steamer that leaves our shores is taking away disappointed immigrants. If we are anxious to give the country a bad name, let us bring people out under false pretences, so that when they are dissatisfied they will go a-way and give it a bad advertisement. It is a serious matter to any man who is out of work in Australia when he sees ships discharging immigrants from the Old Country who have come here to compete with him in an overcrowded labour market. Last night the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) said that we could not get sufficient artisans to build houses. If that is the case, and if we propose to bring 30,000 people to Australia each year, where shall we house them ?
– Some of them may be builders.
– But the Prime Minister says that he is not bringing out artisans.
– What I say is that the people who are to be brought out under this vote are going on the land under the State schemes.
– But there are no State schemes finalized as yet, and until they are finalized we have no right to bring any out.
– Until the schemes are finalized no one will be brought out.
– We had prosperity in Australia in the years from 1910 until 1914, when a Labour Government was in power. At that time we did not pay any money to ‘bring out immigrants ; they came of their own free will, and stopped here, because there was prosperity in the land. If we want to bring out immigrants let us make the country prosperous, and then they will come here and. stay. Let us go in for a policy of developmental work. In his reply to the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) the Prime Minister said that the £250,000 provided in this schedule for roadmaking was not a charity dole, and was not to be devoted to relief works. He claimed that roads must be provided for settlement, although he knew full well that this money is not to be spent upon new roads, but is to be utilized for the maintenance of main roads from State to State.
I would have no objection to this vote provided there was a demand for the labour, but there is not, and until the Government so develop their works policy as to make employment more plentiful we should be making a mistake in passing the item.
– We want settlers, not labourers.
– I realize the class of settlers the honorable member desiresthe early-risers. If the Government went in for a vigorous policy for the unification of the railway gauges, employment would be plentiful. This may be regarded as a truly national work, and now would be a fitting time to begin it. The sooner this important undertaking is started the better it will be for the Commonwealth, because unification is inevitable. The Prime Minister will agree with me on this subject.
– I do, absolutely.
– In the circumstances I have pleasure in supporting the amendment. I trust the Government will withdraw the item and devote the available money to more useful works.
– I do not wish to give a silent vote on this amendment. I listened very carefully to all that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said, but I cannot forget that we have just passed a vote of £250,000 for unemployment relief, and I remember, also, that on the Brisbane register of the Returned Soldiers League appear the names of between 700 and 800 unemployed returned soldiers. Facts like these should make us very anxious indeed. Those who advocate a vigorous immigration policy often point to the United States of America as furnishing an example we should endeavour to follow ; but to-day the United States of America has put up the notice-board “ Full up,” and even Australians are unable to get in there.
– But America has 105,000,000 people, remember.
– And she is welcome to many of them. Far from being frightened of the bogy of the empty spaces - perhaps, because I know them so well - I believe that the fact that we have a little land to spare, land that is held in reserve for young Australians who are coming on, and for their sons, is a very great assetto the Commonwealth. The honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert
Cook) and other honorable members who have spoken on this subject all attempt to qualify their enthusiasm for immigration by saying that there must be proper preparation. Proper preparation, in my judgment, should include the elimination of our unemployment problem. I would rather see six men wanting some one to work for them than one man honestly wanting work and not able to get it.
There is just one other question, and that is whether this vote should be provided out of loan at all. I raised this issue on a former occasion, and although I did not like to look up Hansard, I believe the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) rather agreed with me then. But apart from the propriety of voting this money, if there is even a doubt, I think we should pay it out of revenue rather than out of loan.
.- Before this question goes to a division there is one matter that I want to have cleared up. The Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said to-night that this proposed expenditure was by arrangement with the States ; but about a fortnight ago, when the Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Charlton) asked him whether a definite arrangement had been made with the States, the Prime Minister answered, “ No.” To-night he says “ Yes.”
– No. He says that the arrangement with Western Australia will be finalized in a few days.
– He did not say that an arrangement had been made, but that it was going to be made. He also said a fortnight ago that this proposed expenditure was to give effect to an agreement made between the British and Commonwealth Governments, under which the British Government undertook to share equally with the Commonwealth in the necessary expenditure to defray the cost of the passages of approved immigrants.
– That is where the honorable member is wrong.
– I am not wrong. I am dealing with a statement made by the Prime Minister.
– The honorable member has misinterpreted the statement.
– Well, I will leave honorable members to be the judge in this matter. The Prime Minister said distinctly, a fortnight ago, that this matter had nothing whatever to do with the States - that the Commonwealth would pay £200,000, and the British Government a similar sum. Now he says tha* it is going to be by arrangement with the States, but that the arrangement has not yet been finalized.
– In answer to the statement made by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) the position is perfectly clear. What the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said is correct, and explains the situation. The arrangement entered into with the States comprises a tri-party agreement to place men on the land, and the Prime Minister has said tonight that that arrangement will probably be finalized with one other State within the next few days. That relates entirely to the money to be found to place men on the land by the three parties - the British Government, the Commonwealth Government, and the States concerned. This amount has nothing whatever to do with the States. This is found by the British Government and the Commonwealth Government in conjunction, and may be used for paying for the passages of some immigrants who will be placed on the land. The States are not contributing anything towards these passages, as it is an arrangement between the British Government and the Commonwealth Government.
– That is exactly what I said.
.- I am not perfectly clear as to the £2,000,000 per annum which the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes) said the Commonwealth
Government provides for the various States. The sum of £6,000,000 has been provided for settling returned soldiers on the land. Is that the £6,000,000 which the Prime Minister mentioned?
– I am quite in accord with any scheme for settling men on the land, whether they are our own boys or men brought from any European country; but I want to enter an emphatic protest against the class of men being brought into the Commonwealth at present. From information received I am perfectly satisfied that it is -impossible to secure in Great Britain to-day the type of men required for settling on the land, because agricultural workers in Great Britain can command much higher wages than are prevailing here in agricultural areas. I know of very many men who have arrived as immigrants during the last twelve months who have found great difficulty in securing work. Some of these men have been out of employment for many months, and eventually have had to accept work at rates ranging from 15s. to 25s. per week. They were quite unable to do any kind of farm work, and some of them did not know one end of a horse from the other, and were so inexperienced that they would have difficulty in distinguishing a horse from a cow. Many of them were brought from London offices, and one young man who arrived in my district with a cart-load of brass-bound trunks went to work in the morning wearing a pair of white gloves, as he said he did not wish to soil his hands when driving a team. This young fellow was very anxious to get on, and did his best; but he was a failure, because he was not of the type required. I know also1 a young man who came out nine months ago, and, after remaining some time, eventually found employment on a farm not very far from my home. He had, however, no capital, and was without experience. He is now gaining knowledge; but such men find it very difficult to get suitably placed. I strongly object to the wrong type of men being brought into the Commonwealth, because in a very short time they are entirely disheartened for the reason that they cannot find remunerative employment. In many instances they bring their wives and families with them, and when they leave for the country in search of work they are separated from their families. They find such a mode of living unsuitable, and eventually drift back to the cities and join the ranks of unemployed in the metropolitan area. Some who are dissatisfied return to the Old Country and give Australia a bad name. If we are to bring men here they must be of a suitable type, and before their arrival land must be made available so that they will know exactly where they are going.
– The land must be made available by whom?
– By the States. The Government are finding the money, and the States must make the necessary provision.
– The honorable member must be speaking for his own State, as those conditions do not obtain in Western Australia.
– I do not know what is being done in Western Australia; but in Victoria no proper scheme has been devised whereby an immigrant can go straight to the land which he is to work and find it equipped with a reasonably comfortable home, with fences, railways, and roads constructed and reasonable postal facilities provided. We cannot expect men to go into districts until something of that nature has been done. The Prime Minister also said that the Commonwealth Government were contributing £12 and the British Government £24 of a total passage-money of £36, and that the Commonwealth and British Governments were each contributing £200,000 for bringing. 30,000 immigrants annually to the Commonwealth.
– Twelve pounds is found for the immigrant by the Commonwealth Government, and he has to find £24, of. which £16 will be advanced by the Commonwealth.
– A single or married man who is unable to find the necessary £24 for his passage-money, and has to borrow from the Commonwealth, cannot be in a position to settle upon the land. Many who arrive here are practically penniless, and are vainly seeking suitable work in various parts of the Commonwealth. The main trouble is that when they do find employment it is unsuitable or they are unsuitable for the work available. In these circumstances it is impossible for them to put aside any money to enable them to engage in farming pursuits on their own account, or to repay the Government the advances which have been made for passage-money. We must have a definite policy. Personally I do not think the Government have a policy, and I do not think they have ever had one. What do the Government propose to do with the men when they come here? Arethey selected because of their qualifications to go on the land? Who is making selections, the State or the Federal Government?
– The Federal Government.
– If selected to go on the land, where is the land ?
– The honorable member ought to know.
– I know where there is land ; but no provision whatever has been made for placing new settlers on it. I am quite prepared to support any scheme that will mean the introduction of the right class of labour into Australia. We have millions of acres of arable land. This is first and foremost a producing country, and we should do everything possible to encourage primary industries. It is the bounden duty of the Government to have a policy that will not only insure bringing in the correct type of immigrant, but will make provision for him when he reaches Australia. He should notbe staked down to the land with a mortgage, and afterwards flayed alive with taxation.
– Is the Treasurer agreeable to adjourning the discussion at this stage?
-No; I want the Billpassed
– Then it will probably mean an all-night sitting. I think the ‘Committee is entitled to much more information than has been vouchsafed by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes). He told us that there was an agreement entered into between the Commonwealth Government and some other body under which money was to be advanced by the Commonwealth on the condition” that the immigrants brought out were settled upon the land. Can the Treasurer or any other Minister state with whom the agreement has been made ? What guarantee have the Government that by the proposed expenditure the immigrants will be placed upon the land? Nothing has been disclosed by the Prime Minister to give any assurance whatever that these men will not march about the streets of the cities as they have been doing. For months past immigrants have not been settled on the land, but have remained in the capital cities.
– That is not so.
– I am asking for information.
– Are you referring to Victoria?
– To any of the States.
– Immigrants are being settled on the land.
– I know scores of cases in which men who are not farmers at all, and have no knowledge of rural pursuits, have been brought out.
– They must have been exceptions.
– No; this has been the rule Reference has been made to the number of applications for single blocks in New South Wales. To give a concrete case that has come under my notice within the last three months, I have received scores of letters from applicants asking me to help them to secure a certain block situated in my electorate. There were 200 applicants.
– That is not peculiar.
– It is typical of a number of cases, and it bears out the statement by the Minister for Defence and Health (Mr. Greene) that for every block of land there are hundreds of applicants.
– He did not say that.
– I have mentioned one instance where there were over 200 applicants for one block.
– At what price was it put up, and what was it worth?
– It was just average land. It is a fact that in New South Wales there are hundreds of men who know something about land, and they are unable to go on the soil because they have not the opportunity. This is also true of Victoria. Will the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) believe me if I read from Hansard the statement of his colleague? The Minister for Defence and Health (Mr. Greene) made this observation -
There are hundreds of applicants for every block of land that is thrown open in any of the privileged parts of Australia where there is a sufficient rainfall and facilities for getting one’s produce to market.
Evidently the desire is to push our own people out into the backblocks; but it is only fair that they should be placed on land where there are facilities for getting their produce to market. The block of land to which I referred is in a district where the rainfall is good, and where facilities for marketing produce are available.
There was no more staunch opponent of the principle for which he is fighting to-night than was the Prime Minister himself when he wrote his book, The Case for Labour. Throughout that book there are arguments stronger than any that have been advanced in this Chamber in opposition to the policy which the Prime Minister has advocated this evening. When he wrote The Case for Labour he stood for the principles that have been enunciated from this side, but from the Government side of the House this evening he spoke as one who has to serve a new set of masters. The right honorable gentleman has to serve those who to-day are supporting him and contributing to his party funds. No one who listened to him this evening could say that his heart was in his speech. In The Case for Labour he said it was criminal to bring immigrants to this country before full and ample provision had been made for the settlement of our own young men on the land. I do not understand how any honorable member who is familiar with rural conditions, and especially the members of the so-called Country party, can approve of the policy now proposed by the Government.
– We have been waiting for a reference to the “ so-called Country party.” It sounds quite like old times.
– In what other way could I describe the members of that party? Here we have a matter that affects the young men of Australia who understand rural conditions and want to go on the land, and. the Country party should support us in the stand we are taking. Hundreds of young men who know something about the land, and could do well if they had an opportunity to go on it, are to be found in the country areas.
– Who is keeping them off the land?
– The big squatters.
– The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) is doing something to keep them off the land. The large estates which he has tied up would, if subdivided, provide employment for thousands of men. Between Hamilton and Dunkeld there is only one siding on a railway line running through 18 miles of the richest and most fertile country in this State. The chief reason for our heavy railway deficits in every State is the existence of great landlocked areas. They are held by men who use the railways only occasionally for the transport of their stock, whereas if such areas were cut up they would provide profitable employment for hundreds of farmers.
– There have been Labour Governments in Queensland and New South Wales for years, yet they have not subdivided those estates.
– And it is to those States where Labour Governments are and have been in power for some time that the young men of Victoria have been steadily drifting. The Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) may smile, but proof of my statement is to be found in the fact that Victoria, under the redistribution scheme, is losing a member because she has been losing population!
– Does the honorable member know that the number of people on the land in Queensland is 6,000 less than it was a few years ago ?
– The honorable member for Wide Bay (Mr. Corser), in his speech to-night, spoke of the increase in the rural population of Queensland, and he knows a lot more about that State than does the honorable member for Corio (Mr. Lister). Victoria, which has not had in power a Labour Government, is constantly losing its population, as shown by the fact that at every redistribution it loses a member to New South Wales or Queensland.
– It is the most closely settled of all the States.
– And, for its size, it is the most land-locked State in the Commonwealth. All this goes to prove that it is criminal, as the Prime Minister once said, to bring people from overseas in the hope of putting them on the land before full and ample opportunity has been given our own people to settle on the land. He said the very opposite of that to-night, not because he has changed his views, but because he has to serve a new set of masters.
– Who were his old set ofmasters?
– The masters that every honorable member should serve, namely, the people of this country. The Prime Minister has now to serve a small section of the people who are interested in land monopoly, and above all in bringing cheap labour to this country.
– What is the honorable member going to do about it?
– What I have to do about it is to prevent the Government carrying on in the way proposed. The honorable member for North Sydney (Sir Granville Ryrie) looks so comfortable and so much at ease that he does not wish to do anything if he can get out of it. He has become so comfortable looking from doing nothing.
– Order! We are not discussing the honorable member for North Sydney.
– No, I hope we have something more interesting to discuss. I suppose it would not matter if we were to speak here all night, as the Government have evidently made up their minds on this question. Ministers have to obey their masters, but it is for honorable members on this side to study the interest of the people and see whether it is within their power to prevent a continuance of this suicidal policy of spending money to bring immigrants to this country to settle them on the land instead of settling our own Australian-born residents. I feel that I would not be doing my duty if I allowed the proposed vote to go through without stating my position. I hope that the Government will see the unwisdom of continuing a policy that, while it aims at benefiting people from other parts of the world, is really unfair to them at the same time that it is very unfair to our own Australian-born, who should be the first consideration of this or any other Australian Government. I intend to vote for the amendment, and, although it may be too much to expect, I sincerely trust that we shall have the support of honorable members in the Corner, who profess to know something about country conditions. I hope they will take up a different attitude from that outlined by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Cook). I cannot understand his view-point. I claim to know the honorable member’s electorate pretty well, and I have never known a time when land there was thrown open to selection that there were not fifty or sixty applicants for each block. He knows that that is so in his typical country electorate, and yet he declares himself to-night as a staunch advocate of the suicidal policy proposed by the Government, which is doing the greatest possible injury to numbers of people in his electorate. There are hundreds of young men in the honorable member’s electorate able, willing, and anxious to go on the land, but who are denied the opportunity because of the blind policy pursued by the Government.
– The constituents of the honorable member for Indi will deal with him.
– It is true that all these people will have an early day of reckoning. I hope that every member of this Committee will express indignation at the adoption of this policy, which is doing so much injury to our own people and which will also do injury to the people who are to be brought here from other parts of the world under false pretences.
.- I wish to say a few words on this very important item. I want to support the proposed vote for immigration, but I do not desire that it should be said by the Government afterwards that no matter how the money is used, or how the settlement of immigrants in this country is carried out, I must take responsibility for it. It is a favourite argument of the Government that because the House carries a certain proposal every member of it must share responsibility for the administration and everything else connected with the proposal later on. I know that in Western Australia the Labour party, in common with the Country party and the Nationalist party, have considered immigration most necessary to the development of the State. I think so, too. The honorable member for Echuca (Mr. Hill) was perfectly right when he said that, having decided that immigration is necessary, the most important matter is the selection of the immigrants to settle on our lands. Whilst at the present time a considerable number of desirable immigrants are coming into Western Australia, they are not all suitable for settlement on the land. I do not believe in too much spoonfeeding of immigrants. I believe that reasonable arrangements can be made by the Commonwealth and State Governments for the settlement of immigrants. We have to remember that they come here without previous knowledge of the country, and naturally find it difficult without guidance to secure land. In Western Australia the State Government have taken steps to cut up available lands, and have made reasonable provision for immigration. I find that immigrants to-day look for more con veniences than were regarded as sufficient by the earlier settlers of this country. I believe that a happy medium should be decided upon, and if men cannot stand the difficulties of reasonable pioneering, they are not fit for land settlement. I should like to see 199 of the applicants for the piece of land referred to between Albury and Corowa look for land that is cheaper and just as good in Western Australia. There is land of equal quality to be obtained there under favorable conditions, and for one-third of the price of the land referred to by the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) . I am a believer, also, in offering every facility to our own farmers’ sons, than whom there are none better fitted for a life on the land. They have passed through a period of education in agriculture, and the land is in their very bones. To force such young men to come into city life where they are not wanted is a crying shame, and we should do all that is possible to keep them on the land.
I should like to see the Commonwealth Government recognise the importance of affording people who have settled on the land facilities which are their due, for obtaining material for their fences, for ploughing, gathering their crops, pulling down trees, and. so forth. Then, when they have gathered the crops, they should not be taxed out of existence ; and if they have gone through a drought period, and come into an abundant season, the Federal Treasurer, with the Taxation Department, should not leap upon them and demand unreasonable amounts. That is why at a later stage I will contend most seriously and strenuously in order that justice shall be given to those people. It seems gross hypocrisy to say that the only immigrants we desire are those who will go on the land - that they are the best persons to develop our resources and increase the wealth of the country, and then, when they do come, to drag them off the land by taxing them in every conceivable way, even before they have actually made money. When they do make money, it is in a spasmodic way ; they are promptly’ ‘ hit to leg,” because of the graduated rate. Statistics show that even men of experience are leaving the land; because the conditions have proved unsatisfactory. Things have been made so favorable in the way of “ hot-house “ conditions in the centralized portions of Australia that people are leaving the land for the cities, and we are asking “ new chums “ to take their places. How are these “new chums” to stand the conditions of the country if old experienced men cannot? Something in the way of relief is being given in connexion with wire for fencing and tractors, but there are other burdens; and the Government, if consistent, will afford relief to the full extent. Then people will make farming a lucrative business, which, of course, is the best attraction. If experience shows that it is unremunerative, we cannot bluff people on to the land, and, if we do, we cannot bluff them into staying. While I approve of immigration, I hope the Government will recognise that the proposed measures are not child’s play - that we are not having a “ bit of fun “ in the spending of this money. We wish people to seriously settle on the land in order to increase the development of the country. If we do go in for immigration let us do so whole-heartedly, and consider every aspect of the question. But the first thing is to see that men and women of the right character are brought here. Our city-bred men and women will not stay on the land any more than will the English city -bred men and women; but if people do go, let us remember that telephonic and telegraphic communication is necessary to make their lives in some way civilized. I am not speaking to fill in time, neither am I “ backing and filling.” I was bred on the land, and understand it probably “ as Well as the next man.” Without boasting I may say that the Government of Western Australia selected me as a member of the Discharged Soldiers’ Land Settlement Board; and if honorable ‘ members consult the present Premier, they will be told that, in his opinion, no man placed the soldiers to better advantage. That was simply because of my knowledge of the land. I have put all my money into land, and know the difficulties that are met with in country life ; and I repeat that to burden the man on the land with unnecessary taxation is to “ kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”
– Most honorable members who have spoken from the Corner, or from this side, have said sufficient from both points of view to prove that neither State Governments - with, perhaps, one exception - nor the Federal Government are in a state of preparedness to receive immigrants. That has happened in the past, and I am speaking from experience. It was the lot of my own lad to settle down amongst quite a number of immigrants who took up irrigation blocks near Swan Hill. There was a fairly long list of such settlers there in 1912, but if I were to go there to-day, I should say that out of a score I should find about only one left. Where have they gone? These men came out, as was the intention of the Victorian Government, to settle on the land; but after they had been there for a little time, and had worked up to a certain stage, they became dissatisfied and discontented. They then made their way to the city, and, metaphorically holding a pistol at the head of. the State authorities, said, “Unless you give us jobs in a factory such as we had before we left the Old Country, we will write back and tell our friends that this is no place to come to.” I am just afraid that if we are not careful we may have a similar experience in the future. The honorable member for Grampians (Mr. Jowett) will bear me out when I say that no worse advertisement can be given of this great Australia of ours than such letters from discontented immigrants. I have seen in John Bull such communications from immigrants, finishing up with the warning in black letters. “ For God’s sake, don’t come to this country, for that is the way they treat us! “
I find that the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), in his Case for Labour, when dealing with this question, wrote a few pregnant sentences -
Upon the land question, defence and immigration are absolutely dependent. Without land, talk of immigration is mere babble; without land wo cannot expect a sufficient population, and we ought not to advertise resources which, however splendid, are monopolized by an unpatriotic and selfish few.
That was written, of course, just prior, I believe, to the first Fisher Government coming into power. Were I to argue for three or four hours, I could not say more than is contained in these few sentences. In the quotation I have read there is sufficient to make the Committee pause before it sanctions this vote. Unfortunately we are not yet in a state of preparedness to receive the immigrants for whom we are spending the money.
.- I rise to support the Government. I must confess that I am absolutely amazed that honorable members of this House should utter such remarks as I have heard this evening in opposition to immigration. The most priceless heritage that people of Australiaenjoy is that they live in a white man’s country, which is inhabited by people of British blood, living under British institutions. I have seen something recently of othercountries, where the people are not white, and are not of British blood. If we wish to maintain our position, it. is absolutely necessary that Ave should increase our numbers. I often wonder if honorable members who speak, as many have spoken to-night, disparagingly of immigrants of the British race, realize the isolated position of the British race in Australia. There are only a few millions of people in Australia and ‘New Zealand.
– I did not speak disparagingly of immigrants.
– Unless my ears deceived me, the honorable gentleman spoke disparagingly of the Government’s proposals for immigration.
– That is a different thing from speaking disparagingly of immigrants.
– I do not know whether my honorable friends realize that we have as close neighbours hundreds of millions of people belonging to coloured races.
– That does not matter. Wo are told that peace is secured for the world!
– The honorable member always was an optimist. I wish he could persuade people at the other side of the world to adopt his views in that regard. For in reality the only safety we can secure for our children and grandchildren lies in a larger population of British blood in Australia and New Zealand. We have heard a great deal about the wickedness of the Government in proposing to bring people here from Great Britain while Australians who desire to obtain land in Australia cannot get it. I heard the honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) speak about the enormous areas of land locked up from settlement. I would remind him that for many years his State of New South Wales was managed and controlled by a Labour Government, and that if it had. been easy to break up these estates the Government had ample opportunity to do it. They did not do it, and every one knows why.
– They did not really have a majority. The Upper House was against them.
– They always had a sufficient majority to carry their measures if they wanted to, and they had no difficulty whatever in putting as many members as they needed in the Upper House. It would have been quite easy for them, if they thought that land was locked up against the people, to buy it at a reasonable valuation, have it subdivided, and settle people on it. The only trouble was that they were not capable of settling people on the land. This Federal Government has undertaken the responsibility of assisting immigrants to come out from Great Britain, and it is the duty of the State Governments to see that they are settled on the land.
– In the three schemes the land will be prepared for them. That is a condition precedent to the spending of the money.
-And they may prepare the honorable member’s land.
– Every landowner in Australia is willing to sell his land if any one will give him a fair price for it. If my honorable friend thinks that the Government is prepared to take land away from the freeholders and farmers of Australia without giving them a fair price for it, and without paying for it, I can only say that that would amount to confiscation.
– We do not say any such thing.
– Then what was the meaning of the interjections to whichI have been subjected during this speech? I stand for the Commonwealth Government’s policy of the, immigration of British people to Australia.
Question - That the item be omitted (Mr. Scullin’s amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 20
Question so resolved in the negative.
.- Provision is made in the schedule to this Bill for £300,001 as a subscription to the capital of Amalgamated Wireless Limited. I do not think we should pass this money until we know what has resulted from the negotiations that have been proceeding for the last three months between the Government and the company. At the least, we should be told who is to be the seventh director.
– Under the agreement entered, into with Amalgamated Wireless Limited the Commonwealth was to take £500,001 shares, paying on allotment the sum of 2s. per share. This allotment money of £50,000 was paid from revenue in 1921- 22. The agreement further provides that calls of 6s. per share shall be paid not earlier than the 1st July, 1922, and 6s. per share not earlier than the 1st
January, 1923. It is not anticipated that the second call will be made before the end of the financial year, so that not more than £150,000 will be required to cover the first call.
As to the seventh director I can easily tell the Committee all that I know about the matter. Efforts have been made to secure the services of a suitable man, but the task has so far” been found impossible. Honorable members will realize that it is extremely difficult to get competent men willing to give up -their time to the Commonwealth who have had no connexion with Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited, and yet have some knowledge of wireless. We had hoped to secure the services of one gentleman who’ would have ‘been quite acceptable to honorable members, but unhappily he was unable to take the position. Speaking the other day by way of reply to a question, I said that if I failed to get another gentleman whose name had been mentioned, I thought seriously of taking the position myself, but it would be undesirable for me to do so. I gather from the views expressed by honorable members that there is a feeling that the Commonwealth should be represented by some one whose association with this Parliament is so close and intimate that we could rely upon him to protect our interests under the agreement. I am very sorry that the Government have not been able to secure the services of any such person.
– I am sorry that we have no definite promise from the Government on this important matter, and I think we are justified in declining to vote this money. At any rate, if we do agree to the proposed expenditure I suggest that the Government should hold back the payment and bring pressure to bear on the company. Cannot the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) represent the Government for the time being?
– If we appoint a Minister his place is in Melbourne^ whereas the Wireless Board sits in Sydney.
– If the Government cannot come to some arrangement, do they still propose to pay this money over to the company?
– We must come to some arrangement.
– If this money is voted the Government should give us an assurance ‘that it will not be paid over to the company until a complete agreement has been arrived at as to the seventh director.
– I am afraid we must pay the money when it becomes due.
– But there is also the stipulation that there must be a seventh director, and he has not yet been appointed. In the circumstances I ask the Prime Minister not to pay this money until that condition has been complied with.
– Very well, I will give that assurance, but I should like an expression of opinion from the Committee as to what I have said. If we cannot get some one else to act we shall have to appoint a Minister, either myself or another, but, in my opinion, that will not be very desirable from the point of view of the Government. It would be better if we could appoint some outside person. But if a Minister were appointed he would be here, directly responsible to Parliament, and that of course, would be the best possible assurance we could have, although it is not the arrangement that was contemplated originally namely, that we should secure a man whose previous associations were such that there could be no possible doubt as to his being entirely free from any bias or prejudice in favour of Amalgamated Wireless.
– And in the meantime the money will not be paid?
– That is so.
.- I can see no reason why, if a Minister is to be on the Board, he should not be in the position of chairman, because £500,000 of public money is involved. This course is adopted in most of the banking institutions in Great Britain and on the Continent. Public money is invested, and Ministers take their position on the directorate to watch the interests of the Government. In this case no money ought to be paid unless we have a controlling interest on the Board.
. -The proper course to take, in the circumstances, is to withdraw the item. There need be no difficulty about getting the money later if the position is satisfactory. Once this item is passed control passes out of our hands.
– I have given a public assurance that the money will not be paid until the seventh director is appointed.
– But so far as this Parliament is concerned, control will pass out of our hands and into the hands of the Government. Our previous experience in connexion with wireless does not encourage me to vote for this item. I have no desire to say anything offensive, but I cannot help remarking that the whole of the wireless business is, to say the least, suspicious. Nothing has been done by the Prime Minister with regard to the appointment of Government nominees, against whom strong exception was taken by the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) on the ground that two members are partners in a private firm. Surely the Prime Minister will not say that that is a proper state of affairs.
– Who are the men the honorable member has in mind?
– Mr. George Mason Allard and Mr. Bartholomew.
– Mr. Bartholomew is not our representative, and Mr. Allard acts for many companies. No man in this community is. so independent as an accountant. No particular firm is his master. He is in a position to offer his services to the whole community.
- Mr. Allard is the Government’s representative, and he is a co-director with Mr. Bartholomew in a private firm.
– Suppose he is. You are a co-member in thisHouse with me. Do you agree with me ? Unfortunately you do not.
– Then I take it that the Prime Minister approves of the position that two men representing conflicting or opposing interests - one representing the Government and the other the company - are acting together on the directorate of a private company. In my judgment it is a most improper state of affairs.
– Does the honorable member suggest that Mr. Allard is acting dishonestly, corruptly, or improperly ?
– I say that Mr. Allard’s private interests are interwoven with those of Mr. Bartholomew in a private firm.
– What a yarn !
– They are codirectors.
– Mr. Allard is our representative, and has done a lot of responsible work for the Government for a long while. He acted for us in regard to the wool agreement.
– That only makes the position so much the worse. Mr. Allard and Mr. Bartholomew are co-directors in a private company - Beard, Watson, and Company.
– Does not the honorable member know that dozens of men are codirectors in certain companies, and bitter commercial enemies in other concerns ?
– I know that the Minister for Defence can put up a smoke screen about almost anything.
– The honorable member himself is putting up a smoke screen and besmirching honest men’s characters.
– I am merely saying that in my opinion the nominees of the Government on the directorate ought to have no private business connexions with the company’s members. If what I am objecting to is regarded by the Prime Minister as quite proper, then there was nothing wrong with the appointment of Sir Thomas Hughes as the seventh director.
– There is no analogy at all between the two cases. Sir Thomas Hughes was or had been a director of Amalgamated Wireless. Does he suggest now that Mr. Allard-
– I am saying that Mr. Bartholomew is a shareholder in Wireless, and is associated with Allard in his private business capacity. Therefore, of necessity their interests are interwoven. If this appointment is right, so also was the appointment of Sir Thomas Hughes, though I do not say it was. Unless we have something better in the way of an assurance that the company is going to be controlled by the Government absolutely, because the Goverment are providing the larger amount of capital, I do not think that partners ought to be on the directorate. The item, in my opinion, ought to be withdrawn.
– Then move that it be struck out.
– The Government must take that responsibility. The whole thing is suspicious. I know that some honorable members are impatient, but this position has been forced upon us because in connexion with other matters we have been told that the Government repudiated the responsibility, Parliament having passed certain items. I am making my protest, so that I cannot possibly be held responsible.
Question - That the balance of the appropriation “ under control of Prime Minister’s Department “, be agreed to - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 19
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £8,344,119.
.- In consequence of an interjection by the Prime Minister (Mr. Hughes), I am compelled to enter into a discussion on another matter. I was quite prepared to express my views in connexion with the Wireless Agreement without any personal references in any shape or form. I think it is perfectly within the rights of an honorable member to criticise any proposal which comes before this Chamber, so long as he does so in a decent manner and free from abuse. I saw nothing whatever in the statement of the honorable member for Yarra (Mr. Scullin) to justify the interjection of the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond). I cannot recall an instance where I have acted improperly in this Committee, and although I was prepared to accept the Prime Minister’s assurance on the lines he indicated, he had the decency, of course, to say that he had seen better men than me in the yards at Flemington. You, Mr. Chairman, allowed that statement to pass without calling the right honorable gentleman to order.
– I did not hear it, otherwise I would have called upon the Prime Minister to withdraw.
– I am quite prepared to carry on this discussion in a decent and proper manner, without casting reflections upon any one; but, owing to the manner in which I have been dealt with, it makes it very difficult. I may point out, as a commencement, that it is not many years ago, not more than six or seven, that the daily papers in this city set out to say of the Prime Minister those detestable things which he is now saying about us. During the elections in 1913-
– Order! I must ask the honorable member for Bourke (Mr. Anstey) to discuss the vote before the Committee. His statements are quite irrelevant.
– I am merely endeavouring to show that what I have to say is as relevant to the question now before the Chair as was the statement of the Prime Minister to myself. The newspapers in this city referred to the right honorable gentleman as a teetotum-
– Order ! I cannot permit this discussion to continue. If the honorable member for Bourke had called my attention to the statement made by the Prime Minister - which I did not hear - I would have asked for its withdrawal.
– I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, that you did not hear it, and I trust that in the future your hearing will be better than it was on this occasion.
– I am sorry that I made that observation. There was no need for me to have done so, and I withdraw and apologize.
– I ask the honorable member for Bourke in his official capacity as Deputy Leader of the Opposition to assist in suppressing conversation, which makes it exceedingly difficult for the Chairman to hear what is being said.
– I desire to make a personal explanation. During the course of my remarks, the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) said that I was making insinuations and casting aspersions on honorable men. I was criticising the position as a responsible member of this House, which I consider it my duty to do. It was not a question of casting aspersions at all, and it is remarkable if a member of this Chamber cannot draw attention to something which shrieks aloud for criticism without being charged as I have been. If free discussion is not to be “allowed, I can only take this opportunity of registering my protest against the interjection made by the Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond), who seems to have a habit of making irrelevant interjections.
– That was quite relevant.
– I was quite in order, and my criticism was fair and proper. I shall repeat it.
– But not outside.
– I shall repeat it outside, and on many occasions.
– I, too, have no objection to repeating anything I have said tonight outside of this Chamber.
– Order !
– I shall repeat the statement wherever I like, and I still contend that Beard Watson and Company is merely a trade name, and that Bartholomew and Allard are partners’ in that firm.
– The discussion on the vote to which the honorable member is referring has been concluded.
– I have no desire to unduly detain the Committee, but there is, in the schedule, an item which was mentioned earlier in the debate, and which certainly demands some attention. I refer to the item “ Loan to States for settling returned soldiers on the land, £6,000,000.” I am not offering any opposition to it, but I desire to call attention to the way in which our returned boys are being treated in New South Wales, not only by the State Department, but also by the Commonwealth Department of Repatriation in connexion with the advance of £625, which is made to every man for the purchase of machinery, &c. Returned men who are growing annual crops for which they get no return until the end of the year are being called upon at the present time to pay every quarter interest on the advances made to them. That in itself is a hardship, because they have no money in hand until they obtain a return from their crops. Then, again, the boys have held meetings of protest and are refusing to sign the mortgages demanded of them by the State Department. They are being called upon to mortgage, not only the machinery, &c, which they have purchased with the money advanced to them, but everything else that they have put into their properties, and in which they have, perhaps, invested £500 or £1,000 of their own money. Seeing that we are advancing these large sums to the States to assist in the settlement of returned men upon the land, we should at least have some voice in the determination of what shall be their treatment by the State authorities. Soldier settlers who go in for sheep farming in New South Wales are so tied down that their position is worse than that of an ordinary settler under the State Closer Settlement Act. They are not allowed to sell any of the progeny of their stock without first consulting the Department, with the result that sales that they might otherwise be able to make are sometimes no longer possible by the time that the reply of the Department is re ceived. I do not say that every returned man who has gone on the land has played the game, but I do claim that their treatment should at least be equal to that meted out to the ordinary selector under a State Closer Settlement Act. I hope that the Minister will take notice of the way in which many of the boys are being treated. There was recently brought under my notice - I give the statement as made to me for what it is worth - the case of a number of returned men who are growing potatoes in, I think, the Bathurst district. One enterprising young man, finding that it cost 15s. per ton to cart the produce to the railway station, ‘bought, with part of the money advanced to him by the Repatriation Department, a traction motor so that he could convey his own produce to the station and also earn a little by carting the produce of other soldier settlers. His enterprise in thus endeavouring to earn money with which to repay the advance made to him was rewarded, I understand, by a direction from the Department that he must, at once, sell the motor. I am afraid that under the policy which is being pursued many of the returned men will have to give up their holdings. The policy of the State Departments seems to be in the direction of preventing them from making a success of the settlement scheme as proposed by the Commonwealth. It is up to this Government to look into this matter and to tell the State Departments that, since the Commonwealth is advancing the money to provide for the settlement of these lads, it insists upon the adoption of methods that are calculated to insure success.
– I desire to obtain some information from the Ministry as to what they intend to do.
– We should like to get the Bill through before we adjourn.
– The Bill provides for the raising of £17,000,000, and in the schedule there are very important items that demand careful consideration.
– Honorable members have been talking of them throughout the whole sitting.
– I have spoken for only about twenty minutes, and if the Government intend to put the Bill through before we adjourn I am afraid that we shall have to sit all night. I wish to enter a very emphatic protest against the passing of this proposed advance of £6,000,000 to the States for soldier settlement purposes without reasonable opportunity for its proper consideration being afforded honorable members. There is no question that the conditions of soldier settlement are very unsatisfactory. In my own electorate, at the beginning of the year, a deputation of about thirty soldier settlers came to me for information and advice. They had gone on partly improved farms, one man putting in £1,000 of his own, another £1,200, and all had invested practically the whole of their deferred pay. They had accepted assistance from the State in purchasing the farms, and had also taken the £625 that was made available for the purchase of stock. At that time dairy cows were selling at from £15 to £18, and they were able to purchase between thirty and forty head. When they waited on me butter was selling at 7d. per lb. at the factory, and the price of dairy cows had gone down to £2 or £3. These men had expended the whole of their advances, and what they had bought for £625 was worth less than £100. Under the circumstances they found they could not carry on, and they wished to know from me what was their exact position with respect to their indebtedness. They asked whether, if they walked out of the farm, leaving all the assets that had been purchased with Government money, they would, at some subsequent time, if they made good again, be liable for the repayment of the £625. We got legal opinion, and found that they would be liable; and their position is that of a number of soldier settlers. While this state of affairs prevails, we find the Government so dead to all sense of ordinary decency, respect, and responsibility to the taxpayers of the country, who find the money, that, in a thin House, in the early hours of the morning, they wish to rush through items of this nature without proper consideration.
– What did you advise those men to do?
– I paid for the legal opinion obtained, and it was to the effect that if they left their farms they would still be liable for the money.
– Yours is a statement that leads us nowhere !
– At any rate, these men have been left ‘ ‘ nowhere. ‘ ‘ The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) seems to be ignorant of what is going on; and that only proves the necessity for discussing these questions in a full House, and under proper conditions.
– I know a hundred times more about it than does the honorable member.
– If so, the honorable gentleman gives no evidence of his knowledge; and that his mind may be fully informed I shall read an extract from the speech of the Minister for Lands (Mr. Wearne) in the New South Wales Parliament on Wednesday, 23rd of this month.
– What was the honorable member’s party doing in the State Parliament ?
– My party was doing its best to secure the most advantageous terms for the soldiers. Practically every member of the party in the State House had been a member of a local Repatriation Committee. This is what the Minister for Lands said -
I went into the question of soldier settlement as affecting the whole of the State, realizing there is an enormous amount of money at stake, also the future welfare of many thousands of soldiers.
I realized I had undertaken a stupendous task, and, before I attempted to carry into effect my own views of land settlement on new areas, it was my bounden duty - 1.To complete the settling of soldiers on estates already purchased.
To confirm blocks already occupied, and to fix the capital value on estates already purchased, so that each individual soldier would know the capital value of his holding and the amount for which he was responsible.
To investigate the system of advances to soldiers for the effecting of improvements and the purchase of stock and plant.
In this connexion I want to say that some estates, purchased at great expense, are unoccupied. There are other estates which have been occupied for years, and the values not fixed or the blocks confirmed, and advances made of the £625 for which in some cases no security exists. arrangement with federal government.
When the soldiers were returning and were desirous of being placed on the land, an arrangement was entered into with the Commonwealth Government that a sum of £17,340,608 should be spent by this State in the settlement of returned soldiers on the land.
Of this amount, the Commonwealth was to contribute the sum of £12,254,191, this sum to ibc paid back on or before 1st January, 1950, the interest ranging from 44 per cent, to Ti per cent. The State had to find the balance of the £17,340,098, viz., £5,080,507.
The amount already received from the Commonwealth to date for the purchase of estates amounts’ to £6,913,829, and for advances to soldiers of the £625 to effect improvements, purchases of stock, plant, &c, £2,912,374, making a total of £9,826,203.
In addition to this, the State has issued debentures for the purchase of estates to the amount of £1,861,057, bearing interest at 4£ and 5 per cent., without taxation, redeemable in ten years.
The number of soldiers placed on the land, including those who have vacated their blocks from failure and other causes, is 7,025.
Of the £12,254,191 to be advanced by the Commonwealth, only £9,826,203 has been expended, and the balance is still available; and of the 8,405 to be settled, 1,380 still remain.
That is to say, the State of New South Wales, which had had made available to it £12,254,191, had used only £9,800,000; and yet we. are asked to pass a commitment of £6,000,000 without any explanation from the Government.
– Does that speech not mean that .the National Administration in New South Wales is condemning the Labour Administration in land settlement ?
– I have read a statement of the fact, made in the Parliament of New South Wales, as to the bad conditions of soldier settlement. The Minister for Lands in the State has been a practical farmer for many years.
– He was only attacking the Labour party.
– He was attacking the whole system’ of settlement and was not making an ex parte statement. It seems to be thought that if a man speaks on a public question he must be speaking purely in the interests of party. The Government here, as soon as an honorable member rises to deal with any question, attack him for daring to speak the truth as he finds it. I am satisfied that the statement of the State Minister for Lands shows no animus at all towards the Labour party or any previous Administration ; he is simply putting the facts before the public. This is his conclusion -
Although this balance is available to me, as Minister, and there is a large number of soldiers desirous of going on the land, I have deliberately refrained from purchasing any more estates, either upon cash or debentures, for the reason that I am of the opinion the system which has been adopted, and has been in existence from the start, under which so many -men have been placed on the land, is unsound in principle, wrong in practice, and, in many cases impossible of success.
The system which he condemns was a system started by a Nationalist Government and carried on by a Labour Government. The Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) mentions none of these things. The undertaking was messed up from the very start. The New South Wales Minister freely admits that the practice has been better in Victoria, and that bears out the contention I have always advanced that it is only in small States like Victoria that it is possible to handle settlement problems like this satisfactorily. He proceeds -
In the first place, the qualification certificate, entitling the holder to take up land under any tenure or area, nas given upon the production of a military discharge. For this error, Parliament itself must’ accept the blame, and not any individual Minister.
The result of such legislation has been most disastrous, inasmuch as men without any knowledge of land settlement, without any experience of country life or conditions, broken in health, and without any aptitude for such a calling, were placed on areas of land, with a debt of thousands of pounds hanging over them, and without being called upon to contribute one shilling.
To enable them to work their property, an advance of £625 was made, provided the settler held a home maintenance area, whether by purchase or by approved lease, or as a share farmer.
This money formed part of the £12,254,191 loan from the Commonwealth Government, the settler paying interest at the rate of 3) per cent, for “the first year, 4 per cent, for the second, 4£ per cent, for the third, 5 per cent, for the fourth, 5i per cent, for the fifth, and thence current rate of interest) the capital being paid back in various terms, according to the nature of the security. This advance was made on the full value of the purchases, that is, 100 per cent.
The State then finds itself in this position : - In many cases an inexperienced and unsuitable settler is placed in possession of a property worth £3,000, with stock and plant to the value of £625, or a total of £3,625, facing a debt the amount of which is equal to the value of the property of winch he is in possession.
In some cases he is allowed « cultural advance to enable him to live and work his holding, which is added to this liability, but does not increase the value of his block correspondingly.
That is the deliberate opinion of the Minister in New South Wales, and he is speaking of the conditions which applied from the very beginning. When we find a slump such as has occurred in’ the dairying industry, when the value of land goes down considerably, the position becomes much worse -
These conditions do not apply to every settler, but do apply to a very large number, and it represents what will be an enormous loss to the people of the State, every, penny of which has to be paid to the Commonwealth by the taxpayers, amongst whom are many soldiers, who, having entered into other walks of life, and received no assistance from the Government, will be called upon to contribute their share of this expenditure.
In this connexion, although there may be two Governments concerned, there is only one taxpayer, and if the loss has to be met it does not matter much whether the Commonwealth Government or the State Government foot the bill, because the same taxpayer has to pay. In comparing Victoria with New South Wales he says -
Victoria started on similar lines to New South Wales, but very early realized her mistake, and made drastic alterations.
The qualification in Victoria entitling a soldier to take up land was a special certificate insuring practical knowledge.
This principle has proved a great success, and the percentage of failures under such a system is very small.
That is to say, the difference between the two States was that in the one case the fact of a mail being an applicant qualified him to become a landholder and farmer, but in the other case he had to possess a practical qualification. I have always held that it is the function of the Commonwealth Government, which has advanced the money, to see that the conditions are such as to insure a reasonable chance of success to the settler. The report proceeds -
Before dealing with changes I have effected, and intendto effect, I want it to be distinctly understood that I recognise the stupendous task undertaken by my predecessors, in office, especially Mr. Ashford, who had to deal with the soldiers as they returned from the war, when it was difficult to refuse the requests made by and on behalf of these men. Mr. Loughlin took office in April, 1020, and had many difficulties to face in the settling of men upon estates already purchased. But it is nearly four years since peace has been declared; we are getting back to normal, and the unsatisfactory position of affairs has to be faced and dealt with.
Regarding the completion of the State’s quota of 8,405, I wish to say the quota will be completed, and that number of soldiers will be settled on the land.
But I have decided that the further issue of qualification certificates under the past arrangement shall cease, and in future only qualified, suitable, and experienced men will be permitted to acquire farms or receive advances of £625.
Mr. Wearne goes on to deal with what he proposes to do, and says that if he finds men achieving no good for themselves he will insist that they pay up or get off the land. In cases in which they cannot pay up, and in which the total value of their assets is not equal to the amount advanced to them, the Commonwealth or the State Government will have to face a loss. Whichever Government faces the loss, however, the same taxpayer will have to pay it. Mr. Wearne then says -
The second matter for inquiry is as to whether the documents a settler is required to sign are fair and reasonable.
As the soldier is given possession of a property which has probably cost the State £3,000, and has been advanced a sum of £625 in addition without one single shilling of his own money being included, it is necessary that the Crown should be secured to the extent of its advance.
Mr. Wearne points out that they are proceeding with revaluations, and that they expect to find very considerable evidence of over-capitalization. Those are the conditions which obtain at the present time, and I venture to say that both the public and this Committee require some statement of the policy of the Government regarding the security it will get in the future from the State Governments. However late the hour, a matter of this magnitude should not be allowed to go through without a statement being made by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce).
– No one can cavil at the demand made by the honorable member for Cowper (Dr. Earle Page). The Government cannot escape from their responsibilities in regard to the bungling that has taken place in connexion with soldier settlements. There are several of these settlements in my electoral district, and I have inspected them on several occasions, and can claim to know something of all the other settlements in New South Wales. A little while ago the Minister for Trade and Customs (Mr. Rodgers) said that Mr. Wearne ‘s indictment was against the Labour Administration of New South Wales, but it was a Nationalist Government, headed by Mr. Holman, that founded these settlements, and made all the arrangements in connexion with them, so that any criticism which is levelled against the bungling that has taken place must be directed against a Nationalist Government. It is amazing that Ministers at this late hour, and in a thin House, should ask for a vote of £6,000,000 for soldier settlement without a. word of explanation as to whether the money is to be spent in the best interests of the soldiers.
– Later on they will say that we did it.
– That is so. In the past money voted for the same purpose has been badly spent, and the question is whether it would not be better to shut up a number of these soldier settlements, and compensate the men who have been partly dragging out their lives to make a miserable existence.
– All that has nothing to do with our lending the money.
– Does the Honorary Minister say that we are justified in handing over £6,000,000 without making any inquiry as to how the money is to be spent?
– The Labour Government of New South Wales were much more responsible for what has happened than we are.
– The Labour Government of New South Wales endeavoured to put matters right, but things had been bungled before they came into power. I can quote no more serious case than that of the soldiers’ settlement at Batlow, near Adelong, New South Wales. One is appalled on seeing the conditions under which the men are working there.
– Not one of them will make good.
– All who have visited the settlement are unanimously of opinion that the men should never have been sent there.
– Is the land unsuitable?
– Until soldiers went there it always went under the name of Wombat Parade, and one of the settlers, in an interview he gave to a press representative the other day, said that it was a cruel shame the land was ever taken from the wombats. That is a remark which I heartily indorse. The best thing to do with this settlement is to shut it up and compensate the men whose lives have been partly dragged out of them in an endeavour to eke out an existence. A Sydney newspaper, to its credit be it said, sent a representative to visit this settlement, and has published a series of articles giving his impressions, which it would be very interesting to in- clude in Hansard, so that what this Government stand for may be thoroughly understood. The Honorary Minister, (Mr. Hector Lamond) says that it is not part of the functions of the Government to inquire into the conditions under which Commonwealth money is - being spent.
– I did not say anything of the sort.
– The honorable member certainly gave me the impression that it was not the function of the Government to know exactly what was to become of the money advanced. The soldiers settled on the land in New South Wales have been crying out for months for a full, free, and independent inquiry into the whole of the conditions under which they are asked to struggle along. When the present Premier of New South Wales, the head of the Nationalist Government, was making his policy speech in a certain part of New’ South Wales, the representative of the soldiers sent him an urgent wire asking him if he would agree to have a full, free, and independent inquiry into the whole matter. His reply was that if his party were returned to power there would be such an inquiry into the whole of the working of the soldier settlements in New South Wales. But like all Nationalist Ministries, they have not kept their promise. So far they have not doneone thing to honour their pledge to institute an inquiry into the conditions under which these men are working. One of the conditions under which they were sent by the Holman Government to these settlements was that they were to be paid sustenance. That has since been wiped out, and they were forced to supplement their scanty earnings by working on the roads. Eventually there were restrictions placed upon them in regard to that. They have been hampered at every’ turn. The newspaper representative referred to declared, that the unanimous opinion of every one was that after a settler had paid interest on the capital expenditure - in some cases this, amounted to £2,000 - he would not have £1 a week for the maintenance of his wife and family. There are thirty-two blocks in the settlement, and the total expenditure to date is about £90,000. I understand that the cost of clearing the land in some cases was as high as £56 or £60 per acre. It is inconceivable that any Government should have placed men on a settlement like that. The conditions are appalling. Every agreement entered into has been broken by officialdom. The settlers are handicapped and harassed in every possible way, and today they are leaving the settlement, being determined not to waste any more time or energy in that unfavored locality.
– Much the same thing has happened in other States besides New South Wales.
– I am aware of that, but I am quoting this particular settlement because I personally know the locality, and I know what the conditions are. No honorable member would like to think that any relative of his was endeavouring to eke out an existence under such an agreement, and in such a locality. In some instances the men were asked to sign the agreement without reading it. Perhaps I can best describe the situation by quoting from the newspaper article referred to -
Authority. - There is something here for you to sign.
Digger. - Let’s have a look at it.
Authority. - You cannot look at it. All you have to do is to sign it.
Digger. - I won’t sign it without having read
Authority. - All right. That settles it. You refuse to sign?
Digger. - Certainly, if I am not allowed even to see it.
Under this agreement, a man was required to sign away almost everything he had. Here is the full text of it: -
Memorandum of Agreement made the day of March, 1922, between of soldiers’ settlement, an the State of New South Wales (hereinafter called the “settler”) of the one part, and the Minister for Lands of the said State of New South Wales (hereinafter called the “Minister,” which expression shall include his successors in office and the authorized agent of the Minister) for and on behalf of His Majesty King George V. of the other part. Whereby it is agreed as follows: -
Nothing herein, contained shall be deemed to give the settler any right to allotment or confirmation of any block on the settlement nor in any way affect the Minister’s right to cancel any allotment or provisional allotment or any block to the settler, or to determine the capital value of any block in such manner, and at such amount as he may think fit. In witness whereof the said parties have hereunto set their hand. The following schedule sets out the payments for cultural operations for each year : -
These I shall not quote. That agreement was submitted to the legal firm of Fraser and Oliver, in the adjoining town of Tumut, who wrote as under : -
Agreement to hand, and we agree with you when you say that clauses 5 and 6 are very drastic. We think that clause 7 is just as severe. It is going to come later, and so why not sooner, that all Batlow returned men are going to leave the settlement because’ of the grossly over-valued capital value of their blocks. What it costs the Crown to make them a profitable working proposition should not matter a damn. What price is going to allow a holder of one to live decently should be the only consideration. We return the agreement herewith.
The conditions under which these men live are a standing disgrace to any Government, and, therefore, this Committee should insist that steps be taken at once to insure that until they obtain what was promised by a Nationalist Government - a full inquiry. I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1 as an instruction to the Government that a full and independent inquiry be held into the conditions under which soldier settlers are labouring, with a view to securing a full measure of justice.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 22
Question so resolved in the negative.
– I wish to direct the attention of the Committee to the item “Purchase of wharf, railway, rolling-stock, buildings, material, and equipment, Papua, £45,000.” The only rolling-stock in Papua of which I have any knowledge is at Port Moresby, and is the property of Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. When I was there some twelve years ago the wharf, which is built on wooden piles was very old, and its life appeared to have almost run out. The same maybe said of the buildings on the wharf . There was no railway when I was there, and 1 think the Committee is entitled to have from the Government some information as to the purchase that is to be made. This is not a proposed vote to provide for the construction of a wharf, sheds, and railway line, but is designed to enable the Government to acquire already existing property. Those who know anything of Papua are aware that Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company practically own it, and that firm has so much influence in the Prime Minister’s Department that I feel that we ought to be very cautious,in the absence of details, in dealing with this item. We should ‘be satisfied that there is some good reason for the contemplated purchase. The action of the Government in trying, at this early hour of the morning, when there are so few honorable members present, to pass proposed votes amounting to over £8,000,000 in connexion with the Department of the Treasury, is a disgrace.
-Where are the members of the honorable member’s party? Of what does he complain?
– I complain that we have no information as to this item. We want to know why the Government propose to purchase & wooden wharf and sheds which are, no doubt, half eaten by white ants.
Mr.Hughes. - The white ants, I suppose, will be taken over with the property.
– I am surprised that the Prime Minister should treat so lightly a matter of this kind. If this were a proposal to provide for the building of new wharfs or the construction of a railway line in Papua, I should not question it; but I know that in the Prime Minister’s Department there are influences at work in connexion with Messrs. Burns, Philp, and Company. I had great troublein securing an alteration of a contract which the Government made with them in connexion with the island trade, which is of much importance to a section of my constituency. I think it is only reasonable that we should be supplied with information as to the people from whom this property has been acquired, the reasons for taking it over, and the valuations that have been made.
– I shall be glad to supply the honorable member with the information at my disposal. He is in error in supposing that there is no railway in Papua. No doubt there was not one in existence when he was there twelve years ago.
– I call attention to the want of a quorum. [Quorum formed.]
– I direct your attention, Mr. Atkinson, to what has just been going on. The honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) called attention to the state of the House. Other honorable members remained within the baize curtains at the entrances to the Chamber behind the chair, and so out of the House interfered with the ingress of honorable members who wished to come into the House. That is not only disorderly, but it is a state of things that would clearly make parliamentary government impossible. I submit that without more ado those honorable members should be named. This is a thing that in all my long course of parliamentary experience I never before saw attempted. I ask you, sir, to take a very serious view of the matter.
– Of course, it is a most irregular proceeding if anything of the sort took place ; but I did not see it.
-No ; but do you doubt my word?
The TEMPORARY CHAIRMAN.Not in the least, butI did not see the occurrence. The Chairman cannot see behind him.
– I can assure the Temporary Chairman that the honorable member for Angas tried to prevent my coming in, and but for the fact that I am stronger than he is, would have done so.
– I did not do anything of the kind!
– I say you did.
– Then I say you are telling a lie!
– I call upon the honorable member for Angas (Mr. Gabb) to withdraw that expression.
– Yes, Mr. Chanter, I shall withdraw, and say that the honorable member told an untruth. I desire to make a personal explanation. I never moved from my seat. How could I be at the door?
– What I requested was that the honorable member should withdraw the statement that an honorable member had told a lie.
– It is contrary to fact, anyhow !
– Does the honorable member complain of anything said by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford)?
– I was asked for certain information, and I am ready to give it. If I am not allowed to do so I shall sit down. I was saying, when interrupted, that the honorable member for East Sydney (Mr. West) was in error in supposing that there were no wharfs and railways in Papua.
– I say that the railway was not in existence when I was there.
– The honorable member was referring to an incident, or the impressions he. gathered twelve years ago ; but since then improvements have been made in certain directions, and it is to these I wish to refer him. The information I have is as follows : -
This provision is to enable the Commonwealth to purchase from the New Guinea Copper Mines Limited their wharf at Bootless Inlet, Papua, and their railway, rolling-stock, &c, which runs from Bootless Inlet via Wai Wai to the Dunbuna mine.
The company required some financial assistance to enable them to develop their large ore reserves at Dunbuna and Laloki mines, and the Commonwealth has entered into an agreement with the company for the purchase of their property at a cost of £45,000. Fifty-nine thousand pounds has been expended by the company on the railway and jetty. _ The agreement provides that the company shall issue £100.000 of new capital, and this, with the money received from the sale of their wharf and railway to the Commonwealth, will enable them to develop their properties, which must result in a considerable advantage to the Territory of Papua.
The property is being leased to the company tor a period of twelve years at an annual rental of £2,700.
Under the agreement the company are required to carry over the railway at reasonable rates, goods, &c, belonging to any person or corporation. They will also be required to carry mails free of charge.
It may be mentioned that in 1913-14 the Commonwealth Government made provision for the construction of a railway in Papua. The project was, however, abandoned in 1915, when only a small amount of preliminary expenditure had been incurred.
This proposal really arises out of circumstances which were unforeseen but inevitable. Had there been no war, the Government would have constructed the railway; as it was, we were unable to do so. This company, like others, suffered, as a result of the war, from difficulties in developing their resources, and on the suggestion of the Lieutenant-Governor, who approved of the proposal, application was made to the Government for assistance. “We have made the most careful inquiries into the matter. The Treasurer (Mr. Bruce), to whom the matter was referred, made it the subject of special inquiry, and satisfied himself that the proviso that the company should issue £100,000 of new capital was an ample safeguard, and that there would be corresponding development. We have no doubt whatever that by means of this money we shall prevent this enterprise from collapsing. Honorable members know that in a new country some financial assistance in circumstances such as those to which I refer is necessary. These people have put their money into the enterprise, and, having done what they could, they asked the Government for assistance. As they had not received it as they were led to believe they would, and, indeed, as they were told they would in. 1914, we agreed that if they would raise £100,000 of new capital we would give the assistance now proposed.
– Who are they?
– The New Guinea Copper Mines Limited.
– Is Lucas connected with it?
– No. It has nothing to do with Burns, Philp, and Company at all.
– Who is connected with it?
– I do not know. I can only give the honorable member my assurance that the matter has nothing to do with Burns, Philp, and Company as a company, or with Burns or Philp individually. I think I am right in saying, although I do not know, that the principal shareholders - the people who found the money - are in this State. Mining men have put their money into the company; and I think it is a fair thing that the Government should go to the assist ance of men who are prepared to take some risks in a case of this kind. We have safeguarded ourselves by -making them put up £100,000 of new capital.
– I rise to make a personal explanation. I have been charged with preventing members from coming into the House while the division bells were ringing. Although it is 1.20 a.m., I am still very much alive to my duties, and I know that the Standing Orders will not permit me to go out of this chamber while a quorum was being formed. Having called for the quorum, I had to remain here. That explanation disposes of the statement by the honorable member for Herbert (Mr. Bamford) that 1 obstructed him when he was coming into the House.
– I would like to say that the honorable member for Angas was quite right in what he said. He was sitting in the House all the time ; but it is also true that one or two other honorable members stood behind the curtain and endeavoured to prevent honorable members from coming into the chamber.
– Can the honorable member give me the names of those members?
– I could not see them, but I know that there was a struggle, and that certain members were prevented from entering the House.
– If any honorable member was guilty of that, it was a most serious offence from a parliamentary point of view.
– I saw members being obstructed, but I did not know by whom.
.I hope that such an incident as that complained of will not recur. Not only were members obstructed when coming into the House, but at the same time attempts were also made to throw other members in.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Proposed vote, £284,762.
.I desire to enter my protest against expenditure on the Federal Capital Territory, and particularly against an item of £250,000 towards the cost of the establishment of the Capital. It is regrettable that we have not been able to secure a majority in this House to prevent further moneys being spent there. I think I pointed out the other night that the Government are ahead of the programme set out by the Committee that was appointed. They recommended that the Capital should be built in several stages. I have also dealt with the attitude taken up by several honorable members, including the honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Chapman), who said that the position of several Victorian members in regard to this vote was the result of the criticism of the daily newspapers of Melbourne. I repeat that we have not been whipped by the newspapers any more, or even as much as, the honorable members from New South Wales, and particularly the honorable member for EdenMonaro, who has certainly been whipped into his present attitude by the newspapers of his own district. I do not think it is fair to charge the Victorian members with repudiation. So far as I, personally, am concerned, it does not make twopence difference whether the Capital is in Melbourne, Canberra, or anywhere else. I have visited Canberra, and I was not at all impressed with it. I can produce photographs showing every bit of the Territory flooded. They illustrate the fallacy of going to such a place. But I have not at any time said anything about the location of Canberra. My argument is that we cannot at the present juncture afford to spend money on such a project. My concern is not whether the Federal Capital is situated in New South Wales, Queensland, or any other State, nor whether Canberra is a pretty spot, or is covered with rocks, or whether it will carry one sheep or twenty sheep to the acre. My sole concern is that we are not in a position at the present time to spend money at Canberra when there are so many other avenues in which we could spend it to much greater advantage. I know that the people of New South Wales will say that we are repudiating a compact; but I reply that there is no such intention. However, I have no desire to thresh the matter to any greater extent. I cannot move to delete the item of £129,000 appearing in the schedule as the unexpended balance of last year’s appropriation, but as a protest against the waste which is going on at Canberra, and for the purpose of endeavouring to prevent further expenditure there, I move -
That the item “ Federal Capital at Canberra - towards cost of establishment, £250,000,” be left out.
.- I cannot let this occasion pass without voicing my protest against the expenditure of £250,000 from loan funds for the purpose of further establishing the Federal Capital at Canberra. The time is a long way from being ripe for such expenditure. When we look at the present financial position, and remember the vote-catching scheme in the Budget proposals to utilize £3,000,000 from the accumulated surplus, I feel that we should not go on with this Canberra business without using the accumulated surplus for the purpose.
– Do you talk to your constituents like that?
– I shall plainly point out to my constituents that the using of this £3. 000,000 surplus, gradually accumulated overyears past, right on the eve of an election is a dodge on the part of the Government.
– I am in order in saying that if money can be found from this source for many other purposes, surely it is not too much to expect that if the Canberra proposition is to be proceeded with, the £250,000 should also be provided , from the accumulated surplus. I am not arguing that this should be done. I am opposed to the Canberra proposition from top to bottom, but if anything is to be done there, seeing that so much is to be accomplished with the accumulated surplus, the Government might very well find the money for this work from that source. The Canberra business seems to be part of the bluff put up by New South Wales members to the Government. It seems to be part of the price the Government are to pay for their life that they should accede to the wishes of New South Wales members in this respect, and I think I am in order in objecting to this bluff. I do not want it to be possible for any member of the Government to do in the future what has been done during the last week or two - that is to say, throw the responsibility for every action upon this Parliament. The time is not ripe for pushing on with Canberra when there are so many avenues in which the money proposed to be spent could be utilized to more advantage to people whose requirements are neglected.
Mr.ROBERT COOK (Indi) [1.37 a.m.]. - I protest against the proposed expenditure at Canberra at the present juncture. The honorable member for Eden-Monaro (Mr. Austin Chapman) is most inconsistent. He is prepared to squander money in the building of the Federal Capital at a time when he is advised by the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) that there is no money available to carry out the object which the honorable member is seeking to achieve by a motion he has on the business-paper, namely, the payment of increased old-age pensions. The honorable member for Hume (Mr. Parker Moloney) has asked the Government to institute an inquiry into the conditions under which our soldiers are working on the land. He has told us that they are not earning £1 per week. He has drawn a lamentable picture of those conditions, which I can indorse, and yet he is prepared to vote for spending money on the building of a capital at the present juncture. I have no desire to repudiate any compact. The agreement to build the Federal Capital in the State of New South Wales must be carried out. There are many struggling farmers who would like motor cars, brick buildings, and many other things, but they have to put off buying them until they can afford to pay for them. If honorable members who are so strongly urging the Government to spend money at Canberra had to provide it out of their own pockets, their voices would not be raised so loudly as they are at the present time in favour of this expenditure. There are many urgent requirements, and the money proposed to be spent at Canberra could be utilized on other commitments of the Commonwealth with greater advantage. I have visited the Federal Capital site. I put in a week there.
– At the country’s expense.
– I had a thorough look over it, and have a fair knowledge of the value of land. As far as expenses are concerned, I have put my hands into my pocket in the interests of the country as deeply as the honorable member for Bass has dipped into his own for the same purpose. I have obtained my information at first hand. I admit that the climate is splendid, but I cannot speak with en thusiasm about the site itself. A railway has to be constructed from Yass, and a round-about road from the Capital to Goulburn will be an everlasting inconvenience to the travelling public. But it is settled that the Capital must be at Canberra, and my only objection now is that with one hundred and one other important commitments the proposed further expenditure should not be incurred on the Capital City at this juncture. The changed attitude of some honorable members in this matter is most extraordinary. At one time the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) was one of the most bitter opponents of the scheme.
– That is absolutely untrue.
– The Minister was Chairman of a Committee.
– That is another untruth, I tell the honorable member that candidly.
The CHAIRMAN (Hon. J. M. Chanter) . - Order !
– But the honorable member got a portfolio in the Ministry because he was causing a lot of trouble, and he has since changed his views.
– That is another falsehood.
– Order! I ask the honorable member for Indi to confine himself to the matter before the Chair. These personalities only lead to disorder.
– About the only way that one can make the Minister realize his responsibilities is to state the facts. Hitherto we have been treated most contemptuously in regard to many matters. Ministers take no notice until we put the acid test on them. They do not mind untruths, but they very much dislike the truth. In connexion with expenditure at Canberra I can confidently say that no business firm in Australia would give more than about 60 per cent. of the actual cost to date.
– The honorable member is speaking in ignorance.
– I ask that the Minister be called upon to withdraw that statement, Mr. Chairman.
– I will withdraw the statement, certainly.
– I must ask honorable members and the Minister particularly to support the Chair.
– I will certainly do that, Mr. Chairman.
– I hope the Minister will set an example, . because the debate is being conducted on lines that are neither dignified nor creditable to honorable members and the Committee. If the Minister turns round and makes observations to honorable members it is most difficult for the Chair to hear what is being said. I did not hear the statement to which the honorable member for Indi took exception, otherwise I would have called the Minister to order.
– I simply said that he was speaking in ignorance.
– So far as the plantations at the Capital Site are concerned, I claim to speak with some knowledge. One hill has been planted in pines at a considerable cost, and not one grew.
Motion (by Mr. Hughes) put -
That the question be now put.
The Committee divided.
Majority … 13
– As the Committee has just taken a vote on that motion, it will not be in order for the honorable member to move as he suggests at this juncture.
– Will you then, Mr. Chairman, inform me what I must do to dissent from your ruling?
– The honorable member may dissent from my ruling in the ordinary way if he desires. I ruled that the honorable member would not be in order in moving “ That the question be now put” at this juncture, as a reasonable time has not elapsed since the same motion was put. If the honorable member wishes to dissent from my ruling the Committee will have to decide the matter.
– I have been informed that considerable expenditure will be involved in replacing bridges which have been washed away during the recent floods, and it would be interesting to know how the power-house, which is a very expensive structure, fared during the last flood. Considerable cost was incurred in connexion with the plan of the Federal Capital, but the designer, Mr. Griffin, has either left or been retired from the Service, and the supervision of construction work is now in the hands of Mr. Goodwin or Mr. Hill.
Honorable members interjecting,
– I must insist on honorable members keeping silent, as it is impossible for me to hear what the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) is saying.
– Are we to understand that in consequence of the changes which have been made in the staff the design has been altered ?
– That is not correct.
– If the original plan has been altered, one is justified in asking where the alterations are going to end.
– That statement is quite inaccurate.
– Then, perhaps, the Minister for Works and Railways (Mr. Richard Foster) will explain what is being done. Considerable cost is incurred in conveying workmen from Queanbeyan to Canberra and back. How the unfortunate working man can pay the rent to cover interest on the capital cost of the houses he will be required to occupy I do not know. I inspected many of the cottages, and as one who knows something about building, I would not be prepared to pay within £150 to £200 of the estimated cost. I believe that the housing scheme is in as wretched a state as that of the War Service Homes Commission.
– That is not so.
– The time is not ripe for proceeding with the construction of the Capital, and although it is said by some that we desire to repudiate the agreement in the Constitution, that is far from the fact. The cost of building is so great at present that the taxpayers will be committed to the expenditure of a very large sum of money in making even the temporary provisions outlined from time to time. I would not be doing my duty if I did not enter a very emphatic protest against proceeding with the work at a very inopportune time, and at a cost which is very much above that at which it could be done later on.
– I would not have spoken at this juncture if it had not been for the remarks of the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook) concerning the afforestation policy. For some time we have had at our disposal the services of one of the most capable officers it is possible for us to secure.
– I quite agree with that.
– Then why did the honorable member complain of the way in which the trees are being planted, because he, undoubtedly, created the impression that the work was being done in an unsatisfactory manner. The officer in charge of this branch of the work grew the seeds in the open, and when the young trees were planted out they were so acclimatized that very few were lost.
– He is a very valuable man.
– Yes, and is doing excellent work, particularly along the lines I have indicated. The Minister is giving every encouragement to a very valuable officer to carry on this work. I would not have risen but for the remarks made by the honorable member for Indi (Mr. Robert Cook). Knowing the officer in question very well, I felt it to be my duty to speak in his defence. As long as I am a member of this House I shall
stand by officers who are unjustifiably attacked.
– Like the honorable member for Denison (Mr. Laird Smith)1, I should not have risen but for the disgraceful slanders that have been uttered against an officer whose name I have not yet been able to catch. It is an absolute disgrace to this Committee, to the Constitution of the Commonwealth, and, indeed, to the civilized world that at two hours after midnight honorable members should be assembled here to listen to attacks upon individuals whose names no one has yet dared to mention.
I wish now to deal with an item in the schedule that I have marked in blue - an item of £34,900 - to provide amongst other things for nurseries at the Federal Capital. Surely, sir, the item., dealing as it does with nurseries, will appeal to the susceptibilities of honorable members, especially when it is brought before them after midnight. We are asked to vote £34,900 for nurseries and other things at the Capital. What about perambulators and children’s cots? Why nurseries alone? What is the use of nurseries unless they are furnished and inhabited ? I am inclined to welcome the item as an earnest of the intention of the Government to do something to add to the population of the Federal Capital. Dealing more closely with the schedule itself, I desire to say that my objection is that a good deal of the proposed expenditure cannot properly be chargeable to loan account. I appeal to my honorable, learned, and gallant friend the Treasurer to inform the Committee whether he considers it justifiable to. charge to loan account such items as those relating to the Federal Capital Territory for nurseries, repairs, rabbit destruction, and other expenses incidental to the administration of the Territory. The whole of the money that is being voted for Canberra is practically being frittered away and wasted.
– Has the honorable member been to Canberra?
– I have. If we want to make Canberra a truly Federal Capital, we must start by spending at least £20,000,000. The proposed vote of £250,000 under this Bill towards the cost of the establishment of the Capital at Canberra is a mere paltering with the question.
– Move that the amount he increased.
– I do not think that a proposal to increase it in the present circumstances to £20,000,000 would he justifiable. I notice that proposals of this kind are generally put before honorable members in the middle of the night. On this occasionnot only are members to be bludgeoned and threatened into submission, but they are actually being starved into agreeing to the proposed vote. The failure to provide supper is a new development, but I suppose it was only to be expected, having regard to the trumpetings throughout the land as to the dreadful things that would be done to honorable members if they did not slavishly follow the Government, and carry without discussion every proposal put before them. By placing in the schedule an item of £250,000 towards the construction of the Federal Capital, the Government may please and flatter some people who desire money to spend on Canberra, but for all practical purposes the money is, and, when spent in this way, always will be, wasted. We shall get no Canberra by placing on the Estimates every year votes of £250,000, £500,000, or even £1,000,000. If the Government desire to make Canberra the Federal Capital; where it will be possible for members of Parliament and public servants to be properly housed, and for the Parliament to carry on its business, it will have to expend £20,000,000 to start with, and follow up that expenditure with, say, £5,000,000 per annum for a great many years.
Question - That the item “ Federal Capital at Canberra, towards cost of establishment, £250,000,” be left out (Mr. Francis’ amendment) - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 15
Question so resolved in the negative.
. In my opinion there ought to be a division on the question whether the proposed vote shall be agreed to. I am opposed to the vote, and I should not like it to be suggested afterwards, in the event of it being agreed to on the voices, that I, amongst other honorable members, am responsible for the expenditure. If I cannot get another honorable member to call for a division with me, I desire to have it placed on record that I did so alone. for I emphatically protest against this expenditure.
Question - That the proposed vote (£284,762) be agreed to- put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . 14
Question so resolvedin the affirmative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Home and Territories Department, excepting Federal Capital Territory (Proposed vote, £117,313) agreed to.
Department of Defence (Proposed vote, £340,893) postponed.
Department of Trade and Customs (Proposed vote, £12,000) agreed to.
Department of Works and Railways, excepting Federal Capital Territory (Proposed vote, £830,681) agreed to.
Proposed vote, £2,245,435.
– I desire to speak on the item relating to the post-office in William-street, Sydney. The Sydney City Council have resumed one side of William-street, and this has necessitated the removal of the post-office, which is a very substantial building. The City Council compensated the Government for this by providing money for a new post-office. I cannot understand why we are proposing to spend £1,000 of loan money when the Government have already received by way of compensation money for the erection of a post-office.
– The Committee has already passed the item the honorable member is now debating.
– I move -
That the proposed vote be reduced by £1.
I desire that this amendment, if carried, shall be taken as an instruction to the Government that the Post Office should be regarded as a self-contained Department, and that the annual profits arising from it should be placed in a Trust Fund for the purpose of providing for its future development and extension. I wish to secure an expression of opinion from the Committee regarding the future control of the Post Office. In the past five years, and taking this year’s Estimates into consideration, the Postal Department has made a profit of £5,071,051, out of which it has expended on new works only £2,880,718. The balance of £2,162,333 has been put into the general revenue. With the profit made by the 1/2d. Avar tax, the total amount taken by the Treasury in five years has been £3,569,540. The actual cost of running the Postmaster-GeneraljS Department last year was £7,756,413. The interest on transferred properties was £186,433; and cost of audit, £8,927. This year’s Estimates include pensions and retiring allowances, £93,280; interest on Commonwealth inscribed stock, £18,019; sinking fund, £52,050; interest on Treasurybills, £25,000; and interest on registered stock, £140,000. The point I wish to make is that the whole of these outgoings, representing interest on something over £5,000,000, which is charged up year after year to the PostmasterGeneral’s Department, need not have been charged to that Department if the works had beenconstructed out of the revenue derived from the conduct of the Post Office. I am submitting my amendment with the object of getting a definite expression of opinion as to whether the Post Office should be run as a selfcontained business Department, utilizing whatever profits it makes for the further development and more rapid extension of facilities - postal, telegraphic, or telephonic. Experience has shown that the more complete the system of communication is the cheaper is the service which is rendered by it. In my district for the last seven years there has been agitation for a complete telephonic circuit from Brisbane to Sydney along the coast. Four years ago a conference of electrical engineers was held in the area, and they pointed out that if the through line was constructed, and a decent system was installed on the rivers it would cross at right angles, there would be an immediate return of 25 per cent. on the cost. Sir Robert Anderson, in his report on the Department of the Postmaster-General, pointed out that it was the number of rivulets that flowed into the big stream of revenue that made the whole Department prosperous and enabled such revenue to be obtained as would make the whole concern selfsupporting. I am thoroughly in accord with the proposal of the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) to set aside certain loan expenditure for postal and telephonic extensions; but I think it is imperative that the smallest possible number of connexions should be constructed out of loan expenditure, and the greatest possible number out of revenue, because each work provided for out of loan moneys must carry a permanent annual charge until the loan is repaid. Works built out of revenue do not carry that charge, and therefore help to make the service cheaper throughout. I need not say more upon the subject. I simply submit my amendment.
Question put. The Committee divided.
Majority … … 9
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Department of Repatriation
Proposed vote, £4,000,000.
– I move -
That the proposed vote “ Expenditure under
War Service Homes Act 1918-20 (to be paid to credit of Trust Fund, War Service Homes Account), £4,000,000,” be postponed pending the giving of a definite assurance by the Government -
So that the taxpayers will know how much has been lost by this Department, to lay upon the table of the House on or before the 30th September, 1922, a statement of accounts, showing -
As this will be our last opportunity to deal with this matter it is only fair that we should ask to be supplied with the fullest information possible. The Honorary Minister (Mr. Hector Lamond) has stated that a Re-adjustment Board is carrying out revaluations, but we have not had any statement as to the basis of that revaluation, whether it is to be upon that suggested by the Public Accounts Committee or not. We should have that information before this vote of £4,000,000 is passed. The public are entitled to know the exact position in connexion with the whole of the expenditure on War Service Homes. It has been said that this Parliament is really responsible for all the bungle and muddle that have resulted. If that contention is true, which I deny, it is essential that the Minister should place the true position of affairs before members and the public so that everybody who runs may read. I wish to say plainly that I do not think the Government can divorce themselves from Ministerial responsibility. If the work of repatriation generally, and especially the building of War Service Homes and the soldier settlement scheme, had been a huge success, the Minister would not have hesitated to claim credit as a personal tribute.
– And he would have been entitled to do that.
– Likewise, as the scheme has proved to some extent a failure, the Minister must shoulder his responsibility and indicate clearly who is to blame. The statement made last night by the Honorary Minister, and the letters read, showed conclusively that the Minister’s instructions had been defied. One document indicated that the Commissioner had been instructed not to sign and execute an agreement, and yet on the following day the agreement was signed and executed, although in altogether a different way. Still no notice was taken or direct condemnation made in regard to the Commissioner until several months had elapsed.
– That is not so.
– I think it will be found that what I am saying is quite true. The Minister last night quoted a letter dated 13th April, 1920, and yet the Commissioner was in office until early in 1921.
-But you said nothing had been done. The fact that the Commissioner was in office in 1921 did not imply that no action had been taken.
– It was admitted that the Commissioner should have been dismissed at the time; but his services were not dispensed with until the follow ing year, and the reason then given wasthat he was found to be an uncertificated insolvent at the date of his appointment, and not his failure to carry out his duties satisfactorily. In all the circumstances, I do not think the Minister in charge can expect to escape blame. The Committee must be able to fix the responsibility somewhere. In my opinion, it should rest upon the Minister.
.The motion submitted by my leader (Dr. Earle Page) is a perfectly reasonable one, and it should not be rejected. It would be quite a different matter if the millions of money already spent on War Service Homes had been profitably expended, and if the taxpayers of the Commonwealth had not suffered serious losses owing to maladministration. We now definitely request the Government; to supply us with information as to what has been accomplished, and to give us an assurance that this proposed vote of £4,000,000 will not be wasted. Honorable members have been held blameable for faulty administration in connexion with War Service Homes up to the present, because items covering expenditure in that direction have beenapproved by this House. It is now proposed, at nearly 3 o’clock in the morning, to bludgeon this vote through, and a little later honorable members will be held responsible for any faults in administration. If this vote is passed it will not matter a “ twopenny tick “ how the money is spent or squandered. Honorable members will be held responsible just the same. I do not want it to be said, just because I may vote against this item., that I opposed a vote of £4,000,000 for War Service Homes, because I am not opposing it. I only want to be quite certain that the money will go into War Service Homes and not be squandered, and the soldiers called upon to pay excessive amounts fortheir homes.
– What have you- ever done except to criticise?
– If the honorable the Minister spoke with any knowledge, he would not have made that interjection. It has been said that if the repatriation scheme had been successful the Government would have taken all the credit, but since they are in a serious muddle they want now to throw the responsibility upon honorable members who have had nothing whatever to do with the administration., simply because they approved of previous votes. I want to avoid any serious charge of that nature in the future, and so I am supporting this request for full information before I cast my vote. The Government have taken a businesslike course by arranging with some of the State authorities to carry out this work in the future. I hope they will be successful in making agreements with all the States, because the soldiers then will be more likely to get a satisfactory deal. I trust the Government will make a pronouncement upon this matter before the Committee divides upon the motion.
Question - That the proposed vote be postponed - put. The Committee divided.
Majority . . . . 11
Question so resolved in the negative.
Proposed voteagreed to.
Department of Defence
Proposed vote, £340,893 (postponed).
– I promised the Committee some further information in connexion with this proposed vote. The largest item represents £175,000, which is an account which the Government have just received from the Imperial authorities. Then there is an item of £14,580. This amount is made up of charges incurred in connexion with the employment of a temporary staff, and for advertising in connexion with sale of surplus war equipment and stores, and, as the money collected from the sale of stores is placed to the credit of the loan account, the expenditure involved in connexion with collecting that money is also debited to the loan account. There is also, an item of £33,500, which represents expenditure in connexion with the distribution of medals, plaques, and other base records work incidental to the service and records of the members of the Aus tralian Imperial Force. A large number of medals and plaques still have to be distributed, and this expenditure is. being incurred to meet those particular charges.
– It is a very big item.
– Yes; silver medals cost a lot of money, and when we have to provide 250,000 to 300,000, it means that a fairly heavy expenditure has to be incurred.
– Can the Minister explain why the £175,000 was not included in our debt to Great Britain, which has been funded?
– This amount was not included because it did not come to hand in sufficient time. It reached the Government only just before the Budget was framed. It was a shock to the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) and to me.
– If we allow this vote to pass, will the Minister give us an assurance that a further explanation will be given to-morrow ?
– If the forms of the House permit, I shall be willing to give the honorable member any information which may be available; but I am assured by the officials that the account which has just come to hand should be paid, as we owe the money.
.I understood that our debt of £40,000,000, if not more, had been funded by the British Government.
– It was £90,000,000.
– That being so, why was not this amount of £175,000 included with our other indebtedness and funded at the same time?
– All the amounts that could be traced at the time the funding arrangement was made were included. This amount had not been compiled at the time, and it has now been submitted to us for payment.
– And this is the only way in which it can be dealt with?
– There are several votes we are being asked to pass which should be, perhaps, really paid for out of revenue, and not out of loan, so I think we shouldhave some information as to why £835,000, received last year on account of the war expenditure, was paid into revenue. As animportant principle is involved, some further explanation should be made.
.There is an item of £54,600 for freight, handling charges, reconditioning, and other expenditure in connexion with the postbellum equipment of the Australian Imperial Force. Can the Minister for Defence (Mr. Greene) explain what that means ?
– That means exactly what it says. We have incurred a good deal of expenditure in connexion with the actual freight, handling charges, and reconditioning of stores, and the cost has to be met in this way.
In regard to the matter mentioned by the honorable member for Moreton (Mr. Wienholt), I presume the Treasurer (Mr. Bruce) will supply an answer when discussing the Budget, as it is a matter connected with the Budget, and not with the Loan Bill.
Proposed vote agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill, by leave, read a third time.
House adjourned at 3.2 a.m. (Friday).
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 31 August 1922, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1922/19220831_reps_8_100/>.